From the Stacks

From The Stacks: The J. Geils Band, “Freeze Frame” (Picture Disc)

If you need a record shaped like a silver potato, your options are pretty limited.

The J. Geils Band released their first album in 1970, but it was the success of 1981’s Freeze Frame that transformed the group into superstars for a quick minute. It’s a great album, but it benefited tremendously from a bit of lucky timing.

MTV arrived on August 1, 1981 and almost immediately became the most influential star-making machine of the next 15 years. The bands quickest to grasp the power of the music video in those early days were almost guaranteed heavy rotation on the fledgling network. The J. Geils Band had a head start on the format, releasing a promotional¬† clip for “Love Stinks” the previous year that made the rounds of late night shows, etc.

About a month after MTV’s debut–on September 13, to be exact– Freeze Frame’s first single dropped. “Centerfold” couldn’t have been a better match for the video format: a story song whose narrator recognizes an old crush as this month’s foldout in his girlie magazine of choice. Na na nana na na. “A narrative to follow and half-naked women to parade around” became one of MTV’s most reliable templates, but J. Geils got there first.

The video propelled the song to number one, the band’s only song to top the charts. They followed it up in January ’82 with “Freeze Frame,” which cracked the top five and peaked at number four. The two songs remain the band’s only tracks to break the top ten, so its no wonder that the band (or the label, or both) decided to make a little hay while the sun was shining and release a double A-side picture disc shaped like the potato head character featured on the album’s cover. (Technically the disc has both an A and a B side, but come on–it’s a double A-side.)

Unfortunately, for all intents and purposes Freeze Frame marks the end of the road for the J. Geils Band. They released a live album in ’82, booted front man Peter Wolf in ’83, and released one final studio album the following year before calling it quits. Wolf’s debut solo album, also released in ’84, far outsold his former band’s swansong.

As popular as these two tracks and the band that cut them were in 1981, this one isn’t terribly sought after. That doesn’t detract from its cool factor, though. If you’re lucky you might find one out there for ten bucks, but $25 is a reasonable price. Happy hunting.

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