Dwight Twilley: The Story Of What Happened Before, Between, And After The Hits
"Someday, Dwight Twilley will be a star," insisted Greg Shaw in the March 1978 "special power pop issue" of Bomp! magazine.
By that point, Twilley and his best friend Phil Seymour had already been playing together for eleven years; they'd released two finely crafted albums and scored a Top 20 hit with the brilliant "I'm on Fire." So, Shaw's optimistic prediction wasn't far-fetched. What's weird is that despite his best efforts over the ensuing years, a run of bad luck meant that Twilley's career stubbornly stalled at revered cult hero.
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Instead, the label issued "Out of my Hands" b/w "Nothing's Ever Gonna Change so Fast," followed by "Runaway" b/w "Burnin' Sand" (a non-LP track that marked Susan and John Cowsill's first recording with Twilley). Neither single charted, but a rarely seen promotional video was made for "Out of my Hands." Although with MTV still a couple of years away, the need for this kind of marketing tool was limited and according to Kent Benjamin: "Dwight hated the video and it's never been seen since, so its very existence is unknown to most fans."
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Was it scary the first time he went onstage without Phil, I wonder?
"No. Actually, I was more concerned about recording. My main concern was the harmonies. Even though somebody might be a great singer, that doesn't mean they'll have the blend that you need. I was just fortunate enough to have had a relationship with Susan Cowsill."
Prior to 1979, the last time most of us had seen Susan Cowsill she was a cute-as-a-button 9-year-old, playing tambourine and singing "The Rain, the Park, and Other Things" next to her identically dressed mother and brothers on national television. When a mutual road manager mentioned her to Twilley, the now accomplished musician and vocalist had reunited with some of her siblings to work on an album of new material called Cocaine Drain (which remained unreleased until 2008).
"I was interested in Susan," says Twilley. "So, I decided to come down to one of their shows and meet her." Thanks to Twilley, the question "Whatever happened to the Cowsills?" was answered. And for almost a decade Susan took over as his harmony/backing vocalist while her brother John often joined them on drums.
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Twilley toured in promotion of Scuba Divers through the summer of '82 with a band that included Susan and John Cowsill, as well as Bill Pitcock IV (who could also be found backing up Phil Seymour. According to Twilley, "Bill was kind of in both camps.")
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In his review of Jungle for Star Hits magazine, David Sprague noted that Twilley's "original Beatles-rockabilly fixations have given way to a soulfully metallic edge more like that of Bryan Adams." And nowhere is Twilley's ease and confidence with this style more apparent than on the LP's lead track, "Little Bit of Love," which again featured Susan Cowsill on harmonies.
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Q: Do you keep in touch with Susan Cowsill?
Twilley: Yeah, in fact on New Year's Eve I did a show here with Leon Russell at Cain's Ballroom. One of my players had a contract he couldn't get out of, so Susan flew in and did the show with me - and it was just terrific!
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