Monday, March 8, 2010

Andy Shernoff Breaks His Silence

If pressed, I guess I'd answer that the biggest difference between Andy Shernoff and other performers of the punk era is that the cat could really write. As much as his band the Dictators were about performance and attitude, Shernoff proved again and again that he was about crafting excellent rock ballads. Oddly enough, this didn't occur to me until the 'Tators delivered their kickass reunion LP of 2001, DFFD--easily their finest offering from a song-writing vantage point. Dozens of other bands were already hip to the Shernoff magic and have recorded his stuff, among them The Ramones, The Del-Lords, and Dion.

Peppi Marchello recently made me aware that Andy was performing again. Then a little digging unearthed "When Giants Walked The Earth: A Musical Memoir by Andy Shernoff" coming to New Jersey at Maxell's in Hoboken (March 27, 7:30 PM). I'll be there, I told Peppi, but why hadn't I heard about this? So I contacted Andy.

Cliff: Maxwell's lists "When Giants Walked The Earth: A Musical Memoir by Andy Shernoff" but that's all there is, brother...nothing about the show or the other musicians at the site, or anywhere else on the web.

Andy: That's because I have been keeping it low key as I work in the act. Maxwell's will be my first announced show. There are no other musicians--just me and my guitar. I sing my tunes and weave a narrative about growing up in New York, making music in pre-punk days, touring England in 1977 and my experiences working with some crazy but talented people... just call me the insensitive singer-songwriter or Ray Davies with a White Castle slant.

Cliff: Will we hear new material?

Andy: No brand new songs but I will be performing songs you may not have heard because they were recorded by other people.

Cliff: Are you recording anything new?

Andy: Absolutely, I am in the process of recording a few new tunes for my next round of shows, one is an unreleased collaboration with Joey Ramone.

Cliff: I plan to be at Maxwell's and hope to introduce my son to you. I was imagining that in the car. "Avi--say hello to Andy, one of my favorite songwriters, the man who wrote 'Minnesota Strip'." What songs do you find people asking you about?

Andy: Actually "Pussy and Money" is one of the songs from which people often quote lines back to me. "Who Will Save Rock and Roll" and "Master Race Rock" are also remembered for the lyrics but "Stay With Me" seems to be the most popular as it has been the most covered by other bands.

Cliff: "Who Will Save Rock and Roll" is one of my favorites by anyone ever. Was that just a rhetorical question, or do you have an answer?

Andy: It's rhetorical because rock and roll has peaked as an art form in my humble opinion. One reason is that rock and roll is only three chords and a 4/4 backbeat and there are only so many permutations that can be made with those variables. Another problem is that most recordings today are done one part at a time into a computer, which allows every element to be re-tuned and manipulated, removing the unique character that can be achieved by a group of musicians playing in a room together. The result is so many groups sound the same these days... Besides when you start to hear more rock and roll in car commercials than on the radio, you can be assured it's in death throes.

Cliff: Will the Dictators play together again?

Andy: Never say never... but certainly not in the near future.

Cliff: What did you learn from the punk days? Any regrets?

Andy: I don't look back, so no regrets... What did I learn? Persevere and be yourself!

Pay attention when I'm talking to ya! The Maxwell's gig is just a few weeks away. This is a rare and unique opportunity to see Andy Shernoff playing and discussing his songs. And for only $10. Can't beat that with a bat.

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