Original transfer by Marcus Mossmann at PHONOGRAPHIC ARTIFACTS. Audio restoration and mastering by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in November 2020.
“When Rock Feinstein of The Rods invades the UK there’s going to be a second blitz of Britain, so lock your doors and hide your children. The mighty Rods will soon be No.1 to all you HM maniacs.” – Letter from Jim Placha, from Chicago, published in Kerrang! issue 9, February 1982
EARLY 1982 WAS SPECTACULARLY COLD IN THE UK. This was the year that heavy snowfall in January caused the roof of the Sophia Gardens, Cardiff’s most famous venue, to collapse. It was also the time that guitarist/vocalist David ‘Rock’ Feinstein, drummer Carl Canedy and bassist Garry Bordonaro chose to base themselves at Parkgate studios, in Battle, Sussex, to work on their second album for Arista, ‘Wild Dogs’.
“It was a possibility that we’d be recording in England, but the fact that we got the tour made it pretty well definite,” David would tell Steve Gett in a feature in Kerrang! issue 10. “We’d though about doing it in Germany – basically we felt a change of environment would be a good idea.” It would be the first time the band had recorded outside of New York, and “the tour” David was referring to was the opening UK leg of Iron Maiden’s ‘The Beast On The Road’ slog, and as Gett had pointed out in his review of ‘The Rods’ in the magazine’s previous issue, “if the top-notch quality of the material is to be taken as a yardstick then Maiden will surely face a fair amount of competition from the US rockers.”
The first order of the day though was to record an album’s worth of material, and in February 1982 that’s exactly what the band set out to achieve. Regrettably, it didn’t turn out to be the happiest of times for the band.
“Well, Parkgate and the staff were fantastic,” recalls Carl. “They really were. And I loved Battle. I loved the fact that back then – it’s not the same now, I’ve heard – that the pub didn’t lock up. It just closed and everyone went home... And when I see these country settings in the UK, and the green fields and all that, that’s how Battle was for me. We were there for a month, I think it was, and I knew right away I could live there. I loved it. I fell in love with England. I still love England. I took to it immediately. I love the countryside, and everyone was so cool and they welcomed us, and the crew. We went down to the pub and the crew were in there, because of course they could just go and hang out and drink all the time, and it was like 25 people going, ‘hey, how are you, come on in’. It was really wild. I thought, ‘this is incredible, this place’. So I love that. As for the recording itself, though, we had Martin Pearson as the engineer on the album. He was a good guy, but he wasn’t the engineer we needed.”
One name that had been suggested to the band was the legendary Chris Tsangarides. “Chris and I became friends in the last few years before he died, and we did a show with his band in Amsterdam, I think it was. But we’d joked ever since that the biggest mistake I made was, well, I was young, I was cocky, and he was presented to us to be the producer for the ‘Wild Dogs’ album; and I’m like [Carl adopts a whiney voice"> ‘oh, we don’t want to sound like Tygers Of Pan Tang’. As if we ever could have sounded like Tygers Of Pan Tang, right? What the hell was I thinking! As a producer I realised that those words would haunt me because bands I was producing would say ‘we don’t want to sound like The Rods’ Yeah. I know! I realise you’re nothing like The Rods and you couldn’t be if you tried. But anyway, that’s what I was thinking back then. So then they offered Glen Kolotkin who’d done Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and again I thought, ‘well, that’s just like a plodding drum thing, the drums sound very processed. I don’t want that.’ Back then I didn’t know that an engineer can pretty much mic up what you have and make it sound great. But I was just like, ‘he’s going to make us sound like Joan Jett. I don’t want that. Do you want to sound like Joan Jett? No, neither do I...’” He laughs. So now we wound up with Martin Pearson, who’d engineered Krokus.”
“It just didn’t work,” says David. “Carl and I started out being the producers, not that at the time we knew much about the actual producing, but we knew what we wanted to sound like and I remember the early days when I’d hear the guitar sound and say ‘no, I don’t like that’ but I didn’t really know what to tell the engineer to do to make it right. I would have to say ‘I need to hear more of this’ or ‘I need to hear more of that’ and it was up to the engineer at the time to dial in the frequencies or whatever he need to do to make it sound right by me. And when I heard it I’d know it, and say ‘that’s it! That’s it.’ The same would go for Carl’s drums; I know he wanted his drums to sound a certain way. So we came into the production thing pretty unknowledgeable – and Carl knows a lot more about it than I do because he was a lot more interested in it than I was, technology-wise – but through the years you learn certain things. Carl and I should have been the ones to produce that album rather than letting an outside producer come in. We needed to maintain that same sound that we had on the other albums because it went over so well. Why fix it if it’s not broken? It was just a mistake that was made, I think, and I don’t know for sure how Martin got involved. But I don’t think it did us any good to have Martin Pearson produce that album. He was a nice guy, as far as I can remember, but we didn’t need to have an outside producer, and we suffered for it. Even though ‘Wild Dogs’ is one of the most popular albums from the fans’ point of view, the sound of the album in my opinion, and I think I can speak for Carl too, really didn’t compare with the sound of the previous albums. That was kind of a mistake because we should have continued on with that sound – but it sounded different because we had a different producer brought in by the label.”
“Martin was a sweet guy, very nice guy,” says Carl, “but as an engineer he approached things differently from what I was used to. In my entire career, no one has ever asked me to play harder or play louder. Never, ever, ever. It’s like I joke about David: if David had an acoustic guitar, people would still tell him to turn it down! He plays loud. And I’m a loud drummer so there’s no need to ask for more volume from me.
“When we got to England I, initially, wanted us to continue with the same team, with Chris Bubacz engineering and David and I producing; guerrilla warfare! That’s the way we recorded the first album. That captured us, and I felt that that was what we should be doing. I know David was feeling the pressure – well, we all felt the pressure – and Mike Bone our A&R guy was pushing us and wanted us to do additional material when we got to Parkgate. But, you know, Martin wanted me to play so hard that I bent bass drum beaters, that’s how hard I was hitting the drums. That’s some serious playing. It was crazy, how hard he wanted me to play. So there were no dynamics, no subtleties. I think it was Joey DeMaio who said to me one time, ‘you know, you were one of the first drummers to bring progressive jazz drumming to metal music,’ and of course now it’s all over the place. But back then, you know, I was trying to learn different disciplines. A bit Forrest Gump in my approach and execution, but nonetheless I was too dumb to know you shouldn’t do that! So the first album kind of captured all my doubles and the jazzy kind of things I played along with the metal stuff. And I didn’t want to lose that, but Martin just wanted the drums to sound huge. And they do. That’s what he wanted and that’s what he got. The drums are amazingly big on that album. But the subtleties were lost.”
As with ‘The Rods’, the band’s A&R man Mike Bone suggested a couple of songs to cover, but this time the band declined to take his advice. “We just shit on those songs!” laughs Carl. “And Mike is such a great guy and he believed in the band. He’d given us two songs before – ‘Nothing Going On In The City’ and ‘Ace In The Hole’ – but we wanted to trust our own instincts and write our own material. And we thought it was a grand conspiracy anyway. We were a little bit paranoid in, like, ‘who’s getting the publishing on this? Who’s getting paid?’ We were naïve, and I’m going to blame myself. Garry was very quiet and, you know, David’s fairly quiet so I’m the one who was probably bitching about everything.”
Although the songs Mike Bone suggested have been lost in the mists of time, in an interview in Metal Forces the following year Carl indicated that ‘Born To Be Wild’ (a wholly appropriate songs for the band to cover!) was in contention at the time.
“But anyway,” he continues, “Mike suggested those songs, but instead David wrote ‘No Sweet Talk, Honey’ and another song, and we did a cover of, because I love Vanilla Fudge (who’d previously covered the song), and I’d studied with Carmine Appice, ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’. I was sitting at the piano and started playing it and it was like, ‘yeah, we could do this song.’ We were just idiots. We ignored our A&R guy and it became very contentious. Martin was told that if we didn’t record those songs he’d never work again, or something to that effect, and that didn’t make it very pleasant for him, either.”
Matters weren’t helped by the fact that Carl’s mother was terminally ill. (“It was a tough time,” he recalls. “She was dying of cancer and after the second show of the Iron Maiden tour I had to come home because I wanted to be there before she died.”) But with the tapes shipped up to The Enid’s studio, The Lodge, in Suffolk for mixing, The Rods embarked on their first major tour: the best part of a month on the road in the UK as the openers for Iron Maiden.
“It was great. It was fantastic,” David enthuses. “Iron Maiden was big, we played big rooms, you know, they were great guys and we really had a great time with them. I had played big shows with Elf, because we’d opened up for Deep Purple, and they were the biggest band in the world, playing arenas, but Iron Maiden was the next biggest thing I’d experienced and it was just a great time. And we had a tour manager from England who took care of us and drove us around and everything and he was also like a tour guide, too. We’d be driving through a town and he’d be explaining ‘well, this is where such-and-such was born’ or ‘this is where something happened’ so we not only got to play rock ‘n’ roll for thirty days with Iron Maiden but we got a personalised tour of the country! And I got to go to the Marshall factory and meet Jim Marshall, the guy who started it all, and he took me on a tour all through the factory, showing me everything being made. I got to try out amplifiers, and that was a big highlight of the tour as well. It was like a vacation, you know? It was just so good because we got to play rock ’n’ roll and we got to see things and to meet the great guys in the band. And we were treated really well – a lot of headlining bands don’t treat their opening acts at all well but those guys treated us phenomenally. They were great to us all the way through the whole thing. I can’t say anything bad about them at all. I still listen to their music and I still think about them and what a great time it was.”
“From what I understand, what I heard was that they wanted a band from America,” Carl explains. “They wanted an American band on the tour. So I think we’d just gotten the review in Sounds and so on and we’d been doing well on tour, I think we were on tour with Foghat, so things were going well and we were probably getting a little buzz about us, you know, that live we could pull it off, so they wanted us. And the guys were so great to us, they really were; they came over the first day with champagne, and they introduced themselves, and they were just really good guys.
“And the fans, they were unreal! They just welcomed us with open arms and it just couldn’t have been any better, really. And the fact that Iron Maiden shared their audience with us. That was huge. That gave us the perfect opportunity. It wasn’t like Arista in the States who wanted to put us on the road with Air Supply. No one who likes [he sings"> ‘I’m all out of love...’ is then going to say ‘hey, weren’t The Rods great!’”
The reviews the band picked up on the tour raised their profile no end. Sounds’ Philip Bell checked out the opening night, at Dunstable’s Queensway Hall. “Bassist Garry Bordanero [sic"> storms about in an ill-fitting Jack Daniels cap-sleeve top that resembles a shrivelled crisp packet. Rock Feinstein stomps it wearing a gutter (he bypassed street) credible tatty leather, and must’ve fallen into a hedge ten minutes before. None of the power triumvirate could’ve seen a comb in the Eighties. But then, The Rods didn’t travel 2,000 miles to pick twee daisies and look pretty. Nope, these cats mean baad bizness... Their set is brief but the velocity crazed. ‘Nothing Going On In The City’, ‘Get Ready To Rock And Roll’, ‘Crank It Up’, ending with the Rock racing wildly fretwise and ‘Power Lover’ are lifted from their dynamic debut. And to supplement, previews of the forthcoming follow-up vinyl firework are launched. ‘Rocking And Rolling’ and ‘Get Higher’ were, I think, two titles, and the direction is evidently similar, maulin’ metal may’emm.”
The full set, as evidenced at the Portsmouth Guildhall show on 8 March was: ‘Rockin’ And Rollin’ Again’ / ‘Waiting For Tomorrow’ / ‘Get Ready To Rock ‘N’ Roll’ / ‘Nothing Going On In The City’ / ‘Too Hot To Stop’ / ‘Crank It Up’ / ‘Getting Higher’ / ‘Power Lover’.
“At Oxford,” wrote that man Steve Gett again in Kerrang!, “The Rods took to the stage amidst healthy audience response and for the next 45 minutes delivered a set which revolved around their album. There were a couple of new tunes and the lead vocals were split between ‘Rock’ Feinstein and bassist Garry Bordanero [sic">. .. The best numbers of The Rods’ performance were ‘Crank It Up’, ‘Nothing Going On In The City’ and the riotous ‘Power Lover’. They fared exceedingly well at Oxford and it will be interesting to see them place [sic"> their full show at the Marquee.”
As Gett noted, after The Rods and Iron Maiden parted company at the end of the tour, on 22 March 1982 the Americans played a headline show at the Marquee in London. The gig was recorded and three live tracks (‘Power Lover’, ‘Rockin' & Rollin' Again’ and ‘Too Hot to Stop’) would appear as the B-side to the ‘Too Hot To Stop’ 45 released later in the year.
“The Marquee, that was a blast!” says Carl. “And I remember it being so hot. They had the big Par Cans lights, and I had my big chrome set. I remember even at soundcheck touching the rims of my drums and they were so hot that they actually burned my hands. As soon as we stepped out I was just drenched in sweat immediately. So I went back into the dressing room during Dave’s guitar solo to get a towel to dry off. And I walk in, I open the door and there’s this woman, putting on this little skimpy bottom. She’s totally naked. She goes ‘hi!’ ‘Oh, hi...’ So I dry off and I go back out. Oh yeah, and there was a latch on the door which I cut my finger on, so I had to go and play with that. But then she came out... Our manager had hired a stripper, and she was great. It just made it for a fun show. She was cool, and the crowd was melting! But the Marquee, you know, growing up, all those bands like Ten Years After played the Marquee. I was just fascinated by the wall [every artist who’d played there signed the dressing room wall">, there was so much history there, and that was just such a huge deal for me to be there. It was not the biggest club in the world, or the best club in the world in terms of being a beautiful place, but it was a great place all the same. It was a cool vibe and it made the show really good. And I find that playing clubs that aren’t huge, two or three hundred, not overly big stages, just have that funky feel, and sometimes they are the best shows you play because you connect with the audience.”
“Well, it was the end of the tour,” notes David, “and as tours go on and you play every night, you know, with very few nights off, the playing part and the getting onstage becomes second nature, you know? It’s like writing your name. You don’t really have to think that much about what’s going on because you’re doing it all the time. It’s like anything else – the more you do it, the easier it becomes. But there’s never a perfect performance. When I think back there’s always something: ‘I made a mistake here’ or ‘Garry made a mistake there’ or something happened that probably wasn’t noticed by 99.9% of the crowd, but we noticed it. But the thing is that you keep going on and it’s all part of it being real and it being part of the show and us having a good time. And I think that when the audience saw that we were having such a good time then they have a good time. One thing feeds off another, and you feed off the crowd the crowd feed off you. And to be honest with you I could stand still and play through the whole set and not make a mistake, but it’s impossible to be running around the stage and jumping around like monkeys without missing the odd chord!”
“The Rods must surely be the loudest ‘n’ proudest power trio doing the rounds at the moment,” ran Xavier Russell’s review in Sounds. After noting that “the show opened very fast with two new numbers, whose titles I didn’t even catch...” and going on to discussing the gig’s highlights – as well as the stripper’s – Russell concluded with: “I’m looking forward to seeing The Rods on a headline tour. They’re going to be big, mark my words.” Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out quite that way.
Things started well. Released in July 1982, ‘Wild Dogs’ spent four weeks in the UK album chart, preceded by a single ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ which carried the non-album track ‘Wings Of Fire’ and which was also available as a rather natty picture disc. (The European album cover, by the way, was slightly different to the sleeve issued in the US.) “On reflection,” wrote Dante Bonutto in Kerrang!, “there’s no one track here quite as outstanding as ‘Nothing Going On In The City’... But what The Rods do they do very well indeed and ‘Wild Dogs’ catches them at their torrid tumescent best.”
“So, anyway,” David says, “we’d got great promotion from the Iron Maiden tour in the UK and we came back home and we did a couple of short tours with Judas Priest in the States and then our manager had a phone call from AC/DC’s manager. AC/DC was about to start their European tour and they called us, or our manager, to see if we’d like to be the support act on that tour. We were ecstatic, you know? AC/DC were one of our favourite bands, and they were probably one of the biggest bands in the world at that time. This would have been great for us, to have done the European tour. So we were looking forward to it, but what happened was we couldn’t get the money for the tour from the record label. I think they considered they had spent a lot of money on us going over to the UK to record the album and do the Iron Maiden tour, so the amount of money needed for us to go and do this tour... And the strange thing is that at the time opening acts weren’t getting paid. They paid to play as support acts on these tours. But AC/DC, they were going to pay us to play. It wasn’t much, maybe a couple hundred pounds, I don’t know, but they were willing to pay us to go play. Record labels and managers were calling them to try and get their bands on that tour – it was a great promotional thing and record labels and music publishers would put the money up – but they wanted us. But our manager told us that Arista America wouldn’t come up with their share of what was needed to keep us on the road. I think Arista America needed to come up with a third, the publishing company in California need to come up with a third and Arista UK needed to come up with a third. Well, Arista UK, they’d come up with it, from what I can remember, but without Arista America we couldn’t come up with the money for the tour, and that was a real huge mistake. If we had done a European tour with AC/DC we would probably have been headlining shows over there after that tour, because our momentum was so strong. Right around the same time we get a phone call inviting us to Donington, and again our manager says ‘well, we don’t have enough money to go and do that date’. Another huge mistake. The publicity and the exposure would have been great, and to actually be invited to play there was a big honour for us, but again we had to turn it down because we couldn’t come up with a few thousand dollars to fly over, play the show and come back. Long story short, we lost out on those two huge opportunities which in turn put hostile feelings between us and the label.”
The Rods and Arista parted company, but David, Carl and Garry did what they did best, simply picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and roaring back with a new album, encouragingly titled ‘In The Raw’. It’s true that you can’t keep a good band down...
John Tucker February 2021