Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1968-69)
- John Bondonaro -- drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Don Gallucci (aka Don Caverhill) -- keyboards, backing vocals
- Bruce Hauser -- bass, backing vocals
- Jeff Hawks -- vocals
- Joey Newman (aka Vern Kjellberg) -- lead guitar, backing vocals
- Bandit (Joey Newman)
- Blue Mountain Eagle (Joey Newman)
- Don Caverhill (solo efforts)
- Don and the Goodtimes (Don Gallucci, Jeff Hawkes and
- The Gretchmen (Bruce Hauser)
- The Kingsmen (Don Gallucci)
- Mr. Lucky and the Gamblers (Jeff Hawks)
- Joey Newman (solo efforts)
- The Randelas (Jeff Hawks)
- Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts (Joey Newman)
- Stepson (Bruce Hauser, Jeff Hawks and Joey Newman)
Rating: 4 stars ****
Country/State: Portland, Oregon
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gimmick fold out cover; promo sticker on cover, no poster
Catalog ID: --
Touch is one of those band's I have mixed feelings about. Witness I've bought and sold a copy of their album at least five times over the years. Fans point to them as one of the first US progressive bands with an album that is uniformly impressive. Detractors scoff at those notions. I've been on both sides of the spectrum. Yeap, I have mixed feelings about Touch.
Under the moniker "Touch" the personnel line-up featured drummer John Bondonaro, keyboard player Don Gallucci, bassist Bruce Hauser, lead singer Jeff Hawks and guitarist Joey Newman. The members had an interesting set of musical pedigrees. Gallucci had been a member of The Kingsmen (as was responsible for the famous keyboard riff on the all-time classic 'Louie, Louie'). In 1964 he fronted Don and the Goodtimes and relocating from Portland to Los Angeles. Over a four-year lifespan that band went through a number of personnel changes and by the time the split in 1968 the band included Hawks and Newman. Feeling left behind by changing popular tastes, Gallucci, Hawkes and Newman decided to form a new band, eventually recruiting Bondonaro and Hauser. They started writing material and rehearsing in a rental home in the Hollywood Hills. As "Band of Thieves" they attracted some attention when they were hired to support Canadian singer/songwriter Elyse Weinberg on her debut album "Elyse". They were subsequently signed to Salvadore Tutti Camarata's London affiliated Coliseum Records for a then staggering $25,000 advance.
Produced by Gene Shively, "Touch" was unlike any other American release of the time. You can join the ongoing debate and waste a lot of time arguing over whether their album was the first progressive LP. Ultimately it doesn't matter. First or not, tracks like 'Friendly Birds', 'The Spiritual Death of Howard Greer' and 'Down at Circes Place' were clearly progressive in sound. I'm not a music historian, or even a massive fan of progressive sounds, but I have to say that when I hear 'Down at Circes Place' I hear all kinds of influences that seem to have rubbed off on forthcoming progressive icons like Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes. Through in some Frank Zappa too boot. The other thing that's strikes me about the album is what a major departure it reflected from their Don and the Goodtimes. Think about it. Still in their teens, a year earlier these guys were regulars on Dick Clark's "Where the Action Is" television series and had enjoyed a top-40 hit with the saccharine pop ditty 'I Could Make You Happy'. How much vision (or acid) did it take to go from something like the pop ditty 'If You Love Her, Cherish Her And Such' to 'Miss Teach '? I'm hard pressed to think of a more radical musical transition - particularly in such a short period. The funny thing is Gallucci and company didn't just stumbled into the new sound; they seemed to have had a vision for the album. To quote from the album's liner notes:
"Twenty/Twenty is to sound what Twenty/Twenty is to vision. In its concept, an equal division of musical content has been distributed on both channels, thus, as in the case of the eyes, the ears are both able to focus for themselves and the listener is not required to sit directly center as in the case of the phantom center speaker."
In retrospect the album's equally impressive for the sound producer Shively and the band managed to coax out of their instruments and from Sunset Sound Recorders Studio. Sunset was where Disney recorded many of their film soundtracks. The first two Doors LPs were also recorded there. How they captured the complex arrangements on tracks like the closer 'Seventy Five' is dumbfounding. Even more so given the collection was recorded pre-synthesizers and sophisticated studio equipment. While I may not have the ears and intellect to fully appreciate all seven tracks, the album's entertaining from start to finish. It's one of those collections where I hear something new every time I play it. Not that it's an album I play every day. Still, it also holds up way better than a lot the subsequent material better known progressive bands have released over subsequent decades. Well worth checking out and even better given you can still find affordably priced original copies (and an array of reissues).
Always loved the cover concept which was credited to "The Glass Eye." Housed in a tri-fold sleeve with a "pocket" for the album, the package included a poster. Coliseum obviously spent some big money on the packaging.
Coliseum also wanted the band to tour in support of the album. Apparently concerned they would not be able to replicate the album Gallucci declined. Coliseum subsequently pulled support for a planned follow-up single 'We Finally Met Today' essentially abandoned the band. They were history within a matter of months.
Gallucci turned his attention to production, landing a job as a house producer for Jac Holzman's Elektra Records. In that role he ended up with the unenviable job of producing Iggy Pop and the Stooges' second album; 1970's "Funhouse". That must have been a life scarring event. Galluuucci seems to have then dropped out of music focusing his talents on the more rewarding field of California real estate.
Hauser, Hawks and Newman continued their musical partnership, recording an interesting collection of hard rock under the nameplate "Stepson". Gallucci guested on the album providing keyboards on a couple of tracks..
"Touch" track listing:
1.) We Feel Fine (Joey Newman - Don Gallucci) - 4:33 rating: **** stars
Powered by waves of Gallucci's keyboards, Newman's screaming lead guitar and the frenetic Bondorano and Hauser rhythm section, I have to admit 'We Feel Fine' was pretty darn heavy. Remember it was recorded back in 1968 on what we would consider primitive equipment. Added bonus came in the form of Hawkes nifty voice and the fact these guys were decent harmony singers. Yes it was an odd experience hearing those angelic backing vocals amidst the aural pandemonium. My biggest concern has always been do you categorize this one as progressive, or heavy rock? For years the song reminded me of another band and after hearing the song 20 or 30 times the resemblance hit me. Early Gary Wright and Spooky Tooth ...
2.) Friendly Birds (Don Gallucci) - 4:30 rating: ** stars
On the heals of the ferocious opener, the opening section of 'Friendly Birds' came off as pastoral; almost comatose. The first two minutes were little more than Hawkes with soft acoustic guitar accompaniment from Newman. Just when you thought you'd figured the song out, it suddenly went down a weird progressive / musique-concrete / Zappa-esque detour. It wasn't particularly melodic or catchy and I found myself waiting for the song to find itself. Never happened.
Miss Teach (Jeff Hawkes - Don Gallucci) - 3 22
rating: *** stars
- 1968's 'Miss Teach' b/w 'We Feel Fine' (Coliseum catalog number 45-2712)
The Spiritual Death of Howard Greer (Joey Newman - Don Gallucci) -
Opening up with an exotic, mid-Eastern vibe, 'Down at Circe's Place' was the band's most experimental composition rife with sounds that seemingly inspired generations of future progressive oriented bands. No hyperbole intended, but to my ears, on this one you can hear sounds and ideas that would go on to influence the likes of ELP, Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, etc. That's pretty impressive.
2.) Alesha and Others (Don Gallucci - Jeff Hawks) - 3:05 rating: *** stars
'Alesha and Others' found the band abruptly shifting gears into full throttle jazz territory. Coming on the heels of 'Down at Circe's Place' it felt like you'd slammed into a brick wall.
3.) Seventy Five (Joey Newman - Don Gallucci) - 10:58
Always wondered if there was some sort of morse-code message embedded in Gallucci's opening keyboard riff. I can also remember being transfixed by Hawks' vocals. Singing in a previously unheard falsetto, the first section of 'Seventy Five' always reminded me of an early-'70s soul group like the Stylistics. Imagine Russell Thompkins Jr. and his crew after someone had spiked their water right before an appearance at The Apollo. From their the ten minute long track served as a never-ending source of entertainment. Gallucci's organ work must have caught the attention of Keith Emmerson and Uriah Heep's Phil Lanzon. Bondonaro was seemingly inhabited by the spirit of Buddy Rich. Newman used his spotlight time to rip off some of the prettiest electric guitar work I've ever heard. Admittedly some of the production effects now sound a little old fashion - the channel panning, effects slapped on Hawks' voice, start and stop segments. Amazing track.
There are lots of Touch references out there including a Facebook page devoted to the group:(1) Touch, Progressive rock band of 60's | Facebook
In mid-2022, under the name Don Caverhill, Gallucci released his first new music in decades - the album "Light". Some reflecting a Steely Dan-ish vibe, the new songs are available on Amazon and you can hear some of them on YouTube. He also has a small website at: Don Caverhill | Light Music
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