Artful Dodger (U.S. band)
||This article reads like a review rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (August 2010)|
|Origin||Fairfax, Virginia, United States|
|Genres||Rock, power pop|
|Labels||Columbia, Ariola, Red Rooster|
|Past members||Gary Cox|
Artful Dodger (formed in 1973 in Fairfax, Virginia) are an American power pop rock band, noted for their tight rock compositions, deft lyricism, vocal harmonies, and live shows. The group was heavily influenced by The Beatles, Faces, and The Rolling Stones and drew frequent comparisons to Raspberries. Artful Dodger's studio releases received high critical praise, but the band was unable to penetrate the charts.
- This section taken (modified) from the Randy's Rodeo website.
Originally called Brat, Artful Dodger was formed in 1973 in Fairfax, Virginia, out of the remains of two local bands, Homestead and Badge. Creatively, the key members were Gary Herrewig (guitar) and Billy Paliselli (vocals), who wrote most of the songs as a team, and Gary Cox (guitar and vocals), who also wrote songs (usually by himself). Steve Cooper (bass) and Steve Brigida (drums) formed the rhythm section. Brigida was an ideal foil for the band's songs, combining the steady time-keeping of Charlie Watts with the flash of Keith Moon. The group's first release was a self-produced single, "Not Quite Right", which never made it onto an LP, with "Long Time Away" as the B-side. The original bass player, Robb Michael Inglis, split with the group during contract negotiations in 1974. Management & the group paid him to release his tracks and essentially disappeared him from the group's history. His bass tracks are featured on Brat, "Not Quite Right", the original 45 release B-side," Long Time Away" and the first album release of "New York City". Steve Cooper was chosen as his replacement. "Long Time Away" was re-recorded for their first album with an increased tempo and more pop feeling. Armed with a demo tape, Gary Cox traveled to New York City in search of a record deal and received an offer from the Leber-Krebs management firm, whose biggest act was Aerosmith. They were signed to Columbia Records and paired with Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas. After being forced to choose a new name (another Brat had prior claim), Artful Dodger released their self-titled debut album in September 1975. Produced with a refreshing lack of clutter by Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, Alice Cooper), Artful Dodger was a near-masterpiece that combined the best aspects of hard rock and Beatles-derived pop. "Wayside" has become the acknowledged classic, but the rest of the album, particularly the explosive "Think Think" and Cox's ballad, "Silver and Gold," is outstanding. Reportedly, the label's choice of the latter song as the album's lead single (not to mention a stunning lack of sales) was the beginning of a rift between Cox and the rest of the band. This didn't seem to make much of a difference, however, on the next album, Honor Among Thieves, which expanded upon the band's mastery of classic pop with a harder edge and more accomplished performances. Co-produced by Douglas and Eddie Leonetti, the album featured the power ballad "Scream" as the single.
Once again, however, the record failed to sell. The press was supportive and the band toured relentlessly, but to no avail. They even did a stint during the summer of 1976 opening for KISS. By the release of Babes On Broadway (1977), the strain of the band's experiences in the star-making machinery (including writing and recording three albums in three years) began to show. Produced exclusively by Eddie Leonetti, critical accolades on Babes On Broadway were fewer, with "Can't Stop Pretending" standing out as the pick-to-click. It didn't, of course (click, that is), and Artful Dodger found themselves back on the street sans management, record deal, and founding member Gary Cox.
Happily, the band regrouped with piano/guitar whiz Peter Bonta (previously with The Nighthawks and Rosslyn Mountain Boys) filling in for guitarist Cox, and they signed to Ariola Records in 1980. The intervening three years had been eventful ones for rock music - punk happened, and power pop coalesced into an identifiable, coherent sound. On their first and only Ariola release (and their last overall), Artful Dodger is perhaps guilty of a self-conscious attempt to jump on the very bandwagon they helped create. The redeeming factor is, they succeeded magnificently.
Artful Dodger's Rave On is an unqualified (if unheralded) power pop classic, contrasting starkly with Babes On Broadway in that highlights are difficult to pick among a record so consistently fine. Certainly, however, "She's Just My Baby" warrants mention as an absolutely perfect pop single; Rave On, in fact, stands toe-to-toe with albums as great (and famous) as Raspberries' Fresh and Badfinger's Straight Up. Artful Dodger plays as if they had something to prove (they didn't) and as if their life depended on it (it did), and their energy fairly leaps from the grooves. Everything, including continued praises from the critics, seemed to point towards success at long last, but it was not to be. In a marketplace cluttered with skinny-tied popsters (and poseurs), Artful Dodger had become just one more band for the industry to toss against the wall of public taste, hoping they'd stick.
Billy Paliselli, whose raspy, impassioned vocals and pretty boy looks were key to the band's appeal, left to spend more time with his family (he eventually opened a motorcycle shop in Amissville, VA) and in 1982, a dispirited Artful Dodger broke up. The rhythm section of Steve Cooper and Steve Brigida partnered with Washington DC guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Jeff Smith and continue to record and play live with Smith as the Band of Steves. Peter Bonta opened his own recording studio, Wally Cleaver's, located in northern Virginia. He produced, engineered and played on solo projects for Gary Herrewig (the unreleased Four Gone Conclusions), Billy Paliselli and Gary Cox (a set of country demos shopped unsuccessfully to Nashville). Bonta also found steady work recording and touring with Mary Chapin Carpenter.
In 1991, Artful Dodger played two reunion shows in Cleveland, Ohio (where they still get airplay) for the Cleveland Agora's 25th anniversary and appeared at the Legends of Rock Reunion '91 event held in Parkman, Ohio, but the reunion didn't take. Sony briefly issued Honor Among Thieves on CD in the early 1990s, and the first two LPs were both reissued on CD by Pendulum Entertainment Group in 1997. In 2008, American Beat Records re-issued Honor Among Thieves and is currently pursuing the re-issue rights to Artful Dodger and Babes on Broadway (never available on CD).
Due in large part to a resurgence of fan interest on the internet, Artful Dodger reunited once again to kick off a year-long series of "flashback" concerts to celebrate the Cleveland Agora's 40th anniversary. This reunion show occurred on December 31, 2005. The band returned to the Agora for a show on April 1, 2006 and played at the annual Taste of Cleveland event on September 2, 2006. The band last performed on May 3, 2008, once again at the Cleveland Agora.
The band continues to practice together and interacts with fans on the internet. Their recent performance at the Cleveland Agora on November 21, 2009 was recorded live to multitrack by Lava Room Recording. Release plans for this live recording are unknown at this time.
- Current members
- Steve Brigida - percussion (1973–1982, 1991, 2005–present)
- Steve Cooper - bass (1974–1982, 1991, 2005–present)
- Gary Herrewig - lead/rhythm guitars (1973–1982, 1991, 2005–present)
- Billy Paliselli - lead vocals, harmonica (1973–1982, 1991, 2005–present)
- Peter Bonta - keyboards, guitars (1979–1982, 1991, 2005–present)
- Former members
- Gary Cox - lead/rhythm guitars (1973–1980, 1991, 2005–2012; died 2012)
- Robb Michael Inglis - bass guitar (1973-1974)
- Released: September 1975
- Label: Columbia Records PC 33811
- Wayside (Gary Herrewig, Billy Paliselli) – 4:26
- You Know It's Alright (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:34
- It's Over (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 4:06
- Follow Me (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:44
- Long Time Away (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 2:38
- Think Think (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 2:56
- Silver and Gold (Gary Cox) – 3:23
- Things I'd Like to Do Again (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 4:51
- Waiting Place (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 4:34
- New York City (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:05
Honor Among Thieves
- Released: August 1976
- Label: Columbia Records PC 34273
- Honor Among Thieves (Gary Herrewig, Billy Paliselli) – 4:14
- Not Enough (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 4:00
- Scream (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 5:42
- Keep A-Knockin' (Perry Bradford) – 4:20
- Keep Me Happy (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:42
- Remember (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:27
- Dandelion (Gary Cox) – 4:16
- Hey Boys (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 2:56
- Good Fun (Cox) – 4:15
Babes on Broadway
- Released: October 1977
- Label: Columbia Records PC 34846
- Can't Stop Pretending (Gary Cox) – 3:51
- Alright (Gary Herrewig, Billy Paliselli) – 3:36
- Who in the World (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 4:45
- Wave Bye Bye (Cox) – 3:27
- All I Need (Cox, Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:03
- Babes on Broadway (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:18
- Mistake (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 4:08
- Loretta (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:40
- Idi Amin Stomp (Cox, Steve Brigida, Steve Cooper) – 2:57
- C'mon Everybody (Eddie Cochran, Jerry Capehart) – 2:56
- Released: July 1980
- Label: Ariola America Records OL 1503
- She's Just My Baby (Gary Herrewig, Billy Paliselli) – 2:42
- It's a Lie (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:46
- So Afraid (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 4:47
- Get in Line (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 2:42
- Now or Never Mind (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:37
- Come Close to Me (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:42
- I Don't Wanna See Her (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:15
- Forever (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 5:05
- A Girl (La La La) (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:42
- Gone Again (Herrewig, Paliselli) – 3:59
- 1975: "Silver and Gold"
- 1975: "Think Think"
- 1976: "Scream"
- 1977: "Can't Stop Pretending"
- 1980: "She's Just My Baby"
- 1980: "A Girl (La La La)"
- Pantsios, Anastasia. "Artful Dodger's styles, tunes land label early" The Plain Dealer November 28, 1975: Action Tab p.9
- Portions of this text are liberally excerpted from the excellent article on Artful Dodger posted at Randy's Rodeo Power Pop website.
- Corrections courtesy of personal account for historic accuracy.