Picture sleeve for the dBs' debut single, "(I Thought) You Wanted to Know", issued on Car Records.
The dBs were the brainchild of Chris Stamey, who played bass with Alex Chilton (the Box Tops, Big Star) in 1977. After the breakup of the the Sneakers, a band Stamey co-founded with Mitch Easter, Stamey (guitar, vocals, keyboards) recruited former Sneaker members Gene Holder (bass) and Will Rigby (drums) for the dBs. They released their debut single, “(I Thought) You Wanted to Know” b/w “If and When”, credited to “Chris Starney and the dBs”. This is today’s featured single.
“(I Thought) You Wanted to Know” starts with a drum beat, followed by a catchy riff, joined by Stamey’s vocals about 20 seconds into the track: “I want to know what it is that we’re looking for/You say to me in a voice that’s both soft and sore/I’ve got the key, it’s just that I don’t think anymore/I am in the air, I don’t have a care”. Stamey evokes comparisons to Chris Bell here (while the bouncy melody, in this listener’s opinion, evokes comparisons to contemporaries such as The Rubinoos), and this song is a solid slab of power pop, a worthy addition to any collection of 1970s pop. This song was written by Richard Lloyd of Television; the dBs thus provide a link not only between the power pop/jangle pop bands of the 1970s and those of 1980s, but also between the latter and the 1970s punk movement. From the opening to the soaring, ethereal fade-out 3 minutes and 16 seconds later, this is one of the more memorable debut singles of this era.
The B-side, “If and When”, has more of a garage-rock feel to it, with a gritty-sounding guitar pounding out a catchy melody punctuated by Rigby’s solid drumming. The lyrics are as abstract as they are on the A-side, if somewhat more vexing: “If and when you come/I will see you there/I submerge your face/Blood all in your hair/I’ll be true and I won’t know/If and when you come/I’ll go slow”. We get a very cool-sounding guitar solo (albeit brief) 1 minute and 11 seconds into the track, followed by one last verse, and the song closes with Stamey’s vocals reaching a fever pitch with the lyric “I’ll be hot” (for the most part, Stamey would abandon his yelp in later releases) repeated several times preceding a wail of guitar feedback that brings the track to a screeching halt. One has to assume that the fact that the band chose two very different songs for this single has some significance, and the dBs show an amazing degree of range and depth that belies their status as a newly-formed band.
View of the back of the picture sleeve.
This single (catalog #: CRR 7) was released on Stamey’s Car Records imprint, a short-lived label that nonetheless released a few interesting records, including Chris Bell’s only solo single, “I Am the Cosmos”, and a Peter Holsapple maxi-single. There was a picture sleeve (shown above). In October 1978, Peter Holsapple (guitar, vocals) joined the band. The dBs were unable to secure a deal with an American label, so they signed with U.K.-based Albion Records, who released their debut album, “Stands for Decibels” (1981). The album received critical acclaim but achieved negligible sales. Their second album, “Repercussion” (1982), built on the strengths of the first and contained such singles as “Judy”. Stamey left the band after the second album and pursued a career as a solo artist and producer. The band finally landed a deal with an American label (Bearsville Records), but the release of their third album, “Like This” (1984) was delayed due to distribution woes. Rick Wagner, who played keyboards on “Like This”, joined the band on bass, and Gene Holder took over lead guitar duties. Peter Holsapple became the lead singer. After Bearsville Records went out of business, the band signed with I.R.S. Records, who released their next album, “The Sound of Music” (1987), on which Jeff Beninato played bass. The band subsequently broke up, although two CDs were released posthumously: “Ride the Wild Tom-Tom” (1993), consisting of early demos, recordings and singles, and “Paris Avenue” (1994), which consists of demos recorded in the band’s waning days. The band reunited in 2005, and began work on a new album. They recorded a version of “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” to benefit the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund. They played two shows in Chicago and two shows in Hoboken, New Jersey that year. In early 2007 they played at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City and at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina. Work on the new album continues as time permits.