Alternate Learning

Alternate Learning (or ALRN) was a power pop/new wave band from 1977 to 1982, based in Davis, California and fronted by Scott Miller, a singer-songwriter later known for his work as leader of the 1980s band Game Theory and 1990s band the Loud Family.[1][2]

Alternate Learning
Alternate Learning performing in 1980.
Alternate Learning performing in 1980.
Background information
Also known asALRN
OriginSacramento, California, United States
GenresPower pop, new wave
Years active1977 (1977)–1982 (1982)
Associated actsGame Theory, The Loud Family
Past members
  • Scott Miller
  • Jozef Becker
  • Scott Gallawa
  • Carolyn O'Rourke
  • Lynn Ross
  • Eric Landers
  • Byl Miller
  • Nancy Becker

Musical careerEdit

Early ALRN period (1977–1978)Edit

Alternate Learning, which was Scott Miller's first band to record on independent recording label Rational Records, was initially formed while its original members were in high school.[3] Miller, Jozef Becker, and Scott Gallawa began performing at Rio Americano High School under the name Alternate Learning as early as 1977.

EP by
Alternate Learning
ProducerScott Miller

The group's self-titled first release, a four-song 7" EP, was recorded by the three original members in Sacramento, in Miller's home recording studio. The EP was independently released on Rational Records in 1979.[3]

The band and the Alternate Learning EP both became known by the abbreviation ALRN, which was prominently featured on the front cover of the debut release. Although the disc was labeled with the band's unabbreviated name,[4] the release is most often known as the ALRN EP.[5] The first EP is also sometimes referred to as the Green Card EP,[6] based on the title of its first song.[4]

Track listing
1."Green Card"S. Miller2:49
2."What's the Matter"S. Miller3:44
3."Gumby's in a Coma"Kern Scott Gallawa2:16
4."When She's Alone"S. Miller3:30

Original Davis line-up (1978–1980)Edit

Alternate Learning performing in Davis, 1979–1980. Left to right: Lynn Ross, Scott Miller, Carolyn O'Rourke, Jozef Becker (drums), Scott Gallawa.

In 1978, Miller moved the band to Davis, California, where he was attending college.

Bass player Carolyn O'Rourke and keyboard player Lynn Ross joined the Davis-based band, which became regionally well known for their performances in the Sacramento area, in San Francisco, and most frequently at U.C. Davis.

In 1980, Lynn Ross, Scott Gallawa and Jozef Becker left the group, with Becker citing conflicts of personality.[7] Gallawa and Becker formed the Les-Z-Boys with Guy Kyser; Becker and Kyser went on to become founding members of Thin White Rope.[5][7] Becker, who was also a member of True West, rejoined Miller as a member of Game Theory from 1989 to 1990, and later was a member of Miller's 1990s group The Loud Family.

Painted Windows period (1981–1982)Edit

In February 1981, drummer Eric Landers joined Alternate Learning, as did keyboard player Byl Miller (no relation to Scott Miller).[5]

Painted Windows
Studio album by
Alternate Learning

The 1981 lineup of Alternate Learning recorded a full-length LP called Painted Windows, which was released on Rational Records.[8] During the recording of Painted Windows, Miller distanced the band from the previous ALRN release, writing in a newsletter that the 1979 EP "was not made by the present Alternate Learning, but by Scott Miller with Joe Becker and Scott Gallawa (now of Les-Z-Boys)."[5]

After recording the album, and prior to its release, the Painted Windows line-up debuted in an appearance with Pylon in April 1981.[5] They went on to perform a series of shows from April through October 1981.[5] Although the album was released in January 1982, the band did not perform again until late February 1982.

All songs on Painted Windows were written and composed by Scott Miller.

Track listing
1."Another Wasted Afternoon"3:51
2."Sex War"2:41
3."The New You"6:23
4."Dark Days"4:32
5."Occupation: Unknown"3:19
7."Beach State Rocking"2:48
9."Painted Windows"5:03
10."Let's Not Wait"2:12

Breakup (1982)Edit

After the release of Painted Windows, the group's final show took place at the U.C. Davis Coffeehouse on Saturday, February 27, 1982.[9][10] The trio of Scott Miller, Carolyn O'Rourke, and Byl Miller performed without a drummer, accompanied by taped percussion and effects, until they were joined onstage by drummer Gavin Blair of the X-Men for their concluding songs.[9][10]

Alternate Learning was officially disbanded by Miller in May 1982. Within a few months, Miller had formed his new group, Game Theory.[11] The new band included keyboard player and backing vocalist Nancy Becker, who had previously performed on synthesizer as a "sometime" member of Alternate Learning.[10][12]

Collaboration with Steve WynnEdit

In 1981, Alternate Learning members collaborated with Steve Wynn to form a trio called 15 Minutes, which released one single on Wynn's label, Down There Records.[13]

15 Minutes consisted of Wynn on guitar and lead vocals, Caroline O'Rourke on bass, and Eric Landers on drums.[13] Their single, "That's What You Always Say" b/w "Last Chance For You," was written and produced by Wynn, with Scott Miller engineering.[13] The A-side, "That's What You Always Say," was later recorded by The Dream Syndicate for their 1982 album The Days of Wine and Roses.[14]

Both songs by 15 Minutes appear as bonus tracks on Rhino Records' 2001 remastered CD reissue of The Days of Wine and Roses.[14]


Nan Becker and the Wheels, performing at memorial tribute to Scott Miller in 2013.

Material recorded by Game TheoryEdit

On Game Theory's double album Lolita Nation (1987), the track "Pretty Green Card Shark" includes the opening portion of "Green Card."

In 1990, former Alternate Learning members Scott Miller, Jozef Becker, and Nancy Becker returned to the studio, joined by Michael Quercio, to record a new version of the Alternate Learning song "Beach State Rocking." Despite being a new recording by Game Theory, the 1990 remake of "Beach State Rocking" was the opening track on the chronologically-ordered Game Theory compilation CD Tinker to Evers to Chance, released on Enigma Records.

Memorial performance (2013)Edit

After Scott Miller's death, a memorial tribute concert was held in Sacramento on July 20, 2013, with proceeds directed to a memorial fund for the education of Miller's children.[15] Nancy Becker performed alongside Fletcher Gallawa (son of original member Scott Gallawa) and his band, billed as "Nan Becker and the Wheels," to open the show with a set of Alternate Learning songs that included "Green Card," "What's the Matter," and "When She's Alone."[12][15]

Tracks on Game Theory reissues (2014–2015)Edit

The 2014 reissue of Game Theory's Blaze of Glory included four bonus tracks from Alternate Learning: "What's the Matter" from the ALRN EP, and "Another Wasted Afternoon," "Beach State Rocking," and "The New You" from Painted Windows.[16] The material on the expanded version of Blaze of Glory was remastered from the original tapes.[17] Blaze of Glory was reissued by Omnivore Recordings in September 2014 on CD and vinyl, as the first of a series of remastered releases of the complete Game Theory catalog.[17][18]

A live version of "Beach State Rocking" appears as a bonus track on Omnivore's March 2015 reissue of Game Theory's Real Nighttime.[19]


Studio albumsEdit

Year Title Format Label Catalog no.
1979 Alternate Learning (or ALRN) 7" EP Rational RAT-001
1982 Painted Windows LP Rational ATI-002

Various artist compilationsEdit

Year Title Track listing Format Label
1979 The Other #1 "When She's Alone" (side 2, track 15) CS The Other Tapes[20]
2004 Homework #9 "Sex War" (track 13) CD-R Hyped to Death (H2D #68)[21][22]

Game Theory reissues (bonus tracks)Edit

Year Title Track listing Format Label
2014 Blaze of Glory
"Another Wasted Afternoon" (track 13)

"What's the Matter" (track 14)
"Beach State Rocking" (track 20)

"The New You" (track 23)
LP, CD Omnivore
2015 Real Nighttime "Beach State Rocking (Live)" (track 19)


Group Title
15 Minutes (with Steve Wynn) "That's What You Always Say" (Wynn) b/w "Last Chance For You" (Wynn)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Blistein, Jon (April 18, 2013). "Scott Miller, Game Theory and Loud Family Singer, Dead at 53". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2013-10-21.
  2. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2003). The Great Indie Discography. Canongate Books. p. 345. ISBN 9781841953359.
  3. ^ a b Burt, Stephen (Winter 2011). "Game Theory, or, Not Exactly the Boy of My Own Dreams" (PDF). New Haven Review (9): 6–25. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-06-10. Reprinted as Burt, Stephen (April 18, 2013). "Game Theory: "Pure pop for nerd people," the greatest unknown '80s band". Salon. Archived from the original on 2013-04-19.
  4. ^ a b "Alternate Learning – Green Card EP Images". Discogs.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Alternate Learning Newsletter". 1981. Archived (front, back) from the original at Cover Art Archive.
  6. ^ Green Card EP at Discogs
  7. ^ a b Becker, Jozef. "Thin White Rope formation". Davis 80s Music. Archived from the original on 2007-08-28.
  8. ^ "Alternate Learning". Discogs.
  9. ^ a b Heinitz, Eric (March 3, 1982). "'Three Band Bash' a mixed bag". The California Aggie. pp. 2, 8.
  10. ^ a b c "Game Theory Newsletter". Summer 1982. Archived (front, back) from the original at Cover Art Archive.
  11. ^ Gimarc, George (2005). Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock, 1970-1982. Hal Leonard Corp./Backbeat Books. p. 676. ISBN 9780879308483.
  12. ^ a b Yudt, Dennis (July 18, 2013). "A way with words: Friends pay tribute to Scott Miller, the late Davis artist who combined his love for music and literature into an influential career". Sacramento News & Review. Archived from the original on 2013-11-19.
  13. ^ a b c d "That's What You Always Say / Last Chance For You" at Discogs
  14. ^ a b c The Days of Wine and Roses at Discogs
  15. ^ a b Cosper, Alex (July 22, 2013). "Sacramentans pay tribute to musician Scott Miller". Sacramento Press. Archived from the original on 2013-11-02.
  16. ^ "Game Theory's 1982 debut 'Blaze of Glory' to be reissued with 11 unreleased bonus tracks". Slicing Up Eyeballs. July 15, 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-07-15.
  17. ^ a b Davidson, Eric (July 15, 2014). "Game Theory Catalog To Be Reissued: Blaze Of Glory out September 2". CMJ. Archived from the original on 2014-07-15. Retrieved 2014-07-26.
  18. ^ Omnivore Recordings (July 14, 2014). "Release: Blaze of Glory". Archived from the original on 2014-07-15.
  19. ^ "Game Theory Real Nighttime" (Press release). Los Angeles, California: Omnivore Recordings. January 26, 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-01-26. Retrieved 2015-01-28.
  20. ^ The Other #1 at Discogs
  21. ^ "Track listings for the Homework compilation series". Hyped to Death CDs. Archived from the original on 2014-03-06.
  22. ^ "Homework: U.S. D.I.Y./No Wave CDs". Hyped to Death CDs. Archived from the original on 2013-11-12.

External linksEdit