Back in 1980 they self-released a single which included the songs “Wild Summer Nights” and “Tender Years”. They sold over 10,000 copies, had radio play and they toured up and down the Atlantic seaboard. But the act was still ignored by the labels due to persistent comparisons to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.
They finally achieved international success when producer Kenny Vance, a long-time fan, offered them the opportunity to score a movie soundtrack he was in charge of, based on the best-selling novel about a legendary bar band, “Eddie and the Cruisers”.
Vance wanted to use the music of Bruce Springsteen, but it was too expensive to license, so he got an act that sounds like Springsteen. The world was finally introduced to “John Cafferty And The Beaver Brown Band”.
In 1983, “Eddie And The Cruisers” came out and the singles “On The Dark Side” and “Tender Years” from the soundtrack cracked the Top 10 Billboard Charts. The soundtrack was released on CBS Records and you would think that CBS would sign the act, however it was independent label Scotti Brothers who signed them. They had distribution via CBS and the label was known for launching the career of Survivor.
“Tough All Over” was first released in 1985 and it was Cafferty’s first attempt to pull his band away from the “Eddie and the Cruisers” franchise. As soon as you heard his voice, you imagined it was actor Michael Pare, who did a pretty good job lip syncing in the movie. Well that is how I remember it.
And the album did okay business, but the label decided to re-release it in 1986 with a different album cover and “The Voice of Eddie and the Cruisers” added to the title. Maybe they thought it would sell more if it had this extra add on. Hence the reason why it is listed as an 1986 release for me.
All songs are written by John Cafferty who also does vocals and rhythm guitar. The Beaver Brown Band is made up of Pat Lupo (RIP) on bass, Kenny Jo Silva on drums, Gary Gramolini on guitar, Robert Nicholas Cotoia (RIP) on keys and Michael Antunes on saxophone.
Voice of America’s Sons
The fourth and last single released from the album. If you are a Stallone fan, you would remember this song from the 1986 movie “Cobra”.
As a side note, John Cafferty also sang the song “Hearts On Fire” for the “Rocky IV” movie. It was used during the training montage music in Russia.
The major chords immediately give you a feelgood vibe, and John Cafferty is bringing back the summery sounds of the 70’s in the 80’s.
Spent those years dreaming, but the dreams didn’t last, time is moving much too fast, turn the radio on
The radio was an escape into the world of music and the emotions which music brings.
Well they built those factories, with blood sweat and steel, coming down fast under, the weight of the wheel
My Dad worked in those same factories in Australia, until a broken back retired him.
Tough All Over
The first single from the album.
It’s basically a hard rock song built on a synthesizer riff, the song describes the struggles of young working individuals. Sort of like how “Living On A Prayer” described the lives of Tommy and Gina a year later.
“Well, she’s waiting for the bus down on the boulevard / Pretty little working girl / She ain’t got no fancy clothes don’t drive no fancy car / She’s the waitress at the bar and grill”
“Well, he’s drinking at the bar down by the old boat yard / He sits and he talks to strangers / The factory laid him off and life’s been getting hard / It’s enough to make a good man bad”
I guess we haven’t progressed much since the 80’s in relation to doing it tough. We still have our addictions and we are still trying to win something in this game of life.
The second single. You can’t deny the rock and roll Bruce Springsteen and Huey Lewis influence on this track.
“On the South side of Detroit city, I’m working all night on the line, Under black smoke stacks, building Cadillacs, Jack, not one of them will ever be mine”.
How good are the lyrics?
Immediately an image forms in my head.
“Living in the C-I-T-Y, life here ain’t no dream”
Where the Action Is
The drumming reminds me of those 60’s beach songs, like “Wipeout” and the guitar playing reminds me of Dick Dale. Overall, the song would not be out of place on any 60’s Rock soundtracks.
I know John Cafferty probably hates it, but goddamn this song is Springsteen through and through.
Strangers in Paradise
It continues with the similar major key riffing that appears on “Voices Of America’s Sons”. Think of the keys riffs from Jonathan Cain.
Small Town Girl
The third single about working a late shift in his Dads shop and how he finally meets a girl that lives across town that drives him crazy. It’s got that 60’s ballad feel. The song wouldn’t be out of place on the “Grease” soundtrack.
More Than Just One of the Boys
This one is probably the most current sounding track that isn’t dated to any era. It has all kind of influences, with Billy Joel coming to mind.
Tex-Mex (Crystal Blue)
I thought it would be a greasy blues tune like ZZ Top, but it’s a ballad with a Mexican influence. Johnny Cash comes to mind.
John Cafferty never broke big in Australia with his American Heartland lyrics, while artists like Mellencamp and Springsteen did, however I was a fan. His Beaver Brown band could rock with the best of the backing bands at the time.
The only thing I can write is to crank it.
4 thoughts on “1986 – Part 5.1: John Cafferty – Tough All Over”
I knew the soundtrack songs (Dark Side), but didn’t really know anything else from them. They got some play on MTV, but not enough to break them fully in the States. You are right about Springsteen and Mellencamp, they pretty much owned that Middle America song thing…then Bon Jovi came along and had his own version of that.
Yep Jovi sure did his own take on that.
Beaver Brown Band sounds like the name of a Plasmatics record lol. Seen a few vids of there’s back in the day here but like John they didn’t make much of a dent.
I never really even knew this existed, I didn’t follow the band at all beyond the soundtrack. It does sound like something I should check out more, I always dug this sort of sound.