Portland's Wipers were the songwriting outlet for punk virtuoso Greg Sage. Sage originally envisioned the Wipers as a self-contained, DIY studio project that would record 15 albums in 10 years but never play live. They ended up following a slightly more conventional path, although never in their music. The Wipers sound exists somewhere outside of genre classifications: it's punk, pop, garage, psychedelic, and yet none of those things. Sage was a gear-head and rabid experimenter who had gotten into music by playing with a record lathe his father, who worked in the industry, had procured. In 1973 he met Beauregard, an early pioneer of the "bad guy" wrestler character who was cutting an album and insisted that Sage play on it. He happily obliged.
It was a few years later that punk rock opened the door for the first Wipers single, Better Off Dead, which came out on Sage's own Trap records in 1979. The rough, 3 song four track recording was followed up shortly by the classic debut LP Is This Real?. Sage, bassist Dave Koupal and drummer Sam Henry created 11 songs of strange and terrifying beauty. Even Sage's most upbeat pop hooks were tempered by his uneven singing style and dark lyrics. Feelings of alienation and fear permeate tracks like the desperate "Potential Suicide" or ominous "D-7." The original tracks were recorded live on 4-track. When the band cut a deal with Park Avenue records, however, they were asked to rerecord it at a professional 16-track studio. The choice to use Park Avenue was made in hopes of getting better distribution, but according to Sage, it would cost the Wipers a lot. Not only did Park Avenue make demands about recording, they also refused to use the band's chosen cover for the second LP, Youth of America and released the Alien Boy EP using demo tracks without permission.
Dave and Sam left the band and were replaced by bassist Brad Davidson and drummer Brad Naish for 1981's Youth of America, which found Sage again doing all production and engineering himself. This LP is marked by two longer songs, reactions to the brevity of popular punk at the time. The next LP, the militant Over the Edge, was the first Wipers record to meet with immediate acceptance. The single "Romeo," which had already been released on 7" by Trap, actually got some airplay. The band then embarked on their first extensive tour, documented on the excellent Live LP.
In the mid-80's, the Wipers made the jump to Restless Records, one of the biggest independent labels of the time who were interested in bands from the punk scene. First to be released was Sage's excellent solo album Straight Ahead. Sage played all acoustic, electric, and bass guitar parts, and on many songs was backed by a drummer. The next few years saw three more LPs released on Restless. The Wipers broke up for the first time at the end of the decade. In 1993, Sage released another solo record, this time playing all the instruments himself and using a drum machine instead of a studio musician. He revived the Wipers to record several more albums in the 90's, although he turned down the offer to open for "grunge" mega-stars Nirvana. The Wipers' swan-song was 1999's Power in One, which was released by Sage's new label, Zeno Records. Zeno has also compiled the essential first three LPs into a really nice CD box set that includes unreleased demos and outtakes. Although the Wipers never really fit into any scene and didn't achieve rock and roll fame, they eventually got the credit they deserved as one of the punk era's most amazing and unique bands.
BETTER OFF DEAD 7" (Trap, 1978)
IS THIS REAL? LP (Park Avenue, 1979)
ALIEN BOY EP (Park Avenue, 1980)
YOUTH OF AMERICA LP (Park Avenue, 1981)
ROMEO 7" (Trap, 1982)
OVER THE EDGE LP (Braineater, 1983)
LIVE LP (Enigma, 1984)
GREG SAGE: STRAIGHT AHEAD LP (Enigma, 1985)
LAND OF THE LOST LP (Restless, 1986)
FOLLOW BLIND LP (Restless, 1987)
THE CIRCLE LP (Restless, 1988)
BEST OF... LP (Enigma/Restless, 1990)
SILVER SAIL (Zeno/Tim Kerr, 1995)
THE HERD (Zeno/Tim Kerr, 1996)
POWER IN ONE (Zeno, 1999)
IS THIS REAL? CD (Sub Pop - includes Alien Boy EP)
3 CD BOX SET (Zeno - has the first 3 LPs)
10-29-79 LP (Trap, 1980) "Same Old Thing"
TRAP SAMPLER LP (Trap, 1982) "My Vengence", "The Story"
SUB POP 100 LP (Sub Pop, 1986) "Nothin' to Prove"
Zeno Records/Wipers Official Website
Part hi-tech, part lo-tech, with a discograpy, comments by Greg Sage, and plenty of other stuff.