As with many households, the start of a new years is bringing all sorts of ambitious sorting and reorganizing projects. In our domicile, one of the places that manifests is with a fresh pass at the music collection, specifically the weight shelf of CDs that now occupies a corner of the living room. We got a custom-built CD shelf years and years ago, and there’s long been a general understanding that we’d try to keep the accumulated discs to a number that could fit into that unit. That means it’s time for a little purging. To facilitate this — and, to a degree, to make sure the process of parting with old musical friends takes an extra long time — we’ve committed to going through and giving a fresh listen to everything on the shelf, one by one. The current methodology calls for an alphabetical march through the collection, which is what led to Apollo Smile playing on our stereo yesterday.
I’ve written about this particular release once before. The 1991 self-titled debut from the performer born as Paula Apollo Anne Scharf is a deeply unlikely CD in my collection, landing a good distance from the guitar-driven alternative rock that still dominated my musical choices back then. (Well, that’s probably the sound that still dominates, but I have diversified some over the years.) For whatever reason, I was struck by a capsule review of the release in a year-end Spin magazine feature that had the sub-heading “Overlooked, underheard — lost classics for your consideration.” Something about critic Chuck Eddy’s effusiveness over the album made me want to hear it, always the hallmark of great music writing.
Of course, it helped that I was reading the article inside a college radio station studio, I knew we had a copy of the CD in question, and I needed to play something as my next song.
This was in the afterglow of Soho’s “Hippychick” turning into a surprise hit, which surely helped Apollo Smile get signed in the first place. The album is glossed-up, agreeable dance pop with a smattering of idiosyncratic turns. “Thunderbox” is the lead track on the album and as good of a showcase as any of the peaks the music could achieve. It was never going to be an album that I deeply loved, but it had a certain vibe about it that was ideal for the occasional lazy day mood. And, as I noted, it was blissfully different from just about everything else I owned back then. That had an appeal, too.
I never thought much about the pathway Apollo Smile took after this album came and went with barely a tremor on the various charts. There were a couple more albums, and she evidently had a second life as an anime-inspired model, which means there are all sorts of weird, quasi-porny pictures of her out there now. There was also someone named Apollo Smile who was teaching Kung Fu Dance at a place called The Dance Corner in Killingworth, Connecticut a couple years back. Man alive, I hope that was also her.
Listen or download –> Apollo Smile, “Thunderbox”
(Disclaimer: It appears to me that Apollo Smile is out of print and has been for a good long time. Amazon does note that it can purchased as a used release for a mere penny, so supply and demand is clearly in your favor if you choose to seek it out. Though I am convinced that posting this track for free will not impede fair commerce that compensates both the artist and the proprietor of your favorite local, independently-owned record store, I will gladly remove the track if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request. I also want to note that the picture at the top of the most was mined and processed from an Apollo Smile fansite that was still being updated as recently as a year ago. Until I found it, I seriously considered making the centerpiece photo accompanying this post the image you see below.)