Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Wackers - Hot Wacks (1972)

So, continuing on with the Bob Segarini story, after the Family Tree's 1968's popsike classic "Miss Butters" (reviewed here) came the less inspired and not so good Roxy LP in 1969. Thankfully the Roxy period was a short one and Segarini and bandmate/multi instrumentalist Randy Bishop joined forces with Michael Stull (Lead Guitar, Piano, Vocals), William "Kootch" Trochim (Bass, Slide Guitar, Vocals) and Spencer T. Earnshaw (Drums, Percussion) and moved on to another project originally called Ernie & The Incredible Chickens, quickly renamed The Wackers. The plan this time was to go against the grain of the current trend of pretentious rock that was popular at the time and take music back to it's more innocent times of three minute songs with three harmonies and choruses you could sing along to. The Raspberries, Big Star and The Flamin' Groovies were also thinking along the same lines around this time and were essentially laying down the foundations of what would come to be known as Powerpop.

The first Wackers album "Wackering Heights" was released on Elektra Records in 1971 and was produced by Gary Usher (Byrds/Beach Boys). There are some great tracks on this record including a rousing version of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" which was most likely the inspiration behind Cheap Trick's version of the song. Some of the slower tunes have got a strong Crosby, Stills and Nash vibe, thanks to the vocal harmonies. Everything on here though is ultra melodic with plenty of Beatlesque touches in the song writing especially Segarini's Sun King inspired "Body Go Round". 

The Wackers L-R (Stull, Bishop, Segarini, Trochim, Earnshaw)
"Wackering Heights" didn't sell too well but Elektra had enough confidence in the band to let them record a follow up, once again with Gary Usher producing. 1972's "Hot Wacks" album saw the band move away from the acoustic dominated sound of the first album to a more powerful sound, more electric guitars and heavier compressed drums but still pure pop at the same time. The recording lasted just six days at Le Studio in Montreal, Quebec in Canada, a favourite spot for the Wackers and a place where Segarini would most of the decade recording.

"Hot Wacks" opens with my favourite Wackers song "I Hardly Know Her Name" which is a one minute and fifty second pop gem which revisits the early Beatles sound. Next up is "We Can Be", the longest track on the album at four and a half minutes but grooves hypnotically away with some booming McCartney style bass lines and "She's So Heavy" guitar. The Beatles influences are all over this record and the bands intentions for their version of John Lennon's "Oh My Love" was for it to sound as though it was done by the Beatles themselves rather than Lennon solo and with it's Jeff Lynne trademark crunching snare drum it reminds me a lot of "Free As A Bird" (which, I suppose is another Lennon song so no big surprise there!). So convincing was their attempt at "Oh My Love" that it turned up many times over the years on Beatles bootleg albums. "Wait And See" pre-dates that Big Star, Radio City sound, in particular "Mod Lang" which sounds quite similar.

If you hadn't picked up on the Abbey Road vibe on the album this far then you certainly will when you flip it over to side two which is a medley of six short songs, which blend perfectly into one another thanks to some smart editing by Usher. The late Beatles sound is present throughout including some spine tingling Leslie speaker effect guitar. "Find Your Own Way" bears some lovely Lennonesque lysergic laced lyrics "sometimes it feels that the world isn't real and I'm floating in gelatin skies" which you can hear for yourself on my Bite It Deep Mix Vol.02 here. Richie Unterberger's liner notes for the CD reissue of the albums mentions that the band ended up being kicked off a post Jim Morrison Doors tour for being happy and having too much fun!

The band were not happy with Usher's mix of "Hot Wacks" and was not asked to produce the follow up, 1973's "Shredder". This is my least favourite of the three Wackers albums but it does have some quality moments. "Eventually, Even You Even Me" has a T-Rex "Slider" feel to it and apparently the band's stage outfits had been getting quite glam, Randy Bishop looks very lady like on the inner gatefold sleeve much to Elektra's disliking. The best track on the album is the Raspberries-alike "It's My Life" which saves the album. "Shredder" is worth a listen and as long as you don't spend too much on a copy or get your hopes up too high you'll be happy. Nice sleeve too! The album, like the previous two did not chart but would provide the band with their only US hit single. "Day and Night" which made it to number 65 in the Billboard chart.

Another Wackers album, "Wack and Roll" was partly recorded but winded up being rejected by Elektra which ultimately led to the band's demise. Segarini's next beand would be The Dudes, whose one and only album "We're No Angels" on Columbia Records in 1975, I haven't heard so I'll have to save that story for another time.

For now though, here's The Wackers doing what they did best...


  1. Just discovered your blog and am enjoying the archives very much. Here is a great tune from the early '70s that I think would be your style. Unfortunately the YouTube user who posted it made it sound tinnier than it should, but it's amazing that it's available at all, given its obscurity:

  2. Hi Dawn. Thanks for the comment. That Pebbles song is great, just the sort of thing I like. Hopefully I'll be able to track down a copy and put on on one of my mixes. I do own a one of the earlier singles by The Pebbles, Only George/Playing Chess which is pretty good. I guess I better look a little deeper in their back catalogue! Thanks again. Pete