The Greg Kihn Band to take us over Hump-Day. While everything was in a state of upheaval musically in the 1970s, along came this independent record company, Berserkley from the Bay Area. The acts on the label didn’t fall under the Punk, New Wave or even Post-Punk banner. The acts were different, and as is demonstrated by The Greg Kihn Band, were taking a different approach – in a way, a mash up of West Coast 60s, with touches of Pop tossed in. They were played on KROQ and KMET a lot, which gave an indication the broad appeal the band, and the other Berserkley artists like Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers and The Rubinoos had.
Greg Kihn began his career in his hometown of Baltimore, working in the singer/songwriter mold but switched to straightforward rock & roll when he moved to San Francisco, in 1972. He started writing songs and playing coffee houses while still in high school in the Baltimore area. When Kihn was 17, his mother submitted a tape of one of his original songs to the talent contest of the big local Top 40 radio station WCAO, in which he took first prize and won three things that would change his life: a typewriter, a stack of records, and a Vox electric guitar.
He moved to California in 1972 and worked painting houses, singing in the streets, and working behind the counter at the Berkeley record store, Rather Ripped Records, with future bandmate and Earth Quake guitarist Gary Phillips. The following year, he became one of the first artists signed to Matthew King Kaufman’s now-legendary Beserkley Records. Along with Jonathan Richman, Earth Quake, and The Rubinoos, Kihn helped to carve the label’s sound—melodic pop with a strong 1960s pop sensibility—an alternative to the prog rock of the time.
In 1976, after his debut on the compilation Beserkley Chartbusters, he recorded his first album with his own ensemble, called The Greg Kihn Band, comprising Robbie Dunbar (guitar), Steve Wright (bass), and Larry Lynch (drums). Dunbar, already a member of Earth Quake, was replaced by Dave Carpender in time to record their second album, Greg Kihn Again. Meanwhile, Kihn’s old record store pal, Gary Phillips, who had contributed guitars to Kihn’s first album, returned as a session musician on the band’s Glass House Rock (1980) album and officially joined the band as keyboardist for the follow-up album, Rockihnroll (1981). The lineup of Kihn, Wright, Lynch, Phillips, and Carpender lasted until 1983, when Greg Douglass replaced Dave Carpender.
To get an idea, here is a gig they did at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, New York and broadcast live over WLIR from 1978. For those not quite ready to take the plunge into The Clash or The Cure at the time, they were a melodic alternative.
Have a listen.