Hands - s/t. 1977-1980 USA


Hands - s/t. 1996 Shroom. Archival recordings from 1977, 1978 and 1980

We first spoke of Shroom in the Arabesque post a few months ago. For a period in the late 1990's, they proved to be the premier CD reissue archival label for America's unreleased progressive rock gems. I've never been intimately involved with the label, but do know pretty well a couple of guys from the original days, including one that is now an active, and fellow, RYM participant.

Hands is the album that pretty much started it all for Shroom. I'll never forget when I first heard this CD. I fell off my chair, perhaps literally. The fact that Hands were from Farmers Branch*, TX was surreal for me. Your humble author grew up and went to school all of about 2 minutes from the suburb, in NW Dallas. Anyone who is from the area, will remember the landscape well - with KZEW and KDFW 102 (pre-Q102) leading the way in FM radio. The years of 1977-1981 is where I cut my teeth on rock music - loyally listening to Randy Davis on weeknights, calling (bugging?) him many nights, and this incredible man taking my calls, and sometimes saying "hold on dude - let me put on a longer song and we'll talk". I mean, seriously, I was a 15 year old heavy metal punk with a thirst for knowledge and this radio professional would give ME the time? Wow. And he told me where I could find rare records and the like. That folks, is inspiring - even as I reflect over 30 years later. No rose colored glasses either - straight fact.

And so with my Sanyo all-in-one stereo, I would religiously pop in the cassette, and record KZEW's album of the night- which included everything from mainstreamers like Rush and Pink Floyd to local Dallas area AOR's such as Airborne (heard of them, have you?). Endless radio ads summoned you to wet T-shirt night at some local Dallas dive rock club (Ritz Theater, The Electric Ballroom, The Paladium, Agora Ballroom) with enticing band names, all long forgotten. But for certain, Hands was not among them. Can we go back to 1978? I want a do over.

Anyway, let's talk Hands for a brief moment. Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, ELP and every other mainstream progressive rock band will instantly come to mind. While never forgetting the longneck Pearl or Lone Star hard rock beer moments either. Guitar, violin, flute, keyboards, bass, drums...I mean really? In Farmers Branch? FB's Finest must've pulled them over a dozen times for going 36 in a 35 on Webbs Chapel (locals will get it).

A strikingly great piece of Americana progressive rock, that had NO CHANCE at major label attention. By 1980 The Police, Asia, The Buggles, Loverboy, and Journey ruled the airwaves. That's what the labels wanted to hear. Complex progressive rock was out. The New Wave and what we then called "corporate rock" were in. MTV was here to stay (I know, I'm so old I remember when MTV played music videos).

** So why does the name Farmers Branch mean anything to you? Perhaps you'll recall one of the earliest white rappers claiming he went to some "tough school in the projects". That was Vanilla Ice. And he went to Farmers Branch / Carrollton R.L. Turner High School (didn't even graduate). No street cred in that I'm afraid. Fraud.

*** And while on the personal topic, my good friend Dave, who was then starting a band called Storm at Sunrise - asked me my opinion on a guitarist he should choose - someone who could play both hard rock and progressive. I thought of Ernie Myers of Hands immediately - plus he was local to the area. Dave contacted him, and the rest is history.

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