The Front Lines Break Up

Kier says:

The Front Lines were like the Beatles and the Clash, except for the quality and fame and riches parts. The similarity was that the songwriting team became individuals going in different directions, while the band wasn't reaching the level it wanted to reach.

We probably peaked when our second record, the Capital Attraction single, came out. Phil and I co-wrote the A-side, I wrote the B-side. Phil and Bruce did arrangements for piano, cello and oboe on it (In This Universe). Steve played the bells and the crisp, solid drums. Kevin has the great bass break on the B-side. Capital Attraction has my best guitar solo (especially at the fade-out; use headphones). But Phil was beginning to write more like Springsteen; I wrote more like Gang of Four meets Dr. Doom; Bruce was adding Todd-Rundgren-esque tunes. And we were going through drummers. After Seth, there was Steve, Ronnie, Jeff, Ed, and John (who I don't think even played live with us). We had recorded a two-song demo after the single, which had got responses from 2 record companies, who wanted to hear more. But the A & R man who was supposed to show up at a gig didn't, then the next 3-song demo didn't have any effect. The band wasn't even happy with it. And it was like three different bands - Phil's, Bruce's, and Kier's.

Phil had some songwriting thing going, but it never went anywhere [see below]. And the feeling was like, why bother playing live? And then, why bother being a band? I actually can't pinpoint the end in my memory. Maybe it was when Phil and I (and our 2 other roommates) didn't get our lease renewed on our rental duplex (3-story plus basement) in Evanston. I moved into a 2-bedroom in Evanston with one of the other former tenants, and Phil got a 1-bedroom on Sheridan Road in Chicago. And we moved on.

Phil says:

Kier is correct on most levels. I think we got to the place that every band that doesn't make it gets to. I think money was a small part of it, as we were at the point where we needed to support ourselves better. The "musical differences" really went from a small crack to a near impossibility from a listener standpoint. I also think we weren't even sure ourselves what we wanted to do - so we faded out. I think the lack of a group drummer put us in dangerous territory to disintegrate. Another reason, I think, is that we didn't have anyone booking gigs, like Ed or Steve. That probably allowed the fade to happen. The irony is that a few years later every band in Chicago, including people who followed us, were getting deals thrown at them. So R'n'R fate is a bitch.

My thing after the band wasn't a songwriting thing. Darryl Thompson gave the 3-song Zenith/DB demo, I think, to Robbie Shakespeare from Black Uhuru (and 2,000 other reggae tracks). He called me - a very surreal moment, talking like someone imitating a reggae star. He said he liked it and wanted to do something. "Chris" (i.e. Chris Blackwell who owned Island Records - Marley and U2 worked out well) had given Sly and Robbie the go-ahead to do a project. I was supposed to fly to the Bahamas with Darryl T. The biggest mistake ever was sending them a badly-conceived demo made on my Teac PortaStudio at John M's house (of three tunes). I still have that and it sounds OK, but I shouldn't have sent that. Anyway, I spent literally one year waiting for "the call." Sly and Robbie played on Dylan's Infidels album and the Stones' Undercover album while I waited, so they were hot as hell, and it seemed that I should be patient. Ironically, that just faded away without any conclusion. Jamaican business tradition probably. That year was so rough. Afterwards I got a real job and pretty much put music in the closet like a former H addict, not thinking I could do it as a hobby or even for fun. Years later, I changed my mind.