Arrogance

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In the swing era, there existed what were called "territory bands," swing outfits that performed successfully in a specific region but never ventured much beyond it to achieve national recognition. By the time the rock era got started, regionalism had faded somewhat in the U.S., but the modern period has still had its share of rockers who became local heroes yet somehow never went nationwide. Arrogance, from the Piedmont area of North Carolina, must be counted one such rock & roll territory band. It's not that they didn't try to achieve stardom beyond their natural stomping grounds. But timing was against them. The group was a tuneful outfit influenced by the Beatles and the Byrds who came along just after the period when they might have made a splash as a "folk-rock" or "garage rock" group and lasted until just before they might have been equally successful as an "alternative" band. Indeed, former member Don Dixon, who took to producing acts like R.E.M. just as Arrogance finally gave up the struggle, was one of the architects of the alternative trend of the '80s. But anyone who saw Arrogance play in North Carolina or Virginia between the late '60s and early ‘80s will tell you that they are one of the great lost bands of rock & roll.

Singer/guitarists Dixon and Robert Kirkland formed Arrogance in the fall of 1969 when they were both freshmen at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, adding keyboard player Marty Stout and drummer Scott Davison. The boastful name, coined by Dixon, referred to their ability to upstage other acts and their early hard rock style. By the time of their self-released debut album, Give Us a Break, in 1973, however, Arrogance had adopted a softer folk-rock style. They also recorded a second album on their own, 1975's Prolepsis. At a time when bands wanting to make it usually moved to New York or Los Angeles and looked for a major-label deal, Arrogance's strategy of building a regional following and issuing its own records was both unusual and forward-looking. It was also, well, arrogant. But eventually, it brought national labels to Chapel Hill, and the band signed to Vanguard Records in late 1975. Unfortunately, Vanguard, a New York independent with a roster of folk performers, was not equipped to launch a new rock band properly, and 1976's Rumors did not attract much attention. (Of course, it didn't help that, early the following year, Fleetwood Mac released a multi-platinum album using the English spelling of the same title, Rumours.)

Arrogance parted with Vanguard after that one album and returned to a harder rocking style, adding lead guitarist Rod Abernethy to beef up their sound. Having failed on a national level, however, they had to overcome industry skepticism, and it was not until 1980 that they were signed again, this time to Curb/Warner, which released their fourth album, Suddenly. By then, post-punk power pop was all the rage, and Arrogance was not a priority at the label. The album failed, but Curb/Warner was willing to put out a second record. Arrogance, however, decided to leave and shop around for another deal. Once again, their timing was off. With synth pop coming in, no label was interested in a band that sounded like the jangle pop of the mid-'60s. The independent Moonlight Records … Read More

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