Like Camper Van Beethoven and the Replacements, Lions & Ghosts were adored by college radio DJs in the ‘80s but received cold shoulders from the mainstream airwaves. Formed in Los Angeles by Rick Parker (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Michael Lockwood (guitar, vocals), Todd Hoffman (bass, vocals), and Michael Martin Murphey (drums, vocals), Lions & Ghosts' melodic guitar rock seemed tailor-made for campus stations; however, the group was lost in a glut of American bands marketed as the next R.E.M., whose surprise Top 40 breakthrough in 1987 inspired record labels to pillage college radio for the Next Big Thing. Lions & Ghosts' 1987 debut LP, Velvet Kiss, Lick of the Lime, was dismissed by critics who didn't feel the group was doing anything revolutionary or ambitious; in contrast, left-of-the-dial programmers feasted on the record's power pop grooves. "Mary Goes Round," a dead ringer for the Replacements, and "Man in a Car" enjoyed heavy airplay on small alternative stations. "Mary Goes Round" even became a cult hit on new wave dials in Manila, Philippines. But commercial outlets in the U.S. felt that the band's music was too understated and moody for mass acceptance. Wild Garden, Lions & Ghosts' second album, was released in 1989 to a similar reaction although the group changed their sound a bit, opting for more of a straightforward, roots rock approach. Wild Garden didn't sell, and the band split up. In 1992, Parker recorded a solo effort, Wicked World, for Geffen Records; it quickly disappeared in the rise of grunge. Parker took a break from the music business and returned a few years later with another band, Sparkler, also featuring Tommy Black (bass) and John Wilmer (drums). Proudly displaying their love for ‘70s pop and glam rock, Sparkler released Wicker Park in 1997, drawing comparisons to Matthew Sweet and Jellyfish. In 2001, Parker co-wrote several tracks on his girlfriend Miranda Lee Richards' The Herethereafter.
Share this page