Though it’s not his name.
Rocky Sullivan was born as Anthony Galante in New York in 1948. He recorded with doo wop group The Visuals in the early 1960s, then with The Braid in the mid-70s before going solo in the late 70s and 80s in San Francisco. Around 1988 he contracted lupus and more or less resigned from music. He passed away at the age of 59 on November 25, 2007.
By the time Sullivan went to California and San Francisco he had been in the music business almost 20 years
At about 30 years old you would think he was too old for punk or new wave but there were older people playing convincing punk music. Perhaps it is more appropriate to say that he doesn’t seem to have had his roots in punk music or punk’s antecedents.
He had his roots in, perhaps, straight ahead rock n roll.
A lot of straight rock n roll (and power pop) can, and was, easily mistaken for new wave and punk especially in the late 1970s an era of disco, soft rock, bland country rock, bloated prog rock and saccharine pop.
To do a three minute rock song in such an environment would easily allow the listener to assume that the act where something they weren’t.
Not that it matters.
In the late 1970s straight ahead rock n roll, pub rock, bar rock power pop, new wave were styles of music that were fellow travellers (and distantly related) in reacting against the current sounds of the day.
Of course, like many others, Sullivan actively courted the image so as to increase his potential popularity.
“One thing led to another and one musician led to another as well. A friend hooked me up with Greg Anton, and together we put a little band together. Players came and went, but Greg stayed on. At first I thought I wanted to put together a tight bar band modelled after Van Morrison & Them, and Eric Burden & The Animals. An American version of the English pub band. Then I heard a radio interview with a band called The Nuns who were sayin' they were the only Punk Band in San Francisco, and that they played in a place called Mabuhay Gardens. Now, back the Bay Area was all about The Dead, and I had witnessed the scene in New York that grew around C.B.G.B where practically every act that played there got signed to a record label. So I figured the best way to get attention was to be part of new and not part of the old. Someone, I don't remember who told me that the Nuns bass player lived in Novato, and worked in the local record store. I walked into the record store and asked Mike Varney if he wanted to play bass in my band. He had heard of me by then — I already did a couple of gigs at The Keystone in Berkeley which started a buzz. Mike said he'd like to give it a shot but only if he could play guitar. At this point I didn't even know if he could play guitar, but I said okay as long as he could find a good bass player. Then while the new band is still in the planning stages Mike comes to me and says he thinks we can get John Cipollina to join us”.
Even with this courting of the new wave, the music turns out to be somewhere between US pub rock (bar band rock) and power pop. Think Iron City Houserockers, Piper, or Rod Stewart if he hung out with Bruce Springsteen playing power pop.
Actually, the Springsteen-ish qualities on the album are not surprisingly given the at the time Springsteen was quite popular and even he was mistaken for new wave in some places – a grey area he inhabited easily given that both Patti Smith and Robert Gordon covered him.
But, despite some power pop sounds and new wave trappings Rocky leans towards the hard rock n roll mainstream. Any punky edge given is due to the low fi recording.
This album was recorded in three sessions in 1978. Apparently the recordings were demos that were dressed up. And, as much as like lo fi, the sound isn’t that full and could have used a little more dressing.
Surprisingly, the quality of the musicians on a non-major release is impressive.
John Cipollina ( Quicksilver Messenger Service, Copperhead), Greg Douglass (Steve Miller Band, Tom Johnston), Mike Varney (The Nuns) , Mario Cipollina (Van Morrison, Huey Lewis), Scott Matthews (The Durocs), Nicky Hopkins (Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, The Beatles).
Was Rocky influential, connected or did people just believe in him?
Or were these people just locals?
The truth is a bit of all of the above.
The saga is here http://singerandasong.info/About_the_Founder.html
Rocky had talent.
Perhaps Rocky Sullivan’s career is a missed opportunity, perhaps he had reached his peak, or perhaps it’s a bit of both.
On the basis of this album I can say as new wave or power pop it fails but as pub bar rock it passes.
All songs by Rocky Sullivan unless noted otherwise.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Everybody's Got A Price – standard 70s heavy rock. This is a bit obvious and self conscious.
- Leave It At That – Politics meet sex with some familiar power pop riffs. A little like the New York Dolls "Personality Crisis" though a low voltage version of the same. It is, perhaps, lyrically dodgy.
- Jacknife Lover – duff and more than a little redundant musically. Still fun in a sort of testosterone cock rock way.
- Who's Kidding Who – a slow burn in the style of "Because the Night"
- Watcha Get – grating, and perhaps misogynist.
- You – the obligatory ballad and an old fashioned one at that. Not to convincing.
- Bring Back The Night – This is not trying to be power pop or new wave and comes off well as Graham Parker without the angst. With the backing vocals this is fun, unpretentious rock.
- Back Up Girl – nice piano by Nicky Hopkins I assure
- Bigelow 6-9000 – (John Cipollina & Jim McPherson) – straight ahead rocker. Fairly witless.
- Roxy – a power ballad of sorts.
- Fever Dreams – (John Cipollina) – mainstream new wave power pop.
Hmmmmm, probably not.
Bring Back The Night
- You have to love the music industry: “The Braid had a seven-year run culminating in a record deal with ABC Dunhill records. We recorded one album which was never released — at least that's what we all believed to be the case. All these years later through a whimsical internet search, James O'Malley discovered that the album — Moon Over Verrazano — was indeed released! We are now in the process of tracking what exactly happened and the possibility of reclaiming the master tapes”. http://www.bay-area-bands.com/bab00045.htm
- “After The Braid I decided to go solo and recorded my first tunes as Rocky Sullivan. The sessions were at Electric Ladyland in NY. I along with my manager, Vince Cirrincione, who now manages the actress Halle Berry, produced the two tunes that were the result of those sessions — Brownsville Boy, and Angels Dirty Faces, which is the song that led me to change my name. Angels with Dirty Faces is the name of a classic movie in which James Cagney played a criminal named Rocky Sullivan. I just thought it would look cool on a record label. I never thought it would become my legal name which it has been for over 27 years. Lately I'm thinkin' of changing back to my birth name. We'll see”. http://www.bay-area-bands.com/bab00045.htm
- Sullivan put out another two albums Internal Affairs (Rag Baby/Line 1982) and Caught In The Crossfire (Line 1986).