Moving Parts was one of the great unsigned bands of the 80’s. Our story was not unique but our sound was. It was 1979 and I had been writing songs and playing folk clubs where my material didn’t really fit in. My brother John was studying jazz at college. One day, we got together and wrote a couple of songs that we liked. That was the birth of Moving Parts. We kept writing and set out to put a band together. We found drummer Jeff Humphrey and bassist Alex Pettit. John played lead guitar and I played guitar and the Wurlitzer piano. Key to our sound was the counterpoint John and I always wrote into the material. The songs had to have good hooks, counterpoint and intelligent lyrics. No one can confirm this but I think I came up with the name one day while driving to rehearsal. We checked and a there had been (The) Moving Parts in Boston. The core of that group became Mission Of Burma. We contacted them and got their blessing to use the name. Jeff and Alex were great influences as they had big record collections and truly loved music. We did some early demos with that lineup and got some favorable press. We wanted to play live and clubs were finally starting to book bands that played original music. We played our first gig opening for The Cowboys at the Boren Street Disco in 1980. 

Early on, Conrad Uno at Egg Studios was a huge help and mentor. He also introduced us to really talented musicians and bands. In those days, it was like an extended family and Uno’s place was home. Some of my favorite memories are of the Pop Llama Christmas recordings and gigs. In 1981, Don Lange replaced Alex on bass and then we recorded our first single Wires b/w Window On The Moon at Crow Recording with Uno producing. It was the first recording made for Uno’s new Pop Llama label. That single got some airplay locally on KZAM. KZAM was a great boost to what was an emerging Seattle music scene in the early 80’s. After their demise, KJET took up the mantle. Of course, the entire scene owes its existence then and now to KCMU. 

The next big change for the band came in 1982 when we parted ways with Jeff. Mike Dumas joined on drums and Tom Morrison on keyboards. They were both young but veterans of the local music scene. Tom was a classically trained pianist and a master of the Prophet 5. He expanded the sonic possibilities of the band. Mike powered the new sound. One of the first efforts of the new band was the song Under which was recorded in a home studio in Bothell with Doug Rayburn producing. This is still my favorite Moving Parts recording. It was included on the Seattle Syndrome Two compilation released in 1983 on Engram. We were fortunate again to be getting local radio play of Under on KJET. Shortly after Seattle Syndrome Two, we released our EP – simply Moving Parts. It had been recorded at Bear Creek Studios with Steve Adamek producing and Steve Killien engineering. 

During this period we moved up to headlining clubs like The Central, Astor Park, and Hall Of Fame. This was an interesting time in the Seattle music scene. Everyone was still doing it themselves – there was no big music industry here. At the risk of oversimplifying, there were two camps. There were the edgier bands like The Blackouts and 3 Swimmers and the power pop bands like The Heats and The Cowboys. We were somewhere in between. We started going to LA to do showcases in venues like Club Lingerie. It was the only way besides Bumbershoot to get in front of A&R people. We were invited to play the festival several times. One year, we were noticed by an A&R person from Epic Records. 

The band lineup was unchanged until 1985 when we added my brother Richard on guitar. Richard had recently moved from our hometown of Boise and released his own EP. We asked Richard to join and I quit playing guitar on stage. We also added some of Richard’s songs to our set list. We got to open for many national and international acts, but the highlight was opening for Crowded House at Bumbershoot in 1987. It was the largest crowd we had ever played for and we felt it was a taste of what was to come. 

By now, we had a demo deal with Epic. We started working on a demo at Ironwood Studios. At this time, we were trying to get the approval for a deal from VPs at Epic. At the end of this process, we were told that the acting president at Epic had said it was a go and we celebrated. Timing is everything. We were getting nervous because our lawyer had been waiting for several weeks for papers from Epic. I hadn’t paid attention to the news of the day. CBS had put their records group up for sale in the fall of 1987. Sony won the bid. What happened next was heartbreaking. The new regime came in and fired all of our contacts at Epic and because our deal hadn’t cleared legal, it was off the table. We turned to other labels who had shown interest when we were in the demo deal with Epic, but they weren’t biting. It was like we suddenly contracted some disease. The band never really recovered. My brother John quit and we tried to keep on. We asked a friend and great guitarist Ernie Sapiro (The Moberlys and The Cowboys) to take John’s place. We played some gigs and went into Ironwood Studios to record some songs with the band producing. This was the last incarnation of the band. We disbanded in 1988. 

While we owe a lot to family and friends who supported us, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the band support crew during those years. To name a few: SK, Deb Sobelson, JD Lange, Miles, Kerry Cooley, Keith Wissmar and Ken Deranleau. 

It was a great run and the band was to define our lives in many ways. We had good advice we ignored and bad advice we listened to. We made some mistakes but we also made some friends for life. We’re proud of what we accomplished. In hindsight, I wish we had recorded more material and released it ourselves. That’s the story as best I recall. I hope you find some good memories on this site. 

- Jim Irwin