When Michael Lachowski and Randy Bewley first got the idea to start Pylon, they’d been listening to the new-music stuff—Dead Kennedys, The Clash, The Pretenders, Kraftwerk, The Sex Pistols—for a full year before 1978, and they thought for sure it was too late for another nowhere outfit to get together and, on the strength alone of gall and art, accomplish anything, make a name. They worried that the new music impulse was over. It was still happening, sure—Talking Heads, Elvis Costello—but it was too good. How could it last much longer? Such a vital surge, like the unh of a good party, can’t go on forever. Despite the doubts, they did it anyway. On Valentine’s Day 1979, Vanessa went to her first practice with the boys carrying love-sacramental candy.
Pylon officially began.
And that year they saw the initial punk movement transformed and renewed as a fresh generic, New Wave—meaning nothing more than anything you wanted it to mean, so long as it wasn’t hippie, fusion, or heavy metal. Bands were still releasing their debut hits on little 7" singles but, again, doubt: Pylon never considered cutting a single themselves. To them, if someone was on a single, they were from someplace else that was, like, real. Someplace established. Not Athens. They never thought that just anyone could do it, like, just get wax.
Then The B-52’s did it. “And they’re from here!” all said, surprised. As The “Rock Lobster/52 Girls” single went into more pressings (eventually selling seventeen thousand!), talk of that local combo’s fab success in New York peddled itself through the art school’s after-class gossip and chat. Then Pylon, too, as they played out, felt the sweet addictive lash of critical acclaim, the tickle of kind tongue —“Kooky, endearing, sincere, wry . . .”—just as the B’s did after their first New York City trips. It was acceptance, quick, easy, head-spinning acceptance. Pylon saw the ready audience whose favor they had already won. Pylon thought about it. Pylon decided to do a single themselves.
“We asked the B’s about it and they told us to talk to Danny Beard,” Michael Lachowski said. “We asked him and he told us about how to do it, about studios, pressing and all that. We kept talking to him, asking how much it would cost and stuff like that and one day he said, ‘You want me to put it out for you?’ And we said, ‘Hell yeah!’”
Pylon was one of the new bands grounded in the belief that it was possible to change the face of rock and roll simply by mangling convention. It was a joyful vandalism, incompetence for its own sake.
“Our first single was just something Danny funded on his own,” Lachowski says. “He let us do the artwork and everything and he took care of distributing it. We didn’t have to pay him anything. We never made any money back, but we didn’t care.
“Not until way later did we care.”
Poly-panted Danny Beard never thought about becoming a record magnate. He hardly kept accounts at his record store, and even with the healthy demand expressed for The B-52’s single, DB Recs was still little more than a label of convenience, a one-man source of subsidy for Danny’s personal favorites. After “Rock Lobster/52 Girls,” Danny never planned on putting out any more records. But sales were good and there was other talent around. Friends of his.
Although he contributed little to the production of the B’s single, just sort of hung out in the studio, Danny credited Kevin Dunn as associate producer. Kevin was a friend. And talented too. He felt frustrated in The Fans, reconstituted since last year’s mindblower with Mike Green. He felt his songs were being neglected. On The Fans’ second record, Kevin got one cut. On the third single both songs were Alfredo’s. So Danny did a single with just Kevin: “Nadine” b/w “Oktyabrina.”
In the fall of 1979, the single was reviewed in the press, gathering a handful of three-inch, seven-point-type reviews in New York Rocker, Trouser Press, and Interview, mostly positive, some wry and backhanded:
“Kevin Dunn of Atlanta and The Fans has a really great, with-it single that’s worth looking around for: ‘Nadine’/’Oktyabrina’ (DB Records). . . . Pick hit of, uh, last week.”
With the B’s single and then with Dunn’s, Danny’s DB Recs became one of the hot indie labels to watch in America as the eighties came on. Now he was about to launch one of his biggest acts.
The first night Pylon went in the studio, they recorded “Feast on My Heart” and “Human Body.” But they had just written a new song called “Cool” that they played while they were warming up. They liked it, so they decided to use that one for the single instead of “Feast on My Heart.” They had also written “Dub,” a nod to Glenn O’Brien’s reference in his early Pylon review that they listened to dub for breakfast. They liked their two new songs, so they changed their plans and Pylon’s first single became “Cool/Dub.”
It wasn’t until Pylon went into the studio that Curtis Crowe was convinced that Vanessa was right for the band. Until that point he could never hear what she was doing because they always played through bad sound systems with bad monitors. He knew she was doing something. When he finally heard it, all his doubts about the band were vanquished.
The single in the can, they scheduled it for release in January 1980:
“Representing rural raucousness, recording righteous racket, rocking really rampant, ready righton rogues release rip-roaring robust rollicking rolypoly record right now.
“Never knowing the meaning of the word nix, another effort graces your desk having utilized the same studio, engineer, producer, and distributor that brought forth The B-52’s ‘Rock Lobster’ and Kevin Dunn’s ‘Nadine.’ PYLON from hep capital Athens, Georgia has laid down two songs written by the band in their first vinyl effort. Members Vanessa Ellison, Michael Lachowski, Randall Bewley, and Curtis Crowe vary in age from 23 to 24, and played their first public show in Athens at the 40 Watt Club in March 1979.”