Is Henry Badowski’s “Life Is A Grand” THE Great Lost Album of All Time?

Gather my children, and you shall hear, of possibly the greatest record from the post-punk era that you can’t find on iTunes, can’t find on Spotify, can’t find anywhere but in the vinyl stacks of… mature people who have record players.

Back when Miles Copeland was leveraging IRS Records and using his power base as manager of his brother’s band, The Police, to bring good new music to an audience — succeeding with R.E.M., less so with The Fleshtones — one of the British acts whose record — there was only one — that he released to the world was Henry Badowski.  Life Is A Grand came out in 1981, and in the States at least, was discovered by approximately three people.  Happily we were one, and it brings a certain joy to tell you that just today, for the first time since the early Reagan years, we have dusted off the record, ascertained that our phonograph works, and put it on.

It holds up!  With just James Stevenson on guitar and bass, Badowski sang, played keyboards, programmed the drum machine, and played sax.  The record is like a mix of Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy and Bowie’s Low –– though it is so endearingly sweet, you have to imagine Bowie on ecstasy, not blow.  It is almost entirely upbeat, and the rhythm section could easily have been the Moxhams from Young Marble Giant — minimalist, spare — underneath Farfisas and simple keyboards.  All we see of Badowski from the album cover is a fey, Bryan Ferry head of hair posed near a hedge on one of those great British country gardens.  And that’s all we’ve seen of him for 30 years or more; he disappeared, at least on this side of the pond.  And the record?  It disappeared too.

If today you heard on the radio “My Face,” which leads off the album, you’d think it was a contemporary band that owed a debt to Eno, which is never a bad thing.  “My Face” was a minor British radio hit, but it’s “Henry’s In Love” that has kept spinning in our head for lo these many years, a gorgeous British pop song with a melody XTC’s Andy Partridge would have made too angular, would have stripped it of its languorous charm.  “Swimming With The Fish In The Sea,” has a bass line programmed by Bach after one too many lagers and is another song that you’d swear was an Eno outtake; if I put it on and claimed it was the lost Eno single, “Seven Deadly Finns,” you’d take it at face value.  “Silver Trees” sounds like it could have been sung by Wire’s Graham Lewis on a champagne bender.  “This Was Meant To Be” is somewhere between Berlin Trilogy Bowie and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

We could go on and describe each song lovingly.  Let’s stop here and posit this: if you have dirt on an executive at Rhino Records, if you have compromising pictures of one of the Copelands dropping off those CIA guns to the Syrian rebels, ask them, nicely, to figure out a way to get Henry Badowski’s Life Is A Grand into a digital second life.  It will make your day, as rediscovering it today made mine.

10 Responses to “Is Henry Badowski’s “Life Is A Grand” THE Great Lost Album of All Time?”

  1. snarerushjunkie Says:

    Hello! I was doing some Googling for First Communion Afterparty and I stumbled across your site. Just thought you might like to know they’re coming out of retirement for the next month to play a couple shows and finally release their second full-length record. I don’t know if you live anywhere near the Twin Cities, but if so, I’d highly recommend trying to make it to one of their shows. Hands-down one of my favorite bands to see live.

    You might also want to check out the band Is/Is. It’s their bassist’s new band and I dig them as much as FCAP, even though they don’t really have the 60s thing going on, instead drawing a lot of influence from shoegaze and 90s alternative rock.

    Sorry for commenting on this post, but I wasn’t sure how to contact you otherwise and I figured commenting on the most recent post would be the best way to go.

    • johnbuckley100 Says:

      Wow, that is such great news. Thank you! And I’ll post on this when I get more details. Thank you.

  2. […] night, after writing about Henry Badowski and his great, lost album, Life Is A Grand, we wrote him an email, addressed to the Gmail […]

  3. Captain Sensible of The Damned must have been a fan – he based his solo career on this album!

  4. wow, not sure how I found your blog, but here I am. “Life is a Grand” IS the great lost LP era. In fact I wrote that to UNCUT magazine and they published it in their similar list a few years back. This LP just doesn’t get old. I have digital versions My Face and Henry’s In Love that someone kind sent to me. Somewhere between Andy Partridge and The The is where I found this music, but it’s weeter an more sincere than those clever-clever artists. I even wrote Henry online and he responded that he didn’t own the rights to his music at all and can’t control his output. Whatthe heck is this guy up to now??

    • johnbuckley100 Says:

      Roger – thanks. It just gets better and better with time. I know Henry is still around because he sent me an email to correct a typo in the post!

      I read Uncut every month in forlorn hope of finding an announcement that someone is making it available as a download. Hope springs eternal!

  5. have loved this album for years , but never met anyone else who framed it in the same eno meets young marble giants way that i do. bowie / xtc / wire references also on point. re: ymg / moxhams , i highly recommend stuart moxham’s post-ymg project the gist , specifically embrace the herd LP

  6. Add 2 more people to your list … my friend and I both own the album. I found it online that someone digitized it to MP3, so I can enjoy it in my car and iPod. One track skips, but better than nothing. Hoping it gets released on CD one day.

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