The remaking of Molly's Yes
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
Brad Mitcho's a tad edgy.
Not that Mitcho isn't always edgy, but today he's
unusually tense. His eyes are darting back and forth with
that kind of caged-animal,
cramming-for-a-life-altering-test panic. He only makes eye
contact when it surprises you. The waitress at the Brook is
wary of him. He's tripped her fidgeting alarm, and it's
clear he hasn't seen the sun in a few days.
"I'm freaking out," he mutters during our conversation
last week. "I'm trying to get it all done. I come from a
theater background, so I tend to go overboard when getting
ready for a show."
This show, especially.
The pressure's on this weekend as Molly's Yes unveils
itself as a major-label pop band. The Tulsa quartet
actually will play two shows — Oklahoma City on Friday, here
at home Saturday — to celebrate the international release of
"Wonderworld," the band's first shot on Universal's Republic
Records. The CD was due on shelves across the country this
"Wonderworld" is a spiffed-up version of the band's debut
CD, "Paper Judas," which was released locally early this
year. In the hands of Republic, the album's sound got a
shot of steroids and added an extra track. But the umpteen
thousands of copies still read, "Produced by Brad Mitcho."
Molly's Yes — the name comes from Molly Bloom's
life-affirming monologue at the end of James Joyce's
"Ulysses" — consists of Mitcho, bassist and what critics like
to call "sonic architect"; Ed Goggin, a powerful singer with
an unruffled eye on Bono's white flag; Mac Ross, a gifted
guitarist with an ear for tone and texture; and Scott
Taylor, drummer and, like Mitcho, a former resident of
another Tulsa musical mainstay, Glass House. In three short
years, these four have blazed a trail of glory that defines
the phrase "meteoric rise." How high they will go remains to
One thing is clear to Molly's Yes, though. The next
phase of their promising recording career starts this
weekend. Back home.
Mitcho's been up nights working on "incidental music."
That's a phrase that usually sends serious rock fans
scurrying for the beer tent, but it sheds light on the way
Molly's Yes makes music. They don't just make music. They
make an experience.
"The whole vibe of this band has been to take slick
songwriting and apply the electronic element," Mitcho says.
"The artists who have inspired us are people like U2, Kate
Bush — people who are aware of the audio, video and
theatrical element of a show."
Indeed, when Mitcho refers to the "electronic element,"
he's talking about sight and sound. Saturday's hometown
show will be a festival of carefully orchestrated music and
video, thanks to the work and talent of multimedia
designers like Chris White at Tulsa's Winner
Communications. It'll be cool, Mitcho assures, but it's
made a lot of extra work for him.
"Computers can't jam," he says. "I have to create a lot of
music to bridge the songs, and I have to represent the
songs as finished products."
Molly's Yes is not an electronic band, though they are
certainly electronically enhanced. Goggin's emotional songs
and plaintive wails are melodic, accessible and moving, and
he says he writes on an acoustic guitar like any other rock
musician. Once the song gets its legs, Goggin hands it over
to Mitcho, who slinks into his electronic lair.
"The most exciting part is when I write a song and give
it to Brad, and then he goes and does his ... thing," Goggin
says. "I can't wait to come back and see where it's gone and
get to see this Frankenstein thing come out."
"The first time Ed and I were working together," Mitcho
says, "we were talking about all these things we wanted to
do with our music, and we had the same ideas for loops and
stuff. He kept asking, `Do we have the technology to do
that?' Well, yeah, we do!"
So began a year-long journey for Molly's Yes: the
creation of "Paper Judas." Mitcho maintained his intense
focus on the album every step of the way — sometimes to the
point of obsession. Goggin is quoted in the band's new
Republic bio as saying, "He would not settle for anything
less than the best to the point where he almost needed
psychiatric help." The result of the labors, though, helped
the band score three nominations at next month's Spot Music
Awards, considerable radio exposure throughout the state
(no small feat) and a contract with one of the music
industry's most enterprising record labels.
Effects and cool sounds don't make a successful record,
though, and they (usually) don't land your band a record
contract. The Molly's Yes song "Sugar" — which was the single
released locally and nationally — is impossible to eject
from your head because, at the barest level, it's a solid
" 'Sugar' was never meant to be 'Brain Salad Surgery'
(Emerson, Lake and Palmer)," Mitcho says. "It's not hollow.
It's basically three chords and the truth."
"The title of it makes it sound like a confectionery
thing, but the irony is that it's about drug abuse," Goggin
says. "It's a beautiful tune wrapped up in a serious issue.
'Tell Me the Truth' gets into the complexity of a
relationship. I mean, for the most part, this is pretty
grown-up stuff. To me, that's more subversive than coming
out with the angry thing right off. It's like, 'Yeah, we
get it already. You're pissed off.'
"Of course, people like to corner you into being this or
that. We've already taken flack for different things.
People who know me know I'm not this bookish guy thinking
heavy things all the time. But, see, Molly's Yes is a great
name because that last chapter (of Ulysses) is not just a
daydream about flowers, it's about everything, a whole
lifetime of experience, of sex, of love, everything. It's
about all that we deal with as human beings. We, as a band,
can be all those things.
After this weekend's hometown kick-off, the band's plan --
surprisingly — is supposed to lie low. They recently hired a
manager, Scott McCracken (Lauryn Hill, Cherry Poppin'
Daddies, Spacehog), but there are no plans for Molly's Yes
to tour extensively until after the band's New Year's Eve
gig with Caroline's Spine at the Brady Theater.
"Once the record hits, we're going to party here but keep
it pretty low-key until after the holidays," Goggin says.
"Every artist and their dog is coming out with their Last
Record of the Century this fall. We're not going to try and
compete with that, with people like Beck. It would be too
difficult for a new band to squeeze in."
So for now, there's just the party.
Not only has Mitcho been locked up in his home studio
creating cartilage for the show's transitions, but the band
has been working and rehearsing at a fever pitch. This is
the hometown crowd, after all. It's homecoming weekend.
"People in Tulsa are looking to see if we've moved to
that next level," Goggin says, "and we have a certain amount
of gratitude to all the people who helped us achieve this,
from all the media to the people at Christopher Sound and
Vision to basically all the people who came out to the
Brink every weekend to see us. We owe them something big."
Molly's Yes performs Saturday at the Cain's Ballroom,
423 N. Main St., with Shaking Tree. Doors open at 8 p.m., show starts
at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7, at the Ticket Office at Expo
Square, Mohawk Music, Starship Records and Tapes and the
Mark-It Shirt Shop.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Bob Newhart's inimitable bone-dry wit has tickled the
funny bone of nearly every generation since his meteoric
rise in the late 1950s. First came the hugely successful
comedy records, including the Grammy-winning "Button-Down
Mind of Bob Newhart."
He moved to TV in the '60s with "The Bob Newhart Variety
Show" and "The Entertainers," the latter also featuring Carol
Burnett. In 1972, he launched his television calling card,
"The Bob Newhart Show," in which Bob played the ever-patient
psychiatrist with an office and apartment full of oddballs.
"Newhart" followed in 1982, moving Bob's deadpan delivery
from urban Chicago to rural Vermont. Again, the kooks
abounded, and Newhart's second series proved as successful
as the first. TV Guide listed 1990's final episode of
"Newhart" — in which Bob wakes up to find himself in bed with
"Bob Newhart Show" wife Suzanne Pleschette, proving the whole
second series to be a dream — in the top five most-memorable
moments in television.
The '90s saw a few more stabs at TV — the
schedule-plagued "Bob" and the anticipated but short-lived
"George and Leo" with Judd Hirsch — but Newhart's legacy
manifested itself most brilliantly in a drinking game
called "hi Bob" popular on college campuses. Every time
someone on "The Bob Newhart Show" says, "Hi, Bob," you take a
He is, in other words, ground-breaking, pioneering,
historic and responsible for numerous watermarks in
In recent years, Newhart has returned to his stand-up
roots, taking his deadpan shtick to venues across the
country. In conjunction with the homecoming celebration at
the University of Tulsa this week, Newhart will be
performing his old and new routines for a special show on
We caught up with Bob on the phone this week. Of course,
conducting a phone interview with the comedian who made
one-sided phone conversations high comedy raises
interesting possibilities on its own. If you'd like, you
can read only Bob's half.
Thomas: You're at your office today? What kind of
business do you have to tend to in an office?
Bob: Oh, you know, signing autographs and returning
phone calls and such.
Thomas: Do you write material there?
Bob: No, I've found that the best place to write is the
bathroom. It's the least distracting place in the house. I
imagine most of the world's greatest inventions came to
people between the shower and the john. Orville probably
sat right there and thought, "I wonder what would happen if
we directed the air over the top ..."
Thomas: So stand-up starts sitting down, eh? Are you
enjoying taking your stand-up show on the road again?
Bob: Oh, yes. I've always kept the stand-up side of
things going. I can't imagine not ever doing stand-up
Thomas: What can we expect to see in the show?
Bob: Maybe one or two routines from the old albums, and
generally my kind of observations on this crazy place we
inhabit called the planet Earth.
Thomas: You were a stand-up comic who landed a TV gig
long before that was the established career path. What
differences do you see in the way comedy finds its way from
stage to screen today?
Bob: Well, as this season has proven already, just being
a stand-up comic isn't enough to guarantee the success of a
TV show. Some comics have had great success with it — Ray
Romano, Seinfeld, before them Roseanne — but simply putting
a stage comic on TV isn't automatically the answer. You'd
better be able to act also.
The advantages to it, though, are that you already know
how to time a joke. Secondly, you come with a persona
that's already established; you don't have to spend five or
six episodes explaining why this person is the way he or
she is. Most importantly, though, you need to know the
persona yourself. You have to be able to act as your own
watchdog when writers try to make you say things you know
your persona wouldn't say.
Thomas: Do the old routines still knock 'em dead, or do
'90s audiences have different expectations of a stand-up
Bob: Yeah, they still work. That's the weird thing. I've
re-recorded some of the stuff from the first and second
albums because I didn't have a hand in the editing of them,
and they removed a lot of the silences in order to save
time. In comedy, the silences are as important or more
important than the words. I got to record them again the
way I originally heard them as opposed to the way they were
edited, and we recorded them in front of an audience whose
average age was about 35. And they still worked the same
way. The laughs were just as strong. Funny is funny.
Thomas: Despite where you said you come up with your
material, you've never had a potty mouth. Does that somehow
date you among new comedians?
Bob: When I started, there was a language barrier.
That's been broken down. Some of the younger comics think
that they'll be funnier if they use the strong language. I
think they're confusing shock with funny. Seinfeld worked
clean. Stephen Wright works clean. Jay (Leno) works clean
when he does stand-up. I don't have a problem with the
language, I just always have to look underneath it and ask,
"Is it still funny?"
Thomas: Much of your early routines are recognizable
because of the phone conversations you act out on stage.
That started between you and a friend, right?
Bob: His name was Ed Gallagher, and he recently died,
just two weeks ago. He was a smoker. We were both in a
suburban stock theater company, and I was an accountant at
the time. Just as I was about to flip out at the end of the
day, I'd give him a call and we'd improvise over the phone.
I'd tell him I was someone famous, and he'd interview me.
He suggested we record them. It was kind of a poor man's
Bob and Ray, and it wasn't very successful. Ed was
eventually offered a job in New York, and I decided to go
it on my own. Out of that, the phone bits evolved.
Thomas: Are there any comedians out there now you think
resemble your dry wit?
Bob: Stephen Wright and I are similar in our delivery. I
was talking to someone the other day about him. They said
he's like today's Henny Youngman. I said, "Yeah, Henny
Youngman on acid." He's so surreal. When I did "Bob" — "the
ill-fated `Bob' " as it's now known — he was on. He's very
dedicated. At some point during "Newhart," I was asked who I
thought the next Newhart would be, and I said Seinfeld.
It's that same kind of easy-to-live-with, non-pressured,
laid-back style, and all those terms people use to describe
Thomas: "The Bob Newhart Show" has been running regularly
on Nick at Nite, which advertises its line-up as "America's
TV heritage." What do you think of the idea of us having a
TV heritage, and how do you feel to be a part of it?
Bob: I'm proud of TV and what it's accomplished, and I'm
proud to have been a part of it. I've done a couple of
movies, but I prefer TV because of its immediacy and
especially because you can do it in front of a live
audience. Not enough shows today are done in front of live
audiences. Laugh tracks are so transparent.
Thomas: Specifically, how does the live audience enrich
Bob: The audience teaches you about your comedy. We were
rehearsing one week on "The Bob Newhart Show," and there was
one line that (made me say), "Guys, this is not going to
work. It's not funny." (The writers) said, "Trust us. Just do
it." So I did it, and sure enough, it didn't work. Nobody
laughed. I looked over at them, and they kind of nodded.
The next week, they knew their material would be tested
against that audience, so they wrote harder and looked
An audience tells you a lot of things you can't find out
with a laugh track. One was Larry, Darryl and Darryl (from
"Newhart"). Once they showed up, the audience went wild, and
they were only planned for one show. So right away we put a
couple of more scripts together working with them, and they
were a huge success. Every time they would enter, we'd all
have to pause for the roaring applause, and the same thing
happened every time they left. We couldn't have found that
out with a laugh track.
Thomas: Your shows always seemed to pit you, the stable
individual, against this sea of nutballs. Was that a
Bob: I used to tell Mary Frann (who played Bob's wife in
"Newhart"), "If we appear to be crazy, then the show isn't
going to work. We have to be the glue that holds this
together because everyone else is nuts." For a while, they
talked about spinning off Stephanie and Michael, and I
said, "It isn't going to work. They're cartoon characters.
They only work within the framework of this sanity."
Thomas: Any new series in the works for you?
Bob: No. "Bob" and "George and Leo" were such
disappointments for me. When something doesn't work, there
comes a time when you have to admit that it's someone
else's time. I'm happy with the huge success I had.
Thomas: Finally, I have to tell you: they're planning a
big game of "Hi Bob" on campus before your show here.
Bob: (laughing) With all the success I've enjoyed, I'm
going to go down in history for "Hi Bob." For some reason, I
was told that game started at SMU, which I kind of hope is
true because it seems like such a staid campus. It's a real
compliment to the show that people have picked up on that.
We weren't even aware when we were doing "The Bob Newhart
Show" how many "Hi Bobs" there were. The only thing I hope is
that the players stay on campus and don't drive anywhere
Newhart by the numbers
Bob Newhart's first career wasn't comedy. For many
years, he was an accountant — which, as he said, drove him
to comedy. In order to calculate his indelible success as a
comedian, though, here's Newhart by the numbers, courtesy
Number of TV shows in which Bob has starred: 6
Number of those shows which incorporate some element of
his full name, George Robert Newhart: 5
Number of episodes in his four most recent series: 378
Number of U.S. viewers who tuned in for the final
episode of "Newhart" on May 21, 1990: 29.5 million
Number of U.S. viewers who tuned into the cameo episode
on "George and Leo": 15.7 million
Number of Newhart's former co-stars who appeared in that
Number of "Hi Bob" greetings in all 142 episodes of "The
Bob Newhart Show": 256
Most in a single episode: 7
Number of personal Emmy nominations for Newhart: 4
Number of Emmy wins: 1
Number of Grammy awards he's received: 2
Number of weeks "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart"
stayed on the Billboard magazine Top 100 albums chart: 108
(with 14 weeks at No. 1)
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Reynolds Center, University of Tulsa, Eighth
Street and Harvard Avenue
Tickets: $10 at the Reynolds Center box office or all
Carson Attractions outlets; 584-2000
Twilley's on fire, again
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
The star-studded Spot Music Awards show just added
Dwight Twilley — premier pop-rocker behind such early
hits as "I'm on Fire" and "Girls," — has been added to the bill
of the Nov. 12 concert at the Cain's Ballroom. Twilley will
headline the Tulsa-talent show along with the Tractors and
Admiral Twin. The free concert that night follows a
first-ever VIP awards ceremony honoring Tulsa musicians,
presented by the Tulsa World and its Spot entertainment
Twilley's performance at the Spotniks will reunite him
with original Dwight Twilley Band guitarist Bill Pitcock
IV, who hasn't played on stage with Twilley in nearly 15
years. Pitcock contributed some of his unique guitar work
to Twilley's latest album — Twilley's first new material
since 1986 — entitled "Tulsa."
And "Tulsa" is beginning to get around.
Recorded entirely in Twilley's converted garage studio
in midtown and released this summer on the American indie
label Copper Records, "Tulsa" was picked up just this week by
Castle Music, one of the largest independent record
companies in Europe. The company also has agreed to
distribute "Between the Cracks," a CD collection of rarities
and outtakes from Twilley's entire three-decade career,
released in the United States last month on Not Lame
"We got the deal!" exclaimed Jan Allison, Twilley's wife,
from the canned veggies aisle at the neighborhood
supermarket. She and Twilley were huddled in conference.
Big dinner plans were afoot to celebrate a record deal that
could be the beginning not only of Twilley's long-overdue
comeback but of the much-ballyhooed return of power pop in
"Everyone's been talking about how power pop was going to
make this big return, but it hasn't happened. These people
at Castle are telling me they want my record to lead the
charge," Twilley said. "They've picked up six other bands
from these labels, too, with the intention of starting this
pop revolution in Europe, where they're craving it. I mean,
people are going crazy to get these records over there ...
And if it happens in Europe, then it could more easily
happen here. We tend to take our cues from Europe on what's
cool." Twilley's been releasing occasional vinyl singles
in Europe for about a year through a French label called
Pop the Balloon Records. The label reports that Twilley's
singles have been the most successful sellers in its
Why is the Old World so mad about the boy? It may be the
Elvis Factor: Twilley never toured in Europe. Like Elvis,
Europeans have only heard the buzz about him and been able
to buy records, but they've never gotten to actually see
him. Thus, they clamor after the records with greater
"From their standpoint, I'm just something they've heard
about," Twilley said. "When I had big records here, the first
thing the labels wanted to spend money on was a tour of the
states. We just never got to tour over there. If someone
had said, 'Go play over there,' I would have. It was only
when we set up my web site that I realized how big my
audience is over there ... The worldwide reaction to this
record has made me go, 'Gah!' I guess I'd better get off my
butt and make another one."
Are there songs in the works for another record?
He simply chuckled.
"I always have songs," he said.
"I could make probably two or three records without
writing a single new song. 'Baby's Got the Blues Again' (a
song on 'Tulsa') is an old one that was on the original
demo Phil (Seymour) and I took to Shelter Records. I
thought that was a quirky and bold thing to do, putting it
on the new record. Funny thing is, that's the song that's
been spotlighted in most of the press we've been getting. I
look back and think, 'Well, hell, there's 13 or 14 boxes
with more of those.' That's what I raided to fill up
'Between the Cracks' — which is titled `Volume One,' by the
way. And, I mean, these songs seem to stand the test of
time. I don't think anyone listens to 'Baby's Got the Blues
Again' and says, 'Wow, that's a 20-year-old song.'"
Twilley hopes to mount a European tour soon to capitalize
on his new continental success, but it will take some work
to put it together. He hadn't even planned on playing
locally until the Spot Music Awards came along. "It was only
because of this thing you guys did — paying some attention
to Tulsa musicians — that I decided to play," he said.
In addition to suiting up with Pitcock for the first
time in a long time, Twilley said he's planning some other
surprises for the Spotniks show. Namely, he said he'll
probably sit down at a piano again, "which I haven't done in
years on stage but actually did on this record." Mostly,
Twilley said, he just wants to have a blast. "This thing
is like a special occasion. It's almost a partyish
atmosphere, I think. The key to the whole deal is just to
have a gas so the audience is aware they can have a good
time and see what these wacky Tulsa musicians are all
Also on the bill for the Nov. 12 concert are the Red
Dirt Rangers, Freak Show, the Full Flavor Kings, Brian
Parton and the Nashville Rebels, and Republic Records
recording artist Molly's Yes.
Twilley's "Tulsa" album has been nominated for the Best
National Album award, and Twilley himself is up for Artist
of the Year. Ballots for the awards run each Friday inside
the Spot magazine. The last chance to vote will be the Oct.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.