Our Daughter's Wedding

Let’s kick off this blog with a shout to one of the first American synth groups ever- Our Daughter’s Wedding.

Just one quick listen to about any one of these guys’ tunes and you’ll wonder why they weren’t massive. Best known for the international hit Lawnchairs with its insanely catchy, singalong chorus and raw, bouncy synth melody, an unsung classic of the New Wave era. But over their limited discography (one EP, six singles and one studio album) Our Daughter’s Wedding came up with many more great tunes along these lines.

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ODW started out as a San Francisco-based Punk band in 1977 using the traditional guitar, bass and drums set-up, but things didn’t work out for them and they split one year after. As electronic music reached the States throughout 1979, the three members (Keith Silva, Layne Rico and Scott Simon) met up again in New York and decided to get the band back together, but this time only using synths and rhythm machines. This whole electronic set-up was not commonplace in the States just yet, and an early gig supporting James Chance and Mi-Sex saw heckles of “Where the fuck are the drums, why don’t you use any guitars” directed their way. But within the next year, synth music took off on their side of the Atlantic, and as audience responses became more positive, Lawnchairs became a dancefloor hit and they struck a deal with a major label as EMI released the Digital Cowboy EP.

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The band became regular guest hosts on MTV, and made several UK television appearances on BBC TV, then their debut- which was sadly to be their only- album, Moving Windows, was released in 1982. A fantastic gem of New Wave, the album is full of solid, catchy synth tunes. Never overly introspective or polished like many of their UK counterparts, the band’s sound is raw, energetic and lively, and stays true to their punk roots despite only utilizing electronic instruments. This is punchy, gritty electro-disco music that makes no pretensions, somewhere between early Soft Cell and early Men Without Hats it has the feel of a Punk album made with synths.

On hearing the album it comes as no surprise that ODW actually regarded themselves as a Rock act as opposed to a Synthpop one. They told Schlager magazine in 1983 (NB: the interview credits this quote to ‘Paul’ although I assume that is a mistake as I can find no record of a member with that name having joined them):

“In Europe we are immediately directed to the same genre as The Human League, Depeche Mode and OMD. But we don’t think we have too much in common with these bands. These are good bands, I can’t take that away from them, but we are not doing the same kind of thing. We are more like a rock band using synthesizers and rhythm machines. Our main influences come from The Rolling Stones, and even from Van Halen. We like American rock a lot, but we also listen to groups like Kraftwerk, OMD and DAF.”

Likewise, their stage presence was more like that of a Rock band than Synthpop; apparently at least one synthesizer used to be smashed at each gig. When you think of how refined many New Wave acts became throughout the 80s as they distanced themselves from their Punk roots, it’s perhaps a shame that ODW were no longer around to maintain the aggression that began it all. Or maybe that’s one of the reasons for their lack of mainstream success; they just didn’t quite fit in enough with their ‘peers’. Whatever the case, had they had the confidence back in the early days, they could easily have answered those heckling mofos’ shouts of “Why don’t you use any guitars” with “The SYNTHS are this band’s guitars!”

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With this band’s whole approach to their music, we could be here all night speculating what they could have come out with had they continued. But the politics of a major record corporation got in their way, and an argument between the band and their EMI boss killed all promotional hope for the album and a major European tour was cancelled. Eventually, caught in an inescapable recording contract with a company that refused to give them any support (sounds familiar), the band split in 1984 after a tour supporting The Psychedelic Furs.

ODW could clearly have lived on to become so much more. After the promising debut of Moving Windows, they planned to record a second album bringing back the guitar, bass and drums and combining them with their synth sound. While most synth bands were moving further and further away from Punk, ODW were set to re-embrace it. As the band told Schlager, “After removing the guitar, bass and drums four years ago we are putting them back in again to see what we have learned.” They also spoke of moving beyond the ‘softness’ of synth music to capture some pure aggression in the studio. I’m imagining an absolute masterpiece in my head, but we can only dream of what might have been. Perhaps their subsequent output would have been a commercial suicide, but it is quite, quite likely it would have been mindblowing.

In late 2007, Our Daughter’s Wedding reunited and set up their MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/ourdaughterswedding81. A reunion tour- and possibly the emergence of some previously unheard tracks- would be most welcome. They’re probably a bit better-known in the UK than they’d imagine, most die-hard 80s enthusiasts I speak to here at least know Lawnchairs and I managed to raise awareness of them on the Manchester 80s club scene the other year when I convinced the DJ to play their stuff, and Lawnchairs became a regular dancefloor filler as its catchiness sank into the minds of the previously unitiated.

So let’s raise a salute to America’s own synth pioneers whose refusal to abandon the true raucous spontaneity of Rock ‘n’ Roll set them easily apart from their peers- Our Daughter’s Wedding, Lawnchairs are STILL everywhere.

Reference: http://www.synthpunk.org/odw/schlager_63/schlager_63.html

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