John Cowsill and The Dwight Twilley Story

Dwight's site appears to be gone or not currently working, so here's the text thanks to Jo.

Meanwhile, the label belatedly released a 2nd single, "You Were So Warm," coupled with a terrific recent track, "Sincerely" (recorded with assistance from Roger Linn, about to become famous as the inventor/namesake of the first synth drums). "You Were Warm" was Phil's first lead vocal on an a-side, and remains one of the band's best loved songs. However, Shelter Records was undergoing major changes - with label owners Denny Cordell and Leon Russell splitting up - and while the single got numerous rave reviews, it was barely findable in the stores, and such a stylistic change from "I'm On Fire" that it didn't really get any benefit from being a somewhat belated follow-up to a hit single; if you heard it at all on radio, you probably would never recognize it as the same band.

The band continued to soldier on in the studio, and as more and more terrific tracks were cut, the projected line-up of the debut album continued to evolve. It's not unreasonable to say, with the benefit of hindsight, that what was released as the critically acclaimed album Sincerely in late summer of 1976, was more or less Dwight and Phil's favorites the week they had to turn in a final line-up. For instance, in early 1976, there's a handwritten list from Dwight with a 'final' line-up of two albums: Sincerely [Side A: "I'm On Fire," "Could Be Love," "Feeling In the Dark," "You Were So Warm," "Dancer," "Sincerely," Side B: "Shakin' (In The Brown Grass)," "Release Me," "Three Persons," "Baby Let's Cruise," "Just Like The Sun," "England," "TV"] and "The B Album" [Side A: "Rock Yourself, Son," "Look Like An Angel," "I Don't Even Know My Name," "Sky Blue" (marked 40-track or Robin Cable version?), "I'm Losing You," "Shark" (marked 40-track or Robin Cable version?), and Side B: "Please Say Please," "I Wanna Be A Rebel," "Tulsa Girl," "Miserable Lady," "Tiger Eyes," ""Lovin' Me," "Did You See What Happened?"]. Fascinating - close, but so far away....

Shelter Records got a new lease on life for a time. Cordell was sole man in charge and Russell was out of the picture. Initially, they'd been distributed by MCA, and had more or less gone under in the fall of 1975. By 1976, they'd been picked up by ABC, and while all the momentum from the previous summer's hit had dissipated, the band was allowed to continue recording, making the album better and better, and a final debut album was assembled in the spring.

For the most part, the released Sincerely consisted of late '75-early '76 material, and most of the older tracks were abandoned, for all intents and purposes; the band would never again come close to releasing any of them before they split up. The final album line-up was "I'm On Fire," "Could Be Love," "Feeling In The Dark," "You Were So Warm," "I'm Losing You," "Sincerely," and Side Two: "TV," "Release Me," "Three Persons," "Baby Let's Cruise," "England," "Just Like The Sun." It's worth noting that several of the most recently written and recorded tracks included on Sincerely are among Twilley's best, including "Could Be Love," "Baby Let's Cruise," "TV," and "Just Like The Sun." In 1989, DCC Compact Classics reissued the album with four bonus tracks: "Look Like An Angel," "Miserable Lady," "Rock Yourself, Son," and "Did You See What Happened?"; in 1997 The Right Stuff reissued the CD again with these bonus tracks: "Tiger Eyes," "Please Say Please," "Miserable Lady," and "Rock Yourself, Son." The Right Stuff's version uses the "I'm On Fire" single front and back covers for the album; it was one of the all-time cheapo album cover shoots, being part of several rolls of shots taken in a photo booth one day. A single was released just after the album, "Could Be Love" backed with "Feeling In the Dark." The album received rave reviews, making many year end Best Of lists, but Shelter Records was putting all their promotional dollars into Petty's record by that time.

By the time of the release of Sincerely, both the music press and the fans who'd bought "I'm On Fire" and the debut album were all abuzz about the fact that the band had another equally good album in the can before the first one was even in the stores. In truth, by my count, there were something like 50 releaseable and excellent songs that had been recorded under the auspices of Shelter during their first 15 months there. For posterity, the tape that was compiled to reel as "The B Album" as of the summer release of Sincerely consisted of these tracks in this order: "Rock Yourself, Son," "Looking For a Dreamer/Look Like An Angel," "Sky Blue" (Cable version), "I Don't Know My Name," "Shark" (Leon version), "Shakin'" (40-track version), "Dancer," "Please Say Please," "Did You See What Happened?," "I Wanna Be A Rebel," "Lovin' Me," "Tulsa Girl," "Miserable Lady," "Tiger Eyes," "I Can't Get No," and "Shakin'" (Bob Schaper-produced version). Most of these tracks were collected on DCC's The Great Lost Twilley Album. Only the versions of "Sky Blue," the earlier version of "Shakin'" (Schaper version), "Tulsa Girl," and "I Wanna Be A Rebel" remain unissued; while the re-recorded "Shakin'" is definitive and released, the other three tracks are all terrific, and will hopefully be released one day.

It's worth noting that this reel was at no point an album, or anything that they'd planned to release at the time. It was, irrespective of the myths that have since surrounded it, truly nothing but a reel that compiled the best of their leftover songs. Mind you, virtually all of them are brilliant songs, and should by all rights have been released. In a better world, had "Shark" not have been pulled, followed by Shelter's dissolution, there should've been several more Top Forty hits from this tape. At the very least, twenty-five years of hindsight have made clear that there were at least three glaring omissions from the album: the '75 Leon Russell/40-track versions of "Shark" and "Shakin'," and either the Robin Cable or the 40-track version of "Sky Blue" (both '75). All three were seemingly left off in favor of more recently recorded tracks, that with hindsight, were perhaps not as strong. Those three tracks probably rank in the Top Five tracks Twilley wrote for the Dwight Twilley Band, and among his career Top Ten. It didn't matter, ultimately, because Sincerely remains many fans' favorite Twilley album, one of the greatest US albums of the decade.

It's also worth mentioning at this point, since there seems to be a bit of confusion among fans, that most of the songs sung by Phil Seymour in the Dwight Twilley Band were written especially for Phil to sing, with his vocal style and range in mind. Generally if Phil sang a song, two things are true: there's no earlier version with Dwight singing it, and Dwight never recut the song after the band broke up (there's two exceptions we'll mention later). For example, one day Phil asked Dwight if he could write a song for him like "California Girls," only maybe about Tulsa. Hence, "Tulsa Girl," with its references to Tupelo girls and Tulsa girls, and the silly Twilley backing vocals 'ooh bop T.G.....'

In April of 1976, having already finalized the debut album, the band convinced Shelter to allow them to set up a mobile studio in a house in Los Angeles, the so-called "ShelterVision" studio. ShelterVision was used as Leon Russell's video laboratory. The band cut a number of demos of new tracks intentionally meant for a second album, including: "Prisms and Glass," "Didn't You Say," "Trying To Find My Baby," "Skywriter," "Too Young For Love," "Two Of Us," "You Never Listen To My Music," "Chance To Get Away," "Rock'n'Roll 47," "Twenty-nine Times," and "Living In The City." Several of these tracks were included on the compilations The Great Lost Twilley Album and Between The Cracks, Vol. 1. Other tracks written and/or recorded in early 1976 were "Mr. Rabbit," "Alone In My Room," "Cryin' Over Me," "Flippin' (On The Mention of Love)," and "Someone Sleeping" (a newer version). A couple of the ShelterVision tracks used an early synth drum machine with Phil himself programming in the drum parts.

In October-November of 1976, the Dwight Twilley Band made their first live appearances in about a dozen venues in Southern Cal., the Midwest, and the upper east coast. Live, Twilley played guitar and keyboards, Phil was down in front beside him playing drums, Pitcock off to the side on blistering lead guitar, and there was essentially an entire second band behind them composed of several of their former Tulsa bandmates like Bingo Sloan and Rob Armstrong. The sets were far more raucous, screaming rock'n'roll than anyone who'd heard Sincerely could possibly have imagined. And by the time they finally played live on stage, only a few Sincerely tracks were ever played. Already the set was full of tracks from what would become the second album, along with many tracks that wouldn't have an official release for over two decades. The legend of the band's stockpile of unreleased songs continued to grow. Several radio concerts were broadcast, including a King Biscuit Flower Hour from a set recorded at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland that is just brilliant.

By the start of 1977, Shelter Records had been taken over by Arista (except for Tom Petty, who managed to escape relatively unscathed), and Twilley's next two albums would appear on Shelter/Arista. When the band returned to the studio, they were invigorated by the live performances, and determined to try to capture the sound that the band got on stage. Consequently, when they went in to record the album, they had decided in advance exactly what was going to be on it, and that's just what they recorded. All but one track had been written and demoed in advance; "Sleeping" was written at the hotel while recording was in progress. The resulting album, Twilley Don't Mind was released in August, 1977. It included: Side A: "Here She Come," "Looking For The Magic," "That I Remember," "Rock'n'Roll 47," "Trying To Find My Baby," and Side B: "Twilley Don't Mind," "Sleeping," "Chance To Get Away," "Invasion." A single outtake was included on the DCC 1990 CD reissue, "Falling In Love," and it was quite literally the only song extra that they cut, left off at the time because the recording of it was so problematic, that by the time they'd finished it, they were a bit tired of it. The 1997 reissue by The Right Stuff added only three remixes by Noah Shark, who took it upon himself to do the remixes on spec, hoping to convince Twilley to work with him in the future (it worked); this reissue also restored the cover shot Seymour and Twilley had wanted, not the one Clive Davis insisted on at the time, and has a more effective playing order similar to the original cassette release, which moved "Twilley Don't Mind" to the opening slot.

Three singles were released from the album: the title track b/w "Rock'n'Roll 47," "Trying To Find My Baby" b/w "Here She Come" and "Looking For the Magic" b/w "Invasion" but all failed to catch on with record buyers in what was becoming known as the age of disco; all three came in the same picture sleeve with the album cover photo, but only the first is commonly seen. In England, "Trying To Find My Baby" b/w "Rock'n'Roll 47" and "Twilley Don't Mind" b/w "Looking For The Magic" were issued on Arista UK, to good reviews but no significant sales. In the early fall, they performed lip-synched versions of "That I Remember," "Chance To Get Away," "Looking For The Magic," and "Twilley Don't Mind" on a Chris Beard-produced program called The W.A.C.K.O. Show; intended to be a Saturday morning kids version of Laugh In, the program was barely on the air longer than it took to air their four episodes in September and October. It was missed by most fans (who were older) and didn't serve to attract a younger audience, either. A pre-superstardom Tom Petty appeared on bass alongside Twilley, Seymour, and Pitcock (Tom had guested on guitar on the album on "Looking For The Magic," and was just starting his long run of hits).

Another brief fall tour was undertaken in November to promote the album, and the band turned in some remarkable shows, in spite of sometimes being booked as the opening act to some extremely ill-suited punk acts and over-the-hill rockers. The band were performing their only cover, an excellent version of The Soul Survivors' "Expressway (To Your Heart)." Again, several radio concerts were broadcast. At some point, Twilley hopes to release a Dwight Twilley Band live album drawn from Oct. '76 and Oct. '77 performances taped for radio broadcast.

Some recording also continued into late 1977 and early 1978, but nothing has ever been released from this period. Songs like "Treehouse" date from around this time.

By early 1978, with the release of the final of the three singles, "Looking For the Magic" (impossibly rare in its picture sleeve version, darned rare even as a black label stock copy!), the band was beginning to give up hope. They were booked to appear on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert in April, 1978; the band, which included Twilley, Seymour, Pitcock, Robbie Armstrong, and Bingo Sloan, performed four songs: "Twilley Don't Mind," "Trying To Find My Baby," (these two survive, and we think Dwight's two lead vocals were:) "Here She Come," and "Chance To Get Away." It was an amazing performance, and a seriously incongruous appearance, alongside The Sylvers in their silver spacesuits, and Kansas. In a bit of bad luck so typical for The Dwight Twilley Band, this appearance, which might well have put the album high in the charts, was canceled because of legal problems over use of the footage of the headliners, The Sex Pistols.

In a way, it was the last straw for Phil Seymour. Both he and Dwight were gutted over having recorded so many brilliant tracks, and then having bad luck prevent the music from being heard and appreciated as it so richly deserved to be. Neither had ever envisioned themselves as 'cult items,' nor was it a role they aspired to. In addition, Phil had always seen himself primarily as a singer, not as a musician, from day one. He was unquestionably one of the finest drummers in America at the time, and Dwight very much wanted him to continue to play drums. And as a bass player, he was quite good, but as Roger Harris put it, he really only played bass on record merely because he knew what parts the songs needed, and he knew he could deliver them. But he didn't want to play either instrument live. He wanted to be down front with Dwight, just singing. It's also reasonable to assume that while Phil was the one who talked Dwight into calling the band 'The Dwight Twilley Band' (a true if little known fact), it was undoubtedly a bit galling to be singing lead on most of the singles and often be called 'Dwight Twilley' in live concert reviews. Twilley was always the leader and songwriter, but in a similar way to the relationship George Harrison had with the older John Lennon, the younger Phil felt the need to get out from under Dwight's shadow. The commercial failure of the second album was the final blow. Phil signed away the rights to all the Dwight Twilley Band's material and name, in exchange for which Dwight assumed the by-then very substantial debt owed to the label for advances, promotion, expenses, etc..

Phil Seymour went on to a successful solo career at first, scoring a big hit in 1981 with "Precious To Me," one of the first songs he'd written himself, before joining the Textones temporarily as a drummer around 1985. Soon after, he developed lymphoma, which he succumbed to in August, 1993. He continued recording and performing right up until the end. Contrary to some reports, he and Dwight never ceased to be lifelong best friends. Twilley helped out on Seymour's solo debut, Seymour sang on Twilley's first solo album, and they recorded together from time to time until Phil's death. Shortly before he died, they had agreed to record another album together, but sadly, it was never to be.

At the time, when asked who sang which songs (since the records never identified them), Twilley replied: "Phil's the good voice, and I'm the one that's all over the place." For posterity, here's a little help: listen to "Look Like An Angel" on the original DCC reissue of Sincerely - it's virtually the only song in their catalog where Dwight and Phil are on separate stereo channels. Phil's the first voice you hear, then Dwight; Phil's the lead singer on both the "Looking For a Dreamer" and "Look Like An Angel" segments of the song. A few more reference points: Phil sings lead on "Twilley Don't Mind," "You Were So Warm," "Could Be Love," "England," and "Trying To Find My Baby," while Dwight sings lead on "I'm On Fire," "Shark," "Looking For the Magic," "Sincerely," and "TV."

Dwight Twilley continued to record for Arista immediately upon Seymour's departure, this time under his own name, and went on to achieve vastly more commercial success. Both Bill Pitcock IV and some of the Tulsa mafia were still in the backing band. Sessions began for his next album, which was released under the title Twilley in the early fall of 1978. It was a very stressful and trying time for Dwight, doing his first solo album without his right hand man, but he rose magnificently to the job, handling all the vocals himself. The studio was draped with tinfoil and Christmas lights, giving it a very party-like, fun atmosphere. Phil contributed harmonies to "Darlin'." Seven of the songs were brand new ones. The final lineup of the album was: Side One: "Out of My Hands," "Nothing's Ever Gonna Change So Fast," "Runaway," "Standing in the Shadow of Love," "Alone in My Room," Side B: "Betsy Sue," "Darlin'," "I Want To Make Love To You," "Got You Where I Want You," and "It Takes A Lot of Love." "Runaway" was originally written for Phil to sing, and contained an extra verse; it was one of only two songs ever written for Phil to sing that Dwight subsequently recut himself (the other is "Living In The City"). "Alone In My Room" was also a latter-day Dwight Twilley Band song (never heard in an original studio version), and "Betsy Sue" had always been a highlight of the band's few live shows as far back as 1976 - in fact, the song was originally written when Twilley was fifteen. The other songs were new. "Out of My Hands" was released in an edited version I hope one day to see on CD, and in early 1979, "Runaway" was released as a second single although neither achieved chart status. In terms of outtakes, the most interesting tracks I've heard are a radically different remix of "Betsy Sue" and "I Want To Make Love To You" with noticeably different mix and different bridge. Still, the album was well received, and today is considered the single most glaring omission for a CD reissue. In fact, some fans consider it song for song to be Twilley's best album.

Noah Shark and Max co-produced with Dwight, the first time he'd allowed anyone to produce him (and used the results); Noah'd gotten the job after doing some test remixes of three songs from Twilley Don't Mind, and because he was just so entertaining as a character, and so much fun to work with in the studio. He'd remain as Dwight's production partner in crime for the first few years of his solo career.

Amazingly, there was actually a promotional video made for "Out Of My Hands," although since it predated MTV by three years, there was virtually no market for it to be shown. Dwight hated the video, and it's never been seen since, so it's very existence is unknown to most fans (me, I knew about it, but could never get a copy and it's the only Twilley video I've never even seen).

"Burnin' Sand" is a rather remarkable track recorded in 1978 and released as the incredibly hard-to-find b-side to "Runaway." It's a wacky little bit of silliness with a huge rave up ending straight out of "A Day In The Life" via a Midwest sandstorm, and marks the first appearance of some Cowsills on a Twilley record. John Cowsill was to become, for a time, the best drummer Twilley had ever worked with after Phil Seymour (and a fine backing singer, to boot), and Susan Cowsill was to take over for nearly ten years as a harmony/backing singer both live and on record. While Dwight has always viewed the track as a throwaway, many fans consider it among his best songs. Apparently some four versions were cut more or less at the same time. The version that appears on The Great Lost Twilley Album is believed to be the uncut take that the single version was edited from, although I certainly hope we can have the single version on CD if Twilley is ever reissued. Note: the Blueprint version of "Then We Go Up" mentioned below was cut at the same time as "Burnin' Sand."

On July 21, 1979, Dwight cut what would become a signature song for him, "Somebody To Love," with a hot version of Barrett Strong's "Money" (written by Berry Gordy) on the flip side. Released in both 7" and the new 12" versions (with a sleeve cropped from the front cover of the unreleased Blueprint album), the song very nearly became a major hit, garnering substantial airplay all over the country. The version of "Money," derived mostly from the Beatles' cover, found Twilley taking liberties with the original version by inverting the riff completely, and only playing it 'right' in the instrumental. The song grew to be one of the most popular on stage numbers, and ironically, became an excuse for the audience to toss money up on stage, ones, fives, change. That era ended when they started bringing Monopoly money to the gigs. Twilley in the fade singing 'MasterCharge' has always made the song for me.

Twilley and Pitcock undertook a little mini-tour, primarily to raise funds to pay the band, with Jerry Naifeh and Jim Lewis (aka 'Captain Slime') in the group (both of whom would be the core band for the next album). The tour was notable in that the set lists were chock full of Sun rockabilly classics, Elvis and Jerry Lee songs, among them "Too Much," "Hard Headed Woman," "C.C. Rider," "Great Balls Of Fire," "Treat Her Right" (a Texas rockabilly track by Roy Head), and a very cool and original medley of two Ray Harris Sun tracks, "Greenback Dollar Watch And Chain" and "Where Did You Stay Last Night." Twilley has explained that the primary reason for all the covers was that it took about four singers to cover all the harmonies on most of his songs, so it was much easier with this stripped down line-up to do the covers. It would be the first and last time since "I'm On Fire" for their set to include much non-Twilley material. And, of course, the shows also featured, you guessed it, more unreleased Twilley originals. Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing but audience tapes surviving from these gigs.

The next era of Twilley's solo career was marked by a relatively large number of recordings, the overwhelming majority of which would never see the light of day. This period included one of two completely unreleased albums in Twilley's career. From 1979 until the very last months in 1981, Twilley worked on the follow-up album to Twilley for Arista. Entitled Blueprint, the album was originally finished by Sept. 24, 1979, and actually appeared on Arista's new release sheets in May 1980 with the number AB4251 assigned to it (alongside The Kinks' Low Budget and albums by The Sports, Eddie Kendricks, and David Sancious). As mentioned earlier, a differently cropped version of Blueprint's front cover appeared on the 12" of "Somebody To Love," and in full-length positive/negative photos on a British six song EP called Dwight On White (in white vinyl, natch). The rear cover was an 'in studio' shot of the band (Twilley, Pitcock, Naifeh, and Jimmy Lewis), Dwight in front with some studio blueprints in his hands; a Cowsills record and a Sincerely cassette can be seen. Produced by Noah Shark and Max again, the final line-up of the album (as of 9/79) was: Side One: "Somebody To Love," "I Love You So Much" (version one), "She's All My Light," "Like You Did It Before," and "Dancer." Side Two is: "Money," "Then We Go Up," "Leave Me Alone With My Baby," "I Found The Magic" (version one), and "Cryin' Over Me." All tracks were recorded in late 1978 and early 1979. "Dancer" is a new recording of the B Album track, a great song about Elvis ("Deke Rivers/backed up by The Quarrymen.../man was a helluva dancer/oh lord, he gave us the answers/we all stood back and watched/as he knocked out the world..."). Deke Rivers, of course, was Elvis' character in his second (best?) film Lovin' You, and the Quarrymen evolved into the Beatles. "Like You Did It Before" was a new recording of an old Teac Tape song. "I Found the Magic" was a bit of a sequel to "Looking For the Magic," and on this version, had an extra verse and phased guitar break, different to what was eventually released. "Leave Me Alone With My Baby" ("we're tired, we're cold and we're crazy...") is one of Twilley's very finest songs, and was rerecorded in the '90s, and is included in the summer 2001 CD edition of The Luck. "Love You So Much" was recorded in at least two versions, the 2nd of which appeared on The Great Lost Twilley Album. Co-producer Jack Nitzche was going through a very bad period in his life (divorce, etc.) when the album was recorded, and to Twilley, it always felt like a rather dry and sterile recording. Arista wasn't entirely happy with it, either, so a mutual decision was made to put it on the shelf.

Meanwhile, Twilley had the first of over a half dozen songs used in film soundtracks when National Lampoon's Up The Academy film featured the Dwight Twilley Band's recording of "Trying To Find My Baby" in 1980.

Twilley continued to work on Blueprint throughout 1980, recording new songs, revisiting some old Dwight Twilley Band material, and cutting new versions of some of the tracks. At least twice, the album came close to being released again before being pulled, but neither version came as close as the 9/79 version. In 1980, Dwight gave some friends a cassette of a second version of Blueprint that would have been as follows: Side One: "Rock Yourself, Son" (a 1980 Twilley version of the B Album track), "Sky Blue" (the same basic track was started in 1978, and continued to be worked on an improved, until it was finally completed with a contrapuntal guitar part added on March 21, 1981; this version remains unreleased, but the finally completed '81 version was featured on both The Great Lost Twilley Album and on XXI), "Shark (In The Dark)" (a Twilley solo version, which can be found in this version on the long-deleted Rock Yourself semi-unauthorized CD), "Baby's Got The Blues Again" (a brilliant reworking of the Teac Tape track with harmonies from Susan Cowsill), "Tiger Eyes" (arguably Twilley's best-ever rockabilly song, in an outstanding new version, of the B Album demo), "It's So Amazing" (a little fragment, which existed elsewhere as a complete song), Side Two: "Then We Go Up," "She's All My Light," "Cryin' Over Me," "Somebody To Love," and "Money."

Continued ...

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