Back in February, we told you about the fantastic post-punk/no wave record by Chandra. The band was named after its singer, Chandra Oppenheim, who, at the time of the 1980 release of their EP, Transportation, had yet to reach her teenage years. In that article, I mentioned she is the daughter of conceptual artist, Dennis Oppenheim. Chandra’s father, who died in 2011, often included his young daughter in pieces that are still quite provocative (here’s one). He treated Chandra like a peer and encouraged her to pursue who own art, which lead to his approval of her working with Eugenie Diserio and Steve Alexander of the group Model Citizens, who became her bandmates in Chandra. One of the post-Transportation tunes they collaborated on, “A Day Without Success,” features lyrics that were meant as a message from Chandra to her father. The track, taped when Chandra was around fifteen years old, has remained in the can for decades. But it’s about to come out on a newly expanded edition of Transportation.
Dangerous Minds is thrilled to have the premiere of “A Day Without Success.”
When asked if she could provide us with a quote or two related to the song, Chandra gave us a detailed account of how the track came together, as well as a revealing analysis of her very personal lyrics.
This song was recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder, which was pretty much brand new technology in the early ‘80s (at least in terms of being consumer accessible, if you had a spare $400 – could it be that they were that much?? That’s what I remember). We recorded this in 1983. Chandra, the band, no longer existed but Eugenie, Steve, and I met up every so often for songwriting and recording sessions in their apartment in Chelsea. Steve programmed the drum machine (back then probably not a simple task) and Eugenie played the keyboard parts. I would come with lyrics and a melody, start singing, and they would form the music around that, as we had always done. Only now, instead of doing it with a full band, we did it with just the three of us. The new technology allowed us to flesh out multi-track demos. From there my thought was that we would put together another group of songs to record in the studio and to perform. That never happened. Now after over 30 years they are seeing the light of day.
I wrote this song about my father. It was a message to him, a warning, to not get caught up in the emptiness of fame and to not to buy into one’s value being tied to one’s work, which would make him vulnerable to depression should he ever experience a failure. “Can you handle a day without the people? Can you live through a day of all seclusion?” I warned against living an extravagant lifestyle, and to instead consider conserving his resources should he need them if his success ran out. “Do you wonder what you’ll do in the future? Do you have all your winnings to spare?” The lyrics also suggest that he doesn’t know himself, that he is losing himself in the adulation of others, and that it is only through his work that he can be introspective, communicate, connect, and have successful relationships. “Will you invent some kind, some kind of machine, to figure out just what you mean?” Also, this song is a standard plea from a daughter for paternal attention. From my perspective a day without success would be a good thing, because then he would have time to tune in, take care of himself, and also to spend more time with me. The song reveals that I felt I was in competition with my father’s drive to constantly create art. It also reveals that the only way I was willing to communicate this to him, was through art, just like my father taught me.
The Transportation reissue will be made available on December 7th. It’s a joint release between Telephone Explosion and Chandra’s own label, Rain Boots Records. In addition to the original EP, there’s a second slab of vinyl with four songs recorded by the Chandra Dimension band in 1982, as well as two previously unreleased demos from 1983, “They’re All Alike” and “A Day Without Success.”
Pre-order the definitive version of Transportation via Telephone Explosion or Amazon. If you happen to live in or around New York City, Chandra and her group will be appearing at Rough Trade Records in Williamsburg on December 2nd for an in-store performance and signing, and will also be playing later that night at Alphaville in Brooklyn.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Meet Chandra, the pre-teen who released a fantastic post-punk record in 1980