Steven T.
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Steven T.

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"BORN TO SLUM"

STEVEN T. PRESS ARCHIVE

Album review from BAM magazine
August 1977

Steven T.’s Rich-Kid Dues

BORN TO SLUM
by David Leaf

Well, Roger lives next door he’s got a
rock and roll band
And Jeff and Terry high on dust, just wishing
they had a friend
All the people I know they got somewhere to go
Me I just sit here writing songs at home, by myself
My own best friend.

Believe me I paid my dues
And all I want is something to do
Won’t somebody help me lose those L.A. Blues.


Those “L.A. Blues” belong to 23-year-old Steven T., a singer/songwriter raised in Beverly Hills. The blond-haired T.’s music often tells of the unhappiness he experienced while growing up in L.A. and is featured on his forthcoming album.
The album is T.’s “end of the rainbow,” but he’ll tell you that it hasn’t been easy getting there.
“In high school, people didn’t understand me and chicks didn’t like me…I had very few friends. The one thing I dreamed of was being a rock and roller. I wanted that very bad. I was very ambitious.”
Knowing he couldn’t be a rocker in the clean hills of Beverly, Steven T. moved to Hollywood. “I wanted to get out and taste the street…wanted to know what it’s like to work from the bottom up. My own pride wouldn’t allow me to make it just ’cause I was a rich kid. I had to get out on the streets and struggle.”
And it has been a struggle. Starting in the late ’60s, T. has been in many bands, like Whoa Fat, Sappon Ice, EKG, The Swarm and Pop! It was a typical existence for a young rock hopeful: decadence and dirt.
“I lived in this sleazy Hollywood apartment in the old days. I did everything – dropped acid 50 or 60 times. But I’m straight now. I’ve been waiting for this break ever since I picked up a guitar; it’s time for me to get my shit together.”
“This break,” as T. calls it, is the opportunity that every singer/songwriter waits for—the chance to make an album. T. tasted a little notoriety last year when he performed as Venus of Venus & the Razorblades, a punk band. But this solo record, produced by Kim Fowley, is a chance for T. to play his music—and his music isn’t punk rock. Lyrically, it’s personal writing, and T. is glad to tell his story. “If people can relate to my life,” he says, “then I’ll be successful. I want to have people like me. My whole life, I’ve been an outcast.”
In certain respects, T.’s mentor, Kim Fowley, is also an outcast. Shunned by the rock establishment, Fowley has a 20-year history that includes a fascinating track record of hits and misses. He goes way back, to the Hollywood Argyles’ “Alley Oop.” Recently, he struck gold with Helen Reddy, and in-between he’s been associated with groups as diverse as the Soft Machine and the Runaways.
Despite sporadic successes, Fowley has never really been accepted. T., however, has embraced him. “Kim Fowley is a walking dictionary of rock and roll,” T. says, “he is legendary to me. I respect Kim Fowley more than anyone I can think of.”
Nobody will argue with Fowley’s ability to get things done. It was he who created the Runaways, who recruited T. to be Venus, and who sold Steven T. to Joe Cayre, president of Salsoul Records. This last project was altogether more difficult than you might imagine, since Salsoul is a disco label. First Fowley had to convince Cayre that he should start a rock wing, and then he sold Steven T. to him as that division’s first artist.
All this selling took place at 30,000 feet, where Cayre was Fowley’s captive audience on a flight from Amsterdam to L.A. The net result was that Steven T. was signed to Salsoul’s new label, Dream Records. The album, tentatively titled West Coast Confidential, is due on September 1, and will be followed by T.’s first tour (with a band he’s currently in the process of putting together).
The album? Well, if you insist on a label, you might call it street pop. With lush string and horn arrangements courtesy of Rick Henn, the album sometimes seems over-produced—yet when the song and the arrangements click, this is good, commercial material.
It probably all comes together best on the album opener, “Outskirts of Town.” T. explains the inspiration for it: “I have this place I’ve been going to for years with my best friend, Jeff. We call it TOC, Top of the City. There’s this 180° panoramic view of L.A., and we’d go up and get stoned and talk.”

Well, have you ever been to the top of the city
Where the lights are bright and oh so pretty
Well I been to the country and it’s a beautiful sight
But it ain’t half as class as Hollywood at night

Well, way up here on top I see the freak parade
Down on the boulevard where dreams are made
Well over the rainbow they can get a lift
As they all check in at the night shift.

As opposed to the so-called “LA Sound” of the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne, LA native Steven T.’s West Coast music sounds more like Easterners Billy Joel and Hall & Oates. Of course, any singer/songwriter working the streetlife vein is going to be up against the best, which means (shudder) Bruce Springsteen. T. explains why some may say he sounds like the Jersey Devil:
“I used to be into a progressive rock thing, but when I saw Bruce Springsteen live, he changed my life. I knew then that I wanted to touch people on a human level rather than blow them away with technical music. I’m not copping Springsteen’s musical trip. I love the guy ’cause he moves people. He really sweats. When I saw him I said, ‘I’ve gotta be like this guy.’ He made me cry. When something moves me to tears, that’s godhead.
“I’ve only actually cried three times because of music. The first time was when I saw Hendrix. The second time was Laura Nyro. And last year at the Civic when I saw Bruce.”
The juxtaposition of Laura Nyro, Hendrix, and Springsteen isn’t your typical mix. Yet Steven T. is into almost all the various rock styles, and you can hear the influences coming together in his music. From Peter Gabriel to James Taylor to Todd Rundgren, T.’s music is an unusual synthesis of the odd collection of favorites he has idolized through the years.
Ironically, one type of music from which his songs don’t draw is punk rock. “I think punk rock is valuable for the stance and the energy,” he says, “but my musical influences are elsewhere. Being in Venus & the Razorblades was fun, but my heart wasn’t in punk rock after going to school to study music.”
T. attended Cal Arts for two years in the early ’70s. He admits that much of it was over his head, like the “class where people would sit around and dig the music of silence.” He probably would have stuck it out a little longer, but the end of a love affair sent him into a long depression from which he emerged only when he started making new music again. That music is all over his album. They are songs about his life, with honest lyrics like those in “A Face in the Crowd”:

Sometimes, when everybody has to take their place in line
Don’t you find that everybody else is leaving you behind
Free men take a stand
When are you gonna get your chance
And you’ll wait as long as time allows
Until it’s time for you to take your bows
But all that you are right now
Is a Face in the Crowd.

When all this is swallowed and analyzed, Steven T. probably explains it best with one simple sentence: “I’m a West Coast guy with an East Coast soul.” - BAM magazine, August 1977


"It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll"

STEVEN T. PRESS ARCHIVE

Album review from Los Angeles Herald-Examiner
Fri., August 5, 1977

It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll

‘West Coast Confidential’
By ROBERT KEMNITZ
Herald-Examiner Staff Writer
When it was announced that Kim Fowley was going to produce an album for Helen Reddy, almost everybody who was even slightly familiar with both was fairly surprised. With Reddy practically the Queen of Housewife Pop and Fowley’s current association with the punk rock scene, it seemed a pretty strange combination. But as far as Fowley is concerned, his connection with such “new wave” rockers as the Runaways and Venus & the Razorblades is a very small part of his musical career. In the new “Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock,” compiled by Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden, Fowley is described as “one of the true eccentrics of rock” as well as “singer, composer, producer, poet, actor, manager and impresario to name just a few.”
Fowley’s roots are pretty well established in the world of show business. His father, Douglas Fowley, played Doc Holliday on the old “Wyatt Earp” television series and his grandfather was the legendary composer, Rudolf Friml. In 1960 he was a part of the Hollywood Argyles, a group who had a monster hit with “Alley Oop.” He has also written songs for the ghoulish likes of KISS, Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper as well as collaborated on over a dozen compositions for the legendary rock group the Byrds. Plus, he has 54 gold records, so his credentials aren’t exactly open for questions.
Fowley is truly concerned with the Los Angeles music scene and feels that “L.A. has been portrayed in the music media as being either laid back or new wave. There has always been metropolitan madness, a high crime rate and adolescent trauma which people seem to neglect. I’ve seen the music scene develop here over the last 20 years.”
Fowley’s main concern at the moment is the debut recording of a new Los Angeles pop rocker by the name of Steven T. The album, which Fowley produced, is appropriately titled “West Coast Confidential,” and features some of the top L.A. session men: Hal Blaine, Lee Sklar, Chris Darrow, Lee Ritenour, Wilton Felder, Dave Carr and David Foster. And that’s not a very shabby backing for a young 22-year-old singer-songwriter whose name only the very “in” inhabitants of the Los Angeles music scene have heard of.
“I was very impressed when I first heard Steven’s material,” Fowley said. “That was a couple of years ago but even then I felt as though his songs dealt with the real Southern California settings, with regional feelings and areas not often examined. There is an introspective quality to his lyrics. I think Steven T. is the voice of a lot of alienated young people who don’t get the chance to press their observations into vinyl. Steven and I, even though I’m 15 years older, share a mutual background. We both came through the Los Angeles school system and spent our adolescence within a couple of miles of each other.”
Although he is only 22, Steven T. is no newcomer to the L.A. music scene. He has been a member of a lot of groups with names like the Ted Ford Review, the Swarm, the Pop!, Orange Wedge, the Collectors, Woah! Fat, Aldebarron and Sappon Ice. He was also the Venus who fronted the Razorblades.
“Music has always been the most consistent thing in my life,” said Steven T. “I’ve been playing guitar for 13 years now and music has always been something I could turn to. It has never betrayed me. I’m basically a loner and having a record or writing songs is a great form of expression. L.A. is a very fertile area in which to gather ideas for songs. There is a certain street life here that has only been exploited and never really explored. Because of my association with Venus & the Razorblades, a lot of people have pigeon-holed me like I was a performer on the B-movie circuit. I’m not ashamed of being in a punk rock group but it has made my music more difficult to be accepted by some of my friends and local media scene-makers. I look at my stint with Venus as my A.I.P. period. I mean Steve McQueen was in ‘The Blob’ before he made ‘The Great Escape.’”
But perhaps his lyrics most accurately express his true musical notions. As he writes in his song, “Number One”: “Been in training all my life / to stand up here on this stage tonight / I’ve been boogie, I’ve been folk / I’ve been nightclub, I’ve been broke / But I’m Number One and not ashamed of the things I’ve done.”
Maybe when “West Coast Confidential” is released, Steven T. will let you in on his secret.

Steven T. Dream DA 3500 - Los Angeles Herald-Examiner


"‘West Coast Confidential’"

STEVEN T. PRESS ARCHIVE

Album review from San Diego State University “Daily Aztec”
Weds., May 10, 1978

West Coast Confidential Steven T. Dream DA 3500
No doubt about it – the coming trend in contemporary music is “power pop.”
With the emergence of Fleetwood Mac, the Electric Light Orchestra and other such purveyors of simple, but catchy, melodies and generally unassuming lyrics, pop-rock has, at last, become of age. After years of being snubbed by the so-called rock elite (who considered any song to which one could sing along and which lasted less than three and one-half minutes as beneath their dignity), it is finally finding acceptance, both among record buyers and on the air.
Enter Steven T. Late of Rick Springfield’s band and, more recently, of Venus and the Razorblades, singer/songwriter Steven T. is the latest prodigy of rock entrepreneur Kim Fowley, the bizarre, somewhat eccentric schemer who has been a constant fixture on the contemporary music scene for more than a decade.
As demonstrated on West Coast Confidential, his debut disc for Fowley’s Dream label, Steven T.’s music – simple, highly melodic and very energetic – is perhaps the definitive example of this new phenomenon known as “power pop.”
Touching upon the intellectualism of Springsteen but avoiding the mindlessness of the late 1960s’ bubblegummers, Steven T. has discovered what might be termed the “magic” formula of making good, clean pop that appeals to the old stereotype, Everyman.
Lively melodies and intelligent, but not overbearing, lyrics mesh with crisp instrumentation to produce a sound that combines the best of the mid-1960s, British poop bands with a more aggressive, even soulful stance that adds substance and emotion to the music.
Especially appealing are “Face In The Crowd” and “Sons and Daughters,” the latter written with Fowley.
“Face In The Crowd” retells man’s age-old search for identity in a particularly poignant way – without a woman to love, a man can often feel helpless in his attempts to mold an identity for himself.
“Sons and Daughters,” undoubtedly the album’s centerpiece, paints a stark, surprisingly realistic picture of street life in the 1970s, and does so with as much frankness and honesty as the songs of Bruce Springsteen, Elliott Murphy and other self-proclaimed “street poets.”
Years from now, Steven T.’s prime accomplishment will probably be seen as his helping make the resurgence of pop-rock in the 1970s a reality. Indeed, it seems as though the new wave of “power pop” is upon us, and Steven T. is riding high on its crest.
-- Tom Arnold - San Diego State University “Daily Aztec”


"Steven T:"

Reviewer: Paul Stephen Duffy
Steven T. has reemerged with a crisp, pointed, and musically strong CD. His lyrics and music are not for the shallow. He's brought all his years of brilliant musical experience and rolled them into a beautifully textured sphere of sound. If you haven't discovered Steven T., now is the time! - CD Baby


Discography

West Coast Confidential (Dream Records, 1978)
Damage (Charlatan Records, 2004)

Photos

Bio

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Steven T. may have had the good fortune to be born in Beverly Hills, California, but that didn’t bring him any special privileges in the rock ’n’ roll world.

As is the case with many independent, creative souls, he did not take well to authority, rebelling in all the usual ways. So, in spite of summer vacations in Hawaii, he soon found himself in military school for four years and had difficulty following the traditional paths of education and upbringing desired by his parents.

He did, however, find solace in studying Top 30 playlists from the mid ’60s, and started his record collection with his first LP purchase, “Best of the Animals,” followed closely by the Jimi Hendrix album, “Are You Experienced?” which changed his life. He took classical guitar and folk lessons before his parents bought him his first real equipment, a Guild “Starfire 5” and an “Acoustic” amplifier.

Steven’s first band, Aldebarron (named after a star), covered Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” (the Kooper-Bloomfield version) in a 9th grade Battle of the Bands, losing to a Vanilla Fudge copy band doing “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”! Aldebarron also at one time featured avant-garde jazz violinist and current LA Philharmonic Orchestra member, Jeff Gauthier.

His next band was a blues band in the mold of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Canned Heat. It was in this group, called Whoa! Fat, that T. honed his guitar chops. In 10th grade he formed the dual guitar attack pre-metal band Sappon Ice, a cross between Black Sabbath, Wishbone Ash and Yes. After being sent away to boarding school twice to make up lost credits (which he never did), Steven T. returned to Hollywood to form EKG, which featured Nick St. Nicholas (Steppenwolf) on bass. The band resembled an androgynous version of Emerson, Lake and Palmer with a white Jimi Hendrix on guitar - which, by the way, nearly happened in reality. It was at this point that T. decided he really wanted to learn music.

So Steven began a two-year stint at the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied all things music with the likes of Marty Kristall and Buell Neidlinger (Cecil Taylor), Hubert Laws (CTI Flautist), Amiya Dasgupta (Ravi Shankar disciple) and Morton Subotnik (electronic music pioneer). Within this two-year period, he absorbed all the technical knowledge he would need to begin his assault on the pro music scene. After feeling the walls for tonal textures and practicing guitar scales and chords for eight hours a day, it was time for him to aspire to stardom, and thus he embarked on a career which laid the foundation and blueprint for his life to the present. This was the seminal turning point in his life.

Returning once more to Hollywood, T. set about immersing himself in the music scene. Answering an ad at a guitar store, he joined a “power pop” band called The Pop! which featured Roger Prescott (rhythm guitar, vocals), T. (lead guitar, 12-string, vocals), David Swanson (bass, lead vocals), and David Robinson (drums, vocals), previously with Modern Lovers, and later (after The Pop!), with The Cars. The band was like a dirty version of Badfinger with overtones of Alex Chilton (Big Star). Steven T. was also in a band called The Swarm, which was like a mix of early BeeGees, Hollies, and Kinks, combined with Procol Harum classical keyboard overtones. All this was obviously very English-influenced.

Missing his early rock ’n’ roll, blues, jazz and R&B roots, T. left both groups to join forces with his old friend and mentor, Kim Fowley. While writing songs for Kim’s group, the Runaways (which later spawned solo careers for Joan Jett and Lita Ford), Kim and Steven came up with an idea for a punk hybrid band called Venus and the Razorblades. Steven became Venus and he and Kim recruited three teenage “Runaway-wannabe” girls and a male drummer, resulting in a hellish boy-girl crossbreed of early Velvet Underground, Blondie, white Ronettes and Spiders from Mars. Oddly enough, it worked, and the group became the only American proto-punk band to chart in the U.K. during the so-called “Summer of Hate” (1977).

Steven then obtained a deal to make a solo album for new label Dream Records, a specially created subsidiary of East Coast dance music record company Salsoul Records, which resulted in the 1977 LP, “West Coast Confidential,” produced by Fowley. Steven felt that the LP, with its “west coast Billy Joel-Bruce Springsteen direction,” had “too many triple scale in-crowd studio musicians” (he just wanted a band). “Strings, horns and uptown sugary crap ruined the street credibility, and (the album’s) L.A. roots were only evident in the lyrics.” He was, however, “grateful to have had the opportunity.”

Steven worked the L.A. club circuit with his own band following the release of his debut album, and in the late ’70s went on to write songs and play guitar on solo albums by Runaways’ lead singer (and l