Friday, February 3, 2012

The Choir - Choir Practice

The Choir was a garage rock band largely active in the greater Cleveland area from the mid 1960s into the early 1970s. Originally called The Mods, their largest commercial success came with the release of their first single "It's Cold Outside" in December 1966. The song, considered by many to be a classic of the garage rock era, was featured on Pebbles, Volume 2, one of the earlier garage rock compilation LPs (issued in 1979). The flipside, "I'm Going Home" was included as a bonus track when the Pebbles album was reissued as a CD, and it can also be found on a garage rock compilation LP on Ohio bands, Highs in the Mid-Sixties, Volume 9. The Choir is well known for containing three of the four original members of Raspberries (all except lead singer Eric Carmen).

The first bandleader of The Choir, Dann Klawon (also called Dan Klawon or Danny Klawon) discovered Beatlemania in late 1963 before most of his peers, since a girl he knew had been to England and brought back a copy of the Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do" and one of their early albums (probably With the Beatles) before their release in the U.S.[1] Within months, he had organized a band with three of his friends who all attended Mentor High School in Mentor, Ohio. Dann Klawon began as the drummer for the band, Dave Smalley and Dan Heckel were the guitarists, and Tom Boles served as lead singer. (Randy Klawon, Dann's brother, did not officially join the band until 1968; but he filled in on drums for one concert in 1966 when he was just 14).[2] They called themselves The Mods, and again, Klawon was ahead of his time: although Mod was established in England by the late 1950s, the British band that is most often identified as "mod" in the U.S. is The Who, which was formed in the same year as The Mods.
Soon, The Choir had subtracted Heckel and Boles and added Dave Burke on bass, Wally Bryson on guitar, and Jim Bonfanti on drums; while Klawon moved to the rhythm guitar post. Klawon recalls: So we began playing songs by the Beatles, the Who, Stones, Zombies, Troggs, and Moody Blues. If they were from England, we played it. We had this song list that was unbelievable... And everybody alternated instruments, depending on what song. We'd have that written on [index] cards, as to who played what on what song.[2]
In the summer of 1966, the band traveled to Chicago, where they recorded their first single with "It's Cold Outside" (written by bandleader Dann Klawon) on the "A" side, which was originally released on Canadian-American Records.[3] According to Klawon: I used to write quite a bit then, and one day I was thinking of some sort of theme to use with the moon/spoon, boy/girl lyrics. I decided to go with a weather analogy.[2] While there, they discovered that a Chicago band called The Modernaires had shortened their name to The Mods, so they renamed themselves The Choir.[2][3] The song was hugely popular in Cleveland and topped the Cleveland charts for six weeks; the song did quite well throughout the Midwest, particularly after the re-release of the single on Roulette Records in early 1967. By the spring of 1967, "It's Cold Outside" peaked at #68 on the Billboard Charts and at #55 on the Cash Box charts, and it even made the CHUM Charts in Toronto, Canada.
Not long after the single was recorded, however, Dann Klawon and Dave Burke left the band; and a succession of line-up changes ensued. Ironically, considering that he would later front the Raspberries with three core members of the band, Eric Carmen's audition to join The Choir did not go well; Kenny Margolis was selected instead.[4] Carmen had been a major fan in the band's early years and was hurt by the rejection; not long after he joined Cyrus Erie, Carmen lured former Choir guitarist Wally Bryson to his new band, and they soon eclipsed The Choir as the most popular local band.[4] The band's second and third singles did not have the same success as their first, and in the spring of 1968, The Choir disbanded.[4]
The Choir reformed in late 1968 – for the second time, with the bandleader also being the drummer (Jim Bonfanti) – and regained much of their earlier popularity in the local scene. According to Denny Carleton: The new Choir's repertoire encompassed jazz, R&B, ballads and classical rock, and about 20 original songs. The group had an unusual keyboard-dominated sound, sometimes even using three keyboards on songs like "MacArthur Park" and Traffic's "Colored Rain". While other bands were simply performing standard tunes by The Beatles, Stones and Who, etc., The Choir was attempting projects of some magnitude, like taking "MacArthur Park", which was written for full orchestra, and rearranging it for three keyboards, bass, drums and guitar, or performing a 7-minute concerto with four time changes.[3]
In 1969, the band returned to the studio and recorded a planned album that had a more psychedelic flavor, with eight original songs and a cover of a song by the Kinks. The tape was shipped to several different record labels without success.[3] After releasing a final unsuccessful single on Intrepid Records in 1970 – including a cover of a song by the Easybeats as the "A" side, "Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight" (which was a hit song for INXS many years later) – the band broke up for good. (Wiki)

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