Hanessness

Gale Haness, back in the day.

Gale Haness, back in the day.

OK, iTunes is indeed better in some ways. Its “long tail” business model can afford to put obscure albums on its site, and basically “print” on demand. I just bought three I hadn’t heard since college: the debut Lp by Jo Mama, and the then-current records by Lovecraft and Sweetwater. It’s hard not to cry when you hear them again for the first time in forty years, especially Jo Mama, so you just do.

Jo Mama was a band formed by Danny Kortchmar (you may know him better as “Kootch” from early James Taylor recordings) and Charles Larkey (Fugs, but then Kootch was there too), but what I’m talkin’ ‘bout is they had themselves a mufuggin singer in Abigale Haness, also known as “Gale,” and she is blowing it out on this, their self-titled debut album. When it appeared in 1970, I thought she was the new Janis Joplin, because she had both the sweetness and the, let’s face it, raunch. When she was cast as Janet in the superb 1974 L.A. production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW (as you can hear in the resulting Roxy recording, this is the one where everybody wails, including Bruce Scott as Riff-Raff; I know Richard O’Brien wrote it, but his Rex Harrisoning in the movie can’t compete with Mr. Scott), I thought everybody would finally take notice. And Gale Haness stepped up right there with the best of all those throats. But nothing much else happened for her, certainly not the stardom I expected.

The Jo Mama album rises above its material (the song “Check Out This Gorilla” actually works into something lovely, but it takes some stupid lyrics to get there). Part of it must be because I spun it again and again in my dorm room in college. But I’ve listened to hundreds of albums since then, so another part of it is because Gale Haness is a muffuggin singer, and if you ever see her name again, buy whatever that name is on.

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2 Responses to Hanessness

  1. Jim Franklin says:

    Every now and then, RHPS’s “Super Heroes” comes around on the iTunes random play, and I have to stop whatever I’m doing (yes, even that) and deal with the chills and hair-raising that comes with listening to her seven lines. And if I happen to be on the computer, like now, I’ll do a Google search for her, always surprised at the lack of information. It doesn’t help that she’s gone by several name versions. But slowly, information is making it to the Internet.

    JO Mama, who I’d never heard of before, came up at hit 60-something, and your blog at hit 82. At least I know I’m not nuts in thinking hers one of the best voices ever. I’d love to know more of what she’s done since. Thanks for your post.

    jim

  2. Tom Dupree says:

    Nope, jim, you’re not alone; those are some *amazing* pipes. I still say, throttle back from RHPS into merely RHS, but be sure and make it the L.A. cast from the Roxy. You already know about Gale, but have you heard Bruce Scott sing the part of Riff-Raff? What has become of *this* guy? (Please, somebody tell me!)

    Anyhow, start with Jo Mama’s debut album as highlighted before, and work outward. What a singer!

    (Also, aren’t you forgetting “Toucha Toucha Toucha Touch Me”? What a golden throat FOR REAL: Janis could not have sung it better!)

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