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Fabulous Flip Sides of Damnation of Adam Blessing Interview with Jim Quinn

Cleveland’s Damnation of Adam Blessing celebrates its 50th anniversary with their first two albums reissued on 180 gram vinyl by Exit Stencil. Jim Quinn discusses songs from these albums and shares stories about many acts he has worked with over the decades.
Damnation 1

GOLDMINE: It is great to see The Damnation of Adam Blessing and The Second Damnation back on vinyl from Cleveland’s Exit Stencil record company. The record box was quite heavy when it arrived.

JIM QUINN: Thank you. Yes, these are 180 gram vinyl discs. And thank you for your interview this year with Neil Giraldo. That was one of the best interviews I have ever read. It was so very casual and deeply informative.

GM: Thank you so much. I saw Neil and Pat Benatar perform a few years ago in Boston and I had seen him with Rick Derringer at the Painesville Agora in early 1979, just before he met Pat. It has been a year of promoting people in Goldmine with Northeast Ohio backgrounds like him and you.

JQ: I used to manage Neil when he was seventeen or eighteen years old. He was in a band called Blue Storm Union before we changed the band name. He was the sweetest kid. I knew he had talent and we recorded a couple of songs. He went on, and I gave him a reference for Derringer. Then after that, I remember when he came to the Cleveland Agora, and walked in with his new girlfriend Pat, and I was so excited for him and their success. A couple of years ago Neil and I got together, and it was just like I talked with him yesterday. I’ve done some projects with him for his Three Chord Bourbon brand and am helping him with research on the book he is writing, too.

GM: Now let’s go back fifty years to The Damnation of Adam Blessing. I heard “Morning Dew,” from the first album, on WIXY 1260 AM in Cleveland, which I liked, but when I heard “Back to the River,” which you co-wrote, from the second album, I loved it a lot, with the wah-wah guitar, which was also prominent on Grand Funk Railroad’s “Closer to Home” that year. The flip side, “Driver,” sounds to me like Steppenwolf doing The Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog,” from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.

JQ: Ha, ha, I had never thought about that. You have a point there, especially the harmonies. “Driver” is kind of interesting as it seems to be a favorite of bands. It has been played and recorded by a lot of bands throughout Europe. One of them which stands out is a group called Ape Skull. I was so surprised to see it surface after so many years.

Damnation flip side

Damnation of Adam Blessing

Flip side: Driver

A side: Back to the River

Chart debut: November 21, 1970

Peak Position: No. 102

United Artists UA 50726

GM: When I listen to the first two albums now, in addition to the songs I already mentioned, I am drawn to the mellower songs, “Strings and Things,” “Lonely,” “Everyone” and “Smile.”

JQ: I am glad you like those album cuts. Adam and I worked on “Strings and Things” way after hours, around 4 a.m. at D’Poo’s club in the flats area of Cleveland. “Lonely” was really different for us, breaking into a 5/4 time signature. I think it has one of Bob Kalamasz’s best lead guitar parts. “Everyone” kind of has a psychedelic Alice in Wonderland feel, and “Smile” was written for one of our roadies who got drafted and was on his way to Vietnam. This became a short song finale for The Second Damnation album. Our first two albums have been totally remastered from the original masters and it is really well done. The sound really stands out.

Damnation 2

GM: Around the same time that “Back to the River” was on the radio in 1970, you and Bob were also playing guitars with the band Wild Butter. I heard “Roxanna” on Cleveland radio, and thought it was beautiful. I have both singles on United Artists next to me.

JQ: Bob and I were asked to play on Wild Butter’s album by our producer Eric Stevens, who was also producing their album. We did quite a bit of the acoustic and electric guitar parts. We recorded it at Cleveland Recording Company with our sound engineer Ken Hamann. From what I understand is that during preproduction they announced that they didn’t have a guitar player, so that is when Eric asked Bob and I to learn the songs and play the parts. I think we did the album in about three days and the single “Roxanna” was a huge hit in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. Jerry Buckner was a real good arranger and keyboard player in the band and a good talent. He partnered with another guy from Akron, Gary Garcia and had a multi-million seller with that novelty hit, “Pac-Man Fever.”

Damnation Roxanna

GM: Yes. Next year I am planning to reach out to Jerry for my Goldmine One-Hit Wonder series as “Pac-Man Fever” approaches its 40th anniversary. Before The Damnation of Adam Blessing and Wild Butter, you and Adam, back when he was still known as Bill Constable, were in the group The Society, and last year the single “You Girl”/”Lonely” was finally released as a vinyl 45. Of these two songs that you co-wrote, the flip side “Lonely” is my favorite, a bit moodier than the fuzz guitar garage rock sound of the A side, which I also enjoy.

JQ: I am glad that you got a kick out of those songs. Yes, that was the time of fuzz guitars.

GM: Then you moved on to wah-wah guitars, like Mark Farner. A few years ago, my wife Donna and I saw him as part of the Happy Together Tour, here in Daytona Beach, and we were amazed with his level of energy. I can only imagine how he was in the early Grand Funk Railroad days fifty years ago.

JQ: That is such a gift to be able to have that energy at that age and keep your health in order, obviously, and Mark is very spiritual, too. When he was young, Mark was all over the stage, playing and singing, too. I had never seen anything like that. We loved playing with them because it allowed us to play for ten thousand people. They were always great to us. On one tour we did ten shows with them and they allowed us to have a standing ovation and do our encore as their opening act. We both recorded our albums at Cleveland Recording Company.

GM: Your group also played with Uriah Heep and unfortunately, we lost both Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake from that group this year.

JQ: Yes, that was really sad. They were nice guys, too. We played with them from Ohio to Florida. Ken wrote some great songs like “Easy Livin.” Lee was a great drummer for them and for Ozzy on his first two solo albums after his Black Sabbath years.

GM: Eric Singer pointed that out, too, in his quote for Lee’s In Memoriam article that we published at Goldmine.

JQ: Eric is a great guy too. I loved his work with Alice Cooper. When I was the director of publicity for Eagle Rock Entertainment in New York, we released The Eyes of Alice Cooper album.

GM: What a great album. Eric introduced me to that one, one night backstage. My daughter Brianna and I have seen him with KISS and with Alice Cooper.

JQ: We issued The Eyes of Alice Cooper album with four different eye colors because Alice Cooper’s manager told me that some fans will buy the album four times to get all four different eye colors. Alice and our band go back a long way. We were both signed to an agency called DMA, in Detroit. Our agent booked us everywhere from New York City to Los Angeles and a lot of those dates were with Alice. Some days they would open for us and some days we would open for them. The first time we met the band we were playing in a club in Chicago and they were playing at one across the street. They walked over after their set. We were pretty freaky looking, but they outdid us. They had hair down to their waists and the nail polish really did me in. We weren’t ready for that back in the early 1970s. They were the nicest guys you would ever meet. When we were on breaks, we would spend time with each other. Years later, when we did The Eyes of Alice Cooper, I got to hang out with him for part of the tour and it was just a lot of fun, reminiscing with him. He is such a gentleman. There was a time when he had a restaurant in downtown Cleveland and I watched in amazement as he went around to every table in the place and talked with the customers, signed autographs and took pictures, spending a good hour making the rounds. He’s just the nicest guy in the world.

Damnation Alice Eyes

GM: You have also worked with Donnie Iris who went from The Jaggerz in the 1970s to Donnie Iris and The Cruisers in the 1980s.

JQ: I saw The Jaggerz perform in Pittsburgh, playing their hit single “The Rapper” and other songs from their album. With the Cruisers, Kevin Valentine was in that band.

GM: Yes. You could really hear his drumming on “Ah! Leah!” I have a Euclid Senior High School yearbook on my shelf where Kevin is in 12th grade, Donna is in 11th grade, and Eric and I are in 10th grade. As you know, Northeast Ohio was a great place for music fans and musicians to grow up.

JQ: Mark Avsec was in the band, too, on keyboards. He is another great talent. I have known Mark since he was seventeen years old.

GM: And before that, Kevin and Mark were with Jonah Koslen in Breathless, who had their 40th anniversary of their Top 100 single “Takin’ It Back” this year. It has been a year for Northeast Ohio music coverage in Goldmine with Breathless, The Outsiders, Joe Walsh, Joe Vitale, The Ohio Express, The Choir, The Euclid Beach Band, Neil Giraldo, and you. Next year we have more anniversaries to cover with The Michael Stanley Band and The Waitresses. We are highlighting a lot of people who are in Drew Losch’s double DVD film Northeast Ohio Rock & Roll Retrospective, which came out this year, which you were involved with and introduced me to.

JQ: There are so many musicians from the area. I think we booked Michael Stanley at every college in Ohio, in his early days and we became really good friends, another really nice person, a gentleman and full of talent. He has recorded forty albums over the years. Before Breathless, I remember when Jonah was in The Michael Stanley Band and was really quiet. We got to know each other, and then he opened up. He is another great person and great songwriter.

GM: You were also involved with Love Affair on Radio Records, here in Florida, in the early 1980s. I saw them play once at The Utopia in Willoughby in the late 1970s and then saw Rich Spina as a member of Gary Lewis & The Playboys in the 1990s and many times in recent years as the band director and member of Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone.

JQ: I was working in the late 1970s with Melanie. Her husband Peter, Melanie, and I went down to Florida to do some recording. We were looking for a new label. Doc McGhee, who was only 28 at the time, before his years with Bon Jovi and KISS, ended up signing a production deal with Melanie and financed the entire thing. We hired the entire Bee Gees back up band to record her album. I love The Bee Gees. By getting to know their band I was able to go to all of their shows. It ended up being a million dollar album that we shopped around, couldn’t get a deal for, and is probably still sitting in Doc McGhee’s warehouse. It was an amazing album. Over the years, Melanie has released a lot of those songs on subsequent albums. One of the songs is called “Roadburned,” where she wrote, “I’ve never been to Cleveland when the sun is shining,” ha ha. After the album with Melanie didn’t pan out, I returned to Cleveland from Florida and co-wrote the song “Mama Sez” with Rich Spina from Love Affair, along with producer Otto Neuber. I reached out to Radio Records in Florida and I got Melanie’s husband Peter to produce the album. All of a sudden, we are back in Florida, making this record.

GM: Now Donna and I are in Florida, where I reach out to Melanie, you, and others for our Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides series.

JQ: Although I am retired, here in Akron, Ohio, I still get involved in different music projects, helping others and sharing music from our region. Thank you so much for thinking of me. I am very flattered. Have a very Happy New Year! Best wishes to you, Donna, Brianna, and the Goldmine readers in 2021.

Damnation of Adam Blessing, Jim Quinn, 4th in photo

Damnation of Adam Blessing, Jim Quinn, 4th in photo

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