Sometimes an EP can be a great way to slip into someone’s catalog. I first heard Tommy Keene on the soundtrack for Out of Bounds, a post Brat Pack film starring Anthony Michael Hall. In the film a vaguely Southern sounding ‘Run Now ‘ was featured along with a host of other edgy new wave and alt rock artist. The song immediately struck a chord with a unique take on the jangle guitar sound that was coming out of the American Southeast, mainly Georgia and North Carolina in the first half of the ’80s.
It would in fact be two Southerners in North Carolina (T-Bone Burnett and Don Dixon) who would produce Run Now. Recorded two years before all but the title song would be produced by Burnett and Dixon. The title track was most notably produced by Bob Clearmountain, at the time a big label producer who had ironed out some of the regional flavor of Keene’s guitar playing style. Much of this EP was on heavy rotation on college radio stations, at least it was on WUAG in Greensboro when I was in college.
All the songs were written by Maryland based Keene whose unique guitar style was showcased on much of this album. Songs like ‘I Don’t Feel Right at All’ channel a vaguely nostalgic 60 pop, while a live version of Lou Reed’s ‘Kill Your Sons’ puts a Jangle pop spin on an old classic. A studio version of the song would appear on Songs From the Film, but the one on Run Now remains the definitive non Lou Reed version.
Other songs like ‘Back Again’ were reminiscent of ’60s inspired pop from Marshall Crenshaw. By the time of the release of this EP, jangle pop had made the transition from the college radio stations of the Southeast to MTV and beyond. Now there were bands as far west as California like Game Theory making similar music and everywhere in between. To cash in on this phenomenon, Run Now ended up being a precursor to the Clearmountain produced big label Songs From the Film.
While Songs From the Film was a great album in its own right (in fact it’s one of my favorites), Run Now offered a last chance to hear Keene’s guitar work with all its regional quirks in place. That was before re-issues of Songs From the Film included most of Run Now as bonus tracks. That’s great news for those who may never have heard these great two recordings.
Keene’s next release would grow his popularity which peaked commercially with Songs From the Film in 1986 and slowly receded (however not critically) as Keene’s career ran into the ’90s and well into the iPod era. Keene continues to record with Excitement at Your Feet being released as recently as 2013.