The Pezband story began in the fall of 1971—when four Oak Park, Ill. high school musicians teamed up to jam on covers of Yardbirds, Kinks and Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac tunes. This initial lineup consisted of Mimi Betinis (guitar and vocals), Mick Rain (drums and vocals), John Pazdan (guitar, piano and vocals) and Mike Gorman (bass and vocals)
For a brief time, Cliff Johnson signed on as lead singer—but it was not to be. Instead, a reluctant Betinis stepped-up to become Pezband's enduring front man. Later, Johnson and Pazdan went on to form the popular group Off Broadway, which signed with Atlantic Records and released three albums.
Fast forward to 1977. After years of playing the Midwest club scene, and honing their songwriting craft—Pezband signed with Passport/ABC Dunhill (later Passport/Arista). Guitarist Tommy Gawenda joined up to round out the group's rampageous live sound.
Their first album, Pezband, was pure-pop with a hard-edge and received critical praise from the likes of Rolling Stone and Trouser Press. One of the songs, the Beatley rocker "Baby It's Cold Outside," introduced Mimi Betinis' powerful vocal style—a near-perfect cross between a raucous Lennon’s and a sweet McCartney’s. That song went on to become a staple of a myriad of power-pop compilations, including Rhino's classic DIY: American Power Pop.
Pezband also featured the soulful Steve Marriot-tinged vocals of Mike Gorman (and his double-bass stylings)—and Mick Rain proved to be one of rock's best-ever drummers (think a "clean" Keith Moon). Tommy Gawenda was no slouch either—his lead guitar solo on the song "Close Your Eyes" was, in a word, thrilling.
With the buzz on them from critics and fans—the group relocated to the New York City area in 1977, where they immersed themselves in the punk-pop scene of the time, and became regulars at the famed CBGBs and Max's Kansas City. The group also toured Britain that same year—and even found time to record one of the best EPs ever made—Too Old Too Soon, which perfectly captured the band's bombastic live act.
The group's next album Laughing in the Dark, was also recorded in London that year—and was so powerfully consistent that Rolling Stone cited the album as one of the best of the year. Laughing saw Mike Gorman's songwriting approaching the bar Betinis had set (check out "On and On" and "Crash and Burn")—and Betinis pulled another perennial classic out of his hat, "Stop! Wait a Minute," which is perhaps Pezband's best-known song.
By late 1978, Pezband appeared to be on a real roll. Picked to open for stadium acts such as Rumours-period Fleetwood Mac and Supertramp—even Jane Pauley discussed them on the Today show, saying “this is the sound everybody will be talking about.”
Despite the grandiose reviews and a grueling six-night-a-week tour schedule—somehow real success eluded Pezband—perhaps due to the omnipresence of Saturday Night Fever—perhaps because their tiny record label was not prepared to promote them. But whatever the reasons, for Pezband, radio play was virtually non-existent, and their records languished in record store bins. Which was a tragedy, because their second live EP Thirty Seconds over Schaumburg (fittingly pressed on red vinyl), was so explosive, it was a wonder the needle didn't fly off the turntable.
In 1979, Pezband gave it one more try—releasing their third and final album, Cover to Cover. Mike Gorman stepped up once again with his confessional “Meika” and with the still-relevant-today “African Night"—a hook-filled rocker about Idi Amin’s death squads. But Cover also reveals Mimi Betinis going dark. While he was able to dash off rambunctious hard-pop like “Stella Blue”—Betinis’ haunting “Didn’t We” lays bare a dream on the brink [why’s it all wrong / tried for so long / didn’t we?].
By early 1980, unfortunately for them—and unfortunately for the rabid fan-base that adored them—Pezband was unceremoniously over.
After the breakup, Mimi Betinis, Mick Rain, and original member John Pazdan, recorded demos in hopes of another deal—as Mike Gorman went off to join Off Broadway. Tommy Gawenda founded RCA’s TAMI Show (with Knack producer Mike Chapman)—but in the end, none of the post-Pezband projects caught fire.
In the end, it would not be accurate to compare Pezband with the skinny-tied "power-pop/new wave" poseurs that followed in their footsteps in the early '80s. In fact, groups like the Knack, the Romantics, and even Cheap Trick, owe a huge debt to Pezband's pioneering hard-pop style.
Fast-forward to now: With the long-awaited release of their 50-song catalog on CD (on AirMail Records, distributed by Not Lame)—along with their fan-base clamoring for the group to reform—Pezband has finally reunited. The group's original members, Mimi Betinis, Mick Rain and John Pazdan, are writing new material, planning a new CD, and rehearsing for a prospective tour as a trio. While there's no word on whether Mike Gorman or Tommy Gawenda will be involved with the reunion--insiders are saying the trio is rocking harder than ever.
For more information, visit their website: http://www.myspace.com/pezband
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