FRIDAY NIGHT FEATURE: SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY & LONG GONE JOHN

Sympathy for the Record Industry (also known as Sympathy Records or Sympathy 4 the R.I.) is a mainly independent garage rock and punk label formed in 1988 by record industry anti-mogul Long Gone John. The first Sympathy release was the Lazy Cowgirls’ album “Radio Cowgirl” LP, which Long Gone John said he released as a “favor to the band.” Sympathy has a catalog of more than 750 releases, and is based out of Olympia, Washington. The label’s name references The Rolling Stones’ song “Sympathy for the Devil”.

LOSIN’ YOUR MING by LAZY COWGIRLS from RADIO COWGIRL (SFTRI 001)

 

Notable artists who started on Sympathy and went on to gain mainstream success include The White Stripes, Hole, and The Electrocutes (the first Donnas incarnation).

8615439_origLong Gone John is the owner, CEO, and seemingly the only employee of Sympathy. He is an avid record collector, with more than 10,000 records in his collection. He also owns Necessaries Toy Foundation, a company that creates 18-24 inch figures. Long Gone John also operates Sympathetic Press, a book publishing company that prints books with rock ‘n’ roll themes.

Other Sympathy acts worthy of notice have been Jack Off Jill, Scarling., Miss Derringer, The Muffs, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, The Von Bondies, Rocket from the Crypt, Billy Childish, Turbonegro, April March, The Splatterheads, The Dwarves, Suicide, The Gun Club, Inger Lorre and Motel Shootout, Man or Astro-man?, The Red Planet Rocketts, Kim Salmon, Bored!, The Waldos, The Mystreated, and Redd Kross.

LACK OF COMMUNICATION by THE VON BONDIES from LACK OF COMMUNICATION (SFTRI 658)

 

On July 20, 2007 Long Gone John announced via his Myspace Blog that he was selling the label for “$625,000.00 or $700,000.00 if i don’t like you”.

In September 2011, John decided to start releasing records once again. He signed a distribution deal with Independent Label Distribution, then immediately put out a full-length LP as well as three 7″s by The Ettes. The company now distributes new records as well as many older ones from John’s catalog.

Long Gone John was born John Edward Mermis in 1951 in Whittier, California. John’s passion for rock and roll began when he was five years old and discovered radio.

When his friends, The Lazy Cowgirls couldn’t find a label for their live album, John volunteered to put out the record himself. After he thought of the name for the label he started doing a bunch of 7-inch singles. Before he knew it, Sympathy for the Record Industry was a real label. A real label, but one in which the proprietor’s personality was very much ingrained. A tone of irreverence was immediately set by the label’s moniker, by its Margaret Keane-style, sad-eyed waif logo, and by its motto: “We almost really care.” By 2006 he had released the recordings of over 550 bands from all over the world.

BOYCHUCKER by ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT from BOYCHUCKER 7″ (SFTRI-179)

 

Some of John’s celebrity Sympathy alumni are Courtney Love and her band Hole, The White Stripes, and The Donnas first incarnation The Electrocutes. Some of John’s less famous but yet still very notable Sympathy acts over the years have been Buck, Billy Childish, Dwarves, The Gun Club, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Inger Lorre, Man or Astro-man?, April March, Motel Shootout, The Muffs, The Mumps, The Pooh Sticks, Redd Kross, Rocket from the Crypt, Scarling., Suicide, Jack Off Jill, Turbonegro and The Von Bondies.

Sympathy Records continues to be one of the more successful indie labels in the US. Many of his releases also involve commissioned artwork from well- known artists such as Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr, Chris “Coop” Cooper and Robert Williams, often involving subversive riffs on other famous works, like the album cover of The Rolling Stones, Their Satanic Majesties Request.

VAYA CON SATAN by TURBONEGRO from VAYA CON SATAN 7″ (SFTRI 143)

 

Along the way, John has compulsively amassed a vast collection of art and pop ephemera. After seeing an inferior version of the character Enid from Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World comic, John was motivated to enter the collectible toy game. His new company, Necessaries Toy Foundation started in 2003. It allowed John to finally slow down his label in order to work and focus on manufacturing a new line of toys and publishing art-related books.

The documentary film, The Treasures of Long Gone John was released in 2006. The film chronicles John’s eccentric art and musical obsessions. It also explores the work of several of the artists he collects and collaborates with, including Todd Schorr, Mark Ryden, Marion Peck, Camille Rose Garcia and Robert Williams. It features a wall-to-wall soundtrack of over 40 Sympathy artists, original animation and time lapse photography.

THE TREASURES OF LONG GONE JOHN (DOCUMENTARY)