Song Of The Day: David Werner – What’s Right

Werner was a tuff…yet sensitive… dude who delivered The Goods… in spades

In 1979 I was still listening to FM Rock. I had started the previous year and while the preponderance of nascent Classic Rock [just as it was fully calcified and ready to spread like a virus across the FM airwaves] was a downer, there was still a few glimmers poking through all the Led Zep/Who/Stones. After all, I had first heard Talking Heads “Take Me To The River” in this context. My own Record Cell was only barely seeded, much less grown to maturity in 1979. I had just gotten had my first stereo since the previous year, so radio was still a valid, if increasingly marginalized, form of entertainment. By 1981 I was done with it, but not before I was exposed in 1979 to David Werner.

The song in question was “What’s Right,” which became a marginal hit on WDIZ-FM or WORJ-FM; I can’t remember which as I used to switch between the two that year, depending on which was playing the most Southern Rock. I immediately took a shining to the [very] late model Glam sound on offer by Werner. For all I knew, it was his debut album that year, since I saw it in the bins upon release and an eponymous album was usually the debut album naming gambit. While I was strongly attracted to the number, I was somewhat gunshy, even though the cover [R] was pushing all of those 1979 New Wave Design buttons. For one reason or another, I never bit; even when by 1980 the Epic album was heavily remaindered in every cut-out bin in town.

This was probably down to the fact that by the mid-80s, I had obtained this [L] Dutch CBS New Wave Compilation, which among other delights, sported “What’s Right” which got spun every dog’s age to slake my thirsts for its elegant/decadent rock vibe. For years it was all I had by David Werner, until I chanced to meet my wife 20+ years ago. She brought some intriguing new data to the mix, regarding David Werner. First of all, “David Werner” was his third album. In 1974 he had released his actual debut album, “Whizz Kid” on RCA, and that was followed the next year by “Imagination Quota,” his sophomore effort. The album I’d heard was basically his last hurrah; recorded four years later. An eternity in 70s Rock.

        

Better still, my wife owned all three of these albums and they have resided in the Record Cell ever since. Even better, in 2011, I came across the gem at right; technically the third and a half David Werner album; a one-side-live promo LP recorded in Boston and distributed to Rock Radio for promotional airplay. I can’t say I had ever heard or even heard of this, so naturally, I snapped it up for the inevitable REVO editions of Werner’s albums, with the live album pegged as bonus tracks for “David Werner.” But all of this was merely window dressing for last Friday’s musical events.

I had woken up with “What’s Right” coursing through my brain in the strongest possible fashion. While shampooing my hair [as these things often happen] I could not shake this song! By the time I was dressed and eating breakfast, I had contemplated digitizing the cut from LP, and streaming it to the iPod Touch while jacked into the stereo so that I could hear it on loop while finishing getting ready for work. But that would take 10-15 minutes to do, and time was tight. I wanted to get to work early on Friday. I then thought to look on iTunes.

I was thrilled to see that while there were no Werner albums, there was a various rock compilation called “I Heard It On The Radio Vol. 3” which sported the song in question. Better still, it was one of the titles where the songs were at the near-mythical 0.69¢ per DL iTunes price point that I’d heard rumors of, but not actually seen evidence of! So you can imagine that I wasted no longer than two seconds before hitting “buy” on the iPad and running across the living room to jack it into the stereo. In just two minutes, I had my ideal scenario enacted… well worth the 0.69¢!

Since I’ve listened to almost nothing but this single track for the entire last four days. That’s because “What’s Right” was a streetwise, late model glamrock classic. Every lick of the tune was surgically perfected to deliver the essence of urban street cool while delivered in a breathtaking T-Rex-gone-dub chassis. Sure enough, the tune was effectively built on the sturdy “Get It On [Bang A Gong]” guitar riff, as played with aplomb by fellow Pittsburgh denizen Mark Doyle [who doubled on bass!], but the solid boogie of Bolan was swapped here for touches of dubspace, with the mix dropping out after the chorus for the spotlight on those taut, muscular, echoey guitar riffs that feel so right in their glamrock swagger.

It should be mentioned that the album was co-produced [along with Werner], recorded and mixed by Power Station Wunderkind Bob Clearmountain at the height of his early powers, and also features personal icon Ian Hunter leaving his touches [mix and vocals] on two tracks, so definitely this pushes all of the Monk’s late 70s buttons. It sounds perfect. All of rock wishes it had half the chops of this stuff casually drops.

With dozens of plays under my belt in the last 76 hours, I guess it’s a foregone conclusion that my next step will be remastering the entire David Werner oeuvre from vinyl as soon as I am finished with the still “Unnamed Jo Callis Project!” Truth be told, it’s taking some serious will power not to abandon that project [it’s in its design phase right now] and hop onto the siren calling David Werner bandwagon. Watch this space…

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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5 Responses to Song Of The Day: David Werner – What’s Right

  1. Gavin says:

    I must confess I have never heard of this chap,but the sleeve artwork looks great!
    There are so many US artists who slipped past me in the 80s,probably because they were not released or pushed in the UK.I listen to a great internet radio station called Soma FM Underground 80s which claims to play mostly UK synthpop and new wave,but often US artists such as Cee Farrow are played,who I had never heard of before.
    Luckily PPM is here to edutain me!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – I thought that Cee Farrow was a Canadian guy but I see that he was actually German. I barely remember seeing his video from an obscure US indie label in MTV about twice. Another guy who’s similar to Cee [at least in my mind] was Robert [“Escalator Of Life”] Hazard, who was from Philadelphia. Werner was a Pittsburgh native who was signed to RCA in the early-mid 70s since they saw him as a US peer to Bowie. My wife lived in Akron, Ohio, and nearby Cleveland was pretty much the first US Bowie enclave and one of the few places in the US where Glam Rock ever took root; hence her ownership of these rather obscure albums which moved far below the radar of most Americans. Only Werner’s third album ever got a UK release, so you might run across a disc in the used bins one day.

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  2. Gavin says:

    Sorry I didn’t realise he was German originally,I just knew he lived,worked and died in the US.
    Robert Hazard I have heard of,but again is only on the periphery of my knowledge.Thanks.

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  3. I first encountered Werner on that same “Steppin’ into the 80s” comp that also served as my introduction to The Nits, which has become a life-long love affair. He was on another compilation that ISTR also had Joe Jackson on it, but info on his comp appearances is scarce and my recall of which comp it was is sketchy. It’s funny you mention Robert Hazard’s big cash-in song, David Werner had one too: he co-wrote “Cradle of Love” with Billy Idol (!).

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