Arthur Alexander


By Look Into My Eyes Duda
(SugarBuzz Toronto)

SugarBuzz Buzz Buzz Magazine

Do not get me wrong; I love my vinyl! When I leave this fine earth, I want to be cremated with selected well-loved slabs. However, for convenience sake a CD or (horror of all horrors) even a well-tagged mp3 will suffice. I have been living with a well-loved piece of “Sorrows” vinyl for many years since its original inception (1980). The screams of joy were more than likely felt on the Richter scale when it was announced that “Sorrows” would be releasing original material from “Teenage Heartbreak” now entitled “Bad Times Good Times”.

Sorrows were never happy with the original mix of “Teenage Heartbreak” so this is being touted as the way the record should be heard and in my humble wimpy Canadian opinion I have to nod my troglodyte head firmly….yes!

Now, I hate categorization but it seems that the world loves it and convenience (give me convenience or give me death ) -so to make it simple for all the minions I will call this release a Powerpop classic up on the top shelf with Blue Ash, Pezband,The Atlantics and other powerpop obscurities.

Arthur Alexander already a veteran on the scene (formerly with The Poppees) lent his songwriting expertise and composition and came out with guns a blazing on this debut release leaving eager zombiefied fans rabid for Alexander’s brains.

To proselytize might very well have the opposite effect much like certain faiths that use cute children to sell religion door to door. Come over to this side of the fence, try it you’ll like it, if you buy this release I won’t bare my well rounded man breasts in public anymore are a few common statements that would encourage you to discover “Sorrows” world.

The great Duda has once again held your nubile chubby knuckled hand and led you down the primrose path. Always a discerning palette for music extraordinaire- Heed the call. Need I remind thee of past recommendations that fell on deaf ears like “Don’t drink the purple kool-aid”.

Looming in the distance I barely could descry through fog and emanating radio waves this beacon calling out to civilization crying in the distance begging to be understood and heard “Bad Times Good Times”, “Bad Times Good Times” “Bad Times Good Times” “Bad Times Good Times” “Bad Times Good Times” “Bad Times Good Times”

I strive to remind you that January often is cited as the month of reflection…

I said REFLECT! Not RELAX! This ain’t any Frankie Goes to Hollywood quasi unitard reunion! Reflect on the past year, the past year in music, you are growing tired. Your credit card is coming out of your overstuffed pocket. You now are going to Bomp!’s website and spending oodles and oodles of blue chip stock on “Sorrows” and other Bomp! & Alive Record releases.

Don’t make me resort to this….

How did “Sorrows”-“Bad Times, Good Times” end up being on Bomp! Did this stem from Suzy Shaw wanting The Poppee’s to come out on CD?

Yes, both Suzy and Patrick were obviously aware of and liked very much the stuff Sorrows put out back in the 80s so the interest was there from the start. Initially, we considered doing it as a double release, but the timing of the two projects was difficult to coordinate. At that time, there was still an enormous amount of work left to be done on the Sorrows release, while the Poppees' album was by then ready to go, so we decided not to hold it up and do the two releases separately. Besides, Bomp just felt like the right label fit for it. Not only are Sorrows an extension of The Poppees' legacy, so there was some continuity to it, but as a label, they specialize in our kind of music and know what the hell they’re doing... a bit of a rare concept in the music business these days!..

Were there any licensing headaches from Epic or CBS?

None whatsoever. The tracks on "Bad Times Good Times" are not the CBS/Sony masters, so there was nothing to license. I spent years trying to get CBS, then SONY to re-release our albums, but other than being jerked around for eternity, they showed zero interest in doing it. Why that was will forever remain a mystery to me, considering that they somehow saw fit to rerelease seemingly the entire back catalog of theirs from that time.

Why was it decided to change the track order from the original lp-“Teenage Heartbreak”?

Simple! This isn't "Teenage Heartbreak". To us, especially how we made it sound, it was a completely new album, and we treated it as such. We were not interested in hitting just the nostalgia crowd, but more so, the new generation of kids out there who are discovering the whole punk pop and power pop thing and don't give a shit about the past... to them it either kicks ass or it doesn't. The only thing I really miss from "Teenage Heartbreak" is the cover art... it's absolutely brilliant, real classic! However, just like with the masters, we didn’t have the rights to it, and Patrick at Bomp is a real master when it comes to cover design. His cover of The Poppees album is fantastic and he again knocked it out of the box with Sorrows cover. I'm getting nothing but raves on it, so I'm very OK to leave the past where it belongs, in the past...

Is the second “Sorrows’ lp a thorn in the side of the band? What was it like working with Shel Talmy? How was that partnership created? In theory, it should have been a match made in heaven (if you believe in the theory of heaven being of fluffy clouds and naked cherubs).

Wow, that's a lot of questions for one question! lol....

To call "Love Too Late" a thorn in a side would be an understatement. I'd say, in vague medical terms, it's more like, well, having something else in somewhere else without the benefit of lubrication, but you probably couldn't print it. I'd rather we save this whole enchilada for the time when we, finally, take care of that piece of business, but you're right on one thing - in theory, Sorrows and Shel Talmy does sound like a match made in heaven. However, like a lot of theories, it turned out to be just that, a theory, and for us... a trip to hell with a one-way ticket. Does that give you a hint of an answer?

Will “Love Too Late” ever see the light of day on CD or possibly remixed the way the band wanted it to sound?

HELL YEAH!.... the latter, if it's the last thing I ever do...

Did Sorrows end up being lumped into the tsunami like tidal wave of skinny tie bands on the crest of the success of The Knack?

I'm sure, to some extent. Radio and label people, in their effort to sell this stuff latched onto The Knack's success and tried to sell everybody under that same banner... That said, (putting a helmet on) The Knack was actually a very good band. Their image was real cheese ball and songwriting a bit spotty, but musically, and as a band, these guys sure as hell knew what they were doing!....

When the backlash happened to The Knack, did this affect other powerpop bands of the day?

Sure, to a large extent, when you're lumped into something that kinda blows up in its own face you become a part, and the victim of the blow up. I guess, in the public's perception any band wearing skinny ties was like that and that killed the whole power pop thing. Once the public decided The Knack was not cool, it took the whole genre down with it. It really wasn’t The Knack's fault, but more how the media and record labels worked it. There was also another aspect to all of this back then that you rarely hear being talked about: GREED, and total lack of vision (wow, now here's a new one concept or two!)!

It was a lot cheaper to license product from England, from all the bands that were already happening over there, bands like Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Sex Pistols, Clash, etc. etc... Cheaper and easier to just print the records they already made and then break the band here in the US as well, rather than paying to make new records of unknown and unproven American bands and then trying to break them nationwide... man, that's a lot of coke and hookers!...

I think that in the end it kind of bit them in the ass, because there were a LOT of great bands, not unlike Sorrows, still developing their own audiences, growing musically and gaining in recognition when it all kind of came to an end. They could have had many great artists go on to a much larger success, AND good record sales if they were a little smarter and less greedy...

Sounds quite like things are today, don't it?.... the more things change, the more they stay the same...

Why were Sorrows not bigger than Jesus (not to be confused with Jesus who works at the deli)?

That's a good one!... I dunno!... Last time Jesus and I talked about this we were still trying to figure it out!... Jesus is kinda keeping a low profile about the whole thing 'cause he doesn’t have the green card... but with Sorrows?.... that's a real head scratcher!... so for now we remain legends in our own minds.

What happened to Sorrows in the end? Why the early demise?

It really wasn't anything like an "early demise", but more like a "natural decay". After parting ways with CBS, we kept on playing and recording (yes, another GREAT and never released album waiting in the wings), but without a new label deal and the whole scene pretty much collapsing by then and definitely changing from what it used to be, things were changing around us too. The band started going through various personnel changes and, well, it just wasn't the same band anymore. I felt it was time to pack it in and move on to other things so I basically dissolved the band, and that was the end of that.

Sorrows seemed to be riding a crest at one point playing with The Heartbreakers, Suicide etc. Any memories of those gigs or other NYC personalities?

HAAA!... I still remember one great gig at Max's!... Valentine's Day.... on the bill: Sorrows, Heartbreakers, Suicide ... In that order! Probably the most depressing sounding line up in history!... but it was a great night.

I loved The Heartbreakers, the original band, with Richard Hell on bass. I thought they were the best band in the city. It is a tragedy that they couldn't keep their act together and were so fucked up. I am convinced they would go on to become one of the biggest and baddest rock n' roll bands in the world. They were the embodiment of what rock n' roll is all about. My other local NYC faves: The Ramones, Tuff Darts, Laughing Dogs, Willie DeVille. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few.

On the other hand, were you too drunk on Wild Turkey to remember?

Hell, there were many of those days too. Wild Turkey and Southern Comfort was our potion of choice. We were broke and, dollar for dollar, I think they were cheaper than beer. That's how we'd drive down from the Bronx to CBGB in 8 minutes flat after rehearsals... that stuff was like, well, jet fuel?...

What has the reaction been to "Bad Times, Good Times"?

In a word - awesome! I honestly did not expect this. I always felt the original "Teenage Heartbreak" album was a very good album, hamstrung only by its production shortcomings and it was eating me alive, knowing that what we recorded was so much better than what that album sounds like. So all these great reviews we've been getting now for this new album are hugely gratifying in the sense that they validate what we've felt all along all those years. It's also rewarding for me, personally, after all the years of insane work I put into making this record sound as it does. It's still not what I originally envisioned for this record to sound like, but considering the source material I had to work with, it's as close as I will ever get to it. I'm happy with the results and now it's time to move on...

What's your reaction to some of the reviews claiming or assuming "Bad Times Good Time" is just a re-release of the original "Teenage Heartbreak" album?....

Is there an emoticon for a shoulder shrug?... ;)... I've been asked about this on numerous occasions, and the answer is still the same - it's not. If all we ever wanted to do was to re-release the album as it were and simply thumb our noses at CBS, then we would have done that... 20 years ago?!... As I said, time and again, one: we couldn't get CBS to give us the rights to release it; two: to us, that record sounded like crap and I was hell bent to make it sound like it should have in the first place. So why the fuck would I want to waste my time on something I didn’t like in the first place? I always felt that while the original recordings of "Teenage Heartbreak” were great, whatever the hell happened in mixing and mastering made it sound real shitty - no balls and no punch, like what Sorrows were really all about...

The solution was go with whatever demos and outtakes we had as the foundation, to create, mix and master our own version of the album. We rerecorded our parts, overdubbed to perfection, to retain and stay faithful to the original sound and vibe of the album, and to finally put the balls behind it that the original record didn’t have. Everybody's been raving about the sound of the new album so I guess we succeeded. I realize there might be those who will perfer the original. Well, we both win... I don’t have to listen to it anymore and you can still get the original vinyl out there. I've seen our original vinyl albums and singles on eBay and other places going for 2 to 300 bucks... sooo, good luck!

Is the band currently recording a new CD?

Yes, we are working on the tracks from "Love Too Late" as we speak. We started while I was in New York in November, doing shows with Sorrows. Expect to see it out second part of 2011... Still pondering what to call it - "Love on Time Done Right!”?...

What was it like playing the reunion gig? Did you find it easy to get back into where you left off?

It was a total blast! We were a little curious and uncertain how it was going to go, but it really felt like that proverbial bicycle riding... a few minutes into it and it felt like the last time we played was a week before that, not 25 years... In fact, in some strange way I felt that we are a better band now than we were back then! and the reception we received was amazing too. We really didn't think people cared about our music and us as much as they apparently do! It's a great feeling.

I have written a letter and sent a few emails off to Little Steven’s Underground Garage asking them to consider playing Sorrows. Anyone, reading this I encourage you to do the same. My question to you Arthur, someone with your rich musical background-if you were offered a guest spot on Little Stevens Underground Garage would you accept the offer or would there be any interest on your part partaking in something of this caliber?

In a heartbeat! I know Little Steven's program is an important part of the rock n' roll scene so being a part of it would be great. Little Steven is all about rock n' roll music and his label and the Underground Garage thing is all about keeping that tradition going... and so are Sorrows... So what’s there not to like?

Do you have any tales of debauchery, sin, lust, drug use, groupies, vandalism, alcohol consumption and violence?

Someday, mate!... I think they call it "memoirs", and we're too young for that yet. For now, we got people and names to protect! ... Where do you think some of our best songs came from?... ;-)

What do you hope will happen with Sorrows in 2011?

Another Sorrows album will be out and we hope to do as many shows as we can here in the US, as well as in Europe, South America, and Japan. There is quite a big power pop scene in many countries out there and Sorrows name is quite well known in that crowd. So, it would be fun to add some more material to your previous question! LOL


Interview done by Pleasure for Pleathur :
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