By Mick Klebber
Five record industry rookies who call themselves Player have homered their first time at the bat in the big leagues. Less than three months after the release of their first single, this California based rock quintet is at the top of the national record charts with "Baby Come Back", an r&b laced love lament which has already sold more than one million copies.
Instant top ten is no longer the fairy tale phenomenon it once was. Witness the sudden emergence of groups like Foreigner and Boston, or the growing list of saccharine soloists like Debby Boone, Andy Gibb, Shaun Cassidy, and the barely pubescent Leif Garrett. In any case, Player's is still a Cinderella story, albeit a carefully crafted one.
More than 18 months were spent in the production of the group's debut album, aptly entitiled Player, on the RSO label. Best described by Todd Rungren, as a platter of tasty but non-nutritional "ear snacks", the album sounds like a collection of potential singles. The songs are short and sweet, most of them featuring a repetitive refrain which is relentlessly driven into your memory banks.
Several steps above Muziak but just as insidious, these are the kind of tunes that dentists pipe into their waiting rooms to keep America blissfully humming. Listening to "Come On Out", "Every Which Way", or "This Time I'm In It For Love"-any of which could follow up their current smash-is the kind of pleasant, marginally involving experience which drives Frank Zappa berserk.
This winning sound is a hybrid of various influences. More than two years ago, Liverpudliansinger-songwriter Peter Beckett met transplanted Texan J.C. Crowley at a party. Peter remembers, "J.C. came out to my place with a bunch of songs and I had some, too, and we liked each other's stuff. he was some what jazzy and I was more rockish. We both were influenced by the Beach Boys and the Beatles. When we put it all together, the results were surprisingly good. So the nucleous of Player was formed."
The rhythm section materialized when Ronn Moss, a flamboyant bassist with compatible voice, and former Ice Follies drummer John Friesen joined in succession. Angeleno keyboardist Wayne Cook performed so well during recording sessions, that he was asked to join the group, finalizing the present lineup.
Currently busy in the studio preparing their second album, Player hooked into a tour with RSO stablemate Eric Clapton, but they seem destined to become headliners before the year is out. Their recent showcase at L.A.'s trendy nightclub The Roxy proved that they are more compelling in person than on vinyl and that their new material is just as broadly palatable as the songs now available.
In contrast to the spate of acne-plagued pint size performers who exercise their Napoleonic complexes on stage, the members of Player are visually appealing to mothers as well as daughters. No one in the band needs platform boots to see over the microphones, and their well scrubbed complexions have never seen a Stridex pad. "It's great", grins Beckett infectiously. "We're not only taller, we're smarter too. We're really quite straight, and we try to stay healthy, which is rather unusual for a rock band. We're probably the straightest band you'll ever meet."
One feminine pop aficionado dubs Beckett "the best looking thing in rock 'n' roll since Paul McCartney/" Other smitten fans cute Crowley's sensitive eyes or Moss's chiseled features as fuel for rock dreams.
If this group has any problems, it would be sudden success without sacrificing their personal image. "We'd like to come across as close as possible to what we are," says J.C. "Obviously we don't have the hype. We're not trying to hype you. We think it would be nice to be appreciated by a wide range of people. So we're not going to limit ourselves to a pop audience or a teen audience ot an elderly audience... We're going for the whole thing."