“If we ever had the opportunity to get this out, I knew that someday… something would happen!
Forty three years later, bassist Michael Rummans and his band – The Hollywood Stars – are back in business. The art-form that is rock and roll is littered with “lost gems” and Burger Records has unearthed a bona fide jewel. What was once the domain of physical cut-out bins in musty old record shops has graduated to the digital age wherein slabs that resonated with a select few are now reaching the masses.
Enter The Hollywood Stars’ Sound City. Long story short: the Hollywood Stars were yet another brilliant brainstorm by legendary rock Svengali Kim Fowley circa 1973. The original band, with the late Mark Anthony, scored a deal with Columbia via Fowley and waxed their debut slab, which, due to the evil machinations of the record industry, never saw the light of day. Henceforth they broke up despite their popularity in the glam bam thank you ‘mam infused City of Angels. Yet two of the Stars’ compositions went on to stardom – “Escape” which appeared on Alice Cooper’s multi-platinum solo debut Welcome to My Nightmare (1975), and “King of the Night Time World” cut by Kiss and included on two multi-platinum releases: Destroyer (1976) and Kiss Alive ll (1977). Go figure.
Bassist Rummans, who was not a founding member, met Anthony while both musicians were working The Strip. “He was a young good looking guy” recalls Rummans. “I came down to The Whiskey to hear them. It was quite a scene back then with Rodney’s English Disco, The Rainbow…”
After a European trip following his graduation from Cal State LA, Rummans and Anthony put together a band. “We were struggling, trying to get work…and Mark came up with the idea to reform The Hollywood Stars.” According to Michael, Anthony’s business plan was simple” if all those record companies wanted to come out and sign us the first time…maybe if we do a showcase, they’ll come out and look at us again.” Laughs Rummans “And, sure enough they did! We did the showcase – so many people showed up for this thing – because basically it was a free party and we invited everyone we knew in Hollywood – and the record company people could not get in! Hence the Stars’ buzz was back stronger than ever.
With the Stars back on track, their lawyer / manager ensconced them in Sound City studios (“It wasn’t legendary at the time – though a lot of people were recording there.”) with the intention of selling a master recording to a label. Producer Neil Merryweather was behind the console. The band was pleased with the results as Merryweather knew the band inside out – even mixing their live sound at The Starwood. The original Sound City – which is what we have today – was basically a back-to-basics live album – hence its timelessness in 2019.
But that’s not what Clive Davis wanted in 1977. But who were the Stars to argue with a major label mogul? The Merryweather tapes were shelved, the Stars had to buy him out of his contract “Clive’s idea of the band was in the direction to be more like The Bay City Rollers – we didn’t see ourselves that way – we saw ourselves as power pop – he wanted teenage bubblegum.” The Stars were not struck by their Arista album. And despite opening for The Kinks on their comeback Sleepwalker tour – it just wasn’t in the stars. End of the band…until a few reunions and now, the Stars’ third coming.
With the living Stars reconvened (Anthony passed in the early 2000s)and the “real” Sound City out now, redemption is in the cards. Yet it’s all in a life’s journey for Rummans – who has a book in him as he lived – and rocked – during the Sunset Strip’s golden era. In fact, while backstage at the TAMI Show as a youth, James Brown advised him “to never take a lesson – be as original as you can be!”
Rummans maintains a great affinity for one of his early bands – The Sloths – the quintessential LA garage band. The quartet regrouped in 2011- and they’re still active. In fact, The Sloths recently waxed an self-effacingly titled long-player Back From The Grave. Sharing stages with local icons of the era – The Doors, The Seeds, and Love – along with international stars Pink Floyd, and The Animals, the sounds of The Sloths never really went out of style. Michael values The Sloths more now than back in the day. “I appreciate everything in my life now more than I did in my younger days. We have a new song in The Sloths ‘You’re Never Too Young To Die!” Rummans is currently forming a new production company with original Sloths member Jeff Briskin, along with Dave Provost (Textones, Phil Seymour, The Droogs).
And what about the bass? “I started out playing guitar when I was 14, and by the time I was 16 I had a band. So this band played around Hollywood for a few years, then the Sunset Strip riots happened and a lot of the clubs closed down….and my band broke up as a result of that. But I was hanging out on the strip one night, and one of the club managers who knew me, said ‘hey Mike there’s a really good opportunity – there’s a band over at the (famous venue) – which was a big club in Hollywood at the time that was not affected by what happened – they have a band that plays there all the time, and the owner of the club manages the band…and they’re looking for a bass player and I said ‘yeah, I can play bass! Heck it’s just a guitar with four strings! The only question I remember people asking about the bass was ‘was it easier because it only had four strings…’ I said ‘no, a violin has four strings! You end up playing a lot less notes…but they mean more! But if you look at it, any instrument is difficult to master.”
Rummans memories could fill a book. “If you had long hair, you got chased, verbally harassed…and it started at my school of all places. It would be one thing to be driving down The Strip and have a bunch of jocks pull up and say get a haircut …but to have your own coach, and own principal… people like that start making disparaging comments about just because your hair is a little long….when hair first became a thing…they were talking about it touching your ears…or touching your collar…that was the standard. The irony was that some of the guys that chased me in school would come up to me a few years later when I was playing on The Strip when I was up on stage yelling “hey bro remember me?”
“We had a sense that it was part of a whole movement – a social movement – we weren’t just playing music to be in bands, we were out to change the world…”
The Hollywood Stars Sound City is out now on Burger Records
For all things The Hollywood Stars visit: https://www.thehollywoodstarsband.com
For all things The Sloths – visit www.TheSloths.org
The Hollywood Stars “All the Kids on the Street” live at the Bootleg Theater in LA, Nov. 2018 https://youtu.be/09PcZlE3Lq8
The Sloths “One Way Out” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLtjRxVYZLU