Supersense was started by the guy who resurrected the Polaroid. This video from Analog Planet covers this amazing all analog fully functional recording, mastering and printing facility that co-functions as a social hub and hang out.
It’s a rainy Sunday All Hallows Eve-Eve as I write this. It’s the perfect backdrop to edit together a few clips of Dwight Twilleys’ set at The Starline in Oakland this past Tuesday (Oct 25, 2016). Perfect as the music he played was mostly dreary acoustic renditions of mostly unknown more recent songs of his. This was both a treat and a bit of a misstep.
He’s been recording and releasing music steadily since the early 70’s and after a long and mostly unsuccessful stint in LA he returned to his hometown of Tulsa where he built a studio and became a fully independent recording artist who has continued to record and release albums to this day.
I got turned on to Twilley by Gary Sperrazza in the early 90’s (he was an early champion of DTB) and wrote about him in the early-mid 70’s. When I first heard that voice, that delicate balance of melody harmony, big-hook riffs and the power and dynamics behind it, I was instantly hooked!
So, it was a rare and wonderful treat to hear that voice in person after being a fan for 20 years, never thinking I’d see him live, but the choice of material was a bit lackluster considering the amount of material he has to choose from. I don’t think he really considered his stuff suited to the acoustic format, so it seems as if he really held back as to not under-serve those songs which were crafted in the studio and built up of layer upon layer of guitars and vocal textures. I beg to differ, I think certain songs like ‘You Were So Warm’ ‘I’m Losing You’ ‘Just Like the Sun’ or ‘Sincerely’ all off the first record…’That I Remember’ ‘Sleeping’ off of the second lp ‘Twilley Don’t Mind’ or even something like ‘Out of My Hands’ from ‘Twilley’ (3rd LP) with the brilliant lyric “When the Walls Around You Melt You Can’t Pretend”… would have made for killer moments in an acoustic format.
The only song he played from that period during the acoustic set was ‘Three Persons’ one of the poppier songs from ‘Sincerely’ which is actually better suited for a band in my opinion.
The other thing that sort of killed the energy level was that he talked quite a bit in between songs. He had us in the palm of his hand with his opener (the first song in the ‘acoustic’ vid below. I don’t know that song or what it was called but it captured both the strength and delicateness of his voice and had that beautiful darkness that pervades a lot of his music. He could have gone right into anything after that but decided to regale us with tales of Ye Olden Days of the industry…running around with Phil Seymour, chasing Hollywood excess and all the stuff that I’d love to read in his bio but in all honesty, just cliche Rock and Roll LA excess done better by others and not why we love Dwight. It was actually cool at first to hear about this but it just got a bit (lot) long (he went on for 7-8 minutes) and then he went into another lesser known mid-slow tempo song about his adventures with Phil called ‘Good Things Come Hard’ (also in the Acoustic vid below). He then talked for another 5 minutes and as soon as he was finally ready to lay another song on us his mic went out! This minor technical difficulty chewed up another precious couple of minutes after which he played yet another lesser known song from 1999’s lp ‘Tulsa’ called ‘A Little Less Love’ then another short story 3-4 minutes this time and another slow tempo song. At this point he’s played 4 songs and we were almost 40 minutes in! It was a small crowd of old fans and a very forgiving one for sure.
After another 7 minutes of story telling he breaks out the first ‘hit’ from one of the early albums, the aforementioned ‘Three Persons’ from the first album ‘Sincerely’ which was at least something people knew but far from the best choice from that gem of an album.
10 more minutes of talking this time and then another slow tempo piece…
His 7th and final song of the main set was an uptempo number with a driving beat and would have been a good one to throw in earlier on to break up the slow tempo that dominated the set. This last song is the third song in the acoustic vid below. I apologize in advance for some of the washed out video.
He finished and left the stage after a long and rambling trip down memory lane accompanied by a handful of songs. After a healthy applause his wife, engineer and Tour Manager Jan Twilley who essentially helped him get his career back in his own control after wallowing in obscurity in LA for years, led a chant for ‘I’m on Fire’ as an encore. Dwight got back up on stage with the opening band to back him up on a pretty solid rendition of that very song from his first LP ‘Sincerely’.
He brought out some old promo posters of ‘Sincerely’ that sat in a box for 40 years and was really cool about hanging out and signing everything.
I picked up his release from last year ‘Always’ on his label ‘Big Oak’ and I’m really enjoying it. I had him sign that for me. I also really liked his 2010 release on Burger/Big Oak ‘Twilley’. That was the first I’d heard he was back and recording, though he had been for awhile and that’s a testament to the way he was treated by the industry. His recent recordings are as rich and warm and as hook-y as anything he’s ever done and I even wonder if a few of these songs have been around in some form for as long or if he’s just mastered his tried and true formula.
Honestly, I was a bit underwhelmed by the evening as a whole but really glad I went. It was a special evening for the old die hard fan but I would have been bummed had I brought someone to this show to turn them on to this legend of a musician and songwriter. That being said, he seems to have enough left in him to return and have another go at it, he still has that magic and with a proper band and a more focused delivery. he would easily slay…
Until then, let’s enjoy this video with Dwight and Phil Seymour joined by Tom Petty on bass (though he actually played some guitar on the album)
Following is a facebook post from 2012 by Gary Sperrazza, he was a force of nature when it came to keeping, organizing and retaining information when it came to just about anything music or literary related. He was a rock writer, archivist and historian who contributed to such notable rock rags as Trouser Press Who Put The Bomp (notably hand cut-n-pasting and curating the entire Powerpop issue!), NME and he had his own zine called Shakin’ Street Gazette (Lester Bangs’ piece “How to Be a Rock Critic” originally published in Gary’s “Shakin’ Street Gazette” was used in a real Hollywood hit movie “Almost Famous”).
He was also my boss for a few years when I was just outta high school and trying to find my way in a town that I didn’t feel I belonged in even though I grew up there! From 1994-96, roughly, that dusty dark little store front of Apollo records became my home for what was a period of deep listening and understanding of the what’s where’s and why’s of music. I have written about this period and a bit about Gary in a previous post also.
Apollo was essentially the place that brought Hip-Hop to Buffalo when it was still a developing genre. The man has been cited as an influence by heavy hitters such as Gang Starr, Nas and also had KRS use some samples he dug up out of the ‘Back Room’ which was the Rock Room. He told me about this meeting once, when KRS walked in Gary gave him the store layout of what was where and he waved his hand over the whole floor (where all the hip-hop, soul funk and 12 inch dance stuff was kept and said ‘I have all that!’ and proceeded to the back room! Just a few examples of his reach. He also had a catalog full of DJ mixes you could buy, live mixes by guys like The Wizard, Latin Rascals, Red Alert and many more! His love for all music ran just as deep and he also had a version of The Bat Cave in the early 80’s at a now long gone club called The Continental.
He was also a major source for 12 inch import records and dj plates for dj’s of all sorts. His love for deep house music also ran, well…deep! Here’s another bit of love from that sector, a special dedication mix by NYC DJ Craig Twitty who I met personally a few times at the store and was always a gentleman and a scholar:
As far as I can tell this was his last post on facebook and even here, you can see that fb was not big enough to contain the content of this man’s mind, wit and encyclopedic knowledge of all things music and at the end is a comment from Barney Hoskyns! I will also post a few words from some folks that also knew him as he was a bit caustic in some ways but left a huge impression on anyone he met and that ventured to get to know him.
RIP Gary Apollo!
January 2012 post From Gary’s FB:
“Woke up this morning… all I had was gone…” – Robert Johnson.
“I loved Ray Lowry’s weekly NME cartoons and wild/strange rock ‘n’ roll humour. Here is just a sample of this man’s mind at work. I really miss him. Every week. Time stood still when the new issue of NME arrived. Anyone, ANYONE out there, who was there, knows what MINUTE the new NME arrived…. 1970’s. 1980’s. New Musical Express! All that venom…and spew…and some of the best rock journalism on a consistent, week-to-week basis…and Ray!
More later, cuz it’s fairly destined that i’ll do a piece on this guy. Barney Hoskyns [[rocksbackpages.com] has asked me. I’m humbled, and i don’t know much more than anyone else does. I used to CUT OUT the strips from the NME [well, the exceptionals, at any rate], and clip them inside the walk-in glass door of my shop, way back when. You know….things to LOOK at, instead of swearing at me cuz I’m not THERE yet [lol!]. We did Really Busy Window Displays too [won two $500 prize contests, story some other time], and at least one down the line was Lowry-themed.
Um, you can even see the Scotch Tape skidmarks. But fuck it: i PEDDLE this wordsmut! Christ! That means recontacting [whoever’s still here]: Mick Jones, Hugh Cornwall, Steve Jones…Or using a Ouija Board to roust Joe Strummer. It’s burning a HOLE in me, until it’s done.
Takes a simple iconic first line of a song, and then: works it. To ‘Beyond Death’.
Come kiss the coffin with me. Ray Lowry. 1944-2008.
Like Adrian Borland [The Sound!] once sang : “I can’t believe they cut you down…in your heyday!”
[And i was a hot MESS in 2008…so tore up, i didn’t even know he died!]
But now i’m hot and focused.
Let’s wake the dead.
I woke up this morning.
Hi Gary. Yes, sad that Ray’s been forgotten…Would love to run something about him on RBP if you felt so inclined to put “pen to paper”… with a link to your mini-gallery. Nice thinking, and hope all well. Best- BH
[ Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock’s Backpages, http://www.rocksbackpages.com/]
Following is a post from the Blog ‘The Next Big Thing’ in the comments you can read a bit of personal memories by myself and another Apollo Records employee and friend of Gary’s, the guy that was there right before me Marc Feliciano from the Amrep band Lollipop.
Stay tuned for updates as I’m sure there will be a few musicians and writers out there with something to say on the passing of such an enigmatic character on the scene. He didn’t play an instrument but was instrumental in the music world going back the heydays of LA, though he made his most important mark in Buffalo NY where he now rests, I’m sure he’s chopping it up with Rick James right now up there somewhere wondering what the hell happened to music and actually having the answers to that, he always knew…**wink**
UPDATES (some more links to articles from the web)
The following is an excerpt from Mike Mills Tribute (REM) about how Gary played large and crucial part in REM getting a record deal.
“We barraged New York with tapes,” Buck says. Then we purposely made it as hard as possible for them to understand it,” They edited the tape so that “Sitting Still” was prefaced by a thirty-second polka version; there was no return address on the tape; Stipe made Xerox baseball cards with the band members’ faces on them; and when they wrapped it all up, they wrote in big Magic Marker letters, “Careful, Do Not Open.” “There was a certain sense of humor about it,” Buck admits with gross understatement.
Then the impossible happened. The new wave bloodhounds at the old New York Rocker got interested and Gary Sperrazza gave the tape a rave review in his “Crib Death” demo tape column. That review inspired four record companies to send letters to the band asking for tapes.
Yet another mindblower! In 1974 (the year I was born) and when Gary was still in High School, he got UB to sponsor a Rock Writers Symposium which was attended by…get ready…Richard Meltzer, Nick Tosches, Lester Bangs, Rob Tyner and Patti Smith among others!
Excerpt from a Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick) interview 2012 in Punk Globe
Coming out in 1977, how did Cheap Trick compete with all the punks?
Bun E Carlos:
Well punks were not really doing any business in 1977, or any year for that matter (in America). So that was a ground up thing. There were bands like Cheap Trick and the Ramones, from that era that were against Emerson Lake and Palmer and all these prog-rock bands. When we were cutting “In Color” in 1977 I’d go out with guys from Bomp Records like Greg Shaw and we go down to Redondo Beach and we’d see the Weirdos and bands like that. And back here in the Midwest to get paid to be a musician, like pretty much everywhere, you had to go out and play six nights a week and three sets a night. So that’s what band did when we were coming up. Punk bands were known as not being the greatest musicians in the world, then; so no place hired them so we didn’t run into too many punk acts. It was going on but it wasn’t really doing any business, back then. So we didn’t see these guys do much unless we went and hunted them down. You couldn’t find their records too. There weren’t very many punk records out. I went to Bomp Records in 1977 with Gary Sperrazza, and I bought one copy of everything on the wall. I spent like $150 bucks on singles. I wanted to see what was going on. It was all punk stuff. Some of it was pretty good, but most of it was pretty greasy. So, you know, Cheap Trick and the punks had in common- that we all hated what rock music had become. It had become a show business, like Queen; it was hard to relate to that stuff.”