Segarini: The Story of The Segarini Band – Chapter Three

Chapter Two can be found HERE

The plot, like good gravy, thickens…

So where were we? Oh yeah…The band is complete, A&M have bailed out, I no longer have Rita Coolidge or Graham Nash’s, or anybody else’s phone numbers, (my phone book, clothes, smokes, and everything else I had with me had been stolen in Detroit when I went there to produce The Romantics), which is why I never called anyone I had met prior to 1978 ever again,

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Phase One, the studio where we had been recording what was to become Gotta Have Pop, has informed me that I can pick up my tapes, which A&M has so graciously let me have, I have been entrusted with finding distribution or a label for The Romantics EP that Greg Shaw sent me to Detroit to produce, and I am half way through recording an album that I cannot finish until I find another label for The Segarini Band, which is now set to be a six piece group with Mark Bronson on drums, Phil Angers on bass, Mike St. Denis on lead guitar, Peter Kashur on 2nd guitar, Drew Winters on keyboard, and me playing my standard chukka-chuka-chuka rhythm and cracking wise between tunes. A band that will be stillborn unless I solve a series of conundrums, wrapped in a puzzle, hidden in a riddle, bound in a query, enigmatically spirited away and hidden in a tree…by squirrels…probably.

In other words, my dear Watson…

The game is afoot.

=0=

As soon as I’m done with this, I’m going to make sure Michael Bolton never makes another record…and it looks like I succeeded.

There have been times in my life when challenges were welcome. Obstacles that would make lesser men quit or turn back, insurmountable odds that would render most men impotent and unable to overcome the Walls of Negativity, the Locked Doors of Oppression, or the Bureaucracy of Fools, I relished those battles, and engaged in them head on. I would face these problems and cut them down like a 3 year old with a nail gun.

This was one of those times.

Armed with an album that needed finishing, a band that would be ready to play live soon, and a great EP by a band many of us thought could be the linchpin of a great new ‘wave’ of pop music…and even though the Canadian majors had shunned the Romantics tracks, I knew that one of the new, upstart Indies would hear what Shaw, Mackowycz, and I had heard, and leap at the chance to release their EP.

I wanted to get another major label to finish and release Gotta Have Pop, after all, how hard could it be. I had been on RCA, Elektra and CBS in the states, and A&M in Canada. Surely, it wouldn’t, couldn’t be that difficult to sign with another powerhouse. Toronto radio had played my EP, the press and disk jockeys had rallied around and I had done numerous interviews both in print and on the radio…I wasn’t worried about getting another deal, I had the impetus, the tools, and the determination and confidence of a drunk frat boy in a strip club, to get everything on track.

Of course, I also believed that, if given the opportunity, I could nail Kim Bassinger, and Tuesday Weld.

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“Vot else do you haff dere, Bob…Vass is DOT?”

When I go to pick up the tapes from Phase One, I realize I can’t carry reels of 2 inch tape around with me all day, so I ask them to keep everything in the lock-up and I just grab a 7 inch reel of the rough mixes to take with me to listen to when I get home.

With the Romantics tape and the roughs of Gotta Have Pop  under my arm, I made my first stop, a funky warehouse that was the home of a record import business known as PJ Imports. Maybe someone out there remembers what the PJ stood for, but I don’t.

I walked through rows and rows of shelves full of LP’s and picture sleeve 45’s. Shiny British, German, and Japanese releases of well known albums, but with different covers and sometimes different songs, lined the walls and were stacked high everywhere. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Spanish cover of Goat’s Head Soup, or a German boxed set of Buddy Holly albums and rarities, or the fold out British cover of Electric Ladyland.

The more I noticed, the slower I walked, until I stood in an aisle, looking through records by bands I’d never heard of. I had to have some of this stuff…

Just about then, a guy about my age and height with a little more girth, and the kind of hair that is best described as ‘wispy’, or ‘baby hair’, came up to me and, after watching me for a minute, cleared his throat and said, “Can I help you?”, with an accent right out of Hogan’s Heroes. I looked at him through glazed over eyes. I wanted to spend the next 2 weeks camping in here, going through all these albums.

“Uh…maybe. I have an appointment to see Wolfgang Spegg about a band called The Romantics”.

“Ah yes!” Zat vould be me, undt you must be Bob!”

He appeared to be very jolly.

A big grin and a hearty handshake later, we are sitting in his tiny office at the back of the warehouse.

“Vell, let’s hear zeez Romantics”, he says, his wispy blonde hair falling over one eye and causing a cold chill to race up my spine. I’m wondering who his dad is…or was.

“Yeah, okay”, says I, and hands him the tape.

Wolf threads it onto a brand new beautiful Revox tape deck, the first one I have ever seen, and cranks up the sound system.

He plays the tape all the way through, actually listening to the songs. Well, that’s interesting, I think, being used to record execs listening to 30 seconds of a track before moving onto the next one. This guy is alright.

After the last tune, he rewinds the tape and hands it back to me.

“It’s good”, he states, and continues, “Let me think about it”.

I spend the next 10 minutes telling him how good the band is live, how cool they look, how much the audience responds to them, and all the while he listened, leaning back in his swivel chair, fingers laced together, nodding as I spoke, and clearly taking in every word. I am even more impressed. Between his obvious enjoyment of music and his easy manner and ability to make you feel like he is really paying attention to you, I keep thinking about how cool it would be to be able to ransack this place and cart off an armload of those wonderful imported records in the warehouse. I shake off the urge to knock him unconscious and pillage the place. That would just be wrong.

I thank him for his time and he asks me to leave the tape, and tells me to call him in a few days. I shake his hand, pick up the Gotta Have Pop tape, and turn to leave.

“Vot else do you haff dere, Bob…Vass is DOT?”, he says, pointing to the tape box in my hand.

“Oh, just some rough mixes of an album I’m working on”, not wanting to discuss my major label calling card, “nothing’s done yet.”

“Could you leef zat vit me too?”, he says, holding out his upturned palm.

“Uhh, sure, but I’ll need it back in a couple of days…I have some meetings next week.” He scoops the box out of my hand and puts it on his desk, shakes my hand again, and walks me to the door.

“It vas nice talking mit you. don’t forget to call”, and with that, turned back to his office, walked in, and shut the door.

I click my heels together, salute the door, and begin to goose-step out of the warehouse.

As I’m marching through the aisles, I hear a voice behind me.

“Oh yes, I see you’ve met Wolfgang.”

I wheel around and see a thin man carrying an armload of albums, punk albums from England. In a lilting, South London accent that reminds me of an upper class character from a Monty Python sketch, the voice continues…

“ Hello, I’m Wolfgang’s partner, Phil Lubman. Were you here about Bomb?”

Bomb?”, I ask.

“Yes. Bomb”, says Lord Album Boy.

“What’s Bomb?”

“Why, it’s our new record label!”.

Bomb? What a stupid fucking name for a record company.

=0=

Delusional (dĭ-lōō’zhənull): 1. An act or instance of being deluding. 2. The state of being deluded. 3. A false belief or opinion, i.e: delusions of grandeur. 4. Me…

I remember walking out of PJ Imports thinking that their new label would call me when I got home and tell me that they wanted to release the Romantics EP as soon as possible, and were going to pay me, (and Greg Shaw), oodles of moolah for the privilege. Now all I had to do was get one of the Major Labels to pony up the money to finish Gotta Have Pop, and put their hit making machinery behind it so I could finally get that Ferrari Mansion Pool I’ve always wanted. I mean, really…how hard could it be? After all, I had had records released on RCA, A&M, Elektra, and CBS, and glowing reviews in Rolling Stone, Creem, Phonograph Record Magazine, hell, even Hit Parader and Circus, and I was getting calls from the radio stations to come and be interviewed, play my A&M EP, and even play other records I liked.

Golly Jeepers! Show business is AWESOME!!!

=0=

Did I mention how delusional I was?

Okay, so maybe this would be a little more difficult than I had originally anticipated. After dropping off copies of the Gotta Have Pop tapes to all the major label offices, I sat around for a week or so waiting for the phone to ring. The phone did ring quite a bit, but it wasn’t the labels calling. Mostly it was my mother calling to talk to Cheryl about the baby. My Mom and Amy

The band continued to wait patiently until we could get back into the studio, and we spent time making plans, having the odd ‘rehearsal’, and plotting world domination, a long time tradition amongst rock bands, and the leading cause of break-ups a year or so later when no one has married a movie star, won a Grammy, or topped the charts a couple of times. Most bands were lucky to get steady work, and a few individuals rose to be on a first name basis with the local cops, or the cute nurse at the nearest rehab center. I was perplexed, but not worried, surely at least one of the labels would call soon.

My optimism was always limitless. It still is…most of the time.

Enough of this…I grow weary of drawing this out any longer.

Here’s what happened:

Segarini gets a label and an album: The Cliff Notes version…

  1. The phone rings. It is Wolfgang Spegg saying Bomb wants to sign the Segarini Band, and would we please go back into the studio and finish the record.
  2. Everyone except Drew, (who hasn’t moved to Toronto yet), goes back into Phase One and we complete the vast majority of Gotta Have Pop.
  3. Jack and Coke and Beer and Pot, Jack and Coke and Beer and Pot, Jack and Coke and Beer and Pot…the album’s almost finished.
  4. There is one more song to record before I start the mix. On my birthday, August 28th, 1978, Drew takes the train from Montreal to Toronto and officially joins the group.
  5. The complete band goes into the studio and records the last track for the record, Love Story.
  1. Jack and Coke and Beer and Pot, Jack and Coke and Beer and Pot, Jack and Coke and Beer and Pot…the album is ready to mix.
  2. Jack and Coke and Beer and Pot, Jack and Coke and Beer and Pot, Jack and Coke and Beer and Pot…the album is mixed.
  3. Wolfgang, true to his word, sets a quick release date for the album. The band is ready to go.
  4. Rodney Bowes shoots the album cover, I write the liner notes, respected comic book artist, Ken Stacey draws amazing illustrations for ‘Steady Eddie’, and ‘Don’t Believe a Word I Say’.

The record is pressed on pink/blue/bubblegum vinyl, and Wolf sends out an invitation. Bomb Records is doing everything right.

This time, it’s personal…

Over a year after the work on Gotta Have Pop was started, it is a reality. Another album. Wow. Let’s see, The Family Tree, one with Roxy, 4 with the Wackers, (with 3 of them released), 1 with All the Young Dudes, and now this one. That makes 8 albums and an EP in 10 years, not to mention guest appearances on other records. Not bad for a middle class kid from Stockton, California that should have been a grocer.

This album was different from all the others, though.

My name was on it.

You can always reinvent yourself if a project fails and you are part of a group, but when the group has your name, well…there is an added amount of pressure to deliver the goods musically.

Fueled by that realization, I worked my ass off writing songs I thought were of merit, and finally recorded previously written songs I had believed in that previous labels hadn’t. The song Gotta Have Pop had been written and recorded for a second Dudes album, but rejected by CBS in the States. The Segarini Band re-recorded an almost identical version, and this time, it was going to see the light of day. It was pretty exciting. For once, I was with a label that heard what I heard, liked what I liked, and trusted us enough to concentrate on the business end of breaking a record while leaving the music itself to us. It was empowering, but at times, the pressure was overpowering. By the time the record was pressed, however, we all pretty much agreed that we could not have made it any better. Even today, over 30 years later, it still sounds fresh.

Shew says we did a week of warm-up dates at a dive called Duffy’s in Hamilton, and he’s probably right about that. The first real ‘show’ was our album release party the day before Halloween in October of 1978. Eleven days later, on November 10th, 1978, we played before an invited audience of media and contest winners from Q107 for a live broadcast from Thunder Sound which Wolfgang let us record, and eventually became the band’s 3rd album. I personally numbered and signed 2000 of them in my dining room as giveaways, which eventually became part of the overall release after Goodbye L.A. Even by today’s Indie Label standards, Bomb was Uber cool to do all the great things they did for us.

=0=

We’re gonna party like it’s 1978…

Back in ’78, one of the hippest things you could do was have an album release party. It was the providence of Major Labels until the advent of the Punk and New Wave scenes, when even the tiniest label could muster up a great party with at least free beer and some salty snacks. They were actual ‘parties’ where people dug the music, got plowed, danced, and had a great time. It wasn’t an excuse to network, be seen, or make new friends, although a lot of people did. Mostly, it was the bands friends, fans, and record company, and if you were lucky, a couple of folks from the press and maybe an already established artist or two who liked your music and showed up to be supportive.

Wolfgang went all out for ours.

We decided on a ‘50’s theme because so much of the music on Gotta Have Pop was conceived as singles. Songs that stood alone, were short, hooky, and sounded like they belonged on the radio. I tried to take the best material I had written, no two songs sounding alike, and create almost a ‘compilation’ album of hit singles from an alternative universe. I embraced my influences, old and new, and ran the gamut from doo-wop and Elvis, through the British Invasion, R&B, and singer songwriters like Paul Simon and Randy Newman, and blessed with a band of absolutely wonderful musicians, make a record that sounded like the songs were already hits. I don’t know if we nailed it, but we gave it our best shot, and everybody busted their asses to make it something special. This is not to say the songs were contrived or had been constructed from some formula. They were all from the heart, and basically evolved into what you hear because we always asked ourselves what would fit the song. My theory has always been that the song is the star, so if it didn’t call for a solo, we didn’t put one in, if a harmony part would take the song up a notch, we sang one, and if it needed a texture change or something new to draw attention to the lyric, we searched for it. It was a labour of love, like all recording should be, only, for the first time, this one didn’t have a producer with an agenda, a label that wanted to mold us into something we weren’t, or a giant fucking clown on the cover or 6 guys in suits dancing on a HUGE art deco piano.

This was as good, and as honest, as we could make it. Period.

Our stage show would evolve the same way. Little things that would happen spontaneously would find themselves a part of future performances. Songs that we had recorded would take on different grooves or musical improvisation depending on the night and our mood. Nothing was written in stone except for one thing:

Play as good as you can, and have fun doing it. If we were having fun, so would the audience, a rule that still holds true.

Sometimes that attitude would lead to train wrecks, but we discovered it also made people want to come and see us again and again and again.

They wanted to see what would happen next. For almost 2 years, we never saw an empty seat at one of our shows.

=0=

So we ate burgers and hot dogs and fries and onion rings, egg creams and milkshakes as well as liquor and beer.

Wolf had Gotta Have Pop glasses made up and served all the drinks in them, and you could take one home with you. The club was packed and everybody seemed to have a great time. Bomb had rented a club for the occasion, and everyone liked it so much, he leased it and brought in an old friend of mine from Buffalo New York, Gary Sperrazza, to run the place. Sperrazza had been a big fan and supporter of The Wackers and All the Young Dudes, and had written about us in lots of magazines, and continued to help the band gain it’s footing in Toronto. We had the best support team you could ask for. Colleen Irwin, Dave “Big Daddy” Booth, a young guy named Kim who died suddenly and tragically at a very young age, and Rodney Bowes and Dave Cousins, who did our album covers and artwork.

The release party was a big success, and so was the live broadcast 11 days later.

We were on our way.

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Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

One Response to “Segarini: The Story of The Segarini Band – Chapter Three”

  1. ….yep, duffy’s one week; band fee for one week, ‘after bar tab’, $0,000.05…..

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