Vinyl Friday #3: “Beserkley Chartbusters Vol. 1”

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Beserkley Chartbusters Volume 1 came right from the home of the hits – Beserkley Records from Berkeley, California. A really small powerpop label that during its short lifespan brought some of the best little bands that could – including the fantastic Modern Lovers and their leader Jonathan Richman.

This was a funny little find, a collection of singles released on Beserkley by Earth Quake, Greg Kihn, The Rubinoos and Richman. It was tucked away in a resale store where it had clearly been through some neglect (the sleeve is in quite poor shape), but at that point I hadn’t been able to find any album with Richman on it. Not even a month later I would find the Modern Lovers’ debut album, but I don’t regret picking this one up.

Records like these are the reason why I love buying them so much. There is always something strange or unique to find if you dig long enough. Personally, I rarely buy any album brand new. The used or $1 bins are usually more my style, clearly. While this isn’t the best buy ever, it certainly more interesting than the countless copies of Rumours or that shambolic Bon Iver album that are clogging up the shelves.

I could sing praises for days about how vital Richman’s music was to the punk movement and to music in general, but that can be saved for another day. And no apologies being completely biased, but his songs are by far the gems in the bunch. While “Roadrunner” is a classic, songs like “The New Teller” and “Government Center” are great. They’re so weird (dare I say… quirky?), almost like a novelty song, but one with so much intelligence and love.

But it would be unfair to say that the rest of the singles aren’t great too. The closing Earth Quake song “Madness” is a fantastic powerpop tune. And Greg Kihn would go on to be the label’s sole artist until they folded in the mid-80s, but he wrote some great pop songs at his time with Beserkley, many of them on display on this collection including the great “All the Right Reasons”.

The label has since reached some sort of cult-legendary status, but many of these songs have sort of slipped on the wayside. Berserkley clearly had some great singles, and may they never be completely forgotten.

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