Vintage AZ-The Psalms

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The story of Long Wong’s imminent return to Tempe as a live music venue brings with it not only the requisite amounts of media drama and hope for the Phoenix Metro Area’s live music scene, but also discussion about how “cool” the scene actually was in it’s Mill Ave. heyday.  I can’t speak with much authority about those days; my exposure to the whole scene was mostly limited to my mom’s then boyfriend blasting stuff like The Refreshments around her apartment. By the time I found myself going to shows in the late-nineties/early two-thousands, I was frequenting more punk establishments, like The Nile and Nita’s Hideaway.

But I’ve always had a measure of respect for The Gin Blossoms, the flagship act of that era. While the Blossoms jangle-pop inspires chuckles or outright scorn from most Phoenix musicians under forty-or-so, dismissed as antiquity, I’ve always really enjoyed their song-craft, owing a lot to my favorite group, Big Star, especially the compositions of Doug Hopkins, the band’s original guitarist, who was fired by the band during the recording of their major label full-length, New Miserable Experience. Hopkins committed suicide not long after, reportedly smashing the gold record her earned for the band’s breakthrough single “Hey Jealousy,” a tune he penned.

Pre-Gin Blossoms, Hopkins had played in the rougher-sounding Moral Majority, writing charming sounding songs like “Eddie’s Going Faggot” and “B.Y.U. Fight Song.” While that band’s recording have yet to surface, he followed their breakup by forming The Psalms, who’s recordings are floating about the interweb.  The Psalms foreshadow the jangle of the Blossoms, but come across far more New Wave influenced, recalling The Cure and New Order.  My search into Arizona’s punk, power-pop and garage past (aided significantly by Marc Reid and local blogs and sites such as AZ Local and Lost Horizons) has revealed plenty of interesting acts, which I plan of discussing more in the future, but The Psalms have proven to be the most immediately arresting, a particularly bad-ass sounding chapter of Phoenix’s musical history.

5 thoughts on “Vintage AZ-The Psalms”

  1. I was fortunate to have been in my twenties during the heyday of the Mill Avenue scene, so to say I miss that era is an understatement. As good as the Gin Blossoms and the Refreshments were, Dead Hot Workshop and the Feedbags are the two bands that really stand out for me from the time period.

    Before corporate America and current ASU President Crowe killed Mill Avenue, there was a bar right across the street from Long Wongs. Headlining bands would play multiple sets in an evening, and since they could not drink onstage while playing, Dead Hot and the Gin Blossoms would solve that little problem by running across the street to the 6 East Lounge, downing a few drinks real quick, then coming back to play their next set. You could tell how drunk Doug was getting as the evening went on because eventually he would start thrusting the neck of the guitar he was playing into the ceiling above the stage, then grab another guitar while the other was left hanging there.

    Long Wongs, Chuys, Edcel’s Attic, Hayden Square Amphitheatre … geez, I miss those venues. Add in Nita’s Hideaway (the original off the freeway and McClintock) and the best venue in Tempe back in the day, the Sun Club. Memories of these venues make me happy I’m 40 today and had a chance to be there.

  2. I can’t believe it, more songs by The Psalms. I’m a big Doug Hopkins fan and am always looking for more. If you’ve got more, I’d love to hear it.

    Thanks,

    Ace (feel free to write)

  3. Thanks, Frank, for your comments about The Feedbags. I’m Gary, the drummer for the ‘Bags. 3 out of the four former feedbags are still making music!

    Jim Swafford plays in a multitude of projects, Stellanova, (With Lawerence Zubia and Phillip Rhodes, from Pistoleros and Gin Blossoms) as well as a solo artist.

    Scott Johnson, as we all know, left the Feedbags for the lead guitar position after Doug’s departure from the Blossoms, where he still is today,

    And I’m in a Power Pop group called Dfactor, our next gig is this Thursday, Jan 6th 2011 at the Rogue bar in Scottsdale.

    C’mon out for a show sometime

  4. Does anyone have a good sized Clear Digital image of when Richard Flower was with them, that you can share with me??

    Thanks
    Steve

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