A Personal Memory of
Terry Hill / Balboa

January 12th, 2003

Last month I heard that Terry Hill had passed away in November, and today I found out that the complete Balboa discography is available on MP3.com, absolutely free thanks to Wonderdog Records:


(mp3.com/balboa is taken by some presumably crappy-ass Canadian techno band.)

Pretty sneaky of Wonderdog to take that MetroPulse quote, i.e. "the single most influential recording of the early '80s underground scene", out of context. That was in reference to Knoxville's underground scene, of course. Perhaps it was an oversight, the kind that seems to happen often in a town (or region of the country for that matter) where people tend to forget there's a whole 'nuther world out there. Balboa is worthy of the erroneous claim, however. This is as close as you'll likely ever get to finding buried treasure, from a band that should by all rights be included in the major music archives such as Trouser Press, All Music Guide, etc.

I previously had only heard "The Big Sleep", the best song from what was originally their only official release, a 4-song EP. That was 21 freakin' years ago. (Damn, you know you're starting to get old when you notice you're referring ever more often to memories that span more than 50% of your age.) My buddy Scott Davis had recorded it from WUTK. Funny how things come 'round full circle -- Terry and Scott ended up being in the same band, Jacqui and the Tumblekings (not at the same time, but still quite a coincidence).

Anyhoo, all this time I never knew what band it was that did that song. I don't think I even knew they were from Knoxville. The only thing I knew was that it was damn good, and when I heard it again a few days ago, I remembered it practically note for note. It's incredible how music can stick in your brain for so long. Or at least that's how it is for me. Real bad with names (been known to temporarily forget names of people I've known for years, usually in conjunction with alcohol but not always), but I'm an elephant when it comes to music and faces.

I was 18 by the time I started hitting Vic & Bill's, 1985 when it was too late to see Balboa (unless I just wasn't paying attention). I did see Terry in Wh-Wh, but still didn't realize his greatness yet. About five years later I moved into The Chaos House on Forest between 14th/15th, in the exact same rooms where Terry once lived, desk drawers full of bricks and all kinds of shit that didn't make sense. The place was a complete mess when I moved in, to the point where it was obviously not "normal". None of the public tributes I've read (KnoxNews, MetroPulse) give even the slightest hint that things weren't all peachy keen in Terry's world, no mention of the long illness being liver failure, much less what probably caused it. Did heroin make him crazy or did he desire it because existence (especially in Knoxville) was too much to bear? (Some of both I imagine.) What were the circumstances that led to his hooking up with The Sparks (one of my most favorite groups in my youth) and in what capacity (member, sound engineer, etc) was their relationship? Sucks because now he's gone and I missed my chances to ask him such questions in person, and there's no longer the possibility of absorbing any knowledge that he might have been willing to share with me ... had I asked.

Oh well, at least he lives on in the music, and our memories:

Which I suppose is all that's ever left in the end.



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