(Soundbite of song "Sexy Back")

Mr. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: (Singing): I'm bringing sexy back, yeah. Them other boys don't know how to act, yeah. I think you're special, what's behind your back, yeah. So turn around and I'll pick up the slack, yeah.

BRAND: That's Sexy Back, a song from this week's top selling album in America, Justin Timberlake's Future Sex Love Sounds.

But our contributor, Jennifer Sharpe, says there is new interest and a new market for music that's all but forgotten. Here's Jennifer.

JENNIFER SHARPE: Back in 1980, when 16-year-old Spike Priggen played guitar the band TV Neats, he sent out copies of his demo tape hoping to get signed. Little did he know he'd be 42 years old by the time their album would finally get released.

(Soundbite of song)

TV NEATS (Band): For he is young and ever stray...

SHARPE: Twenty-five years after the band's breakup, they've come out on a Japanese label that sells their album for 2300 yen. When Priggen explained that there is actually a hot little market for old demo tapes like his, I suddenly felt a twinge of jealously. What about my old band's demo tape?

ATROCITY (Band)(Singing): My children I can't hear you, (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of Atrocity song)

SHARPE: In 1983, when I was a freshman at Berkeley High, I replaced the bass player of a fiercely vegetarian peace punk band called Atrocity. Opening for the Dead Kennedys, Atrocity's two singers, 15-year-old Katherine Harris and 13-year-old Sarah Borruso, must have looked freakishly precocious singing songs like I Pronounce You Dead, an anarchist commentary on the institution of marriage.

(Soundbite of song "I Pronounce You Dead")

SHARPE: Looking for evidence of the so-called hot market Priggen had mentioned, I started e-mailing with small reissue labels, secretly hoping to set the stage for an Atrocity pitch. I learned that in fact there are a number of old cassette demos making it into circulation. And while some bands have barely sold 500 copies, others are enjoying a posthumous renaissance.

(Soundbite of song "Let Me Take Your Foto")

SHARPE: Like The Speedies, whose unreleased material just got put up on iTunes and whose nearly forgotten single Let Me Take Your Foto recently showed up in a Hewlett-Packard commercial.

(Soundbite of song "Let Me Take Your Photo")

THE SPEEDIES (Band): (Singing) Let me take your photo, let me take your photo, let me take your photo...

SHARPE: Excited by the possibilities, I put up a MySpace Web site for Atrocity and began pushing it on the labels I'd been talking to. I sent them copies of our demo, and as I waited for their responses, an unexpected flood of e-mails came pouring in from old Atrocity fans. One recounted listening to our tape at the reptile store she'd worked at, where she'd play our song Animal Fate for the mice before feeding them to the snakes.

(Soundbite of song)

SHARPE: Within a week, all but one of my former band mates had appeared on Atrocity's list of MySpace friends. In some ways they seemed strangely the same, and in other ways they'd totally changed. Our anti-corporate guitar player, Paul Moraga, now works at IBM. And our pale red-haired drummer has changed his name from Greg Penn to Aleph Kali. On his profile, he ethnically identifies as East Indian.

(Soundbite of sitar music)

SHARPE: When I asked our singer, Sarah, if she is still a vegetarian, she told me she occasionally eats meat now, but only because doctors keep telling her to eat steaks for her anemia. What about you, she asked? I had to tell her that just a year after the band broke up, I went to a McDonald's drive-thru and wolfed down a box of Chicken McNuggets.

(Soundbite of McDonald's jingle)

SHARPE: The only possible vegetarian left is Katherine, our other singer, but no one has heard from her in years. So Katherine, if you're out there listening, get yourself onto MySpace. I've got a contract for you to sign. When the labels got back to me, all of them were interested in our demo - even the ones I'd hoped would reject it for the sake of this story.

(Soundbite of song)

SHARPE: When I checked back in with Spike Priggen to see how the TV Neats album was doing, he told me he'd already sold one copy. I'm hoping Atrocity will do a little better than that, but I don't think we'll be getting any calls from Hewlett-Packard.

For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Sharpe.

(Soundbite of song)

ATROCITY (Band): (Singing) ...no pity, no pity, no pity...

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.