“We are Beat Happening and we don’t do Nirvana covers. They do Beat Happening covers.”*
The December ROTM Club selection is coming early! We’re pleased to send you a copy of the new career-spanning compilation Look Around by Beat Happening!
Formed in the early 1980s at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington by Calvin Johnson, Heather Lewis and Bret Lunsford, Beat Happening combined modern primitive pop sound with the DIY ethos of ‘anyone can do it’ and inspired countless bands and labels along the way. The community that rose around the band and their label, K Records, was in many ways, the sonic antithesis of their Seattle neighbors (and friends) but was no less influential.
Look Around is a double LP worth of music picked by the band to represent their career. Record of the Month Club members will receive a copy of Look Around as well as a limited, 7″ single featuring “Indian Summer” backed by “Froggy Eyes.” This will be the final Record of the Month Club selection for 2015. Any new subscriptions purchased during the month of December will start with the January 2016 selection.
Lots more info on Beat Happening and K Records below…
-Pitchfork chose Beat Happening’s “Indian Summer” as one of the best songs of the 1980s
-Ben Gibbard, lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie, called “Indian Summer” the indie-rock “Freebird”
“The biggest thing ever to happen to indie pop in America… Most of what’s written about this band is all about that sweet pop and those childish affectations, but that misses the substance at the core: Their music was dark, damaged, full of fright and sex and death and vulnerability– just like any real childhood…their hopscotch stories felt punker than Black Flag tattoos ever could.” – Nitsuh Abebe, Pitchfork
From Domino records:
The legend of Beat Happening, and of K, the label that Calvin Johnson founded, is full of big names they worked with before they were stars (Beck! Modest Mouse! The Gossip!), and big names they influenced (Kurt Cobain! Sleater-Kinney!) Less acknowledged, however, is that Bret Lunsford, Heather Lewis, and Calvin Johnson created some of the most original and surprising music to come out of the often deliberately weird American punk rock tradition.
Working from a sonic template of the Cramps, Trouble Funk, Young Marble Giants, and messianic blues, Beat Happening confounded and often incited violence from audiences weaned on hardcore punk. In the place of macho aggression, Beat Happening confronted the all-ages scene with Heather’s low-key delivery and Calvin’s fey theatrics, topped off by his trademark dance move: rubbing his tummy. For a supposedly cutesy band, Beat Happening was adamant about asserting its right to exist, carrying itself with a punk as fuck attitude that would become a key inspirational lodestone for the generation of D.I.Y. bands that followed, including Bikini Kill and the Nation of Ulysses.
In Calvin’s own words: “This idea that Beat Happening was popular in some way was never true. And in fact, I don’t think people understand the level of animosity that Beat Happening attracted through most of our time performing live. This concept that we were this performing group that were some kind of—I don’t know—shy pop… our performances were clearly confrontational.” (Interview with Magnétophone fanzine #3, 2001)
Fans only familiar with Beat Happening’s self-titled first album of 1985, or just the cat in a rocketship line-drawing on its cover, or the much-covered “Indian Summer” from 1988’s Jamboree, will be surprised at the band’s range and musicality. In the absence of a bass player, the guitar and drums had to carry more character in the songs, and alongside the de rigueur post-punk and indiepop moves, Beat Happening omnivorously shifted from go-go to surf to Shaggs-esque outsider pop to Krautrock. All this was accompanied by a sexual energy thinly veiled behind the band’s nostalgic celebration of childhood. The band’s final album, 1992’s forgotten classic You Turn Me On, was a gorgeous lo-fi dream-pop opus co-produced by bedroom pop legend Stuart Moxham of Young Marble Giants.
Look Around is a chronological survey of Beat Happening’s remarkable arc, from its deliberately amateurish debut, produced by Northwest punk legend Greg Sage of the Wipers, to its fluent and stunning 1992 finale, appended with one stray track: the lovely “Angel Gone,” a one-off single recorded in 2000 with then-K wunderkind Phil Elverum (the Microphones, Mount Eerie) to accompany the band’s now out-of-print career-spanning retrospective box set Crashing Through. At the turn of the millennium, we weren’t quite ready to rediscover Beat Happening. But in our age of omnivorous music consumption enabled by social networking, the story of Beat Happening, the band that helped create an international network of underground pop and then had the gumption to bring everyone to sleepy little Olympia, Washington for 1991’s epochal International Pop Underground Convention, makes a lot of sense.
*quote from Calvin Johnson taken from a 1992 Beat Happening show in Norman, OK