For the title of their 1970 album on the Kama Sutra label, the members of Hackamore Brick opined that One Kiss Leads to Another. One album clearly didn’t lead to another, though, as the four-man Brooklyn band didn’t release more music until 2009 – and even then, with only two of the founding members. Yet Hackamore Brick’s one and only record has grown in stature over the years, well-regarded in cult circles for its proto-punk, Velvet Underground-like mood. Real Gone has just reissued One Kiss Leads to Another in a beautifully remastered, expanded edition, revealing it as one cult curio that defies easy categorization.
On One Kiss Leads to Another, minimalist folk-rock guitars coexist with laconic, Lou Reed-meets-country vocals, ragged harmonies, and Doors-like keyboard textures. As produced by Richard Robinson, it has a lo-fi, primal sound that was in marked contrast to that of the band’s Kama Sutra labelmates. Tommy Moonlight (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Chick Newman (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Robbie Biegel (drums) and Bob Roman (bass) were signed by Kama Sutra when the label was seeking to diversify from the likes of the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express. Bubblegum, this is not.
It’s hard to avoid Velvet Underground comparisons, particularly to the group’s self-titled third album. Yet Hackamore Brick’s songwriting team of Newman and Moonlight claimed to have finished writing before ever hearing of Lou, Maureen, Sterling and company. Nonetheless, Newman’s dry, deadpan vocals recall Reed’s, while the hypnotic drone of many songs here echoes the Velvets’ approach, too. As much as the Velvets themselves, though, One Kiss Leads to Another brings to mind disciples like Television and The Modern Lovers. Hackamore Brick’s simple rock-and-roll circa 1970 sounds, today, almost shockingly ahead of its time, and not too far from today’s crop of low-key indie rockers, either. But if commercial pop or rock was the aim, it apparently didn’t come easy to Moonlight and Newman. Much of the album sounds like the work of two creative, energized young men trying hard – and failing – to write pop hits. (Even The Velvet Underground was pursuing a more accessible direction at the time with the eponymous album and follow-up Loaded.) Hackamore Brick’s gloriously offbeat failure, though, was unquestionably an artistic success for underground rock. It’s easy to see why crate-diggers have conspiratorially spoken of One Kiss Leads to Another as a must-listen.
Hit the jump for a closer look at One Kiss Leads to Another!
Though Hackamore Brick hailed from the mean streets of New York (as depicted on that striking and hip cover), there’s a beguiling, youthful innocence behind the often-oblique lyrics. (That alone differentiates the group from the Velvet Underground!) Darkness lurks around the edges of otherwise-mellow tracks like the album-opening “Reachin’.” Newman’s elegiac melody and the ragged harmony vocals contribute to an atmosphere of paranoia: “What will you do when they’re comin’ after you, tellin’ you to move? Start hidin’…” Haunting, spare and atmospheric arrangements color Moonlight’s “Got a Gal Named Wilma,” Moonlight and Bob Roman’s “Peace Has Come,” and Newman’s “And I Wonder.” The latter builds to an extended keyboard jam-freakout, and makes it one of the few tracks on One Kiss that seem of its time; others, like “Zip Gun Woman,” sound straight out of the CBGB’s scene of a few years later.
The title of Moonlight’s “Oh! Those Sweet Bananas” proves that the band’s proclivity for offbeat turns of phrase didn’t end with the name Hackamore Brick. The girl group-esque title One Kiss Leads to Another is drawn from this song which might have been a good candidate for single release. At under 2-1/2 minutes’ length, “Bananas” is the kind of pop that Frank Zappa might have been proud of: “Papa owned a business selling fruits and vege-tables/The old man, he was lonely, there was nobody to eat his apples…” Perhaps, too, it’s the only pop song to attempt a rhyme of vegetables and apples! Musically, it’s a stripped-down variation on fifties R&B. That connection is underscored by a rough-and-tumble, aggressive cover of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s Coasters hit “Searchin’” which underplays the familiar “Gonna find her” refrain. “Searchin’” was released as a single only, and it’s included here as one of three bonus tracks.
Tommy Moonlight’s “Radio” was released by Kama Sutra on a promotional single: “It’s so groovy, you can sit yourself down, tune into your favorite station, get in some good relaxation as you listen for dedication that you called in to the radio.” With its “AM, FM, all day, all night radio” chorus, it begins as lyrically bizarre as Brian Wilson’s mid-seventies D.I.Y. music-making – think “Solar System” or “Johnny Carson.” But the song gets unexpectedly stranger when a drag race ensues with an off-putting result. “Finger” and “window” get rhymed (!) and “Radio” has become a “death disc” that never was. It’s a memorable, almost-commercial track with just the right amount of depraved kookiness. The boogie-woogie piano on Moonlight’s “I Watched You Rhumba” (“You got a heart sweet as country cider, and you know the sun shines brighter whenever you’re around”) adds another instrumental color to the mix.
In addition to “Searchin’,” producers Gordon Anderson (for Real Gone) and Rob Santos (for Sony) have included the promotional single of “Radio” b/w “Rhumba.” All three bonus tracks are in punchy mono. The former emphasizes the vocals a bit more, and the piano sounds more subtle on the latter. The single of “Radio” is a particularly welcome inclusion here, seeing as the lyrics are somewhat difficult to decipher on the proper album thanks to a muddy mix frequently obscuring them. The mix also features a pronounced use of stereo panning.
The raw, unpolished sound of Hackamore Brick may have been too outré for Kama Sutra, but it shouldn’t be missed by those listeners willing to take a walk on the wild side. This slow-burning New York underground classic has come into its own with Real Gone’s stellar reissue, impeccably remastered by Vic Anesini. Tony Rettman has supplied new liner notes to top off the package, assessing it as a favorite album of his while acknowledging its “peculiar – and sometimes gritty – edge.” That edge sets it apart from virtually every other genre occupying the Top 40 in 1970, and as such, it’s worth exploring for the musically adventurous out there. Though undoubtedly a rock curiosity, One Kiss just might lead to a new favorite album.
You can order One Kiss Leads to Another here!