Dwight Twilley
Tommy Tutone

I've decided to put these three artists in one folder. What they all have in common, other than the fact that I only have two or three albums by each, is a style of new-wave/power-pop that was current in the late 70s/early 80s. Each had a sizable hit before fading into obscurity. In one case this obscurity was deserved, in the other two it wasn't.

I don't believe there are any websites for Twilley or Tutone, but there is a small one for the Vapors.

Dwight Twilley: XXI ***1/2

Twilley's blend of Sun rockabilly and Beatle-esque pop never quite caught on with the recording buying public. Which is a shame, since Twilley's work is as accessible and sharp as colleague Tom Petty's blend of Byrds and Beatles (who cameoed on some of Twilley's records and sold fifty times as many records, but you already knew that). Consisting also co-songwriter/drummer/bassist Phil Seymour and guitarist Bill Pitcock IV, the Dwight Twilley Band recorded "I'm On Fire" in their native Tulsa. An edgy, hungry blast of modernized rockabilly, it encapsulates perfectly the Twilley sound - not only is it his best song, it's also one of the most exciting singles of the '70s. It hit #16 on the charts in 1975, the band got a major-label recording contract and moved to L.A. to record their debut. Contractual problems delayed the album for a year, and when Sincerely finally debuted in 1976, the audience they'd gained by the hit had, for the most part, forgotten them. Twilley didn't have another hit until 1984 with "Girls", a duet with Petty, again hitting #16. Phil Seymour left for a solo career in 1977, a move that excised a lot of the uniqueness of Twilley's sound; he began releasing records solo as Dwight Twilley (a minor technicality, maybe, but an important one).

This record captures most of the highlights of Twilley's career, which effectively ended in 1986 (though the record does contain a couple of encouraging new tracks). The Dwight Twilley Band material is certainly more interesting than his later material; slowly he edged closer and closer to mainstream '80s rock until his music became rather faceless. However, despite his inconsistencies, there are a number of wonderful gems scattered throughout this compilation. "Sincerely", from the first album, slathers on the echo and employs a mass of backwards-guitar overdubs for a quasi-psychedelic dirge. In fact, slatherin' on the echo became a Twilley trait, and gives many otherwise ordinary numbers a unique edge. In "Looking For The Magic", for instance, an excellent song soars into pop heaven thanks in part to the deep echo of the slappin' bass. "Dion Baby", a touching ode to his daughter, is another highlight, and there are enough good songs to make this reasonably enjoyable. However, it is inconsistent, and there's an equal number of mundanities as memorable moments, particularly towards the end.

Reader Comments


I just bought the Dwight Twilley XXI CD used at a small local store. Thank Goodness!!! It is wonderful, and I had forgotten about a couple of those great tunes. What is he doing now? Almost completely out of the business? It's a shame, because there is some real talent there.

Thanks for the reviews of a wonderful talent.

Dwight Twilley Band: Twilley Don't Mind (1977) ***

Typical Twilley - some rockabilly (the title track), pop singles material ("Looking For The Magic", "Chance To Get Away", "Looking For My Baby", all of which are excellent), plus an overlong ballad, "Sleeping" which you won't remember after you've woken up. It's too inconsistent to bother tracking down, but worth it if you see it cheap (I found my copy for $2).

Dwight Twilley: Jungle (1984) **1/2

The opening synthesizer strains of "Little Bit Of Love" clue you in right away that Twilley has changed his sound considerably from the early days. As the '80s have fallen upon him, Twilley's music has become rather faceless mainstream rock - lots better than Eddie Money, a little better than Rick Springfield, and not quite as good as Bryan Adams (circa "Summer Of '69", not the unhummable ballads for junior high students and housewives he pumps out nowadays). The hit was "Girls", a duet with Tom Petty, and "Why You Wanna Break My Heart" got a lot of exposure several years later via Wayne's World, but nearly all the songs are of the same quality. Which means that though it's faceless and doesn't really have any great moments, it's consistent and competently tuneful. In short, not a bad listen, but I can't fathom why anyone would really need a record like this.

Phil Seymour: Seymour 2 (1982) **

This isn't a bad album the former Twilley Band drummer. In fact it contains well-played, tuneful, rockin' power-pop songs in a style that's mainstream enough to be accessible but isn't crass or sounds terribly dated. However, I find myself curiously uninterested in playing the thing again. I wondered about this for a while, trying to figure out what was wrong with this record. What's wrong is that none of these songs are anything more than tuneful or rockin' - there's a thousand bands that do that already. Nothing on this album stands out or is special enough to make it memorable, which in the end makes it bland. Contains an alright version of "Looking For The Magic".

Tommy Tutone: Tommy Tutone (1980) **

This San Francisco band proffered a blend of skinny-tie new-wavish power-pop and Springsteen-ian working-class AOR rock. If that sounds appealing to'ya, well....check out the Boomtown Rats. Four guys who look like they all met at the local bowling alley sing about girls and the night. Ya-awwwwn. Competent in its way - these songs are instantly memorable, but why would you want to remember any of them? The exception is the single "Angel Say No", which scraped the bottom of the charts.

Tommy Tutone: Tommy Tutone 2 (1981) **1/2

These guys are about as clever as their album titles. Album #2 is slightly better than Album #1 due to "867-5309/Jenny", one the '80s greatest singles. A song so catchy you almost miss the storyline: A guy sees a number on the bathroom wall that says, "For a good time call 867-5309/Jenny." The guy tries to call her but he loses his nerve and gets obsessed with her, sounding if she's the only thing that keeps him hangin' on. And he's never even met her! A genuine example of the classic pop gambit of getting millions of clueless people to sing along with something really subversive and twisted (see "Lola", "Every Breath You Take", "Brown Sugar", etc. for further reference). Nothing else on the album comes anywhere near the quality of that single. "Steal Away" has a catchy chorus, admittedly, but it's overdramatic and the lyrics are silly rock-star moping, made even sillier because these guys aren't even big rock stars! They're just a decent bar band that fluked into a hit! Did I mention that the lead singer has a particularly unpleasant voice? He sings with an accent that's some funny cross between blue-collar Northeastern and mid-American hick - I hope nobody does a "Fargo" about whatever part of the country he's from....

P.S. The two Tommy Tutone albums reviewed above have been compiled on a single two-fer CD, in case you were wondering why I sat through more than one Tutone album.

Reader Comments

Rick Hutchinson, RHutch3277@aol.com

Gee, I hope I never get in the record business and put out a hit single...Your (review) of Tommy Tutone seems kinda harsh. As a Radio DJ in the 80's I could think of at least a dozen other bands to attach the kind of hate and scorn you seem to have for Tommy Tutone. I'll bet you are a U2 fan and only enjoy bands that have a "Message". Tommy Tutone were a fun band that put out a little piece of entertainment that alot of us have enjoyed over the years and continue to enjoy.

Furthermore, after the drubbing you gave Tommy Tutone you hold up the Vapors as a great band? Hello? "Turning Japanese" now that song has alot to say doesn't it?

Well I should go for now. Just thought someone should knock you down a couple of pegs. Nothing wrong with having an opinion, so long as it falls in line with my way of thinking...lol (just a little joke)

Keep it up and you may be reviewing records for Rolling Stone. Those guys have been out of touch with what is good music for years!

An old wrinkly DJ with nothing better to do but harass nice people like you.

Dennis Balin, tony6449@email.msn.com

I agree with his assessment of the Tutone LPs. I'm not one of those pop fans looking for a "message." The music doesn't have to be U2 to cut it with me. However, I do think things like memorable melodies and catchy hooks are important. Both Tutone LPs have neither (except for their big hit).

I bought both LPs for a buck at the Princeton Record Exchange. I was on a power pop binge that year. Anyone who likes this sort of thing should avoid the Tutone LPs (get the single on a compilation), and check out the Motors 2nd LP, "Approved by the Motors." Terrific British stuff.

And the reviews of the Vapors are right on the money. Those LPs are far, far better than their one novelty, "Turning Japanese" would have you believe. I'm glad I discovered these discs; I had bought all the Jam albums and wanted more of that "All Mod Cons" sound. They're not real original, but they're damn catchy and have some great songs ("Prisoner").

Good page.

The Vapors: New Clear Days (1980) ****1/2

A woefully underrated band. In America they're remembered for "Turning Japanese", if remembered at all; in England, they were written off as a bunch of Jam clones. Yeah, they do sound an awful lot like the Jam, with super-tight playing, stiff drumming (I don't mean that in a bad way), choppy guitars and melodic pop-rock songs squarely in the Ray Davies/Pete Townsend tradition. They're less agressive and more playful than the Jam, and leader David Fenton is an excellent songwriter who, like all excellent songwriters, works in his own idiosyncratic style. "Turning Japanese" - wow, what a single! Easily makes my top 10, or 20, or whatever - it makes me bounce up and down like a slinky toy, and frankly I don't care what the lyrics mean! Eliot's big brother in E.T. sang "Prisoners" - now there's a pop culture trivia tidbit for you! "Waiting For The Weekend" is the best rock'n'roll song about TGIF release except for the Easybeats' "Friday On My Mind" - now that's a compliment. I get a thrill from nearly every one of these catchy, danceable, rockin' tunes, except for maybe "Bunkers". Nearly every song here could have been the credible followup to "Turning Japanese", so how come this band dropped out sight? Was it because their videos weren't as good as Duran Duran's?

The Vapors: Magnets (1981) ****

The followup. Yes, they did have a second album, and good luck finding it. So the songs are clearly less catchy than those on the first album - it makes up for it in new-found variety, something that the Vapors didn't have a lot of previously. "Spiders" has elfin distorted vocals, a synthesizer, and a chorus that borrows liberally from "Baby's In Black" ("and I'm feeling blue"). "Jimmie Jones" was the single off the album, and I suppose it flopped because mass-murdering cult leaders don't make for Top 40 subject material. A ballad appears for the first time on a Vapors record, the anti-police-harassment tale of "Civic Hall". "Isolated Case" is a fine slice of sub-Kinksociology about how people are animals and stuff like that (I think). "Johnny's In Love (Again)" concerns a slightly psychotic youth, and along with "Lenina" it follows in the same vein as the first album. The "Silver Machines" succeeds quite spacily, especially that line that goes "Yes I have been stoned/But never blissed". This sank without a trace into the great void of second-hand vinyl shops, and if you ever manage to dig it up, you won't be disappointed.

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