Tommy Keene first gained national attention with his 1983 EP Places That Are Gone, which was a college radio hit, and earned him accolades from the Village Voice, among others. Since then, Tommy has churned out a catalog of excellent albums, collaborated with Rob Pollard of Guided By Voices, and toured with Paul Westerberg, but one thing has remained constant, his gift of melody. Tommy’s just released his 12th full-length is Laugh in the Dark. He definitely wears his influences a little more confidently on his sleeves this time around. He also discusses the great payola scandal of 1986.
Tommy Keene has been a regular guest on our show, but his new album is something different – Excitement at Your Feet is eleven songs that Tommy didn’t write, giving him a chance to show off some of his influences. And he digs pretty deep – most people won’t recognize the covers he does of the Who and Stones. We talk to Keene about the inspiration behind the record, choosing the songs (including a rare one from the Bee Gees), and how soon we could expect a new studio album.
With the recent passing of Reg Presley of the Troggs, Icon Fetch has put together an hour-long tribute to the band and their influential lead singer. We’ll hear the story of “Wild Thing” from the man who wrote the legendary song, Chip Taylor. From Larry Page, the band’s manager & producer, who wouldn’t give up on the song, even though everyone hated it, Mike Mills of R.E.M., who played with the band on a collaboration called Athens Andover, and Graeme Clark of Wet Wet Wet, who took the Troggs’ “Love is All Around” back to the top of the charts in the Nineties. Also contributing are Richard Barone, Peter Zaremba of the Fleshtones, Tommy Keene, producer Mitch Easter, Debora Iyall of Romeo Void, pianist David Lanz, Jon Weiss of the Vipers, Peter Holsapple of the dB’s, and filmmaker Grant Wakefield, who talked with Presley about his obsession with crop circles.
–For 30 years, he’s created radio ready music that never gets played on the radio–
Melodic rock, power pop, or just plain good music – whatever you call it, Tommy Keene has been making it for the last 30 years. Hot on the heels of 2010’s 2-CD anthology, we sit down again with Keene to talk about his brand-new studio album Behind the Parade. Unique to this project, he recorded most of the instruments himself at his home studio. Yet, the signature Tommy Keene sound, with chiming guitars, memorable hooks, and big drums (courtesy of session-ace Rob Brill), are all intact. We also touch on the crazy video he made for the first single, “Deep Six Saturday.”
Tommy Keene has been making his brand of melodic rock for almost 30 years now. His early independent releases garnered high praise from critics, and when he jumped to a major label, big things were expected. Through a series of industry blunders and bad luck, Keene’s rock star ship never came in. Despite the numerous setbacks, the excellent quality of his songs has never wavered. He’s just released his first-ever career spanning collection called Tommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009. Icon Fetch talks to the influential songwriter about his many pitfalls, as well as how he assembled his new collection, and teamed up with Bob Pollard of Guided By Voices.
Tommy Keene – Tommy Keene You Hear Me – A Retrospective 1983-2009 (Second Motion) – CD review –
Whether it’s bad luck, improper promotion or an ill-fated choice of producers, Tommy Keene should have been huge. Tommy Keene You Hear Me (an obvious reference to one of his influences, the Who), is the first collection to span his entire career, and it goes a long way toward presenting a case of what should have been.
So much of what Keene has written over the years seems primed for radio: catchy hooks, jangly chords and memorable choruses, and this collection is full of ‘em, from start to finish. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to name another artist that has been this consistent for last 26 years. The set is sequenced chronologically, and begins with five cuts from EPs he recorded for the North Carolina Dolphin label; tracks that garnered high praise from the likes of Rolling Stone at the time. The remaining songs on disc one are taken from Tommy’s tenuous stint with Geffen records, who essentially dropped the ball on turning Keene into a rock star. “Call on Me” and “Run Now” are incredibly powerful singles, while “My Mother Looked Like Marilyn Monroe” gets the vote for strangest song title.
Disc two follows Keene as he goes from major-label should-have-been back to his indie roots, taking samples of his Matador, SpinArt, and Eleven Thirty releases. Even though he was recording for smaller labels, the quality of songs never wavered. A good example of his latter day sound is “Good Thing Going,” from Ten Years After. Even if you already own everything Keene has recorded, there’s still several juicy nuggets, including the original Don Dixon-version of “Gold Town” before Geoff Emerick ruined it, an alternate version of “Black and White New York,” and an unreleased cover of 20/20’s “Leaving Your World Behind.” Even though you may have never heard of this guy, this is not niche music – it’s straight ahead rock n’ roll, and definitely worth a listen. –Tony Peters