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Mike's Favorites...


I first came across Sarah Records in a bulletin board subject of the same name which was next to "shoegazing". Many of the people were into both types of music. The discussion centered less on the music and more on the tweeness which I thought was silly and sometimes I still do. The subject was interesting though and since many of the people shared my tastes on the shoegazing bands, I bought Air Balloon Road. ABR was a cd that I thought was good but like the record label itself, it took a while to grow on me. At this time I was listening to nothing else like it. I remained a "lurker" on the Sarah subject because although I had little to contribute, the discussions were interesting.

Stage 2 was when I heard the Sugargliders Trumpet Play ep in the record store. I immediately bought everything I could find by them and listened to their music constantly. I'm not sure about the time frame but somewhere along the way I had purchased each Sarah cd compilation as it came out. My tastes were swinging around to Sarah and I began to buy everything released on cd along with the 7" of my favorites. Luckily Grand Rapids is not much of a Sarah buying town and many things were still available because the record stores are pretty good. Some were even in the bargain bins.

Although it took me a while to realize it, I now feel Sarah is the best record label there is. No one else has as many of my favorite bands and songs. One of the things people on the outside don't see is the variety of the bands they released. Sarah is seen as a bunch of wimpy whiny guitar bands by outsiders. It makes me glad I'm on the inside.

Top Songs

Sugargliders, Trumpet Play (and everything else)
Even As We Speak, Air
The Orchids, Peaches
Boyracer, I've Got It...
Almost every song on Glass Arcade


Steve's Epiphany...

In order to explain why I care about Sarah, I'll have to go back a bit further than that. I don't know what it was like to be a lonely pop fan in England in the mid-eighties, but in the United States it was unbearable. I'd grown up with and grown out of punk, but the friendly little inbred scene in late-seventies Seattle eventually spiralled downward into a druggy haze of obnoxiousness and despair. I moved away, not only from my home town, but away from music altogether. Nothing was exciting; everything seemed spiritless and deracinated, and the music my friends listened to had withered away into useless experiments, insipid nostalgia or deliberate ugliness. I didn't listen to anything for years.

The monotony of daily life without definition or interest was turning me into a dullard, a miserable automaton moving from bed to work to TV couch to bed again. I had no friends outside of work, and those people only listened to dreadful by-the-numbers stuff, "Rock of the Eighties" radio and MTV horrors, or humorless hardcore ranting that may have reflected a part of the boredom and ugliness of life but didn't offer any alternative to it.

But music has a powerful pull, and I missed that electric spark of excitement and recognition. I wanted to hear songs that were in some way about me, about the real, personal frustrations of life, and the possibility of excitement amid the dullness, of hope and belief that there is more than just working the machine.

I started to stop in record stores, not looking for anything in particular, just flipping. I suppose I was looking for record covers that reminded me of Orange Juice, the last band that ever made me sing aloud as I walked down the street. I bought a few, purely on a whim, and while most where awful, a few things were pretty good: a Felt record, the Smiths, Vic Godard, TVPs, and an odd lp called 'NME C86'. I think I bought it because it had 20 songs all by bands I'd never heard of.

It was nearly what I was looking for. I realized that perhaps I wasn't completely alone; perhaps there was no one in my town who felt this way, but somewhere there was. I started from there. Soon I was finding all sorts of things, again lots of them rubbishy and fake, but enough good ones to make up for it. I had no one to share my finds with, and no one to guide me, but I made my way. And pop music started to be a part of my life again.

Still, it wasn't quite right. There were some labels that I began to recognize and seek out, but which couldn't hold to it. Bands started to repeat themselves, and always, there was the problem of finding them in the first place. Distribution of obscure British labels in the States was pretty terrible then (it's non-existent now). There were loads of good records, but there was nothing that made me want to shout out in the shop, nothing that really intoxicated me.

One day, I saw a single by an unlikely band called 'The Poppyheads'. I knew immediately that I had to hear it -- it looked interesting, if a bit obscure. I took it home, and frankly wasn't totally impressed. I was still thinking more along the lines of bouncy pop, a la Chesterf!elds or Brilliant Corners, or things like the Wedding Present. This just seemed a little too much -- a little too soft, a little too undefined, a little sad.

But hey, there was a poster, and the slip of paper inside was interesting: SARAH RECORDS, it said. It had a bit of a stance to it as well: "Hopefully, NOTHING will ever be unobtainable on 7" in some form, even if it is necessary to compromise elsewhere." An intriguing principle; these people were serious about their 7-inchers, as was I. Short, crystalline little points of brilliance, they've always been the touchstones of pop for me. I decided to try another one.

The Field Mice! "Emma's House", "When You Sleep", "Fabulous Friend", "The Last Letter", Sarah Twelve. I loved the simple, childlike sleeve immediately. The poster, an impossibly crude crayon drawing of a cowboy lassoing up the USA gave me a moment's pause, but when I put the record on, I was lost forever. It was perfect in every possible way -- uncomplicated tunes, but a complicated viewpoint. Sad, shy, almost apologetic vocals over guitar riffs that were exactly understated enough. These songs could have been about me! Total pop, but not stupid, and free of all rockstar male posturing -- real love songs about real love, loss, and screwing up. How to live in a rotten world without being rotten.

And so it continued. That was almost seven years ago for me. I started buying every Sarah I could get my hands on, pestering the shop owners to get more. Not all of them were masterpieces (I still think that Poppyheads is a bit dodgy) but they all meant something. I discovered that not only did Matt and Clare Sarah put out great records, but they wrote brilliantly as well. The slips inside the records turned into full-fledged little letters, and poems. I think they, and of course the fanzines, Are You Scared To Get Happy? and the rest, constitute the best writing ever about pop; to hell with Lester Bangs, this is it.

And some of those records _were_ masterpieces. The Orchids, The Sea Urchins, Another Sunny Day, St. Christopher, then Brighter, Even As We Speak, Blueboy, and the effervescent Heavenly. The Sugargliders, East River Pipe, Aberdeen. A lot of people have complained that over the years Sarah 'lost it', but I don't see it. "Pristine Christine" and "Sensitive" may have been the greatest singles ever, but the last one I bought, "Even The Sun Was Afraid" by East River Pipe, is as good as any of them.

Others, of course, said that Sarah never had it. Thankfully, I don't read the British weeklies very often, but I think that criticism from them is something to be rather proud of. Nothing could be further from the ordinary scenes of Bristol pictured on Sarah's famous label photography than the tawdry false glamor of the hype machine. As for that other hype machine, the US of A, it has utterly ignored Sarah; to whose credit?

Another wonderful thing about Sarah Records is that they opened up a world of like-minded people to me. Most of the friends I have now I met through seeking out and loving pop music, and most of that pop music was either on Sarah Records or directly inspired by them. These people, my friends, some of them on the indiepop list, but not all, mean everything in the world to me -- more than any bits of plastic in paper sleeves. But it's the bits of plastic and the paper sleeves that brought us together.

Why are these records so good, and why do such simple things mean so much to me? Why do I care about Sarah Records? There are other great records being released every day; Sarah never had a monopoly on good bands, and nowhere else is the identification of good bands tied so strongly to the label. It's because no one else so perfectly articulated the aesthetic I follow. No one else ever printed inserts with such marvellously bad jokes, in desperate counterpoint to such affecting stories of looking out rainstreaked train windows. No one else ever really said what they really felt, it seems; those notes were as gossipy as anything, but they always came back and touched you, so real it was almost startling. More real than the record sometimes. But when the record did it too, it was incredible. No other records in the last decade ever made me really cry, and not because they were sad records, but because they were direct and true enough to touch that part of me where crying comes from.

But it's not all about crying and dripping snot on one's picture-postcards of a place I've never seen. Sarah wasn't ever a sad cliche, appealing only to pathetic misfits in drab bedsits. It was intensely political, in a way that a thousand Red Brigades could never approach. They spoke the politics of the personal -- about how to turn off the mass-marketed spew of hate and ugliness and cheap Potemkin glamor, and look at the real world around you, the real people you know and see everyday. The real revolution isn't sitting there shouting at the TV newscast, but starts by simply being nice to someone. As a kindred record maker in the US, Tim Alborn of Harriet Records, puts it, "putting love into the world". There's no use "making the world a better place" if it's just going to be full of the same old hateful bastards as before. Find some happiness, and hew to it; it's so unexpected. And it saps the power out from under our oppressors -- their whole artifice is built up on fear and anger and suspicion and prejudice. It can't survive without it.

When I heard that Matt and Clare were shutting down Sarah, I was sad for a moment, but I'm not anymore. I'm sorry to see them go, but they're not really gone; no one's died that I know of. There's no point in trying to hold onto something that isn't there anymore. If they feel that it isn't working anymore, that there isn't any magic, then that's what they should do. I'd rather have them stop while they're still fresh than go on for years without any heart in it; I don't want to see embarrassing Field Mice reunion lps coming out in ten years' time, or third-rate imitation "Sarah" records coming out just because there's a market for them. I'd hate to see Sarah 1437 and think, "oh, there's another one". Sarahs still mean something special every time; perhaps 100 is the best place to stop.

Matt Haynes, Clare Wadd. Thanks a million for everything. As you may have noticed, I'm a bit of a drip, and I'm getting quite soppy right here. If it's possible to love someone you've never met (though you've written me lovely letters), I love you. You've given me so many wonderful moments, and so many more to come, even if you never do anything again. You've made a few hundred dollars off me; nothing, really. In exchange, in some ways you've given me my life back. I keep telling myself, no, they're just records, man, it's just some stupid records with some stupid songs on them, but those records have taught me how to think about my life and my world and the people who inhabit it. I'm a better person for Sarah. I wish I could give you something in return better than this silly essay. But it's what I have.

Have a wonderful life. And don't disappear! (Steve Thornton, Seattle, August 22 1995)

Alfred's Letter...

5 July 1995

Dear Clare

Hi!!! This is Alfred Tan from Singapore! It's been a great long time since we were in touch!!! Some 4 or 5 years???? ...and so much to write and say etc...and here I am just fresh and beginning to start...and like looking up at the summit of a big hill before the climb...I'm making it sound tedious, oh god...not at all... I'm sure it'll be a real recapturing old letters...the past...I'm a fool for nostalgia...well, recently I made a phonecall and Matt answered, I told him I would be coming down to the UK around Aug/Sept...and asked him will there be any Sarah gigs and hey...what a coincidence..he said that would be a gig, the sarah 100 thing....prior to that, I have zilch knowledge as I am as ever out of touch with many things...and just hours ago, in the Internet, I saw a posting which said after Sarah 100, it would mean game over, THE END?...and suddenly I feel the whole significance of things...and sentimentality of it all... firstly, I'm astonished by its COINCIDENCE...I mean, if I do come to the UK, it'll be my 1st ever trip...I've always wanted to come especially eversince my love with UK indie music (and u can be my witness! heheh) but my obstacles were lack of money, then there was a period I had to do my national service...In brief, I never got to see Sea Urchins live, Fieldmice, Poppyheads, McCarthy, all the sarah christmas gigs etc...everything passes me I'm definitely not going to MISS this's so strange, if Sarah was to end (that is, if I didn't misunderstand that posting)... I am to catch her by her tail with her exit....I remember I wrote to you in late 87 for your kvatch zine and the SEA URCHINS flexi but when you send SARAH 4 along too...and it was also another coincidence..cause John Peel played in his worldwide show 'pristine christine' which stole my heart!....and with each new sarah was great to be part of the spirit...


Love Alfred Tan

ADVERTISEMENT (not really)

The Indiepop Mailing List and Tweenet
How to Make Friends on Your Computer

This fanzine came about because of the internet. It's not just some techno-hell or the habitat of particularly hairy computer programmers. It's a lot of fun and it could, quite possibly, change your life.

CyberIndiePop does exist...on the Indiepop Mailing List and on Tweenet a truly international community of popfans have gathered to chat, ask questions and plot world revolution... I won't bother trying to explain what a 'mailing list` is or what 'World Wide Web pages` are because if you don't know then you probably haven't got access to them anyway. Just read the papers - the Internet is absolutely everywhere. Just don't believe the hype (well, you can believe ours - promise).

The Indiepop Mailing List is devoted to the discussion of independently produced pop music, the kind that tends to come out on small-run seven-inch singles with handmade sleeves. They call it "wimpy", and "twee", but popkids everywhere know that the true spirit of Punk Rock lives on not in the mass-marketed "alternative" scene, or the sub-metal caterwauling of testosterone-poisoned grunge-rockers, but in the simple and pure efforts of kids banging out sweet delicious songs on cheap guitars.

To join the list all you need to do is send an email to (ignoring the brackets) with "subscribe indiepop" in the body of the message (i.e.not in the subject). It's that simple...soon you'll be looking forward to getting lots of gorgeous pop posts each morning. Something worth getting up for.

TweeNet is the official World Wide Web pages of the indiepop mailing list. The Web pages are meant to provide a semi-definitive electronic source for information about our favorite bands, records, labels, clubs, and fanzines. Many items are culled from the mailing list, but the list is transitory and chatty in nature; Tweenet aims to be more permanent, full of interesting references and reviews, and a place to find that elusive information about Talulah Gosh singles or the mailing address of Summershine Records. This page and its fellows are in a constant state of growth and flux; new goodies are added daily, and old ones updated and shuffled around in an effort to make them easier to find.

Why are there three Tweenet sites? Well, we have users from all over the globe, and not every place has high speed data connections to everyplace else. So we've tried to more or less mirror the contents, in the United States, Germany, and in Australia. So no matter where you are, you can get to all the fun stuff without having to wait long minutes for the pictures to download.

The URLs are:

The fact that you can chat with someone around the other side of the world about your favourite bands is exciting and remarkable and probably a bit scary. Slightly difficult to believe sometimes. But it's fun and informative. Anyway, try it out for yourself - at the Sarah 100 Party Pete Hahndorf and Jen Matson are doing a live link up to the net (if it works) : find them and see this thing working. Then maybe you'll get as excited as we are about it.

Well as you can see this thing happened. Somehow. No one else came forward so it was up to me to get it together. This may well have had a detrimental effect on the finished product. I'm afraid the fact that we only had about 11 days to pull the whole thing together took its toll on the quality of the editing and layout - but hopefully not the writing (except in my case). There aren't any pictures and the design is a bit drab (I would've loved to do it in bright colours, which was what Sarah was all about, colours and music and honesty). But hopefully the words will be enough. Anyway, at twenty pence you're hardly breaking the bank are you you ungrateful sod (sorry). I know that everything written in this fanzine comes straight from the heart. Sarah meant a tremendous amount to a few of us scattered around the world (but unfortunately the audience was never as big as it should've been). This fanzine is a very small thank you to Clare and Matt for all the work they put into it. For all the times they must've felt like throwing it all in - after the printer got it wrong again or some other band decides to become surly and uncooperative. I just hope that they, like us, feel it was all worth it. Thanks again.


This fanzine was made possible by the contributions of the following indiepop list members.

If you or your friends would like paper copies of "This August's Farewell Kiss" (unlikely I know but...) you could write to me at:

Top Floor Flat
57 City Road
United Kingdom

Include a stamped addressed envelope or an IRC. The copy itself won't cost you anything but please feel free to send me fanzines, records or presents of any kind. All gratefully received received with thanks... :-)

thanks a lot to Rodney for putting this thing together. We sold quite a few copies during the party. I tried to reproduce this on-line version to look like the paper version which fortunately has a simple layout. The photo isn't the original yet, but that will change soon.

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Last updated: 1-Oct-1995 © 1994-2024 TweeNet Creative Commons License