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Broken Records

Name: Broken Records
Founded: 1983
Location: California, USA

Connected with Blue Collar Records and A&S Records. Eventually evolved into Brainstorm Artists International and Innocent Media.


On the Undercover mailing list, Ojo/Joey responded to a question about Broken Records and 1985 –

“OK - here's the Broken story, from my perspective…

Anyway.. first there was Maranatha Music, formed as a ministry of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and located on the grounds there too. This was before my time. aranatha owned a studio just up the street from Calvary called Whitefield. It is the stuff of legend, as a glimpse through any of those early landmark Maranatha albums (and some later ones too, including the Broken releases) will show. It is the first 24-track studio I was ever in, invited to tag along with John Wimber one night, who was doing a recording there. That night I knew it was my calling and that I must learn everything I could about production.

Maranatha's then-president, Chuck Fromm had decided to form a Marantha Music offshoot more focused on ministry and on those minstrels who wanted a vehicle to allow them to fulfill their calling without having to pursue a record deal with Maranatha or any other label. This was called the Ministry Resource Center, or MRC. There were many resources made available, training, study, prayer, materials, networking, showcases. It was a kind of lower-budget, grass roots farm label too. There were only a handful of groups working with MRC that I remember and the only one that really comes to mind now is a group called Tamarack which had Rob Watson on keyboards (he has appeared on too many records to list, including Broken Christmas, and of course he is also one of the Swirling Eddies) and John Patitucci, the renowned bass player. They were kind of a jazz/fusion thing. I honestly don't remember who else was working with MRC at that time.

There was also another label Maranatha had started called Asaph & Sons, or A&S Records. This was formed for artists with more edge than would have been allowable on a Maranatha release. The one artist I remember of course, is Leslie Phillips (later to go by Sam Phillips, wife of T-Bone Burnett). They also had some compilations called Back to the Rock, and I think we appeared on one of those, or we were at least supposed to have. But I get ahead of myself…

Gym and I played in one of the new band showcases at Calvary in one of the bands we were in before Undercover. We were then asked to meet with Chuck Fromm and we were so excited we couldn't see straight. We blew the meeting though because our then-drummer (remember this is before Undercover) had no interest in ministry as a main focus and I'm sure that's what they were looking for. Some time later, after Undercover started, we were called up and asked if we would like to record a track for a Back to the Rock record and of course we said we would. We went in and recorded “Look It Up” at Whitefield, engineered and produced by Dan Willard. Around this time things were moving very fast. The Lifesavers, Undercover, and The Lifters were playing all over the place and the local fever was spreading quickly. Someone at Maranatha got the idea that maybe Undercover should have its own MRC release and of course we agreed to that as well, and used the “Look It Up” track we had recorded earlier on that first album (not sure if anyone knew that or not, that “Look It Up” was recorded separately from and some time before the rest of our first album). The Lifesavers also recorded their first album and they were both released around the same time. That just made things more nuts locally, and I think the decision was then made to do a full national release, which we did - God Rules, on A&S Records, distributed by Word. The Lifesavers moved on to another label, and somewhere in there The Lifters recorded their first album on MRC. They worked very hard and deserve much more credit than they ever received.

After God Rules, and the rapidly changing musical environment in So Cal, it became obvious that the future was going to be more along these new music lines and A&S was somewhat abandoned and the ideas for Broken Records born, again, with Chuck Fromm as the main visionary, but with Chuck Smith's advice and consent. This was actually preceded by the MRC release What's Shakin' with a whole lineup of new groups. The whole Maranatha staff was excited about all this, and the first Broken release was Boys & Girls in 1984. Somewhere around this time Youth Choir also released a record, I think on Broken, and then Crumbacher's first record also. Altar Boys released their first record on MRC too. The Lifters did another too. Well, new bands were popping up all over the place, some really good, others not so good.

As I wrote the other day, Sim joined Undercover around this time - just after Boys & Girls was produced. We had met him the day the God Rules album shipped to retail, in May of 1983. He was singing in a band called Martus, along with Gene Eugene, Gene's wife Riki Michele, Greg Lawless and Paul Valadez. You can see where this is heading… Sim left a year later to join Undercover and shortly after, Gene formed Adam Again. The more kids, or more marginal people these new bands were reaching, the demographic makeup of the church started changing a bit, and still more new bands were forming, but now, really hard-core bands with the full-blown hair and makeup and everything. I distinctly remember being at Calvary Chapel on a Saturday night with 2 punk bands playing including my brother's band, the precursor to Nobody Special. They were called Immortal Youth.

Well, around this time, the middle of 1985, Chuck Smith was starting to get uncomfortable with things. I don't know why exactly, but it was becoming (this is only my best guess) a fashion show and culture fiesta. I know the bands had their hearts in the right place, but I think it was too much too soon, even for So Cal. Undercover traveled to Europe in the summer of 1985 for 6 weeks and when we got back, I heard the decision had been made to put Broken on ice and the Saturday concerts too. This was a shock, but there was lots of stuff going on in other arenas too. My personal life was falling apart. Up until this time, I had been a staff producer for MRC and Broken Records and had become a sort of figurehead for the movement (see the Broken Pieces newspaper, the only issue of it, on our web site under photos, with Brigandi of The Lifters on the cover), and my life was falling apart. We were playing like crazy and I had written much of Branded already. In fact, we started recording that album for our next Broken release, on Tim Pinch's mobile truck in Gym's garage that had been converted into our practice studio. In the middle of that recording is when everything blew up. So now, mid to late 1985, no Broken, no concerts at Calvary, no personal life. But up until this point, it had all been Maranatha-owned and managed and Gene had not yet been involved.

Sometime after that, I got a call from Gene, who by this time had replaced Uncle Dave as our sound man and also our road manager, who told me about his guy named Harry Barnes who had this little label set up with distribution. Gene said Adam Again was going to do a record for them (they had no record yet) as well as this other band, 4-4-1. He wanted to know if Undercover would be interested. We had been talking to Sparrow about a recording deal, but that had fallen through because I was getting a divorce and they had just dealt with that with another of their artists and did not have the appetite for it. I agreed, and we re-recorded Branded at Pakaderm for Blue Collar Records.

I got a call from Chuck Fromm after that who wanted to know what we were doing and we told him, and it became a very tense meeting. He said he wanted rights to Branded, but I told him we had been let go, and after some words and fur flying, we agreed to amicably part ways. Blue Collar Records didn't last long because (as happens so often) they were not paid by their distribution company and poor Harry was up a creek. Too bad, because of his three releases, all three went on to become significant at various levels. This was 1986 and into 1987 because we had planned to release 3-28-87 on Blue Collar Recrords, and when Blue Collar went under, we were going to release it to whoever purchased Blue Collar. So it was that in 1987 Gene and I met and Gene had this idea to start our own label. He had been talking with Barry Hill, the sound man for the Level Heads in Canada, who we had met at a festival there after we returned from Europe in 1985. Barry had some savings and was interested, and so the three of us formed Brainstorm Artists International.

We approached Chuck Fromm again (this was a while later, at least a year or so, after cooler heads had prevailed) and asked if Maranatha was willing to distribute us. He said that not only would they distribute us through Word, but if we were interested, they'd sell us Broken Records too, and let us pay it off from royalties. We jumped on it and for the first year or so, all of our releases were on Broken Records, which was now owned by Brainstorm Artists International. About a year later, I got another call from Chuck asking Gene and I to go down to talk, and he told us that because of some technicality with Maranatha's agreement with Calvary (Calvary had also spun Maranatha off to Chuck Fromm), that they could not complete the sale of Broken to us while they still owed Calvary money. We said that was fine, and we just gave them back everything (the original Broken masters, but not those produced under Brainstorm, logo and other stuff). Chuck was nice and generous enough to set us up with Word directly, even though we had to prove ourselves at a sales conference in Texas, which we did with flying colors. We then just started releasing everything under the Brainstorm name and logo, which was our corporation name from the very beginning. From there, Jimmy Kempner made an unsuccessful attempt to buy Broken from Maranatha, and formed Broken Songs instead, the publishing company for Frontline Records. Many people got confused because of this, but Broken Records never had anything to do with Frontline. Most of the original Broken and MRC bands ended up there, and we were asked to, but decided to stick with Brainstorm. Glad I did too. I still own all my own masters and copyrights.

So Broken stayed with Maranatha, and they did try to revive it again for a while under the direction of someone named Elisa Elder, whom I never met. But it was not the same at all, and I couldn't tell you one artist released under that version of Broken (Broken Again). So there's the Broken story in a nutshell… I will only add this:

My time with Maranatha and Calvary were some of the best of my life and I have nothing bad to say about any of the people we used to work with there. Of course there were rough edges and tempers and egos. But we were all creating something that we all believed in, something we all thought was the coolest thing we had been involved with, and even though we all had our moments, we made it work. Chuck Fromm and Chuck Smith were mentors and supporters in every way, often beyond what other would consider reasonable. The staff at Maranatha are still my family. I had dinner a week or so ago with Chris Brigandi, Brian Ray, Bugs Giglio, Stan Endicott, and Joe Mitchell, and am also in touch with others too. So there you go… let me know if I missed anything.

Peace…”


Artists

Releases

Undercover God Rules 1983
Youth Choir Voices in Shadows 1984
Crumbacher Incandescent 1984
Altar Boys When You're a Rebel 1984
Undercover Boys and Girls Renounce the World! 1984
Darrell Mansfield Band Revelation 1985
Common Bond Heaven is Calling 1985
Various Artists Broken Samples 1985
Undercover 3/28/87 1988
Level Heads Momento Mori 1988
Adam Again Ten Songs by Adam Again 1988
Ojo Relative 1988
Undercover Volume 1 1988
The Holidays Everything is Now 1988
4-4-1 Sacrifice 1988
Various Artists The Broken Christmas 1988
Ted Holden Restless Heart 1989
Riki Michele Big Big Town 1989
J.C. & The Boyz Never Give Up 1989
Undercover Volume 2 1989
SFC Listen Up 1989
Nobody Special Call It Whatever You Want 1989
The Holidays Restless Heart 1989
Adam Again Homeboys 1990
Undercover Balance of Power 1990
The 77s Sticks and Stones 1990
SFC A Saved Man (In the Jungle) 1990
Dynamic Twins Word to the Wize 1991
Bloodgood All Stand Together 1991
Uthanda Groove 1991