Four decades ago, a Penn-dominated rock band was poised to take the pop-music world by storm. What happened?
BY GEOFF GINSBERG
It’s early 1970 in Old City, Philadelphia. From deep in the recesses of a wholesale clothing store, a soulful, pulsating beat, topped off with a thick layer of slide guitar, drifts out to the street. In a small corner of the back room, five young musicians are locking in on a song that, truth be told, is practically writing itself. Though they’re still getting to know each other, their unique chemistry has been apparent since the moment they turned on the amps and played the first guitar riff.
The band consists of a chain-smoking singer with a voice like honey; a driven, chick-magnet lead guitarist; a brilliant keyboard player with 20/20 musical vision; a fun-loving drummer with an uncanny sense of what sounds good and what doesn’t; and a laid-back but musically adventurous bass player. The first four are Penn students, decked out in the era’s ponytails, cascading curls, suede boots, wide-brimmed hats, beads, and bell bottoms. The fifth, with his short hair, button-down shirt, and khakis, looks like he just stepped out of Happy Days.
Although the band has only recently been formed, the musical connection is deep—magical, even. At this point, their audience consists only of mice and cockroaches, but to a man, they know that this has the potential to be something big. And they’re right: Soon they will be playing the best venues in town and recording in world-class studios with top engineers.
And then they will disappear.
Rarely in the music business has a flame burned hotter and then been so thoroughly extinguished as the one that burned for Wax. The band had three distinct eras in its brief existence; it was the second version that almost shot the moon. Several members of the band and its team went on to have highly successful careers in the music business, which makes Wax’s flameout all the more remarkable.
Yet the story isn’t over. The recent discovery of a long-forgotten recording, coupled with the serious illness of one of the band’s founding members, has brought Wax back together. And this time they’ve got an album—Melted (Lightyear Entertainment)—to show for it.
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FEATURE: When Wax Was Hot By Geoff Ginsberg
Illustration by Sparrow v. Swallow
©2010 The Pennsylvania Gazette