By Blaine Schultz   Published May 19, 2006 at 5:09 AM

Imagine writing a song so memorable that 20 years later a record label appropriates the title for its name. That's what happened to long-defunct Milwaukee band The Shivvers.

Teenline is the power pop label run by Massachusetts archivist Chuck Warner. Back in the vinyl-era Warner made his name with Boston-based Throbbing Lobster Records. Since compact discs took over, Warner's Hyped2Death umbrella of labels has excavated UK and U.S. punk and power pop DIY recordings that never made it above the radar.

Teenline recently released "Lost Hits," a 20-song, five video compilation Milwaukee quintet The Shivvers recorded from 1979-'82. The group's lone self-produced 45, "Teen Line," can bring in $300 on eBay.

"I never knew about the Shivvers, never played them on any of my radio shows in New Haven or Boston (1975-1989), nor ever saw a demo tape from them when I had my first record label Throbbing Lobster," Warner says. "Finally I was visiting a friend in Chicago in 1996 -- he'd just come back from a record-buying spree in Milwaukee with few copies of the Shivvers' single and he played it for me, along with the Orbits' and the Sidewalks' singles, and while I instantly had to have them all it was the Shivvers that really blew me away."

For a brief window of time the Shivvers combined the best elements of classic pop, punk and high-energy music. They played gigs with Iggy Pop and headlined Summerfest's rock stage for an FM radio broadcast.

"We were on fire," says guitarist Jim Eanelli, "we rocked like a punk band but played pop songs. Back then punk bands wanted to outdo each other but we didn't pander to the speed of change." He characterizes the band as combining backward and forward thinking. "Nobody could touch us, maybe because we couldn't be pigeon-holed."

Jill Kossoris the band's vocalist, keyboardist and primary songwriter, recalls the influences the players brought to the table.

"Jim (Richardson, drums) came from '60s garage rock and girl groups, Mike (Pyle, guitar) was folk/blues and Scott (Krueger, bass) was English Mod/Rolling Stones. It was a strange combination of great songwriters (Burt Bacharach/Carol King/Motown/Roxy Music). The one thing we all had in common was we were not musical snobs."

The band's recording sessions variously recall the Flamin' Groovies and Phil Spector's magnum opus hits, especially on a Mike Hoffmann-produced session which featured Kossoris on Mellotron. At other times Big Star and Badfinger also come to mind.

"I think the urgency and emotion found its way to tape to a degree," recalls Pyle. "Jim (Eanelli) had been in the studio a bit and knew how to get a decent guitar sound. I had no clue and basically used my stage rig, which sounded way too small in the studio. Should have used much smaller amps, I was going for that Lovin' Spoonful/Rascals-type tone. I think the rhythm tracks hold up on that stuff, Scott and Jim just had a great sound. And to this day everything Jim records sounds like that!"

Kossoris, who once arranged to have The Raspberries play at her high school, knew exactly what she wanted to present to the public.

"Personally, I wanted to bring something new and unique to rock and roll as a female, to show that women could write their own songs and have a confrontational stage presence. I felt an affinity to the girl group/Motown sound but those songs were written and produced by men -- and they didn't rock hard enough."

She deliberately avoided sex-as-an-image. "I wanted people to come and see us because we were a cool band, not because the band had a scantily clad lead singer."

But Kossoris was a bit confused at how the band was received; that the Shivvers were referred to as a punk band at the time.

"Look at the subject matter of most of the songs. They are LOVE songs. Very defiant, high-energy, nervous love songs -- but they are love songs nonetheless. Isn't it the stuff that's hard to classify the most interesting?"

Krueger cites the band's original songwriting as a foremost priority

"All the money we made playing live was put back into the band to recover recording costs. There was no home recording back then, so we could only record our strongest material -- and it was expensive going into studios." (Krueger and Richardson also gained studio experience with The Craze, a band they played in with future Heartbreaker, the late Howie Epstein.)

Bi-weekly gigs on the Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago circuit kept the group tight. In town it was one of the few groups that could play both mainstream clubs like Teddy's and the Palms as well as cutting edge night spots like Zak's and The Starship. Eanelli recalls filling 300-600 seat clubs while charging a cover -- no small feat.

"We played an increasing number of original songs and the fan base continued to grow, " says Kossoris.

The video performances depict a band confident in its knowledge of rock and roll history -- from the no frills image to solid song structures to edgy, exciting performances. Krueger says, "It was nervous being on television but the videos are a pretty good representation of our live show."

Of the appropriately named band's December 1981 performance filmed in Madison he recalls, "We were told it was the coldest night of the century!! I don't remember seeing any cars on the freeway going there or coming back."

Their three-minute blasts may seem a bit hyper by today's standards but could have easily fit on long gone top 40 AM radio playlists. While Kossoris fronted the group, Richardson's Merseybeat drumming and Eanelli's ripping guitar solos stand out in the video artifacts.

From the start, Pyle had an inkling the band was special.

"The first gig at Zak's was memorable because we went over well and I couldn't' believe it. I can still remember playing 'Be My Baby' and (disc jockey) Downstairs Dan dancing with this chick, smiling and singing along. I remember getting pulled over on the way home, failing the sobriety test, the cop commenting about my make-up and then getting let go!!"

For indie bands success often comes on its own meager terms, like breaking even on a project. Warner's labor of love illustrates this all too well.

"The indie reissue business is an unbelievably stupid way to try to make money. I've dealt with 700-plus bands across the six-plus years of H2D and approximately 60 releases," Warner says, "and the Shivvers CD is actually the ONLY project where an individual band has come out ahead. They've done okay in the U.S. and they've been a minor indie hit in Japan right from the earliest days.

"Good power pop bands tend to do okay in Japan, but the X-factor (literally) for the Shivvers was obviously having a dynamite female vocalist in Jill. Detroit's Nikki & the Corvettes played there to screaming sell-outs a couple years ago, so let's just sit back and wait for Shivvers Live at Budokan..."

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