.Soundtrack of ’94: A Trip to House of Faith

I invaded Town & Country Village in Palo Alto for World Cup 1994 memories, but yacht rock drove me to the ghost of Bart Thurber’s old recording studio down the street.

By the time you read this, Brazil will have already sold out Levi’s Stadium for a first-round Copa América game against Colombia, drawing tens of thousands of fans to the South Bay. A regional tournament that usually unfolds in South America, Copa América this year takes place in the United States. It’s much smaller than the World Cup, and since Brazil landed just one game here, the scene stood no chance of replicating the party of 30 years ago, when the Brazilians stayed in Los Gatos and played multiple World Cup games at Stanford Stadium.

I previously reflected on that 1994 World Cup in this space, especially the historic battle between the USA and Brazil on July 4, 1994, but now since the 30th anniversary of those times has arrived, I reacquainted myself with Town & Country Village in Palo Alto, directly across the street from Stanford Stadium, to relive the memories.

The 1994 World Cup transformed Town & Country Village in unprecedented ways. The edges of the parking lots along El Camino were converted into rows of merch booths. Hordes from around the world packed the entire property.

Multiple Hobee’s employees have told me about selling beer out the window at 9am to Brazilian fans, Swedish fans and Romanians. The cops could not stop 5,000 people drinking from open containers. I stood there in the quaint neighborhood grocery store at the back of the mall (now it’s a Trader Joe’s) and watched Brazilians empty out the entire beer selection. Nobody had seen anything like it.

Town & Country Village was a completely different place in those days. There were no $40 salad restaurants. No one did power yoga. There were travel agents, a few shoe repair places, multiple insurance offices and a 4,000-square-foot airline ticketing center. If you wanted a Pan Am flight, you went to Town & Country Village and bought a paper ticket.

Back then, the Palo Alto T&C was nothing like the upmarket paradise of today, where affluent nuclear families, university students and high school kids all regularly flood the place. Even if it’s not entirely my crowd, it might be a model of how to properly redo a shopping center without smashing the original buildings and replacing them with a fake European promenade.

As I continued to explore the new-fangled version of Town & Country Village—Books Inc was a fabulous place—the noise from World Cup fans partying 30 years ago entered my head. The chants, the songs, the dancing, the music. It was all there in the parking lot, shattering spacetime. Unfortunately, there was no way to ignore the horrendous yacht rock softly emanating from outdoor speakers strategically placed underneath each overhang, every 40 feet or so.

As a result, I slithered across the street, with no destination in mind, and then by sheer chance landed right at the corner of Encina and Urban Lane, which brought back additional rocking memories that made my journey complete. Formerly an old industrial back street, Urban Lane is steeped in rock ’n’ roll history.

The address of 707 Urban Lane—Bart Thurber’s old House of Faith Recording Studio—closed in May of 1994, just a month before the World Cup started. Maybe a hundred of us attended a blowout eviction party on May 8. A photo still exists on Thurber’s website of the whole crowd on the very last day. Now that was a party.

Thurber recorded just about every South Bay metal and punk band in the early ’90s. He now operates elsewhere, but that old studio still resonates in the musical lives of so many people and so many bands. As I stood there, where the Palo Alto Medical Foundation buildings now sit, I heard every band that ever recorded at House of Faith, in my head, all at once. The spacetime continuum shattered yet again.

As always, the journey was more important than the destination. And imaginary sound collages are much better than yacht rock at Town & Country Village.

Gary Singh
Gary Singhhttps://www.garysingh.info/
Gary Singh’s byline has appeared over 1500 times, including newspaper columns, travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry and short fiction. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. An anthology of his Metro columns, Silicon Alleys, was published in 2020.


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