In Parts 1 & 2 of The Power of Music, I wrote about 2 great bands I had discovered in recent years—Band of Heathens and The Bros. Landreth. By any definition, both of these bands are very successful. But being a great band doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the kind of success that leads to great fame and fortune. Sometimes, the best you can hope for is just being in the game and competing.
Back in 1995 I put The Discontent in the studio to record for the 1st time. I wanted to see what they could do. They had 6 songs ready to go and that’s what they recorded at Showplace Studios with Engineer Ben Elliott. I didn’t know it at the time, but Showplace Studios and Ben Elliott would play a big part in what would become DownTown Mystic.
The 1st track The Discontent cut was a song called Bulletproof and it was clear to me that this band had something good to offer. I told the band to get another 6 songs together and we would go in and record them for a full CD release. In 1996 I put out their 1st CD, societydidit. The 1st single released to Radio was Bulletproof…it fell on deaf ears.
5 years later, in 2001, I re-mastered the Bulletproof alternate version that was a bonus track on societydidit and released it at the Specialty Shows on commercial Rock Radio. The Specialty Shows were the tastemakers for discovering new talent at Radio. By 2001 Specialty Radio was becoming THE place on the radio dial to get new music played on the airwaves. With playlists getting tighter and tighter, it was getting harder and harder for airplay. It didn’t matter if you were Radiohead…you needed to get played on the Specialty Shows to have your new release played on the radio.
So it was quite clear that the #1 place where there was a level playing field at Radio was on the Specialty Shows. That was the ONLY place on a commercial radio station that an unknown indie act could get played with major well known established acts. There were 3 major Charts at the time—the Radio & Records Specialty Chart, the VirtuallyAlternative Specialty Chart and the FMQB Specialty Chart. FMQB is the only one still in existence today.
So 5 years after the 1st release of Bulletproof, I re-released it to the Specialty Shows and was rewarded for my faith in the song. It went Top 5 on all of the Specialty Charts! 2001 would be a defining year for The Discontent. I released their 3rd album The Discontent a month after 9/11, which stayed on the Specialty Charts for 10 straight weeks. This resulted in the band being named to FMQB’s Top 10 Specialty Albums for 2001, placing #7, ahead of Radiohead and Ben Folds Five.
This was no small feat, given the competition for airplay. Especially against the major labels, who spent millions of dollars on radio promotion for their artists. Given the success at Specialty, it should have gotten The Discontent a deal with a major label, since radio airplay was the #1 way that labels sold records. If an unknown indie band could get the kind of airplay that The Discontent did, what could they do with a major label behind them?
Not surprisingly, given the state of the major labels back then, that didn’t happen. The only solace I could take was in the fact that every time The Discontent got played, there was a major label artist not getting their slot. But it was small consolation for having a band that was clearly ahead of its time and a band that could have given Rock a much needed shot in the arm.
The original 4 members were main songwriter & guitarist Jessie Hobbs, bassist Eric Hoagland, guitarist John Borneo and drummer Tommy Mastro. John was replaced by lead guitarist Ozzie Caccavelli for the 2nd release Falling Backwards and Tommy would leave, eventually returning for the final sessions, being replaced by drummers Adam “the Atom” Brown and Drae Alexander in the interim.
Of course, I have a fondness for The Discontent. Not only because I managed and produced them, but also because they played an integral part in DownTown Mystic lore. Working with them in the studio gave me the itch to start recording my own material again. I wondered what it would be like to have my songs played by younger rockers and one day I finally decided to act on it. It was just an experiment at the time when I went into the studio to cut 6 tracks with Tommy and Eric. But that would be the start of something, that even I didn’t know at the time, would become something much bigger for me.
I continued to work with the band, producing and co-writing songs on their last session in 2005. I also played guitar on the session, having become the 4th member in rehearsals. I mention this because the 5 songs recorded in that session appear on the new The Discontent release coming out on Sha-La Music on 12/8/14.
I think it’s a fitting way to say goodbye to one of the great bands that most people never heard. A band that was making music back in the 90’s that would show up 10 years later in the music of bands like Green Day, The Foo Fighters and Blink-182. For me, songs like Bulletproof and I’m Gonna Crack are modern rock anthems that speak to and for their Generation.
As I’ve stated in previous blogs, I’m a firm believer in success being how you define it. By any definition, The Discontent were very successful. 🙂