All images courtesy of Punky Meadows/Angel
By Andrew DiCecco
Prior to breaking his silence of more than 30 years to announce his return to the spotlight, Punky Meadows assumed he’d been long forgotten.
With each successful business venture, the former Angel guitarist further distanced himself from a drastically altered music industry. The same guitar hero who was once courted by KISS presumed he was the latest in a long line of musicians relegated to a mere footnote in the annals of rock ‘n’ roll history.
It wasn’t until the evolution of the internet, most notably, Facebook, that Meadows was able to comprehend how truly beloved he was around the world.
The iconic guitarist, who incredulously announced his return to the world of music in 2015, rewarded fans with a melodically driven solo album, Fallen Angel, a year later. Lauded for its newfound energy and diversification, Meadows’ initial comeback effort proved to be triumphant.
Three years later, Meadows would produce a much-anticipated follow-up album, reuniting with former Angel frontman Frank DiMino, for the appropriately titled Risen. The tandem returned to the familiar blueprint they had established 44 years earlier, resurrecting the spirit and essence of the band.
Meadows has surrounded himself with a strong support team, including producer, rhythm guitarist, and close friend Danny “The Farrow” Anniello and manager Ron Rainey. The pieces are in place for the multi-faceted guitarist and his team to enjoy continued success.
Punky Meadows eluded the public eye for over three decades before eventually breaking his silence. However, as far as the public was concerned, Meadows was gone but never forgotten.
I recently sat down with Punky to discuss his turbulent musical journey in a career-spanning interview.
Punky, I greatly appreciate you taking the time. I’d like to start by asking about your earliest memories in music. Your first brush with success came via The Cherry People, a group that quickly gained notoriety around the Tri-State area for its Pop sensibilities. Can you talk a bit about the origins of the band and its gradual progression?
Before The Cherry People, we were called The English Setters. That was about the British Invasion and stuff. I loved all those British bands back then and still do. The Animals are one of my favorite bands; Dave Clark Five is one of my all-time favorite bands. I mean, [Dave Clark Five] was the heaviest band back then, with that snare drum and stuff. The Animals were great too; when I’m writing songs, sometimes I’ll go back and listen to those songs and say, “This is how a song should be written.” I cut my teeth on the British Blues players: Clapton, Beck, Page, Gary Moore, David Gilmour. Also, growing up in [Washington] D.C., Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton were there, and they were really good friends of mine.
When we were The English Setters, we were just kids. Georgetown was the place to be, in Washington D.C., it was almost like [Greenwich] Village in New York. We would go into Georgetown and try to get some gigs at these clubs; we were underage, but the club owners would hire us because we were a pretty good little band. We would do Beatles stuff, all The [Rolling] Stones. All the English stuff. Plus, we played a lot of Motown, too, because I grew up on that kind of stuff. So, there’s a lot of diversity into my guitar playing, because I was surrounded by Virginia and Maryland, so there was a lot of country [music] coming out of there, too. I wasn’t into country music back then, but it did sink into me because I heard it all the time. It’s kind of part of my musical DNA.
But we were playing these clubs around Georgetown and I remember one time we were playing at this place called The Crazy Horse. We got a call from one of the clubs down the street saying that the ABC Board was there and they’re coming in and busting underage people. So, we had to get off the stage and leave, and we ran upstairs and got on top of the roof. We look down and saw the ABC Board and the police coming up and they came in. Of course, we got away. The club owner would have to let us go for about a month, and as soon as that cooled down, he hired us right back and said we could play again. So, it was a lot of fun.
When I was fifteen or sixteen, we went to New York. We played this show at the Sheridan Park Hotel in D.C. for some convention and we met Juliet Prowse, who was a famous actress. She fell in love with the band and asked us to come to New York. Through [Prowse], we met Bill Titone, who was the manager of Lionel Hampton, a famous jazz xylophone player. He also played the drums. So, Bill Titone signed us to a management contract, and we made a couple of 45s with him. The label was called Glad-Hamp Records. So, we did some tours with Lionel Hampton; the audience, they just loved us. Then, of course, Lionel Hampton would come on. That’s when I saw what professionalism was. It was amazing stuff to watch.
With the band building a steady following, did you ever feel inclined to branch out from the D.C. area and take the show on the road to continue the upward trajectory?
We did really well around town there in D.C., but you can’t really make it big in D.C.; you have to either be in L.A. or New York City. So, I called the band and said, “Let’s go to New York and try to get some shows up here in the Village.” We went up there during the Summer of Love in ’67, and we got a gig at the Café Wha? That’s where Hendrix was playing, and Bill Cosby would do stand-up comedy there.
Café Wha? is a very famous club in the Village. They didn’t sell alcohol; they just had milkshakes, cokes, and that sort of stuff. Some food. But it would be all screaming girls in there; we’d come on stage and the girls would just be screaming. We all had our Beatle haircuts and played all of Sgt. Pepper front to back. We threw some original stuff in there, too. I had original songs that I wrote when I was just a kid. In the English Setters, I wrote a couple of songs called “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog” and “Wake Up.”
Then, we got a contract with Ron Haffkine, who decided to manage us, because he thought we looked like The Monkees. So, they put us in the studio with Jerry Ross, who was with Heritage Records, an umbrella of MGM Records. We recorded The Cherry People album there. We didn’t play instruments on that album; we just sang. Back then, I had a high falsetto voice.
We recorded that album and went on tour. We went out to California, they had us dressed in these suits; one set was lime green; one set was banana yellow [laughs]. We played at this club called Arthur; Sybil Burton owned the spot at the time. She got the name Arthur from when The Beatles did “Hard Day’s Night,” and when they interviewed The Beatles, they asked George Harrison, “What do you call that haircut?” And he said, “Arthur.”
Then, we went on tour. We made a video for American Bandstand for Dick Clark. It was a Monkees kind of video; they had us dressed in costumes and sitting on a field – we had a hit song out called “And Suddenly,” and that was being played in the background. We were sitting on this blanket out on this big field, eating turkey legs. These girls come over with these gigantic butterfly nets and they start chasing us. They threw a net around each one of us and we all make these funny faces. It was like a Monkees video. I wish I could find that somewhere.
Shortly after, you adopted a heavier, more modern sound. What prompted you to alter the blueprint that had been so successful up to that point?
Like I said, they were making us into The Monkees. Then, what happened was, I really started getting into [Jimi] Hendrix, the English guitar players, and all that sort of stuff. I just didn’t want to do that anymore. So, we wound up going back to D.C., and we became the house band at the place called The Silver Dollar for three years straight. That’s where I learned all my chops. I didn’t want to be The Monkees; I wanted to write my own songs. We played six nights a week for three years straight. We played all the Top-40 stuff that you had to play and we also played a lot of original stuff, too. Back then, a lot of bands could get away with playing original stuff, because people wanted to hear that. So, we would play Motown, dance songs, British Invasion, played [Led] Zeppelin — even some Country songs. People loved it; that’s actually where I first wrote “White Lightening” when I was like eighteen. I kind of became the hotshot guitar player around town.
Then, we played at The Keg up the street for another two and a half years. And we also did The Bayou as the house band for two years, which was a famous club in Georgetown. The Bayou used to have musical acts that were big like KISS played at The Bayou when they came into town when they first started out. So, I played all those clubs around there with The Cherry People for, I don’t know, four or five years steady. I made a pretty good living; I had my own townhouse, nice car, and stuff like that. But I always wanted to get further than that. I would always say, “We’re never gonna make it just sitting here in D.C. Nobody comes to D.C. It’s a political town; it’s not a place for musicians to make it. We gotta go to New York.”
Your relationship with Gregg Giuffria predated Angel. What is your recollection from the introduction?
I had this girl that was a stripper, she really dug me and was living in New York at the time. She had an apartment up there and put the band up. We auditioned for a bunch of people up there, but nothing really came about. So, we went back to D.C. I was playing at The Bayou actually, and that’s when Gregg [Giuffria] showed up one night. He was from Biloxi, Mississippi, and was really cool. Gregg had a lot of charisma; he had really cool hair. He saw me playing there, and he said, “We gotta put a band together.” He really dug me a lot. I said, “That sounds cool.” We were working steadily [with The Cherry People] and making money, but that wasn’t my goal. I wanted to make it; I wanted to get out there and record. [The band] would roadblock me on that because every time we would leave, we would starve basically. We’d be sleeping on people’s floors and eating rice and stuff. We always wound up going back [to D.C.] where we could work and make money. But I said [to Gregg], “Okay, let’s do it.” So I told the guys I was leaving, did my last night there, and drove down to Biloxi, Mississippi.
I stayed at Gregg’s house for a couple of days and I went down to sit in with his band. I couldn’t stand the band; they were just horrible. They had this little singer and stuff. I go up there and sit in and I play “Let me Love You” by Jeff Beck. Everybody dug it, but I told Gregg, “This is a bad spot for me.” So, unfortunately, I turned around and went back home to D.C.
So, the leap of faith ultimately left you without a band. Had you given any thought to your next move on the ride back to D.C.?
I didn’t have a band, so I was talking to Mickie [Jones]. Mickie was one of my best friends; he would come to watch me play all the time with The Cherry People. So, Mickie said he was up in Boston, and said, “Hey, I’ve got this band. I work with this band with Ralph Morman and Jimmy Newlin called Daddy Warbux. Why don’t you come and play with us? We could be great.” I said, “Alright, that sounds cool,” because I knew I needed a gig, too. So I packed my stuff up – my guitars and my amps – got a U-Haul trailer and drove up to Boston and sat in with those guys and they loved it; it was great. I loved Ralph Morman, the singer; I mean, he was a great singer. Ralph came down to D.C. and sat in with us a couple of times and would sound just like Rod Stewart. Of course, we did “Let Me Love You,” and Ralph could fuckin’ sing it. I said, “One day, I’m gonna be in a band with that guy,” and it ended up being in Boston with Daddy Warbux. So we put that band together, Mickie and I with Ralph and Jimmy. Then I got Rocky [Isaac], my drummer from The Cherry People, to play drums with us.
So we did up there in Boston, but it turned out, those guys had got a manager who wanted to come and see me play. So I met this guy and he comes over, his name was Louie, and he comes over to this house we were staying at. This guy comes in, he’s dressed in a nice wool sweater, and I said, “Nice to meet you,” and he sat down and watched me play and was blown away. But it turns out, this guy is a loan shark; he was a biker from, like, a Hell’s Angels chapter. He was the leader of that biker thing. From then, it became a nightmare. This guy was crazy and he claimed to own us. He’d make us play at these biker clubs and stuff, where fights would break out and there would be shooting guns and beating each other over the head with pool sticks. We’d be hiding behind our amps playing guitar; we thought we were gonna get killed. Also, this manager guy, he was crazy; we feared for our lives. So I said, “Let’s go to back D.C. because I can get us jobs anywhere.”
We went back there and of course got a job right away at Bogie’s, a nightclub in D.C., with my friend Mike Bakhtiar, who managed The Silver Dollar and also had this club Bogie’s. We played there for two years straight. Then, what happened was, Louie came down there one time and he threatened us. He brought one of his big biker friends with him and said he was gonna kill us if we didn’t pay him money – he claimed that he owned the equipment – he didn’t own my equipment because I had brought mine up there. It got pretty scary and pretty hairy. I remember he jumped on the table and hit Mickie in the face and sucker-punched him. But Louie never bothered me, and I think because I had a kid, too. So, Mike Bakhtiar came down and said, “Listen, Louie, we’ll meet you at The Bastille and we’ll get this all figured out.”
So, after the club closed, we all went out to The Bastille; there was nobody there, of course. Mike Bakhtiar was there with his friend Leon and Louie was there. We’re sitting at this big, round table and Louie starts screaming at me, saying, “I want my fuckin’ money or I’m gonna kill you fuckin’ guys!” And I’m saying, “Fuck you, Louie! You’re not getting shit!” Next thing I knew, Rocky comes up behind Louie with one of those big, metal office chairs and has it up over his head. He comes down and slams the chair right on Louie’s head and Louie’s head cracks wide open and there’s blood everywhere. All of the sudden, [Louie] pulls his false teeth out and throws them across the table at me and he jumps on the table and tried to grab me. Then, all of the sudden, Mike Bakhtiar and Leon grab Louie and drug him back to the kitchen. We said, “Let’s get out of here! We gotta get the fuck out of here!” The next day, we go back to the club and we’re playing at Bogie’s, and Mike said, “You don’t have to worry about Louie again. He’ll never bother you again.”
Mike, I love that guy; he was really good to me. He was one of my best friends, and he was actually the one who took me up to New York that time when I met Jimi Hendrix.
So, anyway, we actually did a record with Daddy Warbux with Frank Connolly, who actually managed Aerosmith at the time. We got the deal with Capitol Records and that record [We Came to Play] was produced by Jack Douglas. Jack Douglas was doing all of Aerosmith’s stuff at the time. We recorded that album up in Boston. I’ll never forget, we were recording that album, and Steven Tyler had come down one night. Steven comes down to the studio and puts on “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” and I remember hearing the guitars and stuff and I said, “Man, Joe, and Brad have really gotten good.” I mean, the guitars were just killin’ in there. He played it for Jack and then he had left. I said, “Wow, the guitars sound fuckin’ great on that.” He said, “I’m gonna tell you something. That’s not Joe and that’s not Brad playing. That’s Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner.” But they never gave them credit for that.
Daddy Warbux, albeit a brief period of your extensive music career, turned out to be an eventful chapter in your proverbial story. In fact, you could probably write a book based solely on your tenure with The Cherry People and Daddy Warbux.
Yeah, I could write a book about all the things that happened to me in Daddy Warbux. We played on Nantucket Island one time, and they had chicken wire on the stage because people were throwing bottles and shit at you and stuff like that. We played all kinds of crazy places; we had a lot of fun, though. Unfortunately, Ralph was an amazing singer but he was a real bad alcoholic. The first set, he’d be great, but by the third set, he’d be drunk as a skunk and saying shit to the crowd, like, “What do you want for a dollar!?” But I didn’t care because he was such a great singer; even when he was drunk, he still sang great. I just loved playing with Ralph; I just loved his voice.
Despite the talented lineup, it seems as though there were many forces working against the band. What ultimately was the deciding factor that prompted you and Mickie to go your own way?
So, we did that album for Capitol Records. Of course, that got shelved. Casablanca shelved that album because Frank Connolly, I don’t know, did something with the direct advance or some shit. Something bad. So, we just left that all behind and played at Bogie’s for two years straight. Then, Gregg walks in one night and he sees Mickie and I playing, and we start talking. He goes, “Man, we gotta put a band together.” At that time, Mickie and I were kind of burned out with Daddy Warbux because Capitol didn’t release the record, we wanted to do something else, and Ralph was always drunk. So, we said, “Okay. Let’s do it.” Upstairs in Bogie’s, there was a big loft up there shut off from the rest of the nightclub, and Mike Bakhtiar let us go up there and rehearse.
So, we went upstairs at Bogie’s and rehearsed; it was just Gregg, Mickie, and I at first. The first thing we wrote was “The Tower,” and then we wrote “Rock and Rollers.” Then, that’s when we decided we needed a drummer and a singer. That’s when I said, “Well, Doug Grimes, who was in The Cherry People, was my singer. So let’s go watch them play and see what you think of him.” So, we went down to this nightclub — actually, it was The Silver Dollar that they were playing at — and we were watching Doug play. But Barry Brandt was playing drums with him, and all we could do is watch Barry play. Barry was just phenomenal. Barry was a friend of mine; he used to come and watch me play with The Cherry People. Barry was just blowing us away with the drumming, and Doug wasn’t really the right fit, so we grabbed Barry and said, “Hey, Barry, we have this new band we’re putting together. You wanna play with us?” Of course, he said right away, “Yeah. I would love to.” Then, Mickie knew Frank DiMino from a band that they put together called Max. That was with Frank, Barry on the drums, and Mickie playing bass. Anyway, we had Frank come down to sit in with us. And once Frank started to sing, that was it. Frank was our singer.
Before that, I was always in a two-guitar band; a rhythm guitar player and me. That’s what attracted me to Gregg in the first place when I first went down to Biloxi with him, because he was the first guy to have one of those Moog synthesizers and Mellotrons and all that kind of stuff. I thought, “Wow, this is so cool.” I thought was just so cool because it was a new thing back then. So, as soon, as we hit the first note, we knew we had something magical going on. We knew we had a different sound, and everybody was really pulling their weight. So, we went and showcased ourselves down at Bogie’s and started playing there for a couple weeks. That’s actually when we went out and got the opening music for the Angel shows in the future, with the Ben-Hur music playing in the background. We said, “We want to put a show together and have flashpots going off, strobe lights, and all kinds of shit.” When we arranged the flashpots going off, we wanted the concussion. We didn’t want just the flash – we wanted to feel the boom — so we put a lot of gunpowder in there to make it even louder. When those things went off, I remember all the whisky bottles on the shelf would all fall onto the crowd! Mike said, “You guys gotta cut that out! You’re destroying all my liquor and shit up there!”
So, we went down to this drug store and found this Ben Hur soundtrack; it had all that angelic music on there. We took that and actually used that for our beginning at Bogie’s. Before you knew it, we had lines around the block. People said, “You gotta hear this band Angel. They’re like Queen,” because Queen had come out just before us. So, we had lines around the block, and that was when KISS came down to the club one night — Gene, Paul, and Ace.
They were playing at the Capitol Center and like everybody back in those days, after you played your show, you went to some local nightclubs and would listen to a band’s set. They came down and saw us and just freaked out. I remember Gene came up to me and said, “Wow, glitter hits D.C.!” Because D.C. was always backwards. We were the first band to kind of do the whole glitter thing because, before that, everybody was just wearing t-shirts and jeans with holes in them; like Lynyrd Skynard and that kind of stuff. But the glitter scene already hit New York, of course.
I remember Gene came up to me after we played – and it’s so funny because I’m like 6-2 – so when I went to shake their hand and they had those platform shoes on, I had to look up to Gene to shake his hand. I thought, “That’s fuckin’ cool,” because I was always taller than everybody else, pretty much, and I had to look up and shake his hand. I did that move with my hand over my head, pointing at my guitar neck, so Gene makes that move and goes, “Punky … classic!”
Then, after that, we started calling managers and stuff and they came down to see us play and we started a bidding war. We were gonna choose between Leber and Krebs. Well, David Krebs, I knew from the past, because just before Angel, David Krebs asked Mickie and me if we would play in the New York Dolls because Johnny Thunders was gone and that sort of thing. So, David knew us from Daddy Warbux and the whole Boston area. I said, “David, we have this band called Angel. You gotta come and see us.” So, he did; he came and saw us and fell in love with the band. And then we had Gem Toby — which was David Joseph — that Gregg had known, out in L.A. and he came down and loved the band. Then we also had Sandy Pearlman and those cats who had managed the band Blue Öyster Cult, and they wanted to manage the band, too. So, we had a bidding war started. I’ll never forget, we did a three-way conference call with David Krebs – Mickie, Gregg, and I – and he said, “If you guys don’t sign with me, you guys are just doing a mental masturbation because I can make you guys big overnight.” I wanted to go with David Krebs, but the other guys had California dreamin’ in their eyes; palm trees and that sort of thing. So, we wound up going out to L.A. with the Toby Organization and David Joseph.
What do you recall from the recording of the band’s self-titled debut?
That album we put together pretty quickly because we had already written those songs and played them a lot in the nightclubs. Those were the first songs we recorded. We just went into the studio and banged it out, basically. Jim Sullivan was producing it with Derek Lawrence. We did a little pre-production work first; somebody came down and we had a rehearsal studio. So, we went into the studio and just did the basic tracks, and back in those days, the guitar, the bass, and the drums were all in the same room together. Now, you don’t do that. You play a scratch guitar onto a click track and then the drummer comes in and plays along to that scratch guitar. Then after that, the bass player comes in and plays to the drums. Back then, everybody had to get in there and play the song all the way through. So, you did so many takes until you did the right take. That was recorded pretty quickly.
I remember when we first heard it back, I was stoned-stupid. I smoked a joint and was stoned-stupid. We were listening to it in the back of the play-back room and wow, man, I remember hearing it back and thinking, “This fuckin’ sounds cool as shit!” Because when you’re playing it live, it sounds cool, but when you hear it back, it feels like you’re listening to another band. You really do get impressed with it. I just remember how cool it sounded; it sounded different. I remember being pretty psyched-out about that.
We didn’t have enough songs at the time, so when we got to L.A., we had to write some songs real fast. So, I wrote some songs real fast. Back then, you had to put two albums out a year; that’s what they demanded from you. And also, you were on the road for a whole year, too, pretty much. Back then, there was no MTV, so you had to go out and be seen to break a record unless you had a hit record on the radio, but that was rare for bands like us. Our desire was never to be a singles band; we wanted to be an album band like Led Zeppelin. We didn’t want to be a 45 band, we wanted to be an album band with songs that, for us, meant something more than a single. That’s how I thought back then. If you didn’t have a hit single, which was very hard to get unless you had some commercial-friendly radio station playing it, you had to tour a lot. We had to do two albums a year, so I had to write out songs on the road, which was kind of difficult because I was supposed to be playing and partying on the road all the time. [Laughs].
But after the road, we would come back and get a two-week vacation, and that was about it. I would try to write songs then, while all the other guys were hanging around The Rainbow and shit out in L.A. and partying. I would sit home and come up with songs and stuff because back then, the way the songwriting went, I would plant the seed; I would write the riffs, and Gregg would, too. I would write the riffs then come down and rehearse, like, “Here’s how the riffs go,” then Frank would put some lyrics and melodies to them. Then Gregg might help me write a bridge or something and put the keyboards to it and we worked that way. That’s how that worked. But I was never happy with the production on the first two albums. I know everybody loves the first two albums, but I was never happy with the production on there because I was used to hearing Queen and how great the guitars sounded. All the other bands were OK – I mean, I was never a real big Aerosmith fan – I liked their stuff, but I was never that impressed. The only band that impressed me was Queen. They just raised the bar for me. I thought, “These guys can write any kind of music.” The vocals were great, the guitars were amazing, the drummer was great, they had a cool image. And that’s how I always aspired to be as a songwriter because I like different types of songs; I don’t wanna be a one-trick pony. Like Queen can write “You’re My Best Friend” and they can write “Bohemian Rapsody” or “I’m in Love With My Car.” I was always into that.
I was never happy with the production on the first two albums because the guitars were kind of buried in there. In fact, we got a lot of letters after the first album came out with people saying that they couldn’t hear the guitars; the keyboards were too loud. So, actually what happened with that was, we got Eddie Leonetti [White Heat, Sinful] and Eddie Kramer [On Earth as It Is in Heaven] and that’s when the guitars all of a sudden became way up front.
But Jim Sullivan was a great producer for our first two albums. He was a legendary guitar player. He did all the studio work for all those British players back in the day in London, and he was actually Tom Jones’ guitar player. He was an amazing guitar player. He’s the one who actually taught me how to play “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which I played on Dick Clark. He used to always say to me, “Punky, you and me, we’re the best guitar players around.”
With the musicianship at the forefront, Angel is a band that I feel deserved to be far more prominent during its time. Why did the band fail to gain as much traction as its contemporaries?
Well, for one thing, we never had a hit single. KISS had “Beth,” of course, but KISS built their following when the Alive! album came out. KISS was a live band more than they were a studio band earlier on. When they did the live album, people had seen them live, and it blew up. Back then, the radio stations were only playing Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton; really soft kind of stuff. They weren’t playing the heavier, Hard Rock stuff as much. I mean, KISS could never get any airplay; “Beth” got some airplay and that was it. Also, MTV came around just after we broke up. I think if we had been around for MTV, I think it would have exploded because we were primed for that kind of thing; videos and stuff. We just didn’t have that radio airplay and a lot of stations thought we were a Punk band. It’s really bizarre, the things that happened to us.
I remember we were playing on the West Coast and a big riot ensued in San Diego. One of these security guards started throwing these young girls around because they were rushing the stage. We stopped and Frank said, “Cut it the fuck out,” so the security guard gave Frank the finger, so Frank hit the guy in the head with his microphone stand. Next thing you knew, all the house lights came on, a brawl ensued. So, Frank had to go to jail for the night and we got him out. Anyway, up and down the West Coast after that, they had police in the front of our stage with billy clubs, and we got labeled a Punk band.
We couldn’t get the radio airplay, and the only way to make it in those days was to tour, tour, tour if you wanted to get radio airplay. Then we broke up as MTV came out. If we had just stuck together for that, I think it would have been a different story because then you could be seen 24 hours all over the place. You didn’t have to go out on the road.
While the first two albums may have garnered the most acclaim, I think that Sinful is a completely underrated album and perhaps the strongest of the Angel catalog. Songs like “L.A. Lady” and “Wild and Hot” are great tracks that highlight your songwriting chops.
A lot of fans really love that album the best and that’s one of my favorite albums of the Angel catalog, too. [Sinful] and White Hot are my favorites because that’s when we really became songwriters. I always loved Power-Pop music; I just do. I love a great melody. For me, melody and rhythm will always live on. Most people really love Sinful, but you always have these other guys that come out and say, “Oh, man, they sold out! They sold out and they’re making it poppy.” That’s bullshit. I love Pop music, man. To me, music is music. One of my all-time favorite songs is a Raspberries song [“Go All the Way”]. That’s one of my all-time favorite songs, and that’s a Pop song. I gotta tell ya, it’s harder to write a three-and-a-half-minute, four-minute pop song than it is to write a Heavy Metal riff song.
I love music and I love melodies. One of my favorite songs is “Sugar, Sugar.” I just love that fuckin’ song. When that song comes on the radio, who doesn’t turn it up and start singing? It just makes you happy as shit. But at the same time, I love Zeppelin and Hendrix, you know what I mean? So, I had all that shit going on and I like to utilize that stuff. In fact, when Risen came out, there’s a song on there called “Tell Me Why.” And there’s this one big website that had the top 200 songs and “Tell Me Why” was No. 3 on that. It beat out all kinds of big bands and stuff. To me, that’s just a perfectly written, pure Power-Pop song. Even though it’s a song about cheating and lying, it makes you feel happy because it sounds happy. I got the inspiration for that from The Beatles. I love that kind of stuff, but I also like Progressive stuff, too. Like, 1975 is a little more of a Progressive song; it’s a little more complicated. So, I like to dabble in all that kind of stuff. But I don’t like to be pigeon-holed into anything. I remember some guy said something about, there’s a song on the Risen album that’s called “Locked Cocked Ready to Rock,” and it came on, and some guy said, “Well, that’s not really an Angel song.” … “Fuck you, man. It is an Angel song!” Whenever I write a song and Frank sings it, it’s Angel. Everybody thinks everything’s supposed to sound like “The Tower.” I don’t wanna do that; that’s not me. I’m an artist and I wanna be able to write what I feel. I never write a song and say, “This one will be good for Angel. This one won’t be good for Angel.” I say, “Here’s a song that I’ve written and it inspires me.” That’s what I call diversification.
I remember somebody saying that “I Owe You” from Risen is just a sappy ballad. What, do you think I’m just a bonehead? I’m gonna bounce my head up and down? Some of the greatest songs in history are ballads. I mean, I love nothing more than a good tear-jerker. That’s why I love Country music so much because they have all these beautiful ballads that make you cry. To me, “Tell Me Why” and “I Owe You” are my favorite songs on Risen. Whenever it comes on, man, I’m so proud of that because it shows that I’m not just a bonehead that can only play fast and riff out. I can actually do something that’s sensitive and delicate. That’s important to me. I like to hit all emotions when I write songs.
Your nuance and diversity as an artist really shine through on Fallen Angel and Risen. Outside opinions are irrelevant; you wrote what you felt and what sounded good to you and refused to compromise.
Yeah, exactly. If you don’t do that, then you’re not being true to yourself and you’re letting people dictate what you should be doing. I just can’t do that because then I’m not being honest with the people, with the fans, and I’m not being honest with myself. I put out there what I happen to like and enjoy and hope that they like it, too. And so far, they’ve liked it; Risen got rave reviews all over the world and it charted. I’m proud of that. I’m also very proud of my Fallen Angel solo album. That was a great album.
You’ve had offers to join KISS, Aerosmith, and the New York Dolls, some of the world’s most renowned Rock acts, throughout your career. Why did those opportunities never come to fruition?
Well, what happened with KISS was, Angel had broken up and Gregg, Barry, and I stuck together. We put a band together with Ricky Phillips from The Babys and Fergie Frederiksen, who was a great singer, too, and Gregg and myself. So, we put this band together and were getting ready to shop a deal. KISS and Gene, those guys all loved me so much; they always raved about me. And I loved them, too. Gene and Paul were in the studio recording and Barry Levine was their photographer. He did all the pictures for KISS and Angel and he was a friend of ours, too. He was in the studio with Gene and Paul, so he calls me up one day. He said, “Hey, Punky. I guess you heard that KISS is looking for a guitar player.” They put an ad out in some music paper in L.A. and they had some people come down and audition. So, Barry says, “I mentioned your name to Gene, and he said, ‘That’s a great idea!'” So, Barry Levine called me and said, “They’re looking for a guitar player and Gene thinks it would be a great idea if you sat in with him and played.” I said, “Well, have Gene call me.” So, Gene calls me up and says, “Hey, yeah, it would be great to have you come and play with the band.” He said, “Just learn one side of the KISS Alive! Album. Doesn’t matter which side it is. Any side.” So, I had to tune my guitar a half-step down because they always did; I never did. [Laughs].
So, I learned a couple of their songs and said, “Okay, I’ll go down,” because Gene asked me to go and we were friends. I went down to SIR Studios, I think that’s where it was, and I walked in and they were playing “Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin. It was just Paul and Gene; Eric Carr was on the drums. So, I walked in and I plugged up and played. It went great; sounded great. So, Gene comes over to me and says, “Let’s sit down and talk business. You got the gig.” I said, “Well, Gene, you know, I have to talk to Gregg first. Gregg and I are getting ready to shop a deal. I have to talk to him first.” As soon as I said that I insulted Gene, I guess. Gene got up and said, “Come on, Paul. Let’s go.” So, they left. They stormed out. Then I went home and Barry Levine calls me up and he goes, “Punky, what’d you do?” I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Paul and Gene came back with their jaws to the floor. Gene said no one’s ever turned down KISS!” And I said, “I didn’t turn them down, Barry, I just said that I was with Gregg, we put this band together and were getting ready to shop a deal, and he just left.” He goes, “They were gonna give you $200,000 a year plus points.” At the time, I was broke. I said, “Well, I didn’t mean to do that. I don’t know what to say.” So, that was the end of that; I never followed back up on it.
I wasn’t gonna go groveling to them or anything like that, because I did owe it to Gregg. Gregg and I, we did the demos with Fergie and Ricky with Andy Johns and it came out great. That’s actually when I had Ron Rainey, who’s my manager now, he managed Gregg and I then. So, he got us an audition to play for a record company, so we rehearsed down there. All these record companies heard the demo and came down to see us. They just wanted to see us play live, that’s all. We would have signed another big record contract. We go out there to play on stage, and for some reason, Fergie couldn’t, he froze up. It was the weirdest thing in the world. We hit the first chord and he just doesn’t sing. I go, “What the fuck?” And he runs off the stage and leaves. We’re sitting there playing in front of Capitol Records, Columbia, everybody at A&R, Geffen, all that shit. We just played two instrumentals and that was it. We blew that. Well, Fergie blew it. Afterward, Ron Rainey and some of us, we sat with Fergie and said, “It’s OK, Fergie. We understand.” I don’t know what happened with him, though; I don’t know if he was intimidated or what, because he had been on stage and opened up for a lot of big acts with his other bands and stuff. I think he played with Toto at one point, too. He was a great singer, but I don’t know what happened. So, that was the end of that.
Then, Aerosmith, David Krebs called me up. Of course, you know, Joe and Brad had left. I think they had Rick Dufay at the time, but they didn’t have Jimmy Crespo yet. But David asked me if I wanted to play with Aerosmith at the same time I was still with Gregg. Unfortunately, I was loyal, which turned out to be a mistake, in the end, I guess. So, I didn’t say no, but I didn’t say yes. I didn’t jump on it. So, that’s how that ended. But David and I stayed in touch for a long time after that; he tried to get me to play with Michael Bolton at one time. When Michael Bolton first came out, he came out as kind of a heavy, Hard Rock guy with black leather and David thought I’d add another dimension for Michael Bolton. So, I was thinking about doing that, too, but that never came to fruition, either.
Following the disbanding of Angel, you remained largely off the grid for more than three decades. You embarked on various business ventures, but could you elaborate on how you spent your time away from the limelight?
This is a crazy story. What happened was, I got fed up with the whole music scene. I lived in L.A. and I went back to the East Coast and I was gonna put a band together there in New Hampshire with this friend of mine who’s a bass player and actually did some demos with me out in L.A. with a revamped Frank and Barry. So, I had left the music business, basically. Barry Levine, the music photographer, was managing Frank and Barry and they wanted me to come back out to L.A. and put Angel together because they couldn’t get a record contract unless I was in the band. They tried to; they had other guitar players and stuff, but nobody wanted the band unless I was in Angel. I said, “Okay,” so I decided to go out there and do that. I got out to California and stayed at this house with some people. We rehearsed and stuff, but it didn’t work out. I had put together some showcases with David Joseph, our old manager, and that fell through because these guys couldn’t get their shit together. At that point, I just totally got fed up with it. I came all the way back out there, and then these guys were not dependable. So, I said, “That’s it. I’ve had it. I’m done with it.” And so, I left and went to Virginia.
At that time, I was just so depressed. I had lost my girlfriend through all that, too. My friend was managing a nightclub down there and he said, “Come back here and I’ll offer you a job.” So, I became a DJ there. And that was actually at the forefront of the whole DJ scene; all the Rap music came in and the House music and stuff. I was a pretty damn good DJ, and I did that to make money for about six years, then I decided I had enough of that. Then I decided to open a tanning salon. I did that just out of the blue because I was trying to find a business that I wanted to do, and I didn’t know what to do. I had gone tanning at this place one time in the wintertime; this little dumpy mom and pop place with these really old rickety metal beds and shit. But I got a tan and thought, “That’s really cool. What if I opened up a really nice place like that?” I thought about that, and I’m pretty good at research, so I did research for about six months; I looked into all this equipment and stuff, and I found a place to lease in Oakton, Virginia. I went out and looked at the demographics first; I went to the supermarkets on the weekends to see what kind of people were there, if they had money, that sort of thing. And so, I did that, and I opened up a really nice place that was very modern and all computerized. It was a really nice place with state-of-the-art equipment. For me, back then, looking at tanning beds was like looking at guitars and cars. They were souped-up and shit, you know what I mean? They had face tanners in ’em and shit, so I started getting all these European tanning system beds and stuff like that. I opened up the first really high-end tanning salon, and I wound up putting all the other tanning salons out of business. I just had this vision, you know? When I first put the signs up, I called it TanFastic Tanning and I put signs up in the window it’s coming soon, the contractors said “The phone’s ringing off the hook. They wanna know when you’re gonna open.” So, I was really getting excited about it; I had all this really cool furniture, I’m selling lotions and t-shirts and bathing suits in there, too. I was the first person to do that in tanning salons, make it a real high-end place because I was in a real high-end neighborhood. I realize tanning is not a priority, and it’s a destination business, too, so I knew if I was in a good neighborhood, I could probably do pretty well. As soon as I opened the doors, there were lines all around the block; people were sitting on the walls waiting to come in.
I opened up in the spring because it’s a seasonal business; spring is when you do all your business. Spring and summer. I really got into the business because I loved it; it was exciting; it was fun. All these beautiful girls would come in there and tan and stuff, and I had a lot of guys come in, too. So, I had all these memberships going on. The first night, I made a bunch of money, and I remember driving home in my car and was euphoric. Because I wasn’t sure; I’d hoped it would work, but I wasn’t sure. I became like the Rock ‘N’ Roll tanning guy. I was very proud of that place. The first year, I worked with myself because I had to build my clientele up. I would work from eight o’clock in the morning until nine at night every day, for a year, until I finally built my clientele up. Then I started hiring weekend managers and that sort of thing. But I did really, really well in that business; I did it for 11 years. Every year, they had these awards they would give out – best restaurant, best movie theater — and I would get the award every year for best tanning salon. I put those plaques up in my windows. I remember when I got my first hundred clients, I was excited. But by the end there, I had 30,000 clients that came through that door. I really got into the business; I took courses on it and I had my employees take courses and do tests to learn about the business. I didn’t tell anybody who I was because I didn’t want to put myself forth for comment. I wanted just to rely on the business; I didn’t want that to interfere. But people found out who I was eventually, anyway. I used to have fans who would come down there from all over the world and visit me in there. And that’s actually how I met Danny [Anniello].
Adapting to the drastic shift of the music business following an extensive hiatus would appear overwhelming on the surface, so what motivated you to test the waters after decades of silence? What was Danny’s role in sparking your return?
During that time at the tanning salon, Frank and Barry came back into the picture and they were trying to shop a deal. And again, they couldn’t get anything unless I was in the band. They came out to see me at my tanning salon and I said, “No, I’m doing it. I am not interested. I don’t give a shit about that business anymore. I’m done with it. I could care less.” But I love music, of course, and I never stopped playing my guitar. In fact, I had a guitar down at the tanning salon, behind the counter. So, when it would be quiet in the mornings, I would have the Country station on the TV and played along with that stuff. I loved Country so much, and I really got into it then because for me, that’s where all the guitar players started going to. I really dug Country music because I went and saw Vince Gill play at a concert and I went, “Oh, my God. What a guitar player he is!” Then Brad Paisley of course comes out and you go, “That’s where the guitar players are.” They’re not in Rock ‘N’ Roll anymore; they’re gone from there. So, I started playing a lot of Country music and that’s why my guitar playing now is so much different than it was in Angel. I’m a much better player now; tone-wise and everything.
I would always play my guitar in the tanning salon and was always writing music. When I’d come home at night, I had my little tape player sitting on the couch. Nobody can watch TV with me, and I do this to this day; every single night I come home, watch TV, play along with the commercials, play along with the soundtrack, and when I come up with an idea, I’ll record it real fast. That’s where I get all my songwriting actually, on my couch. I never stopped playing. So, Frank and Barry came up and they say, “Come to New York and just record a couple of songs with us.” I said, “No, I’m not gonna do it. I’m done.” But they said, “I’ll tell ya what, we’ll come down there and we’ll go to a studio down there.” And Danny Stanton was managing them at the time. So, anyway, they came down, so I thought, “OK, they’re my friends and they said they can’t get a deal unless I’m on the CD or whatever.” So, I said, “Okay, but you gotta put a couple of my songs on there,” so they said, “Okay.” I wrote like three songs or something like that, and I went down there and we rehearsed for just one day and put the songs together real fast. I hadn’t played with anybody for so long, either. It had been a long time. Then we went into the studio and recorded the songs.
Then I remember Danny Stanton asking me to sign a contract saying I couldn’t have any ownership of any songs and I couldn’t come back and claim any money from any sales off the CD. I said, “I’m not signing this.” And I said, “There was a time where I was desperate, but I’m not desperate. I’m doing fine, man. I’m happy. I’m not signing this fuckin’ thing.” Felix [Robinson] was there, too, and apparently, he signed it and he said, “Can I not sign it, too, Danny?” I said, “I don’t know, Felix. But I’m not signing that fuckin’ thing.” So, all that did was solidify the reason why I didn’t want to be in the music business anymore. After they came down and tried telling me, “Yeah, you know, you should be playing music again.” Then they did that to me and that just solidified it, like, fuck this, man. I’m not playing that game anymore. I was successful, I was having fun, and all that shit was off my back. I was happy to get away from all that stuff. I never stopped playing because I love music. Guitar playing is not something I want to do; it’s something I have to do. I do it because it’s in my blood and I love it.
I did the tanning salon thing and I also bought properties; I bought a townhouse and plus I had another home and I got into the stock market. Then, after 11 years in the tanning business, the tanning salon business caught up to me and started making all these fancy tanning salons and becoming franchises. So, I saw the writing on the wall – they were starting to pop up everywhere around town. Like I said, the tanning business is a seasonal business, so I said, “I gotta get out now while the gettings good.” So, I sold it for a bunch of money and I retired and moved to North Carolina because I wanted to go somewhere a little warmer. And I knew these people down here that I used to get my tanning supplies from, and so they said, “Come on down here and check it out.” So I went down there and fell in love with North Carolina. Then, the housing, it was a buyers market down here and a sellers market up in Virginia. I sold my house in Virginia for almost $900,000 and I originally bought it for $200,000. When I came [to North Carolina], I bought the house I have now for $240,000 and up there, it would have been a million-dollar home. I put that money into my stock market funds. And then the stock market crashed in 2008. Before that, for three years, man, I was retired and just doing whatever I wanted to do; I made a beautiful garden on my land out here and all kinds of stuff. But the stock market crash came, so I had to cut my income in half that was taken out of my stock market because I couldn’t keep bleeding that. Then I got a job working for my neighbors; It was actually a white-collar job. I was behind a computer; we would send consultants out to doctors and dentists to do trainings on the laws of OSHA and Hippa.
What happened with Danny was, when I had the tanning salon, Danny came down one time with a friend. And Danny had sent me some correspondents through letters a couple times because he told me he was sculpting and stuff. Anyway, he came down when I had the tanning salon, and he brought me some Angel artifacts, like a truck and some other things. He was just such a big fan and the nicest guy in the world. We talked for about three hours and he said, “Let’s keep in touch.” But we didn’t have the internet back then. Then, of course, Facebook came around, and we would message and talk and stuff. Danny told me back there, “If I can ever do anything for you, I’m gonna do it for you because you’re my favorite guitar player.” So, he said, “Hey, I’d like to offer you a solo deal.” At the time, I thought, “I don’t know, man,” because I was making good money at this place where I was working, even though it was a nine-to-five job. I didn’t like it, but I was still making good money. And I said, “I don’t know. Let me think about it.” The thing is, the calling was there. I remember I used to sit in front of the TV and watch Eddie Trunk on That Metal Show. I started thinking to myself, “I should be on that fuckin’ show!” But I had nothing to show for it; all the other guys were still playing. When Danny said that, I said, “Let me think about it.” And then he put me on the phone with Keith Roth and we talked and they convinced me. Then I got excited about it. Danny came down and we met for the first time in several years. I have a music room downstairs, and he came in and we sat down and started playing. Right away, the chemistry was there. He likes the same stuff; he likes David Cassidy, but he also likes Black Sabbath.
Due to your cohesiveness with Danny, I imagine the songwriting process flowed rather seamlessly. Tell us about the creative collaboration.
Well, it’s funny because when I first did the solo album, he said he wasn’t gonna be on the record; he was just part of the record company, you know? But when we first started playing together, he’d play me some ideas he had and of course, I’d play the songs I had, and he just fell in love with it and thought it was great. And he showed me some of his ideas and I thought, “That’s really good. I really like that stuff.” The song “Leavin Tonight” was this song that I was just playing these acoustical chords to, and Danny said, “That’s fuckin’ great!” So, Danny took the acoustic guitar and he goes, “Listen, just play some solo stuff ‘cause I always loved your tone.” When he heard me playing, he also saw I was a better guitar player now, too. He said, “Just play along with this for a minute.” I go, “Ah, I don’t really want to,” because I was kind of shy. Then I said, “Okay,” and I played along and he videotaped it, and he played it back and it did sound good. I said, “Wow, that does sound pretty good.” He sent the tape to Keith Roth, and Keith Roth said, “Oh my God. That’s amazing.” That became “Leavin Tonight” off my solo album.
I’ll write a song and I’ll call him and say, “Listen to this. This is really cool.” And right away, he’ll jump in and say, “Let’s try this, too.” The same with him; if he has a song, I’ll say, “Let’s try this.” For some reason, it just works. We both have a love for the same kind of music. He’s a big lover of melody, too. He loves all the Pop stuff, but he also likes the heavy stuff. I remember when I was in Angel, I said, “I love ABBA,” and they would laugh at me and shit … “Come on, man. They’re not heavy.” I just hate when people put music in some kind of category, where it’s not hip or cool at the time. I just don’t like that. Music is music.
Were many of the songs that appeared on Fallen Angel ones that you had been sitting on over the years, or was the album primarily comprised of fresh content?
Actually, “Shadow Man” was a song I had written when I was eighteen at The Silver Dollar. But all the other stuff was stuff I had been kicking around for a couple of years. Like I said, I would sit and record stuff on my couch. But then when it came time to do an album, then I took all those little parts of songs and put them together and made songs out of it. I had bits and pieces around and stuff like that, then I would sit around and it would all come to me. Like right now, I’ve written a bunch of songs for the new album and I’ve got some great songs on there. Some songs, you can write in ten minutes; they just fall in your lap from the song Gods somewhere. Other songs, you have to work on for a while. I’ve got a song that I’m working on right now. It’s a beautiful song and it’s very powerful, but I’m trying to get the lyrics just right. So, I’ve been working on that for the past week. I just wrote one song at the last minute here called “Rock Star,” which is a really cool song. This album is gonna have a lot of diverse stuff on it, too.
But yeah, with Danny and I, it’s a chemistry. It’s like Richards and Jagger; or, I guess, Perry and Tyler.
That’s the vibe that I get with Fallen Angel. I want to explore your most recent effort, Risen, which was released in 2019. The album reunites you with Frank and really captures that classic Angel sound. Now that you’ve had time to assess the album objectively, what are your thoughts?
I love that record. It’s Angel; when you have Frank singing and me playing guitar, it’s gonna be Angel. It’s Angel with that classic sound, but also has a modern feel as well. I love that album. Danny and I produced it and wrote all the songs — well, Frank did some writing, too; he put some lyrics with the songs. I love that album, and it’s Angel; it’s not Punky Meadows, but it’s Angel and I’m proud of it. When I work out – I have a gym and stuff at my house – but whenever I work out, I put the Risen album on. It just gets me pumped. I always say, the Risen album and Fallen Angel are my favorite albums. And not because it’s me, but I just like the fuckin’ albums. I love Chandler’s [Mogel] voice, too; I think Chandler is a great singer.
I think you take great pride in the fact that you were able to do these albums your way without interference or directives. You produced the records that you wanted to and did it your way.
Exactly. And that’s what I’m saying. The reason why I like Risen and Fallen Angel the best of all the records, is because like you said, it’s done my way. Before, it’s producers saying, “Do this, do that. Play this, play that.” It wasn’t me. Now, I’m doing it. I’m getting all my guitar sounds myself; I know what I like and what I don’t like; how to arrange the songs. I dictate how the vocals are gonna go a lot of times. Most of the time, that can cause a lot of dissension, you know? Look, these are my songs, I’ve written them; these are my babies, and I want them to come out the best they could possibly come out.
Felix Robinson played on Fallen Angel but didn’t appear on Risen. Was that by design or merely a product of conflicting schedules?
Well, what happened with Felix was, I wanted Felix on my solo album because Felix is a great bass player. He was an all-around great musician; great keyboard player; pretty good singer; pretty good guitar player, too. Felix is a guy like me; he grew up in house bands and he had to play all kinds of music. He knows Country music, R&B, and Soul, and everything. In fact, Gregg and a lot of the guys in the band disliked Felix because Felix and I would get to the rehearsal in Angel early and we’d go down and we’d play. And he would be on the keyboards singing “Georgia” by Ray Charles, and I’d be playing along with it. And they’d walk in and it sounded great, and Gregg was starting to get pissed off and him and Frank didn’t like that he was such a good singer, too. He was an all-around great musician.
When we were thinking about bass players, I said, “Let’s get Felix because I know he can really play.” I called Felix up, and of course, he was into it right away. He did his bass parts, and they were great. Bass, to me, is so important. Bass and the drums are the foundation; especially bass, for me. Actually, it’s a funny thing; we had Felix in the band with Angel and for some reason, Gregg wanted to get rid of Felix. Gregg didn’t like Felix for whatever reason. So, we got rid of Felix. I remember kind of being let down because Felix was such an awesome bass player. So, I wanted Felix in the band, and he came in and, of course, did a great job.
But then what happened with Felix was, he got sick, so he couldn’t play anymore. Then he got better. But then, we had to go on tour, and he couldn’t do it. Even though the doctor gave him the OK, he couldn’t do it. It got to the point where, I remember saying, “Felix, we have these dates coming up,” and he goes, “Can you change them around to another time?” And at that time, it was hard for me to get dates because we had to get what we could get. I was just new coming out and stuff like that. I said, “No, we can’t, Felix. I don’t know what to do.” So, Danny and I talked and said, “We gotta get another bass player.”
That’s a shame. Felix’s diverse musical roots and range would have aligned superbly with your vision. Glad to hear he’s doing better now. So, how did the band decide on Steve E. Ojane as the replacement?
I did the Punky Meadows premiere at B.B. Kings in New York and Randy Gregg was playing bass with me then. He sat in and learned all the songs and played bass with me. He was actually playing with Frank and Barry, too, a long time ago. So, we had a meet and greet – and B.B. Kings was sold-out to the max – and we had this long line. Steve was in the line to meet me and I remember thinking, “He’s a good-looking guy.” He came up to me and said, “I love you, man. I got all your records. I saw you in concert.” I said, “You’re too young for that.” He goes, “No, no, man. I’m serious.” He said, “I’m a bass player. If you ever need a bass player, let me know.”
We were doing a show somewhere on the East Coast – I think Philadelphia – and Steve’s band was opening up for us, but he was the lead singer. Then, we needed a bass player after that, so I said, “Danny, listen. This guy said he’s a bass player. He’s pretty cool and looks good. Maybe we should check him out.” I called Steve and said, “Send us a video of you playing bass.” So, he sent us a video and it was pretty cool.
At the time, we were ready to go on tour on the West Coast, and some East Coast things, so Keith Roth was playing bass with me then. Keith did those shows on the West Coast. We were gonna have Steve come in and play some gigs on the East Coast, but what happened was, Keith wanted to finish this tour up on the East Coast, so we had to let him do that. I remember we had to talk to Steve and say, “Steve, listen. You have the gig, we just have to let Keith finish this tour because he wants to. He’s our friend.” If you get the chance, come down there, and we’ll let you sit in on a couple of songs to get your feet wet. He came and sat in, and it was great. As soon as that tour was over, I said, “Come on.” So, he came back in and did the next Punky tour. It worked out great; he loves the band; Billy [Orrico] loves the band; The thing about these guys is, not only are they all great players; they’re good people. Not a bunch of big egos and they’re grateful for what they have.
You remained disconnected from the music business for over three decades, yet your influence has reached generations. Upon returning to the spotlight, were you surprised to learn that you are still held in such high regard after all this time?
I think it’s awesome. What’s so funny about that, is I never knew that. I never realized that. I always tell people, before Facebook, I didn’t know how much I influenced people or even how much Angel meant to people. Before the internet, you’d play a town and they’d say, “You guys are great,” and then you would go to the next town, and they’d say, “You guys were great.” But you never heard from them again after that, until you came back around town again.
But then when I went on Facebook and I saw all these Angel Facebook pages and I saw, “You influenced me as a guitar player” – and I saw a guy like Paul Gilbert saying that – I was dumbfounded. When I first did that interview with Keith Roth on the radio, my very first interview that they set up, when the interview came in, the whole radio station crashed. All over the world, people were tuning in to hear me speak, and I was dumbfounded. They got it back up and running and Keith Roth said that his manager said, “What happened? Who did you interview to make that happen?” And he goes, “Punky Meadows.”
To this day, I’m honored. I never knew that until Facebook came out. I thought people forgot about me and that was it.
Well, your recent efforts have been met with an immense amount of positive feedback and endearment. You’re finally able to do things on your terms and flex those creative muscles, which seems to have breathed new life into your music career.
Well, thank you. Like I said, I’m really proud of it and I’m proud of all these guys in the band. They’re all really great musicians and good people, so it’s been a pleasure. I’m looking forward to things to come. Like I said, we’ll start getting a tour lined up and playing again. We’re also doing a Christmas album, too, which is gonna be great. I’ve already written some songs for that and that’s gonna be a lot of fun. Like our manager said, that’s gonna take us to the next level. I’ve written this one solo called “Wrap Me Up.” It’s a real standard-sounding Christmas song; like Michael Buble could sing it. We’ll record that and get that out for Christmas. By that time, the new Angel album will come out, so it will be Angel, Angel, Angel; Christmas album, the new album, and being on tour. Just trying to take this thing to the next level.
Interested in learning more about Punky Meadows and Angel? Check out the link below:
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