By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
When Dwight Twilley released "Tulsa" in 1999 — his first
album of new material in more than a decade, his ninth in a
quarter-century — the CD garnered high critical praise (and
won him two Spot Music Awards), particularly in Europe
where critics and fans snatched up the disc indignantly,
practically scolding Twilley for being absent from
music-making all those years.
Little did they know — he was absent from the
record-store shelves but not from studios.
In the early '90s, before moving back to Tulsa from Los
Angeles, Twilley — who scored Top 20 hits with "I'm on Fire"
in 1975 and "Girls" in 1984 — recorded an album of new
material and called it "The Luck." Ironically, the album had
no luck at all. Producer Richie Podolor wasn't happy with
the offers he received for the album from record labels,
and the tapes wound up shelved, written off and eventually
Now "The Luck" is seeing daylight due to a sequence of
happy windfalls — the critical success of "Tulsa," the
formation of his own record company (the Big Oak Recording
Group, named for the most prominent feature in Twilley's
midtown Tulsa front lawn), and the addition of the Dwight
Twilley Band to the eligibility list for the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame. "The Luck" will be released internationally on
"It's been very frustrating to have these songs
collecting dust," Twilley said in a recent interview. "I
think it's a really serious studio record."
Some of the tracks from "The Luck" have shaken off that
dust in the last couple of years, appearing on the Twilley
rarities collection "Between the Cracks, Vol. 1." The title
track was re-recorded for "Tulsa," "because I think it's a
good song and I thought it would never come out," Twilley
Fortunately, Twilley's brand of rock 'n' roll — rootsy in
the tradition of a meaty, Sun Records backbeat and classic
in the sense of the purest pop classicism a la the Beatles --
is so timeless that "The Luck" still sounds as fresh as the
day it was recorded. Even the song with Tom Petty's backing
vocals — from tapes that are much older.
"Petty's on another album of mine and he probably doesn't
even know it," Twilley chuckles. "When he came in to do
'Girls' with me (in 1984), we also cut a song called
'Forget About It Baby.' I discovered those tapes while I
was working on 'The Luck' and — since I never let a good
song go — decided to redo some of the drums. I always loved
the song but I hated what the producers did to it. Then we
redid the bass, and then this and then that. Now the only
thing remaining from the original sessions are my and Tom's
Twilley's first outing to promote the "new" album
is a doozy: on Sept. 28, he's headlining the Serie-B pop
festival in Calahorra, Spain. Other acts on the eclectic
pop-rock bill include Mudhoney, Bevis Frond, Cotton Mather
and Death Cab for Cutie.
The new band assembled for the show includes Dave White
and Bill Padgett (the Nashville Rebels behind local
rockabilly stud Brian Parton), Jerry Naifeh (original
percussionist for the Dwight Twilley Band), guitarist Tom
Hanford and bassist Sean Standing Bear. Despite the
European success of Twilley's band and solo efforts in the
past, this will be his first-ever European performance.
"We recorded over there, but we never played live,"
Twilley said. "Clive (Davis, former head of Arista Records)
had this policy not to play his acts there. And last year,
we did this press tour across the continent behind `Tulsa,'
and the first question out of every journalist's mouth was,
'When are you coming?'"
That media tour opened Twilley's eyes to the differences
between American and European music markets — as well as the rebirth of his
own popularity there. One music-industry representative in
England floored Twilley by informing him that he had named
his son after him, James for James Paul McCartney and
Dwight for Dwight Twilley.
"Sitting down personally with the press over there, it
apparent that there's still a deep appreciation for the pop
song there," Twilley said. "When I was a kid in the music
business, the philosophy was, 'I'll give 'em the record
they can't refuse.' That's all disappeared here in America.
The song is no longer the focal point. It's the packaging.
The song won't save you here anymore. The business has
gotten too big. There are great bands writing
great songs over there, and they're getting by on those
songs. And, I mean,
they're still talking about great acts like Paul Revere and
the Raiders. Who over here still knows who they were?"
One American honor has edged within reach, though. This
year, the Dwight Twilley Band — the original mid-'70s
lineup, which included the late Phil Seymour, a local pop
talent of equal stature — has become eligible for induction
into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"There's no letter or announcement for that kind of
thing. You just suddenly
appear on the magic list. All of a sudden we were getting
tons of e-mails from people saying, 'Congratulations!' and
we had no idea what we'd done," Twilley said. "I figured no
one would remember me. I'm honored to just be on the list."
Other new eligibles include Bruce Springsteen, the Sex
Pistols and Blondie.
"Some people campaign for that, you know. They write
letters and take
out ads and really push to get inducted," Twilley said, then
paused. "I'm a little too busy for that."
After the jaunt to Spain, Twilley said he hopes to begin
recording a proper follow-up to "Tulsa." The album won Best
National Album and Twilley won Artist of the Year at the
first Spot Music Awards.
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.