Rave-Ups leader back with blistering new music
The Rave-Ups were one of the most promising band of the ’80s, and should have had a career that rivaled R.E.M., The Cure or at the very least alt-legends The Replacements. They were doing alt-country before Uncle Tupelo existed.
Instead, they got caught up in minor- and major-label disasters and disillusionment. After 1985’s “Town and Country” became an instant classic, they signed to a major and promptly had their career derailed by music-industry stupidity, greed and just general cluelessness. Their great 1987 album, “The Book of Your Regrets” doesn’t even include the sublime cover of the song, “Train to Nowhere,” that the title was taken from; it turned up only on a very rare promo. Hear that song here.
Their final album, “Chance,” was released in 1990. And that was it.
Mention The Rave-Ups today and you get blank stares. Mention that they were the band in the Molly Ringwald film “Pretty in Pink” and suddenly everyone knows who you’re talking about and the song “Positively Lost Me.”
The Rave-Ups’ singer/songwriter, Jimmer Podrasky, has just released his first new music in 23 years — the perfectly titled “The Would-Be Plans.” The good news? It’s a damn good set of life-worn songs, and the title track is one of his best tunes ever — a haunted hard-rock look at a man and his demons, wondering how things go wrong. After years of kicking around with publishing, songwriting and other deals, including playing in The Lovin’ Miserys, Podrasky has taken the step with producer Mitch Marine at the helm. “The Would-Be Plans” is available through his website in digital, CD or vinyl incarnations. Go listen to the title cut – or any of them – on JimmerMusic.com and see if you’re not instantly hooked. It’s one of the best albums of 2013.
With the Internet, Podrasky is hoping for a second act. “I have no management, no publicity and no money, flying on a wing and a prayer right now.” Here are excerpts from a long conversation from his Los Angeles home.
MSN: The last time I saw you in person was the day you gave up your “Town and Country” publishing to get out of your first record deal. You looked like you wanted to kill yourself. The last time we spoke was five years later after “Chance” came out on a major label and you sounded just as defeated.
Podrasky: “You are a perceptive dude! …a lot of stuff seemed to come to a head there as ‘Chance’ came out. It didn’t do well enough for Epic to like us at all. I don’t know if they liked us to begin with. I’m not sure why they signed us in the first place…they really didn’t consider us a rock band, which I don’t think we were. They were trying to get to an end point with the least possible resistance. Those companies live by templates, it seems. Even back then. If we can’t squeeze them into this genre…then you kind of weren’t gonna get much attention… There was a part of me, honestly, as a songwriter that wore that as a badge of honor.”
I don’t wanna dwell on the negatives from the past when the new album is so good.
“Hey, I’m a 55-year-old man. To think ‘Hey, I wanna make my first solo album’ is crazy. This has been a labor of love, even with the bumps in the road. I’m really proud of it. I obsessed so much on those Rave-Ups records, too. That was my band. I was always present when anybody played anything … this was a different thing. I’m not a great producer. I’m not a great guitar player. Maybe I do what I do and let Mitch and the people he trusts just go for it.”
The title cut is up there with your best songs.
“Thank you for saying that… ‘The Would-Be Plans’ is a hard song even for me to sing – that’s how heavy it really is. It’s got that blues thing in it which I always love but the words are pretty hard to spit out sometimes.”
I can’t tell from one verse to another if you’re talking about wrestling with demons with yourself, your father, your son, or all of them.
“I think you figured it out. It’s all of them. There you go – you solved it.”
Why didn’t you use the Rave-Ups name, as you’d written the bulk of the songs for the band?
“People seek out and buy those damn Rave-Up records. When I made ‘Town and Country’ I would have never been audacious enough to say ‘People will buy that 20 or 25 years from now.’ … (A friend urged him to use the Rave-Ups name anyway) and I understood it from his point of view. He said ‘You’re making people connect dots…if they remember the name from college that’s all they need… why are you sabotaging this thing?’ I just couldn’t do it to my friends. I don’t see it as a brand name. I see it as my friends who made music with me. If it’s just me, I can’t do it. … Legally they couldn’t do anything. Those three guys were the ones who made the three records with me that people know. It’s a personal thing, but it’s also disrespectful to fans of the band.”
Was there no chance of making this a Rave-Ups reunion?
“That’s what I wanted this to be and they just didn’t want to make new music. I spent a good two or three years, getting together with them, a special show in L.A. here or there… the only thing they seemed to be interested in doing…is 10 or 12 songs from those albums, re-record them and release them as a pseudo greatest-hits package. I have many albums worth of material. … I was ready to go back into paying my dues again, and knew I’d have to do it alone. It was deeply humbling, I will say.”
So where do you go from here?
“I’m more comfortable onstage in the persona of an older singer/songwriter than the frontman of a rock band. I can just calm down and be myself. I’m just winging it right now, but I know I’ve got to get out there and play.”