Friday, April 20, 2012

The Days, The Grays, and the Life of Mork

The sound of live music in Dallas during the 90s was generally a wash of post-Smashing Pumpkins groups vying to be "The Next Nirvana." Due to the gentle flapping of Jellyfish's wings, however, there was a powerful undercurrent of melodic rock aimed at reimagining the work of the Beatles. I was caught up in this undertow during my stint as a semi-professional rock musician. As a result, for several years the majority of my diet of "new" music was coming from power pop bands, many of them local to the Dallas area.

One of my favorites from this scene was The Days. This amazing trio had brilliant songwriting and stellar three-part harmonies that distinguished them from the crowds of unfocused, jangly pop groups. Additionally, they turned out to be three really nice guys. The Days' debut CD, The Mystery of the Watched Pot, was enviably good. Like the output of many independent bands from the pre-internet 90s, however, this great album is probably doomed to obscurity. I can't guarantee that there are any copies still in existence besides the one in my collection. Streaming clips and MP3s of The Days seem to be nonexistent and the only footage that I have found of them is this early and pretty murky clip from Club Dada.

(UPDATE! Streaming Days track found!  Also, album available here! Enjoy!)

Even with all of the available resources of the internet, relating a really good impression of what they were like when I was into them may be nearly impossible. However, the Days included many great cover songs in their set lists, and this one by The Grays fit them so well that I was convinced, for a very long time, that it was a Days original.

This track, written by Grays guitarist Buddy Judge, is from their singular 1994 release Ro Sham Bo. This album is also relatively obscure entry and has long been out of print, but it is an incredibly important recording in the 90s power pop timeline.  In retrospect, The Grays was a supergroup of incredible musicians before they became super. In addition to Judge, the Grays were also led by Jason Falkner, who had just left Jellyfish in frustration due to lack of creative input, and a young Jon Brion on bass whose studio career had just barely begun. Although all of these musicians had impressive resumes when they formed the Grays, their careers were still mostly in front of them. 

With three distinct songwriters the group, Ro Sham Bo could have been easily been uneven, but the album is unified by their common melodic interest and shared harmonic vocabulary, which allowed the divergences in their writing styles to add variety.

I had a copy of Ro Sham Bo in the mid 90s, thanks to the emergence of CD burning technology and the generosity of Paul, the Days' drummer. I eventually purchased a legit used copy from Amazon. Both this and The Mystery of the Watched Pot are amazing albums that are absolutely worth hunting down. They also have a personal nostalgic value because they mark off a period of time, one that I have been contemplating today in particular.

Mork hanging at the sink, circa 2005
Rick, the Days’ bassist, took a turn singing lead on their cover of Nothing and was the granddaddy of my cat Mork, who I lost this morning after a long and happy life.  Mork originally came from world of live gigs and bass rigs that existed long before I was a teacher or properly tied a white belt around my gi.  He traveled as my companion free of condition through some incredibly difficult times and saw me into happier ones.  I loved and appreciated him in ways that I am sure he did not fully understand, but I am convinced that, given the gift of words, he would have said the same about me.  Mork was, and probably always will be, the only cat I ever had the honor of really knowing.  I will miss him terribly.


  1. I got to work the Grays album at Sony. They even did a small tour for it. Like all super groups, you knew it was either going to be a musical difference and short lived or suck. It didn't suck...and so...yeah.

    "Very Best Years" was the first track I heard and was hooked. Jason's first solo album is the BOMB!!

  2. Nice. Been workin on Grays blabbing at lot. Enjoy!