The Boys

Not to be confused with the London group of the same name, Lincoln, Nebraska’s Boys had come a long way since their hippy days as Grundy Gilpin. Taking the same glam and glitter cues as the New York Dolls, the Boys were four life-long friends with anglophilic tendencies, both aesthetic and aural. While other bands in their quiet college town were discovering patchwork jeans and patchouli, Allen Havlicek, Danny Shonerd, Terry Pieper, and Steven Light were drooling over the upbeat electricity of bands from five years earlier and nearly 5,000 miles away.

In 1975, the Boys’ idiosyncratic combination of future-shock costumes and commercially un-cool artisanal pop prompted David Hibler, a University of Nebraska English professor and resident Lincoln weirdo, to inquire about managing the group. After a failed attempt at breaking the band in the UK, Hibler took his next logical step—a fake Nazi blitz campaign, complete with glimpses of uniformed commandants plastering "INVASION" posters around the town until a state of fear and repulsion blanketed the already unreceptive community. Though it is unclear if this publicity stunt was enacted with the band's approval, local papers covered the story and dissected its intentionally cryptic messages: “Those who are wise will be watchful and vigilant for the time of their deliverance,” and “Those with eyes will see. Those with ears will hear. The rest, fortunately, will ignore this.” All of this to promote a live show for a band that 99% of the town would hate anyway.

Despite local resistance and the seemingly career-ending fiasco that Hibler created, the Boys recorded their first single in May of 1975, to be issued on their own Outrage label. “She’s My Girl” is a frantic rocker that hints at punk but owes its dual vocals and “Train-Kept-A-Rollin’” riff to the other side of the Atlantic. The b-side, “I’m Not Satisfied,” opens with a windmill progression undoubtedly picked up from teenage emulation of Pete Townshend in front of the mirror, then quickly morphs into whinnying harmonies and the inspiring guitar licks that would become the Boys’ touchstone. The single ended up selling 5,000 copies, mostly via mail order, its modest success largely indebted to Hibler's antics.

Tom Sorrells and Mark Prellberg, meeting with the Boys early in the summer of ’79, were surprised pleasantly by the enthusiasm coming from a band they considered out of Titan’s league. The two camps had stayed in touch after Power Pop ’78, each on similarly soul-crushing trajectories, both optimistic about this new endeavor. The Boys offered up two different ideas: a 45 featuring “(Baby) It’s You”—an outtake from the ASI session—and “Bad Little Girl”—a new song waiting to be tracked—or four live songs tracked at the Music Box in Omaha. Titan jumped at both. With sales of the first three Titan singles beyond abysmal and the commercial 45 market drying up, Prellberg and Sorrells began mulling the idea of doing an LP, or at the very least a 12” EP. Out of this grew the idea of doing two live records, one for The Boys and another for Gary Charlson.

The Boys single, dropped later that month, immediately became the label’s best-seller. The “Fave” side, “(Baby) It’s You,” with its French-girl and sine-wave sound collage intro could have been a Rockpile or Nick Lowe single for Stiff. The tight-to-the-mic drums and dual guitar solo compliment the endearingly vulnerable lyrics and the first-swig-of-soda “Ah”s. On the “Rave” side, “Bad Little Girl” is the closest the Boys and Titan ever got to punk. Sung by Phil Shoemaker, the cut is steeped in the tradition of the glammed-up Boys look, sloppily riding a number of raucous and bluesy waves that were simultaneously washing up on the Bowery’s shores. This minor success gave Titan the boost of confidence it needed to carry on in the face of bold indifference, for better or worse.

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