The A's

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1978-81)

- Terry Bortman -- bass

- Richard Bush -- vocals

- Rick DiFonzo -- lead guitar

- Rocco Notte -- keyboards

- Mikey Snyder -- drums, percussion




- Clutch Cargo (Rocco Notte) 

- Rick DiFonzo (solo efforts)

- New Earth Trio (Rocco Notte)

- The Peace Creeps (Richard Bush)



Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stats)

Title:  The A's

Company: Arista

Catalog: AB 4238

Year: 1979

Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo copy, cut lower right corner; original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2407

Price: $10.00

Formed in 1978, Philadelphia's The A's featured the talents of bassist Terry Bortman, singer Richard Bush, lead guitarist Rick DiFonzo, keyboardist Rocco Notte, and drummer Mikey Snyder.  The band's live shows quickly garnered them a loyal local following (you can still find a slew of fawning on-line reviews from folks who saw the band's early shows).  That in turn captured the attention of Clive Davis' Arista label which was on the lookout for new wave talent.  While The A's weren't really a new wave act, they were close enough for Arista management which quickly signed them to a recording contract.   They were quickly teamed with producer Rick Chertoff  going into New York's The Record Plant Studios to record 1979's "The A's".   


So leave it to a city like Philadelphia to spawn a bunch of guys who thought they were punks, but had a repertoire full of songs that were creative, lyrically intriguing, funny, and highly commercial.  Judging by the leather jacket drenched album cover, Bush (the only one member not wearing Ramones-styled leather) and company seemingly thought they were channeling English new-wave bands like The Boomtown Rats, or The Undertones (I know they were Irish), but the fact of the matter is The A's were really a first rate power-pop band.  Yeah, there wasn't a great deal of originality spread across these ten original numbers, but propelled by Bush's tawny, raw voice tracks like 'After Last Night', 'Teenage Jerk Off' and 'Grounded' had far more energy and enthusiasm than virtually all of the competition - imagine The Hooters with a new-wave edge, or a more urbane, jittery version of The Dwight Twilley Band, or a tougher version of The Cars and you'd have some idea of what to expect.   


"The A's" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) After Last Night   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 4:11    rating: **** stars

Simply one of their best performances, 'After Last Night' had it all - fantastic melody, hysterical lyrics, great vocal from Richard Bush, and a killer solo from guitarist DiFonzo.  For goodness sake, they almost out-Cars Ric Ocasek and company.  Easy to see why the song was tapped as the lead-off single.  


- 1979's 'After Last Night' b/w 'Teenage Jerk Off' (Arista catalog number AS 0452)  

2.) C.I.A.   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 4:03    rating: *** stars

I guess due to the prominent Melodica (think that's what it was), 'C.I.A.' has always reminded me a bit of a jittery, new-wave-ish version of The Hooters.  I'm normally not a big new wave fan, but this was an exception to the rule.  

3.) 5 Minutes In a Hero's Life   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 3:28     rating: *** stars

Opening up with some nice DiFonzo guitar, '5 Minutes In a Hero's Life' found the band dipping their collective toes into a slightly more punk-oriented direction (well, at least until the catchy chorus kicked in).   

4.) Words   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 3;20     rating: ** stars

The first disappointment, 'Words' found the band trying to do too much with too little - apparently meant to be one of the more commercial sides (it was released as the second single), 'Words' was simply dull and forgettable.  


- 1979's 'Words' b/w 'Parasite (Arista catalog number AS 0472)    

5.) Parasite   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 4:35    rating: **** stars

With a taunt, organ-powered edge, 'Parasite' has always reminded me a bit of a good Greg Kihn Band effort.  Always loved the chanting background vocals. 


(side 2)

1.) Artificial Love   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 2:39     rating: *** stars

Even though it started out with Bush seemingly doing his best Rocky impersonation, 'Artificial Love' turned into a bouncy, Farfisa organ powered track just waiting for a crowd to pogo to it ...   

2.) Who's Gonna Save the World   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 2:39     rating: **** stars

'Who's Gonna Save the World' was another rocker with a strong melody and some great fret work from Di Fonzo.    For anyone interested, YouTube has a clip o the band performing the song in Sigma Studios for the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test television show.  The accompanying interview between a clueless BBC employee and a seemingly stoned Bush was  hysterical.  Sample question:  "What do you want to do next ?"  Response: "Go home."  

3.) Teenage Jerk Off   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 3:09     rating: **** stars

Just in case anyone thought they were pompous blow hards, 'Teenage Jerk Off'' underscored their we're-just-normal-juvenile delinquents status.  The song was actually a riot.  

3.) Grounded / Twist and Shout Interpolation   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) (Bert Russell - Phil Medley) - 2:34     rating: *** stars

Not so much a medley of the two tunes, their rendition of 'Grounded / Twist and Shout Interpolation' basically took he rock classic and gave it a set of lyrics every parent could identify with.  

5.) Nothing Wrong with Falling In Love   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 5:00     rating: **** stars

With another strong melody and some great backing vocals, 'Nothing Wrong with Falling In Love' was probably the album's most mainstream and commercial track.  Should've been tapped as a single ....  





For hardcore fans, there's also a three song, 45 rpm, red vinyl EP featuring 'After Last Night', 'Who's Gonna Save the World' b/w 'C.I.A.' (Arista catalog number CP-705)


Sadly, in spite of critical praise, the album did little commercially and today it's surprisingly hard to find a copy.







Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stats)

Title:  A Woman's Got the Power

Company: Arista

Catalog: 19554-1

Year: 1981

Country/State Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: small cut out notch in spine

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4166

Price: $8.00


Ahh!  I'm always a pushover for quality power pop and Philly's The A's were briefly prime purveyors of the genre.


Anyone having heard this Philadelphia-based outfit's self-titled debut was going to wonder what happened to them in preparing for the release of 1981's "A Woman's Got the Power".  Well, the answer is that their label apparently pushed them to become more commercial.  Produced by Rick Chertoff  (The Motors' Nick Garvey handling three tracks), most of the debut's new wave edge was gone this time around - 'Insomnia' standing as one of the few exceptions.  In its place tracks like 'When the Rebel Comes Home' and 'Heart of America'' found  the band explored a more pop-orientated approach that occasionally recalled fellow Philly band The Hooters.  That comparison may have been more than a mere coincidence since  producer Chertoff had worked with The Hooters.  Individually the ten songs were all pretty good, with the title track, 'Electricity' and 'I Pretend She's You' providing the standout efforts.   Elsewhere, 'Little Mistakes' was a worthy addition to the "death rock" genre.  Commercially the set faltered at # 146, effectively ending their relationship with Arista Records.  


"A Woman's Got the Power" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) A Woman's Got the Power   (Richard Bush - Rocco Notte) - 4:43   rating: **** stars

With an epic, blue-collar feeling, the title track's always reminded me of a Bruce Springsteen tune - the linkage might have something to do with the fact The A's opened for Springsteen on a couple of his dates on his tour for "The River".   The might also explain why it was tapped as a single:

  7" format

- 1979's 'A Woman's Got The Power' b/w 'Heart Of America' (Arista catalog number AS 0609) 

  12" format

- 1979's 'A Woman's Got The Power' b/w 'Heart Of America' (Arista catalog number SP 107)

Neither the video or sound are great, but YouTube has a 1982 performance of the song at: 

2.) Electricity   (Richard Bush - Rocco Notte) - 3:40   rating: **** stars

Surprisingly sophisticated and touching ballad from these guys ...  Probably should have been a single.  Unfortunately Clive Davis and Arista had lost all interest in the band by this time.

3.) Heart of America   (Richard Bush - Rocco Notte) - 4:10    rating: *** stars

When did I put this Hooters album on?    I mean I like The Hooters, but The A's even nicked the Americana banjo touches.   

4.) How Do You Live with a Broken Hear   (Richard Bush - Rocco Notte) - 3:51   rating: ** stars

Way too polished and mainstream, 'How Do You Live with a Broken Heart' was an example of the band losing their way.   Bush sounded almost desperate to have a hit on this one, even though the song was corporately bland.   

5.) When the Rebel Comes Home   (Tom Jans) - 3:48    rating: *** stars

If you believe the story, Arista President Clive Davis decided he was going to help The A's score a hit.  Unimpressive with their original material, he handed them Tom Jans' 'When the Rebel Comes Home'.   The problem was the band hated the song, but didn't dare antagonize Davis and so grudgingly agreed to record it.   Other than sounding like another Hooters tune, there wasn't anything really wrong with their version, but at least to my ears they just didn't seem that into the tune.


(side 2)

1.) Johnny Silent   (Richard Bush - Rocco Notte) - 3:49      rating: *** stars

Well, 'Johnny Silent' at least hinted at their earlier new wave roots and I've always liked the backing vocals.

2.) Little Mistakes   (Richard Bush - Rocco Notte) - 5:32    rating: ** stars

As mentioned, 'Little Mistakes' was a nice addition to the "death rock" genre.   Other than that I can't think of much to say about the song.

3.) Working Man   (Richard Bush - Rocco Notte) - 2:45     rating: *** stars

The synthesizer opening has always reminded me of The Hooters ...  actually the entire performance reminds me of The Hooters.

4.) I Pretend She's You   (Richard Bush - Rocco Notte) - 3:37   rating: **** stars

Probably the album's best hook and one of the album's standout performances.   Always loved Rocco Notte's harpsichord-styled keyboards and Rick DiFonzo's sterling guitar solo.

5.) Insomnia    (Richard Bush - Rocco Notte) - 4:44   rating: **** stars

Jittery, jumpy, and slightly ominous, 'Insomnia' sounded very much like something off the debut album.  One of the best tunes on the album.




Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Four Dances

Company: Straight A's

Catalog: 5A008

Year: 1982

Country/StatePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut top right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2404

Price: $35.00


Dropped by Arista Records, 1982's "Four Dances" was a self-financed, four track, 45 rpm  EP.   Co-produced by William Whittman and the band, I guess you could call this their last creative gasp.   If so, about all I can say is they went out with a bang.   Three of the four tracks were killers.  Shame it didn't get them another big label contract.


"Four Dances" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Do the Dance   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 4:16   rating: **** stars

The first minute of the song was ... well dull, kind of reminding me of a Journey ballad.  And then the refrain kicked in and the song became irresistible.   How'd they pull that off ?  How did radio not latch on to this one ?   Not nearly as good as the studio version, but YouTube has a 1982 live performance of the tune at:    rating: **** stars

2.) Painting By Numbers   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 4:51

Who would have expected to hear a sweet, almost blue-eye soul number ?   Add in Rick DiFonzo's sweet lead guitar solo and Rocco Notte's cheesy synthesizers and this was simply wonderful.  Neither the sound or video quality are that great, but YouTube has a November, 2007 reunion performance of the tune: 


(side 2)

1.) Ain't No Secret   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 5:27   rating: **** stars

Philadelphia funky ..  Great tune to hear what a fantastic drummer Mikey Snyder was.   The track also gave guitarist Rick DiFonzo and keyboardist Rocco Notte a chance to play a bit of freak-out jam session the end of the tune.

2.) Girl That I Love   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 2:22   rating: *** stars

The song that came closest to recalling their earlier new-wave/pop catalog.   Catchy, but the weakest of the four songs.



After the band broke up the members scattered.  Bush and Notte briefly played together in The Candles.  


DiFonzo went on to enjoy a career as an in-demand sessions player and touring guitarist including  supporting Roger Waters as a member of The Bleeding Hearts Band (he's on "The Wall" video). He's recorded some solo material and has a web presence at:


Notte has a website at:


Snyder seemingly became an elementary school math and music teacher - kudos to him.