When the members of Exude got a call out of the blue from a young Australian music entrepreneur asking to market the group's records Down Under, the long-struggling rock band from Anaheim seemed to be embarking on a pop fairy tale.
But the fairy-tale possibilities of Exude's Australian venture appear to have crumbled with the intrusion of such real-world unpleasantries as wrangling over money and the rights to release songs.
Exude's Australian good genie was Kent Pickering, a 23-year--old music business novice who decided to launch his fledgling company, Ultra Media, with Exude as its first act. Pickering had stumbled upon Exude's independently released EP, "Boys Just Want to Have Sex," in a Sydney record shop. He signed Exude based on the reaction he got when he played the novelty title song to dance club audiences. (The song is a parody of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," set to the same music but with a substitute set of lyrics a la Weird Al Yankovic.)
Speaking by phone from Australia last week, Pickering said that Exude's first Australian single--an original song titled "Safe With You"--failed to generate much interest and that he came in for some ridicule on a music-comedy television show for trying to launch a label with an unsigned band from America rather than using native talent.
Ultra Media's next step was going to be the release of "Boys Just Want to Have Sex" as a follow-up single. But Pickering said the publishing company that holds the rights to the Lauper original demanded $20,000 before it would grant an Australian release.
"We're very annoyed. That was the single that would have made (Exude) known," Pickering said. "We're trying to get our money (originally paid to Exude) back because we can't release it ('Boys'). We have to get the money back from the band. I wouldn't like to go against the band (with a lawsuit) because they are great blokes. It's sorry that it had to happen this way, but if you're a company, it's business. It's a bit of a loss for me personally because they're great people."
Exude's lead singer, Frank Rogala, said the band has heard from Pickering's lawyer but is still confident of being able to work out a solution that will allow Ultra Media to release "Boys." In any case, Rogala said, "we don't have liability" because it was up to the label, rather than the band, to secure permission from the Philadelphia-based publisher to use the song.
Rogala noted that record companies in Canada and South America previously had secured the right to release "Boys Just Want to Have Sex." Exude's members--Frank Rogala, his brother, Vince, Robin Canada and Vance Carriere--view the song as something of an albatross that got the techno-rock dance band pegged as a novelty act after its 1984 release.
Pickering said he chalks up his involvement with Exude as a learning experience and from now on will concentrate on working with Australian acts. That is an about-face from the idea he had in launching his label: that he could succeed by drawing upon the massive talent pool of unsigned American rock bands. Pickering said Ultra Media's next project is a novelty release--a new version of the "Roger Ramjet" cartoon theme, performed by Australian musicians.
As for Exude, any disappointments in Australia are being offset by renewed hopes for a U.S. record deal. Rogala said label interest in the band has increased since it was named recently among the top 10 finishers in a "Best Unsigned Band" contest sponsored by Musician Magazine and judged by a blue-ribbon panel made up of Elvis Costello, Mark Knopfler, T-Bone Burnett and Mitchell Froom.
"All the labels have been asking for demos from us," Rogala said. "None has said, 'yes, we'll (sign) you at this moment,' but they've been sending people to our shows" and asking for new material that the band has been working up.
Even though Exude's first release didn't hit it big in Australia, Rogala is hoping that Pickering will think twice before severing the band's Australian connection. "An up-and-coming band that has gotten industry attention is something that's an investment," Rogala said.
SCALING BACK: The loss of half its seating capacity will force Michael's Supper Club to hold off on some big-name bookings, according to owner Michael Zanetis. But Zanetis says he is confident that he will be able to work out an agreement with county fire and building officials to restore some of the Dana Point venue's lost seating capacity--enough for the club to resume its original booking philosophy of going after major acts. After a sold-out opening in August with B.B. King, the fire marshal reduced Michael's seating capacity from 333 to 157 when it was learned that the club had never sought or received the required permit from the fire marshal.
Zanetis said he will seek a variance to relax the usual restrictions somewhat, while also adding two additional exits to improve fire safety. "We think we can get between 210 and 250" as a final seating capacity, Zanetis said. "I think (the chances) are real good. I think the county is our partner and it's to everyone's benefit to get it worked out."
The loss of seating capacity has tightened the club's finances, Zanetis said, but "80% of the (acts) we intended to book we can still book. But the real high-end ones we can't handle." Zanetis said last week that he hoped to get approval for a seating increase within two weeks. In the meantime, he said, Michael's may bring in Top 40 bands for dance nights during the week, and offer concerts only on weekends.
Gary Puckett plays the club tonight and Friday, followed by Jerry Vale on Saturday and Sunday. Other bookings include the Shirelles and Coasters (Oct. 1), the New Ink Spots (Oct. 2), the Platters (Oct. 9), Lee Ritenour (Oct. 19-20) and George Kirby (Oct. 29-30).
FRIGHT NIGHT ROCK: Managers of the recently reopened Miramar Theatre in San Clemente are hoping to book rock concerts into the 51-year-old movie hall at 1700 N. El Camino Real. Theater manager Robert Zoellner said he plans to stage concert nights featuring new-rock bands that will appeal to a young audience and envisions double-bill nights in which a band will play, followed by a movie. The only confirmed show is the Oct. 28-31 booking of Johhny Monster & the Nightmares, which will play between screenings of "every scary movie we can get our hands on," Zoellner said. The theater had a successful run of shows in late August, Zoellner said, when local rock bands played before screenings of a surfing film.