Thursday, October 5, 2017

POLYROCK: In Search of Playful Seriousness [1981]

Text by Stacy Mantel / FFanzeen, 1981
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2017
Images from the Internet

This interview was originally published in FFanzeen, issue #7, dated 1981. It was written and conducted by then-FFanzeen Managing Editor, Stacy Mantel.

To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of Polyrock at the time, as I found them too…esoteric. The whole synthesizer/techno-guitar thing was lost of me, but Stacy was a big fan, hence the interview. I heard the albums back then, but never saw them live. However, I do have an indirect tale about them:

In the early 1980s, after this article appeared, I applied for a job as an Editor at a technology-based magazine, and was granted an interview. When I got there, I found out that it was produced by Al Goldstein [d. 2013], and the interview was in Screw Magazine’s office. The person interviewing me was the brother of a member of Polyrock. He knew who I was because of this piece, and said he was not going to give me the job as a favor to me, because having Screw Publications on a resume was not a plus, and Al was a hard person for whom to work. He did, however, show me Goldstein’s office, which was just packed with memorabilia. He warned me not to touch anything because despite the chaos, Goldstein knew if anything was moved. I thank him for that, even now, because he was absolutely correct.

As for Polyrock proper, they released two major-label albums on RCA, produced by Philip Glass, and disbanded a year after this interview was published, in 1982. Looking back, I can appreciate some of their releases more, such as “Bucket Rider,” but even today, the snyth/modulated material is still is not where my interest lies. – RBF, 2017

Polyrock is not unique, but then again, they are. It depends upon what angle you care to listen to them from, and how contaminated your musical background is.

Everyone is talking about them. Some are nervous, some elated, some speechless – but they are reacting. Polyrock themselves are doing the least talking. They are modest experimenters, trying to be a little different. Polyrock is: Billy Robertson, guitar / vocals; Tommy Robertson, lead guitar / electronics / violin; Lenny Aaron, keyboards; Curt Cosentino, bass machine / synthesizer; Joseph Yannece, drums / percussion / vocals; and Catherine Oblansey, vocals / percussion.

I spoke with Billy Robertson at the Rock Lounge, Saturday, February 28 of this year. He is very amiable and neat, and smiles freely. When we spoke, a lot of sentences were left open where words could not express certain artistic aims; sensibilities. For coherence, I had to punctuate in my mind and on paper. Personally, they’re probably best left unclosed, because in that, there is more understanding.

FFanzeen: In The [Village] Voice, John Picarella compared your sound to geometric paintings a la Mondrian. But when I listen to your music, I don’t think of harsh, stark lines; I feel it’s more impressionistic and imageful. What do you feel?
Billy Robertson: Well, it’s really hard to make a comparison to paintings or that kind of art, but I see it more as impressionistic. It’s also an immediate type of thing too, because it isn’t painting. Although when you go into the studio, you make a record and it’s a piece, but when it’s written, it’s sort of an act of aggression. The thing is to capture a live moment; an experience.

FFanzeen: What do you mean by “act of aggression”?
Billy: It’s a weird word – it’s a performance. I don’t mean aggressive as a negative or positive act of aggression or anything like that, but putting out something immediate – something with a certain amount of intensity. And it’s a performance. To answer your question more specifically, it’s more impressionistic than mechanical.

FFanzeen: It’s felt mostly on “Your Dragging Feet.”
Billy: Oh, yeah.

FFanzeen: It’s very hypnotic, almost like a mantra, because it’s somewhat repetitive.
Billy: It’s packaged sort of in a form; it has levels. It’s a very pretty song to me.

FFanzeen: The systems approach and Philip Glass’ music deals with similar types of repetition and levels.
Billy: That song has a lot more of that mode or side of us than any other song, and I think it’s something we really want to do; even in short pieces, and not so much a trance-piece, but something that’s very subtle and right there with the instrumentals. Some of the new stuff would make this clearer to you. That type of writing style started, for me anyway, when I listened to Brian Eno; I heard it in the Beatles and John Lennon songs like “I Am the Walrus.” And that’s what I like about Philip. When I first heard him I appreciated the repetition. He was an influence, but he was more someone we liked and respected. We really didn’t see his music as being part of our music. I can really like jazz or other kinds of music, but I play my music, and it just has been coming more and more. I just identify with Philip so much. I think he identifies with us, but he knows that we’re making pop music and we’re in a different medium.

FFanzeen: How did that collaboration come about? Was it on your mind or –
Billy: It did enter my mind, but I didn’t see it as becoming a fact. I never thought it would become a fact because I didn’t picture Philip to be what he is, as open-minded and just as versatile because he listens to all kinds of things. He makes music that’s his music.

FFanzeen: Do you see Polyrock trying to bridge the gap between that kind of music and pop rock’n’roll?
Billy: Yeah, I think subconsciously. We’re trying to make a serious sort of musical type of music; not just an occasion. A dance band. That’s definitely on our minds and that is an aspect of our music. We really like John Cage and people like that, their aspect of music, but we also enjoy playing for people and dancing. So, we’re trying not to be that, as many writers said, “serious.”

FFanzeen: You’ve had a lot of problems with the critics about that aspect of being serious. Some have asked, “How can a pop band have that in their musical or personality makeup”?
Billy: Well, it’s in the personality. I think it’s a real special thing. That’s what keeps me going. I see it developing more and more for us. Sort of like bridging that gap. I wouldn’t say so much as the repetitious thing or the minimalistic thing because I don’t think Philip Glass is minimalist.

FFanzeen: I don’t think so either. Minimal is an Andy Warhol film.
Billy: “Grey Canvas” is minimal.

FFanzeen: When you’re putting music together, do you take concrete ideas and put one after the other, or do you use the kind of random approach that Eno takes with his systems pieces?
Billy: I think that when I write, I hear where it’s going. I can sit down with an acoustic guitar and play it. Well, it’s sort of a systems approach because I’m doing other people. I know what Lenny, as a keyboard player, will reflect into the song, and I know what Curt will. And I have an idea what my brother will do – he would definitely write his piece to it. But the others, even though I’m writing the melodies and injecting it to them, I can already see what they’re going to do. When I play with just an acoustic, I usually do the melodies with my voice, and it’s weird because you keep the melody in that part of your head and you write another melody, or you get someone to team up with you. There’s so many things we have to stay away from when we write, Tommy and I. We try not to keep Blues progressions out of it and funk feelings. We’re trying to start with these very sterile sort of holes and these melodies. Mechanically, that’s what we start with. But, we’re trying. I think we’re very emotional. I think we’re trying to inject that, so the emphasis is not on funk, because what’s soul? That isn’t soul. We can have soul in our music.

FFanzeen: Well, not having a bass is almost an anti-funk idea.
Billy: I’m not anti-funk. I mean, I love it. I find it more challenging not to work with, because it’s very easy to me. It’s because we have to stay away from these things. I think it’s inevitable that we’re going to grow into something where we wouldn’t have to sit around here and try to explain it. It’ll just be this type of music that came through a process; but it’s just a process of trying to strip down and get away from all these things that have been done; all these different modes. I mean, it’s been 25 years since rock came about and pop music still sounds the same way. You can make it different and change it into a different shape, but it’s still the same medium. And funk’s been around and African music has been around. Sometimes I think it’s a crazy thing to do [smiles] but if it can work and we can do it, good. It’s a romantic thing to do, laying yourself on the line; but it’s an experiment. We can fall flat on our faces, and we’ll just turn around and try it a different way. I don’t think that I’ll ever put together a band that’ll be accepted right away. I don’t think any of us would. We would try to do something that had space for growing.

FFanzeen: Groups like Visage and Spandau Ballet are working with computers that go beyond a synthesized bass; they’re computerizing a beat. People are saying you are electronic. Isn’t that a bit off-base?
Billy: I think that when using all synthesizer and rhythm generators, I see that sound as getting too homogenized, too packaged too quickly. I think that just working with guitars is more of an inside thing. I see that kind of electronic music as getting too sterile. Like Gary Numan. I liked his first record, but he got too sterile. The overall sound is too formulated.

FFanzeen: That’s what I meant, because those people are just programming in the entire thing and they’re called inhuman.
Billy: Well, that’s supposed to sound inhuman. I look back on this record and there are reservations, because the fact that we have a serious edge doesn’t give us room to be playful.

FFanzeen: What’s your definition of “serious”? The B-52s take themselves seriously.
Billy: Yeah, I can think that, too. I could ask myself, “What is the definition of ‘serious’?” And I think it’s totally absurd to think that way, but obviously there is a whole overall thing that is looked at as serious and something that’s looked at as playful. It’s not my definition though. If I really stop to think about it, it’s just a type of seriousness where you have an attitude of just like when you make a piece, it could be a serious piece, something that you’re really thinking about and really trying to make different, but also trying to be very pretty and aesthetic in a sense; something that’s not as playful, because if something’s not playful, what else can it be?

FFanzeen: You mentioned new material. What stage is that at now?
Billy: It’s at the stage where we have five or six songs down – not all at the performing stage, though. We’ve been working. We’ve been to London, and we’re going to Baltimore. When we get back, I just want to go back up to our house [in historic Woodstock], and get these things down. We want to get back into the studio to make another album the end of March.

FFanzeen: Will Philip Glass produce the next album?
Billy: I think he will. It all depends on what the circumstances are, who we’ll be working with. I see him as another member of the band with just a smaller part. He doesn’t produce it; he’s not about that. And that’s what I was talking about – one of the reservations about going into the studio again. Because we want somebody who’s going to be more sensitive to the rock’n’roll aspects of it.

FFanzeen: Let’s get some more background. Before Polyrock, you played with the Model Citizens for a while. What was Tommy doing?
Billy: This was the first time he became visual, and marketed what he does. Before that he made tapes and has a collection of his own tapes which may be marketed someday. He’s been working mostly on his own music. This is more of something which we’re trying to create. It’s not what we’re about. Right now, we have this thing and it’s a band. We’re using our personae. We’re using the look. It’s a lot more than just making music. I think if Tommy was to write music for himself, he would explore a lot more different things; more subtle things, and not be so accessible to himself. That’s what I’m into doing.

FFanzeen: Aren’t you afraid to explore so soon?
Billy: Yeah. It definitely takes some time, and it’s good for me. I don’t think it’s a compromise. I think that we’re going to get to the point where we’ll be ready to do it, and we’ll know better how to do it, and we’ll learn what directions we really like and want to go into. But I think there’s a different attitude. A more spread-out kind of experimenting. Next album, I’m going back to bass on a couple of tunes. On the first record, for some reason, I just wanted to get away from electric bass. Maybe now I can incorporate it into our sound, because we’re starting to get a good idea of what we’re doing.

FFanzeen: How long were you in the studio recording the album?
Billy: About a month and a half.

FFanzeen: Did you have anything to do with the ad campaign RCA launched, with “Polyvinyl, Polyrock of the Future”?
Billy: No, not at all. Did it seem like any of us did? I hope it’s clear to most people that we had nothing to do with it. We really hated it, but I’m not going to turn around and say “RCA stinks.” They just got a little away from us.

FFanzeen: Polyrock is the best name you could have come up with; it’s so descriptive.
Billy: We thought it had a nice sound, also.

FFanzeen: What about this “dance-trance” business? It’s applied to other groups too, such as the Bush Tetras, and you two bands couldn’t be further apart.
Billy: It’s obviously not an adequate description of the music. Even more general is the term “New Wave,” which really freaks me out because Blondie is supposed to be New Wave and even Talking Heads, because they made it through the same packaging, the same channels. So I just have to say when people ask me what kind of music we play, it’s “Polyrock.” We’re making it that and that’s what we called it.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Jezebel Plays After the Take Back the Night March, Saskatoon, September 21, 2017

Text and photos (c) Robert Barry Francos

The Take Back the Night march is an event I try to attend every year in Saskatoon, help this year on Thursday, September 21, 2017. I don't feel I need to go into the reason why it is important, because if you don't know, you should. This year it was held at the YWCA Saskatoon parking lot, and walked over to the University and back (about two miles, total).

After the march, which had quite a few hundred people of all ages and genders, we met back at one of the rooms at the Y, and were treated to the music of local Saskatoon band, Jezebel. Yeah, I know, there are a few other bands with that name, but as I have not seen them, it's a moot point right now.

They had a nice contingent of fans at the event who danced in the back. Yeah, they were fun, that's for sure. They did a few covers as is expected for the crowd, including Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" and Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You." And as they describe themselves as "Unapologetic Bridge City prairie pop punk; pulling no punches with knockout hooks, hard hitting melodies and heart-on-their-sleeve lyrics, it's no surprising they do a cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic." While they were well done, I actually liked their original material better. They have an EP coming out, and perhaps I'll get the chance to review it.

Terri Bear-Linklater: vox; rhythm guitar
Mik Mak Bowman: vox; bass
Jovan Larre: lead guitar
Breton Cook: drums

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Applying for Jobs by Computer or by Mobile.

Text (c) Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2017
Image from the Internet

It is bound to come, where applying for jobs by cell phone will be the common procedure. The level of technology at present day, however, makes that possible, but is it the most efficient?

Of course, the biggest attraction to using the mobile over the desktop or laptop is ease, and yes, being able to blast out your information to a large number of companies covers more ground. Having your resume and/or cover letter in your email and forwarding it is a snap. Even with that, there are more functional and possibly successful ways to proceed in your job applications.

When you send your resume and cover letter to a prospective employer, the email will indicate that it was sent from a mobile device. This tells the Hiring Manager some assumptive information. For example, it says that you are sending out resumes that are not directed to the company’s individual needs, but as a “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey,” cover-all template.  They want to know you are willing to put in the work and research before you apply, and that you are self-motivated and proactive. If you want to stand out, it is better to individualize your resume and cover letter rather than sending a come one-come all version.

This is especially true for cover letters. Some people will type in a version of a cover letter into the actual email, but this is not as efficient in attracting positive attention as attaching a document that is easy to print out.

A proper cover letter should be dated, addressed to the company connected to the advertisement even if you have to look up the actual physical address in a search engine, and mention the position exactly as it is mentioned in the ad, including competition number if one is attached. Sending out a cover letter that is undated and unaddressed does not garner as much attention as one that is directed to the person and company requesting your information.

Many companies also have online applications, where the person looking for a job needs to attach a resume after you create a sign-in with that website. These cannot be sent from an email as of yet, so there is still a need for the physical presence rather than just a click on a phone.

Microsoft Word or other word processing software are not easily navigated on a mobile device, so it is better at this stage of the technology development to actually work on the application on a desktop or laptop.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

CHEAP PERFUME Fills the Air [1980]

Text by Marc Silver / FFanzeen fanzine, 1980
Introduction by Robert Barry Francos © FFanzeen blog, 2017
Images from the Internet

Cheap Perfume were a rockin’, all-woman band that was underrated in the New York Scene, and deserved better. I had the opportunity to see them a couple of times in 1977-78, and was happy to give them their due by publishing this piece. They have reformed a number of times, sometimes with the lead singer who had moved to the other coast, other times with the rest of the band filling in vocally.

Please note that this has nothing to do with the Colorado-based band with the same name, which was formed in 2015.

This interview was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #5, dated August/September 1980. It was written/conducted by Marc Silver. I have lost track of Marc, so if anyone knows his whereabouts, please let him know about this!

Cheap Perfume occupies the niche of the top-drawing all-female band in New York. Their music is self-described as “power-pop with a rock’n’roll edge.” Performances are vibrant and chock-full of ass-kicking rock’n’roll. The majority of their material is original, but their unique covers range from the Beatles’ “Boys” to a version of the Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” complete with choreographed dancing in the aisles.

Brenda, the drummer, had recently crushed her ankle and was partying the time away in the dismal dungeons of the Metropolitan Hospital. Also present for the interview at the hospital were L. and Nancy Street, lead singer and rhythm guitarist, respectively. Sue Sheen [Palermo], bassist, and Bunny LeDesma, lead guitarist, were AWOL.

Brenda [Martinez-White]: In the beginning I created the Earth and the heavenly bodies. No, at the start it was Zoey, Susan and me. But I didn’t consider that the band.
Nancy Street: I noticed an ad in The [Village] Voice for a female vocalist and I said to myself, “I know just the girl,” meaning L. She auditioned and I tagged along.
L [Lynn Odell]: It was a package deal.

FFanzeen: When did Bunny join?
Brenda: Eight months ago.

FFanzeen: After Zoey left?
Brenda: Yes

FFanzeen: Did your material change much?
L: The material changed drastically. Most of the songs up to that point had been written by Zoey and her boyfriend, so we had to give those songs up.

FFanzeen: Who’s doing the writing now?
Nancy: Susan and I, and we’ve got friends who give us songs.

FFanzeen: How would you describe your music?
Brenda: It’s hard.
L: It’s pop. It’s definitely pop. It’s not punk. It’s not heavy metal. Pop pretty well rounds it off. It’s under the genre of New Wave, but certainly not punk.
Nancy: Power pop, with a standard rock’n’roll edge.

FFanzeen: Who are the major influences in your songwriting?
Brenda: Mostly guys.

FFanzeen: I’ll ask you about that later.
Nancy: I’m influenced by the Beatles and the Who. Susan is influenced by…God knows…Frank Zappa, Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson, Southside Johnny, Greg Kihn…
L: Uncle Floyd.

FFanzeen: On stage, Bunny for example, is styled after Keith Richards.
Nancy: Very Stones.
Brenda: Very stoned!

FFanzeen: Do any of the rest of you ever mimic your rock heroes?
Nancy: I do try to do the Pete Townshend windmills.
L: And it looks ridiculous.
Nancy: But I try. I don’t do it very often and I’m not very good at it. But after a few vodkas…

FFanzeen: What would it take to get you to slide across the stage on your knees?
Nancy: I’d pass out before then. But really, I don’t try to emulate anyone.
Brenda: I have my own style.
L: Nobody plays like her.
Brenda: [to L.] And who do you try to sing like?
L: Well, my major influences are from acting. I’m very theatrical on stage. I move around a lot. I don’t just stand there and turn around in circles, like Debbie Harry.
Nancy: It particularly bothers me when you see a band who are obviously on a Who trip or a Beatles trip. There’s a band in the New York area where the lead singer is doing all the Roger Daltry moves, the lead guitarist is doing all the Pete Townsend moves, and the drummer thinks he’s Keith Moon. It’s disgusting. It’s stupid; I resent it. It’s one thing to have influences, but it’s another to have it completely take over your performance.

FFanzeen: This is the definition of a cover band. Have you played outside of New York?
L: We played DC twice; Upstate at Hamilton College [Clinton, NY].

FFanzeen: What were the audiences like?
L: In Washington, they’re pretty civil. They’re a little too civil. They’re boring.
Brenda: They don’t get into it heavily.
L: Upstate, forget it. We had to beat them back with hammers. It was like they had never heard music before.
Nancy: We played the Hot Club in Philly. They loved us. We beat them off with sticks.
L: They were all lesbians. We had to barricade the dressing room.
Brenda: We played a prison once, in Danbury, Connecticut.
L: They weren't wild about us. We were girls, and that they were into, not the music.
Nancy: It was a white collar prison; tax evaders.
L: Where Nixon should be.

FFanzeen: What makes you different from other all-girl bands?
L: Most of them don’t get any further than forming a band. There are a few that you hear about once or twice and then they’re gone.
Brenda: Do you know how hard it is to keep girls together?

FFanzeen: I know how hard it is to keep them apart.
Nancy: Cheap Perfume is very significant to each of us. It is the first and only band any of us have ever been in.

FFanzeen: On stage, it looks as though there’s no jealousy over the spotlight.
Brenda: We’re pretty good about that.

FFanzeen: But I have seen you run into each other on the way into the spotlight.
L: Well, Bunny needs a pair of glasses.
Brenda: We should hold a benefit for Bunny’s glasses.
L: She’s walked into my mic stand three times.
Brenda: But she never misses a cute guy.

FFanzeen: Being an all-girl band might be thought of as a gimmick, but it’s obvious that you’re serious about yourself as musicians. How do people seem to react to you?
Nancy: In the beginning it was a good gimmick and we never had any trouble getting gigs.
Brenda: People still come up to me and say, “You know, you’re pretty good for girls.”
L: At first they were right, because nobody had come anywhere near mastering their instruments. And now, although we don’t have it by the tail…
Brenda: – We have it by the asshole –
L: …We do pretty well.
Nancy: I’d like to think that the timing is right for an all-girl band. It’s more than accepted. Chrissie Hynde is the rhythm guitar player for the Pretenders. Girls are becoming more than just the lead singer.
Brenda: Nancy Wilson of Heart is a fuckin’ hot lead guitar player.
Nancy: I think that the lack of female musicians is a problem from our teen-age. It wasn’t accepted for little 13 year olds to be picking up an electric guitar.

FFanzeen: There were no role models.
Nancy: I think that now there will be a greater mix in the near future. There will be more groups like the Nervus Rex and Talking Heads.

FFanzeen: Unisex bands.
L: I’d like to think that we’re responsible for a lot of girls getting musically involved in the New York scene.

FFanzeen: Almost all of your songs are about guys and are sexually suggestive. Despite your musical social ability, it wouldn’t be outlandish to call this an exploitation or even a gimmick since you’re an all-girl band.
L: Most rock’n’roll songs are about guys, girls…

FFanzeen: Cars, money…
L: Sex, drugs. That’s all. They’re standard themes.

FFanzeen: I don’t buy that. All your songs are about guys, not any of those other subjects.
Nancy: They’re really not. Only one: “Tommy.”

FFanzeen: What about “Overnight Angel,” “Boys,” “Back Alley Lovin’,” “Todd’s Song,” and especially “Too Bad”?
L: “Too Bad”? No, you misinterpreted the song. It’s not about a guy, it's about missing a chance, about being in a situation where you know if you did it right, you could have it. Anything – a guy, a girl, money – anything. But you blow it for one reason or another.
* * *
Anyway, Cheap Perfume is a hot act with many surprises. They’re tight and fast and they’ll leave ya beggin’ for more. They’re avoiding recording until they get the right producer. Definitely a professional move.

As soon as Brenda is out of the hospital, Cheap Perfume will be gigging up and down the East Coast under the guidance of Spotlight Enterprise. I’m looking forward to it.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pigshit: DWIGHT TWILLEY [1985]

By Gary Pig Gold / FFanzeen, 1985
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2017
Images from the Internet

This article/interview was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #5, dated 1985, by music Renaissance man, Gary Pig Gold.

If you grew up in the early punk movement anywhere around the Toronto / Mississauga / Hamilton (Ontario) hub, you knew who Gary Pig Gold was / is, and his fanzine, The Pig Paper. Gary is not only a writer, but also produces records and was/is a musician in such bands as The Loved Ones, Ghost Rockets, Dave Rave Conspiracy and most recently The Next Big Thing alongside his old pal from The Cheepskates, Shane Faubert. I have the pleasure to call him my friend, even though we don’t get the chance to hang out much lately, being 2000 miles apart.

Through the later years of FFanzeen, Gary had his own column called "Pigshit," which also ran in many other zines worldwide and still appears monthly online. I've long-stated that Gary is one of the better writers of rock history, especially about his own favorites such as the Beach boys, the Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Elvis. His work at this moment appears alongside an all-star cast of musicians and movers in Harvey Kubernik's massive 1967: A Complete Rock Music History of the Summer of Love book from Sterling Publishing. Definitely check out more of his writing at - Robert Barry Francos, 2017.

As much as we’d love to forever blot it from our ears, there was music being produced, released and even broadcast during the post-Creedence, pre-Ramones wasteland known today as the mid-1970s. Like many other now forms of pure pop, I filled those dreaded years backtracking thru pop’s past via the neighbourhood Kmart cut-out bins, and today sport an entire bedroom covered in milk crates full of albums ($1.90 or less!) with holes drilled thru the covers to show for my efforts… (Well, it was either that or spend circa ’71-’75 watching “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” and lining up for Who tickets…)

But suddenly one day, a song appeared which effectively jolted me out of my Delete Zone exile and hinted that perhaps, just perhaps, there was still intelligent life left in the music bizness: a hook-studded gem, which effortlessly rode up the charts atop a bedtrack cocky enough to spare it from a fate worse than Manilow (sorry ABBA). The song in question? “I’m On Fire,” by someone – or something- called The Dwight Twilley Band. Sure, I was a fan of the Hollies-Revisited strains of (The) Raspberries, not to mention the bozo-rock of the N.Y. Dolls, but Twilley’s ditty made an impression for reasons other than nostalgia or camp: it was the first evidence in godknowshowlong of that elusive creature known as The Perfect Hit Single. Imagine my jubilation when, after rushing to my local disc shop for the first time since the Raiders broke up, I discovered an entire album of Twilley in the racks – his classic debut LP Sincerely. Listening to this stunner today is akin to takin’ a crash-course in trends-to-come: the cheesy electropop of “Could Be Love,” the Edmunds-as-Spector lush of “You Were So Warm,” the mop-topped Rutle-rock of “Three Persons.” Even the suede-o crockabilly of “TV.” Could it be at all possible that the likes of Martin Rushent [d. 2011 – RBF], Nick Lowe, Dougie Fieger [of The Knack, d. 2010 - RBF] and Brian Setzer never heard and duly absorbed this record prior to launching their own assaults upon the Top 40? I sincerely doubt it.

Several years and one New Wave later (Dec. ’79 to be exact), I found myself in Southern California for my first of several hunts for the ghost of Brian Wilson. It was then and there that I chanced upon a surprise Twilley gig at the scenic Golden Bear club in scenic Huntington Beach (where, speaking of the ‘60s, Peter Tork was once employed as a dishwasher). By this point, Dwight had already lost one record company (Shelter, due to bankruptcy), one record contract (with Arista, due to the lackluster sales of his smash second album, Twilley Don’t Mind), and even one-half of his band (when his long-time cohort, Phil Seymour, buggered off for a short-lived career as Orange County’s answer to Shaun Cassidy). Not surprisingly, the show that night was a slick, bitter affair – it seemed Twilley spent most of his set screaming at the soundman for “more fuckin’ Elvis Sun Sessions reverb on my fuckin’ mike.” Afterwards, I crawled back to my motel room mightily disillusioned as Dwight spent the next several years slowly burying himself beneath the scrap heap of Next-Big-Things-From-L.A. alongside the likes of The Loved Ones (thanks for the plug, Robert Barry! – GPG 1985), 20/20 and The Plimsouls (whilst nurturing a quite unhealthy SCUBA diver fetish).

I was probably as shocked as Mr. Twilley himself when last summer, he released a bitchin’ new platter entitled Jungle, which came complete with a single smasheroo of even ultra-“I’m On Fire” proportions (the lethally-catchy “Girls”). And once again, as if on some sort of cosmic cue, I found myself in scenic Vancouver stumbling one night upon, in the far-from scenic Nite Lites club, another surprise Dwight Twilley gig! Bluffing myself onto the guest list as West Coast stringer for FFanzeen (“FFanzeen?” “Oh, yeah, it’s a very big mag back East – sorta like Circus…”) and bluffing my mini-recorder past the bouncer in true Rock ‘n’ Roll High School style (…“It’s a hearing aid, okay?”), I sat thru one of the most sweaty sets of sounds since Destroy All Monsters opened for The Young Fresh Fellows – with just the right amount of reverb on the mike! Afterwards, what else could I do but BS my way backstage (“FFanzeen?” “Yeah – it’s gonna take up where Trouser Press left off…”) to interview The Man Himself.

Dwight Twilley? Can I have a few words?
Oh… just a couple, okay? We’re on our way back to the room to watch some old Elvis videos…

I last saw you perform five years ago in California, and the improvement since then seems practically incomprehensible!
Well, we’re touring more nowadays, and I’ve got a better band nowadays. Plus, back then, I could never get enough reverb on the mike.

Yes, I know. Also, “Girls” I think is your strongest song in ages. However… I can’t help but detect the ghost of Brian Wilson running through it.
Oh? How’s that?

The riff in “Girls” sounds exactly like the riff in “Dance, Dance, Dance”!
Yeah? Well, I think The Beach Boys suck!

Hmm… Who do you think you’ve been influenced by?

Uh-huh. And who else?
Scotty and Bill.

Elvis’ guitarist and bass player?
You bet.

Who else besides Elvis do you admire musically?
(Extended silent pause)

I see.
What magazine’d you say this was for?

(Blank stare)

It’s sort of like the vintage old New York Rocker was back in its heyday. You remember New York Rocker, don’t you?

Anyways… Whatever became of your old partner, Phil Seymour?
Not a hell of a lot! (Laughs) I think the only time he works now is when I let him sing a spot or two on my records. Phil missed his calling, you see, when ABC refused to cast him alongside Parker Stevenson in “The Hardy Boys” TV series. I’m afraid it’s been all downhill for ol’ Phil ever since.

Your band seems to be getting along real fine without him.
Yeah… but something’s lacking in our rhythm section, I think.

Who would be your ideal drummer then?
D.J. Fontana.

Elvis’ drummer.
You bet.

Not to change the subject any, but who would you consider to be your idea girl?
Hmm… Probably a cross between Natalie Wood and Ann-Margret. [PIGOSSIP #1: Dwight is actually married to none other than Susie Cowsill – she of “Indian Lake” and “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” fame – GPG, 1985]

How about your favorite food?
Hey! What is this? I thought you were from Fan Scene [sic – 1985], not Tiger Beat! Uhh… favorite food… Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. And cheeseburgers – double cheeseburgers – on the road.

What’s the one song you’re most proud of?
Oh… “Don’t Be Cruel.”

No, no… I mean of your own!
Well, that’s a pretty tough one… I’d like to think Scuba Divers is my strongest album overall, as well as being my all-time poorest seller (smirk). You see, each of my records has its own set of circumstances and stories… and lawsuits… and nervous disorders… behind it. I mean, if it’s true that artistes create best under bleak and difficult conditions, then I should’ve had fifty Number One albums out by now! But, uhh, if I had to pick one single favorite song, I guess it would have to be “10,000 American Scuba Divers Dancin’.” How about you?

Without a doubt, my favorite would still have to be “I’m On Fire.”
What? You mean you don’t like Elvis?!!