Real Gone has just reissued One Kiss Leads to Another in a beautifully remastered, expanded edition, revealing it as one cult curio that defies easy categorization.
As produced by Richard Robinson, it has a lo-fi, primal sound that was in marked contrast to that of the band’s Kama Sutra labelmates. Tommy Moonlight (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Chick Newman (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Robbie Biegel (drums) and Bob Roman (bass) were signed by Kama Sutra when the label was seeking to diversify from the likes of the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express. Bubblegum, this is not.
Though Hackamore Brick hailed from the mean streets of New York (as depicted on that striking and hip cover), there’s a beguiling, youthful innocence behind the often-oblique lyrics. Darkness lurks around the edges of otherwise-mellow tracks like the album-opening “Reachin’.” Newman’s elegiac melody and the ragged harmony vocals contribute to an atmosphere of paranoia: “What will you do when they’re comin’ after you, tellin’ you to move? Start hidin’…” Haunting, spare and atmospheric arrangements color Moonlight’s “Got a Gal Named Wilma,” Moonlight and Bob Roman’s “Peace Has Come,” and Newman’s “And I Wonder.” The latter builds to an extended keyboard jam-freakout, and makes it one of the few tracks on One Kiss that seem of its time; others, like “Zip Gun Woman,” sound straight out of the CBGB’s scene of a few years later.
The title of Moonlight’s “Oh! Those Sweet Bananas” proves that the band’s proclivity for offbeat turns of phrase didn’t end with the name Hackamore Brick. The girl group-esque title One Kiss Leads to Another is drawn from this song which might have been a good candidate for single release. At under 2-1/2 minutes’ length, “Bananas” is the kind of pop that Frank Zappa might have been proud of: “Papa owned a business selling fruits and vege-tables/The old man, he was lonely, there was nobody to eat his apples…” Tommy Moonlight’s “Radio” was released by Kama Sutra on a promotional single: “It’s so groovy, you can sit yourself down, tune into your favorite station, get in some good relaxation as you listen for dedication that you called in to the radio.” With its “AM, FM, all day, all night radio” chorus, it begins as lyrically bizarre. But the song gets unexpectedly stranger when a drag race ensues with an off-putting result. “Finger” and “window” get rhymed (!) and “Radio” has become a “death disc” that never was. It’s a memorable, almost-commercial track with just the right amount of depraved kookiness. The boogie-woogie piano on Moonlight’s “I Watched You Rhumba” (“You got a heart sweet as country cider, and you know the sun shines brighter whenever you’re around”) adds another instrumental color to the mix.
This slow-burning New York underground classic has come into its own with Real Gone’s stellar reissue, impeccably remastered by Vic Anesini. Tony Rettman has supplied new liner notes to top off the package, assessing it as a favorite album of his while acknowledging its “peculiar – and sometimes gritty – edge.” That edge sets it apart from virtually every other genre occupying the Top 40 in 1970, and as such, it’s worth exploring for the musically adventurous out there. Though undoubtedly a rock curiosity, One Kiss just might lead to a new favorite album.