dB HoF No. 122
The making of Bang’s Bang
Let’s stop and take stock of what an incredible year 1971 was for proto-metal, when Led Zeppelin was arguably at its creative zenith with Led Zeppelin IV, and Black Sabbath cranked out the towering duo of Paranoid (originally released in ’70, but held for the U.S. market) and Master of Reality. Meanwhile, Deep Purple was touring in support of their first two albums and writing and recording the phenomenal Machine Head. ’71 was also the year that the term “heavy metal” first appeared in print, first to describe blues-based bands like Humble Pie, then heavier and more worthy fare like Sir Lord Baltimore. So, yeah, definitely a golden age for hard rock right there, capped off in fitting form in December 1971 by one of the ultimate “cult classics”: Bang’s self-titled debut.
History hasn’t been as kind to Bang. The Philadelphia-based trio put out a string of releases on Capitol Records between 1971-1973—including Mother/Bow to the King and Music—before throwing in the towel. Death of a Country—a groovy psychedelic concept album rejected by Capitol that didn’t see an official release until decades later—is extremely inventive and memorable, but also very much an artifact of the dying remnants of the hippie era. But the band’s debut—recorded in the span of two weeks during that fall of 1971—definitely deserves to be part of the conversation. Bang is as brooding, lyrically complex, and expertly arranged as anything produced by the sonic titans of the early 1970’s. Rise Above head honcho Lee Dorrian describes it as “a poppier version of Sabbath, but still as heavy and raw as hell, placing Bang as one of the greatest heavy/hard rock bands to have emerged from the States in their day.”
Bang’s self-titled record owes its unique flavor to synergy; everyone in the band played a crucial role in putting the record together. Drummer Tony Diorio’s quizzical lyrics reflected the entire spectrum of human existence, which he neatly encapsulates as “life, death, the environment we live in, science fiction, and time travel.” Bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrera and guitarist Frankie Glicken—childhood friends who remain in the band to this day—had an especially keen ear for melodies and towering riffs, respectively—something that’s monstrously evident on tracks like “The Queen” and “Questions,” and the standout opener “Lions, Christians.” By all accounts, audiences and critics devoured the album quite eagerly upon its release; according to Jim Link of the Glendale News, “If hard rock is your cup of custard, you’ll be absolutely blasted by Bang.”
The story behind the writing and recording of Bang is a testament to manic inspiration, performing Herculean feats under impossible time constraints, and marrying youthful bravado and temerity with a chain of unbelievably lucky events. But the band’s overarching narrative is also a cautionary tale of karmic reversal of fortune, and a reminder of why, even when you’re seemingly positioned at the right place at the right time, it can reveal itself as the wrong place, wrong time. Still, at current writing, Bang is basking in the afterglow from a reunion tour supporting Pentagram and gearing up to hit the road again. Some bands never get to experience a second act, let alone a third. When life hands you lemons, you make custard.
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