Sunday, March 23, 2014

Geffen Records: Harden My Heart

It’s the fourth week of the month and as always, I feature selections from a particular record label for seven days. I was contemplating what I would feature this week and Geffen Records popped into my mind last Thursday. Many excellent recordings were released in the 1980s on David Geffen’s independent label; however, not all were hits. This week we’ll feature some of my personal favorites.

Geffen was one of the three labels I tried to amass as many recordings in various forms and still have a good collection of LPs, 12 inch singles, and 45s that I gathered in the 80s. Some of the albums were limited Quiex II vinyl releases, which was a better grade of vinyl that Warner Brothers issued to radio and others.

I’ve always been fascinated with the business of music and even at eight years of age I was arranging my record collection by labels and their subsidiary companies and labels they distributed. I know of one other person that did this as well. I stopped doing it when Sire Records changed distribution from Polydor to ABC – and then I realized it was futile to keep doing this.

As for this week’s feature label, it was the brainchild of David Geffen who also started Asylum Records in the early 70s. Geffen released its first single during fall 1980 with Donna Sumner’s “The Wanderer.” It was followed up by John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over,” which was on the charts at the time of his death. More on that cut as well as my personal recollection of the night of his death on Wednesday.

Although an independent label, Geffen was initially distributed by Warner Brothers. When the arrangement with Warners ended in 1990, Geffen sold his label outright to MCA. In 1999, Universal Music Group (formerly MCA) purchased Polygram and Universal spun Geffen, A&M, and Interscope into a single division where the brand resides today.

Today’s feature comes from a Portland area band – Quarterflash and their first single “Harden My Heart.” The band was led by the wife-husband team Rindy (vocals and sax) and Marv (guitars) Ross. Both album and single were released in 1981.

For an unknown band, their debut did quite well as the album charted at #8 and was certified platinum. “Harden my Heart,” a song they had previously recorded under the name Seafood Mama, was a colossal hit making it to #1 on the album charts and #3 on the Hot 100. The song is a staple of ‘80s themed radio even to this day.

I saw Quarterflash at Concord College (now University) while they were getting ready to embark on their second tour. They were fantastic live and great people to meet. The highlight of the show was when they were getting ready to perform their current release “Take another Picture,” and all the band members snapped a succession of Polaroid photographs of the audience. They then tossed these out into a screaming crowd during the performance of the song. Somewhere I have my personal photos from the show, but don’t ask me in which box they currently reside.

Rindy Ross and the author holding the platinum LP with the rest of Quarterflash and some contest winners. My apologies for the out of focus picture.

I was very pleased that Geffen honored me with a platinum album for adding the single as well as its follow-ups “Find another Fool” and “Right Kind of Love” out of the box. When I met the band, I had them autograph the paper on the back of the platinum album. This was the only Geffen award I received during my radio career. I hope “Harden my Heart” brings back some positive 80s vibes for you.

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