In the early 1980s, I was in a band Otherwise Nice Guys with my current business partner Will. At the time, he introduced me to this 45 rpm single of this band, The Urge. The single had two songs: “Bit By Bit” and “Baby Talk.” I don’t really remember “Baby Talk,” but Will tells me it was really good. I immediately fell in love with “Bit By Bit” and I think we started using the song in our band. It couldn’t be simpler: A-D-E. It’s “Wild Thing” but a bit more modern. Very Modern Lovers if you know what I mean.
It turned out that Will knew of the band because of a family connection. The band was fronted by Mary and Julie Lawler. Will’s mother was friends of their mother. As I recalled, a tape of our band was sent to them and they thought it sounded like The Cars. That still stings. But over the last three decades, the song has never left me. It’s one of those songs I often find myself singing like, “If I Only Had a Brain.”
Strangely, it is really hard to find out anything about the band or their music. There is this page where you can currently purchase the single for forty bucks, Discogs. And they are listed on a great archive at Mind Spring, Women in Punk 1975-1980. But otherwise, I haven’t been able to find anything.
If I had to sum up the band, it would be that they are the girl-group equivalent of the Ramones. They are the very definition of punk. There isn’t anything especially fast or loud about their music. It is just simple rock and roll played with conviction. It is above all fun. And the Lawlers were really good songwriters. And charming as anything.
Because I could not find the song anywhere on the internet, I decided to perform it myself and put it on YouTube. It’s my hope that it might turn up some people who know more about the band than I do, or perhaps one of the Lawlers still cares about this stuff enough to notice. It is a great pleasure of mine to introduce others to great works of art. Unfortunately in this case, all I can provide is my own rather bad performance and not The Urge’s — which makes what is already a great song all the greater.
So here is “Bit By Bit,” performed by me with all necessary apologies to well trained ears everywhere. I would love it if someone with some real talent would pick up the song and perform it. I think it might work really well with an acoustic guitar with a simple finger picking pattern. Or it could be given the full The Troggs treatment. It is such a strong song that it even shines through my performance: