June 14th, 2015
When trawling the bins at CD shops, you never know what you will find. I typically stumble upon interesting pressings of familiar albums and artists, but every so often, a disc jumps out that I have never seen before and somehow immediately realize is unique. Such a recent experience involved a band I had never come across. I nearly passed over the disc, but something told me to take it from the bins and add it to my buy pile. The band in question is a “power pop” group from the 1970s called Shoes.
Maybe you know all about Shoes, but if you were like me during the recent used-bin foray, here is a bit about them. Shoes was formed in Illinois in 1975 by Gary Klebe, Skip Meyer, Jeff Murphy, and John Murphy. Their first album to gain a modicum of attention was 1977’s Black Vinyl Shoes, which the band released on their own Black Vinyl Records label. Enough people that count took notice such that by 1979, Shoes had made their way to major label Elektra with their album Present Tense. With this album and two more on Elektra, Tongue Twister and Boomerang, Shoes developed a following, albeit small, for their hooks and accessible songwriting. Unfortunately, Elektra dropped Shoes after Boomerang, and while the band continued to record, they never achieved anything resembling mainstream status.
Now to the early Shoes CD. Given that the band only developed a niche interest, it may be surprising that they made their way to the compact disc in the ’80s, but on the other hand, the disc is a compilation. I am not aware of their studio albums being released on CD so early. The CD highlighted here is their original compilation, simply and aptly titled Shoes Best. It was released in 1987 on the band’s Black Vinyl Records label and was assigned catalog number BV 9787. By 1987, most CDs had a barcode on the back insert for easy scanning at retail, but Shoes Best lacks one. This is not so surprising for an early CD from an independent label.
The Shoes Best CD was pressed in the U.S. by Discovery Systems. The disc has “MADE BY DISCOVERY SYSTEMS – AN AMERICAN COMPANY 1960200B” stamped in the mirror band. Both the disc and the accompanying inserts are dated 1987. The particular copy that I found came in an early jewel case with smooth top and bottom edges.
Shown below is the cover and back insert for the Shoes Best CD, along with the early U.S. pressing. From what I have seen in doing a bit of research, this disc is quite rare. It is worth tracking down, as I have come away very impressed with Shoes’ sound and am sorry I only just became aware of them.
The cover for Shoes Best (Black Vinyl Records, catalog number BV 9787).
The back insert for Shoes Best (Black Vinyl Records, catalog number BV 9787). There is no barcode, and it is dated 1987.
The early U.S. pressing of Shoes Best (Black Vinyl Records, catalog number BV 9787). The disc was pressed by Discovery Systems, and it has “MADE BY DISCOVERY SYSTEMS – AN AMERICAN COMPANY 1960200B” stamped in the mirror band.