Early 80s Cincinnati Power Ballad

If it’s true that Aerosmith invented the “power ballad” in 1973 with their prom-rock classic, “Dream On,” then let history take note that Cincinnati teen rockers – Max & the Bluegills – would enter a sound studio 8 years later to record their own aching power ballad about unrequited love’s endless torment.

Birthday cakeZero to 180 would thus like to celebrate its 3rd birthday in nepotistic (and bittersweet) fashion with what proved to be the swansong of its founder’s high school rock group:

Pssst!  Click on the link above to play “I Think I Love You” by Max & the Bluegills from 1981

Guitar & vocals:  Michael Andrew Frank
2nd guitar & piano:  Rick Mosher
Drums:  Keith Bortz
Bass:  Chris Richardson

I Think I Love You” is a personal plea written just a couple short years before the singer’s departure to Boston’s Berklee School of Music, where his art would explode into a dazzling multitude of vectors (as celebrated in this Zero to 180 piece from July, 2015).

Michael (left) Sharing Vocals with David Stallings

Art shot of Michael & DavidBy this point, the band (whose name had been shortened to simply The Max to save time) would find its original power trio – Michael Frank, Keith Bortz & Chris Richardson – augmented by second guitarist, Rick Mosher.  But alas, 1981 would see Bortz and Mosher take their final high school.exam — and the band their final bow by year’s end.

(Clockwise from left) Keith Bortz, Mike Frank, Rick Mosher, Chris Richardson

Link to encore Max and the Bluegills piece!

Zero to 180 Milestones to Date

  • Inaugural Zero to 180 post that establishes a bona fide cross-cultural link between Cincinnati (via James Brown‘s music recorded and distributed by King Records) and Kingston, Jamaica (i.e., Prince Buster‘s rocksteady salute to Soul Brother Number One).
  • 1st anniversary piece that features an exclusive “Howard Dean” remix of a delightful Sesame Street song about anger management (with a special rant about how WordPress’s peculiarities made me homicidal the moment I launched this blog).
  • 2nd anniversary piece that refuses to acknowledge the milestone but instead celebrates the under-sung legacy of songwriter and session musician, Joe South – with a link to South’s first 45, a novelty tune that playfully laments Texas’s change in status as the nation’s largest state upon Alaska’s entry into the Union.

“Stand by the Door”: 1972 UK Power Ballad

It’s too bad the term “power ballad” has ruined it for power ballads, but as power ballads go, this one is a winner:

“Stand By the Door”     Audience     1972

Such an obvious anthem — with that early glam sound (courtesy of London’s Trident Studios).    Q:  So how come I only just now become aware of this song?

Stand by the Door 45

Stand by the Door” served as the band’s fourth and final single (and album kick-off track) before Audience called it quits.  Their swansong, Lunch – which snuck in the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 200 album chart (#175) – would have remained unfinished had it not been for the critical assistance of the two horn players from Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen (and the Rolling Stones) – Jim Price and Bobby Keys – as well as Nick Judd on piano.

Lunch was the second of two productions by Gus Dudgeon, producer most notable for “She’s Not There” by The Zombies (1964), “Space Oddity” by David Bowie (1969), John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Ten Years After, Bonzo Dog Band, Michael Chapman, and – most famously – Elton John.

Howard Werth:   Vocals/Acoustic Guitar

Trevor Williams: Bass/Backing Vocals

Tony Connor:      Drums/Backing Vocals

Keith Gemmel:   Tenor Sax

Nick Judd:           Piano

Bobby Keys:       Tenor Sax

Jim Price:            Trombone/Trumpet

Audience - Lunch LP

(cover by Hipgnosis & George hardie)


Did Viacom Ever Fork Over the Dough?

Intrigued to learn that tenor saxman, Keith Gemmel, would next join forces with Stackridge, whose 1971 debut single, “Dora the Female Explorer,” may well have, indeed, inspired a similarly-named Nickelodeon TV show.