Hearing the Dwight Twilley Band’s “I’m On Fire” in 1975 was an invigorating, ear-opening experience. That blast of jangling electric guitar and Twilley’s quaky voice, sounding like it had emerged from a time tunnel, was a remarkably fresh contrast to the stale crop of songs on Top Forty radio at the time. Twilley’s sound was a luscious synthesis of British and American influences — the Beatles and Elvis Presley were noted — but the band (which included drummer Phil Seymour, who passed away in 1993) was able to use those rootsy sources to create their own trademark sound.
After the success of that single, however, the band found itself on a label that was in the flux of distribution weirdness. Even though the band had other songs ready, they were not able to get their excellent debut album, Sincerely, into stores until the following year, and by that time the momentum fueled by “I’m On Fire” had sadly evaporated. The band’s solid second album, Twilley Don’t Mind, released in 1977, included a terrific single in “Looking for the Magic” but that one also failed to ignite.
Most of Dwight Twilley’s career has been similarly riddled with misfortune and missed chances. Good albums and lots of wonderful songs but no airplay or poor promotion, labels folding, distribution stifled. But Twilley continued to persevere and kept recording, even scoring another minor hit with “Girls” off his Jungle album in 1984. Over the past few decades, very much under the radar, he has continued to make consistently good music, releasing several collections of rarities, some new studio sets, a live album, a Christmas album, and even a Beatles tribute album. I recently picked up, The Luck, an album he released in 2001. To my ears, it ranks with the best material he’s ever recorded. Nothing but strong songs, all packed with hooks and Twilley’s uncanny ability to turn a phrase.
His most recent album, 2010’s Green Blimp, has also received favorable reviews, some comparing it to his classic early albums. In fact, original Dwight Twilley Band guitarist Bill Pitcock IV guests on Green Blimp, as do Susan Cowsill and Rocky Burnette. Sounds like this is another one I’ll need to add to my wish list.