Donnie Backus- Keyboards, Vocals (bckgr) Johnny Badanjek- Drums, Vocals, Vocals (bckgr) Jack Douglas- Percussion, Producer David Gilbert- Vocals, Vocals (bckgr) Bobby Neil-Haralson- Bass Jim McCarty- Guitar, Vocals (bckgr) Dennis Robbins- Guitar, Vocals (bckgr) Z. Jimmy- Harmonica
The Rockets were formed in 1972 by former Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheelsmembers Johnny "Bee" Bandajek and Jim McCarty. Vocals and drums were handled by Bandajek, McCarty was on lead guitar, John Fraga was on bass and Marc Marcano was on keyboards. Johnny Bee was the driving force and primary songwriter for the Rockets. In the early days, The Rockets paid their dues playing gigs at venues such as, The Rainbow Room and The Peoples Ballroom in Detroit, and The Rock 'N Roll Farm in Wayne Michigan. The band took on a new sound in 1976 when David Gilbert was brought in to take over vocals from Johnny Bee. Gilbert had fronted several garage bands and had a brief stint singing for Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes in 1971. His drinking and drug habits didn't set too well with the Motor City Madman. Gilbert's raw vocal power proved to be just the ticket to complete the Rockets sound. However, as Nugent had before them, Bandajek and McCarty quickly realized Gilbert would be trouble for the band with his frequent drug and booze binges. The friction between them would go on for seven years before it eventually tore the band apart. Five studio albums produced several minor hits including a rocking rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well". Always a popular group in Detroit, and Michigan, The Rockets had gotten some attention outside of the state, but never really got the big break to become a true national act. The first album, Love Transfusion, was released in 1977. It failed to produce any hits. The 1979 self-titled release featured the hits, "Oh Well" and "Turn Up The Radio". This record also featured on bass, David Hood, one of the "Swampers" from the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama. Muscle Shoals was mentioned in Lynyrd Skynyrd's southern rock anthem "Sweet Home Alabama". Also, this Rockets album was dedicated to Skynyrd members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, who all perished in Skynyrds infamous 1977 plane crash. The third attempt came in 1980 with "No Ballads", "Desire" was a popular tune from this album. Next came the "Back Talk" album in '81 and then finally "Rocket Roll" in 1982. "Rollin' By The Record Machine" from this release was the last hit for the band. The final release, "Live Rockets" was recorded on New Years Eve 1982 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre near Detroit. The Rockets performed for their last two shows at Pine Knob (now known as DTE Energy Music Theatre) near Detroit on August 28th & 29th, 1983. The band splintered and the members all went their separate ways. Bandajek, McCarty and the rest went on to other projects. Gilbert played in a couple of short-lived local bands and ended up taking a job hanging drywall. His lifelong abuse of drugs and alcohol along with divorces, death and suicide had taken its toll. Former rock star David Gilbert was 49 when he died of cirrhosis in 2001. R.I.P. David. (http://dearbornflashback.com/rockets.asp)
Back Talk1. Back Talk - 3.52 2. Jealous - 4.09 3. Lift You Up - 3.43 4. Shanghaied - 3.59 5. Love For Hire - 3.59 6. I Can't Get Satisfied - 3.44 7. Tired Of Wearing Black - 4.15 8. I'll Be Your Lover - 3.20 9. American Dreams - 3.53 10. Lie To Me - 5.04 Rocket Roll1. Rollin' By The Record Machine - 3.51 2. Rock 'N' Roll Girl - 3.15 3. Gonna Crash - 3.09 4. (I Wanna) Testify - 3.53 5. Gimme Your Love - 3.17 6. Born In Detroit - 3.13 7. All Night Love - 3.19 8. Kid With The Heart - 4.01 9. Rollin' And Tumblin' - 4.30 10. Mean Streets - 2.54
Review by Tim Sendra Detroit's Rockets are not one of the groups people might think of when considering that city's storied history of great bands — for a reason, since they weren't all that special. Still, they have a vital link to the Detroit sound as drummer Johnny "Bee" Badanjek was in Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels and Detroit and guitarist Jim McCarty was also in the Detroit Wheels and went on to join the failed supergroup Cactus. Their 1979 record, Rockets (Turn Up the Radio), had two pretty solid AOR staples (in the Detroit area anyway) in their blistering cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" and the rollicking "Turn Up the Radio." By the time of 1981's Back Talk, the band was still in the netherworld of being a perennial opening act and really struggling to survive. It shows in the music, as almost every song seems to be aping another act or trying a different sound. Mostly though, they sound like a good bar band of the early '80s, able to crank out good-time summer rock & roll ("Back Talk"), moody ballads ("Jealous"), blue-eyed soul ("Lift You Up," "Lie to Me"), lighter-waving ballads ("Tired of Wearing Black"), and tunes to get the girls out on the dancefloor ("I Can't Get Satisfied," "I'll Be Your Lover"). At times (especially when Badnajek takes over the vocals from somewhat shrill David Gilbert), they sound a lot like Huey Lewis & the News, a good-natured bunch of lifers with loads of talent and spunk. They just don't have the songs or the personality that Lewis had. Their 1982 album, Rocket Roll, represents a dramatic drop-off in quality. The warm Jack Douglas production of Back Talk is gone and is replaced by a glossy sound that pulls off the neat trick of sounding over-produced and under-played at once. The songs are forced and thin, and nearly every one is an uptempo rocker that attempts to sound exciting — but it just sounds like the band is desperate. Desperation rarely makes for good AOR records, only good art, and the Rockets were AOR to the core. The lyrical concerns of the songs are pretty flimsy, the main topics being rockin', testifyin', mean streets, rock & roll girls, and record machines. Great topics for a group that is making exciting music, but these guys were in the throes of their last gasp at making a record the "kids" might dig. They didn't dig it and the band called it a day soon after the record justifiably flopped. In 2005 Wounded Bird put the two records together on a two-fer CD. Too bad they didn't put out Turn Up the Radio instead.
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