RED LIGHTS 'Red Lights' LP
“Prior to forming the Gun Club, Jeffrey Lee Pierce (1958-1996) fronted The Red Lights. While 1980 is viewed as ground zero for Pierce’s career—his autobiography Go Tell The Mountain starts with the founding of the Gun Club—Pierce was active as a rock critic for Slash magazine and had started songwriting years earlier. Throughout the late 1970s, Pierce’s primary musical interests were power pop and reggae. He was the president of the Blondie fan club and had interviewed Burning Spear. So when the Red Lights, Pierce’s first serious attempt at forming a band, started rehearsing it’s unsurprising that power pop (with a hint of reggae) was the group’s musical direction. “
The Red Lights existed throughout 1978. The lineup for the band’s debut show on July 14, 1978—opening for The Germs and The Middle Class at the Whisky—was Jeffrey Lee Pierce (vocals and guitar), Anna Statman (bass), Vitus Mataré (keyboards) and Jack Reynolds (drums). Mataré and Reynolds were members of The Last; Anna Statman was a contributing writer to Pleasant Gehman’s Lobotomy fanzine. This lineup was short-lived. Mataré dropped out afterwards; Jack Reynolds stuck around a little longer. Thanks to Flipside’s gig reviews, it’s known that the Red Lights played at least two more shows: one at The Arena in Culver City and another one at The Rock Corporation in Van Nuys on August 9, 1978, opening up for The Weasels. By the end of 1978, Pierce had moved to New York City, effectively ending the Red Lights “At some point in the second half of 1978, The Red Lights recorded a demo. Little is known about the session. Mataré had already left the band, Statman vaguely remembers recording it. Unfortunately, Jack Reynolds passed away in 2009.
The Red Lights were obscure; people familiar with the band were likely committed Gun Club fans. Few were aware that this demo tape existed; those who had a cassette copy likely received it from Pierce directly. “Fast forward four decades and what’s surprising about the Red Lights’ material is how advanced Pierce’s songwriting was at 19 years old—the songs’ dynamic range, that voice—this is clearly the Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Again, it’s all here.” —Ryan Leach