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Pez Band

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Hailing from the same state as Cheap Trick (Illinois), the Pezband was a mostly fine, occasionally wonderful, power pop band that specialized in hook-filled hard rock with sweet multi-part harmonies. Led by the strong, blues-inflected singing of Mimi (a guy) Betinis and the rampaging Jeff Beck-influenced guitar playing of Tommy Gawenda, the Pezzers' first LP (released in 1977) was not as hard and heavy as Cheap Trick, nor did it exhibit the berserk panache of their fellow Illinoisans. But that all changed with their second LP, Laughing in the Dark, which contained a high quotient of good-to-great songs, excellent production by Jesse Hood Jackson, and a wonderful lack of smugness and calculation that was slowly infiltrating every power pop band in America. A huge public reaction, however, was not forthcoming. The band had its supporters (like most of the editorial staff of Trouser Press), but power pop/hard rock from Illinois was dominated by Cheap Trick, and everybody else had to find a place in the pecking order. For bands like the Pezband, that meant far less coverage than they deserved. There was also another issue: the band didn't deliver another record as good as Laughing, nor could they recapture the excitement and messy mania of their live show (forever preserved on an excellent pair of EPs, Too Old, Too Soon and Thirty Seconds Over Schaumburg) in the studio. Hence, the rest of their recorded output is serviceable, but only hints at what the band was truly capable of doing. It's too bad, because they were such unpretentious, likable guys. By the early '80s, the Pezband had virtually vanished from the music scene, but in 1994 a Chicago-based independent label released some outtakes and other previously unreleased material.

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1975 in Oak Park, IL

Years Active:

'70s, '80s, '00s