The Rave-Ups are a critically acclaimed American rock group hailing originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but are best known for being from Los Angeles, California. Labeled with connections to various genres throughout their career, the band were/are equal parts pop/power-pop, roots rock, alternative rock, alt-country (before alt-country/No Depression/Americana labels even existed), and singer/songwriter aesthetic. They are best known for their alternative rock hit songs "Respectfully King of Rain" and "Positively Lost Me" as well as their appearances in Pretty in Pink and Beverly Hills, 90210.
The Rave-Ups were founded at Carnegie Mellon University in the fall of 1979 by Jimmer Podrasky (guitar/vocals), with Michael Kaniecki (guitar/vocals), George Carter (bass, violin, vocals), and T.J. Junco (drums). The original group lasted only through that fall when T.J. Junco left the band. Richard Slevin (drums) joined the group in January 1980 and helped the band develop through the year, and though the group was considered part of Pittsburgh's early punk/new wave scene, along with its sister group The Shakes/Combo Tactic; with a somewhat more polished style, The Rave-Ups were considered less an example of the Punk genre and more of a musical stew of punk, pop, country, blues and folk. The band performed mostly original songs written by Podrasky and Kaniecki, with some songs contributed by Carter, and a few covers. Early performances in Pittsburgh were at The Electric Banana, The Decade Lounge, functions at Carnegie Mellon, as well as regular gigs at Fat City in Swissvale. During the summer of 1980 the band made 4-track and 16-track studio recordings, including the later popular "Class Tramp" and "In My Gremlin," along with the usual live recordings of club dates. Slevin left the band in the summer of 1980 to return to his native New York City and was replaced by Victor McPoland, a fellow Pittsburgher and Carnegie/Mellon grad. Meanwhile, the band left Pittsburgh and relocated briefly to Los Angeles, California. Appearing as the "band" in a John Wells (later of E.R. and The West Wing fame) production of Sam Shephard's "The Tooth of Crime," the group spent eight weeks in the sun of Los Angeles before returning home to Pittsburgh. A later return to LA by the band didn't gel and the original members broke up soon afterward. Podrasky returned briefly to Pittsburgh, but eventually booked a flight back to Los Angeles in order to further the musical agenda already established by the Pittsburgh group.
The second incarnation of the band followed after Podrasky met drummer Tim Jimenez in the San Fernando Valley in 1982. Podrasky and Jimenez quickly became close friends and enlisted a bass player, Colleen Campbell, to join the band. Danny Zippi (a gifted and accomplished stage & screen actor) joined the group soon after and the band gigged around Los Angeles, almost always for free. Within the year, Campbell and Zippi were replaced by guitarist Chuck Wada & bassist Douglas Leonard. That line-up signed an indie deal and released a six song EP entitled Class Tramp on Fun Stuff Records in 1983. The EP sold all 3,000 copies produced. But the Podrasky-Jimenez-Wada-Leonard line-up didn't last long. Late in 1984, Terry Wilson (guitar) and Tommy Blatnik (bass guitar) joined the band on a permanent basis. Ironically, all four members of the band now worked in the mailroom/shipping department of A&M Records, and it was in the basement of the A&M lot that the band rehearsed nightly, honing their craft amongst stacks of posters, album flats and music merchandising. In 1985, the band released their first full-length album, Town + Country, which was met with widespread critical acclaim and sold more than 40,000 copies. The album's only single, "Positively Lost Me," became a college radio hit and cemented the band as thoughtful alt-rockers with an extremely accessible sound, smart songs, and a considerable fondness for country, blues and folk.
Actress Molly Ringwald, who had become a friend and fan of the band through her sister Beth's relationship with Podrasky, introduced the band to moviegoers in the John Hughes' classic Sixteen Candles when her character's three-ring binder featured the name "The Rave-Ups" scratched on it with a ball point pen. Ringwald later invited director John Hughes to see the band at a club date where the band informally and successfully auditioned for an appearance in the movie Pretty in Pink. In the movie, the Rave-Ups play their song "Rave-Up, Shut-Up" on stage while Duckie (Jon Cryer) talks with Iona (Annie Potts) at a nearby table, just before Andie (Ringwald) and Blane (Andrew McCarthy) join them. The next song played by the Rave-Ups in this scene is "Positively Lost Me." The band also appeared on the MTV "Pretty In Pink" Movie Premier Special performing "Positively Lost Me". That song became a cult hit big enough that Rhino Records included the song on Rhino's "Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of The 80's - Vol. 12". During this time the band was getting major acclaim from critics including Robert Christgau, Robert Hilburn, J.D. Considine, Todd Everett and Roy Trakin and entered into talks with several major record labels.
During their still-evolving musical peak, the band was locked in legal battles, all in the hope of moving on to a major label; from 1986 to 1987, little music was released, with the exception of a 12-inch single, "These Wishes" (later covered by Pittsburgh band, The Clarks). The poignant ballad "Big Wide River" was the B-side of the single, which was produced by Los Lobos' Steve Berlin and engineer Mark Linnett. The band recorded a full-length album with Berlin and Linnett producing, but the record was never released. In 1987, the band signed to Epic Records and released their major label debut The Book of Your Regrets to high critical expectations, despite being only promoted to the college radio scene (albeit a burgeoning one). The album failed to sell many copies, due to Epic's corporate restructuring with Sony and lack of promotion. The label almost dropped the band but a few believers from Epic insisted that the band get another opportunity. That same year, their song "Class Tramp" appeared in the cult horror anthology film From a Whisper to a Scream. 1990 saw the release of the album Chance (named after Podrasky's son with Beth Ringwald) to slightly more commercial success. The single "Respectfully King of Rain" became a modest alternative rock hit, garnering some video airplay on MTV and peaking at No. 12 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. The second single, a radio-friendly pop anthem called "(She Says) Come Around" was readied for distribution (including a music video) by Epic who then decided that they would not promote the single or video and, soon after, dropped the band from the label. The band continued working for a few months, including an appearance on an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 ("Spring Dance") and an opening slot on the Indigo Girls tour. Podrasky soon found himself in a brief relationship/engagement with 90210s star, Shannon Doherty; however, Podrasky's single-father status (he and Ringwald had split-up many months earlier) didn't gel with a Hollywood lifestyle and the relationship soon ended. Within months, after much frustration, The Rave-Ups unofficially broke up in 1992.
In 1996-1997, Podrasky briefly formed the band The Lovin' Miserys with Concrete Blonde drummer Harry Rushakoff and bass player Sam Bowles from Agent Orange; but the band never released an album and never toured. In 2000, members of The Rave-Ups (Podrasky and Wilson) reformed, recording a CD entitled The Salmon in the Woods which has remained unreleased as of 2012.
Over the years, Wilson has played on stage and in studio with many bands including the Springfield, Missouri all-star band, The Dog People and spending some time with The Ozark Mountain Devils. Jimenez continues to play with and produce various bands in Los Angeles. Blatnik has also spent time playing with The Dancing Hoods (whose guitarist Mark Linkous later formed Sparklehorse) and The Lonesome Strangers (featuring singer/songwriters Randy Weeks & Jeff Rymes).
Podrasky and Wilson continued to maintain a musical partnership, writing and performing occasionally over the following years. In August 2007, with Jimenez and Blatnik back in the rhythm section, the band re-grouped to play some shows in the Los Angeles area. Since then, they've occasionally performed in southern California, but have yet to release any brand new material. Rumors of a new Rave-Ups record continue to tease diehard fans of the band.
Jimmer Podrasky recorded his first solo album with drummer/producer Mitch Marine, guitarist/songwriter Brian Whelan and bassist/songwriter Ted Russell Kamp; the album is "The Would-Be Plans" and was released through JimmerMusic.com in September 2013. According to an interview with MSN Music, Podrasky had intended the album to be a Rave-Ups reunion but couldn't get the other band members on board. Though he had the right to release it as a Rave-Ups record, he felt it wouldn't be right, so it's his first official solo album. Podrasky has since recorded his second solo album and is working on its completion and release.
In late 2015, The Rave-Ups approached Omnivore Recordings about re-releasing the "Town + Country" album as part of the 30th anniversary of the initial Fun Stuff Records release. On July 8, 2016, the re-release became a reality. This reissue of "Town + Country" features the original 10 songs, plus a whopping 11 previously unissued bonus tracks — including live radio performances recorded for Dierdre O’Donoghue’s influential "SNAP" program on Los Angeles’ legendary KCRW-FM, as well as 1986 material produced by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) and Mark Linett. A detailed historical essay from the band’s Jimmer Podrasky, complemented by numerous unseen photos from the sessions/era, make this not only a document of time + place, but one that helps document a moment in musical history. Mastering and restoration was overseen by Grammy® winner Gavin Lurssen.
According to Podrasky from the liners: “Music has the uncanny ability to thwart time and space. It informs a moment. It indexes lives. It creates strange bedfellows. It outlasts people — even the people who helped make the music. Music resonates more than any other art form — that is its unique power. It remains with us long after the last note has faded. "Town + Country" was the beginning of a lifelong journey for me — the start of a trip that still hasn’t ended. I’m proud and honored to have been a part of something that has withstood the test of time.”
Jimmer Podrasky is a first cousin of the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts.
- Class Tramp, 12" 6-song EP, Fun Stuff Records, 1983.
- Town + Country, Fun Stuff Records/Demon Records, 1985.
- "These Wishes"/"Big Wide River", Fun Stuff Records, 1986. (Very limited edition 12" single)
- The Book of Your Regrets, Epic Records, 1987.
- Hamlet Meets John Doe, Epic Records 1989.
(Limited edition of 2000 CDs. Contained "Respectfully King Of Rain" from 'Chance' and two non-album tracks:
"Train to Nowhere" and "The Night Before Christmas (Hey Baby)")
- Chance, Epic Records, 1990.
- Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80's, Volume 12, Various Artists, 1995.
(contains the song "Positively Lost Me")
- Town + Country, (CD re-release with 11 bonus tracks), Omnivore Recordings, 2016.