Back in the early 90s, when I was living in New York City and Top Management was in grad school in North Carolina, my imaginary friend Chris came to live with me for a while. Chris was the only person I knew who had a cooler job’n me: he worked at MTV News. In fact, he was the main writer for Kurt Loder the day Kurt Cobain’s death was announced. Much of that day was given over to reporting on that story and providing background and context. Given that, obviously, they had no lead time for story preparation, Chris was writing on the fly and at one point was hearing Kurt say over the air words that he, Chris, had typed only about forty-five seconds earlier. A pretty harrowing experience on top of a sad day.
Anyhoo, one of the many benefits of working there was the free CDs. Thanks to discs cast off by the likes of Tabitha Soren, he scored stuff such as Peter Gabriel’s Us, Brian Eno’s Nervenet and the Shutov Assembly, XTC’s Nonsvch, Metallica’s Black Album and Sonic Youth’s Goo. Given that we were living on a shoestring budget and our audio equipment consisted of the cheapest boombox I could find, hooked up to Chris’s discman and that neither of us had brought any of our collections with us, these discs were manna. And pretty much all we had to listen to. So we did. A lot. I learned to appreciate XTC and Sonic Youth (although I still think Goo’s one of their weakest albums), my love of Brian Eno was renewed (although Nervenet did and does nothing for me) and my appreciation of Metallica confirmed.
There was one other album we had, a band called Lost in the Supermarket who released an eponymous album on JRM Records, a small independent label. Since Chris had dozens of discs to choose from each week, I don’t know how this one managed to make the cut. But as we had rather a dearth of options, we gave it a try. And were very, very pleasantly surprised. In fact, I’d guess only the Metallica and XTC albums got more play that year.
Who was Lost in the Supermarket? I don’t know. Where were they from? Got me—there was no indication anywhere on the CD or booklet. What’s their music like? College rock in the mold of the Connells or DBs, I guess I’d say. Good playing, good vocals, good arrangements, a nice variety of styles. Good solid accessible rock and roll, something of which there is never nearly enough.
So what happened to them? As far as I can tell…nothing. Googling turns up no information on them, although popping the disc in iTunes does pull up the song titles; of course, the fact that their name is also the name of a Clash song makes a websearch a tad difficult. But even googling the record label doesn’t help—if the label’s got a site, I haven’t been able to locate it.
Did they just release the one album? Were there others? Was the band a regional success? Was it just a lark or were they crushed that they didn’t go on to become huge rock stars?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that every few years I still pull the disc out and give it a spin. And each time I wonder if I’ll wonder what I ever heard in it. But so far that hasn’t even come close to happening. Instead, I listen to Lost in the Supermarket and think about luck, about popular taste and the fickleness of fate.
I remembering reading that my boy Bruce Springsteen was obsessed with the idea that the perfect pop song was played on the radio, in Iowa, at 3:30 in the morning once…and only once. That’s haunted me ever since.
I think about that when I listen to Lost in the Supermarket. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming they were the greatest band ever, and this certainly isn’t the greatest album ever—I don’t think Revolver or Born to Run or London Calling or Murmur or Nevermind is in much danger of being toppled from their places in the canon.
But it deserved more than it got. Not to damn with faint praise or nothin’, but it was certainly as good as Hootie and Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View. Why did that go on to sell three trillion copies and this just disappear, leaving barely a trace?
I don’t know. No major backing? Not photogenic enough? Certainly no one in the band seems to have had the rich baritone of Darius Rucker. Is that all there is? Maybe. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe they broke up right after the CD was released. Maybe it was never supposed to be a permanent thing. Or maybe they simply weren’t lucky.
Whatever it was, if Bob Fuller, David Klabo, Niko Lorentzatos, Bryan Patterson or Matt Stover ever google themselves, I hope they discover that somewhere out there there’s at least one guy who remembers their band and thinks that their album was pretty swell, and whose life is at least a bit better for having heard their music. Thanks, guys.