In a 2007 interview, legendary WMMR jockey Pierre Robert told Philadelphia magazine “There was a time in the ‘80s when I thought Philly was going to become what Seattle wound up becoming in the ‘90s.” Among the local groups mentioned, along with Tommy Conwell, the Hooters and Robert Hazard, were The A’s. One of the most popular groups in Philadelphia during their heydey, The A’s combined the showy punk muscle of the New York Dolls with the jumpy energy of XTC. Their two albums for Arista Records—their self-titled 1979 debut and 1981’s A Woman’s Got the Power—are classic hidden gems of New Wave.
Even though they ended up on the Billboard charts (and were later covered by Bruce Springsteen’s right-hand man Clarence Clemons), things hit a wall in ‘82 after losing their record deal. While other hometown heroes went on to great success, The A’s had a painfully brief lifespan. “When it was the five of us,” lead singer Richard Bush says, “we could make almost any situation fun. As we became a biz and were responsible for other people’s income, it became less easy to do so. We were on the road almost constantly, and at some point, it became apparent that that bad outweighed the good. Plus, at that time, we all thought that 30 was the cut-off age for rock ‘n’ rollers.”
Now in their 50s, The A’s are reuniting for a rare gig. “We did a show for a private party two summers ago,” Bush says. “We had a great time and kept looking for the right opportunity to play again. Things didn’t really pop up right away. As the years go by, it’s very easy to see a time when it would be impossible for the five of us to do a worthwhile show, so we actively pursued this gig.” And while this might be the final chance to see the band, Bush isn’t so sure. “If we’re still healthy and if there’s still interest in seeing us, I know that I wouldn’t mind doing more.”
Sat., Jan. 26. 8pm. $25. Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St. 215.629.5765.
The Pack A.D. are built for the road
PW's Music Issue 2014