Tag Archives: The Romantics

Almost Romantic

Tell it to Carrie…

Like many cities, mine sponsors a series of events during the Summer season to get people out of their houses and hopefully expose them to the wonders of downtown. Like many cities, there aren’t many wonders downtown, but for two dollars you can enter a section of city pavement boasting a temporary stage and beer tents and catch some music on a Thursday night. Last week I headed out of the office at 6:30 (or as I lately refer to it, lunchtime) to catch The Romantics.

I hadn’t seen the band in years – a short set maybe a decade ago – but when they were in their prime they used to roam the NorthEast club circuit. I’ve seen them in snappy red leather (like the latter-day New York Dolls sans commie flag) and often they’d pair up with local legends The Flashcubes. Met them all at one point, they were nice guys catching a good break and taking advantage of it. In the 80s, when they started to split, Jimmy Marinos formed The Motor City Rockers and they were referred to the management company where I was working. They played a great demo, but despite my pleading, I was outvoted 2-1 and they went elsewhere. Had I realized who Robert Gillespie was at the time, I might have followed them out the door.

Video: “What I Like About You

The band now boasts five members, and while I initially assumed as many as three might be replacement members, I think that drummer Brad Elvis might be the only one with a recent pedigree. Wally Palmar was still up front, Mike Skill (still boasting that mop of hair) stage left, and I’m pretty certain that was indeed both Rich Cole and Coz Canler on guitars. That would mean that the first three guitar players in the band  – all of whom replaced each other in the lineup at some point – were sharing the stage. Naturally one of them now handled bass guitar duties, although for the life or me I don’t understand why a few of the songs featured one guitar and two basses. None of them are John Entwistle, so I can only assume that the five dollar Newcastle drafts blurred the set list. I’d hate to think that they were trying to bring the thunder on purpose.

Things started off swimmingly with a robust “Rock You Up“, classic chunky power chords that make you wonder where you last left the guitar so you can bash it out when you get home. But after another kinetic rocker, Wally told the crowd they were going to take it down for a minute. I know the wandering mass of city workers, mullet heads and bikers might not have been jumping up on stage, but give us credit for the ability to withstand more than seven minutes of upbeat tunes without having to lay down. I started to get the feeling that what was set to be a ninety minute set might have a little padding in it.

They sprinkled the more recognizable songs through the set – “When I Look In Your Eyes“, “Stone Pony“, a majestic “Tell It To Carrie” – but at these gigs the crowd only snaps to attention when the big hit records are played. Fortunately The Romantics have two, so “Talking In Your Sleep” and especially “What I Like About You” got everyone’s attention. Even if that meant a few Bic lighters while daylight was still present plus the bane of any reunion gig – some of the worst no-rhythm soccer mom gyrations ever seen, a sad attempt at dancing. (Lady, there are kids here. Get back in your minivan.)

The band played with energy, and Brad Elvis is a showman as well as a keen timekeeper, but there was something lacking. In fairness, the sound at times was atrocious, and powerpop needs to be crisp and clean (although they extended several songs to remind us they are rockers from Detroit, not pansies). My friends wondered whether a shorter, tighter set might have been better, as momentum was occasionally lacking. The strong finish did include the requisite Kinks cover and audience participation, but as my friend Bill aptly put it, we were neither overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Just…whelmed.

The band is supposed to be working on a new album, and they certainly have the chops to pull it off, plus Palmar’s voice is in fine form. Maybe Jack White or Jim Diamond will work their magic and rekindle this flame? If so, Do Me Any Way You Wanna, guys – I’m on board.

The official Romantics website

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Camping…in Brooklyn?

If it’s Brooklyn, Michigan – damn straight!

The inaugural Michigan Music Fest is going to take place September 17th, and discounted tickets are on sale now. Featuring one of the few performances this year by Jack White (with The Racounteurs, no less), the lineup includes an amazing array of legendary Detroit talent as well as some hot up-and-comers.

And Sheryl Crow, who for some reason is getting all the lead press. Hey, she’s good-looking and very successful, and by all accounts a nice person. But when your festival boasts The Rockets, Mitch Ryder, The Howling Diablos, The Romantics, Alto Reed and Mark Farner, do you really need to lead with that? Unless she’s planning to bring Kid Rock with her, I think this is a bit ass-backwards.

Other bands announced to date include Whitey Morgan and The 78s, Jill Jack, The Juliets, Ty Stone and The Truth; Jack White is poised to bring more acts from his Third Man Records roster.

More than a concert, it’s a full-blown arts festival with food and beverage tents manned by Michigan vendors and an art gallery featuring the work of local artists including Johnny “Bee” Badanjek and the legendary Stanley Mouse, who is designing the events poster. Gates open at noon, the first band is on at 1pm, and the show is slated to end at 11pm. Ten hours of mind-blowing music and an opportunity to see some of the greatest musicians in Detroit history, even if you would rather camp in a hotel.

Big thanks to my Detroit buddy Sue for tipping me to this can’t-miss event.

Get more information here.

Buy Michigan Music Fest tickets.

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Under The Radar: Wes Hollywood

Cities like Athens, Austin and Seattle might have gotten all the notoriety as musical hotbeds but the Illinois/Indiana area was always a great source of powerpop bands. The Wes Hollywood Show was no exception, wrangling guitar oriented pop with a sense of humor and mining that infectious, kinetic beat like Elvis Costello, The Kinks, The Beat and their neighbors from Rockford, Cheap Trick. They wound up issuing four albums under that name; Girls was the one that first caught my attention.

These days if you want to track pop savant Wes, you can find him making great music with his current effort, The Tenniscourts. Of course, that band is a subject for another day.

Here’s a review I wrote about their album The Girls Are Never Ending for Cosmik Debris back in September 2001.

Set the wayback machine back to 1977, Sherman, for The Wes Hollywood Show is waiting there for you. Remember when rock and roll was fun? Before shogazing? Before angst? Skinny tie pop rules again with these guys on their second CD, The Girls Are Never Ending. It’s wall to wall bouncy, power pop harmony, jangly guitar glory.

The opening track, “She’s Gonna Let You Go,” calls to mind the Romantics and early Elvis Costello, while the following track sounds more like The Knack and…uh…early Elvis Costello. That’s no insult – Wes isn’t trying to ape the man, but he does sound a little like him, although crossed with a good dose of John Lennon. In other words, the boy can sing!

The rest of the band are no slouches either. Mark Talent (lead guitar), Patrick Thornbury (bass) and Jason Styx (drums…wait…a drummer named Styx?) are energetic, especially on killer tracks like the Ramones-ish (well, okay, and Costello-ish) “H Bomb.” No doubt you’ll be playing this record over and over again, dancing to “Goodtime Girl,” “Little Miracle” and “Weston-Super-Mare.” And even though you’ll go grab This Year’s Model afterwards, you’d be just as likely to pull “Turning Japanese” and “What I Like About You” out of the rack.

And there’s something wrong with that?

Give it a listen at Amazon right now.

That Year's Model

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Under The Radar: The Sweat

I occasionally refer you to my friends at Power Pop Criminals, Power Pop Overdose and similar sites as they have a knack for putting together some great mix discs (god, I really miss the word mixtape…). There are certainly millions of blogs out there and lord knows I’ll miss many good ones simply for the lack of time. But I do try to pop around every so often and am always astounded when I come across a reference to another solid disc that demands play time right away. So not only was I was glad to see that the Power Pop Lovers blog has decided to reanimate, but thanks to them I came across a little gem from The Sweat, a Belfast band I hadn’t heard about.

The original band (Clive Culbertson: vocals,bass,guitar / Michael Katin: guitar / David Stuart: keyboards /Ricky Bleakley: drums) was called No Sweat, but reportedly was sued by Pete Townshend‘s Eel Pie Records because they alreadyhad a band by the same name. (That’s a pretty common problem, especially for a pretty common band name. Even today when you try to research The Sweat, you might confuse them with these guys…wrong band, although they aren’t too bad either!)

But the pop references that were tossed around were pretty spot on;  if you liked The Jags, The Romantics, Dirty Looks, The Beat and The Records, you’ll find The Sweat right up your alley. Clive Culbertson, Adrian Culbertson, Sean Donaghy, Paul Coates – the current version of The Sweat – continue to kick a little ass today.

Video: “Why Did You Have To Lie?” 

Sure, maybe their sound is a little more polished and reserved than the name check bands, but you can’t deny the great vocals and the hooks in the chorus. I really hear more postNew Wave pop in their sound; bands like The Producers and Great Buildings come to mind. The title song has a whiff of Greg Kihn to it, and tracks like “Please Don’t Say You Love Me” and “I Can’t Hardly Wait” (not the Replacements classic) would slide seamlessly onto any playlist from the time. The production is a little thin and tinny (like many of the commercial pop albums of the early 80s) but the songs are three minute pop nuggets from start to finish.

Check out The Sweat and No More Running for yourself – you probably missed this gem as well.

The Sweat at MySpace

Buy the album from 1977 Records Japan

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Corvette + Gore Girl = Gorevette

Ladies, lock up your sons and husbands.

As if it isn’t great enough that Nikki Corvette and Amy Gore (The Gore Gore Girls) have hooked up to form Gorevette, they just release a new EP (Lustfully Yours), finished a tour with The Donnas and are heading out this summer with Blondie!

From their bio… 1978 saw the birth of Nikki Corvette’s career with the release of the Nikki Corvette and the Convertibles single “Young and Crazy” b/w “Backseat Love” and “Criminal Element”. This was all happening in Detroit during the punk rock explosion, where Nikki would see herself sharing the stage with The Ramones, Johnny Thunders and The Romantics. By 1980 the band name was changed to Nikki and the Corvettes. They would release their legendary debut album on BOMP! Records, an incredible mixture of 60’s style girl group vocals, twangy guitars and teenage pop with plenty of punk rock attitude, with songs about cruising for boys and fun in the sun. The album and band would influence everyone from The Go-Go’s (to go for more of a “pop” sound) all the way to The Donnas (see the lyric “I wanna be like Nikki Corvette” from Gimmie My Radio).

Amy Gore was born in Detroit, Michigan and in 1997 she founded the Gore Gore Girls, the first of few all-female bands of the garage rock genre. Along with other bands such as The White Stripes, The Dirtbombs, The Detroit Cobras and others, the Gore Gore Girls helped establish the modern American garage rock scene of the 1990s in Detroit.

Hear Gorevette on MySpace

Check out this video for “Lustfully Yours”!

Gore Gore Girls website

***

Wait a minute.

Are you telling me that Ann-Margaret, Penelope Cruz, Jessica Alba, Bridget Moynahan and Elisabeth Rohm were all born on the same day? And no one has started planning late July conceptions hoping their daughter would also get the April 27th good looks gene?

And since all five of those ladies are out celebrating tonight…keep those sons and husbands locked up even after the Gorevette video.

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Detroit Rock City

Fewer places have been hit harder by the recession than Detroit in recent years. Maybe you’ve never been there and that statement doesn’t resonate much with you, but when one of America’s greatest cities is fighting to survive, the rest of us need to wake up.

Anyone involved in the music business knows how important Detroit has been to rock’n’roll. The list of giants is staggering, from Motown to Mitch Ryder, from Ted Nugent, Bob Seger and Alice Cooper to The Romantics, The Stooges and The MC5. I could list a hundred artists. Edumucate yerself.

America has turned from a nation of innovators and producers to a nation of consumers. Global conglomerates only exist to groom, maintain and satisfy shareholders, and we’re feeding the beast like never before. Hey, everyone wants a deal, whether it’s on their new car, their mortgage or a pair of pants. But even the most caustic critic of social issues must be aware of the toll that has been taken as corporations squeeze out labor through offshore flash farms and duck financial ethics using creative accounting loopholes.

First it was the farmers unable to sustain businesses that had weathered the toughest of storms – even The Great Depression – thanks to banking maneuvers that we now realize were less than ethical. And the auto industry – the backbone of American manufacturing – is now gasping for air.

So what is the Assembly Line Concert?

Live musical marathon from March 19th through April 1st, to raise awareness of the importance of the Auto Industry and the buying of domestic and locally made goods and services to the creation of jobs in our communities. It is also an attempt to break the Guinness Record we set last year for the longest concert by multiple artists.

This year’s effort is appropriately nicknamed the Second Shift. The Daily Tribune reported that “the concert record set last year brought attention to the cause. …About 200 bands have signed up to play one-hour sets at Assembly Line II. The Guinness Book of World Records clock starts ticking at 5 p.m. and if all goes well, musicians will play continuously for 13 days.”

So tune in and rock! And maybe the next time you’re going to plunk some money down, consider where it’s going before you make that final decision.

Detroit = Rock City

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I Got The Knack

R.I.P. Doug Fieger

R.I.P. Doug Fieger of The Knack.

The best-selling album of 1978 was Saturday Night Fever, the zenith of popularity for guys in satin shirts (open to the waist so that the gold medallions could bounce within the prominent clump of chest hair, of course). Women were no better, focused upon inane dances with said hairy men, hopefully rendered impotent after bathing in strobe lights under satanic mirror balls and shaking what booty they thought they had to beat-pulsing stage lamps flashing primary colors like an amoral heartbeat. Surely the world had gone to Hell in a handbasket, although that handbasket now had a designer name and cost more than a week’s wages.

Sadly, 1979 was no better. Those of us buying Blondie and Ramones and Sex Pistols records could not help but wonder what the hell happened to rock’n’roll, since all the attention and the money and the shelf-rack space in the record stores – our record stores, dammit! – were being glommed by Donna Summer and Chic and Andy Gibb. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, this simplest of rock songs, this most basic beat, blasted its way to the top of the charts like a lung full of oxygen in a coal mine…”My Sharona“.

Video: “My Sharona

No, it wasn’t the best pop song ever written and The Knack were certainly not The Beatles despite the great pains the Capitol Records marketing department went through (the black and white cover photo and the Meet The Beatles cadence of the title Get The Knack). Nor did the bizarre decision to not do any interviews play out well; what initially inspired mystery in a band holding the Number One Single hostage for six weeks soon turned into resentment and an attitude of animosity towards four guys who were just trying to sell pop music.

But “My Sharona” did serve notice to the industry that despite disco and punk and prog and that god-awful corporate rock that Columbia Records kept spewing out its sewage pipe, there was an audience for what we refer to as powerpop music. Good melody. Great hook. Big beat. Maybe it wouldn’t dominate the charts like it did in the 60s, but when given a chance, people respond to it. Sure, you might gloss a sheen of hair metal over it, maybe even countrify it, but at its core a great pop song is a great pop song.

Of course The Knack didn’t last long; maybe these things aren’t supposed to, although their next couple of albums weren’t bad. One knock on the group was that the girls being sung about might be a tad on the younger side, which could explain the occasional leering expressions from the band members. (I’m not certain where these prudential critics were when Gary Puckett and The Union Gap were prowling school yards in the 60’s in military gear, but so be it.) In subsequnet years The Knack would occasionally reform sans retired drummer Bruce Gary (who passed in 2006) with ringers like Terry Bozzio standing in alongside Fieger, guitarist Berton Averre and bassist Prescott Niles.

The Knack will never have the cred that Big Star or Badfinger or even The Romantics have earned, but “My Sharona“, the biggest pop single of 1979, was the right song at the right time. Thanks, Doug (and co-writer Averre), for that lifeboat you dropped into The Sea of Disco. Rest in peace.

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And R.I.P.  Dale Hawkins, the rock and roll tornado

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