Robin Lane & the Chartbusters emerged in 1979 when the backing vocalist/guitarist on the song "Round & Round" from Neil Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere album landed an album deal of her own with Larry Uttal's Private Stock Records and needed a band. The daughter of Dean Martin's musical director, Kenny Lane, told AMG: "I as an x-hippie chick went looking for my knights in Rat punkdom during the summer of 1978." She was hanging out at the legendary Boston nightclub The Rat in Kenmore Square and "lured" the musicians in with the recording contract offer from the label which had put out records by Blondie and Frankie Valli, an imprint which folded before they could record.
The band thought she was "cute and cheeky" and they loved her songs, so they decided to stick with her and wait it out until they got another record deal, which didn't take too long.
Personally managed by Mike Lembo before she hooked up with Modern Lovers' Leroy Radcliffe and Asa Brebner, along with drummer Tim Jackson and bassist Scott Baerenwald (a member of Boston '70's pioneers Reddy Teddy as well as the live touring band for the Archies), Lembo had secured Lane a record deal with Private Stock and a publishing contract with Leeds Music, later MCA Music, now Universal. "He managed a friend of mine, Peter C. Johnson, half-man-half-tape....who was using art and tape in his live performances way before what was normal" Lane told All Media Guide.
The Chartbusters tracked a demo tape at Northern Studios featuring the original "When Things Go Wrong," "Why Do You Tell Lies," and "The Letter" (a different song than the Box Tops hit and an excellent tune).
A local disc jockey suggested they make a single out of the recordings, so manager Mike Lembo created a label, Deli Platters, and the three-song EP was released with a black-and-white picture sleeve; it sold a phenomenal amount of copies in New England and on the East Coast, with tons of free press coming from the venture.
Guitarist Asa Brebner's web page notes that Robin Lane & the Chartbusters were signed to Warner Bros by Jerry Wexler.
Two videos were made, along with two albums and a live EP between 1980 and 1981.
Lane told AMG years later that "We should have stuck to the grass roots, but who knew? ....we were blinded by the stars in our eyes."
One example of how tough it was "when things go wrong," as her minor hit went, was when they recorded the five-song live EP at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. "The kids were banging on the doors (of the theater) where we were to be recorded...there was no sound check for us, utter pandemonium erupted ...they recorded us and put it out ... no overdubs, no nothing." Exit guitarist Leroy Radcliffe and the Chartbusters dissolved though Lane reappeared with a techno/rock EP in 1984 entitled Heart Connection, with a band comprised of her original group with the additions of keyboardist Wally J. Baier and Willie "Loco" Alexander & the Boom Boom Band guitarist Billy Loosigian. The "grass roots" approach that appealed to Lane so much made Heart Connection as entertaining as the original three-song EP on Deli Platters, which started it all.
During their time away from each other the individual members kept busy. Lane wrote songs for notable artists, and in 1995 released a critically acclaimed CD, Catbird Seat.
Asa Brebner embarked on a solo career, while Tim Jackson began teaching at a college. They reunited in 2001 in a Boston suburb, and the Chartbusters got on-stage again, captured on video by a local television program. More gigs followed, and a new album, cleverly titled When Things Go Right -- a take-off on their signature tune -- found itself being recorded with new guitarist Pat Wallace taking the place of Radcliffe on second guitar. The re-release of the group's first, self-titled Warner Bros. album coincidentally materialized on the Collectors Choice label with liner notes by AMG's Richie Unterberger around the time of the recording of the 2002 reunion disc.
Robin Lane teaches in Western MA and has written a biography with all the details of her legendary Boston band, the Chartbusters. Her webpage is http://www.randomrogue.com/robinlane. ~ Joe Viglione