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Listen Up Rufus: Broken Homes – Broken Homes

OK Rufus, today I am going to talk to you about the debut album by LA rock band Broken Homes.

Yes, I am aware you are a dog. You’re my dog, which means you should be well versed in awesome music and this album qualifies as awesome. Now, the odds of you ever having heard this record are miniscule. Damn shame, it should’ve been huge.

I wasn’t the type of guy who went right from high school to college. In the words of my supportive “(lack of) guidance” counselor “maybe college just isn’t for you.” Yep, she actually said that. Lovely woman. 

I knew I would eventually go, I just didn’t know when. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I certainly knew I wasn’t ready for college (worth noting, I went on to get a Masters Degree…on my terms, on my timeline.) For years I placed a large part of blame on myself for my rudderless life but as I get older and I mature, a larger portion of that blame, inasmuch as it is blame…more reflection at this point, shifts to Centerville High School.

I was a crack student.

As a high school student I guess I wasn’t awful enough to kick out and I guess I wasn’t great enough to take note. I was just enough trouble to ignore and slip between the cracks.

After I finished high school and I had graduated from working at The Flying Pizza I became a carpenter’s apprentice (courtesy of my mother.) A job I actually came to enjoy more in hindsight than I did at the time. Actually, I learned skills I still use today…and more skills that I ignore altogether because I don’t really like carpentry work.

Nonetheless, I was slogging around Dayton, Ohio doing my thing and working a day job. Which coulda very easily ended up being my life had it not been preordained that I was going to live with my aunt and uncle and attend a community college to get my shite together (a few more false starts and I would eventually get my shite together.)

Being the era of the boom box, the carpenter I worked with always had one at the job site and since there was only one rock station, WTUE, that was the one we listened to (this was a time when “two for Tuesday” was still kind of clever. THAT’S how long ago it was).

So we’re working in some doctors office, moving around walls and such and as the day was wrapping up and we were starting to clean up (and by we, I mean me…the bitch work of carpentry is the clean up and that ALWAYS falls to the newbie) I heard this:

Broken Homes, like Lone Justice and Little Steven, had that sound I love. Simple rock and roll; guitar, bass, drums and vocals…all played by guys who could actually play. Imagine that.

Now, while I didn’t have a girl up north or one down south, let alone one in my own house, God damn if I didn’t identify with the sentiment. 

What was it that spoke to me?
Like any music loving teenager, I had dreams of being a rock star so it seemed to speak to what I imagined the life of a rock and roll musician might be like.

Was I dating anyone then?
No, not that I recall…if I was, she wasn’t that remarkable.

Times were different when the Broken Homes debut was released. On the one hand, there was no Internet, media wasn’t as pervasive as it is now, people spoke more, read more, did more, listened more, explored more, etc. On the other hand, we were deep in the throes of Reagan’s “Trickle Down Economics” and the growing impact of globalization.

Which is to say people actually believed it could work. They also thought globalization was good.

Back then radio stations had a little freedom to explore and play new music. Thankfully, WTUE did. Unfortunately, in just a few years Bill Clinton would sign the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which created the cluster fuck of media that we have now. A media landscape that is as diverse as a Ku Klux Klan rally.

Some argue music was more simple back then. I am not sure I buy that. It sure as hell wasn’t easier to get the music. It took the better part of two weeks to order this album and actually have it arrive at my record store. One thing was certainly more simple back then. Me. Christ, at 18 life had yet to catch up with me, it was more simple. Ain’t it funny how simple life is when you think you know everything?

Ultimately, it is that sound and that simplicity of the entire record that resonated with me. It’s a bare knuckles rock and roll record. Hell, even the “message” songs sure were lean and mean:

What happened to Broken Homes?
They released two more albums, one called Straight Line through Time that I listened to maybe once and Wing And A Prayer that I have no recollection of listening to. I recall Straight Line suffering from the same problem the second Lone Justice album did, a little too much effort on making a hit and less about just making good music.

Principal songwriter Mike Doman appears to still be active, bass player Jimmy Ashurst went on to play with Izzy Stradlin and the JuJu Hounds, The Black Crowes and Buckcherry, guitarist Craig Ross went on to play with Lenny Kravitz (co-writing a number of hits with him and performing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” at the Kennedy Center Honors) and original drummer Craig Aaronson (who drummed on this debut) went on to have a great A&R career before succumbing to cancer in October of 2014.

The music business then, and even more so now, is a complete crap shoot for artists. Being an artist in any medium is a battle with the cards stacked against the artist, but it seems to always be worse in the music business. All these years on I still think Broken Homes should have been a bigger band. Why they weren’t is a giant mystery to me. Maybe their label (MCA) didn’t market them or maybe the tastes were simply changing. My tastes have never really wavered and this remains one of my favorite albums and still the sound I like most in bands.

If you listen to the album, you will quickly realize that it wasn’t for lack of talent that these guys didn’t become a much bigger band.

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