Somebody smart once said that for every Elvis Presley there is a Charlie Feathers: there is always some talented guy out there who was at the right place and the right time but, for some unknown reason, doesn’t quite achieve gigantic, mainstream success. Rusty Willoughby is kind of one of those guys. I can’t think of an Elvis for Rusty’s Charlie Feathers, but the point is that Rusty is one helluva talented guy. His late 80s/early 90s band Flop were, in my expert opinion, the best power pop band since the late 70s glory days. Prior to Flop, Rusty was in another great band called Pure Joy. Their catalog, which might all be out of print now, is highly underrated, and sadly, it got a bit lost in the grunge shuffle. Along with the Fastbacks and the Young Fresh Fellows, Pure Joy was part of the Seattle Holy Pop Trinity during the otherwise bleak 1980s pop scene.
Formed in the mid eighties as the Dwindles, the band consisted of singer/guitarist Rusty, bassist Lisa King, keyboardist Randy Willoughby, and drummer Jim Hunnicutt. They later renamed themselves Pure Joy after the Teardrop Explodes song and made their vinyl debut with a self-released, self-titled EP in 1986. The four-song EP contained the song "Ocean,” which was played on the long-gone local radio station KJET and included on the Lowlife Compilation LP (Ironwood Records). Welcome to My New Psychotic Dream was supposed to be their debut record on No Big Business Records, but after their financer ran off with the master tapes, it remained unreleased until Flydaddy Records released it on CD in 1994. By the time of this record, Randy had been replaced by future Nirvana soundman Craig Montgomery, and the nine songs are more developed than on the previous EP. While this record was unreleased at the time, the song “Standing on a Bridge” was included on the C/Z records compilation, Secretions (CZ006). The band then stripped down to a three-piece, with future Sister Psychic/Lawnmowers member Andy Davenhall taking over on drums for their next record, the “Now I Know” single on ex-Silly Killer/Chemistry Set member Bryan Learned’s Fat Bald Records (FB11). Popllama released the Carnivore LP in 1989, and Kurt Bloch’s No Three Records put out the live EP, Sore Throte, Dead Goat (N3-10), in 1990. Pure Joy then disbanded, and Rusty went on to Flop who recorded two records on Frontier and one on Epic.
After Flop broke up in the mid 90s, Rusty, Jim, and Lisa reformed Pure Joy and put out two more full-lengths. The Getz, The Worm (The Great Utopia/Flydaddy, 1997) and Gelatin and Bright (Book Records, 2003) were damn fine pop records that were out of step among all the lousy nu-metal bands that were clogging the airwaves at the time. Between Pure Joy records, Rusty also put out a solo record on Book Records and did a Sub Pop single of the month (SP473) in 1999. Rusty currently plays in the band, Llama.
New Psychotic Dream
Standing on a Bridge
Calvin and Hobbes
-- MC Tom