10,000 Maniacs, from Jamestown in the state of New York, came to prominence in 1983 after the self-recording of a debut album which they released on their own label.   The following year, having made something of a buzz in the UK after being championed by John Peel, the band was signed to Elektra, part of the Warner Bros. empire. The early part of 1985 saw them in London recording their debut album, released a few months later as The Wishing Chair, with veteran producer Joe Boyd enlisted to help.  Boyd had just finished working with R.E.M. on Fables of The Reconstruction, and I think it’s fair to say he ensured the sound of the Athens, GA band would have an influence on the new album he was assisting with, as best can be heard on the first single lifted from it:-

mp3: 10,000 Maniacs – Can’t Ignore The Train

It’s just under three minutes of shimmering and wonderful indie-pop, thanks in particular to the tremendous guitar playing of the late Robert Buck.  I’d actually forgotten just how great this single sounded until it was aired recently at the Little League night in Glasgow a few weeks back, and this led me to digging into Discogs to pick up another copy as a very belated replacement for the one that was lost many years ago.

I played the b-side, which I can’t remember doing so back in 1985, although I must have done so on at least one occasion.  Listening now, I reckon I must have dismissed it on the grounds that it was too quirky and too different from the majestic a-side.  The thing is, I now have almost an additional 40 years of reference points, and so can confidently say that the lads in Vampire Weekend must have found a copy in some second hand store as they went about writing their own material in the first decade of the 21st century.

mp3: 10,000 Maniacs – Daktari

All in all, it’s a fairly decent debut 45 for the major label who must have been bemused that it didn’t make any inroads into the charts.  Having said that, R.E.M. were also being largely ignored in 1985.



  1. A fantastic band that never quite cut through. I don’t listen to them as often as I perhaps should.

    When the band played Glasgow Pavilion (can’t recall the year) I was struck by their commitment to fans.
    It’s a theatre, not a venue – as such, fans began the dance at their chairs and in the aisles. Bouncers became over zealous in their attempts to make fans sit down. The band stopped playing, apologised that they had not known of the stay in your seat restriction, made it clear that they’d never play the venue again and that they would warn other artists They began to play again – even more fans danced in defiance.

    Can’t Ignore the Train is a wonderful song that catapults me back to seemingly care-free days.

    Can I hijack this post. To add my enduring thanks to Steve Bronski who died recently. Without courageous people like Steve many young LGB peoole (as they were known at the time) may have forever led hidden, oppressed lives. The Age of Consent is a landmark LP in agit-pop. Three openly gay men heralding their rights-led manifesto via the LP art work. Momentus. Thanks, Steve.

  2. The Wishing Chair and In My Tribe were superb albums. Verdi Cries on the latter is an absolutely stunning example of mood, melody and lyric in perfect synch. Some of their work did suffer from didactic and patronising lyrics.
    If Vampire Weekend were trawling post-punk archives for indie/African guitar mash-ups, The Raincoats’ mesmeric long version of Honey Mad Woman (1983) would be an obvious influence. The title is a reference to an ‘archetype of female sexual defiance’ identified by Levi-Strauss (the French anthropologist and ethnologist, not the jeans bloke). They were reading a lot of serious books in those 80s West London squats (Green of Scritti Politti was chief librarian). The song is fabulous, with a liquid guitar line and intertwining vocal swoops. It’s on YouTube.

  3. I wasn’t ignoring REM in 1985, or 10,000 Maniacs, because I saw the latter open for the former that year at Radio City in NYC. I remember thinking how much better REM would be if they had the Maniac’s Jerry A. on drums. The sort of show Echorich wouldn’t have missed.

    There was a lot of that way-up-the-neck plinky guitar biz happening then. ‘Marimba Jive’ by Red Guitars comes to mind. When the ‘Indestructible Beat of Soweto’ comp hit the racks the sound got global.

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