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Robert Hazard

Excerpt from Robert Hazard's bio on roberthazard.com

In the late ‘70s, I became enraptured with the punk movement – Dead Boys, Ramones, Pistols, Clash, etc., and formed a band, Robert Hazard and the Heroes. We played every bar in the Philadelphia area. We were either working or rehearsing seven nights a week for two years.

Robert at the 2004 Philadelphia Folk Festival, photo courtesy roberthazard.com>>

By 1981, the band had become well-known in the area. I had written some strong material and the band was getting tight. My generous Uncle Vaughn loaned me $12,000 to make a five-song EP which we recorded at Sigma Sound. By 1982, the self-produced EP had sold over 50,000 copies locally.

One night, we were playing a little joint called J.C. Dobbs on South Street. Kurt Loder was in town to review the opening of a world tour by another band called the Rolling Stones, who were playing at JFK Stadium that same night. After the Stones concert, Kurt stopped into Dobbs for a beer. I stayed up talking with him till five o’clock in the morning. The next month, there was a two-page spread in Rolling Stone Magazine, pictures and all, raving about the band. Soon after that, we were signed to RCA Records.

RCA did a national release of the EP featuring the song “Escalator of Life,” getting us into the 50s on the Billboard chart. We played everywhere from clubs to concert arenas, including all the music television shows like Bandstand and Solid Gold. We toured with U2 and the Motels and on our own for about a year. Then we made the Wing of Fire full length album. “Escalator of Life” and “Change Reaction” were featured on MTV.

Back in ’79, I had written a song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” In 1984, Cyndi Lauper had a big hit with it. The song continues to live on classic rock radio and on TV commercials like the Carnival Cruise Line ads.


Philadelphia Inquirer: Entertainment

Posted on Wed, Jun. 02, 2004

Hazard just wants to share new songs


Inquirer Music Critic

Robert Hazard, once a Philly rock idol, is back at 55 with new, rootsier tunes that tell stories.
I M A G E S   A N D   R E L A T E D   C O N T E N T
Robert Hazard, once a Philly rock idol, is back at 55 with new, rootsier tunes that tell stories.
R E L A T E D    L I N K S
 •  Escalator of Life - Rober Hazard
 •  Everbody's Talkin' - Robert Hazard

The story of Robert Hazard is every songwriter's fantasy: One day, in a 15-minute burst of inspiration, he dreams up a simple melody, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," that catches the new-wave moment perfectly and becomes a 1983-84 megahit for Cyndi Lauper. It becomes a pop perennial, used over and over in movies, the soundtrack of two generations.

Its success means that Hazard, now 55, never has to work again. At one point in the '90s, he estimated that "Girls" had generated more than $1 million in royalties. And that's the velvet handcuff.

"Sure, it sounds great," groans the former Philly rock institution, sitting in one of his old haunts, Sassafras restaurant in Old City. The singer and songwriter, who lives in Vero Beach, Fla., is gearing up to present his first new material in a decade - he'll perform Friday at The Point in Bryn Mawr - and is blunt about the downside of his strange brand of celebrity.

"Think about it: What kind of a living is that? Sooner or later you begin to wonder what you've got to contribute. You have to go back to work, just for yourself."

Hence Hazard's The Seventh Lake, an album of rootsy, blues-inflected songs far different from the nerve-jangling new wave he made with the Heroes in the late '70s and early '80s. The album was produced by T-Bone Wolk, and features tart Hazard meditations on information overload ("Everybody's Talkin' ") and regret ("Whole Lot of Water"), being dazzled by his young daughter's beauty ("Pretty Little Thing") and haunted by a strange New Jersey thoroughfare ("Route 666," the road between Tuckahoe and Berlin that Hazard traveled frequently when he lived in the area.)

The tunes were a litmus test for Hazard, who has a second career as an antiques dealer with shops in South Florida and the Adirondacks. He never stopped writing and recording at home, and during the last few years he composed a batch that were, in his estimation, particularly strong.

"I'm my own worst critic," says Hazard, who dropped "Girls" from his set after it became a hit for Lauper. "I have to really like something, because you never know, you might actually have to sing it all the time."

On Seventh Lake, Hazard says, his focus was lyrics. He set out to tell stories, not simply riff on an infectious idea.

"Somewhere in the last few years, the poetry has become really important to me," he explains, citing Bob Dylan, the Band and Van Morrison as some of the greats that inspired him. At times, he sounds like Scarecrow-era Mellencamp, tapping a wide range of folk and roots styles to spin his yarns. "I tried to really get inside the lyrics, and sometimes it felt almost back to how I started as a teenager, playing open-mike nights."

Hazard sent out demo versions to solicit feedback. "I didn't trust it at first," he explains. But as friends and trusted music associates reacted positively, Hazard got the message he was on the right track. "T-Bone was just so excited about the stuff. He had all these ideas about how to do [the songs], and it ended up being a great time, making the record."

Until Hazard finds the right label or distribution situation, Seventh Lake will be available at his performances and, soon, at local music shops and via the Internet. "I know this thing isn't going to be easy," he says of re-entering a business he left, somewhat disgruntled, in the '80s. "But it's something I want to pursue. I miss it, absolutely."

Asked what part he misses - the girls throwing bricks with panties wrapped around them through his Center City apartment window, the adulation of clubbers who packed places like the long-gone London Victory at 10th and Chestnut on Monday nights, or the music itself - the wry Hazard shoots back: the music.

For a few years there, he and the Heroes were the rising stars of Philly rock. His self-titled five-song debut EP, issued in 1982, included an infectious number called "Escalator of Life" that became a local hit. That got Hazard noticed, and he was signed to RCA, which reissued the EP, then followed it with the 1984 Wing of Fire. At the time, the band was working constantly, Hazard recalls.

"We were together seven nights a week. If we weren't playing, we were rehearsing, trying to create a sound. The guys would beg for nights off, and I was always like 'Girlfriends? We don't have time for girlfriends.' "

Despite his work ethic, Hazard's album didn't catch fire the way the label expected, and he was dropped, though the success of "Girls" gave Hazard a certain industry cachet and he remained a club draw. He issued his second RCA album, Darling, in 1986, and put out his last set of new material, Howl - an effort he describes as ill-conceived - in 1998.

Though he's anxious to get back, Hazard has some rules. He won't do oldies shows. And he plans to be very selective about even performing songs from his previous incarnation as the wiry rocker from Delaware County with the skinny necktie and new-wave pompadour.

"This guy from Atlantic City calls," Hazard chuckles. "He wants to do a whole Robert Hazard show, with the same outfits, the whole thing. He was offering a lot of money, but there was no way. I don't want to go back. That's why I'm not going to do the old Heroes songs - I might do one, like 'Hang Around With You.' That's it. They were part of a different time, not now. I've moved on."


Contact music critic Tom Moon at 215-854-4965 or tmoon@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/tommoon.

 

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