Art talks about his days with his teenage garage band
Back in May 2008 I spent a couple of weeks corresponding with Art Steinman from The Jagged Edge. I sent Art a whole load of questions about his time in the band and he replied with some full and detailed information which I’m very thankful for.
The delay in posting the interview was because I wanted to hear the unreleased Jagged Edge demos first. I heard that German re-issue label Break-A-Way Records planned to release a collection of Jagged Edge/Off-Set recordings and I’ve finally tracked down a copy.
SO HERE IT IS. AN INTERVIEW WITH ART STEINMAN FROM THE ULTRA COOL JAGGED EDGE.
1. I know that the members of The Jagged Edge were very young (still teenagers) yet the music evident on the Gallant and Jubilee releases is very competent. You guys were all very good musicians. Did you practice hard or did it all come naturally?
Thanks for the compliment. I like to think that we all brought our own basic musicality to the band. That being said, we also worked very hard at it and rehearsed at least once a week, for several hours at a time. We were all perfectionists, and really enjoyed making music together so we were constantly challenging ourselves to make each tune just a little better.
When we went into the studio we were well rehearsed, and then spent many hours in the studio working on each take. The studios were two-track at the time and there was a lot of ”live” studio sessions, no bouncing, really no way to fix it in the mix. so each take had to be right on the money.
2. Because you were all still teenagers getting late night gigs would be difficult. Where did you play?
We started out playing private parties and house parties on weekends, then expanded to gigs in clubs, such as the Cafe Wha? and the Go-Go in the village. Because we couldn’t drive yet, these gigs were chaperoned. Once we started promoting the singles we travelled quite a bit in the tri-state area, again mostly on weekends.
In that respect, our young age and school and family obligations did curtail our ability to go full bore. Kenny was over eighteen and did the driving duties with his station wagon.
3. How did you end up recording for Gallant?
Our parents co-signed a management contract with Cis-Trans Productions, which was the partnership of our managers Eric, Barton and Sid. They paid for our first demos and used them to shop us to different labels. They came close with some others, such as Parkway, VeeJay and Sceptre.
I always assumed that Gallant was approached by our managers as one of the labels that would take a meeting and they agreed to release our first single. Apparently, there was a tie-in with the WMCA Good Guys, which put us in great musical company such as the Critters, the Association, Music Machine, Left Banke, Percy Sledge Bryan Highland and Question Mark and the Mysterians.
4. How did the record do sales wise? Did you get any radio plays?
The record did well in niche markets such as upstate New York, primarily Buffalo. We didn’t have an advance man pushing us at the stations, we just relied on the Good Guys. We never really charted,mainly because the Good Guys fulfilled their obligation to play our record on air by putting us on in the wee hours of the morning.
Don’t know if some payola or lack thereof was involved and I don’t want to send rumours. I think if we had gotten wider airplay on other stations in other markets especially nationals, we would’ve done considerably better and gone further.
5. What songs did you play live? any cover versions. If so, which ones?
We played It Ain’t Me Babe by Dylan,which was a late entry for our first single but got trumped by the Turtles. The rest was almost entirely R&B and a few Beatles tunes. We did a killer Dr. Robert. I remember doing Stones, Chuck Berry, Them, Beau Brummels, Sandy Shaw.
I remember doing Get Off of My cloud at several gigs. It depended on where we were. At parties we did a lot of covers, at record promotions we did the single sides. Most bands just plugged their latest singles and that was it, that’s why they had so many groups at those gigs.
6. What was the Brooklyn scene like in those days? Who were your rivals? I know a great band called The Raves were from Brooklyn. did you know or see The Raves play?
Let’s see, there were the Foremost Five, the Keepers, the Yo-Yos and many others. We went up against the Keepers a lot. I remember the Yo-yos had a single out called The Raven, but I don’t recall the Raves. Brooklyn was such a diverse community. There were only a few venues. One was the Town and Country on Flatbush Avenue, that was a hot place.
We used to play at a country club of sorts called the Palm Shores. It was a common practise for local promoters to set up one-night gigs at banquet halls and sell admission. I remember a battle of the bands there. There was a band called Sourthern Socket, which I joined after leaving the Jagged Edge. Bands were mainly neighborhood-centric, with each neighborhood fiercely supporting their group.
We were the East Flatbush group, Mill Basin, Fillmore Gardens. We competed with the Fourmost Five. The Keepers were a Canarsie band. But most Brooklyn teens went to the Village to listen to headline bands because it was an easy subway ride and it was safe in those days.
7. I know you had to change from being called The Jagged edge to The Off-Set because of a legal wrangle with another band called The Jagged Edge. Was this the Jagged Edge who recorded a 45 for RCA in 1966 called ’Deep In The Night’ / ’Baby You Don’t Know’?
I really don’t know. I think we all went to the village to listen to the other Jagged Edge once, but I don’t know what song they released. Kenny says in his notes that we heard them and they were not very good.
8. What was your guitar of choice? 6 and 12 string favourites?
That’s an easy one. One of my heroes was George Harrison, so I bought a cherry Gretsch Tennessean and played it exclusively. It was my only electric. I did use a fuzz tone pedal and a wah wah when they came out. Never owned a 12, but I loved the Hagstrom for the thin neck. I think I used a rented Hagstrom on Change.
9. ’How She’s Hurtin’ Me’ is one of my all time favourite jangle rockers. It’s a beautiful Byrdsian 12 string killer. Were The Byrds an influence or just the folk rock sound in general?
I’d say the jangling rhythm guitar was Byrds-influenced. By the way, I didn’t use a twelve-string, you’re probably hearing a doubling effect from the rhythm and lead guitars playing similar chord riffs. The Byrds did a lot of raga work and Drew was a big raga-fan,which he incorporated into Xanthia, the B side of our second single.
Also there was some Brit pop influence, such as the Searchers, Beatles even Gerry and the Pacemakers. If you like jangly guitar work, check out the alternate version of Change on the Lost Demos CD. It has that feel as well.
10. Reading Kenny Bennett’s timeline on your webpage was very interesting. I picked up on a few things:
* How did the deal with Cameo Parkway fall through?
Don’t know for sure, but it wasn’t uncommon for labels to back out after initial enthusiasm. Most of the progress reports came from our managers, and we had very little, if any, visibility into how or why things did or did not happen.
* Why did the TV Show appearance fall through? What was the show?
The answer to that would lie with our managers, and I’ve made several attempts to contact them but no dice so far.
* Around about May-June 1966 a lot of conflict appeared within the band…lots of arguments etc. Was it around this time that the cracks appeared, eventually leading to the break up of the band?
I really don’t remember many of the details, but there was bickering and finger pointing over artistic differences and why the band seemed to be losing direction and drifting apart, all understandable. That was mostly due to frustration and not genuine dislike or dischord.
Although our parents were very supportive in the early days, they eventually tired of our endeavours and wanted us to get back to concentrating on school. And some parents thought that other bandmates were bad influences. All of these factors contributed to the breakup.
11. When Drew Georopulos quit due to parental pressure to go to college why did the rest of the group not continue with a new rhythm guitarist?
As I recall, interest in the group had waned, our relationship with our managers was either over or coming to an end, we had changed our name to the Offset which cost us our fan base, and the record didn’t really get any promotion, so even if we replaced Drew we would almost have had to start from scratch.
Also, our parents had always regarded the band a short term activity. They never intended to allow us to stay in a band instead of attending college. If we had been successful there might have been an incentive for us to keep going. We managed to get through high school while in the band, but college was a bigger commitment which required our full attention.
12. I recently interviewed Don Droege, bass player with the Country Gentlemen who were a teen punk outfit from the outskirts of New York. His band included Bobby and Billy Allesi who went on to have hits as The Alessi Brothers. Anyway The Country Gentlemen also played The Cafe Wha? in 1965/66. Are they familiar with you?
I can’t say if they’re familiar with us, but I know we didn’t play on the bill with them. We did share the stage with the Blues Magoos. We didn’t do a lot of gigs at the Wha? anyway.
13. I noticed in a previous on-line interview that The Off-Set were planning to record ’It Ain’t Me Babe’ but the Turtles got there first and had a number One record with it. Did you ever demo this song or just mess about with it in rehearsals?
We had a previous drummer, Ronnie Sherman, and we rehearsed for a long time in his parent’s basement. It was wired for recording and he recorded many of our rehearsals. I’ve recently made contact with him and he’s looking for rehearsal tapes, It Ain’t Me Babe is sure to be on there, if it still exists.
We never did a demo of It Ain’t Me Babe, In fact, we didn’t release our first single on Gallant until June of 1966, and the Turtles released It Ain’t Me Babe in October of 1965. We wanted to record a demo of It Ain’t Me Babe but we had already cut several demos and it didn’t make economic sense to cut more until we had a record deal.
We didn’t sign with Gallant until April of 1966, and the Turtles scoop was a fait accompli by that time. It’s really more of an urban legend.
14. You recently put out a CD containing previously unreleased demos/acetates. Were these songs recorded for a possible album on Jubilee?
Most of them were recorded around the same time, in 1965, We had been performing for a while and chose pulled those songs from our repertoire of originals and covers. The exception was Reflections and Lies I Spoke, which was recorded at Associated Studios in 1966 as an intended Offset single, possibly for Jubilee as a follow on to Change Is Gonna Come.
Not sure why it wasn’t released, maybe due to the poor track record of Change. I don’t believe we even planned to release an album, because of the abrupt name change and the fact that we didn’t have a single on the charts to push it along. Again, our managers gave us updates to keep us motivated but held the business details to close to the vest.
Originally posted on ’Flower Bomb Songs’ October 2008