Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Buoys: Timothy

Welcome aboard to Uruguayan Air Flight 571 headed to Santiago, Chile. This is your captain and due to the length of today’s flight, we will be serving one meal. Today’s menu includes delicious Polynesian long pig seasoned with rosemary and accented with side orders of soylent green and fettuccine Alfredo. For desert, peach Melba. Our in-flight feature today will be that dark comedy from 1982 – “Eating Raoul.” Once we reach cruising altitude, we’ll be flying at 30,000 feet as we cross the Andes. We invite you to relax and enjoy the breathtaking view. And again, thank you flying Uruguayan Air.

Back in the days before shock jocks, radio stations did something extraordinary – they banned records. Some of those were for silly reasons – such as with The Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie.” The lyrics were unintelligible and someone had the bright idea that they must also contain “dirty” references. Certain other songs did not fit the mores of the local society and so other records were banned from time to time.

What if a group set out to get their record banned so that it would sell records? It would have to be something shocking – a topic so disgusting that not only does it guarantee that the record would be banned in Boston, but also in Boise, Bismark, and Birmingham. After all, even bad publicity is good publicity.

That topic was . . . [shocking] cannibalism. The mastermind of The Buoys only hit was a man named Rupert Holmes. You may remember Holmes for a series of sappy singles in 1979 and 1980 – “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” “Him,” and “Answering Machine.” They all performed very well on the charts with “Escape” at #1, “Him” at #6, and “Answering Machine” at #32.

In 1971, he had this idea for a record for The Bouys, a band he was producing at the moment. Holmes approached Scepter Records for a contract for one single. Promotion was out of the question and the band would find other methods to promote the song. Scepter bit.

While it was obvious from the storyline of the song that two of the men trapped in the mine came forth with full bellies and without their friend Timothy. In other words, they had Timothy over for dinner. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em – eat ‘em. Even though radio was hesitant to play the song, teenagers all over the country just ate it up. Slowly, radio began to drop their restrictions and played “Timothy.” This one hit wonder peaked at #17 on the Hot 100.

Rupert Holmes, who penned the tune, went back and secured an album deal from Scepter and the promotional single was re-released this time with two variations that altered the lyrics to please everyone. Scepter, now promoting the single, began to soften the message of the song stating that Joe and his friend ate their pack mule named appropriately “Timothy.” The public at large didn’t swallow that story.

How could a song that has a bouncy rhythm and a tasty violin lead be bad. If you didn’t pay attention, you might not catch its message. It was a formula record – Holmes set out to accomplish a goal with the tune and was successful. I'm sure it is no coincidence that Holmes named his second son “Timothy.”

I didn’t get my copy of the song until the early 80s. One of my contacts in the music business sent me a white label promo copy of the single. Unfortunately, I don’t remember who it was, but I have narrowed it down to two individuals – either Jay Brooks of Elektra Records or Mark Nathan at ATCO. Both often found me hard to get records.

I got the album in 1988 at a used record store in Boston. During that trip, I also bought “The Best of Bill Deal and the Rhondels” and “The Happenings Greatest Hits.” At the time I was doing oldies radio and was always looking for old records that were hard to find.

The Buoys’ LP is kind of confusing as to its title. On the album’s cover, the band was standing under an awning that had “Timothy” written on it. To the left of the band, “Give up your Guns” was mock spray painted on the wall. OK, which is it, “Timothy” or “Give up your Guns?”

If that wasn’t confusing enough, the back cover had “Dinner Music” printed in large script with a photo of the band inside a restaurant. OK, that’s three names – but wait, we haven’t seen the label yet. Title number four is “The Buoys” by The Buoys.” Well I hope you've had your fill of our smorgasbord of album titles. I must go as the maître de is calling: “Donner party of five; Donner party of five.”

1 comment:

  1. Googled Jay Brooks and Elektra Records and this is what came up. EXCELLENT! Miss him calling me a "Buckethead" every week. Scott Reppert, WTCS, Fairmont, WV (1978-1987)...