SHA NA NA-FROM THE STREETS OF NEW YORK, HOT SOX AND SHA NA NOW.
Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York, Hot Sox and Sha Na Now.
Label: BGO Records.
By 1973, Sha Na Na had been together fourteen years, released four albums and played at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair on Sunday, August the ‘17th’ 1969. That night, Sha Na Na played a barnstorming thirty-minute set in front of 400,000 people. This was the biggest concert of Sha Na Na’s career, who billed themselves as a group: “from the streets of New York.” They were also the antithesis of many of the groups on the bill at he Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Despite that they had won over the crowd with their music which was a mixture of fifties rock ’n’ roll and doo woo. However, for many in the crowd, Sha Na Na were merely the warmup for Jimi Hendrix, who topped the bill.
When Jimi Hendrix took to the stage that night, he made musical history with what was a musical masterclass from one of the greatest guitarists of his generation. Suddenly, Jimi Hendrix had overshadowed everything that had gone before at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair.
Despite that, Sha Na Na’s appearance at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair lifted their profile and over the next couple of years, they continued to play some of the biggest music venues in America. They played at the Fillmore East and Fillmore West, where they opened for the Grateful Dead, the Mothers of Invention, and The Kinks. Then in 1972, Sha Na Na were one of just four groups to be invited by John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their One-To-One Benefit Concert in Madison Square Garden. This showed just highly regarded Sha Na Na were by their contemporaries and peers.
Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York.
Four years after their appearance at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, Sha Na Na were preparing to take to the stage at Central Park, in New York on the ‘29th’ August 1973. At the side of the stage was a mobile recording studio which was about to record the concert, which was released later in 1973 as Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York. It’s one of three tracks on a two CD set released by BGO Records. Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York is joined by Hot Sox and Sha Na Now and these three albums are a reminder of a unique group: “from the streets of New York.”
It made sense for Sha Na Na to record Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York, which was the second live album of their career. Their debut album Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay was a live album, and found favour with critics and reached the lower reaches of the US Billboard 200. Sha Na Na hoped that they could replicate a similar performance at Central Park.
When Sha Na Na took to the stage at Central Park the tapes were running, and they worked their way through twelve songs, that are best described as a memorable album of good time rock ’n’ roll. Among the highlights were The Wanderer, Ring Around Your Neck, Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream), Summertime Summertime and Goodnight Sweetheart which closed the set. For some in the audience, the dance contest medley of Yogi, Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White and Long Tall Sally was another of the highlights of the show which became Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York.
Although the concert was held on the ‘29th’ August 1973, the Kama Sutra label still managed to have Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York released before the end of 1973. While critics were won over by Sha Na Na’s unique brand of good time rock ’n’ roll, Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York failed to find an audience and never troubled the US Billboard 200. This was a disappointment for Sha Na Na who were hoping that Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York would introduce their music to a new audience.
Despite the commercial failure of Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York, Sha Na Na began working on their next album Hot Sox. Sha Na Na hoped that this would be their breakthrough album. They were a popular live band, but their first five albums hadn’t sold particularly successful. Maybe Hot Sox would be a game-changers?
Sha Na Na’s drummer John Marcellino wrote Stroll All Night and Too Chubby To Boogie, which joined nine cover versions on the albums. This included Alan Gordon’s Maybe I’m Old Fashioned, Bob Hamilton and Freddie Gorman’s (Just Like) Romeo And Juliet, Larry Huff and William Linton’s Easier Said Than Done, Joe Jones and Reginald Hall’s You Talk Too Much, Lil Hardin-Armstrong’s Bad Boy and Huey “Piano” Smith’s Don’t You Just Know It which was joined by Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream). These were some of the tracks that Sha Na Na recorded at three studios.
Recording of Hot Sox was split between the Record Plant and A&R Studios in New York and Soundstage, in Toronto. That was where Sha Na Na recorded the eleven tracks with producer Jack Douglas that became their sixth album.
Just like their previous albums, Sha Na Na combined fifties rock ’n’ roll and doo wop on Hot Sox which was released by the Kama Sutra label in 1974. By then, many people regarded Sha Na Na as live group, which was when the group came alive. Proof of that were their two live albums they had already released Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay and From The Streets Of New York. However, many bands who shawn in a live environment, struggled to replicate their performances in the studio.
Some bands saw recording an album as the pursuit of perfection, which wasn’t what they were about. Their adrenaline fuelled performances were a mixture of energy and enthusiasm, and sometimes, were warts and all. That was the way that Sha Na Na worked, and when they entered the studio felt that they lost the spontaneity and energy of their live shows. Especially, when there were multiple takes of songs. This could be soul-destroying, as this wasn’t the way Sha Na Na worked. They were the polar opposite of groups like Steely Dan.
Despite not being as comfortable in the studio, Sha Na Na’s new album Hot Sox, was another enjoyable and memorable album Full of catchy and familiar songs including Maybe I’m Old Fashioned, Just Like) Romeo And Juliet, Easier Said Than Done, Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream), You Talk Too Much and Don’t You Just Know transporting the listener back to another musical age. It was like being transported back to the fifties, when music was very different. However, that was the problem.
Sha Na Na’s music was the polar opposite of everything that was being released in 1974. By then, progressive rock, psychedelia, Philly Soul and the hard rocking sound of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin was filling the charts. There was no room at the inn for Sha Na Na’s new album Hot Sox, which failed to trouble the charts. Still Sha Na Na were looking for their breakthrough album.
Sha Na Now.
Following the release of Hot Sox, returned to playing live, but knew that they would soon be back in the studio to record their next album. Somehow, Sha Na Na had to replicate their live show in the studio and get their musical message across on what became Sha Na Now.
Maybe the problem was that Sha Na Na had been working with the wrong producers, and needed someone who could relate to the band and their music? Jack Douglas who produced Hot Sax was a well-respected and successful producer, but maybe he wasn’t the right person to bring out the best in the band. He didn’t return to produce Sha Na Now.
Replacing Jack Douglas was songwriter, arranger, orchestrator and producer Tony Camillo who had worked at Motown and then with the Holland-Dozier-Holland production team on their Invictus and Hot Wax labels. He had produced soul and funk and worked on B-Movies and Blaxploitation films. Tony Camillo would produce Sha Na Now and penned Circles Of Love and cowrote Sha Bumpin’ with Pam Sawyer.
With producer Tony Camillo onboard, Sha Na Na began on work on Sha Na Now. This time around, drummer John Marcellino contributed just the one track, Chills In My Spine. It joined the two contributed by Tony Camillo and covers of Runaway, Laughter In The Rain, Basement Party and (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet. They were joined by Claudine Clark’s Party Lights., Al Lawrence and Bruce Foster’s Shot Down In Denver, Geoff Stephens and Tony Macaulay’s You’re The Only Light On My Horizon Now. These tracks found their way onto Sha Na Now.
Previously, Sha Na Na had worked at some of the top studios in New York and Toronto, but for Sha Na Now the group made their way to Tony Camillo and Tony Bongiovi’s Venture Sound Studios, in New Jersey. Away from the spotlight that was shawn on bands at top studios, Sha Na Na suddenly found their voice and began to replicate their live sound. They became a new band during the recording Sha Na Now which was the studio album they knew they were capable of recording.
Once Sha Na Now was complete, the Kama Sutra label scheduled the release of the album for 1975. Critics on hearing the album, hailed it their finest studio album. That was no surprise as the production was better and the songs were much slicker, melodic and irresistibly catchy as Sha Na Na showcased their trademark harmonies. From the opening bars of Shot Down In Denver to the closing notes of Circles Of Love it was quality all the way. Especially during the covers of Runaway, Basement Party, (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet and Don’t Want To say Goodbye. Producer Tony Camillo’s contributions Sha Bumpin’ and Circles Of Love were tailor-made for Sha Na Na. So was John Marcellino’s Chills In My Spine. However, it was the cover of Breaking Up Is Hard To Do that was the highlight of Sha Na Now, which was the best albumin Sha Na Na’s career so far.
Despite the quality of Sha Na Now, the album failed to chart upon its release in 1975. History had a habit of repeating itself when it came to Sha Na Na’s albums. This was just the latest disappointment for the group: “from the streets of New York.”
Sadly, had record buyers missed out on what was Sha Na Na’s finest studio album, Sha Na Now when it was released in 1975. This was nothing new, and between 1973 and 1975, From The Streets Of New York, Hot Sox and Sha Na Now passed record by. These three albums were recently remastered and rereleased by BGO Records, and the perfect introduction to Sha Na Na’s music.
From The Streets Of New York is Sha Na Na’s second live album, and is an irresistible reminder of doing what they do best, playing live. Hot Sox which was produced by Jack Douglas was an enjoyable and memorable album of cover versions and a couple of new songs, where Sha Na Na continue to hone their studio sound. They come of age on Sha Na Now which was slick, melodic and featured irresistible catchy music. Sadly, record buyers continued to overlook Sha Na Na’s albums music. However, that was about to change.
Between 1977 and 1982 Sha Na Na had their own television show in America, and became household names singing songs from the fifties and sixties. This nostalgia was hugely popular amongst the baby boomers, who remembered the music from the first time around. It also found a new audience amongst a younger generation, who had never heard the music before, and hearing Sha Na Na was part of their musical education. However, in 1978, millions of music fans heard Sha Na Na.
When the film Grease was released in 1978, members of Sha Na Na sang seventeen of the twenty-four songs that featured on the soundtrack. The Grease soundtrack sold twenty-eight million copies, and prompted a rock ’n’ roll revival. Meanwhile, Sha Na Na’s star was in the ascendancy partly because of their appearance on the Grease soundtrack, and because of their television show. At last, Sha Na Na, the group: “from the streets of New York”, were receiving the recognition they deserved, after albums like From The Streets Of New York, Hot Sox and Sha Na Now failed to find the audience they deserved.
Sha Na Na-From The Streets Of New York, Hot Sox and Sha Na Now.