Whizz Kid.

July 16, 2008 at 6:18 am (Uncategorized)

Dunno if I’ve mentioned it on the blog here, but one of my favorite ways to spend an evening discovering music I’ve never heard of is to start going through the bands on my myspace friends list and clicking on the artists in their friends lists. You end up listening to a lot of derivative, crappy music…but every now and then you uncover a gem.

Last week while doing this, I noticed a friend icon on Steve’s myspace page that I hadn’t seen before, for a fellow named David Werner. The songs posted at Werner’s myspace page are pretty awful vinyl rips of a 1974 album he recorded…but even with all the pops and hiss, the songs themselves sound freaking great, which gets me thinking:

Who the hell is David Werner?

A little searching on the internet reveals that Werner was a fantastically talented California teenager with a flair for production and songwriting who put together an ace studio band and had a brief run at trying to be a Stateside answer to Ziggy Stardust…but things never took. Two albums in the early seventies, “Whizz Kid” (yes, after the Mott The Hoople song) and “Imagination Quota”, and one final stab at the brass ring in 1979 with a harder rocking self-titled album (with a song produced by Ian Hunter of Mott). After that he went into the production side of music, and penned a few hit songs for folks like Billy Idol and continues to do music production and songwriting in California to this day.

Here’s the thing. None of his albums are available on digital in any form–no CD reissues, nothing via digital download. Nada. This is a loss.

David Werner, you see, is freaking brilliant. His debut album, “Whizz Kid” especially, sounds like the record that Dan Bejar has been trying to write for Destroyer for the last five years. It also sounds like something Scott Miller of Loud Family/Game Theory fame listened to obsessively. It is a stunning slab of glam rock goodness, filled with Werner’s fey-Bowie-ish vocals, gospel backing vocals, Visconti-like strings, and plenty of skronking guitar when needed.

Vinyl only, though, and perhaps all out of print for over thirty years. Talk about forgotten. Luckily, searching the internet for David Werner info turned up a fantastic new blog: Vinyl Treasures. What Popcat, the author of the blog aims to do is find out of print, never before digitally available but otherwise worthwhile vinyl albums and rip them to mp3’s.

The first album popcat did? Yeah, David Werner’s “Whizz Kid”. Here’s the thing: I’m always real, real skeptical of homebrew vinyl rips to digital, because every one I’ve tried sounds awful, and I’ve even heard some studio music pros take a stab at it and fail. Imagine my surprise then when I listened to popcat’s effort with “Whizz Kid”: it not only sounds fantastic, it actually sounds as if the production and mix could’ve come from a 2008 album rather than a 1974 obscurity. You’re skeptical too? Hey, here’s some David Werner for you then, thanks to the magnificent efforts of popcat at vinyl treasures:

“One More Wild Guitar”
“Whizz Kid”
“The Lady In Waiting”
“The Ballad Of Trixie Silver”

Hear what I’m talkin’ about now? David Werner had a fantastic sound (if “Whizz Kid” came out in 2008, hipsters in Brooklyn and Philly and Cleveland would be touting him as the antidote to rock hating dishmops like Conor Oberst), and popcat’s done him real justice with an incredible vinyl rip of his debut album.

To get the full thing, go back to that hotlink above and scroll down to the comments. Or, if you’re lazy, head here:

http://www.divshare.com/download/2772494-2cd

The archive is password protected under the password “popcat” (no quotes.) Enjoy!

15 Comments

  1. Beth C said,

    TWO posts in one day?? My happiness is complete.Awesome find in Dave Werner, Chris. Love Chris Knox, too. (Thank you, Jennie Korshak!)

  2. Kyle said,

    holy shit! nice find, chris! i just checked out The Ballad of Trixie Silver… if it’s at all indicative to the quality of the rest of the songs, i’m going to be very happy!cheers,kyle

  3. steve scariano said,

    Kid,Was very happy to read your post on Mr. Werner. Whizz Kid remains the best known of his three albums, probably because everyone who ever owned it during it’s day never paid more than a dollar or two tops for it. Whizz Kidd was one of the most golden of all cut-outs during The Golden Age Of Cut-Outs 1972-1980. EVERY greater cut-out bin across the country, whether it be a record store, a K-Mart, or your corner drug store, ALWAYS had plenty of copies of Whizz Kid.But as great and classic a record as Whizz Kid is, David Werner’s true artistic triumph and masterpiece is his second album, Imagination Quota. I’ve always felt that IQ was the great post-Ziggy pre-Berlin trilogy record Bowie WISHED he could have made. After the failure of the much-hyped by RCA first album, Werner and incredible partner/guitarist Mark Doyle (who a crazy old rock critic friend of mine once described as “A baroque Jeff Beck…”)knew the success they were promised was not going to materialize, so they just went for it and made the record THEY wanted to make. And the results were so amazing. The lone audio offering from IQ on David’s myspace page is thankfully it’s crowning achievement: “Cold Shivers.” The best damn song he ever wrote. For me no other song has ever come close to capturing what it felt like to be a suburban teenager in 1975 locked in his room night after night, listening to records and reading CREEM and Melody Maker and Phonograph Record Magazine cover to cover. Yep, that was me, and you bet I felt every last one of the words of “Cold Shivers”–DEEPLY! Werner totally nailed what it felt like back then to be a fan of the more out of the mainstream rock of the day. I had always automatically assumed the song was Werner’s fan letter to Bowie, but when I met Werner in 1980 (more on that in a minute) he told me it was about Mick Jagger. Imagination Quota easily stands shoulder to shoulder with every great recognized classic album from the ’70’s. Trust me whizz kids, it really is THAT GREAT. The only problem with the record is so very few people heard it then when it came out, and even fewer people have heard over the 30+ years since. Even by the more generous and sympathetic commercial and marketplace ’70’s standards, IQ died an astonsihing quick death. It was obvious RCA had given up on it even before they released it, so they pressed very few copies and gave it no support. So unlike the label hyped Whizz Kid, IQ was never really out there from the beginning, many Werner fans didn’t even know it was out, and unlike Whizz Kid as well, scant few copies made their way to the cut-out bins for post failure discovery by curious shoppers. A true rock tragedy. So needless to say, Imagination Quota forever remains at the top of my list of records I’d love to see on cd someday.But hey, self-titled album #3 brought renewed hope for us Werner fans. At the height of the put-a-skinny-tie-on-it-and-call-it-nu-wave era, Werner was back with a big sounding hard rocking record (the heavy noise-gated sound of Bob Clearmountain and his Power Station studio, who after making his reputation on Springsteen’s The River album, was quickly becoming the hippest American record producer at the time) and a big label (Epic) giving it a big push. Oh Epic worked the album like hell, got it a lot of radio airplay, and even got Werner an appearance on American Bandstand. But in the end the record was just a little too heavy and hard rocking for the nu-wavers, and a little too pop for the hard rockers, so it never found a large audience. It was definitely different from his first two records, and he was clearly trying to make as commercial for the times a record as he could, which of course led to a lot of his original fans not liking it, but I loved it! I was working at Streetside Records at the time, and I went to great lengths trying to put the record into the purchasing arms of as many customers as I could—often succeeding. πŸ™‚And if you ever came to town/You’d probably never wanna come aroundWell unlike those classic lyrics from “Cold Shivers,” David Werner DID come to town!!! Yep, he played the old Mississippi Nights here in St. Louis on his tour for the third record. On the afternoon of the show, the local Columbia rep brought him by the store to meet the retail folks, as was the practice back in that day. My boss, bless his heart, knew what a fanatic I was, so he let me leave the sales floor so I could hang with Werner. And then it was just me & Werner in my boss’ office, where for the next hour I turned into total nerd fanboy as David patiently answered every fanboy question I had stored up over the years for him. πŸ™‚ He was a sweetheart and a total class act. And the show that night was fucking PHENOMENAL! He played every last song every fanatic in the crowd wanted to hear—including a version of “Cold Shivers” that had me in tears. And Doyle was fantastic too, every bit as great an onstage foil for Werner as Ronson was for Bowie. Such a shame that Doyle spent the rest of the ’80’s in Meatloaf’s touring band, he deserved better. The show that night not only exceeded any and all expectations, but dig the total icing on the cake: The drummer in Werner’s band that night was none other than His Majesty Thom Mooney from THE NAZZ!!! That’s right—Thom fucking Mooney! Yeah baby!

  4. Anonymous said,

    Actually Werner was from Pittsburgh, he hated LA, thought it was “plasticland.” As Steve S. noted, IMAGINATION QUOTA remains a great lost LP of the 70s. Those of us “who knew” did what we could–when I worked in LA record stores we used to put that LP on the box all the time, got the manager to keep ordering it until the meagre supplies were gone from the rack-jobbers, etc. Maybe 100 more people found out about it that way. Definitely needs to be released on CD.Have to disagree about the best stuff on the LP, though. Title track is much meatier, and gives Mark Doyle some room for an awesome closing solo; no such room on “Cold Shivers,” a good song but paint-by-numbers. Virtually everyone who we turned onto it in 76-77-78 thought the second side was the bomb–Talk, Starlight’s Gone, Aggravation, Body & Soul–incredibly versatile songwriting and arranging, four different styles flowing together seamlessly.It’s worth the $20 or so on eBay. Just buy it, you’ll tbank me later.

  5. ShawnMHardy said,

    Hi there. Thanks for this blog about David Werner. I’m a longtime fan of his music and he is so underrated – what a shame that is.

  6. Like Dahntahn said,

    An anonymous above backs my own recollection of Werner. I was 18 and just out of the house when Imagination Quota got lots of airplay in Pittsburgh. It’s happily burned into my brain! The DJ on WYDD said Werner was from Whitehall, right where I was living. So yeah, Werner done us proud! Still have my well-worn LPs.

  7. Melissa said,

    David Werner is actually not from California, he’s from Pittsburgh. He spent the late 80’s and 90’s in LA but.. that’s it. πŸ™‚ I know the guy.

  8. True Star said,

    David is from Pittsburgh, PA. He produced a band I was in growing up. His best album is the Epic one simply titled David Werner, produced by Bob Clearmountain, although all three are really good. He also wrote Rock the Cradle for Billy Idol
    Kurt Stevens

  9. greg brant said,

    Werner was great! my high school days were great thanks to cold shivers!let me know if u agree.

  10. Stephen Heaney said,

    Dave Werner was a childhood friend from Pittsburgh. Anyone know how to contact him?

    Steve Heaney

  11. cottm said,

    I have the album! Love “Whizz Kid” and “Trixie”….
    Scott M.

  12. Art T said,

    WYDD and David Werner …great memories of growing up and getting into music in Pittsburgh..is there a website about WYDD anywhere?

  13. Anonymous said,

    I have about 14,000 records and Imagination Quota will always be my favorite one. The day someone unearths any live footage is the day I can die happy πŸ™‚

  14. Jim said,

    For the last 36 YEARS I have been trying to find a song I’d heard on my local rock station. Relentlessly typing “Cold Shivers” and all possible combinations of what lyrics I remembered into Google’s vast pipeline. I found nothing; no artist info, no missing lyrics, zero.
    Last night i typed it into YouTube…..Bingo!!!

    Today I found you guys and the treasure trove you’ve provided.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • Anonymous said,

      I am in contact with david evry week .he is recovering from a non cancerus throut opp.i have been trying to talk him in to reving his talents.with a comeback.he is a true talent

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