Borrowed Time logo

Borrowed Time photo by Sean Smuda

The Last Dance DVD cover
[still from video by Sean Smuda]

phase one:

Melne Murphy:
guitar, vocals
Phil "Zel From Hell" Schuster:
vocals, guitar
David Hartman:
Ginger Kaufman:
J. Free:
live sound

This band became a bit more and a bit less than it originally bargained for, and really drove the point home about how being in a band is much more than just personal expression, but also defines its' own unique kind of relationship.

Not just any casual relationship, mind you - consider the symbiosis of Sisyphus and his boulder, or the bandits in John Cale's "Cable Hogue". Or perhaps, Prometheus and his eagle, the phoenix rising from the ashes, or the snake eating its' own tail. Ahhh, so many cliches, so little - errr, time...

phase one:

In the beginning, Borrowed Time was a spin-off of a band called The Difference. Largely unheard of, it was a clever enough band in so many ways - perhaps in too many ways for the Mpls music scene, however.

The members of that band were Melne Murphy (guit/vox), Zel (nee Phil Schuster - guit/vox), David Hartman (bass), Tim Sexton (keys), and Ginger Kaufman (drums). Zel, Ginger, and I had previously worked together in The Sacred Version; and I was recruited as a sound engineer for The Difference. During this time, I was working with Win Patrick in the first version of Dancing In The Dark , which Melne occasionally accompanied on stage.

Tim Sexton, who would be remembered for his synth-smashing reinterpretation of Pere Ubu's "Final Solution", eventually left The Difference to pursue his own direction (which led to the formation of his long-running project, Gotterdammerung) and the remaining members of band rechristened themselves as the first incarnation of Borrowed Time - keeping me on as a sound engineer.

Goofy's Upper Deck flyer; October 1982

Goofy's Upper Deck flyer; October 1982
[courtesy Gerard Boissy]

1st Ave calendar; September 1982

1st Avenue calendar; September 1982
[courtesy Michelle Strauss Ohnstad]

Toward the end of 1982, Melne was returning on a flight to Minneapolis, and noticed an interesting sign at the Mpls Airport. Construction at the airport had interrupted normal public transit routes, and a sign for MTC - the Twin Cities public transit - had been posted to inform patrons of a temporary detour. One such sign, which stated "MTC Buses are running on...." had been cleverly filled in by some prankster, with the words "Borrowed Time". Melne took one look at that sign, and was immediately convinced that the search for a new band name was over. It seems she was right about that!

In January 1983, I mixed and mastered the first Borrowed Time cassette album, with the help of Colin Mansfield, who had produced the first Hüsker Dü single, "Statues". Featuring cover art by Melne, the group's self-titled 12-song debut featured cover versions of "Books", by Echo and the Bunnymen, and "The Ocean", by U2. The songwriting credits for the group's own original material were evenly split between Melne and Zel, each contributing five of their own compositions.

Borrowed Time first cassette cover

cover art for the first Borrowed Time cassette album [illustration © Melne Murphy]

During this time, Melne and I worked together on a number of projects outside the group, many of which would have a long-lasting impact in terms of redefining the group's direction. A brief glimpse of this occurred at a Mpls. loft party, when I left the soundboard to join the band for an encore, an improvised song called "Jerry's Kids". I had found the lyrics scrawled on a napkin at the bar (credited to "The Creamettes"), Melne had a bombastic guitar theme just dying to become a song*, and since the crowd wanted an encore after the group had played their entire repertoire... we figured we'd have a bit of fun. We had no idea it would become indicative of the group's future sound - or just what exactly that would entail.

[* that particular theme would eventually become known as "Law Of The Land", which became a staple of latter-day sets, and something of a theme for the final incarnation of Borrowed Time.]

In less than two years, the group produced no less than seven cassette albums (and an eighth label release featuring solo material from the individual members and their friends), boasting almost as many personnel changes; among them Zel - guitar & vocal; Dave Hartman [who went on to join Machinery Hill, where he has remained through the millennium] - bass; Joe Casual [previously with The Vendettas; and we never did learn his real name] - bass; Jim Meyer - drums; Win Patrick - bass; and various other friends who joined us on stage. And of course, our trusty Dr. Rhythm drum machine.