Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wire Train Covers

Someone at CBS Records had no idea what to do with Wire Train.

Oh, sure. They tried. They made an honest effort to market them and move their albums and make it work. It failed.

Artistically, Wire Train was anything but a failure. They made great music, found a fan base, and did what they were supposed to do. The machinery of the music business was simply not prepared to handle anything other than commercial success on a broader scale than Wire Train could achieve. If they were out there now, making music and touring, they'd probably be very successful. But that old format whereby a record company comes up with an advance, they use that to make a record, they tour that record, they pray for a hit single or two--that's what failed. The band did not fail.

Using band photos sometimes works. Other times, no. It doesn't work. Here are two examples of album covers (cut down for the CD market, of course) where they just used whatever shots they could get and just cut it all up with scissors and laid it out on a table and said, what the hell. Let's use this.

The layout of In a Chamber reminds me of buying Earth tone paint at Lowe's. Four band members, the four elements, yes, we got it. Between Two Words is an even bigger mess. The front cover image, which aims for artistic and surreal hits pretentious and jarring, square on. The head shots that go with it reflect what must have been a band-wide reluctance to take good photos. Here you go, run with these. We're not buying it. To be fair though, it was the mid-1980s. Rock legends like Bono and Bob Dylan were supportive of the band. But something didn't gel on a nationwide basis. Something didn't work. Was it the covers? Superficially, no. A lack of hit singles? Given the times, you couldn't survive in the 1980s without radio-friendly hits. R.E.M. didn't start to rise above their college roots until they put out the single The One I Love, and that was on their fifth album. Wire Train never found their version of that.

And, sadly, not enough people bought these records. That, in a nutshell, is the story of Wire Train.

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