David Werner: Whizz Kid – US – CD-R 
- Another Wild Guitar
- Whizz Kid
- The Lady In Waiting
- The Ballad Of Trixie Silver
- It’s A Little Bit Sad
- Love Is Tragic
- Plan 9
- Counting The Ways
- The Death of Me Y
- A Sleepless Night
Yow. This one has been a long time coming. I’ve talked about how excited I was when I met my spouse and we threw our record collections together and I found out that there were two earlier David Werner albums I had no clue about in the Southeast! I once even saw a pirated CD-R for sale in a real record store. But the record sat in the Record Cell, mocking me until last Summer when it became imperative that I get down to actually transferring my spouse’s wax to ones and zeroes. The copies of “Imagination Quota” , “David Werner” , And “Live,”  a single sided live promo album I bought in Atlanta in 2011, were great sounding copies with clicks and pops, yeah, but nothing we couldn’t attack successfully. The copy of “Whizz Kid,” however, was a well-loved, well-played record, and had seen far better days. It had surface noise that was down to wear and tear. Nothing I could do squat about, really.Fortunately, I went to an Akron record store in April of 2019 [to see Mott The Hoople in Cleveland] and found a [hopefully] cleaner copy which actually was well worth the $4.00 purchase. So this summer I have been eking out a campaign to digitize/de-noise/design CD-Rs of all three Werner albums among all of the other things that take precedence in my tumultuous personal life.The 2nd copy yielded much better raw files to de-noise. The cover actually represented much more work. As simulated at right, the cover to each copy had seen much better days. Wear, and water stains left me with a cover that would have represented an insane amount of retouching, but the 2nd copy had the main cover elements intact, with stains and such in the airbrushed clouds. So I scanned the lamps, title marquee, and the divan with the artiste in heaven and dropped it into a re-painted cloud backdrop that was much faster to paint by scratch than to clean up in Photoshop. Then the booklet design was also time consuming, since I replicated the lyric sheet and gave it the usual Monastic spin as far as liner notes for a 16 page booklet. A little but here and there and this week I am finally done with the task! What’s it like, you may ask?
“Whizz Kid” was certainly an apt name for the debut album of Pittsburgh’s David Werner, then a lad of 17, when he had signed to RCA Records in the early 70s. His first album of 1974 was an accomplished, yet tentative affair of a young man besotted with Rock enough to write songs about that very topic with nary a trace of irony. Pivotal to Werner’s musical career was finding the right creative foil on lead guitar with a head for arrangements. Mark Doyle was that man. By the time his RCA-signed band, Jukin Bone were a spent force, Werner’s A+R man, suggested he partner with Doyle; leading to a fruitful teaming that lasted through all three [and a half] of Werner’s albums.
As one could tell from the platform shoes on the cover, this album slotted into the nascent Glam Rock of the day. One suspected that RCA was gambling that Werner might turn out to be an American counterpart of David Bowie, who was paying handsome dividends for their investment already by that time.
Certainly in Doyle he had a sideman who was comparable to the key role that Mick Ronson had played in Bowie’s rise.
In a move that might surprise no one, Werner found a music niche of sorts, in the American city that was the first to clasp the likes of David Bowie and Roxy Music to their collective bosom. Thanks to famed WMMS-FM DJ Kid Leo, it was Cleveland where teenagers grooved to David Werner’s rococo sound as if he were actually British.
The rest of America was probably too busy in 1974 following the hi-jinx of Alice Cooper to worry too much about the ornate song stylings of a precocious teen with a hot guitarist in tow, so “Whizz Kid” was ultimately destined for the cutout bins and had slipped through the digital era almost completely unnoticed. You can buy the title track on a glam rock compilation on iTunes right now, but that’s the extent of it. Until now.
Thanks to my wife, who was one of those WMMS-FM listeners [who assumed that Werner was British] I came into the prospect of having all three of Werner’s albums once we joined up our record collections. I had always been intrigued by what I’d heard from Werner’s eponymous album for Epic Records in from 1979. I’d heard the cut “What’s Right” on the FM-Rock of the day and it really cut through all of the turgid Classic Rock and Southern Rock of the time to grab me by the lapels and stuck with me like glue ever since. In the early 80s, I got a Dutch New Wave sampler that had this track on it so I was sated to that extent, anyway. When I found out that it was actually his third album, and that he had two LPs years earlier on RCA, it was a bit of a shock.
Needless to say, from day one, I had wanted to digitize all three of Werner’s albums, and when taking a trip to Atlanta for a quick birthday celebration for an old friend’s 50th, I was surprised to find the promo-only “David Werner Live” album that Epic Records put out to build radio support for his third album. It was only a single sided disc, but it featured songs from all three of his albums and remained the capstone to his recording career.
The album kicked off with a bit of Bowie-esque meta-Rock in “One More Wild Guitar,” with a guitar tone that would be familiar to any fans of the first Metro album, which actually came two years down the line. Mark Doyle’s playing and effects were very close to the target that Duncan Browne hit on that 1976 album. This was definitely 70s Rock just at the peak flowering of Glam. The teenaged Werner [allegedly 17 at the time] took on the same [self] creation myth theme that Bowie had used for “Ziggy Stardust” and Doyle revealed that he was very possibly an equal match for Mick Ronson’s guitar playing and arrangements. Werner being not yet drinking age, he sounded pretty fey on the vocals as he was still a lad.
The rambunctious title track [which was a single] was actually every inch a missing cut from “Ziggy Stardust!” Seriously, you could slot this into the flow between “Star” and “Hang On To Yourself” and no one would bat an eyelash. In fact, cut “Star” and substitute “Whizz Kid,” and do yourself a favor. Doyle nailed the Ronson tone to the wall, here. I can certainly understand how this album turned heads on Cleveland radio on its release.
Track three has begun to stick in my head during the process of making this CD. “The Lady In Waiting” is a big change of pace with some Olde English Folk music in the program of rock because it was 1974. Things like that were just done. The acoustic guitars and sensitive singing isn’t my normal thing, yet it’s sticking with me, against all odds. Doyle’s string arrangements were the only other accompaniment here and like I said, he’s got as much talent as Ronson had in that regard.
“The Ballad Of Trixie Silver” was a textbook slice of Glam Rock storytelling that stretched out to the six minute park, as one did back in those days. The last two minutes of the song were Doyle taking plenty of time for hot solos. This was the other single from the album, edited down to a scant 3:29 I’d be interested in hearing. Side one ended with a brief, delicate acoustic ballad of some sensitivity.
“Love Is Tragic” was another Glam Rocker with an urgent undercurrent taking it from the baroque to the street level. This was moving into a similar space as early Be Bop Deluxe and these bands I mentioned earlier like Metro. Lots of groups, and David Werner himself, were trying to design the craft to carry them out of the Glam Rock marina they’d launched from into uncharted waters of their own design. Every band starts in a place defined by their influences. If were were to travel a bit further out of this Post-Glam bubble, we might be finding a band like Tiger Lily, soon to emerge as Ultravox! after exposure to the Krautrock mutation. Of course, none of that German exotica is lurking around here on this album.
This was simply well played, well arranged Rock music of the period with an earnest quality and the promise of better things to come from David Werner, who wrote these songs as a teen. They’re competent, and even fun, but it’s a debut album. The work is derivative. Without David Bowie, it may have not even existed, though ballads like “The Lady In Waiting” showed that The Thin White One was far from lurking behind each of these tunes. Even so, the leap forward in the maturity of writing that “Imagination Quota” showed the next year told any fans who had bought into David Werner that they were at least going to get a good ride for their money.
– 30 –