Throbbing Lobster: Boston’s Sonic Time Capsules

The 1980’s: gas was cheap, fashion fluorescent, and music videos were the next big thing. Artificially blonde hair bands ruled most of the radio waves but of course there were a select few independent radio stations shepherding amazing, lesser-known artists out from the shadows. Long time college radio host Chuck Warner decided to sort through all the demo tape submissions he’d received from Boston bands and put some compilations together; thus Throbbing Lobster Records was born. From 1984 to 1988, the label churned out some of the more impressively packaged indie compilations, EP’s, and LP’s of the Boston underground music scene.


Nobody Gets on the Guest List!

In the Summer of ’84 Warner put out the Nobody Gets on the Guest List! LP, a fitting introduction to Boston indie music featuring acts like The Flies, The Turbines, Chain Link Fence, and my personal favorite Prime Movers. Warner’s rigorous PR efforts kept the LP at #1 on several college radio stations. He ended up selling about 4,000 copies. Instant cult classic. Another notable mention is the last song on the album “I’m a Wimp” by Baby’s Arm, great tune.

Let’s Breed!

Throbbing Lobster continued its compilations with the Let’s Breed! LP in the Fall of ’84. This comp featured most of the same bands from the first one and a few new faces like The Odds, The Outlets, The Blackjacks, and Dumptruck. Like Nobody Gets on the Guest List!, Let’s Breed! was number one on dozens of college radio stations and, according to Warner, is “most folks’ favorite Throbbing Lobster LP”.


After releasing EP’s for Prime Movers, Chain Link Fence, Outlets, and an LP for Blackjacks, Warner put out the Claws! LP in the Summer of ’85. “Phase three of the Throbbing Lobster infestation” featured slightly more refined tunes from most of the bands that had been featured on the two previous compilations, as well as a fewnew faces like Buzz and the Gang, Willie Alexander and the Jackals, and Vandykes. At this point SPIN magazine had done a spread for Throbbing Lobster, but this would ultimately be the last compilation released by the label. There were ten more releases after Claws! including EP’s for The Edge, Primitons, O Positive, Lou Miami, Chain Link Fence, and Unattached along with LP’s for Classic Ruins, Cowboy Mouth, and Bill Lloyd.

Although Throbbing Lobster is no longer actively producing indie goodness, there are two supposed compilations that have the potential to be released someday. For the sake of us all, let’s hope that’s true.