BANG (L to R): Frank Gilcken (guitar), Tony Diorio (drums), Frank Ferrara (bass)
If you’re a fan of the druggy, pimply, riff-laden hesher rock as heard on the very very wonderful Brown Acid and Acid Nightmares compilations, then you might want to check out the unsung proto-doom metal group BANG, who released three full-length albums for Capitol Records in the early 1970s. Originally formed in Philadelphia in late 1969 by 16-year-old high school dropouts Frank Ferrara (vocals, bass) and Frank Gilcken (guitar), the duo added 26-year-old Tony Diorio on drums when he answered their “help wanted” ad in a local newspaper. After a year and a half of practicing in a basement, the lads took a road trip to Florida to see what might happen. Hearing about a Rod Stewart & the Faces/Deep Purple double bill in Orlando, they went to the venue and auditioned for the promoter, earning them an immediate opening slot. Soon they’d open for Steppenwolf, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Deep Purple, Three Dog Night, Yes, The Byrds, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, J Geils Band, The Kinks, Ike and Tina Turner, Allman Brothers, Dr. John, Joe Cocker, The Doobie Brothers, BB King, Chuck Berry, The James Gang, Mountain, Guess Who, Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, Nazareth, Jethro Tull, Billy Preston, Funkadelic and Black Sabbath, a group BANG idolized and was often compared to. Fleetwood Mac even opened for them!
Capitol Records released their eponymous debut album BANG in 1972, which made it to #164 on Billboard’s Top 200, with a reviewer at the publication commenting that the band “on first listen sound incredibly like Led Zeppelin…they play at the same frenetic pace as Zeppelin, and Frank Ferrara’s vocals are so similar to those of Robert Plant’s as to be downright amazing.” Ah, if only talent, hard work and ambition were enough!.
In rapid succession came the albums Mother/Bow to the King (1972), and Music (1973), but all three of them basically flopped as Capitol’s A&R people sadly had no idea what to do with BANG. The three moved on to other things after Music failed to gain any traction in the charts, but they reunited in 1996 and continue to perform live. Their tale is told in The BANG Story: From the Basement to the Bright Lights written by the band with Lawrence Knorr and published earlier this year.
Via email, BANG told Dangerous Minds:
“The Sound of BANG is our own; big and powerful, guitar driven. Melodic and dynamic. Many notable shows stand out from over the years, but one of coolest was opening a show for Black Sabbath, a band we loved. As we were leaving town the next morning, we were listening to the radio and the host brought up the fact that BANG had stolen the show…that’s when we realized we really belonged with the “big boys”. It was the three of us against the world and music was our lives. No TV, no news, just playing, writing and recording.”
“The BANG story is so unique, in just what happened. It was 1971, seven years after The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan. Rehearsing every night for eighteen months got us so tight…not just musically, but as people and friends. I really believe that if you work hard enough for something, you can inflict your will and make things happen. The fact that we just decided on a whim to go to Florida, walked into a music store at five minutes to nine because we needed rolling papers, and ended opening up for Rod Stewart and Deep Purple was awesome. I believe that break came to us because of all the hard work and the eighteen months that we put into it.”
“More than anything, that the biggest takeaway is the fact that three guys from a small little town were able to craft a destiny for ourselves and the fact that we were contemporaries to all the great bands of that era makes us extremely proud and humble.”
Preorder The Best of BANG here.
If you’d like more of the BANG story, here’s video bio of the group:
Stream ‘The Best of BANG’ after the jump…