Thursday, January 17, 2013

Menlo Park - My Heart

My Heart

Wrong Side Of A Gun

MENLO PARK (Ashland, KY)
My Heart b/w Wrong Side Of A Gun
Wrong Planet (103260), 1980

Growing up in the late 50s and early 60s, Mike Fitzpatrick was exposed to a lot of different styles of music. He picked up a guitar at an early age and by the sixth grade had formed his first band, the LTDs. By high school, he was playing in a band called the SoundWave with Gary Kesling on drums. Mike and Gary continued playing together for many years through various incarnations. By the mid 1970s, they were going by the name Lather.

A seasoned guitar player named Ed Fields was asked to join them on bass. Ed grew up watching American Bandstand and listening to AM stations on the transistor radio his mom got him when he was eight. He first met Mike at the Boys Club in Westwood, a suburb of Ashland, KY where every Saturday night there was a dance. Instead of chasing girls, the two watched the bands that played and intently studied their techniques.

By 1979, Mike and Ed were ready to try something new. Fully aware of the new wave crave, they wanted to put a fresh spin on the 60s music they had been playing for so long. They began working together on original songs and brought Gary back in on drums. They recruited a bassist named Dave Copley, who had played in a metal band called Shotgun with Ed back in '74. They concentrated on writing catchy pop songs, giving extreme attention to the vocal harmonies.

Since there were few bars and school dances to showcase their music in Ashland, the band often ventured out to Huntington, WV, just across the state line. They had come up with between 30 and 40 original songs but still had to incorporate some covers into their set to appease the crowds. They did material by the Beatles, Kinks, Zombies and other British Invasion acts as well as contemporary groups such as Elvis Costello, the Clash, the Police, Shoes and even Devo.

Menlo Park, named after the research lab where Edison invented the phonograph, went to the Recording Workshop in Chillicothe, OH in May 1980 to lay down two tracks, “My Heart” and “Wrong Side Of A Gun.” The songs were engineered and mixed by staff instructors at the school and since the band was so well rehearsed, they finished up in a single evening. Using funds they earned from playing gigs, Menlo Park released the songs as a single on their own Wrong Planet imprint in a tiny pressing, which they recollect being only 100-200 copies. Despite the optimistic "First Pressing" notation on the center labels, another batch was never made.

For the next two years, Menlo Park became the regular band for student practice sessions at the Recording Workshop, which was located about an hour and a half from their home town. They were there every six weeks. One of the songs they recorded there, "Run And Run," won a talent contest from a radio station out of Huntington, WV. The band was given studio time to re-recorded the song in a Huntington studio and then it was included on a WKEE compilation album that was released in 1981. The song was played on the air just one time at two in the morning.

In January of 1982, the Recording Workshop released their own compilation album featuring three of the bands that recorded there the summer before. Five Menlo Park tracks were included on that record. Not long after, Gary left the band and they went through a couple different drummers before Ed departed as well. In 1986 Mike and Gary reunited to form a new band called the Return. Several years later, Dave joined them and the band is still going strong to this day.


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