Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.
As we continue our series about "bird" and "animal" group names and people in rock and roll history, let's explore some more 'bird' names.
Born in Wembley, a suburb of London, England in 1952, singer extraordinaire Maxine Nightingale is best known for her charted hits in the mid 70's. But Nightingale was just sixteen years old when she began singing in her school band and obviously enjoyed the spotlight. She quickly made the transition to a professional singer, even signing on with Pye Records, where she recorded four singles including, "Spinning Wheel," "Don't Push Me Baby" and 1971's "Love On Borrowed Time."
But her big break came in the early 70's productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair and Godspell as well as the critically acclaimed London play called "Savages." After these highly successful gigs, she was paired with the song writing duo of J. Vincent Edwards and Pierre Tubbs in 1975.
She subsequently recorded the album called "Right back Where We Started From," in 1976 which yielded a Top Ten Billboard hit with the title song (the song peaked at number eight on the UK Singles Chart). Other Top 40 Billboard hits ensued, including the song "Love Hits Me" (number eleven in the UK in 1977) and a soulful rendition of the Delfonic's hit entitled "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)," which was a staple at the dance clubs in the UK.
In 1979, Nightingale released the album "Lead Me On" and the title track provided the singer with another Billboard Top Ten hit (number five in May of 1979 and the cut was on the charts for an impressive twenty-three weeks). The song also spent seven weeks at the top position on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Charts. She had one other charted single, 1979's song called "(Bringing Out) The Girl In Me."
Nightingale released one album a year (1975-1980) until she decided to retire from recording, although while compiling a greatest hits album in 1982, she teamed up with Jimmy Ruffin to produce a Top 40 Billboard R&B hit "Turn To Me." The eclectic singer continues to perform her music worldwide and has recently recorded a jazz CD, appeared in the PBS music special called "My Music" and has shared the stage with the likes of Santana, the Commodores, Lionel Richie and many more prominent musicians.
The eclectic pop songs of a band called Babybird first surfaced in 1995 when prolific singer/songwriter Steven Jones assembled more than twenty songs from his plethora of home recordings and released an album entitled "I Was Born A Man" in October of 1995.
Being urged on by friends and family, Jones sent out the homemade tapes of Babybird to record companies, but the music was rejected. However, Chrysalis Music offered a publishing deal that Jones accepted, applying the earnings toward the financing of a series of independent, limited-edition collections.
The first release (the previously mentioned "I Was Born A Man"), was quickly followed by the albums "Bad Shave" (October 1995), "Fatherhood" (January 1996), and "Happiest Man Alive" in March of 1996. Sounding a bit like Echo & the Bunnymen, U2 and Robyn Hitchcock, Babybird was able to secure a small, but loyal fan base. Even with his primitive "home recordings," Jones' demo tapes were full of genuine, expertly crafted pop songs as he adeptly mixed rich-textured guitars with psychedelia and Dylanesque lyrics.
Following the success of these releases, Jones assembled a band (1995) in order to tour and promote his work. The band was subsequently signed to Echo Records (a division of the Chrysalis Group) and in 1996 the band released the album called "Ugly Beautiful." The release included a full-band recording of the cut "Goodnight" (which had originally appeared on the album "Fatherhood" as well as the single "You're Gorgeous" (which peaked at number three in the U.K. and is the song Babybird is most associated with). Other significant cuts were "Candy Girl" and "Cornershop."
The band released "There's Something Going On" in 1998, which produced minor hits with the songs "If You'll Be Mine" and "Back Together." In 2000, Babybird released the album entitled "Bugged," that although was well-received critically, sales of the release were poor. The singles "The F-Word" and "Out Of Sight" failed to make an impact on the charts. Babybird was then dropped by their record label and the band split up.
Steven Jones went on to write fiction and continued to release solo efforts. In 2005, a post on the official Babybird website announced that the band had reformed and a new album called "Between My Ears There Is Nothing But Music" was released in 2006.
Besides being the name of Ronnie Hawkins' backing band, there was another band that called themselves the Hawks. In 1979, a singer named Frank Wiewel had recorded some tracks and it was his wife that insisted that these songs were good enough to be sent out to major record labels. Columbia Records A&R man Paul Atkinson (a former member of the 60's group the Zombies) heard one of Wiewel's covers called "Tell Her No;" which had been a major hit for his former group and he quickly fell in love with the version and expedited the demo to Greg Geller, head of A&R at Columbia records.
Coincidently, around the same time, Capitol Records A&R man Bobby Colomby (a former drummer for Blood, Sweat & Tears) also expressed interest in Wiewel. But, both major record companies wanted to see the band perform live. Trouble was there was no band, just a collection of Wiewel's studio recordings. The band, the Hawks, was formed with the acronym formed by the first letters of the last names of the members in the band. The band was Dave Hearn, Larry Adams, Frank Wiewel, Kirk Kaufman and Dave Steen.
The quickly formulated band then played live for both Columbia and capitol Records, ultimately signing a contract with Columbia Records in 1980. With producer Tom Werman (who also produced Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Molly Hatchet among others) at the helm, the Hawks self-titles debut album was released in 1981. Two singles from the album charted including the cut "Right Away" (which reached number sixty-three on the Billboard Hot 100) and the cut "It's All Right, It's OK," which secured the number thirty-two position on the Billboard mainstream Rock charts.
The band released two more albums, 1982's "30 Seconds Over Ortho" and the album entitled "Perfect World Radio" in 2003 which is a 16 song collection of songs that, mostly, represent their unreleased 3rd album and a handful of demos of some of their classic songs. As is the case for many of the great lost '80s albums, promotion of the group's sound was nonexistent and they failed to sell records. When none of the band's albums set the charts on fire, Columbia let the band go and they split up. However, most of the members of the band have been active in the music business since their disbandment. (see Tidbits below).
Maxine Nightingale Tidbits:
Continuing to perform live, Nightingale's focus shifted through the 1980s and 1990s from disco and pop to sultry, smoky jazz.
She appears in the PBS music special My Music, alongside Patti LaBelle, the Commodores, Heatwave and many more. Her song, "Right Back Where We Started From", has appeared in numerous films including Slap Shot; Yours, Mine and Ours; Starsky and Hutch, The Family Stone and when couples reunite during Wife Swap.
As of February 2008, Nightingale was touring all parts of Australia to perform her 1970s hits.
In the years that followed, Jones returned to where he had started - releasing albums of demos (under his own name) to a small but appreciative audience. This time he also produced two albums of instrumental music designed to help him develop a career in film music. "Stephen Jones 1985-2001" was released in 2001, and "Plastic Tablets" came out in 2003. Stephen also created the soundtrack for the film Blessed in 2004.
Jones also released a new solo project entitled "Death of the Neighbourhood," which was released on November 10, 2008 on ATIC Records. The album features "Cokeholes," which was released as a three track single on October 27, 2008.
Stephen Jones has produced two works of fiction, "The Bad Book" in 2000 and "Harry and Ida Swop Teeth" (also the title of a Babybird b-side) in 2003. He's also collaborated with DED Associates, who have designed many of his CD covers, on a 2000 art book Travel Sickness.
Dave Steen is a successful songwriter. His songs have been recorded by Ringo Starr, Maria Muldaur, Coco Montoya, Soloman Burke, James Cotton, Junior Wells, Son Seals and many other blues/R&B artists. He lives in Lincoln, Neb.
Kirk Kaufman is owner and chief engineer/producer at Junior's Motel Recording Studio (formerly West Minist'r Sound).
Frank Wiewel is founder of People Against Cancer, an international non-profit public interest group to help people with cancer find the best cancer treatment worldwide.
Dave Hearn is owner of Silhouette Multimedia, a company that delivers his services as a performer, composer, arranger and produce of music for film and video.
Larry Adams is a drummer and contractor in Leander, Texas.