Meet Napalm Beach, the most influential band you never heard of. Popular, prolific, and formed in 1980, they were based out of Portland, Oregon.
Why was Napalm Beach buried?
Let’s start with the obvious. They were underground. The music was rock, but beyond that, it was diverse, hard to pin down. They were mature (virtuoso) musicians in an amateur punk scene. They were raucous, headstrong, hard to reach. They didn’t think much about business. They just wanted to play live, record, and release albums. By the late 80s, they were all known drug addicts. That was the point that they became involved with Flying Heart, a tiny Portland “label” which did little but try to control them with favors, drugs, lies, and tiny bits of cash exchanged for recordings and publishing rights.
Also, except for a few well-received European tours, and a couple years in San Francisco, Napalm Beach never played a show outside the northwest. They spent their career (1980-1996) opening for touring bands, playing little gigs all around the northwest, and headlining at punk and rock clubs in Portland and Seattle, again and again and again.
They were ahead of their time. They were dangerous. They were from Portland. They didn’t sign to Sub Pop. Their catalog was scattered, and by 1998 the bandleader was living on the streets in a cardboard box. These could all be factors.
Nonetheless, there is a reason why Zeno Records continued to quietly market their music into the 21st Century. And there is a reason why they were inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. And there is a reason why, when they broke up (after 15+ years and many albums), their fans demanded and attended reunion shows for almost two decades afterwards.
It wasn’t because they sucked.