|September 12, 2011|
The Mosquitos were one of the most sought after bands in the coolest retro "back to the 60s" New York club scene at the time. They shared bills with bands like the Fuzztones, the Vipers, The Cheepskates and The Secret Service, did tours upstate and even opened for the Ramones. The band was on fire in 1985.
Thanks to Jeff Tamarkin, former editor of Goldmine magazine and executive producer of the compilation tape "Garage Sale," the Mosquitos gained media attention when the tape, released in connection with Goldmine magazine, included Vance's song, "Darn Well." Interest continued with the release of the Mosquitos EP. A Newsday article noted that the track “I Know A Secret” sounded like "it was inadvertently left off “Beatles ‘65” and singled out the title song as Vance's "finest song, with fresh images, and architectural sense of structure, and the kind of hook that was made to blast from car radios. "
Several events were key factors in exposure for the Mosquitos and, ultimately for Vance's song. The list of 1985 Nominess for the New York Music Awards debut event in 1986 included the Mosquitos. The event, founded by Robbie Woliver, New York Times journalist and owner of the legendary Folk City venue in Greenwich Village, honors established and unsigned music artists from New York. The Mosquitos' three nominations were alongside top names like Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, Luther Vandross, Barry Manilow, The Ramones and the Smithereens.Nominations included:
The Mosquitos won Best New Rock Band. Thanks to Woliver, they also performed at the event. The sold out show at Madison Square Garden in March 1986 was attended by everyone who was anyone in the New York music scene.
Another important milestone for the Mosquitos was the phenomenal unplugged show presented in 1985 at Folk City. It was a crowning jewel for Vance's music. A completely different set was put together to honor Folk City's "no electric guitar" policy. The show featured covers, some of Vance's songs that he usually only performed in his Wednesday night solo act, and different arrangements of familiar songs. The set included "Hang, " "Quit It," "Waterloo Sunset" and an acoustic version of "Darn Well" that was a surprise since most fans were only familiar with the recorded version of the song. Stay tuned to listen to some rare recordings of that performance here soon.
In the same year an amazing synchronicity occurred. I was working with my old college roommate, hot shot New York event producer, David di Sernia. We worked on the Arista Grammy parties and even personal parties for Clive Davis. We had big connections with Arista and some of Arista staff people, including Melanie Rogers and Mitchell Cohen, started coming to the Mosquitos shows. David was truly a benefactor to the band, not only because of his Arista connections, but he also employed some of the band members at his production company.
When the EP was released in 1985 some important people came onboard. There was Judy Tint, our superstar NYC Lawyer who gave us entre to all kinds of venues, people and connected us at ASCAP, Bruce Planty, the financial backer for the EP and Lydia Sherwood, a very hip public relations person in New York. She was the most credible, kind of underground, yet commercial and perfect for the band. The EP release was celebrated with a carnival at Manhattan's Irving Plaza. The place was transformed with carnival music, balloons, games, cotton candy, hot dogs and even a pie eating contest. Prizes on some of the games included a date with one of the Mosquitos.
1986 was the 20th Anniversary for the Monkees and Arista, Clive Davis, was planning to release a Greatest Hits record. Clive was also to choose three original songs that the Monkees would record. In the spring we were informed that Vance's song, "That Was Then, This Was Now," was being considered along with "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere" by legendary Bobby Hart of Boyce and Hart and "Kicks" by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. If the song was chosen, the next question was whether it would be selected as the single for the album. Needless to say, we were ecstatic when we heard it was chosen. The album, titled "Then and Now ... The Best of the Monkees," was released June 27, 1986.
Without the influence and hard work of Clive Davis working with radio's Bob Shannon what followed would not have happened. The single was pushed to a debut at the highest level and went to #20 on the charts by the end of August 1986. This was amazing because in the summer the competition was out of control for those spots. Having #20 at that point in the summer was like having a Top 10. The fire was fanned by MTV where reruns of the Monkees episodes aired daily with the Monkees as VJ's hosting marathons.
At that point David Fishoff booked "The Monkees 20th Anniversary Tour," one of the biggest tours of the year. The 100 city tour with every date sold out kicked off on May 30, 1986 in Atlantic City, NJ and ended December 3, 1986 in Bethlehem, PA. We attended a number of the fantastic shows and they treated us like gold. We were invited to Great Adventure in New Jersey where the "That Was Then, This Is Now" video was made. It was in power rotation on MTV and ended up winning videos wars that went on through the summer resulting in the song climbing the charts and a platinum album for the Monkees.
The entire experience was amazing and placed Vance in a league with other Monkees writers like Boyce and Hart ("The Monkees Theme, " "Valleri," "Last Train to Clarksville") Neil Diamond ("I'm A Believer," "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You") and Carol King ("Pleasant Valley Sunday, Take A Giant Step"). His songwriting talent was aknowledged in articles like one titled "Back to the Future" in September 1986 that featured the Monkees ...
These were very exciting times- we were fortunate. Vance had a Platinum album at a very young age, but that would not have happened without his dedication and hard work leading the way. His words about songwriting and closing comments by the author of an August 1986 Daily News article say it all ...
"When I write a song I'm conscious of whether it would sell - and what's the harm in that? I don't think it's a crime to want to write a hit." and neither did Gershwin, Berlin or McCartney."
It seems rare that many, if ANY others, in music have experienced the fortune Vance has in his career. The words "That Was Then, This Is Now" certainly apply! What an honor for his childhood admiration of a group's music, THEN, to result in their million selling recording of a song he wrote. How special to have opportunities to perform with members of the group NOW - 25 years later.
In addition to the Monkees, he also grew up enjoying and mastering the body of work created by Peter Noone and his group Herman's Hermits. Vance celebrates, yet another, anniversary this year - 10 years as Music Director and guitar for Peter Noone.
That = "That Was Then, This Is Now" x2 for Vance ... so far!