Examining history is one of my specialties and something I very much enjoy doing. Pop music has a massive history that began halfway into the 20th century and continues to develop in modern times. We love our pop stars and look forward to singing along with their latest hit. Some come and go in the blink of an eye, while others make a lasting contribution. Although we appreciate the hit makers of today, will we find their music interesting twenty years from now? Making a lasting contribution in the field of music is something not everyone is capable of doing. When I heard that this particular Jerry Honigman material was going to be released, I jumped at the opportunity to write a few words about my friend and colleague because I think he has made such a contribution. His music stands the test of time. Although, at times, the sound of the recording can be linked to a certain time period, the quality of the songwriting endures.
Back in the day, before American Idol or America’s Got Talent, young aspiring songwriters would venture out to California, New York, or Nashville to shop their songs. If they were good, and lucky, they would get a break and land a recording contract and possibly have a hit record. This is the stuff that dreams are made of, and although the percentages were low, some songwriters did get a break and had their music produced and published. It’s a tough business and only the strong survive.
Such is the case of Jerry Honigman. No stranger to Central Louisiana’s music scene, Jerry grew up in Alexandria and started writing songs while still in high school. He eventually left home to pursue a musical career in Southern California in the late 70s. It wasn’t an appearance on a television contest show, but real gutsy talent that attracted some top producers and musicians to what Honigman and his band, The Romeos, were putting down at the time. After being signed to Columbia Records, the group set out touring the country, supporting some legendary acts along the way. Their mildly successful debut record “Rock and Roll and Love and Death”, which was produced by David Paich (Toto, Boz Scaggs), gave the band a loyal following. The Honigman-penned single, “Seriously Affected”, and the solid “Daddy, Daddy”, co-written with Romeo guitarist Bootsie Normand, received frequent air play on L.A.’s KROQ radio station as well as other stations around the country.
Shortly after the release of “Rock and Roll and Love and Death”, the Romeos began to drift apart. But the prolific Honigman continued to write and record his songs with some of L.A.’s top studio musicians. Between 1983 and 1984, taking advantage of the demise of Chateau Recording Studios, he retreated into the warehouse where the recording gear was being stored and along with partner in crime, drummer Dony Wynn (Robert Palmer, Brooks and Dunn), started laying down tracks. He was joined by a who’s who of Los Angeles’ finest studio musicians who would drop by the studio to give their time and talents in support of the project. With the running title of “The Mood Swings”, he engaged two talented Grammy-winning engineers Ed Cherney (Bonnie Raitt, Rolling Stones) and Geoff Workman (Journey, Queen) to begin cutting tracks for songs that could have very well been part two of the Romeos story, or just a fabulous solo record.
Except for some cassette copies that were distributed to friends, these recordings have not seen the light of day until now. The strength that lies within this set of songs is their commercial potential – these tunes are on a par with the hits that artists of the early 80’s were producing and would have fit nicely on the radio alongside them. The bouncy “Baby Whatcha Doing Tonight” has a hook that will stick in your brain for days, along with a catchy guitar solo by ex-Romeo Dan Diefenderfer, and could possibly be the most marketable song Jerry has ever written. Masterful keyboardist and soundtrack wizard James Newton Howard (Elton John, numerous film scores) adds a keyboard part. In the dynamic “Crocodile Brain”, Honigman makes a witty observation of humans as nothing more than walking reptilians when he says, “Americans are all the same, big head, crocodile brain.” The sassy attack of “The Way You Love Me Kills Me” is a driving rocker that guitarist Roland Bautista (Earth, Wind, & Fire, Tom Waits) propels into another dimension with his guitar synthesizer magic. “The way you love me kills me, it makes me crazy, it keeps me sane, the way you love me kills me, It’s cold, It’s hot, It’s angel rain, falling down through the stars above me, the way you love me.”
One of the most delightful attractions to this project is the versatility of Honigman’s songwriting. It’s an explosive record that combines the most important rock and roll elements; plenty of songs about girls, love interests, and hard life lessons. The beautiful Cajun flavored waltz titled “Almost Mine” is a heartfelt tribute from a Louisiana native who appreciates his roots. Jerry also explores funk grooves on “Do Right” and “Dr. Faustus” with help from the late David Williams (Michael Jackson, Madonna) a studio guitarist of the highest caliber. On the funky groove of “Pam Among Men”, Wynn’s cleverly shifting drum pattern is supported by late-era Romeo member and fellow Louisianian Kenny Gradney (Little Feat, Delanney & Bonnie) on bass. Also making appearances throughout these recordings are Honigman’s friends and talented guitarists Jim Keller and Tommy Heath collectively known as Tommy Tutone who scored a hit in the eighties with “867-5309/Jenny.”
Finally, Jerry has decided to release “The Mood Swings” to the masses and it’s an amazingly entertaining project that deserves a listen. It confirms the ability of this talented songwriter to produce material that is as significant and catchy today as it was thirty years ago. It is a part of the Jerry Honigman story that was unfairly overlooked, but has now been restored so that this moment in music history will not be lost. It is a joyful romp through the experiences of a young songwriter at a time in his life when he was trying to make his mark on the music industry. Somehow this creative project slipped through the cracks, denying a talented songwriter the opportunity to be heard at a pivotal time in his music career. But, it’s never too late, and the resurrection of this slice of rock and roll history will surely leave a lasting impression. Jerry Honigman should be commended on “all this work and all this play”—it is truly a breath of fresh air.
The Mood Swings is available at cdbaby.com, theromeos.com, and around town at places like Hastings, Spirits, Red River Music, The Salon, and, of course, Jerry’s trunk.