Head On (band)
|Origin||San Francisco, California, United States|
|Genres||Rock and roll, glam rock, protopunk|
|Labels||Demon Doll Records|
|Past members||Mark Berglund
Daniel 'DJ' Nicholson
Head On was a San Francisco rock band of the early 1980s. Although only putting out independent releases, their influence has worked its way into such diverse bands as Guns N' Roses and The Mars Volta.
Head On was started by James Ray, a guitar player transplanted from New Mexico to the San Francisco Bay Area. He soon recruited Mark Berglund, a Bay Area native, as lead vocalist and song writer. Together with Ray, Mark wrote a majority of Head On's material. Rick Tweed and Howard Teman (bass guitar and drums respectively) were soon added as was lead guitarist Frank Wilsey.
Working their way through and eventually dominating the San Francisco club scene, Head On went on to support such bands as Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, Joe Perry, Y&T, Motörhead, Aldo Nova, Kix, Shooting Star, Motley Crue and others. Noted for their lively and outrageous shows, Head On was likened to such bands as the New York Dolls and Aerosmith.
During its brief career (1980–1984) Head On released several independent collections that were sold at local retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area. They were featured and landed covers on local underground publications as well as being reviewed in the well-known British rock magazine Kerrang!. Their music was played on local radio stations and the band made guest appearances on local TV.
As San Francisco became a hot bed for underground metal, Head On often found themselves mismatched and headlining metal shows with openers like Anvil Chorus, Lääz Rockit and Trauma (which featured future Metallica bass player, Cliff Burton). As a result of the rise in metal popularity, bookings began to slow and Los Angeles soon emerged as the mecca for the glam revival music Head On had championed in the Bay Area. Head On soon discovered however that Los Angeles at the time had little appreciation for San Francisco bands to the point that club owners refused to book them. On one notable occasion while attempting to secure a show at LA's Madame Wong's West they were told, “I don’t care if you are the Beatles, if you are from San Francisco, no one in LA will come to your show.”
Throughout their short but illustrious career, Head On had both incredible luck and almost comical misfortune.
- During their peak, Head On regularly headlined San Francisco's premier nightclubs, including; Bill Graham's Old Waldorf, Mabuhay Gardens, The On Broadway and The Stone.
- Although releases were independent and mostly available only in the San Francisco area, copies of their various compilations circulated and were available as far away as the UK.
- After a fiery performance opening for the Joe Perry project in San Francisco, Paul Stanley of Kiss was spotted meeting with the band. Rumors spread that either Head On was being considered for an opening spot on the Creatures of the Night tour or Kiss was shopping for a new guitar player; neither was ever confirmed.
- While opening for Ted Nugent, Carmine Appice (drummer extraordinaire for everyone from Vanilla Fudge and Rod Stewart to Jeff Beck) recognized the band after hearing about them through his friend Sheila Rene' (80's syndicated radio interviewer) who called Head On her 'Baby Band'.
- During a video shoot for Viacom, one of Head On's 50 gallon fog machines exploded causing a complete 'white out' of dry ice fog and the flooding of the Viacom studio.
- While attempting to cross the border into Canada for a small Canadian tour, the band was denied entry and sent home (they were actually too young to obtain work visas and attempted to forge their birthdates to obtain the required visas). Unfortunately, the band planned on returning home using the money they would make in Canada and could only come back as far as Portland Oregon.
- Head On played with Y&T so many times that when Y&T's studio was robbed, the culprits, unable to fence the equipment, contacted Head On to arrange its return (Y&T reciprocated by introducing Head On at a special performance well documented on the 'Live at The Old Waldorf' bootleg video.)
- Rick Tweed's final show with Head On was in June 1983 for a sold out San Francisco crowd; Randy Hansen opened. After Rick's departure, DJ Nicholson was added to the lineup on bass and remained with Head On until its demise in March 1984.
- Comedian Rob Schneider actually got his start opening for Head On in San Francisco while still in high school (his older brother John was Head On's manager).
- Most of the band's promotional photos were taken by San Francisco photographer Dennis Callahan, who's 30+ year working relationship with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers has resulted in countless classic album covers and magazine shots.
Head On Scene
Prior to becoming successful themselves, the following people could be spotted at Head On shows in San Francisco:
- Juan Alderete - Mars Volta, Racer X
- Michael Raphael- Neve, Jailhouse, independent producer
- Fernie Rod - Jetboy
- Billy Rowe - Jetboy
- Greg Steele - Faster Pussycat
- Mike Varney - Founder Shrapnel Records, record producer, music publisher
- Rob Schneider - Actor, comedian
- Ginger Coyote - Publisher Punk Globe magazine, member of White Trash Debutantes
- Sheila Rene' - Radio interviewer, host of 'Live Wire' on KSJO (San Jose CA) and the syndicated interview show 'Backstage'
Record contract negotiations stalled when attempts to change the band's sound and lineup were met with opposition. After several ill-fated record contract negotiations, Head On disbanded in March 1984.
Post Head On
Post Head On, Mark Berglund worked on a modern rock project with future Mars Volta and Racer X bassist Juan Alderete then changed his name to Miro Berglund and joined a short lived San Francisco band led by Randy Jackson of American Idol fame and Italian producer Corrado Rustici called Holiday of Hands. Through his relationship with Rustici, Mark (Miro) contributed songs to various recording artists in Italy during the 1980s and '90s including Loredana Berté, Gianluigi De Franco, Enzo Avitabile and Corrado Rustici's own solo effort. Mark can also be heard singing background vocals on the Narada Michael Walden album Divine Emotion.
James Ray continued performing and writing in several bands following Head On including Sybil and Mother Jones completing independent album releases for both. Joining forces with comedian Rob Schneider and Rob's brother John, James managed the successful South of Market nightclub DNA in San Francisco.
After moving to Los Angeles, Howard Teman worked with Guns N' Roses on the Lies and Use Your Illusion albums as well as becoming a prominent graphic artist focusing on celebrity and music related works. While continuing his graphic artwork, he now has become one of the most sought-after tattoo artists in Los Angeles and owns and operates T-Man Tattoo.
Frank Wilsey (aka Frankie Wilsex) went on to perform with the Sea Hags in San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles and joining Arcade followed by a long musical relationship with Stephen Pearcy and various incarnations of Ratt.
In 2002 an effort was made by Rob Schneider's manager (and brother) John to reunite the writing team of James Ray and Mark Berglund. Mark and James were asked to write some original music for the then up-coming Rob Schneider film The Hot Chick. The re-connection proved to be successful and not only resulted in a collection of new material but re-established Mark and James' collaborative musical relationship.
On August 28, 2010, the five original members of Head On regrouped and played their first show together in 25 years. The sell out San Francisco crowd greeted the band with open arms and sang along while Head On charged through a powerful and sometimes emotional set. From the first note, the audience seemed to gel into a single mass hanging on the band's every move. The band did not disappoint, displaying their notorious ability to capture and entertain an audience. The shear fact that the audience knew the words to songs they had only heard played in clubs a quarter of a century before was a testament to this band's impact on the 1980s San Francisco music scene. Given the crowd's response and the quality of the band’s music and performance, it seems a shame that Head On was never given the opportunity to share itself with the rest of the world.
Washington & Battery album
On February 11, 2011 Head On released its first full-length album titled Washington & Battery (the title being a nod to the location of the legendary Old Waldorf nightclub in San Francisco where the band cut its teeth). The release, on Demon Doll Records, contains a collection of demos and promo recordings recorded during the band's peak period (1981–1983), remixed and remastered. It also includes a newly recorded version of their live show staple "Look the Other Way".
- Mark Berglund – vocals, keyboards, guitar (1980–1984)
- James Ray – guitar, vocals (1980–1984)
- Howard Teman – drums (1980–1984)
- Frank Wilsey – guitar, vocals (1980–1984)
- Rick Tweed – bass (1980–1983)
- Daniel 'DJ' Nicholson - bass (1983–1984)
- Washington & Battery (2011)
- Head On – "Nothing to Say, Danny, Take Me Home" (1981)
- "Throw the Book" b/w "Ready Go" (1982)