The Sunday Supplement / The Incredible story of The Hollywood Stars
6 December 2020
“I didn’t used to like The Hollywood Stars, I used to like The New York Dolls. Then I heard The Hollywood Stars play Satisfaction. Now I wanna f**k ‘em.” – Iggy Pop
Forty years after the The Hollywood Stars “called it quits”, the defining lineup joined together to play a one off benefit concert at The Bootleg Theatre in Los Angeles, on 11 November 2018.
One of the tracks they played that night was ‘King Of The Night Time World’, which you might remember from the Kiss albums ‘Destroyer’ (’76) and ‘Alive II’ (’77). This is one of a number of songs Kiss covered, as discussed by Chris Dale here.
Today we look at why one of the biggest draws in Hollywood never reached the ‘Star’ studded level that their pedigree and reputation suggested would only be a matter of time.
This is the story of The Hollywood Stars.
“The original version of the song that was later done by Kiss, is a more straight ahead, Rock and Roll version, with all of the energy and excitement of a live performance combined with a near studio-quality sound.
“The lyrics bring back the vibe of the Sunset Strip in the mid-’70s and the street scene in Hollywood at that time.” – THE HOLLYWOOD STARS
First line-up (1973-1974):
Mark Anthony – Guitar, vocals
Ruben De Fuentes – Lead guitar
Scott Phares –Vocals
Terry Rae – Drums, vocals
Gary Van Dyke – Bass guitar (1973) / Kevin Barnhill – Bass guitar (1974)
The band made its debut headlining the Whisky A Go Go over two nights 17/18 December 1973. Over the next year they would become one of the top-drawing acts at the Whisky.
The Hollywood Dolls had been assembled by producer and songwriter Kim Fowley and were designed to be rivals to the New York Dolls. This was just before Fowley built The Runaways, who later opened for the Hollywood Stars, and the plan was to push both bands into the big time.
In January 1974, a mere month after their live debut, A&R man Ted Feigin signed the band to Columbia Records. Fowley was keen to produce the band’s debut album, but Feigin did not allow this.
The Record Plant in Hollywood was booked and with Bill Szymczyk (The Eagles, The J. Geils Band) producing and Allan Blazek (The Eagles, The Who) as engineer, twelve tracks were cut.
Mark Anthony would co-write two songs with Kim Fowley, ‘King of the Night Time World’ (recorded by Kiss) and ‘Escape’, a track which would appear on Alice Cooper’s ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ album in ’76.
Fowley had an additional two co-writes; Fowley associate (and writer of Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild) Mars Bonfire had three; the band covered Danny Hutton’s 1965 single Roses and Rainbows; and the remaining tracks were co-writes featuring Phares, De Fuentes, Rae and outside songwriter Peter Lyons.
After 34 days of intense session work, the album was scrapped and band was dropped by Columbia, thorough no fault of their own.
Scott Phares said: “A whole new East Coast A&R team came in at Columbia.
“Not only did they fire Feigin and another west coast A&R guy, I also later learned that they systematically dropped every band or artist that Feigin had signed.”
Ruben De Fuentes told us: “It was a really depressing time. The sessions were going great and we were so close to finishing the record. Then it all just went away.”
In October ’74, the Hollywood Stars played The Hollywood Palladium with The New York Dolls on a bill which also featured Iggy Pop, Flo & Eddie, The GTO’s, Michael Des Barres, and Zolar X.
Phares said: “I remember at that gig I had a crowdsurfing moment, before anybody had invented the term ‘crowdsurfing'”.
In November ’74, The Stars would play a final gig at The Whisky.
“While we were at Sound City, Fleetwood Mac was in a room down the hall recording their first record with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks” – Ruben De Fuentes.
Second line-up (1976-1977):
Mark Anthony – Lead vocals, Second lead guitar,
Ruben De Fuentes – Lead guitar
Bobby Drier – Drums, percussion
Terry Rae – Drums, vocals
Michael Rummans – Bass guitar
With the Kiss, and the Alice Cooper versions of their song out, Rock fans could hear some Hollywood Stars music, which was the good kick in the pants for the band to reunite in 1976.
They felt that if their songs were good enough to be covered by Kiss and Alice Cooper, they were definitely doing something right.
Booked into Sound City Recording Studios in Hollywood, the band were cutting new tracks with Canadian musician and producer Neil Merryweather. The bands blend of power pop and radio friendly AOR was captured well, and after returning to live performances, they were approached by Clive Davis with an offer to sign to Arista.
The Stars’ manager at the time, Michael Lippman, jumped at the chance. “We were hoping to find a label to release the Merryweather album, which was completed and mastered. Then Clive signed us and he had his own production ideas.
“He wanted to recut the whole album with his producer and his string arranger. The consensus in the group was ‘Man, we just made this great record. Why do we have to do it all over again?’”
Terry Rae continues the story: “It turned into the exact same scenario we had with Columbia, with the label having to provide jobs to ‘in crowd’ people.
“So overnight all of these people we didn’t know were now involved with the band, and we naturally ended up losing control and having other people making decisions for us. We ran into that scenario repeatedly with the Stars.”
The Stars were still a popular live draw. In addition to playing in front of packed houses at The Whisky and The Starwood, the Stars were also booked to go on the road supporting Arista label mates The Kinks for ’77’s Sleepwalker.
The original incarnation of the band had only played outside Southern California on one occasion, but the new Stars managed to play Vancouver, Seattle and Portland, among other cities, with The Kinks.
Following the tour, problems began to surface within the band too.
De Fuentes remembers that during the band’s time on Arista, Anthony had received a windfall of $84,000 in royalties for his song-writing credits on Kiss’ King of the Night Time World and Alice Cooper’s Escape.
But outside of buying a motorhome to curtail the chance of his ending up homeless again, Anthony was soon broke. He also wanted to go solo.
The band was summoned to the Beverly Hills offices of their latest manager Jack Nelson, who also managed Queen. De Fuentes, Rae and Rummans were told that Anthony was leaving to go solo and that the Stars were over for a second time.
With no label and no Mark Anthony, The Hollywood Stars ran until ’78 with new singer Al Austin.
During this time they opened for such diverse legends as rock pioneer Bo Diddley, disco star Sylvester and punk royalty Ramones.
They also had a star-studded array of homegrown talent provide opening support for the Stars, including Van Halen, The Runaways, The Knack, and Quiet Riot.
Ruben De Fuentes said: “By the time we called it quits, Punk and New Wave were what was happening in Hollywood,. The Stars were considered the old guard.”
It would take 39 years for the scrapped Columbia album to finally see the light of day.
Musician and producer Robin Wills (The Barracudas, Fortunate Sons) happened to speak with Terry Rae in 2013 and learnt that Scott Phares was in possession of a 1⁄4″ tape of the sessions.
Studio time was booked to finesse the sound quality and ‘Shine Like a Radio: The Great Lost 1974 Album’ was released on gatefold vinyl by Last Summer/Light in the Attic in 2013.
The 2018 ‘one night only’ line-up featured founding members Phares, De Fuentes and Rae, alongside Arista-era bassist Michael Rummans and new guitarist Chezz Monroe.
Ruben De Fuentes — Lead guitar
Scott Phares — Lead vocals
Terry Rae — Drums, vocals
Chezz Monroe — Second guitar
John Schayer — Bass guitar, vocals
The Hollywood Stars – The Hollywood Stars (Arista – 1977)
All The Kids On The Street
I Need You Tonight
Stay The Way You Are
I Can’t Help It
Sunrise On Sunset
Merry-Go-Round (Love Is A)
All For Love
Make It To The Party