I have to admit that one of the major reasons that I became a reviewer was the opportunity it afforded to talk to new people. In many ways these are old friends, that we just have not yet met. Firefall were a hugely popular band in the latter half of the 1970’s. Unfortunately like so many bands of the time, they became a victim of the record label they recorded for, and even worse, victims of the good life. One man though has flown the Firefall flag for over 30 years, and that is Jock Bartley. I had the opportunity to catch up with this engaging, and very down to earth musician.
Hi Jock, thanks so much for taking time to talk with us here at Blogger News Network. Maybe we could start with a little history about Firefall, the band was originally formed in the 70’s?
Yes, it all started in 1974, in Boulder Colorado. Rick Roberts of the Flying Burrito Brothers was also living in Boulder, and through some coincidences we started jamming together. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a soloist, or part of a band, but playing with Rick, well band seemed the obvious step. We rounded the band out with Mark Andes on bass, and Michael Clarke. We were not, as the record label was calling us, Super Stars, but we certainly packed some Fire Power!
One of the greatest moments was when we first got together to practice, we already had over 30 original songs in our play book. That was enough for almost 3 albums.
What many people don’t realize is that at that time Boulder Colarado was an absolute hot bed for music, it was not unusual for us to play a gig and have Steven Stills or Dan Fogelberg guest on our set.
This was a most fortunate time for us. Our debut album in 1976 was well received, and successful. Everyone in the band had their own sound, we didn’t need to copy other styles, it seemed that everything we played just sounded like Firefall. I supose that you could say we had a natural sound.
What went wrong, what happened to Firefall, and what brought about reassembling the alumni after so many years
Firefall burned brightly for 4 or 5 years, we had some albums that went Gold and Platinum, plus a string of singles that charted well. Maybe one of the greatest thrills for me was being the opening act for Fleetwood Mac, we did that for about 6 months. There I was, sharing the same stage with the worlds most famous band. There are not many people that can claim they have played in front of a 100,000 crowd. Yes, looking back, it was luck and timing. But we had hit the big time.
We also gradually self destructed. three of the band members had drinking and substance abuse issues. That combined with being screwed by our record label made for a bad situation. The record business was an ugly one back in the 70’s, it didn’t seem to matter that you were selling millions of albums, we had sold something like 5 million, yet we were still broke, in fact we owed money!
The labels were taking 90% or even 95% of the revenue, sure, they supported you on tours, but then you had to repay them, and that was coming out of your 5%. The average hit band was living in poverty!
The bottom fell out before we even knew it. Atlantic wanted money out of us, even though they had made millions from us, we had sold over 5 million albums, and done who knows how many concerts. With this as the backdrop the group disintegrated.
When we created Firefall as a legal entity we had included a rider that should any member leave the band they lost the rights to use the name. It was not long before I realized that I was the only one left!
The 80’s saw a big change in the musical landscape, Punk, Disco, and various other styles really put a brake on rock music. The fans were not there, and neither were the labels or backers. But I decided to soldier on, and have assembled a great team of players. And best of all, we are friends, and we have fun playing together.
It is my observation, that suddenly Firefall and Jock Bartley are everywhere.
Oh, hardly, but I do thank you for saying that. The music business is a tough one, it is very hard to get attention these days. The traditional vehicles, the labels, have disappointed so many artists that they have moved to other media, the Internet being a good example.
I have a very positive attitude about my latest song Walk More Softly. Here I am, in my late 50’s, music is what I do, well, I am also an artist, but music is what pays the bills. After the original band fell apart, I moved into much more serious song writing. In the 70’s I was not a mainstream writer, but that changed in the 80’s. Oh, and many of them were not rock, I did a lot of Country, and a lot of Heavy Metal, the catalog was growing by 100-150 songs a year!
Fed up with the shabby treatment I had received from the record labels, I started my own. I had all of these songs, and I wanted to feature them. Getting a writing credit is OK, but it is so much better when you get to perform them as well.
In Part Two, we will catch up with Jock in more recent times, his move into the green movement, the Firefall reunion concert, a CD and DVD of the concert are due out in the coming months, and maybe best of all, some of his future plans.