CALLED UP: Michael Been's band the Call has been called the most underrated band in history.
Michael Been: 1950-2010
By Steve Palopoli
THERE ARE cult bands, and then there are cult bands. Fans of the Ramones or the Misfits, for example, may treat them like cult bands, quick to point out that they were so far ahead of their time that the mainstream simply didn't know what to do with them until long after they were gone, when they were vindicated by a rise to legendary status.
But it's fans of bands like the Call that truly feel the pain of knowing their musical heroes have no hope of ever really getting the recognition they deserve, and are in danger of being lost to pop culture history altogether. In Michael Been's case, it either makes it better or worse that one of those fans was Peter Gabriel, who once called him "the future of American music."
But when Been died last week of a heart attack, he wasn't dazzling fans of the Call, the band he formed in Santa Cruz in 1980, with a new album—in fact, the band hadn't recorded in 10 years. He wasn't touring the stadiums that fans thought he deserved to be filling. Instead, the uniquely talented songwriter was doing sound engineering work for his son's band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Nothing against BRMC, but where was the music Been still had yet to make—a follow-up to the gorgeous sonic landscape of the Call's 1984 album Scene Beyond Dreams? Or even something, anything, to piggyback on the brief boost the band got when Al Gore used "Let the Day Begin" in his presidential campaign?
Because of Been's local connection (and the Call's connection to the Doobie Brothers), he'll be remembered well in this area, at least. But his untimely death only underscores that his work never seemed finished. Certainly, it wasn't supposed to end like this.
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