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Frank DiMino Remembers…How Angel was Signed to Casablanca

Angel

Angel


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Frank DiMino Remembers…How Angel was Signed to Casablanca


A look at Casablanca’s releases between 1974-1975 indicates a theatrically oriented roster. KISS, Parliament, Fanny, and T. Rex all had roots in glam-rock or were beginning to incorporate more dramatic elements into their stage shows at the time they were signed to Casablanca. The label found one of its most exciting live groups when Angel arrived at Casablanca in 1975. Lead singer Frank DiMino traces how the Washington, D.C.-based rock group found its home at the Casbah:


In D.C., at that time, there were two different clubs where all different bands played and there was kind of like a circle of bands that all knew each other. When we weren’t playing, we went down to see each other. When we put Angel together it was kind of like, we were from three different bands that were very prominent at that time, so to get all of us into one band, it was kind of a showcase for that area.


We knew all the club owners but this one club owner really wanted us to start at his club because he was just opening his club. He had run a couple of different clubs in the Georgetown area so he allowed us to rehearse upstairs and he said, “You rehearse there as long as you want and until you’re ready. When you’re ready I want to bring you guys down to the club”. We said okay. We rehearsed for a while and when we were ready, we put this show together. The place was called Bogie’s and for some reason there was a lot of word-of-mouth happening. We used to do two shows a night and we had another band opening the first show and opening the second show. A lot of people were coming down.  Gordon Fletcher, who used to write for Circus and he did some stuff for Rolling Stone, came down a lot and became a real big fan. He used to bring down whatever bands he was covering that were playing at Largo or anywhere else in town.


Some labels came down. Nothing concrete, we were just talking to them and they were asking us questions. Sometimes, we didn’t even know who they were until after (laughs). We’re talking to them and Gordon would say, “Oh you know that’s so-and-so from Atlantic Records or Capitol”. Gordon was a great friend and a real help to us in those beginning days. He really was a fan of the band. He really enjoyed us.


Angel debut album, 1975

Angel debut album, 1975


At the time, we were at the point of wanting to get something together. We’d been playing there for a couple of months, the band was tight, we were writing all the time so we had a lot of material we working on. David Joseph came down and proposed a whole idea of what he wanted to do. We had a couple of meetings with him and we thought the way he wanted to do it was the way it would work for us. We were on the edge of maybe going with Leber and Krebs but we decided to go with David Joseph.


What happened after that was Gordon brought Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley down there and I think Ace Frehley came down there as well. We talked with them for awhile and they were talking about their management and coming to Casablanca. It was funny, I said, “We just signed a management deal with someone else” (laughs). We became friends with Gene and we went to a few of their shows.


We moved out to Los Angeles and we started the progression of rehearsing, tightening up the songs and then looking for a label. The first person that David called was Neil Bogart because he knew Neil was looking for acts at the time. Casablanca was new. KISS hadn’t broken yet.  I think they were on the Dressed to Kill album at that time. A lot of people were telling David, “Don’t go with Casablanca because it doesn’t look like they’re going to make it. I don’t know if they’re really going to be able to pull through it, financially. They might go under”. There was something about Neil and I think all of us knew that when we first met Neil. He was easy to deal with and you just felt that he understood what you were trying to do.


We went ahead and David decided to think about it. I think David and Neil had a good relationship too because David knew exactly how much he could stretch Neil, as well.  He said, “Let’s just check to see what we can do with other labels and we can always go back to Casablanca”. David was a good friend with Nesuhi Ertegun, so Nesuhi came down. What we ended up doing at that time was to lean towards going with Capitol. They had the bigger contract, more money and John Carter, I think, was the guy we were talking to at the time. We decided to go with Capitol but at that time David had made a big decision to say, “What we’re going to do is I’m going to finance the album so we can go into the studio and record it so we’re not tied with anyone. We’ll get the recording done. We’ll get a record deal”.


We did the first album. We brought it to Capitol and the meeting did not go so, so well. I don’t know what it was. It was one of those meetings where they started bringing up ideas of how they wanted us to change the stuff. This was my first lesson with record companies. We’re giving them a finished product and they’re telling us maybe you should go back and do this and that. We’re going, “This is the product. This is it”. I can remember walking out of the meeting being very disillusioned going, “What are they talking about?” Dave said, “You know what, maybe we should go back and talk to Neil one more time”.


We went back to talk to Neil and brought the album to him because he hadn’t heard the whole thing yet. He sits everyone down and calls people into the office. He’s got these big JBL monitors in his office. He got some food, had some wine, and we just sat down and we listened to the whole thing. After it was done he said, “You know guys? That was great and I would love to take this album and run with it”. You hear a guy say that and you go, “Wow”. That’s what you want to hear! You don’t really hear that from record company people or people in the business at that level. He knew how to do things. He was a one of a kind guy, the kind of guy who you always hoped to meet in the business.

Christian John Wikane is a NYC-based journalist and music essayist. He's a Contributing Editor for PopMatters, where he's interviewed artists ranging from Paul McCartney to Janelle Monae. For the past three years, he's penned liner notes for more than 100 CD re-issues by legends of R&B, rock, pop, dance, and jazz. Since 2008, he's produced and hosted Three of Hearts: A Benefit for The Family Center at Joe's Pub. He is the author of the five-part oral history Casablanca Records: Play It Again (PopMatters, 2009). Follow him on Twitter @CJWikaneNYC. 


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