The Michael Stanley Band was a huge phenomenon in Cleveland and Northeast, Ohio back in the seventies and eighties. They still hold attendance records at Blossom Music Center and the long gone Richfield Coliseum. Although they were on major record labels such as Epic, Arista and EMI and had a couple singles break the top forty ( "He Can't Love You" #33 1980 and "My Town #39 1983) and performed on Solid Gold and American Bandstand, they never broke out nationally. In fact outside of the Cleveland area, they were virtually unknown.
I was in high school in Cleveland at the height of their popularity and I must confess, I was not a fan. At the time, I was a budding music snob and probably thought I was too cool for MSB's Midwestern pop-rock. I was mistaken. I may have been a lot of things back then but cool was not one of them. Trust me, I have photos to prove it.
Regardless if you were a fan of not, in the early eighties, in Northeast, Ohio the Michael Stanley Band was everywhere. All over the radio, featured in newspapers and magazines, seemingly blasting from every boombox at every high school party I ever attended. My high school girlfriend was a huge MSB fan and I dutifully took her to a couple of Blossom shows and I remember attending a free concert in the parking lot of the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Although I was not thrilled about attending those shows, they were much more enjoyable than the Barry Manilow concert we went to. Wow, I must have been a really good boyfriend.
The Michael Stanley Band broke up in 1987 and I left the area not long after and completely forgot about the band. I can honestly say I literally never heard an MSB song for probably twenty-five
Four or five years ago, I ran across some Michael Stanley Band videos on YouTube and was completely knocked out. Once my high school nostalgia subsided, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the songs were. Really great eighties pop music. All these years later, I have finally become a Michael Stanley fan. I even like a lot of his "new" music with The Resonators. The prodigal son has returned to the fold.
Which brings us to Timothy Giles' book, "Seeking Stanley: The Elusive Search For The Michael Stanley Band". A great memoir on the author's thirty year obsession with MSB. Back in the eighties, Timothy Giles was having the complete opposite experience that I was having. Living in the Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia, he not only couldn't find another person who liked the band, he couldn't find anybody who had ever even heard of the band. The book chronicles one teenage fan's search for his hero in the age before the internet.
Seeking Stanley is a fun read not only for Michael Stanley fans but for anyone who remembers what it was like to be a young person in that long ago time known as the eighties.
The book is available on Amazon and Timothy is generously donating royalties to charity. The initial royalties went to St. Christopher's Hospital For Children in Philadelphia, a reference to the MSB song, "Spanish Nights", and St. Jude's Children's Hospital will receive all future royalties.
|American Bandstand 1983|
CASEY: How did you first hear about the Michael Stanley Band?
TIMOTHY: I grew up in southern New Jersey across the river from Philadelphia and my town got cable TV pretty early. In the early days of MTV, they were not playing a lot of well known bands and I happened to see the video for the song, “He Can’t Love You”. I guess I was the original target audience using video to attract music buyers. As far as I know, they had little, if any, radio play in the Philadelphia market since there were a plethora of local Philly bands that were going to be “the next big thing” at the time like Robert Hazzard, The Hooters, The A’s etc..,
CASEY: What was it about them that caught your attention?
TIMOTHY: As I mentioned in the book, I thought the band in the video were actually factory workers who played music on the side. I found the song to be very catchy and thought the video was pretty humorous. Again, I was like fourteen, so I didn’t get out much. Of course like anything, you can’t start a fire without a spark, so that was my first foray into a thirty year following of Michael Stanley.
CASEY: You also tell a story about meeting the band before one of their shows. What was that like?
TIMOTHY: They played Slippery Rock University’s Spring Fling in April 1986 and it was the first time I was able to see them live and I decided I wanted to meet them. I was actually quite nervous, for some reason, but the band was very cordial and very unassuming. I used the intro about the Tribe playing that day and that got the conversation rolling. They could not have been nicer.
CASEY: You also mention you are not a fan of Jonah Koslen or MSB’s seventies music. Why?
TIMOTHY: If you listen to the Epic and Arista years the band to me did not really have a pop or rock sound. I don’t think I have
CASEY: What are your top five Michael Stanley songs?
TIMOTHY: “All I Ever Wanted” from the “Heartland” album. “Spanish Nights” from “MSB”, far and away my favorite album. “In The Heartland” from “North Coast”, the title track from”Inside Moves” and “If You Love Me” also from “MSB”. Ironically, the song that got me hooked, “He Can’t Love You”, would not even make the top fifteen. Michael Stanley’s post MSB recordings have produced some quality songs also, “The Ground” is a great song.
CASEY: Why do you think the band wasn’t able to breakout nationally?
TIMOTHY: That is the question that has plagued mankind forty years. I am sure everyone has an opinion but I feel personally the early eighties were over saturated with the working class sound of Springsteen, Seger, Mellencamp etc..I used to love the two guitar, bass, drum and maybe a horn player type bands and back then there were lots of them. I think the Del Lords should have been huge but they never broke out of the bar band mold either.
CASEY: I have always had a theory that one of the reasons they didn’t break out was that the band was too anonymous looking. Nobody really stands out on the album covers. Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen had bands but they were always the main focus in photos, videos, marketing etc. Do think if Michael Stanley had been more the focus they may have been more identifiable and possibly had more success?
|Michael Stanley in the eighties|
TIMOTHY: Not a bad observation but since they had two lead singers and two songwriters, Koslen and Raleigh, focusing on just Stanley would probably not have encouraged the other two to write and sing. Raleigh did write and sing the biggest hit of the band’s career. If you are farmiliar with the documentary, “MSB Confidential” they discuss this and it seems no one could nail down why. Maybe having a band name like Styx or REO would have been a better decision.
CASEY: It seems that Michael has sort of turned his back on the MSB years. I’ve been told he doesn’t play many of his old songs in concert. Why do you think that is?
TIMOTHY: I personally have not seen Michael Stanley and his band, The Resonators, due to timing or geography. They rarely play outside of Northeast, Ohio. But I do have quite a bit of audio that has been made available over the years and they do play quite a few MSB staples. They do not usually play the songs written and sung by Kevin Raleigh but they do play, “all the hits that you wanna hear”.
There’s a “Midwest Midnight” plug.
CASEY: Do you think they will ever do a reunion show?
TIMOTHY: No. They did some reunion shows back in the day. I think nineteen-ninety something was the last one. Over the years, members of the band have shown up at Michael Stanley concerts but they have not done an MSB reunion since the nineties.
|Michael Stanley Today|
CASEY: What made you write the book?
TIMOTHY: It's a bucket list kind of thing. 'Who the hell is Michael Stanley?' is the question I have been asked the most. Followed by,
'How did you hear about MSB?'. It has been in my wheelhouse for quite some time and I finally decided to just go for it.
Thanks to Timothy for writing the book and taking time to do the interview. You can e-mail Timothy at, email@example.com
Although the Michael Stanley Band broke up in 1987, Michael has continued releasing albums and performing live both solo and with his band The Resonators. He has also been a radio personality on WNCX -FM in Cleveland for many years. Most, if not all, of his recordings can be found on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify and he still does shows around Northeast, Ohio. For more information, check out his website http://michaelstanley.com