Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

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Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby RevMatt » Mon Mar 14, 2011 2:35 pm

Winter Hours is arguably the best band to emerge from the 1980's Northern New Jersey scene. Formed in 1983, the band was active for eight years. Their recorded output includes several independently releases eps (long since out of print) and one major label release. They toured extensively throughout the northeast. While the band never achieved commercial success they had a strong following which was aided by a fair amount of airplay left of the dial. Winter Hours may not have had a long career but the band garnered a great deal of respect from other musicians.

The Northern NJ Music Scene in the Late 1970's to mid- 1980's and The Formation of Winter Hours

Throughout their career Winter Hours dealt with one major misperception; that the band's sound was formulated and conceived in the wake of REM's successful Murmer album. Though comparisons with REM were inevitable for any 1980’s indie band that incorporated Byrds inspired jangly guitar patterns and riffs, Winter Hours emerged from a scene where bands such sounds were almost ubiquitous. Years before REM's indie success NJ bands like The Feelies and The Bongos had put their own stamp on the pop experimentations of The Velvet Underground and Big Star. Steve Fallon’s Hoboken club, Maxwells, had become the center of this scene. Fallon soon began booking similar bands from across the USA. Fallon started Coyote Records, an indie label which among others released albums from Yo La Tengo and The Feelies. Fallon and the crowd of musicians, college radio deejays, fanzine editors and music fans who hung out at Maxwells were among the first outside of Athens, Georgia to embrace REM who were also applying the lessons of Tom Verlaine, Alex Chilton, Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison to the pure pop jangle of the early Byrds. REM were regulars in Hoboken well before “Radio Free Europe” became a staple of college radio. Winter Hours was a part of this fervent music scene that welcomed and encouraged like minded bands from other parts of the country.

Michael Carlucci and Bob Perry were two guitarists who were inspired by both the woven interplay of Television’s Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd as well as the country rock stylings Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman. A decade later the term “alt country” would be coined to describe musicians with such leanings, but in the early eighties Carlucci and Perry were two young musicians hoping to forge a sound out of two styles many would have deemed irreconcilable. In the essay on his MySpace page Carlucci describes the process of finding compatible musicians for what would become Winter Hours.

“When I first started Winter Hours, the idea was to get the most melodic musicians I could find. After a series of guitarists, two drummers and two singers, we finally found our formula in Bob Messing (who'd been there since day one in Autonomy and Ward 8), Bob Perry, the perfect guitarist to counter my melodies (and vice versa), and the jewel in the crown, Joseph Marques, who originally was a guitar student of mine (and not a very good one, I might add). Rumor had it that he had a voice akin to Jim Morrison, one of my favorite singers. The rumors were true. We now had the perfect set up.”

Joseph Marques would become one of the finest lyricists and vocalists of the 1980’s. To call him a “front man” is an injustice to his talent. Marques used his deep baritone voice as an instrument and he was every bit a musician as Carlucci and Perry. As a lyricist he was capable of painting a stark landscape of words and emotions. His lyrics and delivery were inspired by Echo and The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. A decade later critics familiar with Winter Hours work would be comparing Eddie Vedder to Joseph Marques.

An Underground Hit

Anyone attempting to write a history of Winter Hours is met with a challenge; no online discography cataloging the band’s recorded output exists. Between 1984 and 1988 the band released several ep’s on Link Records, a New Jersey based independent label. Almost immediately the band garnered attention from college radio and the underground music press.

In 1985 Winter Hours recorded a song that would bring the band’s following to a higher level. “Hyacinth Girl” was added to college radio play lists and, one listener at a time, a connection was formed. The song evokes the evanescent nature of love and desire. It touched people’s hearts and expanded the band’s audience. At this time the band was touring throughout the northeastern United States, regularly playing in places like Washington, DC, Richmond, VA, New Haven, CT, and Boston MA.





Major Label Signing

Throughout the 1980’s Winter Hours was able to consistently place records high on the CMJ charts. By the end of the decade the major labels began to take notice. In 1989 the band signed a three record deal with Chrysalis Records. The band was sent to Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, NY to work with producer John Simon. Simon, who had cut his teeth working with artists like The Band and Janis Joplin, was of another generation and did not really understand the artistic vision of a post punk band like Winter Hours. Fortunately, the band recognized this mismatch early on in the sessions and in a moment of serendipity the perfect producer arrived in Woodstock in the form of Lenny Kaye. A guitar player’s producer, Kaye immediately worked with the band’s strengths; the guitar interplay of Carlucci and Perry. Winter Hours emerged from the Bearsville with a full length album of evocative songs that more than lived up to the band’s promise. Songs like “Roadside Flowers”, “Carpenters Square” and “Broken Little Man” were more than enough to satisfy college radio deejays who were anxiously awaiting the new offering from Winter Hours.




“Rock and Roll Means Well but it Can’t Help Telling Young Boys Lies”

Chrysalis never really understood the treasure they’d acquired when they signed Winter Hours. This was apparent in the label’s choice for the first single from the band’s self titled major label debut. The label’s choice was “Smoke Rings”, a swampy John Fogertyesque song they hoped would end up in heavy rotation on commercial radio. While “Smoke Rings” is a fine song it was not typical of the melancholic, atmospheric tracks that had captured the imagination of college radio deejays and sensitive young adults who helped Winter Hours rise from a regional act to a budding cult band. The label then informed the band that it could not provide the funds for both a video and tour support, leaving the band with the task of choosing one or the other. The years of touring the northeast in a van and crashing on people’s floors had taken its tool. They choose the comforts of a tour bus over a video that there was no guarantee would ever be picked up by MTV. In the decades that followed the members of Winter Hours would constantly second guess this decision.

Winter Hours had a respectable showing on the college radio charts and its sales reflected it. The band had a stable of songs they had written for what they hoped would be their second Chrysalis album. The label, however, regarded the failure of the band to achieve airplay on AOR stations as evidence that they were not commercially viable. In 1990 Chrysalis dropped Winter Hours. The band did have the opportunity to return to Link Records but was so demoralized by the experience with Chrysalis that they decided to break up in 1991.

To say that the break up took an emotional toll on the members of Winter Hours would be an understatement. It was almost a decade before Carlucci and Perry returned to playing publicly. The biggest casualty, however, was Joseph Marques. He was haunted by the failure of Winter Hours to break into AOR rotation, sometimes believing that his perceived limitations as an artist had doomed the band’s chances at chart success. Marques descended into major depression and drug addiction and in 2003 was found dead on the streets of Boston.

The tragic end of such an immensely talented artist like Joseph Marques illustrates the need for organizations such as Nuci's Space in Athens, Georgia that cateer to the needs of musicians. Marques was left to fend for himself in dealing with the depression and disappointment that followed the end of his music career. While there is no guarantee that an organization like Nuci's Space would have been able to help Marques' battle with depression and drug addiction, preventing tragedies such as his is the mission of Nuci's Space.

A Few Uneven Rhymes and The Legacy of Winter Hours

In 2008 a group of independent radio deejays and musicians organized a tribute album for Winter Hours. When Michael Carlucci was informed of this he was skeptical that there would be enough interest from musicians to come up with a single cd’s worth of tracks. He was pleasantly surprised that the tribute ended up being a two cd set that featured contributions from Matthew Caws of Nada Surf, Glen Mercer of The Feelies and Gordon Gano of The Violent Femmes. In 2009 the album A Few Uneven Rhymes: A Tribute To Winter Hours was released.

There are many bands who failed to achieve commercial success during their tenure only to find their vindication a decade or so later. While Winter Hours cannot claim to have been rediscovered in the same manner as The Velvet Underground, Big Star, The Misfits or The Pixies, the musicians who shared billing with the band during the eighties and nineties remember them for the quality of their songwriting, arrangements and musicianship. In the end, the overwhelming respect the band earned from their peers is their ultimate legacy.

"They really wrote some masterpieces that stood the test of time," said Keith Roth, a DJ at WRAT (95.9 FM, Lake Como) and Sirius XM satellite radio, and a member of the band Frankenstein 3000. "You hear so many times about a band that should have gone further than they did: They're a prime example of that."
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby Clams » Tue Mar 15, 2011 11:06 am

Nice one Rev. Can't say I've heard of them, but from the clips you posted they definitely have that late 80's college radio sound.
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby tinnitus photography » Tue Mar 15, 2011 12:06 pm

i dug these guys quite a bit back in my late high school/early college days. didn't know there was a tragic end involved.
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby Penny Lane » Thu Mar 17, 2011 5:02 pm

Wow, thanks Matt! I can't view or listen to any of the music at work, but the story inspired me to look him up. He lived or was born in Jersey City and died in Worcester, MA. The one funeral post also mentions The Dream Syndicate, do you know them?

http://obit.stellatofh.com/wrapper_gb.php?id=47493&clientid=stellatofh&listing=Found
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby RevMatt » Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:47 pm

Penny Lane wrote:Wow, thanks Matt! I can't view or listen to any of the music at work, but the story inspired me to look him up. He lived or was born in Jersey City and died in Worcester, MA. The one funeral post also mentions The Dream Syndicate, do you know them?

http://obit.stellatofh.com/wrapper_gb.php?id=47493&clientid=stellatofh&listing=Found

Penny, I guess I was wrong about the place where Joseph died. I'd always heard Boston. I can't say I knew Joseph or any of the other members of Winter Hours personally. My band was part of the New Brunswick scene which in the eighties was led by The Smithereens. Winter Hours was more of a Hoboken/Northern NJ band which included The Feelies, The Bongos and Yo La Tengo. We did share the bill with them once. The band had a very good reputation among musicians in NJ from the beginning and their early eps speak for themselves. The early eps and the Chrysalis album are a very good example of the transition from jangly indie rock to what became known as alt. country. I do think that Winter Hours deserve to be recognized for their contribution to the genre. It was about three or four years ago that I found their songs on the internet and revisited Winter Hours. I was astounded not only by the quality of their work but by the way it held up twenty-five years later. Professional jealousy stood in the way of me fully appreciating this band at the time. And I am personally ashamed of what went down the one time my band shared the bill with them. That was probably one of my worst moments, not just as a musician but as a human being.

The Dream Syndicate was a LA band in the early eighties who was also influenced by both The Byrds and The Velvets. Their guitar sound was much more distorted, however.

The LA and Athens, Georgia scene get plenty of recognition for their contributions to eighties left of the dial indie rock. Hoboken does not get as much. But it can be argued that it was equally important. Crazy Rhythms by The Feelies and Drums Along The Hudson by The Bongos were two groundbreaking albums. And I have not found anything that approaches the quality of Winter Hours work and that includes REM's entire catalogue. Yes, I know that might be considered blasphemy on the bulletin board of an Athens band but it is the way I feel.
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby Gator McKlusky » Fri Mar 18, 2011 11:19 am

Nice write-up Rev. Matt-- I did not know about Joseph Marques passing. I saw Winter Hours at The Zephyr Club in Salt Lake City in 1987 and when Joe noticed my buddy and I down in front grooving to the music he invited us backstage during the set break. (I think we were the only ones in there who were fans; that night it was mostly yuppies trying to get laid and not paying any attention to the band) They were dead broke but shared their beer with us and we talked music and they thanked us for coming out. Real nice guys and it’s a shame they never hit the big time.

I kind of disagree with you Rev though on just how great this band was—they had some excellent songs like At a Turtles Pace, Hyacinth Girl, Wait Til the Morning; etc. but no way were they better than REM. IMO

A couple of years later a girl I knew moved to NYC and ended up being neighbors with Joe—they lived in the same building and when he found out she was from SLC, he said his band played there once and all he remembered about SLC was there were these two cool guys at the show who he partied with. That was me!! 8-)

And every goddamned word of this story is true. :lol:
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby RevMatt » Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:53 pm

Gator, nice story about meeting Winter Hours in Salt Lake City. I have never really been an REM fan. I guess I never really got into Michael Stipe as a lyricist or singer. I liked the first REM ep and album. After that, Document was the only REM album I got into. You also have to factor my New Jersey bias into the equation, the fact that The Feelies never get credit for their influence on REM, etc... But all that aside, the Winter Hours eps and their album are pretty amazing to my ears. I imagine if they had continued in the 90's they would have been lauded as one of the pioneering alt. country/Americana bands.

When I do the artist of the week I like to focus on great indie bands from the 1980's who never really received wider recognition. It was a great era for music and the major labels and commercial radio ignored most of the best bands. Adam's House Cat is not the only great band from that era who never made it.

It would be nice if Joseph Marques could be rediscovered the way Nick Drake was. He connected with a lot of people 20 plus years ago. I am sure a new generation can connect with his songs again. Maybe if "Hyacinth Girl" could be used in a movie.

Since you mentioned "At A Turtle's Pace", here it is.
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby beantownbubba » Fri Mar 18, 2011 9:28 pm

Small world, and great story, Gator :)

Nice job, Rev, both specifically & the general proselytizing for overlooked bands. What exactly is it that separates the good & talented from the good & talented & noticed? Damned if i know.
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby Clams » Fri Mar 18, 2011 10:39 pm

beantownbubba wrote:Small world, and great story, Gator :)



x2. Very cool story!
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby Gator McKlusky » Sat Mar 19, 2011 12:09 am

Thanks for posting that RevMatt; I havent heard At A Turtles Pace in years. I used to have a Winter Hours cd that combined two eps that had that song but somewhere it got lost. this thread has inspired me to re-acquire some of ther music.
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby Gator McKlusky » Sat Mar 19, 2011 12:30 am

Penny, these two records were released in 1982; which one is it gonna be? we know you will make the right choice. :lol:

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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby emandrisdad » Sat Mar 19, 2011 12:36 pm

http://www.emusic.com/album/Danny-Dusty ... 06358.html. As much as I liked The Dream Syndicate, this is my favorite Steve Wynn album. Danny and Dusty are Wynn and Dan Sturt from Green on Red. Backed by Chris Cacavas and The Long Ryders. This is a great listen even now. I think lots of the members here will really enjoy this.
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby Smitty » Sun Mar 20, 2011 1:35 am

emandrisdad wrote:http://www.emusic.com/album/Danny-Dusty-The-Lost-Weekend-MP3-Download/12206358.html. As much as I liked The Dream Syndicate, this is my favorite Steve Wynn album. Danny and Dusty are Wynn and Dan Sturt from Green on Red. Backed by Chris Cacavas and The Long Ryders. This is a great listen even now. I think lots of the members here will really enjoy this.


discovered this thanks to 3mile & Gator - absolutely love it
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Re: Artist of the Week 3/14/11 Winter Hours

Postby toratora214 » Thu Nov 05, 2015 5:38 pm

I am currently trying to collect information for a website dedicated to Winter Hours. Like a lot of their fans, it saddens me there's nothing much online.

I have some information from Michael Carlucci (may he rest in peace) but found your post. May I ask where you got your information? Would it be possible to use it, of course with credit given to you.

Thanks,

Beth
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