Following March Madness in Iowa, we look back at a pair of Iowa bands with guitarist John Bartle, of the Sioux City quartet DVC and The Jan Park Band, celebrating the 40th anniversary of their album, recorded in Des Moines.
By Warren Kurtz
GOLDMINE:40 years ago, I heard your version of Melanie’s “Runnin’ After Love” on the Cleveland FM radio station WMMS. When it came time to pick an album to review that week in March of 1979, I was thrilled to see The Jan Park Band as a choice in the stack of new promotional albums at the magazine’s office. Recently, in preparation for my Goldmine interview with Melanie, you told me, “Producer Eric Holtze and I heard a tape of Jan Park, a singing waitress at an Iowa hotel, and The Jan Park Band was formed. Eric found the Melanie song ‘Runnin’ After Love’ and it became our first single.” In my 1979 album review, regarding that song, I wrote, “Jan’s voice rides smoothly along the lyric lines and becomes bold on the chorus.” Then I highlighted the boldness that she brought to your version of Wet Willie’s “Don’t Turn Me Away” on your album. These were two songs that I already knew from recent Melanie and Wet Willie albums.
JOHN BARTLE: Wet Willie’s Mike Duke, who wrote “Don’t Turn Me Away,” heard our recording of it before it was released. He called us and said that he thought the song would never be recorded better.
GM:That’s wonderful to hear. When Mike joined Wet Willie, he brought in a different aspect to the band right as they changed labels to Epic from Capricorn, where they had been solely a southern rock band. Shortly after Mike joined, I met Larry and Marshall from the band in downtown Cleveland in 1978 for a lunchtime interview and then saw them that night when they were opening for Meat Loaf at an outdoor show in Cuyahoga Falls, between Cleveland and Akron.
JB: I saw them open for The Allman Brothers Band once and that was great.
GM:Well that certainly seems like a perfect pairing. Speaking of pairing, you and Eric co-wrote half of the album, starting with the exciting “Running Wild.”
JB: Eric was a year ahead of me in school. We used to do commercials and we auditioned for record companies in New York. We had been writing songs together forever. Eric graduated from Harvard Magnum Cum Laude and his first job out of school was assistant to Walter Yetnikoff, who was the CEO and President of CBS Records, which included Columbia, Epic and other labels. When he discovered Jan, he left his job and became our manager, so we had a nice in with Columbia that way. We concentrated on having fun on the instrumental solos on “Running Wild.” The keyboard player Billy Barber did a great job, not only on that song, but throughout the whole record.
John Bartle on the left, photo by Beno Friedman
GM:“Don’t Let It Slip Away” was a beautiful way to begin side two.
JB: That is probably one of my favorite songs that we wrote, as far as ballads go. We wrote that one in Eric’s living room.
GM:Another of your compositions, “Stranger,” became the next single. Your guitar is outstanding on this.
JB: This song, as an album cut, was getting airplay in Madison. That radio station played a favorite five songs each night, with listeners calling in to vote, and “Stranger” beat Dire Strait’s “Sultans of Swing.” Columbia took note of that and released “Stranger” as the second single several weeks later, but by that time listeners had moved on to other songs.
GM:The flip side of the first single, “No More, Baby,” certainly has a Pat Benatar-like power to it, months before most of us heard her for the first time with “Heartbreaker,” featuring Cleveland’s Neil Giraldo on guitar.
JB: Guitar is key on songs like these. My guitar part was a riff that I came up with and then the song followed a bit later. We recorded enough material for a second album, too, but it was never released.
The Jan Park Band
Flip side: No, More Baby
A side: Runnin’ After Love (Making It Easy This Time)
Debut: March 1979
GM:Thank goodness this album was released, bringing us power and warmth that spring when there was still a trace of snow on the ground. Speaking of trace, our mutual friend Trace introduced me to the music of your next band DVC. He said that he loved seeing DVC live in Sioux City often and heard the songs “Goosebumps,” “Baby Wants More” and “Teaser” on the radio, so let’s begin with those songs. Now that we live in Daytona Beach where Brian Kelley from Florida Georgia Line is from, “Goosebumps,” to me, sounds like one of their rocking numbers or certainly something that could fit in with today’s contemporary country.
JB: It could be a country song today, couldn’t it? It was written by Terry Britten from England, who is known for “What’s Love Got to Do with It” by Tina Turner and other songs he has written. He wrote it along with Brian Robertson who wrote a couple of hits for Mike + The Mechanics.
GM:The song “Baby Wants More” reminds be a bit of The Cars.
JB: That was the last song that we wrote for the album and we were under pressure.
GM:You end side one with a version of “Teaser,” which I knew from one of Tommy Bolin’s solo albums after his James Gang and Deep Purple days. Is John Bolin in your band a younger brother of Tommy?
JB: Yes. He is five years younger than we were. Tommy and I were about fourteen months apart and learned how to play the guitar together. On Saturday mornings we would take a bus to the other side of town, or our parents would take us, to a place called the United Teachers of Music. We were around thirteen years old and we would stay there all day long learning guitar, trading licks back and forth that we played. He was in one band and I was in another, but we played together quite a bit.
GM:Is the name DVC a tribute to the band’s influences of Deep Purple, Van Halen and The Cars?
JB: Ha ha, no. It stands for the Latin phrase Diligentia, Vis, Ceritas, meaning accuracy, power and speed. I got it from Kirby Graber, a photographer, who wrote lyrics for four songs on the album. He had read on article on mercenaries and how DVC was scratched on the walls of the prison cells.
GM:One of those songs that Kirby co-wrote is “Ain’t That the Way it Goes.” I love your vocals on it, reminding me of Allan Clarke of The Hollies, one of my favorite singers.
JB: Thanks. Now, I see the comparison.
GM:The opening number and single “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” is one that the Louisiana band Le Roux had written and recorded it in 1980, two years prior to their hit single “Nobody Said It Was Easy.”
JB: That’s where we got it, of course, and we really didn’t do too much to change it for our 1981 album. I think it is pretty close to the original version. Rob Forest, Max Padilla and I were pretty good at being able to sing together.
L to R: John Bolin, Rob Forest, Max Padilla, John Bartle
GM:“Turning” is another one that I think could have been a catchy single. Marc Platte and Larry Gottlieb’s composition, who wrote “When She Was My Girl” for The Four Tops in the early ‘80s, another favorite of mine.
JB: “Turning” has some clever changes in it.
GM: The album was on the unfortunately short-lived Alfa label.
JB: They gave themselves two years to come up with a Top 10 song and I think Lulu was the closest one to it.
GM:Yes, with “I Could Never Love You (More Than I Do),” which reached No. 18. Burton Cummings’ “You Saved My Soul” reached No. 37 and The Monroes’ “What Do All the People Know” peaked, unfortunately, at No. 59. Plus, there were a couple of Billy Vera singles, including the first release of “At This Moment,” years before it became popular through “Family Ties.”
JB: It was a Japanese company and their U.S. subsidiary didn’t meet their expectations with DVC or the other acts. With The Jan Park Band, Columbia was going through a transition. We were one of the new signings to Columbia, therefore one of the first to be let go. Jan didn’t want to go any further and focused on her marriage. I called John up, Rob came up from Des Moine and we started DVC out of the blue. We stole the bass player, Max, from an Iowa band called Headstone. DVC lasted about two years. We opened for everybody from Def Leppard to Molly Hatchett, Edgar Winter, and former Santana drummer Michael Shreve. With The Jan Park Band, we didn’t play one single gig ever which was a shame.
GM:The DVC album cover is a mix of red and blue oil paint, an area I know you have an interest.
JB: I was kind of an artist when I was in school. Then in 2002 I won a scholarship to a Morningside College, here in Sioux City, for four years for art. I was 53 years old with an eighteen year old daughter. I went to school and have sold everything I have ever painted.
GM:Sioux City is two hours west of where the band The Hawks are from in central Iowa. I interviewed Dave Hearn from the group in 2017.
JB: They signed with Columbia same year as we were with Alfa. We thought they would do better than they did.
GM:I did too. I love their debut album with “It’s All Right, It’s O.K.,” “Right Away” and the other songs, and their second album too.
JB: We did too. The biggest thing we have had out of here in recent years is Slipknot.
GM:Ah yes. I remember when Corey Taylor’s other band, Stone Sour, debuted in 2002. We were living in Atlanta and they received airplay there with the song “Brother” and they played other songs on STAR 94 FM in support of their southeast concert debut. Congratulations on this month’s 40th anniversary of your recording debut.
JB: I am so glad we got to do this. Thank you so much.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.