Wednesday, October 10, 2018

John Wicks and the Records - Rock'ola (1998, Rock Indiana)

Word went out on Sunday afternoon that John Wicks, who had been battling cancer on and off for the past few years, had tragically succumbed to the disease and passed away in hospice.  As was expected, dozens of social media posts and blurbs from online news outlets touted his inarguable claim to fame as co-founder of The Records and author of the band's signature piece "Starry Eyes." While those details might not be particularly revelatory to you and me, The Records themselves were in fact a sheer revelation for a good lot of us.  Through Wicks and the three near-perfect albums issued during the band's original late '70s to 1982 inception (Shades in Bed, Crashes, and Music on Both Sides), I made a conscious effort to delve deeper into power pop in general (albeit, my discovery of the Records and the genre didn't happen until the mid-90s).  Better late than never, and as it turned out there was a lot more to unearth, including dozens (at minimum) of bands that seemingly took a discernible cue from Wicks and Co.  In short, were it not for The Records, Wilfully Obscure may have taken on a far different trajectory. 

Seeing the original Records lineup in the flesh was long out of the question for me, but I did attend a collaborative gig with John and Paul Collins of the Paul Collins Beat in Pittsburgh, roughly around 2009 or so).  In person and in email John was always gracious to me, though we hardly got to know each other.  The music alone sufficed.

Shortly after I made my acquaintance with the Records posthumous catalog, I learned John Wicks had convened a revamped version of the band.  This incarnation of the group didn't contain any of his original bandmates - Phil Brown, Will Birch, etc, rather a brand new assemblage of players, presumably hailing from America where Wick's had emigrated to in the mid-90s.  The resultant album, Rock'ola was typically released on a European label, but import copies were easy enough to come by.  Though it may not have exuded the warm analogue glow of their big label efforts from two decades prior, Rock'ola managed to revive all the telltale calling cards - penetrating hooks, reliable chord progressions, and the linear but occasionally witty aplomb that made the Records so vital to begin with.  A lot had changed...but thankfully far more hadn't.  "Her Stars Are My Stars," "That Girl is Emily," and the Townsend-y-riff fest "Union Jack" are sheer charmers, and Wicks even dedicates ten percent of the album to his idols the Beatles by way of "Liverpool 6512."  The man in question really hadn't lost a thing over the years, and though we've sadly lost him, his legacy speaks (or more acurately, sings) for itself.  R.I.P. John Wicks.

01. Edges of a Dream
02. That Girl is Emily
03. So Close to Home
04. Different Shades of Green
05. Liverpool 6512
06. Every Word We Say
07. Union Jack
08. Cry a Million Tears
09. Her Stars are My Stars
10. Forever Blue


Elizabeth K said...

Thanks for offering this.

spavid said...

You're welcome.

Theabs06 said...

So sad, thanks for this.

Scaggsaway said...

Can't believe he got away with that "Union Jack" riff.

amusicalguy said...

Gone and unavailable. :-(

spavid said...

Just fixed. Thanks for alerting us.

Seattleite said...

Link is down again.

Squarks said...

Thank you for this post