Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Waxwings Just Needed Tutoring From Stones

We all have our Waxwings... one of those bands we love and, inexplicably, don't understand how they never really made it. I was enamoured with these fellas for a few years in the early part of the last decade. I was fortunate enough to see them during that time on a very strong all-Detroit bill (with the Detroit Cobras and Brendan Benson) at the cozy Double Door in Chicago. They should be remembered for their retro sound... with plenty of cribbing from Brian Wilson and early Stones. Instead, they will be recalled for a tiff with Bob Salerno, owner of their label, Bobsled Records. It's all very rock and roll.

The Waxwings threw a record-release party for their second album, 'Shadows of the Waxwings,' in their hometown of Detroit. By most accounts, this wasn't one of the band's better shows. Salerno wanted to make sure they knew he wasn't pleased. He sent each member a letter by registered mail. The funny thing is the entire band lived together. So, yes, he could have sent one letter, but he had a point to make. It began:

"Your 'Record Release' show was an absolute embarrassment! Every single aspect of that show was chump! I CANNOT fucking believe that you did not take that show seriously!!! That was your RECORD RELEASE show! Let me say that again...THAT WAS YOUR FUCKING RECORD RELEASE SHOW!!! IN YOUR HOME FUCKING TOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

As the Chicago Reader reported on May 9, 2002, Salerno went on to criticize the band "for not hiring their own soundman, for failing to promote the show, for making public apologies about their performance, and for taking too long to finish their record in the first place." The best part of the rant, however, was his evaluation of the band's (lack of a) rock-and-roll persona. "Mick Jagger wouldn't be hangin' out in the club before HIS RECORD RELEASE show! "Make a fuckin' statement!!! Your faces should not have been seen for ONE SECOND before you took that stage! Do you think the Rolling Stones would be walkin' around minglin' in the crowd before their RECORD RELEASE show?? Do you think Jack White would be caught dead in the crowd before he takes the stage?? Bush leagues!!! Dean [Fertita, the band's frontman], you're just fuckin' hangin' out by the fuckin' entrance before the show, AND SOMETIMES ALONE! PATHETIC!!!"

So, how did this juicy correspondence become common knowledge? An anonymous user posted the entire letter on the Velvet Rope, a popular message board read by entertainment insiders, including those in the music industry. I wonder who did that? Needless to say, the band's second album was the last for Bobsled Records. In fact, I may be wrong, but I'm not sure there was another album done on Bobsled. Let me know if I'm wrong.

Now about the tunes. If you don't have any Waxwings, I would recommend their debut album, 'Low to the Ground.' It was well received by critics and has stood the test of time. They lost a step with the followup, 'Shadows of the Waxwings,' but it's still a good listen. There was a third album for new label Rainbow Quartz called 'Let's Make Our Descent.' Unfortunately, I don't have that one. I wish I did. Their friend Benson stepped in as guitarist, and I'm a huge fan. The Waxwings were supposed to go into the studio for a fourth album. It has been seven years since that announcement. I guess it ain't happenin'. Here is a gem from each of the first two albums.

The Waxwings - Keeping the Sparks (mp3)
The Waxwings - Almost All Day (mp3)

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