Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Third Rail(s)?

It was not unusual for there to be more than one group going under the same moniker during the sixties, and I suspect we have a case of that here. The Third Rail was Joey Levine, Artie Resnick and his wife Kris Resnick. The band was strictly a studio group, and released one album, ID Music, on Epic in 1967, followed by a few singles. "Run, Run, Run" the lead off track on the album was a minor hit and was featured on the original Nuggets anthology. All three members were later involved with numerous bubblegum hits.

Recently I picked up a single by The Third Rail, and I can't shake the feeling that it's by a totally different group. The single "The Subway Train That Came To Life"/"A-Train Rush Hour Stomp" was issued in 1966 on the Cameo label (C-445-A/B). The A-side is a novelty number with a 20s flavor and prominent kazoo. The B-side is a similar sounding instrumental. The music on this single doesn't sound entirely like the music featured on ID Music or the subsequent singles, but it doesn't sound dissimilar enough to convince me that it's impossible these are by the same band. But I can't find any mention of the Cameo single in any Third Rail discographies, and the songwriting credit on the single is to "M. Barkan, A. Wayne, R. Evans." Since Levine and the Resnicks were all songwriters first and foremost, the idea that they would have outside writers for their first single doesn't make a lot of sense to me. In the end, that is the most compelling argument for this not being the same band.

On the other hand, I can't find any information that would definitively prove these are different bands either, and the name and time period are the same. If "Subway Train" is by a different Third Rail, it was almost certainly the only thing they ever issued (under that name at least), and they at least sound a little like the other Third Rail. I've done a lot of web searching, and haven't come up with any definitive answers, so if someone could help me out with more information, I would appreciate it.

ID Music
was reissued a few years ago with bonus tracks by Rev-Ola, but now seems to have fallen out-of-print. Rev-Ola included all of the Epic singles that followed the release of the album, but not the Cameo single (another factor that makes me suspect this may be a different band). In any case, I highly recommend tracking down a copy of the reissue. So many reissues of 60s music are hyped as "the great lost album of the 60s," and often they disappoint. But ID Music is a genuine classic, and in many ways a unique release. The Third Rail created a fantastic amalgam of psychedelia, absurdist humor, and social commentary, while keeping a sure grasp on the craft of pop songwriting. If the album has one weakness it that it some of the songs ("From A Parachute," "Invisible Man") come off as too self-consciously "serious," although that flaw is more than compensated for by the flashes of surrealistic humor.

"She Ain't No Choir Girl" was issued as a single and is featured as a bonus track on the CD. You might think you know what a song called "She Ain't No Choir Girl" is about, but trust me you don't. The song starts off about like you would expect, then suddenly takes a series of weird and twisted detours.

So can anyone help me clear up this mystery? Are these two songs by the same group? I would think not, but I'm not certain by any means.

**As I've been writing this post, I've been doing some parallel web searching, and now I'm pretty sure the single is by the same Third Rail. The "A. Wayne" in the songwriting credits is Artie Wayne, a long time music industry pro who was apparently bitten by the blogging bug. He mentions representing Artie Resnick and Joey Levine in his blog, so it would have to be an enormous coincidence for these to be different bands. It is possible the tracks on the single were penned by Levine and the Resnicks, and credited to the others because of publishing/royalty arrangements. Looks like I'm offering you a pretty darn rare recording by The Third Rail. I'm going to see if I can get more information out of Wayne. Still, any added information would be appreciated.

Update, Mystery Solved: Artie Wayne emailed me with an answer:
"The First 3rd Rail was Mark Barkan and myself on a one shot master I sold Cameo. Some time later Artie, Joey and Chris by coincidence came up with the same name. Since Mark and I had no plans to continue recording we just let 'em use it."
I hate it when I'm right, only to doubt myself and then be wrong. I should know to trust my instincts by now. Check out Artie's blog it's better than this one.


Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, there were multiple generations of The Phantom , "The Ghost Who Walks," as well.

Congrats on the sharp detective work.

Brian Hughes said...

The reissue is still available on Rev Ola - just checked Amazon! Cool blog by the way...

HarvestmanMan said...

Interesting. The songwriting credits you list also wrote many of the songs on the Banana Splits album. Ritchie Adams and Mark Barkan wrote the Banana Splits theme song.

Pete Bilderback said...

I did not know that. The Banana Splits stuff is awesome.