STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
The Hooters are as revered in Sweden as they are in Philadelphia.
So when singer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Bazilian got the opportunity to collaborate with Niklas Srömstedt, he couldn’t pass it up. “He’s kind of an icon,” Bazilian said of the Swedish pop singer/songwriter.
“Every time I do a gig, I give it a different name. I thought it’d be great to call it a boy band, but it’s past that time so we called it a man band,” the 61-year-old Bazilian said, explaining the inside joke behind the name of his new musical project.
Armed with just a few new songs, The Man Band — which also features 23-year-old West Virginia singer/songwriter Alexis Cunningham performing as her alter ego “Harmony Montclair” — was a hit in Sweden. According to Bazilian, a Man Band summer Swedish tour involved a breakneck 18 concerts in 20 days.
The song “Dog Days of July,” a happy, folk- and country-flavored party-pleaser, would have fit on late ‘80s Hooters albums like “One Way Home” or “Zig Zag.”
Bazilian credited Srömstedt with the mandolin hook that begins and ends the song: “I said: ‘Yeah! Sounds like The Hooters’.”
Oct. 4 at Steel City Coffeehouse, Bazilian and Harmony Montclair will take the stage, augmented by Hooters drummer David Uosikkinen and Philly area singer/songwriter Cliff Hillis on bass. The set list, said Bazilian, will include solo material, songs written by Cunningham and “a couple reboots of Hooters songs” (It’s his personal rule to not perform Hooters songs in a straight-forward, as-they-were-recorded style without the rest of the band there).
“I’ve got a couple tricks up my sleeve,” he said.
One of the most successful and hardest-working bands to ever emerge from the Philly music scene, The Hooters barnstormed high school auditoriums all over the suburbs in the early ‘80s.
Bazilian recalled performing at North Penn High School in 1984, as the band’s star was about to rapidly rise. “We were mixing (Columbia Records debut album) ‘Nervous Night.’ We drove down just for the evening. I remember that show well,” he said.
The next few years brought three hit singles on the Billboard Top 40 chart; additional commercial success for Bazilian and bandmate Rob Hyman as contributing musicians and songwriters on Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual;” “Best New Band” accolades from “Rolling Stone;” and high profile appearances at Live Aid, the Amnesty International concert at Giants Stadium and Roger Waters’ 1990 “The Wall” concert in Berlin.
Then came that “what if God was one of us?” song.
Bazilian and Hyman (and long-time Hooters producer Rick Chertoff) did for Joan Osborne in the ‘90s what they did for Lauper in the ‘80s — team up to craft a hit debut album for a then-unknown singer. Bazilian’s composition “One of Us,” a top 10 hit and gold-selling single, was nominated for the Song of the Year Grammy for 1996.
While writing “One of Us,” he said he pictured Brad Roberts, the distinctively deep voice of the band Crash Test Dummies, singing the words. “It’s rare when that happens, but it’s great when it does happen,” he said of that songwriting tactic.
The muse served him well, and the song led to Bazilian becoming a sought-after songwriter, session guitarist, arranger and producer, working with everyone from The Scorpions to Robbie Williams to Journey to Clay Aiken to LeAnn Rimes. Bazilian wrote “Kiss the Rain,” which became a top 20 hit in 1997 for singer Billie Myers, and Ricky Martin scored an international hit in 2000 redoing The Hooters song “Private Emotion.”
Besides Man Band, Bazilian has also been recording with British rocker James Bourne under the name “88” (Although you have to hunt for them, there are songs by 88 on Spotify, he said).
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Man Band in concert.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Oct. 4.
WHERE: Steel City Coffeehouse, 203 Bridge St., Phoenixville. The venue’s website notes that you should budget extra time for parking.
TICKETS: $20 in advance, $22 at the door; $27 in advance and $34 for reserved seating. Doors open for dinner at 7.
INFO: Call (610) 933-4043 or visit www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com. Bazilian’s website is in the process of being updated, so he recommended following him on Facebook, and on Twitter @EricBazilian.