And on the 28th Day…
Nearly 20 years later, the original Chico indie band is playing two reunion shows, so we invited friends, fans, fellow musicians and the band members themselves to write an oral history of the seminal group
With all the fuss we’re making here over 28th Day’s reuniting for two shows, it may come as a surprise that outside of Chico the members of this infamous ’80s band are remembered more for what they’ve done in the years since the group disbanded.
Drummer Mike Cloward went through a series of bands around Chico before moving to Berkeley to revitalize his Devil In Woods record label and has since created the D.I.W. independent music magazine (17,500 circulation). Both are widely known and respected institutions in the independent-music world.
Cole Marquis joined forces with Cloward’s brother Chris and several other musicians and helped create a sonic, guitar-driven Chico supergroup, the Downsiders, that put out two albums on Mammoth Records and toured the country extensively. Marquis then moved on to San Francisco and put out a succession of critically acclaimed albums with his band the Snowmen, as well as solo recordings.
Barbara Manning enjoyed the most high-profile success of the three, putting out propulsive, tightly constructed pop albums, both solo and with her bands S.F. Seals and the Go-Luckys, on Matador, Sub Pop, Innerstate and Heyday Records, to name a few. She’s been written up in Rolling Stone and Spin Magazine, and her legacy is that of one of the best singer-songwriters of her time.
That the three of them ended up in the same tiny town together—Cloward and Marquis for college and Manning straight out of Chico High School—and grew up and realized their potentials in a music group makes Marquis’ casual assessment ring true: “Maybe it was meant to be all the time, the chance alignment of the planets, the right place at the right time, the cruel joke.”
Our town has had its share of bands that have achieved success and influenced others, and arguments over the “best Chico band ever” are pretty pointless. 28th Day is just one band with its own story, but its influence has been felt far and wide, and many people are still talking about it.
We asked a number of people associated with the band to send us reminiscences so we could compile an oral history. Thanks to all of them. As you’ll discover, their reflections create a lively portrait of what it was like to discover the magic and mystery of making music in Chico in the ’80s.
local music historian and videographer
I close my eyes and see it again. In the absolute silence of my room, the sound returns. Twenty years, 28 days, 25 pills—it is all sucked into a funnel that drips into the open mind of one who had always felt so removed, yet had waited so long to be taken away. A voice comes from the still-dark stage, haunting, harsh, vulnerable, powerful, something honest and real. The guitar, in a whisper, coils around the voice, then strikes, lashing out with otherworldly screams. Dim lights rise from the stage, bodies move on the floor; our minds move even more. Though we are on a trip, our wheels still caress the road, thanks to the steady, solid beat of the drum.
You can call it madness / But it is just a curse / You can call it sadness /But it never hurts
—28th Day, “25 Pills”
All the years of people laughing at and putting down the music that I not only loved, but that also kept me alive—Joy Division, the Velvet Underground, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Cure, Television, Love—weren’t washed away on that balmy February night in 1984, but I felt cleansed, connected. 28th Day—Barbara Manning, Cole Marquis and Michael Cloward (along with, briefly, a bass player named Pete Beck)—dwelling in the “sadness that never hurts,” something I thought no one else understood, took me away while taking me in, both comforting and challenging me.
founding member of 28th Day, now Web page designer
Where to start. 28th Day first surfaced in 1982 in a four-track studio in the basement of the Chico State University library. At that time, there were only two members, fellow KCSC radio DJs Mike Cloward and Peter Beck. Mike had recently acquired a drum kit; I had the rest. After pounding out two very rough tracks, we quickly realized that neither of us could sing. We also realized that I could not play guitar worth shit and had better stick to the bass. Our search for a vocalist and guitar player was born.
It temporarily ended with Katie, who made up for her lack of singing ability with enthusiasm and good looks. We found our guitarist in fellow KCSC disc jockey Leonard “Bix” Beaman. Katie soon realized the songs Mike and I were writing were pretty crude and lost interest. Barbara Manning was living two doors down from the garage where we practiced (1920s electric wiring, one car wide, dirt floor, leaky roof when it rained—you get the picture) and asked if she could try out. Bobbi (as she was called then) proved a good replacement. She also became 28th Day’s primary songwriter.
By early 1983, it became obvious that Bix was not taking the band as seriously as the rest of us. When Bix spaced out (literally!) during a gig at the Women’s Club in Chico in early 1983, Mike, Bobbi and I figured 28th Day needed more reliability as well as versatility at guitar. By this point, Cole Marquis was hanging with the band quite a bit and even filling in for Bix when needed. He and Bobbi were co-writing songs together, among other things. … Cole got the job.
Cole and Bobbi began to crank out song after song, and the 28th Day following grew. We were finally being recognized as a band that could headline, not just open to empty clubs and bars. Unfortunately, with success come different ideas on what direction the band should take. In mid-1983, 28th Day bowed to the pressures and broke up. Bobbi picked up a bass, taught herself my bass parts and talked Mike and Cole into re-forming the band. I first learned that the band was back together when I saw a poster for a 28th Day gig on a Chico telephone pole.
guitarist/vocalist/songwriter for 28th Day
Truth be told, 28th Day was a performing band before I became involved as a member, but their first show took place at my house, they rehearsed in my garage, and Barbara was my girlfriend, so I was about as close to being in the band as you can be without actually playing in it.
I was a novice guitar player at the time (this is being kind) and was very involved in theater at CSUC and in Man Overboard, an improv-comedy group that was actually where I first started playing guitar live. I was learning the 28th Day songs from Barbara just to have something to practice; they were fairly simple and fun. When Bix (the guitar guy) decided not to show up for a show (just some bogus party), I was the easy fix.
What began as somewhat of a lark became the center of my life within a few months. As I started becoming more involved in 28th Day, it just felt like such a leap, sort of an unbelievable chance to do something that had seemed impossible. Be in a band? I never thought I would ever do that. I mean, Barbara, I think she had known for years that’s what she would do; Mike also. But no matter where the motivation came from, we were all on the same page as far as ability and direction. We were so green in the beginning, we could hardly play, but we all believed in what we were doing. We were having fun, and we didn’t hold anything back. We made up for the lack of skill with energy, fear, alcohol and faith.
drummer for 28th Day, founder of D.I.W. Records and magazine
Early on it was probably the pint-sized Chico music scene that brought us all together, but over time the three of us were drawn together by a mutual love for similar musical influences and our ability to accomplish some like-minded goals. We all knew that we wanted to make music like all of the bands we were listening to at the time, and we always seemed to be rehearsing and recording and trying to play shows when it made sense.
bassist/vocalist/songwriter for 28th Day
When it was just me and Cole and Mike, from that point on there was something going on. It became way more serious. I always took it as “professional"—ever since day one, because I always wanted to be in a band, ever since I was a child. I always knew.
veteran local rocker (Bait, Swiss Family Donner Party, Brutilicus Maximus), co-owner of Duffy’s Tavern
[Barbara Manning] said, “It might take me 10 years to do it, but I’m gonna be a rock star.” And she picked up a guitar and started playing Beatles songs and stuff. We heard her learn how to play the guitar with the intent of being a rock star. And I think she succeeded.
There may not be more genuine singing than from two people romantically tied. Cole and I naturally jumped into each other’s songs, overlapping and responding, just as we did when we were alone in our hectic basement apartment. The lyrics were often about each other, as if it were the only way to have our feelings heard. Mike didn’t simply sit back on the drums and watch as our new songs distilled the trials of our tumultuous love affair. Mike’s continuous locomotive drum beat pushed us, intent on reaching some elusive rock star world, or at least leaving the confines of Butte County.
former bass player/songwriter for Chico band Vomit Launch, now owner of Jackpot! Recording Studio in Portland, Ore., founder/editor of Tape Op Magazine
I first saw 28th Day in the basement of the Whitney Hall dorm. My buddies were in a horrible rock/top-40 cover band that rehearsed down there, and I did lights for them live and generally just hung out. One day we were lugging gear down to the basement to rehearse, and this ramshackle band was playing. They sounded punky but not quite, and were pretty shambolic at the time. My buddies pronounced them shit, while I remained curious.
Sometime later the singer from the cover band gave one of my god-awful solo cassettes to Barbara (Bobbi) Manning, and she contacted me. We met up at my house, and she expressed interest in my “music” and asked if I wanted to play with her band, as she was looking to add something to it. I said no, terrified, as I was truly a non-musician at that point, but I agreed to go see them the following week. I snuck into Cabo’s somehow, as I was 20, and sat in the back of a booth, terrified, and didn’t order any drinks for fear of being found out.
What I witnessed there changed my life. I saw a raw band with captivating songs and a lot of attitude. Yes, that punk spirit was there, but so was a folk music angle. Bobbi and Cole had drawn on their childhood listening and recent discoveries and molded a music that was simple but powerful. It seemed for a while that they would play every Thursday at Cabo’s, and if any band was coming to town 28th Day would open up. I became friends with Bobbi, Cole, Mike and Pete and would go to their parties and drink till dawn.
Barbara was one of my roommates in college. There was a gang of us who hung around. I hate to use the phrase, but we were kind of like her personal “groupies.” Riding our bikes through the warm, dark nights to the Ping Pong Palace to dance to 28th Day was pure bliss!
Christine Clarke (Chris Hill)
I went to high school with Bobbi. Bobbi’s mom didn’t have a lot of money—Bobbi and her sister Terri would get lettuce out of the trash and make lettuce soup. When they moved to Chico Bobbi and her sister would stay in the house their mom rented, and their mom lived in the back in her bus. Bobbi graduated early from high school (she’s a brain).
There were five of us girls: Bobbi, me, Jane, Catherine and Christine. We all had our bikes and would bike around Chico (who didn’t?). They lived over Grumpy’s Used Cars. We would sit on the roof singing the song “Five Little Pumpkins.”
Bobbi was a great influence for me and my girlfriends, music-wise, and the greatest friendship that brought all of us together, without a doubt.
We lived together above a used car lot, [where] the landlord loved to clean our windows in the early mornings as we took our showers (what an ass). We ended up moving to a basement house, where the music began.
Christine Clarke (Chris Hill)
28th Day lived in a big house later with Mike the drummer upstairs and some guy from a rockabilly band, and Bobbi and Cole (they were a couple) lived in the basement. They called it the 28th Day house—we called it the Barf House because one of us got sick and barfed in the bushes.
On Valentine’s Day they had the “Heart on Ball,” which of course sounded like “hard on” ball. When Bobbi’s band played at any of these places we would go nuts. I loved the band, the music. It’s funny, you would be kicking back talking to someone, hear a song start playing from 28th Day, and practically run to the dance floor.
The Chico Bomber Benefit: Some relation to the band had been arrested for planting a bomb on the steps of Chico’s City Hall. Somehow we got talked into playing a benefit to raise bail money for him. It was in the clubhouse of a trailer park. When we hit the first notes there were no more than 20 people there—half of them were significant others and close friends who hadn’t paid. We played for no more then two minutes before the trailer park handyman stood up in front of the band, waved his arms and yelled, “You kids have got to turn this down!” Mike, in his uniquely direct way, yelled back, “You can’t turn a band down. We ain’t a fuckin’ stereo!” Needless to say the plug was pulled and the show was over.
former Chico musician/sound guy, founder of Smokey Amplifiers and Zinky Electronics
Like many kids in high school, the next phase in my future plan was college, then career. Like most teen-agers, I was also very big on music.
One of my favorite bands on college radio was 28th Day, and they were from Chico. That sealed the deal for me. I was more than excited when CSU, Chico accepted me—party school, cool music—I was set. 28th Day had lyrics, tunes, great vocals, and the lushest sound you’d ever hear from a three-piece band. There was real emotion in the songs, which came through to the listener.
The sound developed that way because we were stuck with each other. Once we became a solid unit things just fell into place when we played. We knew we wanted to be a part of the indie music scene that we were all aware of though our DJ work at KCSC, and that influenced us. Toward the end we started to consciously move in certain directions musically, away from the more jangly sound to a more sonic approach. But the typical 28th Day sound just sort of happened.
Back then, when I tried to describe 28th Day, I said their sound was a cross between the Stranglers, the Byrds and Romeo Void. Later on, it was difficult to compare: 28th Day had a contradictory sound all its own: soaring and grounded, powerful yet fragile. Finally, instead of comparing them to others, I began hearing the influence of 28th Day in the music of other bands.
My biggest memory is that it was all so fun. People would go see 28th Day and they were our band—geeks like us that didn’t have any special chops but had cool record collections and wanted to rock. We would go see all our friends’ bands during the week and have parties with four-dollar 12-packs of beer. There really were so few bands doing mostly original music, and we would travel to S.F., Berkeley, Davis, Sacto, Arcata, Portland, Eugene, Olympia, Seattle and meet other people playing in bands with the same ideas. Now it seems every town has hundreds of local bands.
Chico was the big growing-up time for me, 18 to 30 years old! I got a degree, started a band, put out records, toured the country and lived in poverty. Fun!
Anybody who was around us at the time knows that things sometimes got a little nasty. We were a contentious band. But there are some classic stories. My very first gig (the bogus party) was going fine; I was struggling along but having a great time when all of a sudden this wicked lead guitar starts coming out of nowhere! I knew it wasn’t me and it wasn’t Bobbi. It turns out that some guy had one of those Nady guitar transmitters and was hiding in the bushes playing along with us. Rockin'!
But 28th Day shows were different than shows I have played with other bands. There was always an underpinning of impending danger. It made for some great performances but was ultimately too draining for any of us to deal with.
member of countless Chico bands, from early Vomit Launch to Brutilicus Maximus, now Bustolini’s Deli owner
The first show I saw in town was the [Incredible] Diamonds opening for 28th Day at the Ping Pong Palace. They were the shit. I had been living down in Berkeley, and they were heads and tails above all the people I’d seen in clubs in Berkeley.
long-time Chico musician (Vertels, Disaster Scrapbook, Cowboy) and “that guy at Sundance Records,” now elementary-school teacher
I had been introduced to 28th Day’s music when they opened for The Replacements at the Ping Pong Palace. As it turned out, it was worth the long trip down from the Oregon border. Even if The Replacements were subdued because of Paul’s being sick, 28th Day more than made up for it with their breathless but beautiful pop songs. That night, they completely reinvented in my head what a band could be and should be.
I definitely knew something was up after we opened for the Replacements in Chico and things were pretty frenzied. People have to remember that our first club show was not in Chico but in San Francisco (not for lack of trying locally), so it was nice to go over well at home. We also played a Corvallis, Ore. show that was on the verge of a riot. I remember the stage wasn’t secured to the floor, and as the crowd jumped up and down with the songs, the stage was bouncing with them. Barbara had to ask the crowd to calm down or somebody was going to get trampled.
During the mid-'80s, there was nothing I looked forward to more than a 28th Day show. Often, they were billed with Vomit Launch. That pairing of bands was one of my all-time favorites, though the bands were so different.
We had an amazing mini-tour of the northwest with Flying Color and The Walkabouts and played with a lot of great bands of the era, including The Replacements, Rain Parade, Dead Milkmen, Camper Van Beethoven, Screaming Trees and my favorite, Vomit Launch.
sister of Barbara Manning
We were just teenagers. Being underage and having a not-so-convincing (homemade) fake ID made it hard for me to see them play. I remember getting into Cabo’s (as “band crew") but then feeling I needed to hide backstage until they played. The combination of their songwriting, energy with instruments and personal chemistry collided into exhilarating music, irresistible to those of us in the audience, [and Barbara] could always reproduce on command that chilling scream in “Burnsite.”
We were probably more serious than good, but that’s an admirable quality, and we needed all the admirable qualities we could get. Our social skills left something to be desired. When we first started recording stuff and hearing the songs played back, that’s when it really hit me. To hear it now it sounds like what it was—a young band doing their first recording session. Done in a living room, pretty raw, real fast and real innocent. But at the time it was an amazing feeling to hear what we really sounded like. We were very proud and even made our own special cassette EPs to sell. Yes kids, cassettes. But there was something there. Within a few months of that release Russ Tolman was sniffing around, and we were on our way to doing a record.
28th Day record producer
If my memory serves me correctly (and when does it these days?), I first heard 28th Day in 1984. Barbara, Cole and Mike were opening for my band True West somewhere on the CSUC campus. I don’t recall if it was love at first sight, but I was soon in the studio with them producing their hectic first (and only) record. It was their first time in a “real” studio, and I made sure we recorded in such exotic locales as Davis and San Francisco. I don’t know whether it was naivete or because she was rumored have grown up living in a tree or she was simply fucking with the producer, but I remember Barbara asking if I could make a certain song sound more “green.” I’m not sure who was more difficult, the free-spirited Ms. Manning or myself in my control-hungry Junior Phil Spector mode, but Barbara’s frustration with one recording session culminated with her screaming at the top of her lungs during a vocal take of “Burnsite” in an effort to deafen me in the control room. She failed at damaging my hearing, but she did manage to record what one journalist called the best recorded scream since The Who’s “We Won’t Be Fooled Again.”
I wasn’t living in Chico at the time, so I relied on my friend who was going to school down there to let me know when the 28th Day debut album finally came out. I will never forget the day I found it taped to the door of our house’s outdoor bathroom/pool changing room. The feeling of finding that album and tearing off the shrink wrap to stick it on the stereo is as clear today as it was almost 20 years ago. What came through the speakers changed my life that day, in the same way Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy and R.E.M.'s Reckoning did when I first heard them.
Their EP came out through Enigma Records, who were at that point a very hot independent label from L.A. The label wanted to release the record in Europe but needed a few more tracks to make it a full-length album. The only day that was available to record these extra songs happened to be Barbara’s 21st birthday. I recall spending much time on the telephone trying to convince her that it was more important to be locked up in a studio all day and night in boring Davis than being out in America’s No. 1 college party town Chico celebrating with her friends. She finally relented when the very driven and business-oriented drummer Mike and I applied enough pressure and promised to take her out after the session. I’m glad Barbara made the sacrifice, but I still remember that our somewhat forced merriment was not nearly as much fun as she could have had in Chico.
compiled 28th Day reissue CD
The 28th Day LP came out, and I made sure to check it out. I was already a True West fan, so the fact that Russ Tolman produced it made it interesting to me.
“25 Pills” is the hit single—the ultimate drug anthem that kicked off the album with the same power “Radio Free Europe” did for REM just a few years earlier. Although “25 Pills” was never released as a single, Stiff Records in the UK thought enough of the song to include it on a various-artists promo LP titled I Gave Birth To An 18 lb. Rhino. It’s also worth mentioning that Virgin Records in Greece released the entire 28th Day album for the Greek market (?), giving the band a quick fling on a major label!
I haven’t mentioned Cole yet, probably because he was the most easygoing and Zen of the trio. Barbara has gotten the most attention from the music world since the break-up of 28th Day, but I believe Cole is the unsung talent of the band. “25 Pills,” the lead-off track of their record, written and sung by Cole, is still an amazing slice of timeless psych jangle-pop that sounds as good today as it did back in the ‘80s.
They were doing it. I think that really turned it around for people. These are our friends, and they put out an album. Everyone felt that we had a scene with this really great band. Everybody would go to every gig, and they [28th Day] were really into the music scene. They were really supportive. Everybody was really excited. And it seemed like things were happening.
When first moving to Chico, I couldn’t believe that it was Mike [Cloward] that became one of my first friends down here. How many people can say that the drummer from one of their favorite bands has taken them around to help them find an apartment? By now 28th Day had broken up, but its members were still influencing a vital, expanding underground scene in the small town.
The very moment I crossed the threshold of Mike’s apartment, he would be chattering a mile a minute while grabbing a stack of albums to play for me. … It is that enthusiasm and love of music that was so inherent in 28th Day, and it was great to see that his optimism and curiosity had not been dampened by the band’s demise. Unlike some people who just become jaded when things don’t go their way, Mike refused to buy into his dream’s death … just time to try something new.
I’d say for 10 years everyone was still talking about 28th Day … inspirational long after they were gone. Somebody would say, “This band is the best band out of Chico,” and everybody would say, “No they aren’t; 28th Day is the best band out of Chico.”
CN&R graphic designer and member of no fewer than 30 local bands, from Mummified Mice to Near Death Experience
Barbara and Cole had a great chemistry vocally and instrumentally, and Mike provided the unshakeable back beat. When the band’s inner conflicts tore it apart, it didn’t seem like much of a disaster, more like the scorched concrete left behind when a rocket takes off.
Here it is 18 years later and we’re still listening to 28th Day and their off-shoots, as well as talking and reading about them. What more could you ask for a little band from a small town in Northern California?
It feels great to play together again. We are all better players, the songs sound fresh, and the emotional baggage of the old 28th Day is long gone. A lot of the songs have stood the test of time, more so than some of my later work. Maybe it’s the innocence or lack of pretension, who knows. It’s like revisiting a special place you thought you would never return to.
Now, nearly 20 years later, I am back in Chico, studying at the same university where we all met. You might think that being back in the town that created 28th Day would make it easier to describe what happened to create this band, but instead I have a hard time grasping just what it was that made us special during the early-'80s, before “indie rock” was a genre to be found in the retail stores. Like any teenage band, we were fueled by a shared passion for music and the intense intermolecular forces binding the three members of the band together, repelling and attracting us for such a short half-life. Back then, we would play highly charged music to madly dancing people. I thought it would last forever.
These days, I am traveling the same routes I had so many times stumbled homeward with an underage drinker’s bellyful. Even the exposed sidewalks became stages for dramatic reactions to betrayal of friendship, both real and imagined. We fought openly and loudly. We cared little about the outside world, because to us the band was everything.
I’ll leave a trail that you can find / When you are alone
—28th Day, “Lost”
I’m always taken back when I pass the big house at the northwest corner of First Avenue and Oleander. Going down the steps into the little basement home of Cole and Bobbi, my heart beat with joyful anticipation. I found friends there who took in an odd little loner. They introduced me to artists they loved (Section 25, Sonic Youth, The Replacements), played new 28th Day songs and old covers (the Beatles’ “It’s All Too Much") for me, and they listened with genuine interest when I shared some of the music that moved me. We exchanged albums and singles and made tapes for each other. The ‘80s may be called the “decade of greed,” but politics was of little interest to us, so distant and cold compared with the art we were discovering and sharing. Hope glimmered in artistic sorrow.
I’ve slipped “Pages Turn” onto every “Parties in Chico” tape I ever made for anyone. I usually preceded it with an “American Top 40” introduction, which fooled almost everyone. It should have been top 40, at least!
How do I explain it? We were very young. It was our first band. We thought we were the best band in the world. We started to hate each other. Isn’t it only natural?