After four failed albums, the central California indie band known as I-Rails—having played through years of critical and commercial indifference—decided to call it a day in 1990. While two of the members chose to pursue careers with actual earning potential, lead singer Chris O’Connor forged ahead with a handful of songs, a broken-down 16-track recorder, and a minuscule budget of $1000.
Under the name Primitive Radio Gods, O’Connor self-released his efforts to the resounding sound of crickets. Taking the hint, he started training to become an air traffic controller.
A few years later, during a bout of housecleaning, O’Connor discovered his stashed-away demo tapes and figured he had nothing to lose by sending copies out to every record label around. Amazingly, this last-ditch effort paid off. A label executive contacted him due primarily to the strength of one song, and got O’Connor signed with Columbia Records. That one song was the mouthful entitled “Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand.”
Ingeniously built around a B.B. King sample and a light hip-hop beat, “Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand” gained attention from its placement in the 1996 movie The Cable Guy, and then started climbing the Modern Rock Charts, eventually hitting #1. It proved so successful that O’Connor was able to reunite with his former I-Rails bandmates.
Primitive Radio Gods never came close to hitting those heights again. But they were able to give up their day jobs, and they’re still releasing new music, having been together now—with one extended break—for almost 30 years.