A's, The


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: minor edge wear; includes original lyric inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6380

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 cleverly-titled "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.   

 

- 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 Ocasik and company.  Easy to see why the song was tapped as the lead-off single.  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.  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).   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.   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.   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 ...   rating: *** stars

- 'Who's Gonna Save the World' was another rocker with a strong melody and some great fret work from Di Fonzo.  rating: **** stars  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."   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnSFcNYuSjc

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

 

As mentioned above the album was tapped for a pair of singles:

 

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

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

 

 

 

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.

 

"The A's" track listing:

(side 1)

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

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

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

4.) Words   (Rocco Notte - Richard Bush) - 3;20

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

 

(side 2)

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

DiFonzo went on to enjoy a career as an in-demand sessions player and touring guitarist.  He's recorded some solo material and has a web presence at:

http://rickdifonzo.com/presskit.htm

 

Notte has a website at:

http://www.mbcdesignsweb.com/RoccoNotte/index.html

 

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

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stats)

Title:  A Woman's Got the Power

Company: Arista

Catalog: 19554-1

Year: 1981

Country/State

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 is 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 is gone ("Insomnia" standing as one of the few exceptions).  In its place the band explores a pop-orientated approach that occasionally recalls fellow Philly band The Hooters (whom producer Chertoff also worked with).  Individually the ten tracks are all pretty good, with the title track, "Electricity" and "I Pretend She's You" providing the standout efforts.   Elsewhere, "Little Mistakes" is a worthy addition to the "death rock" genre.  Commercially the set faltered at # 146, effectively ending their relationship with Arista Records.  For completists, Arista pulled the title track b/w "Heart of America" as a single (Arista catalog number AS-0609).

 

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

(side 1)

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

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

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

4.) How Do You Live   (Richard Bush - Rocco Notte) - 3:51

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

 

(side 2)

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

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

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

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

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

 

After the band broke up the members scattered.  Bush and Notte briefly played together in The Candles.  Di Fonzo ended up supporting Roger Waters as a member of The Bleeding Hearts band (he's on "The Wall" video).

 

 

In 1981, the A's issued their second album, A Woman's Got the Power; with Chertoff again producing, the album polished off the sharper edges of the group's approach and embraced more of a heartland rock approach, as well as a stronger R&B influence, especially on the title track. Despite its more accessible sound, A Woman's Got the Power didn't sell appreciably better than the debut, and Arista dropped the band. In 1982, the A's self-released an EP, Four Dances, but it didn't do much to boost the band's fortunes, and once the A's paid off the recording bills, they split up. Since then, guitarist DiFonzo has gone on to a successful career as a sideman and session musician, working with Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Roger Waters, and Joan Osborne, while singer Bush is still a fixture on the Philly rock scene with his band the Peace Creeps.

 

n A Woman's Got the Power, the group's sound and material changed drastically, and not for the better: The album is an exercise in misplaced bombast. Bush's occasional excesses are charming on the first outing, but here he consistently over-emotes, imbuing the songs with angst they don't really merit. While the big sound works well enough for the first couple of tracks (the soulful title tune and the pretty "Electricity"), the bluster then begins to grate; there isn't another listenable cut on the album.

Back on their own, the A's pulled in their horns with a 12-inch of four modestly presented rock songs. On the plus side, the likable "Do the Dance" sounds like a techno-pop club tune without the electronics, while "Girl That I Love" is crisp skinny tie Beatle-pop. But when "Ain't No Secret" devolves into a blithering jam of arena guitars and synthesizer riffing, it's time for the B's.

 

Next up is what is certainly a more mature--but no less dominating--sound unleashed in "Woman's Got The Power." I always thought the title track ranked as the strongest on that release, yet "How Do You Live" and "Heart of America" truly are every bit as good. And while that disc admittedly slips a bit over the final few songs, I sit here amazed--actually quite disappointed--that The A's didn't command more of a following in their heyday. Making this CD available to the masses won't change history, but it does give those of us who loved their music a chance to relive it and will perhaps win this deserving band a few more fans.
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Arista Records smelled success and smoothed the band out a bit for the second album, "A Woman's Got The Power." It was easily as energetic as the debut while more sophisticated, and was partially produced by Nick Garvey of The Motors while Rick Chertoff did the rest. (Chertoff eventually became the producer of such stars as Cyndi Lauper.) The title track even managed a good bit of airplay, enough so to be on a few 80's compilation albums. Arista honcho Clive Davis even spoon-fed The A's a "hit" that the band allegedly hated ("When The Rebel Comes Home"). You could hear the band stretch out on "Heart Of America" - ya gotta dig that banjo! - that made me think of The Plimsouls. This was great stuff, but the world wasn't digging it.

Doesn't mean you can't catch up. The A's were one of the first New Wave bands to break out of Philadelphia, along with others that tried but failed (The Cats, Quincy, The Reds) and those that made it (The Hooters, the late Robert Hazard). We have waited long enough, so ge

 

 

 

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