Invisible Zoo History

Invisible Zoo - The Beginnings:

Though Invisible Zoo (IZ) didn't form until 1980,
the seeds were planted in the late 70s at Synapse Magazine, a Los Angeles based publication focused on the newest thing in music technology; synthesizers.

The magazine's publisher and editor was IZ member Doug Lynner, member Andy Robinson wrote reviews for the publication under the name Andy Capraro, and member Bill Boydstun was a subscriber.

When Boydstun moved from Oklahoma to L.A. in 1979 he called Lynner to see if he would be interested in a collaboration. Having just sold Synapse, and with the first Moebius record and concerts now behind him, Lynner agreed.

Their collaboration quickly took two paths; synthpop music under the project name of UR2B9, and a series of commercial commissions for clients such as the Carnation Company and Isuzu, for whom the pair wrote the music for the introduction of the Isuzu Impulse to the US dealer network. They also did entertainment commissions such as the first film based on a story by famed L.A. author Charles Bukowski, "The Killers."

Invisible Zoo at Hollywood High: Andy Robinson, Doug Lynner, Bill BoydstunInvisible Zoo in the early 80s:

At the same time that Lynner and Boydstun were developing their synthpop sound Robinson was considering his options for a new project after Arista Records shelved the recording from his last group, Elton Duck. He too was thinking about synthpop. He brought two song ideas to Lynner that they developed together; Synthesizer Man and I'm In Love With Your Sister. Seeing the potential for synergy with the UR2B9 project, Lynner introduced Robinson and Boydstun and the trio began to work together.

The name Invisible Zoo came from Lynner's reaction to an early group recording session. In exasperation, he said as a frustrating session ended, "What a Zoo!" Over the succeeding days it was decided that "Zoo" was the basis for a good name but that it needed a qualifier. Soon they settled on "Invisible." Of course, in their very first interview the first question was about the meaning of the name. A meaning??? They quickly made up the story that is told in the song In This Zoo of people isolated from each other by their own interests, living in their invisible cages, rigid "like in a 50's movie."

When IZ transitioned from a song writing project to a band in 1981 it expanded to include a drummer. Invisible Zoo were quick to receive support from the L.A. music media. Early reviews of Invisible Zoo brought an unexpected phone call to Lynner from Bob Margouleff of Stevie Wonder and Tonto fame. He asked, "Are you guys as good as they said you are?" Not one for false modesty, Lynner said "Yes!" Though that call never turned into a collaboration, Bill Boydstun, Raechel Donahue, Doug Lynner, Andy Robinsonit did give IZ a sense of context and of their potential. Momentum was building.

Soon IZ signed a management agreement with Mike Jacobs. He helped expand their performance schedule and introduced them to music industry circles that had been beyond their reach only a moment before. Soon he began to shop them to labels. A near miss at Hand Shake Records, an ABC subsidiary label, turned soon to a new option with Beverly Hills label, Vanity Records.

By the time the deal was inked IZ had released their original drummer, and a couple more, and focused into the three-piece outfit that appears on their 1983 EP, Invisible Zoo. Synthesizers, guitar and vocals were the domain of Doug Lynner. Dulcimer, thumb piano, casino synthesizer, vocals and misc. percussion were the domain of Andy Robinson. Sequencers, drum machines and synthesizers were Bill Boydstun's domain. Together they programmed and polished the crop of Invisible Zoo tunes that were slated for their first releases. Yes, plural, but the second album's worth of material recorded in the sessions in Malibu never saw the daylight. They were lost for 25 years.

Invisible Zoo with Dave Stwart after an IZ Hollywood Palace performance Invisible Zoo in the mid 80s:

The IZ trio continued to support the record and its subsequent dance single until Boydstun left the group to pursue other opportunities. In 1985 Invisible Zoo morphed into its last format, a five piece group that augmented Lynner and Robinson with drums, bass, synths and sax. The five piece continued to perform until sometime in 1987.

Invisible Zoo in the early 21st century:Invisible Zoo gig poster - Madame Wong's Chinatown

As the first years of the 21st century dawned, searches of the internet indicated something unexpected. All of a sudden new wave music had some fresh wind in its sails and Invisible Zoo had passed back from extinction to mere obscurity. Their records were selling for top dollar on resale sites and forums like the New Wave Outpost remembered them and kept them alive for die-hard fans. Other forums such as the New Wave Zone have recently joined the conservation of IZ music too.

In 2006 Marc Schaffer from the German label Anna Logue Records contacted Robinson to see if IZ might be interested to release some of their unreleased material. Their participation in Echos From Our Past was the result.

There was another unexpected result too. Invisible Zoo's members began to speak again and a new project emerged; their very long awaited second album, In This Zoo. It only took a couple of months to make it, but it took 25 years to release it.

Invisible Zoo at the 1984 Olympics

Invisible Zoo sound check at the UCLA Olympic Village in 1984Yeah, it's true, Invisible Zoo was an Official Supplier to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, CA. It was quite a bit of fun too!

IZ performed two shows for the athletes at the USC Olympic Village the night before the opening ceremonies and two shows for the athletes at the UCLA Olympic Village the night of the opening ceremonies. It's pretty cool that the villages had their own nightclubs, huh?

And talk about security, getting into the villages was an experience too. Not only were we limited in the number of vehicles that we could bring but they were thoroughly searched inside and out including mirrors to check the undersides. The capper was the metal detector gate (just like at the airport). It was so sensitive that it was reading the foil sheet in Doug's cigarette pack! (Doug has since renounced cigarettes, don't try this at home.)

The recording of Spinal Tap's first show

Invisible Zoo and Spinal Tap

How many bands have had Spinal Tap open for them? I don't know, but Invisible Zoo has! It happened on October, 29th, 1982 at The Central on Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood, CA.

At the time IZ was a four-piece band including a drummer, Robert Bauer. Bauer was working at the production offices for Spinal Tap, the movie, and was asked by Rob Reiner if the band could open for IZ to get some stage experience. Of course, we said yes!

Though nobody knew where the project was going to go, just like any other night, Doug put a cassette recorder on the bar to record the evening. Yep, you're catching on - there is a recording of the evening. Here's the craziest part, it was Spinal Tap's first public performance.

Btw, the black scribble on side B of the cassette? Harry Shearer's signature, collected more than 25 years later.


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