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Mission Of Burma

Mission of Burma was a Boston rock band that formed in 1979. They were influenced by punk rock, and were popular in 1980-1981. Their best known song is That's When I Reach For My Revolver. Back in those days, there were few venues for punk and new wave bands. WERS, the Emerson College radio station, would play scheduled blocks of such genres. Also, flipping through racks of 45's at Newbury Comics on Newbury Street was a great way to discover new music. The following is a description of the band from Wikipedia:

Mission of Burma's history began with a short-lived Boston rock group called Moving Parts. The band included Roger Miller, who had moved to Boston from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Clint Conley, who came from Darien, Connecticut. While the members were all friendly, Conley and Miller wanted a more hard-rocking sound than keyboardist Erik Lindgren wanted to pursue. When Moving Parts broke up amicably in December 1978, Miller and Conley began practicing. The pair auditioned drummers by playing "out" music, such as Sun Ra and James Brown, until the applicant left. They eventually recruited ex-Molls drummer Peter Prescott, who had admired the music of Moving Parts.

 

 

They took their name from a "Mission of Burma" plaque Conley saw on a New York City diplomatic building; he thought the phrase had a "sort of murky and disturbing" quality. Mission of Burma made their debut in April 1, 1979 as a trio, performing at The Modern Theater. Later that month Miller wrote a song, "Nu Disco", that he felt would be improved by a tape loop. Miller then contacted Martin Swope, with whom he had earlier written some John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen-inspired pieces for piano and tape. Swope was immediately enlisted as the group's live audio engineer and occasional tape-effects artist. His latter role grew gradually, until by 1981 he was adding tape work to most of the group's songs, and was regarded as an integral part of the group, appearing in group photographs and receiving equal credit on recordings.

From the start, Mission of Burma received support from local music magazine Boston Rock, who printed a lengthy interview with the band before they released their first record, and Boston college radio station WMBR. The station played Conley's "Peking Spring" repeatedly, and it became the station's most-played song of 1979. Mission of Burma wanted to release the song as a single, but by the time they had found a label, they felt the song had run its course.

By 1981, the band signed a record deal with the Boston-based record label Ace of Hearts. Their debut recording was a single of Conley's "Academy Fight Song" backed with Miller's "Max Ernst" (titled after the dada artist). Rick Harte's layered production was far more refined than the band's ragged live performances, and the band initially objected to the single. However, the first pressing of the single sold out quickly, and the band thereafter trusted Harte's judgment.

Their debut release, the EP Signals, Calls, and Marches, was released in 1981. By the end of that year, the EP had sold out its initial pressing of 10,000 copies.

In 1982, Mission of Burma released their only full-length studio record Vs.. The album has since seen wide praise; one review notes "very few American bands from the 1980s released an album as ambitious or as powerful as Vs., and it still sounds like a classic." "New Nails" seems to set the stage for Sonic Youth, with jagged guitar and shouted lyrics like "The Roman Empire never died / It just changed into the Catholic Church;" Roger Miller has stated that line "derives" from Philip K. Dick's VALIS.

In 1983, after the release of Vs., the group disbanded due to Miller's worsening tinnitus, attributed in large part to their notoriously loud live performances—during their farewell tour, Miller took to augmenting his usual small foam earplugs with rifle-range earphones onstage.

Miller and Swope then turned their attention to their side project, the quieter Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (cofounded with their old friend Lindgren), which they both left in the '90s, Miller to produce several solo efforts and film scores, and Swope to semi-reclusion in Hawaii. Prescott remained active in the Boston music scene, forming Volcano Suns and later Kustomized and The Peer Group. Other than producing Yo La Tengo's debut record, Conley dropped out of music (working as a producer for Boston television station WCVB's newsmagazine Chronicle); in 2001 he returned with Consonant [band].

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