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Power-pop demi-god Dwight Twilley cranks 'em out

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back blue.jpgA documentary is in the works about Dwight Twilley, and in addition to featuring songs from the pop-rocker's four-decade career (including his pair of No. 16 hits, "I'm on Fire" in 1975 and "Girls" in 1984) the film features several new autobiographical songs Twilley wrote and recorded for the occasion.

But you know how film projects go -- slowly. With no wrap date in sight for the film, Twilley went ahead and released the songs last year as "Soundtrack."

HOZAC BLACKOUT FEST 2013
Featuring Dwight Twilley
with Pezband, GAMES, and the Sueves
• 8 p.m. May 19
• Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western
• Tickets: $25.00; (773) 276-3600; emptybottle.com

"This film doesn't seem to be speeding down the track, that's for sure," Twilley says. "I have no control over it. All I was in charge of was making this album. I did my job."

This is what Twilley does: cranks out album after album of remarkably consistent, solid power-pop.

He had his heyday -- on Leon Russell's Shelter Records in the 1970s (with the Dwight Twilley Band that included the late Phil Seymour), recording hits with Tom Petty in the '80s -- but after the 1994 earthquake in Los Angeles, Twilley packed up what was left and returned home to Tulsa, Okla. Ever since, he's been living in a midtown home with a converted garage studio. He's got nothing to do but make records, all day every day.

First came, appropriately, "Tulsa" (1999), then "The Luck" (2001), "47 Moons" (2004), "Have a Twilley Christmas" (2005), a live album, another best-of, an album of Beatles covers, then "Green Blimp."

"We almost always have a track going," Twilley says. "The best song is always the new one. We're about seven tracks into the new album now. The new one is 'Everybody's Crazy.' ... We were floundering in L.A. The labels didn't give a sh-- about me. But then 'Wayne's World' happened [Twilley's 'Why You Wanna Break My Heart' was on the soundtrack] and we were able to come back to Oklahoma, buy a house and build a studio. In a way, the whole journey culminated in 'Soundtrack.' Now we're just making more records, all the time."

Twilley admits the post-"Soundtrack" work is slow going after the 2010 loss of Bill Pitcock IV, Twilley's longtime guitarist (and one of the most underappreciated ever).

"It's a drag," Twilley says. "Bill and I worked so closely, especially these last few years. We were still recording 'Soundtrack' when he died. It was strange in the middle of this autobiographical album to lose Bill, who'd been there from the start. And we lost [Twilley Band drummer] Jerry Naifeh a few months before. I'm the remaining Twilley Band guy, and I guess I'll still be holding the flag form my wheelchair."

A few guests have joined in on the new songs. Roger Linn (who played those great backwards guitars on "Sincerely") contributed to one track, 20/20's Ron Flynt on another.

Meanwhile, Twilley's been trotting out to a few rare one-off gigs.

"We took our pretty hot little new band to Atlanta," Twilley says of last month's Mess Around Festival, "and played to this kind of punkish audience, really young kids. They were singing the lyrics to every one of the songs. The sang all the lyrics to 'T.V.' Then, we were practically run out of town for not playing 'Looking for the Magic.' We just didn't have it worked up, but they were screaming for it at the end. It's a weird phenomenon with that song. We're rehearsing it. We'd better play it in Chicago."


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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on May 15, 2013 2:00 PM.

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