The Long Ryders – in concert from Gothenburg, Sweden – March 30, 1985 – Sveriges Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The Long Ryders in concert from Sweden and broadcast on March 30, 1985. With more sad news coming of the passing of Long Ryders bassist/singer/songwriter Tom Stevens, I was reminded what an influential band they were, during the halcyon days of the Paisley Underground movement and what an integral part Stevens played in the band and their success.
Stevens officially joined The Long Ryders in January 1984, recording three studio albums with the band between 1984-1987, all featuring Stevens-penned songs. The Long Ryders were originally associated with the Los Angeles Paisley Underground movement of the 1980s, but unlike other bands of the genre, psychedelic rock played only a small role in their music. Instead, the band were more influenced by the roots rock approach of folk and country rock bands like the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Buffalo Springfield. According to the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, the Long Ryders “blended punk attitude with late 1960s country rock instrumentation and became one of the principal exponents of mid-1980s cowpunk.” They toured North America and Europe several times as well as reaching the charts in the UK and earning a large cult following in the US while doing well on college radio. The band broke up in 1987 after failing to break through into the mainstream and would later turn out to be an influence on the alternative country movement that would surface in the 1990s.
Their 1984 debut album Native Sons received strong reviews, and did especially well in the UK, where the band’s take on American musical traditions went down well with critics. The album was called “a modern American classic” by British music magazine the Melody Maker and established the band’s diverse blend of folk rock, punk and country rock influences. Island Records signed the band in 1985 for their first major label album, 1985’s State of Our Union, and the band soon found themselves more popular in Europe than in the US. In 1987, following the release of their third album Two-Fisted Tales, the lack of commercial success and label support began to take its toll on the band. Disillusioned by the band’s relentless touring schedule and lack of money, Stevens left the Long Ryders in June 1987 to devote time to his young family and to find another source of income. In 1988, he moved back to Indiana.
As a reminder of Tom Stevens contributions to the band, here is a gig from their 1985 European tour, recorded at Errols in Gothenburg and broadcast by Sveriges Radio.
RIP: Tom Stevens.