THUMBS – Thumbs – (Ramona Records) – 1979



Now this is obscure.


I bought this on a $1 whim because it was on an obscure label from the US and was from 1979.


I expected faux US new wave.


And largely that’s what I got.


Thumbs were a rock band from the late 70s and early 80s from Lawrence, Kansas.


For those not in the know Lawrence, Kansas is a bit of a college town (the large University of Kansas is there) and accordingly it has always had quite a bit of a musical scene.


I have no knowledge of who Thumbs were and googling provided very little other information. It seems that they were popular on the local music scene and singer (and co-songwriter) Steve Wilson, a Lawrence native,  became a Freelance music writer and manager of Kief’s Downtown Music record store, which I gather is a local institution in Lawrence.


Wilson said that Thumbs were named after "seeing this public TV thing on opposable digits and their role in the advance of the species".


Though forgotten now, this the first album, was a minor “success” when it came out. Greil Marcus reviewed it as did the NME in England, and so did a music mag in Italy.,107734


I believe they put out a follow up album to this 1979 release.


Wilson seems to be the main force in the band and clearly was into power pop, early 70s style, which of course became popular again with the wave of skinny tie bands from the US in the late 70s (The Knack, The Romantics).


In a recent interview with Wilson, as the manager of Kief’s music, Wilson said the first record he bought was The Beatles first album (I assume he meant 1964), and the first concert he went to was The Doors in 1968. His favourite concerts were the Stones in 1972 or Dylan in 1976.’s&hl=en&ei=7jXDTtLmHszxmAXtuoCECw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=steve%20wilson%20kief’s&f=false


Perhaps, because Wilson and band (?) were a little older, there are other influences in their music outside the norm of the skinny tie bands.


There were many bands who disingenuously jumped on the powerpop / rock n roll / new wave band wagon when it became fashionable. Thumbs, I suspect, were populated by people already into the music who got swept up in the craze


The album was released on Ramona Records which it seems was a large indie label in Lawrence. This album though is, either, poorly produced or poorly recorded.


Tracks (best in italics)


  • Sweet & Mild – nice power pop but the drums aren’t miked or mixed properly. Very close to what you would hear live. They produced the album themselves – probably a mistake. A good song otherwise.
  • In the Family – some Dylanesque phrasing though the tune and the music are distinctly non Dylan
  • Is it asking too Much? – A touch of Springsteen circa “Greetings from Asbury Park
  • 4th of July – Graham Parker does Americana.
  • Still Bound to You – the obligatory power pop love ballad, errrr, if that’s not a contradiction in terms.
  • Inch or Two Flamin Groovies ( Roy Loney era) … I love the Groovies.
  • Straight to the Heart – filler
  • Frame of Mind – filler – maybe they are running out of ideas. Some squealy squealy guitar solos, albeit very brief, creeping in.
  • Moonlight – filler
  • Rags to Rags – so so.
  • Art History – good song, nice keyboards and a vocal slightly reminiscent of Richard Hell. 

And …


The band wear their hearts and influences on their sleeves. The sound is both a little clunky and a little thin….but there is a charm in there which may appeal to anyone who went to see small indie live bands in the early to mid 80s.


Given the obscurity of this release and the fact that there has been no subsequent “cult” around the band only God knows how this album ended up in Brisbane. Much like Mr Burns’ Teddy Bear, Bobo, there probably is a amazing story to its journey.


Ultimately I’m not sure if I will keep it. I may. I will tape a few songs. If I do get rid of it who knows where it will end up next.


Chart Action





Nothing no where




Art History 


Thumbs – Art History 










The bass player:






Happy Birthday EP.


About Franko

Hi, I'm just a person with a love of music, a lot of records and some spare time. My opinions are comments not reviews and are mine so don't be offended if I have slighted your favourite artist. I have listened to a lot of music and I don't pretend to be impartial. You can contact me on though I would rather you left a comment. I also sell music at Cheers
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One Response to THUMBS – Thumbs – (Ramona Records) – 1979

  1. Carl says:

    Yeah, pop a cork for Elvis’s birthday, I’ll drink to that!
    As for the Thumbs, they look like (from left to right)
    Jeff Buckley
    Kim Fowley
    The drummer from the Black Keys
    The Mondo Generator dude who was in QOTSA
    Now that would be a good band. If they replaced Jeff Buckley

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