Frankly speaking, the Jumbo Hot Dogs are a tasty treat
By Phill Marder
Today, I’m gonna tell you about a new CD by an old friend you may not have heard of and a drummer named Appice.
You’ve heard of a drummer named Appice? In fact, you’ve heard of two? Keep reading.
Joe Seddon wasn’t out of high school when he was appearing with The Everly Brothers, The Orlons, Screaming Jay Hawkins, exchanging guitar ideas with friend Roy Buchanan, backing up Bobby Rydell, Bobby Lewis and Patsy Cline and recording numbers by Johnny Madara and David White for Mercury Records.
Dated Kaye McCool of the Pixies Three when they were hitting the charts with tunes such as “Birthday Party” and a cover of the Crows’ “Gee.” Gave guitar lessons to Seymour Duncan, who seemed more interested in the pickups on Joe’s axe and how he managed to squeeze out certain sounds.
Have I dropped enough names? How ’bout a drummer named Appice?
Played opposite Herman’s Hermits, Timi Yuro, Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, the Coasters, the Del Vikings, Melanie, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Peter, Paul & Mary…traveled to California, hung out with Doug Ingle and Ron Bushy and sat in with Iron Butterfly when turmoil erupted in the band right before 17 minutes of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” made them radio legends, especially for deejays with weak bladders. Played opposite Jimi Hendrix and Little Richard, who offered him a spot in his band.
And still to come was the drummer named Appice.
Returning to New Jersey, Seddon put together a band named “Plymouth Rock.” Being long before Al Gore invented the internets, Seddon was unaware a group with that name existed out West. The band became the band in South Jersey circles, drawing standing-room only every place they appeared. Soon, they were appearing in front of Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun in an audition for Atlantic Records.
The band, re-named Feather Blue by the Atlantic brass, was led by Seddon, the guitarist, lead vocalist and composer. He was complimented by bassist Ron Lovett and Alan Weber, who doubled on sax and flute. Oh…they also had a drummer named Appice. And he was unbelievable.
“Atlantic put us up at The Chelsea Hotel in New York City,” Seddon recalled. “The tracks for the album were cut at two studios, Atlantic’s own and Sun Dragon. During these sessions, Foreigner would hang out with us as they were signed as well and about to cut their first album.”
What happened to Foreigner is, as they say…history. What happened to Feather Blue is, as they say…tragedy.
“They became a hit,” Seddon mused. “We were shelved for unknown reasons and the album was never released.”
The “unknown reasons” became clear to me as soon as I received a copy of the album, which I dubbed from an eight-track copy Seddon had lent me to a reel-to-reel. This is the copy I’ve listened to for over 30 years, the copy that became my favorite album – bar none. But Atlantic heard what I heard – nothing commercial, nothing radio friendly.
The songs were brilliant, the playing incredible. But you wouldn’t hear the classic “Tire Iron” on too many radio playlists. Today, it would fit right in. But this was the ’70s. “Blood Stained Woman,” about Richard Speck “Green Rats In My Heart” and other similar topics didn’t exactly spell commercial success.
Which brings us to today’s topic “We’re On A Roll” by the Jumbo Hot Dogs, the first official release of some of those classic tracks – at least some of the not-too-offensive ones. And now, for the first time, most of you have the opportunity to hear the third drumming Appice – the amazing Frank, cousin of Carmine and Vinny, on a kit standard for that day. No gimmicks, no electronics, no drumming overdubs.
“Frank Appice is the most talented drummer I’ve worked with, period,” said Seddon. “Fast hands, great taste and inventive. In the early days of the original music he’d balk at practices, saying to me, ‘Joe, I can’t play that fast … the timings are too weird,’ or something along those lines. I’d say, ‘Oh yes you can Frank. Try it again. Just do it man, it’ll come.’ And he did, amazing me always with his speed. An example of this can be found at the end of Uncle Sam, where you hear him say, ‘Joe, I don’t know how we got that timing, but we did it.’”
Plymouth Rock visited with Carmine and, Seddon recalled, “We played opposite Carmine with his band called Cactus, billed as a ” battle of the bands” type deal with two great drummers, related no less, going up against each other. It was … wild! Carmine did mention, recently, about us reforming and going on tour with him, but we are all too settled now to be on the highway. But his offer is appreciated for sure.”
Seddon may be settled, but he has been active, not comatose. There was the “Roswell Cover-Up” release by the Alien Kings in 2000 and a Goldmine “Pick Of The Week,” and The Amishland String Band’s CD in 2007. Each contained all new original material. But when Seddon finally got his old studio tapes back from his ex-manager, he decided to see if they could be cleaned up enough for release. The job went to his old Pixies Three comrade Kaye, now Kaye Krebs, and her friend, multi-instrumentalist Earl Kiosterud, and Kaye’s Virginia Beach studio Kristebelle Sound.
“I liked the name Jumbo Hot Dogs as it was an attention getter,” said Seddon. “I also thought it would make a weird album cover. Plus, I felt it would be appealing to the hungry masses (sigh), offend no one, and look tasty on the cover! Very American, like baseball and roller coasters.
“Kaye and Earl were incredible when it came to The Jumbo Hotdogs,” he added. “Words cannot describe the work they put into this collection of songs, which came from various sources and time periods. Essentially, I handed them a box of tapes, ones that had been sitting for decades, poorly stored to make matters worse, and they, using the latest technology on hand, took out the noises, the bumps and drops, and added numerous instruments to modernize them. A prodigious task for sure.”
But well worth the effort. Five of the Plymouth Rock/Feather Blue tracks made the CD, which also features some new recordings and some demos of a couple Seddon gems done acoustically. “Uncle Sam,” as relevant today as ever, made the cut as did “Psychopathic Genius,” a look at Ted Bundy. “Evolutionary Beast” also is present and “Purple Murder” still amazes, sounding like “20th Century Schizoid Man” meets The Beatles. “Let Us Arise” will please fans of Rare Earth.
Plymouth Rock 1970-Seddon (front center);
(top l to r) Ron Lovett, Appice, Alan Weber
The lead cut, “Go Baby Go,” is a new ’50s spoof featuring Seddon’s Chuck Berry and Duane Eddy inspired guitar and the keep-the-beat drumming of yours truly. This stemmed from a joke about writing a song with no lyrics, just one phrase repeated over and over. Two minutes of madness concocted in the studio was the result. Guaranteed to get a laugh, it’s the perfect recording for a baseball park’s public address system. Sure to get the crowd riled up, especially in a base-stealing situation.
“Chelsea Hotel,” the CD’s second track, was written in the New York City hotel, but not recorded during the Atlantic sessions. Seddon recalled, “I used to look out the windows and observe what was taking place on the streets below. Despite the thrill of recording there, it was a lonely time and my song reflects this.”
“Bye Bye Beverly” and “Wreck and Ruin” are new recordings. “Bye Bye Beverly” came so fast that I had to scribble it down to get all the words and verses,” said Seddon. On “Wreck and Ruin,” he plays everything, as he does on most of his new recordings, this time using drums, bass, guitar, mandolin and five-string banjo in addition to putting down all the vocals.
“One Way Rider,” “Perfect Dream” and “China” are melodic demos from the early days and “Stranded” and “Molly Gets Around,” round out the selections. “Molly” is a tip of the cap to Seddon’s high school partner in The Two Teens and The Sterling Brothers – the late Mark Hutchinson. “Molly” was written and entirely performed by Mark’s son, Markie, who remains a close friend.
Seddon already has completed several new songs for a coming movie about The Jersey Devil (he insists it’s not autobiographical) and has considered a new disc of all new material. With the vault now open, it certainly would be fun to hear more of the Seddon classics revived, though.
“I did shrink away from the limelight,” Seddon said, commenting on the aftermath of his glimpse of the big time. “Disappointments can dull one’s senses, detract from the joys of appearing onstage. When too many people say, ‘you should have made it big’ you have to wonder what went wrong. Bad timing? No luck? Karma gone kaput? To be honest, I quit to save my life. Music, in the wrong hands, is like a gun with a hair trigger.”
Wife Betty proved a stabilizing figure in Seddon’s life and remains his chief inspiration.
“Bars and marriage don’t mix, like oil and water,” he said. “Pick one or the other I believe, cause you may not survive both. True love came my way and I took it, the wisest thing I’ve ever done. No regrets.
“Yeah, I’d like a hit record, of course,” he added. “But let someone else sing it and do the touring. I write, they perform!”
The CD is available or individual tracks can be downloaded at Cdbaby.com, Amazon and most other outlets. Just type in Joe Seddon in the search box at the top.