Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1988, Edie Brickell and New Bohemians released the album Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars. Without their lead singer’s name out in front, the band had spent a couple years gigging around the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas, building enough of a local following that they caught the attention of Geffen Records. The major label, still in its first decade at the time, snapped up the group and dispatched them to Rockfield Studios in Wales, perhaps figuring the pastoral landscape surrounding the converted farmhouse recording space would vibe beneficially with the New Bohemians’ neo-hippie sounds.
The label’s choice of producer was less simpatico. By their own accounting, the New Bohemians generally opted for a loose, exploratory approach to crafting music, jamming until they found their way to a song. Guitarist Kenny Withrow told Spin magazine that the band’s biggest hit, “What I Am,” came about “after about ten minutes of doodling around in the garage.” Moran’s approach was far more regimented. The band was discouraged from playing together in the studio, ceding control to Moran, who pieced together individually recorded parts. Hardly an uncommon practice, it still made the group feel discouraged.
The sinking sense for some of the band members was compounded when they discovered the label was putting their weight behind the young, photogenic lead singer releasing the album as the debut of the newly renamed Edie Brickell and New Bohemians. The shift in billing spurred enough discord that the band nearly broke up before the album even hit stores. Instead, they soldiered on, and “What I Am,” released as the lead single, became a surprise Top 10 hit, immediately propelling the band to bigger stages.
At the college radio station I called home in the fall of 1988, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars was about as close to an ideal album as we could get. For many of our brethren across the nation, that first semester of the last school year contained entirely within the eighties was all about the abrasiveness of Nothing’s Shocking, The Land of Rape and Honey, and Daydream Nation. Generally speaking, gentler souls had their FCC licenses pinned to the wall near our transmitter, and the folky grooves of the Bohemians were all over our playlists like summertime freckles. At the time, the station had a policy strictly forbidding airplay for anything that crossed into the Top 40, so “What I Am” was quickly unavailable. Other tracks, then, stir the greatest nostalgia for me. The mildly conflicted paean to isolation “Circle” is more likely to place me back in that beloved radio booth, winding down an evening of programming with Brickell’s pristine keening and cooing voice.
Listen or download —> Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, “Circle”
(Disclaimer: Honestly, I started writing this with the assumption that Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars was still in print, or at least a hits collection featuring the song shared above was readily available as a physical object that can be procured from your favorite local, independently owned record store in a manner that compensates both the original artist and the proprietor of said shop. After a little research, I’m not so sure of that. Regardless, this file is not shared with the intention of impeded commerce, but instead in the hopes that it will encourage some music shopping. It’s fair use, friends, but I do know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove it from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)