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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: Ronnie Dark, "'70s Van"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.

16. RONNIE DARK: "'70s Van"

I first met Ronnie Dark at a record show. Everyone who knows Ronnie at all will respond to that revelation with a heartfelt Duh. It's like saying you met Batman in Gotham City, or The Flintstones in Bedrock. A record show is the natural habitat of a vinyl hound like Ronnie Dark; of course we met at a record show.

I don't remember what year that was. But lovely wife Brenda and I had set up a table at the semi-annual record show in Liverpool, NY, and this younger guy came up and sifted through our LPs and 45s. His enthusiasm was palpable, his demeanor friendly and infectious. We chatted as he made his purchases--only thing I remember for sure among his selections was a 45 of "I May Be Too Young" by Suzi Quatro--and he introduced himself. Dark. Ronnie Dark. Somewhere, I'm sure, the guitar lick from Dr. No played.

Ronnie talked about his radio show, The Wax Museum with Ronnie Dark, which airs Sunday nights on WVOA-FM. I mentioned that I also co-hosted a Sunday night radio show called This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl, and Ronnie said he'd heard of us. We exchanged contact information and mutual hype, and he hauled his new vinyl prizes away.

I subsequently tuned in to The Wax Museum to check things out. Whoa, whatta show! Ronnie and his co-hosts John "The Commander" Walsh and Mike "The Night Owl" Adams are righteously unrepentant music fans, and their love of records translates easily into an irresistible radio program. Ronnie's all-time favorite group is Paul Revere & the Raiders (with Styx a presumed runner-up), his favorite album is Portraits by The Buckinghams, and these sounds mix with surf, pop, prog, hard rock, R & B, rockabilly, garage, soul, new wave, country, bubblegum, and so-called "guilty pleasures" (even though there ain't no such thing) to create a simply intoxicating listening experience.

The Wax Museum and This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio are technically in competition with each other, since we're both on Sunday nights, and overlap directly during the 9:00 hour. But we all regularly piddle on that silly notion with gleeful scorn. They do a great radio show, and we celebrate their accomplishments, just as they celebrate ours. We have crossed the shows over many times, with Dana and I visiting WVOA and Ronnie, John, and Mike squeezing into the palatial Westcott Radio hovel. Hell, Mike even does a show called The Record Farm on Westcott Radio, and John used to do one called Roscoe's Attic. Jeez, I wish Marvel and DC Comics got along together as well as we get along with the lads at The Wax Museum.

I did not know initially that Ronnie was also a musician. His father, Ron Lauback Sr., is a veteran of the Syracuse music scene, and long overdue for induction into our local music hall of fame. Ronnie is a singer and accomplished multi-instrumentalist; he plays with his Dad in the legendary Syracuse group Dan Elliott & the Monterays, as well as in his own hard rock group Darkroom. In the summer of 2016, Ronnie stood in for the late Norm Mattice, former lead singer of The Richards, in a rockin', emotional tribute to our fallen brother at the BRIGHT LIGHTS! live show hosted by Dana and me. It was quite a night.

In the first decade of this Tomorrowland we call the 21st century, Ronnie also recorded some solo albums. This is a nice batch of overlooked, largely unheard material, given only limited release under the titles Topanga Windows, Music From The Grey Room, and Irkville Rd. Someday, I hope someone has the good sense to reissue all of it. I was particularly taken with a delightful pure pop song called "Sarah," and we made absolutely certain to include that great track on our 2013 compilation This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 3. (Kool Kat Musik's exclusive bonus disc for that set included an additional Ronnie Dark track, "Stephanie Says," and the whole expanded release is now available to purchase as a digital download from the good folks at Futureman Records.)

As Dana and I were prepping this new TIRnRR # 4, Ronnie mentioned that he was remastering one of those older tracks, a flat-out rocker called "'70s Van." Our compilation was basically booked already, with little wiggle room. But man, this little number kicked, propelled by drummer Kevin Bennett's effective channeling of Mr. Keith Moon. We had to sweat out the running times for a few tracks we'd committed to using but hadn't received yet, and we had to sub out one artist's track for a slightly shorter alternate track, but we made room. Ronnie Dark is a full-fledged part of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4.

If you don't know Ronnie yet, I hope you will. Listen to the churning, but easy-going power of "'70s Van." Go back and listen to the shimmering goodtime vibe of "Sarah," the bop of "Stephanie Says." Listen to our radio shows. Turn it up. Dance. And maybe we'll see you at the record show.

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