There’s too much good music out there to stop this pace now, so here’s another review of a recent music revelation!
Featuring one of the overlooked heroes of the power pop genre, this CD from Austrailia’s premeir reissue label Raven Records manages to salvage two mid-period albums from songwriter extraordinaire Dwight Twilley!
So, even though Twilley don’t mind, here goes:
Dwight Twilley – Twilley/Scuba Divers
Thanks to this Raven Records’ reissue, many fans of the oft-maligned subgenre of rock and roll known as power pop are finally seeing their musical dreams come true by having this reissue of one of the genre’s heroes brought back into the light of day from the proverbial dusty vault. Long a hero to people who worship Beatlesque melodies, Dwight Twilley has never really gotten his just due for being an influential icon to many bands of the ’80’s.
Enduring all of the myriad storied, almost cliched rock and roll problems, from record company indifference to flat-out being hustled by one of his labels, no doubt played a huge part in his close-but-no-cigar career. Thankfully, his handful of stellar albums keep his name alive in music circles. These are but two of his exquisite works of musical brilliance his fans keep bothering the labels about. If left to the suits, these two albums would be undoubtedly hidden forever.
And I know what you are going to say – so many worthy artists have the same troubled backstory. All I can say is Twilley’s had it way worse. Let me put it in perspective for you: the only difference between Twilley’s tale and what happened to the group Badfinger is the amount of dead bodies.
After years of neglect, two of Twilley’s most sought-after recordings are finally seeing the light of day after languishing in the dusty record company vaults!
While not worshipped quite as much as his first two albums on Shelter Records, these two albums nonetheless contain some of the most consistent of Twilley’s work and should have been huge if only the labels had put the proper effort into promotion. And, remember: up to the point of these two recordings, Twilley had suffered the kind of career neglect that would have ruined most other recording artists.
Starting his career on Shelter Records, Twilley and his longtime partner in power-pop crime Phil Seymour had a monster hit with the song I’m On Fire. Combining Twilley and Seymour’s two great musical loves, The Beatles and Sun Records-era rockabilly, that song (and more than a few of their other great tunes) benefitted greatly from a curious and ear-pleasing combination of modern pop craft and slapback echo which would both end up being bedrock elements of Twilley’s music.
Along with well-crafted pop songs, of course.
Despite the song’s massive success, problems at the label kept Twilley from following it up and a new album did not arrive until 18 months later! Soon a pattern would emerge: singles would come out and flop due to poor distribution and promotion and albums would finally come out long after these great singles would come and go, scuttling sales and keeping Twilley from getting the breakthrough he deserved.
Eventually, Seymour (who had been a part of Twilley’s musical career since they met in 1967) decided it would be best if the two of them split and followed their own career paths. One could hardly blame Seymour for leaving his friend. Twilley’s name was front and center and the albums weren’t selling anyway, despite scads of great songs and killer hooks.
So, Twilley embarked on his first solo album totally solo, except for his brilliant resident guitar player and band lynchpin Bill Pitcock IV. Pitcock had been an early member of Twilley’s band and decided it was still worth it to keep his scintillating guitar work in the Twilley fold. Even so, for the most part, Twilley was on his own.
Not that you could always tell.
Thanks to Twilley and Seymour stockpiling several hundred songs (it’s true – from the days from the early ’70’s when they called their musical partnership Oister up until they went their seperate ways the two had cranked out pop songs like a machine) the album “Twilley” reaped the benefit of several of these tracks. Once again, if only for a few songs, Seymour and Twilley were reunited and the use of the tracks bridged the sound gap between Twiley’s old band and Twilley solo.
Typically for Twilley’s career, the album tanked even though it sounds fantastic.
Jumping to EMI for Scuba Divers did Twilley little good. Once again, there were problems with the album and it came out in a vastly different form than Twilley originally wanted. While still a nice pop confection, it was Twilley’s weakest album to date. Stalwart guitarist Pitcock was still on board but a lot of the life had been drained out of Twilley by this point. Songs seemed re-hashed and Twilley’s formerly bright energy was absent. He would soon find his groove again with his next album Jungle and last-ever hit “Girls” (featuring fellow former Shelter artist Tom Petty on background vocals) but Scuba Divers sank like a rock.
Although Twilley still manages to put out the occasional album today (including a great live set last year) for the most part his chances at having a big hit single and big selling album are over. Music freaks will forever wonder how a talent such as his met with so many disheartening obstacles when success seemed so close. Whatever the case, we still have Twilley’s music to enjoy, and thanks to these reissues, we have just a little bit more than we had before.
Hopefully the scads and scads of demos Twilley recorded with Seymour (who died in the early ’90’s due to lymphoma) will eventually come out. The real pop genius of Twilley is probably in those long-unheard tracks. Until then, we’ll have to make do with this. We, if not Twilley himself, are the lucky ones.
Lucky indeed, as Twiller DOES keep rolling on, letting these misfortunes roll of his back like rain. One of the genuinely nicest and most upbeat men in rock and roll, Twilley deserves as much success as he can get and hopefully one day will see his contributions to music rightfully honored. Until then, pick up some Twilley and see how power pop should be done.
The Music Nerd Don’t Mind……….