Monday, September 10, 2018

Nancy Neon's Notes: September 2018

Text by Nancy Neon / FFanzeen, 2018
Images from the Internet
Live Review: The Legendary Cazbats
Club Bohemia, Cantab Lounge, Cambridge, MA
August 25, 2018, 8 pm
After my hiatus from rock 'n' roll, I was excited about seeing the Legendary Cazbats. I also wanted to bid a fond farewell to Micky Bliss, host of Club Bohemia, held at the Cantab since 2007. Before 2007, Club Bohemia had a home at the Kirkland Cafe for 14 years. It is fitting that I would say my goodbyes while seeing drummer, Daniel McCarthy play as I did my first night at Club Bohemia back in November 2000. That night, the bill was the Lyres, the Classic Ruins with Billy Borgioli, and the Downbeat 5, with McCarthy providing Jerry Nolan-esque drums. It is also noteworthy that McCarthy played on Borgioli's last recording, Boston Cream {2010} and was the last on to play live music with Borgioli before Billy’s passing on June 27, 2015.

The line-up of the Legendary Cazbats is Chris Yeager on vocals and guitar, Bob Roos on guitar, Matt Robinson on bass, and Daniel McCarthy on drums. The band set the fierce garage punk tone with "Same All Over" by the Rogues/Squires. The Chocolate Watch Band's "Are You Gonna Be There {At the Love In}" amped up the intensity. I recognized "Move" by the State Of Mind as a great Venusians' cover from their 1990 recording Garage Dazed. The performance is classic garage-punk-snotty-snarl. The band lightened the mood with Bobby Freeman's "C'mon and Swim."

The Legendary Cazbats run the musical and emotional gamut, switching it up again with the wistful romanticism of the Choir's "In Love's Shadow." A personal favorite of mine was the band's MC5-style rendition of "I Can Only Give You Everything." The Cazbats made the Count V's "Psychotic Reaction" their own by opening it up as a runaway, accelerated punk version. These guys reined it in on a beautiful version of the Gants' "Smoke Rings." Yeager and company show their love of Chicago blues on the Willie Dixon composition, "Spoonful," first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1960, and then popularized in the later ‘60s by Cream. The Cazbats finish on the upswing with a pristine delivery of shimmering jangle rock, The Byrds' "So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star."

DVD Review:
All You Need is Fuzz: 30 Years in a Garage Band
Directed by Timothy Gassen, 2018
The Marshmallow Overcoat was an important part of the garage punk movement of the ‘80s. Timothy Gassen, under his alter ego Randy Love, formed the band in 1986. The film is one hour and 29 minutes long, including many interviews with group members, music videos, live shows, studio work, and rehearsals leading up to their final show in 2008.

The band's influences include the Chocolate Watch Band, the Doors, the Beatles, the Byrds, Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Electric Prunes and bands that would be considered contemporary with Overcoat, such as the Fuzztones and the Miracle Workers. The band incorporated traditional garage rock elements of a Farfisa organ, 12-string Rickenbacker guitars, and Vox amps. Sartorially speaking, they took up the ‘60s affinity for paisley shirts, Prince Valiant haircuts, and Chelsea boots.

After a decade of spreading their paisley-drenched neo-psychedelia, the band took a hiatus between 1996 and 2000.They reformed and continued to record through 2011. Their sustaining influence on more contemporary garage rock is due to their being so prolific. They have nine full albums as well as singles and EPs. They have also received exposure via garage rock compilations in Europe; also they earned a following through a European tour in their heyday. In addition to their recording on Skyclad, Music Maniac in Germany, and Psyche Out in France, Timothy Gassen released a 30 song, two-album set in 2013 on colored vinyl: Marshmallow Overcoat-The Very Best Of. Gassen also has DJ'ed as Randy Love and is the author of the popular Knights of Fuzz book and DVD series.


Song For Dylan
Florid in the doorway
Blowing Bobby's horn
Told him I'm the one
Who took his crown
From the thorns
Hes buying me champagne
At the Metropole
Met him at the Mardi Gras
The fortune teller of my soul
The child is the father of the man
You gotta stumble before you can stand
The seventh mother said to the seventh son
Among the lucky you're the chosen one
He's Billy The Kid
He's Jean Harlow
Got a fake beard
Blue eyes like Rimbaud
On Highway 61
He tracked my heart
Playing dust bowl ballads
On a borrowed guitar# 

Cornflower Blue
Mercury is sleepless
He gave his Red Wings
To a folk singer
At the HMV
Little sister is heading downtown
What will she pawn
She says she's the one
But only you cut through
Cornflower Blue
There is no one else
Who does what you do
There is no one else
Who always cuts through
Daddy's in the alley singin'  the blues
Mama's readin' Jitterbug Perfume
Junior's talkin' Bible at the Exchange
Met him in Saigon
He says he's the one
But only you cut through
Cornflower Blue#

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

THE SIC F*CKS: The Ultimate Punk Band [1977-78]

Text and live photos © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1977
Photos can be made larger by clicking on them
Videos from the Internet

This interview was originally published in Issue 3 of FFanzeen, dated Winter/Spring 1978-79.

Be warned, the Sic F*cks in their day were crude and lewd, but what would you expect from a band named the Sic F*cks anyway. My guess is they picked their name in a similar fashion to Led Zeppelin. But that’s conjecture.

I don’t know what happened to the John Cale tapes, but in 1982, the Sic F*cks released an Adny Shernoff-produced and self-titled 5-song 12”-er on Sozyamuda Records. The musicians listed on the record playing with Russell, Tish, and Snooky are Bob Hopeless on guitar, Dick String on lead guitar, Stink on bass, and Harry Viderci on drums. For all I know, these are the same people who were playing with them when I interviewed them. 

One side is dedicated to one song, “(Take Me To) The Bridge,” a droll spoof of the Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River.” However, the other side is so much more fun. There’s – in order of listing – “Spanish Bar Mitzvah,” “Rock or Die,” “Insects Rule My World,’ and that Sic F*cks classic, “Chop Up Your Mother.” Two of the songs, “Rock or Die” and “Chop Up Your Mother” were performed (well, lip synced, anyway) by the band in the 1982 horror film, Alone in the Dark, which starred Donald Pleasant and future Oscar winners Martin Landau and Jack Palance.

While the physical form is gone now, thanks to greedy landlords, Tish and Snooky have have successfully turned Manic Panic into a multi-million dollar hair coloring enterprise that started out as mail order, and is presently in drug stores and supermarkets (including the local Shoppers Drug Mart here in Saskatoon). Behind the scenes helping them is first wave punk scenester and bassist for the likes of Judas Priestess, Gyda Gash, who is Manic Panic’s webmistress.

The Manic Panic website is, and tell ‘em I sent ya.

It was the first really hot night of 1978, the night I interviewed members of that fun group known musically and affectionately as The Sic F*cks (“All that’s missing is ‘U’”). Present were lead singer/guitarist Russell Wolinsky, and the back-up singers, Snooky and Tish, also known as the Bellomo sisters. Not present were the rest: guitarist Norman Schoenfeld, guitarist Joey Schaedler, bassist Jim Aresca, and drummer Greg Wassil. The following took place in Tish and Snooky’s clothing store, Manic Panic (St. Mark’s Place & Second Avenue):

Russell Wolinsky: Alright Trigger, how much is two and two?
Tish Bellomo: I ain’t tellin’ you. Why should I do your math homework for you?

FFanzeen: Okay, you wanna tell, like, the background to how you got into Barbara Markay & Hot Box, and all that?
Snooky Bellomo: No! We were bamboozled into that. We were tricked. It was disgusting. They promised us two hundred dollars a week to sing and dance and they never paid us.

FFanzeen: You were in another group at the time?
Tish: Our first real group – well it wasn't a real group – our first group was the Porno Rock Revue. Some of our songs were originals, sort of in the line of the Sic F*cks: “Jerk Off Blues” and “Sit On My Face,” and stuff like that; and then we had Rugby songs. We were in Blondie.

FFanzeen: Blondie?
Snooky: We were the Bonzai Babies.
Russell: You were in Blondie? You know Debbie?!
Tish: We can get you an autograph. Then we were in Gorilla Rose and the Gutterettes. [Then] the Dropouts, who are now the Accidents. They were our back-up group. We fronted them. After that –
Russell: – The rest is history.
Tish: Well, during the time we were in the Dropouts, we did that Barbara Markay thing. It was just a fiasco. And then we were still in the Dropouts and then we started doing guest spots, you know, we did the thing with The Sic F*cks, and because of that we got thrown out of the Dropouts – now Accidents. Cruel band. Naw, we’re still friends.
Russell: How’s that for a success story?

FFanzeen: How did The Sic F*cks start?
Russell: There I was, in a five thousand watt [radio station in Fresno, California] – I had never played on stage before and I had been threatening to do an audition at CBGB for years. Well, maybe one year.
Tish: I would say more like two months.
Russell: Actually, the day before – no, so one day I was drunk at CBGB and I decided I could do better than the band playing. I kept on drinking and I thought I could do better than any of the bands playing. I knew Joey and Norman for a long time. They introduced me to Jim, our bass player, and at first we used the sound man at The Bottom Line [the club where Russell works – ed.], Ronald. So it was going to be the five of us for the audition. We had written the songs, like “Saint Louis Sucks” and “Chop Up Your Mother.” We told them (Tish & Snooky) about it. I know them from throwing up all over them.
Tish: No, Russell was throwing up all over himself in the front seat of the car, and I was in the back seat.
Russell: So, anyway, they were just opening up the store here and we told them about the band, and they said, “When do we start?” and it was like, one of those great ideas, like Edison inventing the light bulb or something. This is just what we need to make things whole for us.
Snooky: And the rest is history.
Russell: We had one more rehearsal, they worked out their own parts and we went up on stage. August 1, 1977, I’ll never forget it.
Snooky: Was that when it was? We have to celebrate.
Russell: I wanna do a first year anniversary show at CBGB.
Snooky: Yeah, great! A Tuesday night!
Russell: I’m trying to work it so everyone gets a free beer on the house.

FFanzeen: That’ll be right after this comes out.
Russell: Well, if they don’t get the free beer, don’t be disappointed. Anyway, we did it. I didn’t tell that many people about it, but this incredible amount of people, what was it, 300 people were there.
Tish: It broke the CBGB record at any rate.
Russell: It was an audition night record.
Tish: And Lisa (Kristal) said, “Dad will be sooo pleased,” as she looked down at the green. Did Handsome Dick show up?
Russell: Handsome Dick sang “Wild Thing” with us. You were wearing Girl Scout uniforms. The only time you surprised me was when you played in blackface. We told the crowd that it wasn’t Tish & Snooky, but The Chocolatettes from Detroit.

FFanzeen: The first time I saw you, you were wearing cut-out plastic garbage bags.
Russell: That was the night Snooky had the fight.
Snooky: Oh my fight? Yeah, because I was wearing a garbage bag. Robert Gordon doesn’t like garbage bags.
Russell: He likes paper ones.
Snooky: He was very upset. Robert’s my boyfriend and he didn’t like me wearing garbage bags on stage.
Russell: Only around the house.

FFanzeen: How did Manic Panic get started?
Russell: They said, “Hey let’s start a store.” 
Tish: We just decided to have the first punk rock clothing store in New York. My personal thing is I would wear things to CBGB and they were copied about two weeks later. So I figured why not sell it.
Snooky: It’s not like we said, “punk rock’s gonna be the next big thing, let’s cash in on it.” It just happened to be what we were into.
Russell: So they said, “this is going be the next big thing let’s cash in on it.”
Tish: I used to go to a designing school for a few months and I quit. I’ve always been into fashion and I always wanted to have a store.

FFanzeen: How did you pick a name like Sic F*cks?
 Russell: It’s just a parody of a punk rock name. You’ve got to remember we never expected to do it more than once, a one shot deal. Unfortunately, it was taken the wrong way. People come in and expect to see the ultimate punk show: throwing up; fornication.

FFanzeen: Instead they get Jewish jokes.
Russell: Borscht Belt rock and roll.      
Tish: Why did the Negroes move out of the outhouse?
Russell: Why?
Tish: The Puerto Ricans were making too much noise.

FFanzeen: What are your influences?
Russell: Alcohol.
Snooky: Durwood Kirby.
Russell: The usual. Henny Youngman, the Ramones, the Dictators, Jonathan Richman.
Tish: The Shangri-La’s. Vaginitus. The sixties in general. Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts. The Rugby sounds.

FFanzeen: What do you listen to now?
Russell: “I Got a Right” by Iggy. “Rhapsody in the Rain” by Lou Christie, I listen to that a lot.
Tish: Herman’s Hermits. I still listen to those 45s. There’s some good new stuff here and there.
Russell: Yeah, ABBA. I like ABBA.
Tish: You would. Typical.

FFanzeen: How does a typical Sic F*ck song get written?
Russell: We get a case of beer. We always start with the title, then me, Joey, and Norman write the music, then I write the words over the music, then they (Tish & Snooky) fill their parts in. Well, there we were, trying to think up a name for “Chop Up Your Mother.”
Tish: We were blasting that outside the store last night. All these people were outside listening to the tape.

FFanzeen: Can you give me couple of your song titles?
Tish: We can give you all of them.
Russell: Even songs we don’t do anymore, if you want. Their song, “A Girl Like Me,” “Chop Up Your Mother,” “Teenage Abortion,” “Let’s Eat,” “Faster and Louder,” both of which were written before “Let’s Eat” by Nick Lowe and “Faster and Louder” by The Dictators.
Tish: “Ride the New Wave.” “Insects Rule My World.”
Russell: “Spanish Bar-Mitzvah.”
Tish: “Toni Tennille.” “Fags on Acid.” A classic.

FFanzeen: I came by here a while ago and someone said you were recording with John Cale.
Russell: We did that already.
Tish: Old news.
Snooky: Ancient history. Old Wave news.

FFanzeen:  Is it coming out as a single?
Tish: An EP.               
Snooky: It has nine songs. The title is “Rock It to Poland.”
Russell: It was supposed to come out June sixth. Don’t hold your breath. I like John, but I would have done the recording differently.
Tish: Yeah, he didn’t pay for our coffee.
Russell: Yeah.

FFanzeen: Do you think your name will hold you back?
Russell: It’s holding us back now. That’s probably what’s holding us back from a major recording contract. The world ain’t ready for a band with the name Sic F*cks.
Tish: Hilly suggested we change it to the Sic Folks.

FFanzeen: You’d have to spell it Sic F*lks.
Russell: We suggested Hilly should change his name of Sic Folks. Him or Jonathan.
Tish: Jonathan’s dead.
Russell: We should have a benefit for Jonathan. Remember the dog Jonathan who was always at CBGB? He died. I think CBGB should have a benefit concert every week.
Tish: I don’t think Jonathan had as many friends as Johnny Blitz.
Russell: It was close.

FFanzeen: Anyone who ever played pinball and stepped into…
Russell: Dog poo?
FFanzeen: Yeah, they’ll remember. That was his favorite spot, wasn’t it?
Russell: He used to do it on the stage occasionally. Especially the old stage with the carpet on it.

FFanzeen: What are the ultimate goals of the group?
Tish: Money. Fame. Get laid. I just always wanted to be a rock star. Even more than having a store, which was one of my main goals. Now I have everything. Except for the money and the fame.
Russell: We haven’t made People magazine yet.

FFanzeen: What kind of fan is a Sic F*ck fan?
Russell: Somebody with nothing to do on Friday night. We’ve established a solid following.
Tish: We get a lot of tourists coming to the name.
Russell: “Hey these crazy New Yorkers. What will they think of next?”
Tish: A lot of guys come to gawk. Men in raincoats with newspapers on their laps.
Russell: Just a lot of people who are tired of all these New York bands taking themselves so seriously. We’re punk and rock and roll.
Tish: We’re also power pop-oriented. Also New Wave.
Russell: Even reggae.
Snooky: Calypso. We even play weddings and bar-mitzvahs.
Russell: I mean, everyone has a definition of punk. There’s a big difference between the Ramones and the Dead Boys, a totally different attitude, but basically both play the same thing; they play rock and roll.

FFanzeen: What do you do to keep busy? I realize some of these questions are dumb, but I wrote them about half an hour ago on the train over, or I took them from old fanzines.
 Russell: Yeah, I remember this one from the Teenage Jesus interview in FFanzeen.
Tish: We knit. Crochet.                                                               
Russell: We beat off a lot.

FFanzeen: That’s the same thing Lydia Lunch said (in the Teenage Jesus interview).
Russell: Then we don’t beat off a lot. Isn’t it great to be young and live in America!
Tish: I like hanging out once in a while. I love getting drunk. I like being on stage more than anything. But we rarely rehearse.
Russell: There’s nothing like being on stage.
Tish: What do you get when you cross a Jew and a Polack?
Snooky: Russell Wolinsky!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Review: Records Collecting Dust II

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2018
Images from the Internet

Records Collecting Dust II
Written, produced and directed by Jason Blackmore
Ralph Wayne’s Vintage Backyard Films / Riot House Pictures / MVD Visual
78 minutes, 2018

The subtitle for this DVD is “…a documentary film about the music and records that changed our lives.”

In the original film from 2015, which I have yet to see, the focus was on 1980s West Coast Punk. For this sequel, we are switched to the East Coast punk scene of that period. In the pre-digital world – including CDs – the early 1980s was the last great hurrah for records in the pre-Marshall McLuhan-esque “replaced technology comes back as art” (paraphrased) world of new vinyl. Bands started labels or just put out their own stuff. I still remember heading down to Disc-O-Rama on Eighth Street in Greenwich Village to see the new indie recordings coming out and pick the ones I wanted. Thanks to FFanzeen, I was also sent many by the labels directly to review that I would never have seen, from both East and West Coasts, as well as in-between.

I firmly believe that record collecting is both an art and an addiction that can catch from one to another (e.g., I learned from a high school friend, and passed it on to a FFanzeen reader back in the day who has never really forgiven me). However, I will add that unless one has the collector “gene” it’s a moot point. Here is some of my record collecting philosophy called “Reflections on Being a Record Collector.” 

The focus of the film – well, the first half anyway – isn’t really about collecting, but more about what the subtitle posits, the song that sparked interest in music. Lots of Beatles, and even odder stuff like Kay Kaiser’s “Three Little Fishies” (I knew that song from a Zero Mostel LP, which I still have).  Along with the Fab Four, the most common mentions are Led Zeppelin and KISS (spelled both KISS and Kiss in the captions).

Most of those interviewed, which we hear in bursts of two or three sentences at a time, are mostly musicians, primarily in Boston and the Washington DC area, in groups like Mission of Burma, Agnostic Front, Helmet, the Cro-Mags, the Freeze, the FUs, and so many others. It’s definitely a hardcore roll call.

One of the subtle accuracies of this documentary is that historically that I have noticed is that while there are women who are collectors, the overwhelming majority are male. The Yin side of the equation is presented here by Amy Pickering and Cynthia Connolly, both of Dischord Records. Even many women I know who have encyclopedic knowledge of the music, most of them are free of the collecting virus, which I totally respect.
There are sort of different chapters, including “your first record,” “who was a key influencer” (usually an older sibling or cousin), “the record that changed your life,” “the last record you purchased,” and “if your house was on fire, what three records would you save?” Personally, I think that last one is a ridiculous question only because there are too many I like and by the time I chose, I’d be a french fry. What I find interesting is most of the answers are along the lines of “here is this rare record so I could sell it to either buy more records or fix my house.” My guess the point of the question is what are the important records to you as a metaphor, not as a reality. I have rare records, but in this context I would answer differently; that being said, Ian MacKaye gives my fave answer.

Overall, this is an incredibly fun film, with strong nostalgia strings to pull at your heart. “Oh, yeah, that’s a great record,” or “Wow, I hate that one,” will shine through, though there is bound to be some “Oh, Jeez, I didn’t even know that existed, and now I want it!” All bound to bounce around your noggin as you’re watching. There’s not a dull moment.

The bonus material on the DVD includes the original trailer and 20:57 of additional interview footage. While it’s totally understandable why this never made the final cut, the first third is a load of fun as those interviewed show off their prize possessions. For the next third, it’s kind of a mesh-mash of different ideas, which is also interesting. The last third, though, is one long rambling interview that really doesn’t say that much by someone I strongly admire, FYI, and if it was someone else it probably would never have seen the light of HD day.

I did have one issue with this: every single person interviewed is either connected to the music industry behind the scenes, or are musicians (one who even admits he doesn’t collect vinyl, but only digital…does that even count?), but what about collectors who collect for collecting’s sake, i.e., love of the music alone? There are so many fanatical record collectors who I find absolutely fascinating that never played a note in their lives. I know some “hopelessly obscure” collectors, and they are much more interesting because they didn’t create the music, but their devotion is just as – err – hardcore. Perhaps that can be film Number 3?

Finally, I realize this has nuthin’ to do with nuthin’, but the subtitles are a bit psychotic. For example, it states “The Monkeys” (though it’s spelled correctly later on), “Cool and the Gang,” “Henry Rawlins” (Rollins), and then another early one has a collector referring to “Corvette’s”; for those of us old enough to know, it’s EJ Korvettes, a department store where many of us did our initial mainstream record shopping. Here’s my totally unrelated Korvettes vinyl story: When I was in high school, I was with someone who bought the Woodstock soundtrack; when we got it home we found it skipped, so we brought it back to the store. Of course, they had to test it to prove it was actually defective. The sales clerk put on the record just as the phone rang, so she ran out, not realizing that the turntable was connected to the store’s PA. All of a sudden, through the entire store, you heard Country Joe yell echoing, “Gimme an F…, Gimme a U...,”  Good record collecting times.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Guest CD Reviews by Nancy Neon

Text by Nancy Neon / FFanzeen, 2018
Images from the Internet

Michael J. Roy
The Bright Side
Roy opens with a track called "The End." So, for Roy, the end actually becomes a beginning with a new recording for 2018. The song has a T-Rex feel. Lyrically, Roy seems to be singing about a relationship, be it romantic or creative, that teetered on the precipice of greatness only to implode. "Same Old Thing" has a cool, downbeat feeling. Musically and vocally, it will turn those on who dig Jakob Dylan or Tom Petty. It is a powerful song of regret that highlights what I have always called Roy's painterly style of guitar playing. "Impossible Ways” is vocally strong with a ‘60s pop feel. "Mr. Berserk" is someone we all know; he tries to come off as if he has it all under control, but blows up like a grenade with any or no provocation. These are some of Roy's best lyrics, where he sings of "Mr. Berserk" being followed around by a shadow that cannot be escaped. "Moving to L.A." is something I can relate to after a bad fall on the ice in Boston last winter. The track has a lovely vocal, melody, and arrangement. The music and lyrics touch the listener with an amalgam of wistfulness and wanderlust: "I can't believe/I've stayed here so long/It makes no sense/Once the summer's gone/It seems I don't know/Why I'm here at all/And I can hear that balmy West Coast call." "Point Of No Return" has a Bob Dylan/Tom Petty style vocal and overall vibe. "All The Time That Never Was" has a feeling of sadness and regret over real or perceived unrealized potential. Roy describes it as "pining for things that you know are never going to happen." This concept has resonance for me as I have been troubled by my own sense of unrealized potential. “Thin Air" has the message of striking back and ultimately surviving creatively against the threat of obsolescence. "A Reason to Live" speaks of the renewal of hope and life in the face of the increasing pressure of time and mortality. This track is fast paced, energetic, and the catchiest of the bunch along with the closer, "The Bright Side." As with "A Reason to Live," on "World Run Wild," Roy's musical mojo is at full force as he sings" My mind is on fire." So is his guitar! "The Bright Side" is a shimmering, jingle jangle power pop track in a Byrds/Dwight Twilley Band vein. When I spoke to Roy about the recording, I mentioned that I always thought he was the George Harrison of the Boston-based bands Fox Pass and Tom Dickie and the Desires. Roy showed he understood what I meant by responding by saying "dark horse." (In addition to the dictionary definition, Dark Horse was Harrison's record label.) The Bright Side is a powerful follow up to Roy's 2015 release Eclectricity.

Tom Guerra
American Garden
The song "Nevermore" opens this recording with power chord/riff stylings in a classic rock vein. Guerra's voice is a combination of approachability, vulnerability, and moxy. "Goodbye to Yesterday" was written by Guerra and bassist Kenny Aaronson of The Yardbirds. This song has elements of blues, garage rock in a Sonics vein, and ‘60s pop-oriented harmonies. "Walls" is a Tom Petty number that Guerra recorded soon after Petty's death. The vocal is downbeat and the arrangement is faithful to Petty's style. "Jack for Joe" is Guerra's homage to his former roommate/manager, Joe Polito, who died about 30 years ago. Guerra described Polito as having "lived life at full-throttle racing speed." Guerra expresses a lingering fondness for his halcyon days while asking “where can we go now that we can't go home again?" "Blood on the Rising Sun" was written after the Charlottesville riots and features Jon Butcher on lead guitar. Guerra uses a Dylan/Petty style vocal to create a 21st century protest song that ends with the chant "hate cannot replace us." "Family of One" and "Lyin' King" are two more Guerra/Aaronson collaborations. These were intended for inclusion on a Jack Douglas-produced Yardbirds album – a concept that was sadly shelved. The bridge "Now that tomorrow is here at last" is a line Guerra intended as response to the Yardbirds' "Shapes of Things." "The Lyin' King" has blues harp and a garage rock-oriented feel. "The Story" is a song Guerra was moved by after hearing Brandi Carlile's version. Here Guerra's voice sounds like he is broken but still fighting to summon up faith and strength to strive for love. "Meet Me at the Bottom of the Glass" is a piano/vocal arrangement with Morgan Fisher of Mott the Hoople on keyboards. Like "Jack for Joe," it is about Guerra's friend who was lost to alcoholism. The closer, "American Garden," is thematically a pastiche of three Vietnam veterans with whom Guerra had conversations about their war experiences. The title track has an Apocalypse Now vibe with its psychedelic feel, distorted vocals, and helicopter sounds. The pop rock section of the song juxtaposed against the more ominous elements of “American Garden” highlight the dichotomy of the relative innocence of pre-Vietnam War versus the lost idealism of the post-War period. The image of the "American Garden" is all the more startling when you realize Arlington cemetery is one interpretation of the album title. This is Guerra's third solo recording. Also check out his band, The Mambo Sons.

Sunday, August 5, 2018


Text by Joe Tortelli, 1982
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2018
Images from the Internet
Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them

This article was published in FFanzeen, issue #9, dated 1982, beginning on page 5. It was written by the Boston-area music historian Joe Tortelli. This was originally reprinted with the permission of Tortelli from his own fanzine, Oh Yeah!, issue No. 1, then and now out of PO Box 370, Arlington, MA 02476, or Joe has written liner notes for such artists as Delaney & Bonnie and the Fifth Estate, has his own music-related television show called “On Topic,” and is currently writing the biography of songwriter and performer Bobby Hebb (“Sunny”).

My own first memory of the Dave Clark Five was seeing the film Having a Wild Weekend at the Benson Theater, in Brooklyn, NY. At the time, I liked it better than A Hard Day’s Night (I was a bit late to the Beatles’ party). There must have been some kind of promotion, because I remember they handed out some black and white 8 x 10 stills from the film. I gave mine away to someone I was trying to impress (yes, a girl), but it didn’t really get me anywhere. Mind you I was 10 at the time… Anyway, I really liked the music in the film, and still enjoy the DC5’s recordings from that period. They seemed a bit different than the other Mersey Beat sounds to my young mind, and I did manage to catch them, if I could (pun intended) when they appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” – Robert Barry Francos, 2018

Mike Smith * Lenny Davidson * Dave Clark * Denny Payton * Rick Huxley

The Dave Clark Five recorded some of the most explosive singles of the mid-1960s. They were a phenomenally popular band during the British Invasion (1964-1965). Their fame and record sales gradually declined over the following two years, until they finally disappeared completely from the American record charts and our teen consciousness.

The DC5’s reputation was hardly enhanced during the ensuing years. The rock values of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s included such things as instrumental virtuosity, lyrical profundity, and musical experimentation – ideas not exactly prevalent on DC5 recordings. The “serious” (i.e., progressive FM) rock fans quickly dismissed the DC5. The DC5 did create pop music; some of the most exciting pop music the rock’n’roll world has ever heard. Their forte was the two-minute single: forceful, pounding rock’n’roll literally bursting forth from those timid vinyl grooves. Guitars, saxophone, drums, organ, voices: all sounding as one, one sounding as all. This was the Dave Clark Five at their best – all the strength, power, and excitement they could muster, squeezed into simple, yet well-crafted two-minute pop songs.

There were (as the more astute among you may already have guessed) five of them: Dave Clark was the drummer and leader of the band. Dave wrote or co-wrote all the group’s original hits. He was also one of the earliest rock stars to produce his own band’s records. Perhaps because Dave was a drummer, the DC5’s earliest recordings have a stronger, fuller drum sound than many other contemporary recordings (cf., the early Beatle LPs). Clark also directed the band’s business affairs and quickly realized the importance of the American audience and market.

Mike Smith was the lead vocalist and organist, as well as Dave Clark’s most prolific songwriting partner. Smith certainly did not have a great vocal range, but he was a great rock’n’roll singer nonetheless. He could wail and scream if necessary, but most importantly, he fit the songs and the songs fit him.

Denny Payton was a British Invasion anomaly – a saxophone player. Payton’s driving sax energized the group’s up-tempo material; he was the secret ingredient in the DC5 “sound.” Lenny Davidson was probably the least-heard guitarist in the British Invasion. The sax, organ, and drums all took precedence over the guitar on DC5 records, so Davidson was more of a rhythm, than lead, guitarist. Rick Huxley was the band’s fifth member and bass guitarist.

Glad All Over

The Beatles had just appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” for three consecutive weeks (twice live and once on tape). Their records were dominating America’s airwaves as no one’s ever had. Things were happening so quickly it almost seemed ridiculous to ask, “What’s next?” A week later, on the same “really big show,” we found out…

The Dave Clark Five were next. They appeared before America’s teenagers with neatly trimmed Beatle haircuts, matching suits, and black boots with the highest Cuban heels ever seen.

The DC5 exuded an enormous amount of energy on stage. Their music was direct, fast, and powerful. Visually, the audience’s attention was riveted to the roguishly cute organist/vocalist and the very handsome drummer. But the image of the band that still remains most clear and distinct from early 1964 is that one of the boys stamping their pointed black boots to the drum beat of “Bits and Pieces.” It was, one supposes, a calculated gimmick of sorts, but it was, at the same time, a genuine gesture demonstrating the band’s commitment to the primal rock beat. That stagemanship set the DC5 apart and guaranteed that they would be recognized in America.

“Glad All Over” was the DC5’s initial hit single on this side of the Atlantic. It arrived in early ’64, along with the “Ed Sullivan” appearance and a wave of hype about the band, which drove the Beatles from the No. 1 spot on the British charts. “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” owned the top of the British Singles charts for weeks on end until the DC5 broke the Fab Four’s string with “Glad All Over.” Now the DC5 seemed destined to do the same thing in America.

Of course, this rivalry led to a flurry of press reports about the Beatles and their “new challengers.” Would the upstarts’ Tottenham Sound outstrip the dominant Mersey Beat? Who was better, the Beatles or the Dave Clark Five? These and other questions would be answered rather emphatically in good time, but in 1964, they did appear to be rather important [there were several Beatles vs. the Dave Cark Five teen-type magazines at the time, a wise corporate move to sell copies to the fans of both of the top bands – RBF, 2018].

“Glad All Over” was quickly followed on the charts by the equally pulsating “Bits and Pieces.” Both songs were Dave Clark-Mike Smith collaborations, and both were Top-10 hits simultaneously. They were joined in the upper regions of the American Charts by a powerful DC5 rendition of the Contour’s classing, “Do You Love Me.”

All three singles came from the band’s first American album on Epic Records, entitled Glad All Over. This LP established a pattern which the DC5 would follow rather closely on all subsequent albums. Glad All Over included 11 songs, all of which were rather short (two to three minutes), even by mid-‘60s standards. The emphasis was on the hit singles. While it might be unfair to characterize the rest of the material as filler, it certainly could not match the hits.

This and future DC5 albums included a couple of instrumentals (“Chaquita” and “Time”). There were also a couple of cover songs: the above-mentioned “Do You Love Me” and Maurice Williams’ “Stay.” Finally, there were several non-hit originals which tended to be patterned after the smashes, but simply were not as compelling (“All of the Time,” “I Know You,” “No Time to Lose,” “She’s All Mine”).

Glad All Over proved to be an extremely popular album, eventually going Gold (over 250,000 units). During the Spring of 1964. It was the only new rock LP which could hold its own on the charts against the three big Beatle records (Meet the Beatles, The Beatles Second Album, Introducing the Beatles).

During the ‘60s, bands remained popular by quickly following up their initial success with new material. The Dave Clark Five became quite adept at the follow-up, as they proved to be one of the prolific groups of the mid-‘60s.

“Can’t You See She’s Mine” was the DC5’s fourth hit single. It had the same rockin’ appeal as the first three smashes and became yet another Top-10 record.

Another album was also released. The Dave Clark Five Return contained the latest hit single, six other originals, plus three cover songs (including Link Wray’s “Rumble” and the [Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil] classic, “On Broadway”). This LP was clearly patterned after their initial album. Unlike Glad All Over, however, Return only produced one hit song, not three.

In August of 1964, Epic records issued the DC5’s fifth single of the year, the ballad “Because.” This song was a major change of pace from the band’s previous booming hits, and it indicated a new level of musical sophistication and lyrical sensitivity for the band (just as “And I Love Her” had done for the Beatles a couple of months earlier). “Because” went on to become a massive hit and one of their best-remembered songs.

An album featuring “Because” was also released. American Tour had a front cover seemingly patterned after the Beatles’ Second Album, and a title aimed straight at the teenage American consumer. As the single “Because” indicated, the DC5 appeared to be trying to widen their musical horizon somewhat on this LP (through the dreadful instrumental version of “Blue Monday” was hardly necessary). Ironically, the most memorable LP cut was a “Glad All Over” sound-alike, “Come On Over.”

The DC5 closed out 1964 with two singles, “Everybody Knows” and “Any Way You Want It” (followed by an album containing both hits, Coast to Coast). Having found success with both rockers and a ballad, the boys tried to combine both styles in the song “Everybody Knows.” Unfortunately, the tune did not possess a clear focus because of its changing tempo and because it lacked a memorable lyrical hook. “Everybody Knows” was the DC5’s least popular single to date, but it still broke the Top-15.

The Dave Clark Five finished their first year of pop stardom with a two-and-one-half minute definition of rock’n’roll. “Any Way You Want It” was the band’s most powerful single since “Bits and Pieces.” Propelled by Denny Payton’s driving saxophone and surrounded by the densest production imaginable, “Any Way You Want It” muscled its way onto the playlist of America’s radio stations.

Thus, an incredible year ended for the Dave Clark Five. They began the year as newcomers, challenging the Beatles in England, yet totally unknown in the USA. An appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” made them overnight sensations and the most prominent rivals of the Fab Four in the States. They toured the US extensively and were accorded the same frenzied approval from screaming fans as the Beatles. Their seven hit singles and three best-selling albums demonstrated their wide appeal to teenagers in no uncertain terms. In any normal year, the phenomenal rise of this British band would have been the music story of the year. However, 1964 was not a normal year; it was the year of the Beatles.

The DC5 had to “settle” for No. 2. They easily outdistanced the rest of the First Wave of British Invasion groups: the Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Swinging Blue Jeans, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Peter and Gordon, etc. In fact, their only real “rivals,” besides the Beatles, were two American groups who first charted in 1962: those blond, sun-tanned surfers from the West Coast, the Beach Boys, and those falsettoed Philadelphians, the Four Seasons.

The DC5 could say goodbye to 1964 with a good deal of pride and self-satisfaction, but they must have looked forward to 1965 with just a touch of trepidation and uncertainty. After all, their last two singles, while popular, were not as big as their earlier records. Moreover, they were now an “established” act, gazing backwards at newer and trendier stars. And in the ‘60s, there was no shortage of fresh faces.

Two of the hottest new properties emerging in late 1964 had quite different images. There was the “cuter than cute and nicer than nice” Peter Noone, singing with an appealingly exaggerated British accent. His band, Herman’s Hermits, had a hit in late ’64 with “I’m Into Something Good,” and was preparing a major assault on the American record charts with a series of sugar-coated tunes. At the same time, a group of brooding, unkempt Blues enthusiasts had just scored with their first Top-10 smash in the US, “Time is On My Side.” The Rolling Stones, with their carefully cultivated “bad boy” image, were getting ready to give teenagers satisfaction. And what of the Dave Clark Five…

Catch Us If You Can

The DC5 needed a strong single to maintain their enormous popularity in the highly-charged musical atmosphere of 1965. “Come Home,” their first release of the year, proved equal to the task. A sensitive and complex ballad in “Because” tradition, “Come Home” demonstrated the band’s ability to transcend the bounds of basic rock’n’roll. Despite the success of this record, “Come Home” was the final hit ballad of their halcyon period.

The obligatory album followed in the Spring of ’65. Like the other DC5 LPs, Weekend in London contained the hit (“Come Home”), the covers (“Blue Suede Shoes,” “Little Bitty Pretty One”), and the fillers (too many to mention, though one song, “Til the Right One Comes Along,” indicated that the Clark-Smith writing team were familiar with the recent “I’ll Follow the Sun” by another famous duo).

Weekend in London was the last in a series of DC5 albums whose liner notes referred to their ongoing rivalry with the Fab Four. These liner notes ask the intriguing question, “Is the Dave Clark Five the Number One group in the world today?” The answer is predictable, if unrealistic. It is significant to note that this “rivalry,” which once seemed so real, had become little more than record company hype.

The DC5’s second single of ’65 was a cover version of the Chuck Berry chestnut, “Reelin’ and Rockin’.” The Boys gave Berry’s rocker a powerful, straight-ahead interpretation with absolutely frantic Mike Smith vocals. “Reelin’” was the band’s first non-original single in over a year, and it was probably their weakest selling to date.

Yet another remake followed in June, when the DC5 released, “I Like It Like That.” This Chris Kenner original attracted widespread attention and airplay, which translated into another Top-10 hit for our heroes.

In the dead of Summer, the DC5’s long-awaited movie appeared. Originally called Catch Us If You Can, the film was released under the title, Having a Wild Weekend. While the movie didn’t exactly make people forget A Hard Day’s Night or Help!, the soundtrack originals and the song quality was consistently high. This album included a good mixture of rockers, ballads, and mid-tempo tunes, and even the instrumentals were more appealing than usual. The title song, “Don’t Be Taken In,” the atypical “If You Come Back,” and “I Said I Was Sorry” are among the best cuts from the LP.

Remarkably, only one single was taken from the soundtrack, but what a single it was: “Catch Us If You Can” is not as frenzied as some other DC5 classics, but is just as catchy and hook-laden, and even features a surprising harmonica lead. “Catch Us If You Can” was a smash; the band’s biggest hit in a solid year.

The DC5 were in the midst of their hottest streak since early ’64, and their final single of the year was not about to change that. “Over and Over” was a consecutive Top-10 hit, and their only song ever to reach the coveted Number One position on Billboard’s weekly record charts. The arrangement for “Over and Over” seemed to copy that for “Catch Us If You Can” right down to the harmonica interlude, despite the fact that is was yet another cover tune.

Nineteen sixty-five ended for the DC5 with the release of a “throwaway” LP, I Like It Like That. Apparently distributed to belatedly cash in on the Summer success of the title song, this was not one of the group’s stronger efforts. Even the front cover picture appears to be an outtake from the Glad All Over sessions.

Despite the final LP, the Dave Clark Five truly finished the year 1965 with a flourish. Their final single, “Over and Over,” was sitting comfortably at the top of the charts and their popularity was still intact. Despite intense competition from a variety of British bands and from a revitalized American scene (the Byrds, Sonny and Cher, etc.), the DC5 had every right to be pleased with their surge in the Summer and Fall. They must have been somewhat troubled, however, by the fact that three of their last four singles were non-original cover tunes at the time when Dylan, Lennon-McCartney, and Jagger-Richards were gaining more and more attention for their songwriting talents. Also, their last LP of the year, I Like It Like That, could not have looked or sounded very promising beside the Beatles’ Rubber Soul or the Stones’ December Children, two other contemporary albums.

The problem facing the DC5 as 1965 passed was quite simple, yet quite fundamental: rock music was changing, but they were not. While the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys and others were experimenting with new sounds and techniques, sophisticated arrangements, and varied instrumentation, the Dave Clark Five were sticking with a tried-and-true rock’n’roll formula. The DC5 had achieved what they wanted (pop-rock stardom) and were not interested in changing or “progressing” to please others.

The DC5’s satisfaction with the status quo can, perhaps, be appreciated visually. During a period when pop styles were changing even faster than rock music itself, the DC5 looked the same as always, right down to their “Beatle” boots and haircuts, matching suits, and clean-shaven faces. In an era when other pop stars were breaking the old rules and making up new ones, the DC5 were still playing the game according to the 1964 rule book. By 1966, this just was not good enough.

At the Scene

Since the Dave Clark Five had charted a dozen hit singles in just 24 months, Epic Records decided it was high time for a compilation album. The Dave Clark Five’s Greatest Hits was issued in early 1966 and soon became their biggest selling LP. This “hits” package contained all their singles to date, except “Come Home” and “Reelin’ and Rockin’.” It also sported liner notes by Gloria Stavers of 16 Magazine.

The DC5’s Greatest Hits sums up the band’s major contributions to the mid-‘60s music scene: It includes 10 great songs from the blistering “Bits and Pieces” to the sensitive “Because,” from the uninhibited “Glad All Over” to the enthusiastic “Over and Over.” Typically, the four songs are less than two minutes long, and none is more than three. The DC5’s ability to produce powerful, succinct singles is well-documented in this fine album.

A new single was also released in early ’66. “At the Scene” was an attempt to recapture the energy, beat, and drive of the “Bits and Pieces” era. And it really does succeed as an energetic rocker with mildly “hip” lyrics (“Everyone who is lonely / I’ve got a place for you / Where the music pla-a-ays… / Till way past 2”). The problem, of course, was that the music world had changed since “Bits and Pieces,” and what may once have been a smash, was simply a solid, but unspectacular, hit in ’66.

“Try Too Hard” followed “At the Scene” in the Spring. With its piano and guitar frills and relatively sophisticated arrangement, “Try Too Hard” sounded more contemporary than its forerunner. It did not, however, set the record charts on fire. The B-side of this single was a three-minute drum and harmonica solo accompanied by vocal screams and moans, suggestively titled “All Night Long.” It may not have been the last word in avant-garde music, but it certainly was not standard DC5 fare either.

Two more singles were issued in the Summer of 1966. Neither the moderately paced rocker, “Look Before You Leap,” nor the ballad “Satisfied,” is noteworthy because it was the first ballad to be released as a single since “Come Home” in early ’65.

Two uninteresting albums were produced during this period. Try Too Hard contained the title hit plus nine other new, but uninspired, originals. Satisfied With You included “Look Before You Leap,” the title song, more originals, and a superfluous version of the Rascals’ “Good Lovin’.” These two LPs indicated that the DC5 had finally ended the habit of placing instrumentals and golden oldies on each album. Following the lead of the Beatles and Stones, the DC5 were increasingly relying on their own writing skills. Unfortunately, the DC5’s songwriting abilities did not match those of their more respected countrymen.

Dave Clark continued to co-write all the group’s original material. Mike Smith was playing less of a role in the musical collaborations, while Lenny Davidson and Denny Payton were becoming more important. None of the various writing teams tried to guide the band in a new direction so this condemned the DC5 to apparent mediocrity in a year of great musical change and experimentation.

The Dave Clark Five’s second “greatest hits” compilation in less than a year emerged as 1966 came to a close. More Greatest Hits contained  two more hits from early ’65 (“Come Home” and “Reelin’ and Rockin’”), as well as four more recent singles (“At the Scene,” “Try Too Hard,” “Satisfied With You,” and “Look Before You Leap”). The quality of this LP could not compare with that of their first “hits” set, and its sales slipped likewise.

By this time, the Dave Clark Five had clearly fallen from the front lines of contemporary rock’n’roll, both creatively and commercially. While they still managed to tour and make television appearances (they appeared on “Ed Sullivan” quite often), their record sales were declining sharply. In a year which witnessed the release of such seminal albums as the Beatles’ Revolver, the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath, and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, DC5 fans had to be content with Try Too Hard and Satisfied With You. Unquestionably, 1966 was a disappointing year for the Dave Clark Five.

At the turn of the year, a new single, “Nineteen Days,” was issued. Neither this rocking single, nor the follow-up LP, 5 X 5, managed to restore the band’s sagging popularity.

You Got What It Takes

Finally, in early 1967, a Dave Clark-Lenny Davidson composition revived the group’s fortunes. “I’ve Got to Have a Reason” had a bit of a “Catch Us If You Can” sound and a catchy chorus. While not exactly a chart-topper, “I’ve Got to…” was the band’s best effort in close to a year.

Then, in the spring of ’67, the DC5 struck pay dirt. “You Got What It Takes” had been a sizable rhythm and blues hit in 1960 for Marv Johnson, an early Berry Gordy discovery. The DC5 remake featured surging horn lines and an effusive Mike Smith vocal. The upfront horn section represented a new direction for the band, while Smith’s vocal was one of his best ever. “You Got What it Takes” gave the DC5’s popularity and record sales a much-needed boost. The vital question fans asked was whether this was a fluke single or an overall resurgence for the band.

The next album was titled, cleverly enough, You Got What it Takes. This proved to be their most convincing 12-incher since the Having a Wild Weekend soundtrack. The new LP included the title song, “I’ve Got to Have a Reason,” and some strong new originals (“Play with Me,” “Dr. Rhythm”). “Tabatha Twitchit” was not a DC5 composition, but their version of the turn was pure contemporary pop. Unfortunately, it was not released as a single in the States.

“You Got What it Takes” did not usher in a new era of chart supremacy for the DC5, though they did manage to score again. Digging back even further into musical antiquity, the group released a single version of “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” the Summer of Love. “Baby…” was a “big” production number with plenty of horns, a brassy lead vocal by Mike Smith, and just a touch of “Winchester Cathedral”-style nostalgia. The flip side of the single, “Man in the Pin Stripe Suit,” is a delightful, Beatle-influenced composition, which features fairly adventurous (for the DC5, anyway) instrumentation (harpsichord) and production.

The final DC5 single to chart in the USA was issued in late ’67; it was called “Everybody Knows.” For trivia buffs, it should be noted that this made the DC5 the only rock act to ever chart with two different songs, each of which possessed the same title. The DC5 closed out their album-making careers with one final American LP, also called Everybody Knows.

Thus, as the year 1967 ended, so did a remarkable chapter in the history of rock’n’roll music. Like 1964, 1967 was a watershed year in rock history. The artists who dominated the mid-‘60s were supplanted by new acts (Cream, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Jefferson Airplane) with a more serious message and a heavier, more contemporary sound.

The Dave Clark Five, evidently, accepted their fate philosophically: the band returned to England, where they continued to record both as the DC5 and Dave Clark and Friends. And though some of these were released in America, none found any real success.

Epic Records did issue two more DC5 albums. The first was a double album of old material called, simply, The Dave Cark Five. Oddly, it contained only a few of the band’s hit singles. The second was released in the Spring of 1975 and titled, appropriately, Glad All Over Again / The Dave Clark Five’s Greatest Hits. This two-record set captures all the exuberance and excitement of the DC5 at their single-making best. It contains all their biggest, most memorable songs (“Glad All Over,” “Bits and Pieces,” “Because,” “Catch Us if You Can,” “You Got What it Takes”), a few obscure gems (“Good Time Woman,” “Forget,” “Here Comes Summer”), and thoughtful liner notes by Ken Barnes.

Interest in and appreciation of the Dave Clark Five has grown somewhat in the past couple of years, largely as a result of the emergence of the New Wave scene. And that seems appropriate, for the Dave Clark Five deserve to be remembered fondly by all those who enjoy driving pop and energetic rock’n’roll.