OFF BROADWAY

Country USA

Style Melodic Rock/AOR

“Off Broadway USA” is an American rock band founded by Paul Darrow, Cliff Johnson, Paul McDermott, John Pazdan and Dan Santercola in 1977 in Oak Park, Illinois. After several line-up changes including the addition of songwriter/guitarist John Ivan, the bands debut album On was released by Atlantic Records in 1979.

The album reached No. 101 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the single “Stay in Time”, which reached No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100. Off Broadway released a follow-up album, Quick Turns, on Atlantic in 1980 and continued touring for three years before breaking up in 1983. The band is currently composed of original album guitarist and songwriter John Ivan (guitar), Brian Cote (lead vocals), Sal Monaco (drums) and Scott Licina (guitar/backing vocals). They began touring in 2012 in celebration of the 35th anniversary of the band, and have recorded and released a new single “All Messed Up And Ready To Go” with a full length release of new material to follow.

The beginning of a Power Pop legend…. Off Broadway USA had it’s auspicious beginnings way back in the summer of 1977. At the time, guitarist Dan Santercola, drummer Paul McDermott and bassist John Pazdan were in a band put together by saxophonist Tom Webb (formerly of “The Flock”, a Chicago based fusion group from the late 60’s) called “The TS Henry Webb Group”. After a short stint gigging at places like Harry Hopes in Cary, Webb disbanded the group but Santercola, Pazdan and McDermott stuck together, and with the addition of keyboardist Paul Darrow formed a loose-knit band that played a combination of acid jazz, funk and “instrumental mayhem” for a stream of shows at a little dive on Cicero and Augusta in Chicago called There Is No Name. The only problem was they didn’t have a singer, so the four decided to look for a vocalist. At this time bassist Pazdan had been dating a girl named Deborah McManus who was interested in promoting the unnamed quartet, and one night the name Cliff Johnson came up in conversation.

Drop Me A Line- The quartet expands… McManus knew Johnson, and suggested him as a possible candidate for the lead singer position. After a quick phone call Cliff started coming to band rehearsals at a house down the street from Fitzgeralds (before it was Fitzgeralds- in 1977 it was a fine, tacky bar called the Deer Lodge- Hamms on tap, only 50¢).

At the time Johnson was heavily into Roxy Music, and with a slight stretch of the imagination that’s what the mix of he and the established band sounded like when they jammed- Roxy, circa 1977, swimming around in the early Brit funk/”Art Music” pond.

One night after a rehearsal, following a beer or 15 at a tavern down the street called the Weinkellar (aka the Wine Keel-Over) Johnson officially turned the quartet into a quintet and things were about to really get started with the five swearing they would do everything the opposite of what was happening at the time (big hair, big amps, big lights). This just happened to handily dovetail into the growing NYC-punk/DIY scene, circa ‘77.  Alright OK- The light bulb goes on. The name Off Broadway came from McManus as well. One night they were sitting around trying to come up with a name, and out of the blue she said “you know, it sounds like you guys, if you were in the theater, you’d be like – you know – Off Broadway.”

Following along that idea, Paul Darrow came up with the concept that their “big” light show, much like a cliched Off Broadway play, would simply be five bare bulbs on a piece of cord, one over each member of the band. They also decided that bowling shirts, which were180 degrees from “rockstar” at the time, would be the perfect choice of attire. So down to Johnson and Johnson (no relation) Sporting Goods in Oak Park they went to order 5 bowling shirts with the group members’ name over the pocket…

Showdown- Bring on the band… The first official off broadway gig was at Harlow’s Nightclub on South Cicero Avenue in Chicago, in December 1977. The band consisted of Dan Santercola on guitar, Paul McDermott on drums, Paul Darrow handling keyboards, Johnson on vocals and John Pazdan on bass and synthesizer. The set included ‘Peg’ by Steely Dan, ‘Too Much To Lose’ by Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, a reggae version of ‘Jealous Guy’, ‘Full Moon’, “Drop Me A Line”, “Now You Got It Comin’” and a few others, including a scorching funkfusion instrumental by Eddie Harris called ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’. In attendance that evening were Rob Harding, Mickey Free and Mickey Sculley, who would soon became the groups first (though short-lived) manager.

Quick Turns- Time to make power pop history… That original lineup was short-lived, however, as Rob Harding soon replaced Santercola, after which the extraordinary guitarist John Ivan replaced keyboardist Paul Darrow and Mike Neff (later of another successful Chicago band, the “Hounds”) took over for Paul McDermott on drums. All of this transpired by the Spring of 1978, at which time the group became the “almost” house band at Mother’s on Rush Street and soon would become the band that took the Chicago music world by storm…

– On [1979]
– Quick Turns [1980]
– “Fallin’ In [1997]

 

 

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OFF BROADWAY, 8.8 out of 10 based on 4 ratings