Milk 'N' Cookies
|Milk 'N' Cookies|
|Origin||Long Island, NY|
|Years active||1973–1977, 2005-2008|
|Labels||Island, Captured Tracks, RPM, Radio Heartbeat|
|Associated acts||Ian North, Radio, Neo, Roxy Music, Sparks, Paul Collins Beat|
Milk 'N' Cookies was a power pop band from Long Island, New York. Active during the 1970s, a particularly fertile and creative period in the suburban New York music scene, the band had a loyal following of fans attracted to their unique sound. While many other New York metro-based bands of the time like Ramones and Blue Öyster Cult had edgier personas and harder sounds, Milk 'N' Cookies crafted a more wholesome, pop sensibility. Although they didn't receive the radio airplay and attention from mainstream labels given to many of their peers, they were influential in their time and have since achieved considerable cult fame for contributions in the cross-section of pop, glam, and proto-punk.
Milk 'N' Cookies was formed in early 1973, when Ian North, an aspiring artist and singer/guitarist from Woodmere, NY met a guitarist named Jay Weiss, who - despite being the better guitarist of the two - opted to switch instruments when the band was unable to find a bassist. The two became best friends and - after recruiting drummer Mike Ruiz - began shopping a demo tape North recorded on a four-track TEAC. At the band's very first show as Milk 'n' Cookies, eventual lead singer, Justin Strauss, shook a tambourine and sang back-ups. "After the show a few people told me it didn't look right," North noted, "either he should be the lead singer or he should get off the stage." North relinquished lead vocals and Strauss's position was cemented.
Milk 'N' Cookies quickly found an audience, playing at Long Island and New York bars, clubs, high school dances, and - in 1974 - for Sparks' manager, John Hewlett. Hewlett agreed to take the band on - and would later play an instrumental role in flying the band to England to record with producer Muff Winwood - but only upon the condition that Weiss be replaced by Sal Maida, a bassist who had previously played with Roxy Music. Without hesitation, North dismissed Weiss from the group. Decades later, he would write that "the guilt of that has weighed on my conscience ever since."
The first single from the album, "Little, Lost And Innocent" backed with "Good Friends", was released by Island Records but when it failed to chart and the label couldn't figure out how to market the band, the album's release was indefinitely postponed. When Island offered Ian North a solo deal, he left Milk 'N' Cookies and moved to London, forming a new group called Ian's Radio, which eventually became Neo. By this time, Sal Maida had quit the group as well, to play with Sparks.
It wasn't until the Sex Pistols hit that Island felt they had a way to market the Milk 'n' Cookies album: as punk. But while the band's robust live sound (preserved in a 14 song live bootleg recorded at CBGB) certainly came closer to the punk music played by other bands with which they shared bills at clubs like CBGB and Max's Kansas City, their image was that of "well-scrubbed all-American boys who would not have looked out of place in the pages of a vintage Tiger Beat."
Without North, who up to this point had written all of the band's music and lyrics, the remaining members of Milk 'n' Cookies recorded a few more demos but no further albums were ever released.
2005 marked the start of a period of renewed interest in Milk 'n' Cookies. That year the band reunited to play the Radio Heartbeat Power Pop Fest in Brooklyn. The performance coincided with a reissue of their singular album by RPM Records, who would also reissue solo material from Ian North's post-Milk 'N' Cookies period. North, however, was not present for the reunion set or any ancillary press or promotional events.
On January 24, 2016, Captured Tracks released a 3xLP boxset, including the band's original album, 2xLPs of rare unreleased demos, and a 100-page hardcover book with liners by members of Sonic Youth, Talking Heads, Ramones, Milk 'n' Cookies, and others. Curiously, this book does not include any contributions from the band's sole songwriter and lyricist, lead guitarist Ian North. Heartbroken by misinformation and omissions, North took to his blog to share his memories of the band's formation and trajectory and to correct several points he felt are important to the band's history.
Primarily, North laments the limited consideration given to founding member Jay Weiss, who he credits not only with the band's name, but as being the first person to take him seriously as a musician. "Without Jay," North writes, "I would never have been able to put together a band to play my songs." Comically, while the reissue gives little credit to Weiss's contributions, it does credit him as the guitarist on the 2xLPs of demo recordings. According to North, however, he was the one playing guitar on those tracks. "Jay was much better than that," he notes. "And I recognize my own guitar playing when I hear it."
- Milk 'N' Cookies LP (Island Records)
- Milk 'N' Cookies 3xLP (Captured Tracks)
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