Weird at My School: Visible Targets

by DJ El Toro

Sometimes, the Internet is a life-saver. Like the other day, when I unearthed a mix tape from 1984, made by my first boyfriend, and fell in love all over again with one of the songs on it. Only I had no idea who the band was, or what the song was titled, and on the insert it still just read “?” — because my former paramour taped it off a Maryland college radio station.

Now, instead of cursing my teenage beau for not writing down the song info — like I did 24 years ago — I just fired up a search engine, typed in some lyrics, and viola! Suddenly, I finally knew that this dreamy, new wave pop tune is “Life in the Twilite Zone,” by Visible Targets. And that the band responsible came from Seattle! Where I now reside!

But what else? Well, that’s where the Internet let me down. I found a small selection of photos of the group on their modest page at an exhaustively thorough Pacific Northwest band site. But that was it. So I dug out my copy of Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story by Clark Humphrey, and found a little more information: The band was based around three sisters from Yakima; their manager and label owner, Bob Jeniker, ran the Park Avenue Records stores in PDX and SEA; that they made two EPs, the second produced by Bowie cohort Mick Ronson; and they opened for Simple Minds on a national tour before splitting in 1985.

Helpful, but I wanted more. I purchased a second-hand copy of the band’s self-titled debut EP (on the Park Avenue Records imprint) over at Wall of Sound, and noticed the sleeve art was by my colleague Charles R. Cross. So I e-mailed and asked him what the skinny on Visible Targets was. Alas, while he shared my enthusiasm for the music — “I always thought they were a great band that didn’t get enough attention… they were a great live band as well” — the only other big clue he could give me was that the band was on the cover of The Rocket once during Charles’ tenure as editor there.

So now I’m going to put my trust back in the Internet: Does anybody out there know more about this band? Are any of the members still kicking around the Emerald City area? Care to share an anecdote about seeing them live back in the Reagan years? My curiosity must be sated!

DJ El Toro is the host of the overnight show In Between Sleep & Reason, Wednesday mornings from 1 AM to 6 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column, Weird At My School, appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog.

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18 Comments

  1. Steve Alexander
    Posted August 5, 2008 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I knew the Visible Targets very, VERY well during their New Wave reign in the mid to late 80s. In fact, from 1982 to 1984 I lived in the basement of their house in West Seattle. I definitely have stories I could tell, but none the sisters would appreciate in print, so I’ll leave it at that. I just happened upon this blog today (8/5/08) because I was also searching the internet trying to find some contact information for either Rebecca, Pamela, or Laura, and like you I came up with nada. The ‘Targets’ were a GREAT live band and could pack out any club downtown. And even though the girls could have used their sexuality to sell the band, their emphasis was always first and foremost on the music. They took great pride in the fact that all of their songs were original except for a sizzling version of ‘Fever’ that always brought down the house. If anyone who reads this knows how to contact any of the ‘J’ sisters, leave a note here. I’ll keep checking back.

  2. Lisa D
    Posted August 6, 2008 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Holy shit – I totally forgot about this band. I *loved* them! Wow. I feel really old.

  3. Brandy
    Posted August 20, 2008 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Ron Simmons(drummer) is still around the PNW and I believe he keeps in touch with the girls.

  4. Jon
    Posted September 1, 2008 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I know I still have their vinyl somewhere. Would LOVE to get my hands on MP3s/CD of their catalog. Help!

  5. Ron Simmons
    Posted September 16, 2008 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Steve,

    Laura says hi and would like to hear from you. Last she heard you were living on the east coast? Good to see some Target fans still banging around out there, it was a magical time for the music industry for sure. Let me know how to get in touch with you and I can pass it on to Laura since we all still stay in touch.

    Thanks

  6. Posted September 26, 2008 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    i was a big fan of this band. i saw them several times and they were always terrific live. i met 3 of the 4 of them at various times, but i wouldn’t say i knew them. i was mostly underage and sneaking into bars! i still have both ep records, and i have mp3s of all 9 songs, ripped from the vinyl.

  7. Steve Alexander
    Posted October 6, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Ron –

    Good to hear from you buddy. Please tell Laura that I have a Facebook page with my big, ugly mug up there. She can contact me that way. By the way, nice interview!

  8. Posted December 20, 2008 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Hi
    My buddy Bob Jeniker was the manager, he passed away around 12 years ago.
    He was a great guy. Pamala Golden ( one of the sisters ) Put out a solo lp produced in part by Tony Levin ( King Crimson ) It was great. The Visible Targets did a tour with Simple Minds across Canada and had a bad car accident, I think one of the roadies my have been killed. My friend Bob Jeniker had a bunch of their damaged equipment sent to my store in Vancouver B.C. (Neptoon Records) For storage untill the tour ended. I saw the band two or three times in Vancouver and Seatle they were great each time. Pete Blecha the rock historian in Seatle knows them and may be able to help you out.He worked for Bob Jeniker for years. I hope this helps a bit. Rob Frith

  9. mike p
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    visible targets rocked!
    was 17 and couldnt get into bars but loved the power chords in twilight zone and the other meandering songs on autistic savant. i still have the tape with the over-drenched turquois colored cover. one of i think 5 cassette tapes i still have.
    used to listen to the ep in a loop on my walkman walking around freeway park in the winter.
    kind of spooky music in a weird way.

  10. Tim Hallmark
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I too loved this band. If I remeber right, and I think I do, Ron played on a funny bass drum, tear shaped? WOuld love to know what kind of drum that was, thought it was a Gretsch. I was an entertainment buyer at Everett CC, as well as James Todd (now Vincent Drambuie). We noth loved this band and booked them when we could. We went to their record release party and Ian Fischer (of the Cowboys) showed up, we drank all night long. Thise were great days

  11. Mike C
    Posted September 3, 2009 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    You guys sucked especially the short guy with the mop. He was at least 10 years older than his band mates. I’m sure he’s probably 60 now selling advertising somewhere…

  12. Anthony
    Posted December 3, 2009 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    http://www.anthonyjosephevans.com/thevisibletargets/

    I was WAY too young to see ‘em live back in the day. However, their song “Life in the Twilight Zone” meant SO much to me, I searched and searched and after twenty years – found out not only who they were, but was able to snatch some vinyl (I’m NOT a collector) and I barely got to digitize my favorite song of theirs. Enjoy the song, and click on the link. Anyone here have a turntable?

    A

  13. Pete Cicero
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    The Visible Targets were among the best bands I’ve ever seen in a small venue. There was something uncanny or otherworldly about them: those three blue-eyed Johnson sisters from Yakima who referred to their home planet as “Yakka-Vegas.”

    The Targets had the ability to mesmerize an audience, partly due to their rhythms — these three sisters were rhythm maniacs. And I’ve never heard anything quite as satisfying as Pamela Golden’s growling, lower-string guitar leads and fills.

    Wish them well.

    RIP Bob Jeniker, who guided their career.

  14. Rrose Selavy
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    This is the only Seattle band from the era that I still listen to (I have the Autistic Savant EP). Other bands from that time, like the Cowboys and Mondo Vita, sound terribly dated now. And the Visible Targets sound just as good now as they did then. It’s too bad they didn’t do more.

  15. H*Master
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    To make a long story short, I recently was re-listening to an old
    mix-tape I made off my local college station in the early 1980’s.
    Yes, I loved “Life in the Twilight Zone”, and I nearly wore out the
    tape. Now I want to find their works on CDs, mp3 or flac… BUT I
    CAN’T FIND THEM!!! DAMN!

    Anyway, do any of you have any insight as to where I can find their works??

    Truly grateful for any information…

    H*Master

  16. edward balderama
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Pamala Golden is a very good friend of mine and i keep in touch with her 2/23/11 akira420420@yahoo.com

  17. Pat
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    This band was one of my favorites from way back when. I would gladly buy the music if it was re-released.

  18. rah
    Posted September 13, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

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