johnny average

Yes, this strikes me as the sound of 1980.

The Johnny Average Band was the result of the strangely communal Woodstock-based recording studio known as Bearsville. Founded and operated by Alber Grossman, best known as Bob Dylan’s manager through much of his nineteen-sixties career. According to well-worn (and likely finessed) tale spinning, Bearsville was home to a genially fluctuating group of technicians and musicians always willing to pitch in on a recording. The informal band that stirred to life within those soundproofed walls was known as the Falcons. They eventually evolved to become the Johnny Average Band, releasing one album, entitled Some People, at the beginning of the nineteen-eighties.

The album’s lead single, “Ch Ch Cherie,” touted the presence of Nikki Wills on lead vocals. Wills was the wife of Mick Hodgkinson, a U.K. transplant who dubbed himself Johnny Average for the purposes of the new group. Her singing is fully characteristic of the era: crisp, bright, and just a little disaffected. It goes a long way towards selling the song.

I’d love to report this was a track I knew from my college radio days in the late-eighties and early nineties. Instead, I must shamefully admit that, a few exceptions aside (like the Clash or the Cure), I viewed 1980 as ancient history. Even if the Johnny Average Band’s album say somewhere in our stacks, I would have likely taken one look at the copyright date and slipped it right back into place. That was the flaw I brought to my song selections back in the day. Now I know that a song having a quality that sets it decisively in a certain era through the carbon dating of sonic styling doesn’t mean it should be set aside. “Ch Ch Cherie” surely sounded great in 1980, but it sounds just as good now.

Listen or download —> The Johnny Average Band, “Ch Ch Cherie”

(Disclaimer: I believe the Johnny Average Band’s output to be entirely unavailable in a physical format that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said business and the original artist. The track is shared here with that understanding, as well as the conviction that “fair use” is still a thing. Even so, I know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

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