Philly band the A's are truly 'Back Together'

The A's performing at their 2013 reunion.
The A's performing at their 2013 reunion. (Howard Pitkow Photography)
Posted: July 05, 2014

Formed in 1978, the A's are this city's bridge between the '60s and the '80s, the Nazz and the Hooters. The rough, new wave-y act had Arista albums (1979's The A's, 1981's A Woman's Got the Power) but broke apart in 1983 and remained mostly silent until a Thanksgiving 2007 gig and a heroic, supposedly farewell show in 2013. But that proved to its members (singer Richard Bush, keyboardist/songwriter Rocco Notte, guitarist Rick DiFonzo, bassist Terry Bortman, and drummer Michael Snyder) that they still had the raw power of their youth and liked each other more now than in their heyday.

"When you've known guys that long, and worked hard together, as you get older, petty disturbances that plague any close relationship tend to soften," DiFonzo says. "There was high drama in the old days, but we've grown and have less time to waste on negative feelings. Also, there really isn't as much at stake, so we're more relaxed than when we were trying to conquer the world. Now we're just trying to conquer Pottsville."

During that 2013 gig, the A's brusque energy was rivaled only by the enthusiasm of the crowd. "We treated the show like we were still 'together,' " DiFonzo says. "No one wanted to stop once we saw the audience response and had that itch scratched again. We were, and are, primarily a live band."

So what could they do to make staying together more interesting? The answer was a new record, an EP, Back Together. "This was discussed at the highest levels of sensitivity because, as you may have heard, we are sensitive individuals," DiFonzo says with a laugh.

They hit on the idea of using unused tunes that Notte, Bush, and DiFonzo demo'd for RCA back in 1987. "We showcased at the Troc," DiFonzo says, "and the label thought we were very nearly interesting, but passed."

The band sifted through the material to determine what was A's-appropriate. "They were rootsier songs, that was our intention," Notte says of the music on Back Together. "There's more of a classic character like a Chuck Berry or Stones song, which allows them to be reinterpreted any number of ways." The EP was based on music that worked for the whole band: "DiFonzo the dangerous ax-slinger, me the wonky keyboard dude, Mike and Terry, the no-frills rhythm section," Notte says. They had to make sure lead singer Bush could work with the chosen songs. "Richard is the first consideration for any material," Notte says. "He's got to be able to sell it. Plus, they were written from an older person's point of view. We were in our 30s and had relationships and families by then."

Bush says that new-old songs like "Pretty Little Girl" are an extension of his A's days, but that the rest of the EP is "timeless" and relevant now, especially "Back Together," about the quest to keep relationships fresh - "that sounds right considering my concerns are to be happy, healthy, and rock as hard as possible." Notte looks forward to an A's record that's a group writing project. "Everyone has so much to offer that it would be foolish not to take advantage of those contributions."


The A's play at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Revel, 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City. Tickets: $35 and $75. Information: 1-800-745-3000, www.Ticketmaster.com.

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