Monday, February 22, 2010

Gary Valentine - The First One

A. The First One

B. Tomorrow Belongs To You

The First One b/w Tomorrow Belongs To You
Beat (001), 1978

Gary Valentine joined Blondie in their early stages at the recommendation of his friend Clem Burke. He even penned their first hit, "X-Offender," but left the group in 1977 following the release of their debut album. Blondie's second LP, Plastic Letters, included another of Gary's songs, "Presence, Dear," though he did not perform on the recording.

After moving to LA, Gary commissioned members of the Mumps to help him record two songs that he had written shortly before leaving Blondie. Paying them in sandwiches, the group recorded two astonishingly perfect power pop songs, "The First One" and "Tomorrow Belongs To You." The single was released on the Beat label in two pressings, both of which came with a lyric insert that I've seen in atleast two different colors of paper.

It should be noted that "The First One" was performed live by the Blondie in the final days before he left the group, though they never did record it in a studio. In the years that followed, Gary's version of the song would be comped numerous times and hailed as a power pop masterpiece.

Shortly after the release of the single, Gary regrouped with Richard D'andrea from The Motels and Joel Turrisi to form The Know. Their song "I Like Girls" was recorded for a Planet Records compilation LP called Sharp Cuts and later released as a single backed with "Out Of Reach" on the same label.

The band divided their time equally between California and New York. But without being able to score a major label deal, The Know finally disbanded after a couple years of constant gigging. Gary went on to play guitar with Iggy Pop's touring band for a couple years and eventually moved to England, while Joel went on to play with 20/20 before trying his hand at acting.

Gary was asked to participate on Blondie's 1997 reunion tour and comeback album, but was ultimately given the boot. In 2006, he was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame as a member of Blondie, but fierce words were exchanged on stage and Debbie Harry refused to allow him to play the induction event, stating former members (including Nigel Harrison and Frank Infante) were not allowed to play in her band (more on that story here).

Valentine is now a full time writer, having recently published a book called New York Rocker, which documented the emerging NYC new wave scene in the mid 70s. He also has numerous books and papers published about the occult and other mystic topics.

Great Buildings - Combat Zone

Combat Zone

Hold On To Something

Combat Zone b/w Hold On To Something
Columbia (11-02008), 1981

This single has two songs taken from Great Buildings' sole LP, Apart From The Crowd. The band features former Quick members Danny Wilde on guitar/vocals and Ian Ainsworth on bass. The band formed in mid-1978 but didn't release this single and their LP until 1981. Despite touring and having major label support, they never received critical acclaim and dissolved a year later. Several years after that, lead guitarist Phil Solem and Wilde started up the Rembrandts and had much success with their #1 hit and Friends theme-song "I'll Be There For You."

Both cuts on this single are great power pop intended for the commercial consumer. You could definitely hear how this is the transition between The Quick and The Rembrandts. My copy has the band's name misspelled on the label as Great Building, singular, on both sides. I've only ever seen other ones as promo copies which feature the same sleeve, but "Hold On" is on both sides and the band name is spelled correctly. A 12" also exists that has these two songs along with "Maybe It's You," which is another cut featured on the band's Apart From The Crowd album.

Last week, after nearly 30 years in the vault, the band's sophomore effort, Extra Epic Everything, was finally released on CD, along with a bonus track originally intended for the first record. Also, Mondo Deco, the monumental Quick LP from 1976 was recently reissued by Radio Heartbeat on vinyl!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Baloney Heads - I'm A Drunk

A. I'm A Drunk

B1. Life's Rough

B2. D.T.'s Reprise

I'm A Drunk b/w Life's Rough/D.T.'s Reprise
O-No (NR-12007), 1980

From the opening warning of "O-No, it's the Baloney Heads!" to the British accents and chantable "I'm a drunk, I'm a drunk" choruses, this Ohio single reigns supreme in the category of dumb punk. In fact, "I'm A Drunk" was comped on Bloodstains Across The Midwest.

On the flip side, "Life's Rough" is a solid punk tune that comes across as a sinister take of "What I Like About You," complete with hand claps. The record closes with "DT's Reprise," a bizarre flange-induced, backwards-sounding, almost psychedelic reworking of the title track.

Although this five-piece from Cleveland received some local airplay on WMMS and were around from 1978 until 1982, they only ever released this one unforgettable single on their own "O-No" record label. They played a reunion show in 1988 to celebrate their 10 year anniversary.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gary Willard And The Characters - Television World

A. Television World

B. That's The Way It Goes

Television World b/w That's The Way It Goes
Habits (NR13417), 1981

Outstanding new-wavy power pop from right outside of Cleveland. Gary Willard and the Characters have a sound very reminiscent of 20/20 with similar song structure, tasteful use of synth, strong back-up vocals, and hook-driven choruses. Yet another "Tube Generation" song (see last week's post from the Kursaals) backed with a tale of doomed romance. Having gone through several carnations of similar personnel along with name changes through the years, the band eventually built a steady following as the Nasty Habits, but opted to release the single under the name Gary Willard and the Characters. As most of their fan base knew them as Nasty Habits, they decided to change it back to the more familiar name shortly after the release of this single. This led to many copies having the name "Gary Willard and the Characters" crossed off the label with a NASTY HABITS stamp over it. Many of these didn't come with a sleeve, seemingly because it had the band's other name printed on it and to avoid further confusion.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kursaal Flyers - Television Generation

Television Generation

KURSAAL FLYERS (Southend-on-Sea, UK)
Television Generation b/w Revolver (Live)
CBS (5771), 1977

The Kursaal Flyers (aka The Kursaals), formed at the tail end of 1973, primarily playing covers as a pub rock band with the likes of Dr. Feelgood and the ilk. After a few releases on the UK Records label (a London Records subsidiary), and having worked more originals into their repertoire, the band had built a following and were signed to CBS in 1976. Their CBS debut was an album entitled 'The Golden Mile,' which was produced by Mike Batt of The Wombles fame.

Under the leadership of Paul Conroy (who later had managerial and presidential roles with labels such as Stiff, Chrysalis, and Virgin UK), the band scored a spot on Top Of The Pops and had a minor hit with "Little Does She Know." Following this, guitarist Graeme Douglas left the band to join Eddie & The Hot Rods. The Kursaals released one more full length, 'Five Live Kursaals' and the "Television Generation" single, which was a far cry from their earlier work. The infectious, stutter-filled power pop classic was comped on an early Epic sampler called 'Permanent Wave' (which I highly recommend picking up). The single was produced by Muff Winwood (brother of Steve and member of Spencer Davis Group, who also produced records for Sparks, Mott The Hoople, Nirvana and many more) and Rhett Davies (who's spectrum of work includes Eno, Talking Heads, B-52s, Wang Chung, King Crimson, and plenty more).

John Wicks joined the group three months before the band dissolved. He and drummer Will Birch became a strong songwriting team who then started a much more successful group called The Records who had hits with "Starry Eyes" and "Teenarama," amongst others. Unfortunately nothing else the Kursaals did compared to the perfection or style of "Television Generation." One form or another of the group is still playing today.