Flashback Friday: Translator and Kingbees

A pair of early ‘80s bands that I dug back in the day are seeing reissues this spring, both courtesy of the awesome archive-loving folks at Omnivore Recordings.

The Bay Area band Translator is best known – if known at all – for their hit “Everywhere That I’m Not,” which had big MTV play back in 1982. The group, which was on the hip 415 Records label (Romeo Void, Wire Train, etc.), was part of the wave of “College Rock” bands of that time whose smartly crafted music was too jittery for power pop and too hooky for art rock. R.E.M. probably is the most successful graduate of this school but others included bands like Guadalcanal Diary, Swimming Pool Q’s, the Reivers, Colorblind James Experience, to name a few. (raise your hand if you had one of these on vinyl or cassette?). To continue on this road of obscurity, I always associate “Everywhere That I’m Not,” with the even lesser known tune, “What Do All The People Know,” by the semi-one-hit-wonders, the Monroes.

At the end of March, Omnivore released Sometime People Forget, which collects 22 of Translators’ demos onto one disc – 20 of them have never been released before. The compilation does include “Everywhere That I’m Not,” but I wish it had a couple tunes (“Everywhere” and “Sleeping Snakes”) from their classic Heartbeats and Triggers album that I would have liked to have heard but it does have this one:

The Kingbees was part of another early ‘80s music movement, the neo-rockabilly/retro roots rock scene. The Stray Cats, another MTV-fueled success story, ranks as the most famous of this scene. The Kingbees came out of Los Angeles, where they rubbed shoulders with groups such as the Blasters and Rank & File that also loved music of the past. The Kingbees favored a slightly poppier sound, akin to Marshall Crenshaw doing rockabilly. The self-titled debut was a fun slice of vintage-flavored rock ‘n’ roll; however, they never took off like the Stray Cats – maybe because their label folded around the band’s second album.

On April 28, Omnivore will reissue an expanded version of the group’s 1980 debut. It will be bolstered by a half-dozen demos and a trio of live cuts that you might recognize (“Somethin’ Else,” “Not Fade Away” and “Bo Diddley”).

Here is the best known track “My Mistake” that should have been a bigger hit.

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About Michael Berick

I am a longtime writer, and lover, of music and pop culture. I have written for Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Scene and more places (that I wouldn't take up more of your time mentioning now).
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