No chart-toppers, but still a long-time fan favorite
By Denny Dyroff, Correspondent, The Times
There are a number of musical acts — a very large number — that can be classified as “One Hit Wonders.” The roster spans the decades from the 1950s to the 2010s and ranges from Ivory Joe Hunter with his 1956 hit “Since I Met You Baby” to Swedish House Mafia, which had its lone hit “Don’t You Worry Child” early last year.
Obviously, many of the “One Hit Wonders” have faded into well-deserved oblivion but some have persevered.
Somewhere, Modern English is still onstage singing “I Melt with You.” Actually, the band has shows listed for later this month in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Nena, who had a worldwide hit with “99 Red Balloons” in 1984, is still playing to enthusiastic audiences in Europe.
Then, there is Aztec Two Step — a group that formed in 1972 and is still going strong. The duo of Neal Shulman and Rex Fowler has a touring schedule featuring 21 shows over the next three months — including a concert at The Flash in Kennett Square on May 16.
If you’re trying to remember any of the band’s charting singles over the course of its 42-year career — good luck. There are none. In 1999, Aztec Two Step was the subject of the documentary “No Hit Wonder,” which was aired on PBS stations across America.
“I think it is a little odd that we’ve kept going for so long without ever having a hit song — especially with the way bands break up so frequently,” said Shulman, during a recent phone interview from his home in Manhattan.
“Rex and I met in 1971 in Boston at an open mike at a club called the Stone Phoenix. I was in a small school in Boston and Rex was devoting his time to being a full-time folk singer.”
In 1972, they began performing together as Aztec Two-Step, which got its name from a poem by beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
“We started by having a few local gigs lined up,” said Shulman. “A month-and-a-half later, we moved to New York. One year later, we were in Los Angeles doing our first album for Elektra Records.
“The Elektra album (“Aztec Two Step”) started it. Our second record (“Second Step”), which was released by RCA Records, solidified our career. That album stayed in print with RCA for 17 years.
“In the earlier days, we were on a path — but it was always our path to something else. We established our audience. But, with Elektra and RCA, it was always about the hit record. That’s where I came up with ‘No Hit Wonder.’ I thought it was a clever idea.”
Even without a hit, Aztec Two Step was able to build a dedicated following — a fan base that has allowed the duo to release more than 15 albums and a number of live DVDs. Additionally, Fowler has recorded six solo albums and seven sports CDs including “A Baseball Fan’s Christmas Carols” and “A Golfer’s Nursery Rhymes.”
“When we’re putting together our set lists for shows, there is a group of songs that people want to hear that we draw on,” said Shulman. “After that, it becomes kind of random. We just kind of wing our way through it. We just go out and we have fun. People tell us all the time that we sound better than ever. It’s always about the songs. There is no hope without the songs.”
Aztec Two Step will perform at 8 p.m. on May 16 at The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, www.kennettflash.org). Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.
This weekend, The Flash will offer a varied lineup of live entertainment.
RUST, a Neil Young tribute band, is set to perform on May 17 at 8 p.m. with tickets listed at $18 in advance and $22 at the door. On May 18 at 8 p.m., The Flash will host Nik Everett’s “CD Release Party” featuring The Nik Everett Band with special guests, David Uosikkinen (The Hooters), Cliff Hillis and Sharon Sable. Tickets for the Delaware rocker’s show are $15 in advance and $19 day of show.
Fans of Aztec Two Step’s two-voice, soft rock music will find more of the sound they like if they visit the Shadyside Tavern in West Bradford on May 17. Starting at 8 p.m., the entertainment at the Shadyside Tavern (formerly known as the West Bradford Grill) will be provided by the Fiorenza-Dowlin Trio.
The Coatesville-based group features Dave Fiorenza and Wayne Dowlin sharing vocals and trading duties on guitar, harmonica and mandolin along with Dave Brown on drums.
“This month, we’ve been together for 15 years,” said Fiorenza, during a phone interview this week. “It’s always been the three of us. If we play smaller venues like coffeehouses, it’s just Wayne and me. Dave gets added for the bigger venues with bigger stages.
“Our musical influences are acts like James Taylor and Cat Stevens — an acoustic soft sound. We also play songs by the Beatles, the Beach Boys and bands like the Go Go’s and Flock of Seagulls. We also have some original songs that we perform.”
The local trio has released a pair of CDs over the years — “Live at WCHE Radio” and “Live at Wagonstock.”
“At the Shadyside Tavern, we’ll do two long sets about an hour-and-a-half each,” said Fiorenza. “We start out slow with country songs — like Willie Nelson songs — and then build to Creedence Clearwater, James Taylor and Cat Stevens. We even do songs by the Greg Kihn Band and the Alan Parsons Project.
“The Shadyside is a good place to hear music. It has the restaurant with live music, two spots for family dining, well-lit parking and an outdoor dining area that is pet-friendly. And, there is no cover charge for the show.
The Shadyside Tavern is located at 1548 Shadyside Road between Route 322 and Strasburg Road just west of West Chester. For more information, call (484) 593-4496.
Other musical offerings around the area this week include A.J. Croce on May 16 and John Gorka on May 17 at the Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043,www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com).
Mary Fahl, well-known as the vocalist of October Project, will do a solo show on May 17 at Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com/schedule).
At the Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com), Amy Speace with Jarrod Dickenson are scheduled for May 16. Kyle Swartzwelder along with Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards will perform on May 17.
The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will be rocking hard over the next few days with The New Orleans Suspects featuring Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett from Little Feat on May 15, The M&Ms featuring John Medeski, Papa Mali, Stanton Moore and Galactic’s Rob Mercurio on May 16, and Eddie from Ohio along with Jake Armerding on May 17.
This week’s schedule for Downstairs at the World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-994-1400, queen.worldcafelive.com) features headliner Built to Spill along with The Warm Hair on May 16, The Rackett Boys on May 17, and former Moody Blues guitarist/vocalist Justin Hayward on May 23.