In the fly-blown desert strip-mall that was Reagan’s America, authenticity was hard to come by, particularly in music. After a Me-decade spent hashing out new technologies, market jurisdictions and FCC red tape, the unweildy goose known as the “entertainment industry” had landed. Media moguls invoked focus-group wisdom to foist “edgy” punk acts and big hair metal bands on the public while conspiring to craft the ever-elusive mega-hit. 1984 was the year Columbia Records dumped half its advertising budget into a single album, yielding BORN IN THE USA’s record round of hits and a windfall for shareholders. No one could be happier. But amid the ticker-tape and champagne, a few of us felt like something had been lost. The era of the contemplative songwriter with the journalistic focus and eye for small-time detail had been drowned out in the goldrush.
Enter BOOMTOWN, the stripped-down, guitar-driven album from David & David, a rock duo that appeared from out of nowhere with a catalogue of songs perfect for what ailed the era. Arranged with raw beauty and featuring rich lyrics growled with a kind of fuck-you insolence, “Welcome to the Boomton” proved a signature hit. Like the other songs, “Boomtown” was a starkly-drawn portrait of an LA underbelly populated by losers – the road-kill of the very media moguls bestriding the landscape: a mean old man washing his hands in the bathroom of the Firefly lounge, a former footballer dealing dope out of Denny’s, a coked-out rich girl gunning her 944 down a dark road toward her destiny and a puzzled guy on the cusp of middle age looking back and wondering how his old friends got swallowed by the cracks. No focus group could have given us the rich cast and dark pathos of BOOMTOWN. Baerwald and Ricketts had succeeded, in an era of shallow pretense, in creating a masterpiece.
There was no follow-up. Pressures internal and external conspired to derail any sequel to this promising debut. Singly and together, both men would go on to pursue other interests, contributing music to film projects or furnishing material or chops on other peoples’ records. Toni Childs and Sheryl Crowe were two who benefitted from cross-pollination with the Baerwald/Ricketts magic, as did their listeners. MOULIN ROUGE, LEAVING LAS VEGAS and a host of other films would be powered by the sound. But an opportunity to reform and release new music would elude David & David until 2016. Now on the brink of releasing BOOMTOWN’s sequel, Baerwald and Ricketts are turning to the public with the simple question: do you want more?
We have come a long way from the hair bands and media moguls of the 1980s. Those of us who care about songs with killer lyrics and great musicianship now have a chance to show those focus-groups just where we’d like the damn money spent. Backers are promising to bankroll another album if the boys get the support. Consider this short retrospective an appeal to David & David fans past and present to step up and support the band’s return by “liking” their Facebook page and getting as many friends as possible to do likewise. 6000 more likes and we’ve got ourselves BOOMTOWN 2.
You know you want to.