1985 was a transitional period for the Washington DC music scene. Founding members of the hardcore movement pulled away from its original trajectory in search of a new musical direction. Rites of Spring, Embrace, and Gray Matter are all well-known and well-documented examples of this time and shift that came to be known as Revolution Summer.
But theirs were not the only voices.
In the early months of '85, 17-year-old guitarist Lawrence McDonald set out to form a new band. His ex-bandmates from his previous hardcore band Capital Punishment were doing the same--Mike Fellows with Rites of Spring and Colin Sears with Dag Nasty. Lawrence found vocalist Alec MacKaye (Faith), drummer Pete Wilborne (The 400), and bassist Bleu Kopperl and Bells of was born. Inspired by the budding movement of the time, the band moved quickly. By summer they began their first recording at Inner Ear Studio with Don Zeintara, and on August 11, 1985, Bells of played their first show at Bethesda Community Center. Unfortunately, Alec departed soon after, leaving the recording without vocals and the band without a vocalist.
Not wanting to lose momentum and having written all the lyrics anyway, Lawrence returned to Inner Ear to sing his songs for the first time. He pulled fellow skater and nubile guitarist Jason Farrell (later of Swiz) into the band to help in a live setting while Lawrence transitioned to lead vocals and guitar. On October 25, 1985, Bells of played their second show, with Rites of Spring and Embrace. It was Lawrence's 18th birthday, and the real birthday for Bells of--a musical entity that has continued uninterrupted to this day.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, this first Bells of recording was never released. After mixing the songs, Don Zientara set the tape box on a shelf at Inner Ear where it was forgotten as Lawrence set about writing more. By the following spring, Lawrence had shed all the songs, shed the members, and started over anew--a cycle he would repeat multiple times over the years. A few of the songs made their way across the country on cassette dubs passed between DC purists and pockets of fans with little or no backstory to the songs' origin. Rich Jacobs was one of those fans. He enlisted the help of Jason Farrell to track down Lawrence and the lost collection of songs to give them the release they both felt it deserved. The tape box was still sitting on Don's shelf 30 years later.