Gary Wilson - Forgotten Lovers (Original 1980 EP)
Gary Wilson isn't just one of our favorite home recording/DIY pioneers - he's one of our favorite artists from any genre or category. Mostly we just love listening to Gary's extensive body of work through the delightful twists and turns of his various creative eras, but we must admit that it's a thrill when we get our hands on one of his early, rare releases. We've shared other rarities like his 1980 Invasion of Privacy EP and the equally delightful 1978 "In the Midnight Hour/"When I Spoke of Love" single, but here we're revisiting his self-recorded/self-released 1980 EP, Forgotten Lovers.
Though bearing the same name as the Motel Records 2003 compilation, this 1980 EP precedes the former by twenty-three years. Three of the tracks from the release - "Rhythm in Your Eyes", "Forgotten Lovers", and "It's So Sad (To Be Alone)" - are included in the later compilation, and are the same recordings as the ones here. "Debbie Knows" appeared later the same year (1980) on the Invasion of Privacy EP, though the home-recorded version here is the older of the two.
Start with: All four tracks are gems and warrant multiple listens. That being said, the stellar "Debbie Knows" is of particular historical significance for the Gary Wilson fan since this is a unique appearance of this home-recorded version.
Why it's worth revisiting: Releases like Forgotten Lovers constitute Gary's "lost" era, proving that Gary was in fact creative and active between You Think Your Really Know Me and the "rediscovery" period following Beck's "Where It's At". Because Gary's recorded releases during the time are few (but delightful and well-executed), they are significant documents of his unflinching persistence while he manifested his unique artistic vision and created an important body of largely self-sustained work.
"Rhythm In Your Eyes" is a strong pick for the EP's lead song, with its upbeat dance groove and catchy keyboard lines. In fact, the song is so accessibly free from eccentricity (at least relatively speaking) that it might be described as an uncharacteristic work for Wilson. That's not to suggest, however, that the song isn't a worthy addition to Gary's canon. On the contrary, it's a a standout entry that also remains both a staple and favorite in his live set to this day.
"Forgotten Lovers" is equally pleasing as its predecessor on the seven inch, delighting the listener with its groovy twists and turns. The final section of this gem is still used by Wilson as his theatrical exit music at live shows, and the entire track must certainly be included in any Wilson fan's list of favorites.
As noted earlier, "Debbie Knows" is of particular interest here, since this is the first appearance of the song on record. The Forgotten Lovers home-recorded version here would be retooled by Gary and the Blind Dates in the studio later the same year, and both versions offer the listener a concise and remarkable arrangement that deftly expresses not only Gary's early late 50s/early 60s influences, but also seamlessly incorporates them into his own sonic palette.
"It's So Sad (To Be Alone)" might well be deemed a Gary Wilson ballad, and is -as the title suggests- a poignant and compelling one at that. The track's laid-back groove, layered Wilson synths, pleading lead vocals, and the Blind Dates' backing vocal contributions ("girls within reach!") all make this an important entry in the home recording canon. Incidentally, perennial Gary Wilson supporters The Roots performed this standout Wilson offering in 2017 as bumper music on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
In June of 2017, Gary confirmed the home-recording/DIY background to the rare release:
"We recorded this [version] at our house. It wasn’t at a studio. [Blind Dates] drummer Dave Haney, his girlfriend, my girlfriend, and I were sharing a house in a canyon near 30th Street. We’d walk around nude in that canyon. We rented an 8-channel reel-to-reel recorder from Meiner’s, and all four tracks on this EP were recorded there [at home]."
Last but not least, Gary confirmed for us in 2017 that he mimeographed and glued the Forgotten Lovers EP covers for the release in textbook DIY fashion, truly making this an invaluable and fascinating living document of not only 20th-century home-recorded music, but also the unique, enduring, and wonderfully weird creative spirit that is Gary Wilson.