You Say It's Your Birthday: Peter Holsapple Of The dB's

Today is the 42nd birthday of former dB's singer, songwriter and

multi-instrumentalist Peter Holsapple. The dB's are one of the great lost

guitar-pop bands of the '80s, a band that bridged the gap between Big Star

and R.E.M. and always hovered on the edge of something big but never broke

through. They had a very minor hit with "Amplifier" in 1983 and opened up

a couple of R.E.M. tours, but the influence of their wry guitar-pop can

still be heard in such acts as Matthew Sweet, Gin Blossoms and tour mates

R.E.M. The story of the dB's began when Holsapple and guitarist

Chris Stamey met in elementary school in Winston-Salem, N.C. The duo

formed their first group, Rittenhouse Square, in 1972, and recorded an album

for an indie label a year later. The group eventually disbanded and

Stamey went off to New York to work with the likes of Alex Chilton and

Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. In 1977, Stamey recruited drummer Will

Rigby and bassist Gene Holder -- both of whom were pals from

Winston-Salem and bandmates in the Sneakers -- and formed Chris Stamey and

the dB's, a group that would shorten its name to the dB's when birthday

boy Holsapple joined a year later. A critic's darling from the very start,

the dB's still had tremendous trouble getting signed in the face of the

punk and new-wave revolutions.

Their first two albums, 1981's Stands for Decibels and 1982's

Repercussions, were released by Albion, a British label, and received

critical raves but little sales. The video for

Repercussions' single, "Amplifier," was rejected by MTV because the

network thought it encouraged people to commit suicide. Stamey left the

group in 1983 to resume his solo career, thus starting a revolving door for

dB's members, with Holsapple being the one constant member. In 1984, the

group signed to an American label, Bearsville, and released Like

This, a solid guitar-pop album with a bit of a country twang to it.

Its release and promotion, however, would be delayed for years when label

founder Albert Grossman died later in the year. In spite of this, the dB's

landed opening slots on R.E.M.'s 1984 and 1987 tours, with Holsapple

joining the headliners on keyboards and guitars. Holsapple also played on

R.E.M.'s Out of Time. 1987 also saw the I.R.S. release of The

Sound of Music, but by that time it was too late -- the dB's disbanded

by the end of the year. In 1991, Stamey and Holsapple reunited for an

album entitled Mavericks, which continued their former band's trend

of getting critical raves and next to nothing in sales. Holsapple went on

to form Continental Drifters with his wife, Susan Cowsill, and he continues to

lend his musicianship to such like-minded artists as Hootie and the

Blowfish.

Other birthdays: Bob Engemann (the Lettermen), 62; Smokey Robinson, 58; Lou

Christie, 55; Pierre Van der Linden (Focus), 52; Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath),

50; Mark Andes (Spirit), 50; Frank Buchholz (Scorpions), 48; Dave Wakeling

(English Beat/General Public), 42; Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), 38;

and John Christ (Danzig), 33.