Who you may ask? I remember thinking the same thing back when my buddy Rod said he heard a cool song called “Tomorrow’s Memory Lane” on late night AM radio, when distant U.S. stations’ reception became clearer. In Canada, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) regulated that radio stations here must play a certain percentage of Canadian music. This was all great for us, but something had to be sacrificed from the rotation somewhere. That’s where picking up these late night U.S. stations provided insight into new artists and songs that weren’t played on regular local stations here.
We tried to stay one step ahead of everyone – even each other. We wanted to hear it first. We wanted to discover new territory. We wanted to claim ownership. We wanted them to be all ours. We fought amongst ourselves as to who heard it first and who “owned” the band. And if you were lucky to discover a band that became famous, you had bragging rights forever. Cripes, I’m in my 50’s and still feel that way! The competition is still on.
Henry Gross was born in Brooklyn New York in 1951. Before becoming a solo artist, he was a founding member of 50’s greaser band Sha Na Na. Ok – now that rings a bell. Where’s Bowzer? He also did some session playing for Jim Croce and has the claim to fame to be the youngest person to perform at Woodstock in 1969 at the age of 18. Henry’s first solo album didn’t fare too well, but his second certainly perked up our ears with a slight change in direction into flat out rock and roll, with yet still a touch of brilliant ballads and pop magic. There was also something pretty cool about that album cover. Was this guy another Ted Nugent?
Let’s plug this album into something and give it a spin!
Henry Gross – Plug Me into Something (Released 1975 on A&M Records)
- “One More Tomorrow” – a great way to up open side 1. A fast rocking tune to get the juices flowing and the party started. This was the first single released and I still have the 45 somewhere (I got it first, by the way). An album favourite.
- “I’ll Love Her” – time to reel it back in with what is a great little “pop” gem. I can’t help but notice that. when listening to Henry sing today, the similarity of vocal style with Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace, described simply as “unique countertenornasal falsetto”.
- “Southern Band” – with arguably one of the best thumping bass beats ever (courtesy of Warren Nichols), this song is a one of a kind classic. Henry keeps the pace up with a first class vocal performance. Oh, and he can really light it up in on the guitar when he wants to and this display is incredible. One of the finest 70’s true iconic rock songs you will ever hear period.
- “The Driver’s Engine” – this song contains a mix of rock, pop, country and possible a bit of blue grass, with the end result being a pleasant tune that grew on me over the years.
- “Travelin’ Time” – another great rock tune to finish off side 1.
- “All My Love” – perfect song, that was always my personal favourite. A real feel good song that always got everyone up doing their rock star karaoke (before there was such a term). The one thing about Henry’s voice was, both sexes could sing it equally. Ah, such good times!
- “One on One” – a ballad as good as ballads get, beautifully sung. A lot of emotion added from brilliant pianist Phil Aaberg.
- “Evergreen” – the flipside of my 45 was actually a party favourite when the album was blasting amongst friends. 360 degrees from the rest of the album, this blue grass/country can still hold its own. Great for those campfire sing-a-longs as well. Banjo included.
- “Dixie Spiderman” – OK folks, hold on. This one rocks. Fabulous skin attack here from Alan Schwartzberg. In the vein of “Southern Band”, you need to crank this one to 11. Another bit of blistering guitar work as well. The party is well on its way.
- “Tomorrow’s Memory Lane” – the song that stated it all with Mr. Gross. If it wasn’t for my buddy hearing this song, we may never have gotten to where we are today. This is his signature song, in my opinion. The anthem. Henry singing about his past. If I only knew back in 1975 that 42 years later it really was tomorrow’s memory lane.
I know I say at some point in every Retro Review I do, that the 70’s were different. They truly were. You may listen to this album and say, why the heck didn’t he just make a full album like “Southern Band“ or “Dixie Spider Man”? That’s where it was different back then. The variations in music were joined at the hip. It was all in the same pot, stirred and spat out into the AM Top 40 world. The Bee Gees next to Black Sabbath etc. Well that thought process drilled itself down with many bands onto their albums, where one song was Top 40 pop, the next a first rate FM rocker, the next a ballad etc. You just got used to it; it was the way it was supposed to be.
On Henry’s next release, he penned the worldwide smash megahit “Shannon”, which reached #6 on the Billboard charts in 1976 and #1 here in Canada. This being his only big hit put Henry in the infamous “One Hit Wonder” category. I get angry every time I hear that a band is given that label. It was because we were so deep into a band’s catalogue and memories were written daily that we were blind to the fact that we were the only ones listening, and only one became a hit record. For example, when Canadian bands with 20 hits in Canada and only 1 hit in the U.S. are called “One Hit Wonders”, I scream at the radio!!
Henry is out and about doing still his One Hit Wanderer shows, reunions with Sha Na Na and other various gigs. I’d love to catch him someday, somewhere. Until then, I’ll keep the vinyl close by.
“When I get to Macon, they all know my name, so plug me into something…and let me pick away!”
Here’s a slightly different live version of “Southern Band”, courtesy of the Midnight Special (yes, I watched it when it premiered). The quality isn’t great, but the guitar solo is. Enjoy!!