Anton Fier was a weirdly mythic figure to me when I was in college, plying my trade at the student-run radio station. He existed within the nation of independent music that was beyond my personal level of coolness, like distant figures on the vista. He was a founding member of the Feelies, a band I loved immediately, but he left after the band’s acclaimed, obscure debut, Crazy Rhythms, an album I’d never heard because its status as a low press run, long out of print artifact of greatness put it well out of reach. He was a member of John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards and played with Pere Ubu, the weirdo outlets of music so bizarre it just had to approach genius. And then there were those couple of records in the station that were most clearly his creation: the LP output of Golden Palominos.
Naturally, the Golden Palominos records only padded his claim to iconoclastic indie legend, at least in my eyes. The band was a sort of left of the dial supergrounp, albeit one with a roster as ever-changing as the side of a Rubik’s Cube. It was the professional launching pad for Syd Straw, achievement enough to make the band worthy of exaltation, but what caught my eye was the fleet of impressive guest stars gracing the liner nights, with the likes of John Lydon, Richard Thompson, and Michael Stipe showing up. In particular, the R.E.M. frontman was about as close as college radio got to a poet laureate in the mid-to-late-eighties. His presence, in a then-rare excursion away from his main band, conferred something gently important about the project. Like a lot of young deejays, I suspect, I gravitated to the songs that featured his distinctive keening, including “Omaha,” which I probably played repeatedly without ever realizing it was a Moby Grape cover. Hey, I was still learning.
At roughly the end of my first year of college, one of my touchstone albums arrived. After years with Hüsker Dü, a tenure that ended in spectacular smoking wreckage, Bob Mould delivered his solo debut with Workbook. There in the credits was Anton Fier’s name, indicating he’d handled duties behind the drum kit. Thus his coolness cachet grew that much more. I haven’t exactly followed his career slowly since then, nor do I recall particularly noticing when his name cropped. But why would I need to? He covered all the ground he needed to leave me dazzled way back then.
Listen or download –> Golden Palominos, “Omaha”
(Disclaimer: I think Visions of Excess, the album that first housed this song, is out of print as a physical object that be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store. Similarly, while there have been a gaggle of compilation pulling together Golden Palomino songs like so many casino chips after a lucrative poker hand, it looks to me like most of those are equally relegated to digital download or even shakier availability. Regardless, I’m sharing this song here with no intent to cause fiscal harm to Fier, the other members of Golden Palominos, or whoever is cashing checks for Skip Spence’s songwriting these days. Besides, fair use should be a thing. I am very happy to remove this song from the interweb if I’m asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)