Vinyl Kings photo by Rick Malkin

A Conversation with Jim Photoglo

Puremusic: I'm here with Jim Photoglo, one of the scintillating front men for the Vinyl Kings. I won't describe them, because I'm going to let Jim describe them. Who are the Vinyl Kings?

Jim Photoglo: Well, the Vinyl Kings are seven guys who came together in the late 80s as an alternative to their day gigs, which were playing sessions, producing records, writing songs. We wanted to get back to our roots, and we learned a bunch of songs from the 60s, a good portion of them Beatles' songs. And we had a lot of singers. We had six singers out of seven guys, so we got real anal about all the vocal arrangements and all the instrumental arrangements, and just had a good time playing all those songs that inspired us to getting into the music business in the first place.

And now here it is, thirteen years later, and we've made a record. We wrote a bunch of songs that were intended to sound like songs that the Beatles could have written, and produced it to sound like a Beatles record. So that's our latest thing. The record is coming out in a few weeks.

PM: And it's remarkable. I mean, what I keep telling people is, they're not a band that plays Beatles type tunes, they sound like the Beatles. They literally sound like the Beatles in an age where so many have tried. So many bands are Beatles-y, have a jangly this, have a harmony that. You guys, actually being world-class writers and players and singers, actually sound like the Beatles. The original incarnation of the Vinyl Kings was called the Del Beatles, right?

JP: Right.

PM: In the very beginning, did you also play a wide selection of 60s material, or was that strictly Beatles? I forget.

JP: No, the Del Beatles was basically the same thing. We're doing a lot of the same stuff. We've updated. Probably 40 percent of the set is newer than what we were doing back when we first started. But it was always a good mix of Beatles and other British Invasion era stuff, and then we put in a healthy mix of Motown, and some white R&B, just to kind of mix it up and make it more fun for us all.

Initially, the show was like performance art. We started off at the Bluebird, very small, 100 people there. And we’d have this running dialogue between me and Vince [Melamed], the keyboard player, and we’d just sort of recreate the history of rock 'n' roll. But as it got to be more popular, we had to move to bigger places, which led to more of a dance format. So then the whole thing changed. There was a lot less talking to the audience, and a lot more just playing at them, you know, and keeping the energy up.

PM: And keeping the soles on the dance floor.

JP: Yeah. It's supposed to. I mean, we used to do all kinds of nutty stuff. Larry Byrom, one of the guitar players, also plays trumpet, so we'd do "The Lonely Bull." Or we'd do "Old Rivers" by Walter Brennan, or--

PM: [laughs] Oh, I remember that. That was really funny.

JP: And "New York Mining Disaster 1941" by the Bee Gees, you know, just being as twisted as possible.

PM: [laughs] Yeah. And now it has grown into a very sophisticated, incredible dance party extravaganza. On top of all the Beatles stuff, some great 60s material is profiled. "Monday I Had Friday On My Mind." The Troggs, what's their big hit? "Time Won't Let Me." No, that was the Outsiders.

JP: Yeah, we don't do any Troggs. I mean, I think the biggest thing that everybody knows by the Troggs is "Wild Thing," and, you know, there's sort of a--

PM: You don't "Wild Thing."

JP: Well, yeah, there's sort of a fine line. Like we wouldn't do "Proud Mary," either.

PM: Yeah, right.

JP: Or "Brown Sugar," for that matter. Even though it's one of the baddest grooves of rock 'n' roll. But we do "Bitch." You know, so we sort of have that thing covered. We also do "Street Fighting Man."

PM: Which brings up the famous rock 'n' roll trivia question: How many electric guitar tracks are there on "Street Fighting Man"?

JP: [laughs] Man, you got me.

PM: None. They're all acoustic.

JP: They're all acoustic.

PM: That's the amazing thing about "Street Fighting Man."

JP: Wow.   continue

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