Overtly stealing Minutemen song titles here, but thought I'd start compiling some songs by some bands that artists were in before they got any fame (and the word "fame" is applied somewhat loosely in this exercise - I ain't no mainstream type).
This mix starts with a song by the Iveys, who were signed to the Beatles Apple label in the late 60s. They put out one album (Maybe Tomorrow) before changing their name to Badfinger. Badfinger had only a slightly better fate, hitting with McCartney's "Come and Get It" and penning "Without You", which became a hit for Harry Nilsson, but (as everyone probably knows) the band could never catch a break and, after a strange bit of litigation involving their shady manager, ultimately ended when songwriter Pete Ham hung himself in 1975. Eight years later, after some attempts at reunions, Badfinger's other main songwriter Tom Evans committed the same deed.
Next up is a slightly happier story. During the late '70s U.K. punk explosion the Nipple Erectors never made much of a dent in the charts, and not much changed even after shortening their name to the Nips and releasing the awesome "Gabrielle" in 1980. But singer Shane McGowan went on to form the Pogues, and after flirting with a premature demise for decades he seems to finally appear clean and sober (with brand new teeth) these days. See? Not everything ends in tragedy.
Signed to Dawn Records in 1974, and evidenced by the song "Rough Kids", Kilburn & the High Roads were a band stuck between glam and pub rock, and generally going nowhere until singer Ian Dury struck out on his own, releasing the remarkable debut New Boots and Panties in 1977. In a similar situation almost exactly, the 101'ers were stuck in pub rock hell between '74 and '76 and probably wouldn't have been remembered at all if their singer Joe Strummer hadn't gone on to form the Clash.
That first rush of punk led to an avalanche of new bands. Riff Raff came about in 1977, released a couple singles on the Chiswick label ("Romford Girls" being one of them), and disbanded in 1981 when the singer Billy Bragg up and joined the army. Likewise, Johnny & the Self Abusers formed in '77 and also released their song "Dead Vandals" on the Chiswick label. A slight line-up shuffle prompted them to change their name to Simple Minds.
Bruce Woolley & the Camera Club only released one record, 1980's English Garden, but that album included the original version of "Video Killed The Radio Star", a song Woolley cowrote with Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, who took the song to the bank in the Buggles (trivia note: the trio also wrote Dusty Springfield's hit "Baby Blue"). Bruce Woolley went on to a more behind-the-scenes role in music, eventually being eclipsed in fame by Camera Club bandmate, Thomas Dolby.
"City of Fun"was recorded as a demo in 1974 by England's Glory, a band that never officially released an album. Band leader Peter Perrett had considerably more luck with his next band the Only Ones, who re-recorded this song on their debut. Despair were kicking around at the same time as England's Glory, but it wasn't until they hopped aboard the punk train and changed their name to the Vibrators that they found any acclaim. Tigerlily existed alongside those other two bands and even released their version of "Ain't Misbehavin'" as a single, but their fortune didn't come until they ditched that bandname and became Ultravox. During this same era the apocalyptic glam/prog band Hawkwind was killing brain cells in the U.K. When they kicked out their bassist for too many drug busts, Lemmy took his song "Motorhead" as the name for his new band.
When the Soft Boys broke up, main songwriter Robyn Hitchcock went solo and guitarist (and less prolific songwriter) Kimberley Rew formed the Waves. The Waves put out the Shock! Horror! ep in 1983 (which "I Caught The Milk Train" is from), but they didn't release a full-length album until after they recruited American ex-pat Katrina Leskanich on vocals, and by that time they were about to be much better known as Katrina and the Waves.
In those weird mid 70s years before punk and new wave, there were a lot of artists trying to figure out a musical direction that veered away from the stagnant sound of mainstream rock. Richard Otcasek and Benjamin Orzechowski were two such musicians, first trying their hand at country rock in Milkwood before slightly streamlining their names (to Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr) and forming the Cars. Somewhere around the same time, Peter Holsapple was kicking around in the H-Bombs, before hooking up with Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey (from the Sneakers) and starting the dBs. That same year (1978), way over on the other coast of North America, a singer/songwriter by the name of Jules Shear, fresh out of his involvement with the Funky Kings, formed Jules & the Polar Bears (his solo career continues to this day, but he probably remains best known for writing hits for Cyndi Lauper and the Bangles). The New York band Piper put out their debut in 1977, and was formed when leader Billy Squier left the Sidewinders (with the Paley Brothers).
L.A.'s the Nerves only ever managed to put out a single ep (in 1976), but the band launched the careers of Paul Collins (of the Beat) and Peter Case (of the Plimsouls and solo career) as well as introducing the planet to the short-lived flash of Jack Lee (who wrote the Blondie hit "Hangin' On The Telephone", which first appeared on that Nerves ep). Candy's lone album appeared in 1985, and it's an uneven affair, although the song "Whatever Happened To Fun?" remains one of the greatest power pop one-shots in history. Guitarist Gilby Clarke would later find fame as Izzy Stradlin's replacement in Guns n' Roses.
Jumping around a tad in chronology now, Maow was an all-female Vancouver trio that put out their only album The Unforgiving Sounds Of Maow in 1996 on Mint Records. The album is sloppy and fun, but really only jumps to life when the band's drummer steps up to the mike on her two songs. That drummer later developed a critically acclaimed solo career as Neko Case.
The Moving Sidewalks were a 1960s garage band, compiled on the Nuggets set as well as various other garage collections. Songwriter and guitarist Billy Gibbons is much better known for his subsequent work in ZZ Top. Also in the 60s, the Jynx included a young Chris Bell, who would later show up with Alex Chilton in Big Star (and die tragically before a promising solo career had a chance to even begin).
In the early 80s, L.A.'s paisley underground scene brought forth a wealth of great bands, two of them being the Dream Syndicate and the Rain Parade. When guitarist Dave Roback left the Rain Parade he teamed up with Dream Syndicate bassist Kendra Smith and released the Happy Nightmare, Baby album under the name Opal in 1984. Kendra's sultry vocals gliding on top of Roback's fuzzy chording certainly formed the framework for his next band, Mazzy Star.
The Bis-Quits self-titled album came out on John Prine's Oh Boy label in 1993. If there's any questions over why the band never quite made it, let's just say that song titles like "Anal All Day" proved them just too clever (or wiseass) for their own good. Of course, in his subsequent solo career Tommy Womack hasn't exactly become a household name, but that's more due to the more typical unfairness of the market place than any fault of his own.
Finally, the two ringers of the compilation (and probably the most well-known). Heatmiser were a band out of Portland, releasing three full-length albums between 1993 and '96. The band splintered into No. 2, Quasi, and, most famously, the tragic solo trajectory of Elliott Smith. The Go are from Detroit and their debut came out in 1999. They somehow missed out on the great garage rock revival/trend of the early '00s, which must be a tad hard for them to swallow, seeing as then-bandmate Jack White is the guy who helped kickstart that very trend with the White Stripes.
The early version of this mix contained 34 songs. I had to whittle it down to fit onto an 80 minute CDR, so I suspect it's safe to suggest you keep an eye out for History Lesson Pt. 2.
History Lesson, Pt. 1
1. The Iveys See Saw, Granpa (Badfinger)
2. The Nips Gabrielle (Shane McGowan)
3. Kilburn & the High Roads Rough Kids (Ian Dury)
4. The 101'ers Letsgetabitarockin' (Joe Strummer)
5. Riff Raff Romford Girls (Billy Bragg)
6. Johnny & the Self Abusers Dead Vandals (Simple Minds)
7. Bruce Woolley & the Camera Club No Surrender (Thomas Dolby)
8. England's Glory City Of Fun (The Only Ones)
9. Despair Sweet Sweet Heart (The Vibrators)
10. Tigerlily Ain't Misbehavin' (Ultravox)
11. The Waves I Caught The Milk Train (Katrina & the Waves)
12. Milkwood We've Been All Through (The Cars)
13. Maow Ms. Lefevre (Neko Case)
14. The H-Bombs Big Black Truck (Peter Holsapple/ The dBs)
15. Jules & the Polar Bears You Just Don't Wanna Know (Jules Shear)
16. Candy Whatever Happened To Fun? (Gilby Clarke)
17. Piper Who's Your Boyfriend? (Billy Squier)
18. The Nerves One Way Ticket (Peter Case, Plimsouls, Paul Collins' Beat)
19. The Moving Sidewalks 99th Floor (Billy Gibbons)
20. Hawkwind Motorhead (Lemmy/ Motorhead)
21. Opal She's a Diamond (Mazzy Star)
22. Heatmiser Pop in G (Elliott Smith)
23. The Bis-Quits Anal All Day (Tommy Womack)
24. The Go You Can Get High (Jack White)
25. The Jynx Little Girl (Chris Bell/ Big Star)