Salem 66 competed successfully for the hearts and minds of the growing ’80s alternative music scene not only in Boston, but around the country as well. For a time, it seemed that the group’s national allure exceeded that found in its local base of operations and, ironically, perhaps, all of its recorded music was released by the New York City-based Homestead Records. Three local ladies initially formed Salem 66: Judy Grunwald (who had attracted local attention in her previous group The Maps), Elisabeth Kaplan and Susan Merriam, to play an often eccentric, but heartfelt folk-rock mix. Although their early musicianship could be a bit shaky, the songwriting never lacked finesse and originality. Salem 66, a six-song compilation of early demos, put the group on the record shelves in 1983, and soon the band added a fourth member, Robert Wilson on guitar. The 1985 release Ripping Spin showed the group taking flight, that album becoming the first of four more throughout the 80’s. Homestead thought enough of its Boston client to release a 17-song compilation in 1987, but by 1989 the diverging creative urges of the members were beginning to pull the band apart. They recorded an album, Down the Primrose Path, released it the following year, then quietly parted ways.
(by Carter Alan)
Published on December 28, 2012