Listening To “Sure Thing” By Foster And Lloyd In A Chevy Caprice In Topeka, Kansas
When I heard that there was a new Foster And Lloyd cd coming out this Spring I was just about as excited as I’ve ever been by a new release. The albums that Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd put out together and separately are still among my absolute favorite recordings by anybody, anywhere, anytime. “Crazy Over You,” “Texas In 1880, “”Turn Around,” “Faster and Louder,” hell, everything they ever did, were and are one of a kind music: power pop hooks, way-cool lyrics, countrified licks all over the place, and genuine, hard-to-find-anytime heart. Radney’s solo works have further stocked my favorite songs of all time with some of the greatest songwriting ever: “Godspeed,” “Nobody Wins”, “A Real Fine Place To Start,” “I’m In,” once again, hell, everything he’s done, has either brought me to tears or cause me to literally jump up suddenly, scaring the cat, and cheering at the beauty and talent of those records. For me, Radney’s latest solo effort, “Revival,” is one of the most poignant and honest bunch of songs I’ve ever heard. Right up there with the “Plastic Ono Band” album and “Big Star3rd.” All three of those albums have reduced me to tears.
Back in the mid-80’s I was a songwriter/singer/guitarist/wastrel cruising around Topeka, Kansas, my hometown, all day, hanging with a couple of nogoodnik buddies, hitting the bars every night, killing our brains with drugs, yearning for something, at least I was, that I just couldn’t seem to put my finger on. The treading water deal felt all wrong to me. I was ashamed to be doing more drinking than songwriting. I had been writing songs for a long time, since I was 15 years old, and I think I was reaching the point where they really had something to them. People I respected told me I had a “gift”, a “Voice.” Whatever. I had graduated from college in Lawrence, Ks, had a semi-cool pop band there playing my early songs. I felt like I just had to get out of town, find someplace where people would like my songs, or just flat out like great songs in general. I’d given some thought to going to Minneapolis or Nashville. I had some friends in Minneapolis that worked at Twin Tone Records, I’d done some gigs with The Replacements and had become friends of theirs. I knew I had to get out of Topeka, the town known then and now for drivers driving under the speed limit by at least 10 miles an hour for reasons I couldn’t ever figure out. Nothing to see here people, move along now.
One afternoon I happened to be scanning through the radio channels in my beat up rust bucket Chevy Caprice, and by sheer chance came across a country station. Not terribly surprising, really, since they like their country down in Kansas. The second I turned to the station, they played “Sure Thing” by Foster And Lloyd. I pulled over to the side of the road; I sensed that this was going to be one of those moments you sometimes are lucky to get, like hearing Big Star’s Radio City for the first time. And special it was. My mind was completely blown at how beautiful a pop song it was. It was like hearing Big Star for the first time or “Walk Away Renee” for the first of a million times. I was just stunned that there was somebody out there somewhere making music like that. a stunning intro, 12 string electrics, melodies that you wished you’d written, and one of the greatest quick bridges ever written. And it was on a country station! I decided then and there, sitting in that old Caprice, that I’d be gone from Kansas within a week.
I wanted to go to Nashville, maybe make one of those crazy fan searches for Radney and Bill, just to say howdy, but secretly to try and get some advice from them, maybe sleep in the back of one of their trucks for a few weeks, but my traveling partners, one of which, Tim O’Reagan, ended up partnering with me in the band The Leatherwoods and who also went on to play with the Jayhawks and cut a brilliant solo album, didn’t want to go to Nashville. Or maybe Tim wanted to go to Nashville and it was the other guy who didn’t. I can’t remember. Anyway, we settled on Minneapolis, where I knew Peter Jesperson, manager of the Replacements and founder of Twin Tone Records. We hit the ground running, got a bit of a following, did a Leatherwoods cd produced by Paul Westerberg, who also co-wrote some tunes with me and Tim, , and we tried our best to get my songs out there to the public. We never became big stars or anything, or at least I didn’t. Tim did quite well with the Jayhawks and his solo album.. I’ve released several power pop/Americana type affairs, and am working on one right now., For getting us out there in the world and aiming for Foster And Lloyd greatness, I’ll always be grateful to “Sure Thing” and Foster and Lloyd, who spoke to me long distance, telling me to go with my heart, to write songs that I truly believe in, the best that I can, and that there are still people out there writing brilliant stuff, you just have to find them. The glory, of course is not in the success, it’s in the journey. Hell, just writing this makes me want to make music, write a song, cut a record. That’s what Foster and Lloyd do to me– they keep inspiring me. My super secret wish would be to cowrite with them, play guitar in one of their bands, or maybe just buy them a drink and a hot dog. Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd are two of my personal heroes, and I’ve never had many, and most of the ones I’ve had have had a nasty tendency to let one down. These guys aren’t ever going to disappoint anyone, anywhere. I can just tell.
(Before disbanding in 1990, Foster & Lloyd recorded three albums for RCA and charted nine singles, including 1987’s ‘Crazy Over You,’ which peaked at No. 4 on the country charts. After 11 years, the duo — comprised of singer-songwriter Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd — have reunited, and written 14 songs for a new album to be released in May titled, ‘It’s Already Tomorrow.’)