|Posted by powerpopclassics on January 7, 2016 at 5:55 PM|
I wrote the B-side of The Trend’s one and only vinyl single in a burst of creativity during that magical summer of 1979. The chord based riff was the key to the song, and it was a true gift when my Lotus acoustic and I stumbled upon it. I mean, how could a riff of mine resemble both The Monkees and The B-52’s? Somehow, without sounding TOO much like either one of those acts, it did.
The lyrics were simple and direct, with no thought put into any sort of message that might be conveyed. The pushiness of the riff carried the song anyway. At 15 years old, I had practically nothing to say based on experience, so I imagined a fictional female protagonist to “admire.” In the context of the times, the song was lyrically my version of “She’s So Selfish” by The Knack, with its original title, “She’s Not Nice.” After quickly scratching out the lyrics and chords, I recorded it and immediately set it aside. As important as music was to me, I had other issues on my mind. I was turning 16 years old the next day, and I wanted a license and a car!
I took my driver's test immediately after school in my father’s shiny Pontiac, and passed it. As I drove Dad back home from the license bureau I flat out asked him if there was going to be a car waiting there. Dryly, he said, “No, there will not.” Within a few minutes we arrived at home and I pulled in. Sure enough, there was no extra car on our driveway. Or on any other driveway up and down our street. Hmmm.
Didn't I remember hearing hints from my mother that I might need to save my lifeguarding money to buy a car stereo after my birthday? Didn't she imply that I was going to be put to work as a regular taxi service for my sister? Maybe I was reading too much into supper table talk. I was definitely not expecting a NEW car, of course. I just hoped for something I could drive, something that would be mine.
Time began to drag. I ran to the grocery store for Mom in her car, and hoped that a car for me would be waiting on me when I got back. Once again, nope. The late afternoon was taking forever! I passed some minutes by playing the cassette of yesterday’s song. It still sounded good to me, but it certainly was not a car. Disappointed and restless, I decided to work out a harmony vocal for the tune by using a second tape recorder for a primitive overdub. Working on the song helped me deal with my dashed expectations.
Then, as I finished singing the harmony vocal that I would later record for real, I made peace with the potential horror of being carless at school. With that song under my belt, I was fine, and didn’t need a car to make me happy. However, at the exact moment that I totally gave up on getting a car for my birthday, my car pulled up! I had forgotten, or had never known, that my grandparents were driving up from Jonesboro, Arkansas to have a birthday dinner at our house. Usually, we traveled to them, and had birthday dinners on Sundays. This was a weekday. Regardless, I can still hear my sister ask my mother as she peered out a window, "Why did Mama T. and Papa come in separate cars?"
Oh yeah! Presuming that I was not getting their Cadillac, I instantly pictured myself cruising around in my grandfather's '69 Mercury Montego. I really loved that car, and Papa did too. I had never once considered that he would give it to me. It was sleek, with great curves. Its only draw back? The AM radio had not been working recently. My mother was right. It was going to take a large percentage of my summer earnings to overhaul the music situation in Papa’s Mercury.
There would be no waiting, no ceremony to present the car. I bolted outside and yelled several times, "Can I keep it?" Papa smiled and nodded, shut the car off, and handed me the keys. Beaming, I turned and saw that Dad was behind me, holding something in his hands. As I looked a little closer, I could see that he was carrying a screwdriver and two maroon Missouri license plates. Obviously, the Arkansas tags were coming off. Dad took care of the plates while Papa advised me of some of the Mercury's quirks. I don't think I listened. I was just feeling ready for the freedom that this very car could provide. It was shaping up to be one of the best days of my life.
Mom demanded a picture. As Papa and Dad moved out of the way, I noticed the rear Missouri plate that Dad had just attached. SHF 650. That was a cool looking license number. I looked at it again, and for some inexplicable reason I saw SHF and said out loud, "She's Hi-Fi." Yes. “She’s Hi-Fi” sure sounded good, even if it did not have a clear meaning. While leaning against my car, waiting for my mother to snap a picture, I decided that "She's Not Nice" had a new title.
Almost two years would pass before The Trend recorded “She’s Hi-Fi” at Kennett Sound Studios. Between 1979 and the summer of 1981, we played it at a Band Dance, a Back-To-School Bash, into the school’s cassette recorder in the high school bandroom, and at our Senior Prom. Four times. Then, on the day that it was recorded, we spent all but a few minutes of our allotted studio time on the A-side, “Lucky Day.” I was the one who felt “Lucky Day” was, by far, the stronger song, and I had no problem lobbying to divide the time between the songs unevenly.
When we finally got around to “She’s Hi-Fi” in the studio, there was no time for anything other than rolling the analog tape and tracking it. We had to knock it out live. We had once chance to prove ourselves. Amazingly, we did. And while it is rough, the recording captured an honest and raw quality that caught the fancy of some unknown college radio DJ at KCOU several months later. They played it. A lot. “Lucky Day,” the A-side, received no such attention. It was played exactly once on the radio in Columbia.
Many years later, in the April 18, 2005 issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, "She's Hi-Fi" was praised in a review of the YELLOW PILLS: PREFILL compilation, which licensed the track for reissue.
Almost thirty five years after its release, I am still convinced that, technically, the melody to “Lucky Day” is the better of the two. Yet, a radio guy who played cool records on a cool station was drawn to the other side. Thankfully, because my grandfather gave me his car, and because my Dad took care of getting Missouri plates at exactly the time that he did, The Trend had a song on the B-side that made it worthwhile to flip the vinyl over.
John T. McMullan
January 7, 2016