Picture sleeve for Dwight Twilley's "Girls" single.
Dwight Twilley was born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He met Phil Seymour (1952-1993) at a movie theater in Tulsa in 1967, where they had gone to see The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”. The two soon began writing songs and recording together. Twilley played guitar and piano, while Seymour played bass and drums and sang lead vocals and harmonies. Bill Pitcock IV (1952-2011) played lead guitar on most of their early recordings. Their partnership continued under the name Oister. Twilley and Seymour eventually decided to leave Tulsa and try to be discovered in Memphis. They wandered into the Sun Studio, and they met Jerry Phillips, who referred them to the Tupelo, Mississippi studio of former Sun artist Ray Harris. The two went to Los Angeles and ended up signing with Shelter Records, co-owned by Denny Cordell and Tulsa’s Leon Russell in 1974. Russell changed the group’s name from Oister to The Dwight Twilley Band. Their first single, “I’m on Fire”, was released in April 1975 and reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with relatively little promotion; the band was in England recording their first album. The unexpected success of the self-produced “I’m on Fire” caused Shelter to shelf the English tracks, and Russell permitted the band to record tracks at his 40-track home studio. Unfortunately, a legal dispute between Cordell and Russell resulted in the loss of their distribution deal with MCA Records, and Shelter was essentially out of business for about a year. The resulting delay in releasing their debut album dissipated any momentum from the success of “I’m on Fire”, and the group’s first album, “Sincerely” (1976), peaked at only #138. Their second album, “Twilley Don’t Mind” (1977), in which Bill Pitcock IV become a full-fledged band member, fared better but was also a commercial disappointment. This effectively ended The Dwight Twilley Band, but Twilley continued as a solo artist, with Bill Pitcock IV still on lead guitar (and adding Susan Cowsill on backing vocals), releasing “Twilley” (1979) on Arista. His subsequent project, “Blue Print”, which had Jack Nitzsche as producer, was rejected by Arista. Twilley signed with EMI America when his contract with Shelter expired, and eventually released “Scuba Divers” (1982). While “Scuba Divers” was a commercial flop, the follow-up album, “Jungle” (1984), was more successful, buoyed by the Top 20 single “Girls”. This is today’s featured single.
“Girls” is a good example of the Twilley updating his sound for the 1980s, which is evident throughout “Jungle”. It begins with a brief synthesizer intro, before the guitars chime in, and Twilley singing: “Well, I’ve seen so many things/I’ve been all over the world/Well, I’ve had ups and downs/I’ve been over for a while”. The synthesizer is conspicuous throughout the track, as is Tom Petty singing vocals during the chorus (Petty was a fellow label-mate of Twilley during the Shelter Records days, and the two continued to collaborate on occasion). Overall, this is an enjoyable track with a memorable guitar riff, and Twilley made a well-deserved return to the charts with this song.
"Girls" single without the picture sleeve.
The B-side of the single, “To Get to You”, features synthesizers even more prominently than “Girls”, making it sound somewhat dated, though it is also a good track. More so than on “Girls” Twilley achieves a Beatles-esque feel to the music, especially with the vocals, which are mellifluous even without the benefit of Tom Petty. The song acquires almost an ethereal sense with the synthesizer and the soaring chorus of “Ah-ah-ah/To get to you”. If “Girls” announced that Twilley was on the rebound after the relative disappointment of “Scuba Divers”, “To Get to You” proved that it was no fluke.
The single (catalog #: B-8196) was released on EMI America, and had a picture sleeve (shown above). Twilley once again switched labels after the release of “Jungle”, signing with Joe Isgro’s Private I label. When Isgro was implicated in a radio promotion scandal, Private I collapsed, and Twilley’s next album, “Wild Dogs” (1986) was released on Epic’s CBS Associated label, and the album went largely unnoticed. Twilley found himself without a label and without a guitarist, as Bill Pitcock IV had quit. In the meantime, DCC Compact Classics reissued the two Dwight Twilley Band albums in 1989 and 1990. In 1993, DCC released “The Great Lost Twilley Album”, which contained 25 tracks from the ill-fated Shelter Records era. Shortly afterwards, Phil Seymour died of lymphoma. Twilley resumed his solo career, although he was unable to get a distribution deal for his next album, titled “The Luck”. EMI did release a 21-track greatest hits collection, “XXI”, in 1996, followed by reissues of the two Dwight Twilley Band albums the following year. All three albums went out of print in 1998 when EMI shut down the label. That same year, Pitcock rejoined Twilley, and he released “Between the Cracks, Vol. 1” (1999) on Not Lame Records, his first album of new material in 13 years. He finally released “The Luck” in 2001, although with some changes to the version he completed in 1994. This was followed by the “Have a Twilley Christmas” EP (2004), “47 Moons” (2005), the live album “Live: All Access” (2006), eight volumes of rarities released from 2007 to 2009, “Out of the Box” (2009), “The Beatles” (2009), and “Green Blimp” (2010). Bill Pitcock IV died of cancer in April 2011.