The Koala


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1968-69)

- Joe Alexander -- drums, percussion

- Louis Caine (aka Louis Dambra) -- lead guitar

- Joey Guido -- guitar 

- Jose Mala -- vocals r

- Anthony Wesley -- bass r

 

  supporting musicians:

- Henry Gendus -- keyboards

 

   

 

Sir Lord Baltimore (Louis Dambra and Joey Dambra)

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Koala

Company: Capitol

Catalog: ST-176

Year: 1969

Country/State: Brooklyn, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: gatefold sleeve; minor edge wear

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4300

Price: $120.00

Cost: $51.84

 

This one's always been kind of a mystery to me. There's quite a bit of hype surrounding the album and it's become quite sought after in rock and psych collectors' circles.   Luckily a gentleman by the name of Tony Sclafani stumbled across my site and filled in some of the missing pieces.  Not only does Mr. Sclafani write for the Washington Post, but it turns out his uncle was the original guitar player for the band.  Tony actually use to listen to his uncle practice with the band. 

 

First, the rumor that The Koala was from Australia was nothing more than record company crapola. The band all hailed from Brooklyn, New York – specifically the East New York section of Brooklyn that borders Queens. The Australia rumor likely came about because a few years earlier another Big Apple band, The Strangeloves (“I Want Candy”), were able to hype themselves into success on that very rumor (hey Mr. record executive, it worked once so what do we have to lose ...).

 

The Koala was comprised of the songwriting duo of lead singer Jose Mala and guitarist Joey Guido.  The line up was rounded out by drummer Joe Alexander, lead guitarist Louis Caine and bassist Anthony Wesley. In New York they somehow attracted the attention of Blues Magoos managers Art Polliemus and Bob Wyld, who helped them land a contract with Capitol.

 

With Poliemus and Wyld producing, the band debuted with the single 'Don't You Know What I Mean' b/w 'Scattered Children's Toys' (Capitol catalog number 2365).  The single did nothing commercially, but Capitol agreed to fund an album.  With Poliemus and Wyld again producing, the band returned with 1969's cleverly titled "The Koala".  Mala handles all the lead vocals. On tracks such as 'Don't You Know What I Mean', 'Look At the Way She Comes' (the sneering lyrical delivery makes me think this isn't merely about the coming and goings of a young and innocent woman) and 'She's a Lady' the band sounded like a cross between AC/DC, Graham Parker and the Shadows of the Knight. Perhaps because they were such atypical efforts, the dreamy, pseudo-psychy 'Nothing's Changed and 'Elizabeth' stand as two of my favorite tracks.  Regardless, if you're looking for snotty, in-your-face vocals, backed by tons of loud, feedback laced guitar (check out 'Poppa Duke Tyler'), then this is a set that will appeal to you.

 

"Koala" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Don't You Know What I Mean  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

2.) Look At the Way She Comes  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

3.) Poor Discarded Baby  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

4.) Nothing's Changed  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

5.) She's a Lady  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

6.) Colours of Our Rainbow  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

 

(side 2)

1.) Poppa Duke Tyler  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

2.) Stranger Feelings  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

3.) Elizabeth  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

4.) You Say  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

5.) Yesterday's Rain  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

6.) Lady Dressed In White  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

7.) Scattered Children's Toys  (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 

 

The band fell apart after the first LP, with Mala going on to do a short stint with the Joe Perry Project (which he left before the band ever recorded). Guido became a member of the New York glam rock quintet The Brats, which performed alongside Kiss in its early days and featured lead guitarist Scott St. Clair Sheets, later a member of Pat Benatar’s band.  Guitarist Caine (aka Louis Dambra) and brother Joey went on to record with Sir Lord Baltimore.

 

So here's an interesting email I received from a former band associate:

 

 

Hi

I have some info for you.

 

I was known as "Hammond Henry"- (Henry Gendus) since that's what I played with Koala. I've played  piano since age 5 and had played piano (when I was 15) and back then you needed a Cabaret License) for the likes of Diana Ross / Paul Anka at the Fontainebleau Hotel In Miami Beach.  My dad was a notable clothing manufacturer whose suits were worn by the Rat Pack and many others including Nathan Novik who owned the Fontainebleau back in the days.

 

I started playing with Koala just as the Capitol album was being recorded.  We rehearsed often on 13th Avenue in Brooklyn, in the basement of a beauty parlor.  Later on we got a loft at '2 Bond Street' - downtown Manhattan.  At the time the line up featured myself, Joe Orecchio (Joe Alexander), Louie Dambra, Joe Guido, and Jose (his full name was Jose Maldanado).

 

We were billed as "back from touring with the Rolling Stones" (I still have that ad) and we also opened for up The Rich Kids (pre-Mountain) at the Electric Circus in New York.

 

We played the Capitol Theater in Port Chester a few times, including opening up for Jeff Beck.   We also did the Capitol Theater in Piscataway New Jersey - that was a rowdy crowed and we endured a lot of audience fights there.   One of my favorite memories was getting a chance to sit at Mark Stein's Hammond organ at the Fillmore when the Vanilla Fudge were performing there.

 

The loft was up on the 3rd floor and we had a roadie name Bart. At the time Bart weighed about 500 lbs and thought professional wrestling was real so he could toss you around and not hurt you.  I remember a time when he carried one of my 122 Leslies  up two flights of stairs when we did a show on Staten Island in a club called the Stadium.  We actually took a picture of all 5 of us on his shoulders.

 

Debbie Harry (of future Blondie fame) often rehearsed up there with the band
The Late Show".   I sat in many times on keyboard when she was up there and

we often were at her loft parties which were about three blocks away from us near Blecker Street

 

We went our separate ways when Louie started Sir Lord Baltimore.

 

I went into the Wedding Business (yup) and was house band for many years at

a upscale catering hall call El Carib In Brooklyn.  We had a front man named Sal Casta with a gifted voice and a horn player named Frankie who played two trumpets at once

 

Anyhow I could ramble on and on but since your site was the first I've seen giving Koala justified kudos I figured Id fill you in on some of my memories with Koala.   We had a great time performing

 

Thanks, Henry Gendus (Hammond Henry)

February 2010

 

 

 


 

 

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