Download Sampson's Army demo below
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Sampson's Army demo
Much thanks to Rob from Kill the Heroes blog located in Northern Ireland. He provided the Viva Las Vegas compilation that I re-posted here last week as well as some other treasures which I’m a bit unfamiliar with. This cassette has demos from Abeyance, Remains, and Sampson’s Army. I have no idea about the first two bands but I am familiar with Sampson's Army.
Fact is Sampson’s Army played at the first “punk” show I ever went to. Me and my bud Jeff Hughes were completely naïve freshmen at Eldorado High, shit maybe we were still going to Dell H. Jr. High at the time? We weren’t sure how to dress for a “punk” gig so I recall we wore surfer shirts hoping we’d blend in. I’m talking Town and Country, Catchit!, Op, or similar crap we’d talked our parents into buying for us at the Meadows Mall. We stuck out at the show but not because the crowd was stuck up. Instead of being intimidated we were pressed against all manner of people which was comforting and uncomfortable at the same time. It was a far cry from the butt rock arena shows we'd experienced. Our first "punk" gig, for lack of a better word, was at the Troubadour night club and the headliner was The Damned on tour for the Phantasmagoria album. Sampson’s Army was the opener.
Sure the Damned were considered one of the first “punk” bands ever in the grand scheme of history but by 1986 they were far removed from “punk” in terms of sound and sentiment. Yeah all that shit’s subjective and it’s pointless to split hairs on who’s punk, punker, and punkest. But to give you some perspective the next underground show me and Jeff went to a few months later was Fuck Shit Piss, Schizoid, and Doggy Style at the North Las Vegas Elks Lodge. That was a RAW punk show comparatively. In 1986 that was as punk as you could get in Las Vegas, Nevada. I'm sure right now somewhere in the world there’s an equally raw punk show happening in some shitty venue and the crowd is going apeshit. That momentum is a train that will never stop until it’s reached unsuspecting teenagers at the ends of the Earth. But I’m getting off base here.
Jeff and I were familiar with Sampson’s Army from the radio. We knew their hit single “Young Man, Old Man” and we thought it was cool pop. But neither of us was all that heated over it. In fact we knew very little about the Damned at the time. I would go on to dig their Phantasmagoria album a tiny bit. At least it was better then their next album titled Anything which was god awful. Somehow I never listened to any of their “essential” early punk albums until just a few years ago. When I finally did hear em I hated em. Some shit just needs to be right place right time. Maybe that’s partially why so much of that tin sounding 80’s hardcore will never be appreciated since the style has evolved so much since then?
As pop sounding as it was Sampson’s Army is a special case. It’s solid mid 80’s powerpop. I went through a big powerpop phase some years ago and now I've got a real appreciation of the style. That sound seemed to peak in the early 80's but S.A rode it out to good effect pretty late in the game. That late 80's powerpop really stood out in terms of production as opposed to the bubblegummy, new waveish sound so prevalent in the early part of that decade. S.A. seemed to have more dynamic songwriting which was much more guitar driven with less of a jangle pop edge making them border on the 70's glam rock style. I wanna say I can also hear the Cure and the Cult vaguely. That's probably just because that's the kinda shit I was listening to at that time. If I'm approaching it from that angle I might as well throw the Church in that mix. But S.A. don't really sound like any of that stuff, realistically I'd say they were in the same league as bands like SVT (who fucking rule), or Pezband (at their most rockinest), or maybe Game Theory at their most ballsiest. I don't know... it's the only thing I could compare it to right now. The sound was slightly aggressive but still super catchy. I thought they were great songs even back then but it didn't hold a candle to Corrosion of Conformity in my teenage mind. Probably why I never bought the album. Now I kinda wish I had.
This demo is short but sweet and sounds like the hopes and dreams of the 80’s that were smashed like dreams often are. Sampson’s Army never crossed over and never released another album to my knowledge. But they were a great band nonetheless. Even though I hate that fuckin name.
I was lucky enough to get to see them play one last time when I came down to visit the folks for Thanksgiving a few years ago. They put on a good show in 2009. But I’ll always remember them in the excitement of that night at the Troubadour. Wondering if we were gonna get beat up and wondering why no one was slam dancing if this was a punk gig? We were still figuring it out. I suppose you never really stop figuring it out huh?
I recognize at least one song that was later featured on the Sampson's Army album which was entitled Where's Dan? That song being Let It Rain. The version on the album is way better produced and has a lot more energy than the demo version heard here. But it was great to hear this version just to remind me that the song exists. It’s been buried under years of memories. Now that I've heard it again it's been playing in my head all week. I'm glad it's back.
Todd Sampson passed away a few years ago. If you’ve read this entire post you probably already knew that. I didn’t know him so I have nothing to say about him as a person. But the music is fucking great. In fact it’s amazing. It sounds like this demo was recorded right off the Rock Avenue radio show. I’m sure we’ll never know.
Rob from Kill the Heroes blog promised to include the Abeyance demos in the future. I don’t know anything about that band but if you are interested in hearing them go here.