I can’t remember the exact year, maybe it was in 1985 or thereabouts, but I do vividly recall that I had driven most of the night, over seven hours on that long boring stretch of highway from Orlando to Atlanta, and I was blurry-eyed tired. Actually, I had left the sterile confines of I-75 before I arrived in Fulton County, taking a state road east to Athens. It was around 11 pm when I motored into the sleepy college town, hoping to hunt down my friends Mark and Mike in Love Tractor and see if I could stay at their place for the night. But I found out they were not in town, playing some shows out of state that week.
I wasn’t sure where I was going to sleep that night, maybe a motel in Athens or further down the road in Atlanta, but in the meantime I decided to head to a club and hear some live music. Such were those wild young days when bedtime didn’t matter. I parked my Pontiac on the street and walked a block to the 40 Watt Club, paid the man at the door, and shuffled into the smoky confines of the famous little bar. I was immediately greeted by a raucous symphony of fuzzy guitars and throbbing keyboards, patrons dancing and waving bottles of beer in the air: the Lyres were onstage and holding nothing back. In front of the stage I noticed Athens legend Paul Nelson going through his own set of unique gyrations. The Lyres, as usual, were putting on an electric performance, full of energy and wild abandon. I joined the sweaty, dancing throng. Great live music and puddles of beer on the floor; the perfect night out.
The Lyres are another talented American band that never achieved the fame and glory that they so richly deserved. They were huge in their native city of Boston, and popular in many college towns around the states in the 80s, but for some reason they never sold a lot of albums. Their music unabashedly harkened back to the glorious garage rock sound of the 1960s. Raw and rockin’ stuff, full of rhythmic fervor. That was a big part of their appeal, but perhaps that’s also what prevented them from joining other 80s bands on MTV or at the top of the college radio charts. They didn’t use synthesizers and wear eye makeup, or play flashy guitar solos and dress like grungy slackers. Trends came and went, but the Lyres continued to do what they had been doing all along. They were just a sincerely authentic band that played loud and passionately.
For some bands, the joy of their live shows is never fully captured on record (or on disc, or, uh, on digital files), but with Lyres that certainly wasn’t the case; they made some very good albums too. Earlier this year I bought a copy of Lyres Lyres, a fantastic album that the band recorded in 1985. Like the rest of their recordings, this is vivacious music that grooves and bounces. And that’s really the best way to describe the sound of the Lyres; it bounces. The rhythm is the message. When the guitars merge with the organ and the bass and the drums, something magical happens and the music just lifts off and propels you to another dimension. If your butt is not wiggling and making the sofa bounce, you will soon be standing up and doing a frenzied dance on the floorboards. Really, this is dangerously fun music. 1994’s On Fyre is another fine album to add to your collection. Those two albums, along with several others, were rereleased by Matador Records in the late 90s, but sadly most are now out of print and selling for silly prices online. If you can find one at an affordable price, grab it … and start dancing!