Rome 56 straddles the line between Americana and British 60’s pop. Arthur Lamonica (lead singer/ songwriter/guitarist) was a founding member of The Shirts, signed to EMI, and penned their top hits“Tell Me Your Plans“ and “Laugh And Walk Away”. Art was a player in the golden age of CBGB’s, toured Europe supporting Peter Gabriel, and recorded at Abbey Road Studios.
In Rome 56 Art has surrounded himself with a mix of talented musicians in the US and Europe, producing 5 cd’s (Spotify, iTunes, etc.). Rome 56 has been playing the NY music scene with shows at Bowery Electric, Mercury Lounge, The Cutting Room and currently enjoying a 2nd year residency at East Village “SideWalk NYC”. The band has also performed in Europe and U.K. at venues including Duke’s Whitstable in Kent, Paradiso in Amsterdam, and Q-factory in Amsterdam (Jul 2018).
The Shirts had their roots in Brooklyn, where Robert Racioppo and Artie Lamonica had been playing together on and off as early as 1970. Members of the band were gradually added (including lead singer Annie Golden) in the next three years. The band got its name when Racioppo, having just broken up his existing band, asserted his desire to form a new one, and his indifference to its name: “call it anything … shirts … pants … shoes … The Shirts!” The newly named band, eventually including nine musicians, played covers at small venues in New York until, in 1975, they went to a show at CBGB featuring Patti Smith and were inspired to play there using only their original material.
The Shirts auditioned for CBGB owner Hilly Kristal which resulted in the band being hired, first to open for other bands (including Television and the Talking Heads), then to play as the headliner band. As the band honed their skills and developed new songs, they played at such other local venues as Max’s Kansas City. Like many of the bands championed by Kristal, their sound was actually more pop and dance-oriented than the “art bands” that became famous in association with CBGB. Although little interest was initially shown in the band by American record labels, The Shirts were featured on a double compilation album featuring the major bands of the CBGB scene in the mid-70s, Live at CBGB. However, Nick Mobbs at EMI (who had signed the Sex Pistolsto the label) signed the band to EMI’s Harvest label in the fall of 1977, and assigned Mike Thorne (who had also worked on Sex Pistols albums) to produce their first album. Largely for corporate purposes, the band was signed by EMI in conjunction with its US subsidiary label,Capitol Records, which had initially passed on signing the band. This formality would eventually have a significant impact on the band’s early history.
The first album, The Shirts, was recorded in London (while lead singer Golden commuted back to the US to shoot Miloš Forman’s screen version of Hair) and released in 1978, and became very popular in Europe, the single Tell Me Your Planscharting in the top five in the Netherlands for example. The band went on to tour Europe opening for Peter Gabriel, at his request.
Thorne chose to record the band’s second album, Streetlight Shine (1979), at Mediasound Studio in New York City. The resulting sound was much more eclectic than their debut album, and the album was again a financial and critical success in Europe, the single Laugh and Walk Away again charting high in the Netherlands. However, breakthrough in the US market continued to elude the band.
For the third album, Capitol Records made a deal with EMI in which the band would be signed solely to Capitol. Now under Capitol’s management rather than Thorne’s, recording went poorly and the resulting album, Inner Sleeve (1980), was not properly supported by the label, only 10,000 copies being pressed. It was a signal failure for the band, and although they continued playing for another two years, the large band (nine members at its height) had been reduced to four players, and essentially broke up in 1981.
8pm. Tickets £10
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