Saturday, January 2, 2010

Richard X. Heyman -- "Falling Away" (1991)

Richard X. Heyman's Hey Man was one of those CD's that I hung on to through moves, marriage, and kids because years ago, Warner Brothers sent it to me and I loved the first song, "Falling Away." If you're a pack rat like me, you end up storing away discs because there was something about it you really liked, but then they ended up getting buried along with all the other stuff you were hoarding.

In my rediscovery of modern power pop in the late 90's, I found Richard X. Heyman's one major label album brought up as a constant favorite. Just in time too, as Heyman released his Cornerstone album in 1998, his first since 1991's Hey Man.

A multi-instrumentalist whose primary chops are on the drums, Heyman was the rare power popper to emerge from the East Village of Manhattan. While that downtown scene was far better known for punk and more artsier aspirations (although you could argue The Ramones had some definite power pop in them), Heyman was a sponge of Byrds, British Invasion, Beatles, and 60's chamber pop and garage rock.

A combination of being on Warner Brothers' alt rock/new wave Sire label and the impression of this tall, lanky long-haired dude on the cover led me to believe I was in for something crushing and punky, perhaps arty in the vein of Tom Verlaine or Richard Lloyd. Yet, as the single always leads off the album, I could not have been more wrong. "Falling Away" is a sparkling 3-minute power pop blueprint, with a little bit of 60's go-go thrown in (as the promo video obviously captured), all hooks and harmonies, a main lick that sounds like a tribute to the Byrds' "Eight Miles High" and the overdubbed harmonies of the man himself in all his nasal glory. It's a song that you can't help feeling great when you hear it because Heyman is a rock romanticist

Living that sort of rock and roll fairytale, Heyman married bassist Nancy Leigh, who toured and played on many notable band albums in punk and new wave's heyday (including my friend Binky Phillips' indie album in the early 80's).

Heyman audaciously self-published his memoirs, Boom Harangue, as a paperback in 2001, and on a whim I purchased it. Messy but evocative of the times, Heyman wrote about growing up a child of the 60's in a Plainfield, NJ Jewish family, taking up the drums at a young age, following local TV shows and bands, early teen band signings and various touring gigs and finally getting Hey Man out on a major label, only to see it wither from no support. Let's face it, not a great time to put out a power pop album when Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were monopolizing all the radio play and album sales.

Since Hey Man, Heyman puts out more fine power pop albums on his own Turn-Up Records label, sometimes on CD and now download only. He used to play living room concerts for people who contacted him on his web site, but it seems like that's history. His wife Nancy manages all his business and performs with him. Heyman reunited with his early New Jersey band The Doughboys and just released their second album of rough and tumble sneering garage rock, cater made for Little Steven's Underground Garage channel on Sirius/XM satellite radio.

The official video for "Falling Away" is a Rickenbacker lover's wet dream, with Heyman changing gorgeous models between edits. And yes, that's wife Nancy on the bass.

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