Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Song A Day: The Things, "All The Time"

MAY 3, 2017




For many people, their early twenties are a time of discovery—your first years as an adult. New responsibilities, new freedoms, new opportunities. I turned 21 in 1984.

Back then, there wasn’t too much but music in my life. Concerts, clubs, parties, record stores, rehearsal spaces, guitar shops…it was just what I did, me and an amazing young woman and our friends. Regardless of what we did to make a living, going to shows and buying records and following bands was pretty much a consuming passion.

At that time, there were so many new acts we loved. Of course REM and the dB’s, the recently departed Squeeze, Buzzcocks, and Blondie, Game Theory, XTC, the Reivers, Green, Let’s Active, Sade (!), Camper Van Beethoven, Love Tractor, the Chesterfield Kings, the Rain Parade, the Lyres, Elvis Costello, the Replacements, the Windbreakers, Christmas, the Long Ryders, the Specials, the Beat, The Circles, Guadalcanal Diary, 007, New Order, the Minutemen, the Fleshtones, the Bangles, Devo, Julian Cope...I’m sure we saw two-thirds of the bands on that list, most of them more than twice.

Then there were The Things. I heard them thanks to a high school kid from LaSalle-Peru who we met at an REM show the day the Cubs lost the 1984 playoffs.

I’m sure I was dressed like a fool that night, probably in magenta corduroys and a ruffled paisley shirt and a scarf and beads. But it was my thing, and my girlfriend not only accepted my psychedelic psartorial tastes but encouraged them, herself wearing the coolest vintage outfits and amazing op-art earrings.

At some point after the show, standing in the lobby at a merch table, this kid talked to us and we struck up a conversation and we EXCHANGED STREET ADDRESSES because that’s how people kept in touch back then.

So we began a correspondence and traded tapes. On the first cassette he sent us was Coloured Heaven by The Things. A California band, their album was released by Voxx, Greg Shaw’s indie psych/powerpop label. We’d probably heard of them but not heard them.

Steve Crabtree was the band’s guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter, singer, and producer, buttressed by drummer Roy McDonald and bassist Pete Rouch. The trio had excellent songs and a spirited, fresh performance, leaving Coloured Heaven alternately sweet, crunchy, hazy, trippy, and melancholy.

The production of the album is, to put it kindly, thin. All the elements lack presence and drive, everything mixed low-volume and bathed in echo. A lot of independently-produced records of the time sounded like that; cheap recording equipment from 1965 was far better than cheap equipment in 1985.

Perhaps Crabtree shouldn’t have carried the entire load itself, but the band was clearly his baby. Their next album didn’t generate any buzz, sadly, and The Things eventually capitulated.

Thinking back on the music of this time in my life, I’m filled with conflicting emotions. There’s some sadness and regret about times lost, some happy memories of things we did, and a lot of music still in my head and heart.

I think about that 21-year-old often and wonder what he’d think of me now, what he might’ve done differently had he known more. I also think about our old friend, who we haven’t seen in nearly 30 years and will likely never see again. And I think about the young lady who spent those years of young adulthood with me. How blessed I am that she is still in my life.

Here is “All the Time,” giddy with the rush of new love, of youth, of possibility.


  1. Stu, this is precisely what I would have expected a record you'd be playing to sound like, when I arrived at your place (whatever that place was during that era), at any point from the early to mid '80's. I like it well enough, although it doesn't light me up like it does you. It certainly reminds me of those days, though!

  2. Stu,
    I couldn’t agree more with you about this record. I am, after all, the guy who wrote these tunes and put this band together. HA! I too, turned 21 in 1984 and found myself immersed in all things paisley!

    Check out this documentary that delves into the making of this record.

    Thanks for posting this blog. It’s always a trip to see where my music has found itself!

    Steve Crabtree

  3. Steve, I am more than blown away that 1) this post found you and 2) you added to the conversation. Thank you for stopping by and forwarding me the video link! I can't wait to watch it. And thank you above all for your music.