Billy Steinberg might not be a household name – but if you don’t know the name, you certainly know the songs: “Like a Virgin,” “True Colors,” “So Emotional,” and “Eternal Flame,” among them. But before Steinberg teamed up with Tom Kelly for those hits and more, he was signed to producer Richard Perry’s Planet Records as part of the band Billy Thermal. Though the band recorded an entire album for Planet in 1980, only a handful of tracks ever saw release. Omnivore Recordings has stepped up to finally deliver the original Billy Thermal album for the first time anywhere – plus bonus material!
When Perry formed Planet Records and signed its marquee act The Pointer Sisters, the producer was riding high from hit productions for everybody from Tiny Tim to Harry Nilsson to Barbra Streisand. Though he didn’t produce the sessions for Billy Thermal, ceding those duties to frontman Steinberg and guitarist Craig Hull, Perry was an early champion of the oddly-named group featuring Steinberg, Hull, Efren Espinosa on drums and future “Butterfly Kisses” artist Bob Carlisle on bass. (The moniker was reportedly derived from Steinberg’s first name and the city of Thermal, California to which his family had ties.) Billy Thermal was featured with a host of other young groups such as The dB’s, The Know, and Single Bullet Theory on Planet’s 1980 sampler Sharp Cuts – New Music from American Bands.
Steinberg’s big break, however, came when Linda Ronstadt heard Billy Thermal’s “How Do I Make You” and recorded the song for her new wave-flavored Mad Love album alongside tracks by Elvis Costello and Neil Young. “How Do I Make You” made the Top 10. Two other songs first recorded by Billy Thermal, “Precious Time” and “I’m Gonna Follow You” found fans in Pat Benatar. The rocker titled her third record after “Precious Time,” while “Follow You” appeared on her fourth LP, Crimes of Passion. Even Rick Nelson was hip to Steinberg’s songs; he recorded “Don’t Look at Me” on his final album of original material.
There’s more after the jump including the complete track listing!
Just five songs from Billy Thermal appeared on the band’s self-titled EP; Omnivore’s first-time release of the complete album includes all 12 tracks. It adds three demos including the original of “Don’t Look at Me.” The package is topped off with new liner notes from Billy Steinberg and photographs from the original album photo shoot.
Billy Steinberg went onto bigger things after Billy Thermal; in addition to the previously mentioned songs from Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Whitney Houston and The Bangles, he also has The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand by You,” Heart’s “Alone” and Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself” all to his credit. Billy Thermal – described by Omnivore as “a record that still sounds fresh and energetic” – allows a listen to the talent at the ground floor of all those future hits (including five No. 1s). It’s due from Omnivore on August 12 and can be pre-ordered below!
- I Tell You My Dream
- How Do I Make You
- The Price I Pay
- Precious Time
- I’m Your Baby
- They Didn’t See It
- I Need You
- I’m Gonna Follow You
- Mirror Man
- No Connection
- Don’t Look at Me (Demo)
- Chez Metz (Demo)
- Fa Fa Feelings (Demo)
All tracks previously unissued except Tracks 1-2, 6, 8 & 10 previously released on EP