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The Rave-Ups

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Podrasky's Alt/Rock Rave-Ups hit the big time in the movies, TV and radio.

The Rave-Ups were an acclaimed alternative rock band led by singer/song writer James Podrasky. Founded in Pitttsburgh, the band became one of the most popular acts on the LA club circuit.  Their first full LP “Town and Country” released on the Fun Stuff label in the fall of 1985 captured critical attention with comparisons to the music of Dylan, Lou Reed, and R.E.M.  With sales of 40,000 copies the demand for “Town and Country” was extraordinary for an indie release.  Several critics including L.A. Times critic Robert Hilburn predicted they would be the next-big-thing.  Long time fan, actress Molly Ringwald, helped the The Rave-Ups audition for their performance in the classic 1986 brat pack flick “Pretty in Pink.”  Their song "Class Tramp" was featured in the 1987 movie “The Offspring”.  Signing with Epic Records in 1987, the Rave-Ups released the albums “The Book of Your Regrets” in 1988 and “Chance” in 1990.  With air play on college and alternative radio stations their most popular songs were “Positively, Lost Me” and “Respectfully, the King of Rain”.   Respectfully King of Rain" was an alternative rock hit getting video airplay on MTV and reaching #12 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. To promote their records they toured the country opening for the “Church” and appeared on the Arsenio Hall TV show.  Their last appearance as a band was in 1991 on the “Spring Dance” episode of the hit TV show Beverly Hills 90201. Playing alternative rock in the early 1980s they were ahead of their time.

One of the Rave-Ups Los Angeles fans, Alison Freebairn-Smith in the online magazine My Daily Find wrote:  “They stole our hearts with their dreamy looks and Jimmer’s refreshingly witty perspectives on things like love, life and Gremlins?  ….. The Rave-Ups were an oasis of smart, roots rock at a time when even people like The Eagles seemed like they’d lost their original sound.  ….They were not only making great music, but talking to us as though we had brains and could understand clever phrases and complex emotions as well as thoughtful contemplations.”

The Rave-Ups were founded by singer/song-writer Jimmer Podrasky at Carnegie Mellon University in the Fall of 1979.  A native of Natrona Heights Podrasky was the son of an elementary school principal and a high school art teacher.  He studied English literature and creative writing at CMU and loved to put words to music.  The other original members were George Carter of Greensburgh on bass, violin and vocals, drummer T.J. Junco, and guitarist Michael Kaniecku another Natrona Heights native.  In 1980 Rich Slevin became the drummer in January followed by CMU graduate Vic McPoland of Homewood in the summer.  Performing original songs by Jimmer, Kanjecku, and Carter the Rave-Ups were a new wave/underground/college town band.  They played college functions and the clubs of Pittsburgh for two years, appearing at Fat City in Swissvale and at the Lion Walk and the Decade in Oakland.  But their favorite club was Johnny Zaras's Electric Banana.  In the summer of 1980 the band recorded 16 track studio versions of their songs "Class Tramp" and "Gremlin" along with live recordings of club dates.

Upon graduating from CMU in 1980 Podrasky considered going to graduate school to become a teacher, but choose instead to keep writing and performing with the Rave-Ups.  To support himself he became a house painter.  With the help of a fellow CMU alumnus who was appearing in a play in California, the band landed a three week appearance in Los Angeles in late 1980.  They performed in the Sam Shepard play “The Tooth of Crime” at the Pacific Repertory Company.  Sam Shepard wrote the score that they performed. They played several dates in San Francisco before they returned to Pittsburgh to play New Year’s Eve at the Electric Banana. After their return from the West Coast, the Rave-Ups broke up.  Jimmer went back to painting houses before he decided to move to Los Angeles.

In L.A. Podrasky took a job in the mail room of A&M Records where he met co-worker and drummer Tim Jimenez of Burbank.  Together they reformed the Rave-Ups with guitarist Chuck Wada and bassist Douglas Leonard.  Getting started they played the LA clubs for free.  Using their employee discounts they rented off hours recording time in the A&M studios.  They released the six-song “Class Tramp” EP on the indie Fun Stuff label in 1984 selling 3,000 copies. 

Trouser Press gave the EP a great review: “Class Tramp is a mighty impressive debut: a hook-laden six-song rocking pop collection that reveals Podrasky as an inventive, commercially minded songwriter with a wealth of ideas and a fresh lyrical perspective. Richly multi-tracked guitars, crisp rhythms and easy-to-like vocals buttress original tunes that deftly sidestep power pop and other pigeonholes.”

Guitarist Terry Wilson and bassist Tommy Blatnik joined the Rave-Ups in 1985, before the recording of 1985's acclaimed “Town and Country” album. Terry Wilson, from Springfield, MO was a one time member of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and studio session player.

Village Voice critic Robert Christgau gave “Town and Country” an A- writing: ” The songs, however, are pretty hip, a credit to Podrasky's lit-major fondness for Dylan and Twain. This being country-rock, they generally take a chugging freight-train rhythm. And Podrasky being a closet popster, they generally have hooks."

The Allmusic.com review also rates the album highly: “Town + Country (a title perfectly capturing the group's distinctive blend of rock & roll torque and C&W twang)… maintains the disc's crisp melodicism, infusing highlights like the opening "Postively Lost Me" (one of two songs the Rave-Ups performed in the film Pretty in Pink), "By the Way," and the bluegrass-inflected "Remember (Newman's Lovesong)" with rootsy grit and galloping energy.”

The Rave-Ups met Molly Ringwald through her older sister Beth Ringwald who was dating Jimmer Podrasky.  Molly convinced John Hughes, the director of “Pretty In Pink” to hear the Rave-Ups at an L.A. club.  Hughes cast them in the club scene where they perform their song "Rave-Up, Shut-Up" as Duckie (Jon Cryer) talks with the bouncer (Andrew Dice Clay).  Later in the film the Rave-Ups play "Positively Lost Me" on stage while Duckie, Iona (Annie Potts), Andie (Ringwald) and Blane (Andrew McCarthy) talk at table in the club.  The Rave-Ups also appeared on the MTV "Pretty In Pink" Movie Premier Special. “Positively Lost Me" became a cult hit that Rhino Records included on the compilation "Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of The 80's - Vol. 12".   The movie was a big hit, but as the producers did not include the Rave-Ups songs on the “Pretty in Pink” soundtrack album, the band missed an opportunity for song royalties and stardom.  

With the national exposure from Pretty in Pink, the sales of their “Town and Country CD”, their radio airplay, and critical kudos several major labels wanted to sign the Rave-Ups.  The Rave-Ups were grateful for Fun Stuff'x role in the success of “Town and Country”, but they wanted national distribution through a larger label.  The small indie label Fun Stuff Records held a six year contract and demanded a large contract buyout.  Fun Stuff threaten to sue the Rave-Ups if they even talked to another label. A two year legal battle ensued and the Rave-Ups were prevented from recording.  They continued to perform in L.A. 

After agreeing to terms with Fun Stuff Epic Records signed the Rave-Ups in 1987.  Epic released the album “Book of Your Regrets in 1988.  It was produced and engineered by Grammy winner David Leonard.  Reviewer Robert Christgau of the Village Voice gave the album a B+ and raved about Terry Wilson’s guitar:”Terry Wilson's indubitable guitar-banjo-lapsteel-keybs-etc. demanded the percussive kinetics. The boy can't be stopped, his virtuosity serving a song-form rock and roll that's implosive rather than onrocking, pyrotechnic rather than jet-propelled.”

The Rave-Ups second Epic album “Chance” was released in 1990.  The album was named for Beth Ringwald and Jimmer Podrasky’s son Chance who is on the cover. Allmusic.com reviewer Steve Kurutz praises the album: “Much of Chance, with its snide attitude and thick, clean riffs, sounds like vintage Who or Kinks. …The hooks are endless … "She Says Come Around," "The Best I Can," and "Respectfully King of Rain" sound like they were written for the radio -- and the playing is superb.”
Although the two Epic releases
received good reviewes the label did little to promote the band.  After a management shake-up the Rave-Ups where
dropped from the Epic roster.

Actress Shannon Doherty, who was briefly engaged to Jimmer Podrasky, helped the Rave-Ups book an appearance on the television show Beverly Hills 90201.  Shannon played the part of Brenda on the show.  In the 1991 episode entitled “Spring Dance” The Rave-Ups played at Brenda and Brandon’s Junior prom.  It was the last performance of the Rave-Ups.  They broke-up afterwards.  

In an interview is Acftec.com Jimmer Podrasky said that he broke up the band as he wanted to be a dad to raise his son Chance and he was “exasperated” by the music industry.  Years later Podrasky formed the band the Lovin' Miserys with ex-Concrete Blonde drummer Harry Rushakoff. They released the “Happy as Hell” CD in 1996 hoping to draw label attention.

Best of the Rave-Up Songs

Rave-Ups Playlist (Click Here to Play)

Arsenio Hall (1989)

Jimmer Podrasky
Town and County (Funstuff 1985)
The Book of Your Regrets (Epic 1988)
Chance (Epic 1990)