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Well-known member
Mar 29, 2018
The West Coast of the East Coast
Starz is a heavy metal and power pop band from New Jersey, United States. Despite a lack of big commercial success, the band has a lasting cult following and has been cited as a major influence by bands such as Mötley Crüe, Poison and Twisted Sister.

Starz was formed out of the ashes of the early 1970s pop music band, Looking Glass, which had the No. 1 hit single "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" in the summer of 1972. After lead singer Elliot Lurie left Looking Glass in 1974, the three remaining members (keyboardist Larry Gonsky, bassist Pieter Sweval and drummer Jeff Grob, who adopted the stage name Joe X. Dube) teamed up with Michael Lee Smith (vocals) and guitarist Brendan Harkin to continue the band and soon changed their name to Fallen Angels. In September 1975 they were joined by former Stories guitarist Richie Ranno. After keyboardist Gonsky was dropped from the group, they changed their moniker once again (to Starz) and pursued a more heavy metal direction. Kiss manager Bill Aucoinwas introduced to Starz via his right-hand man Sean Delaney, who had befriended Pieter Sweval, and Aucoin began handling Starz in late 1975, helping them to get signed to Capitol Records in early 1976.

Their major hit single "Cherry Baby" in the spring of 1977 came from the album Violation, produced by Jack Douglas of Aerosmith fame. Jack Douglas produced their first two albums Starz and Violation. Most fans consider Violation their best album and compare it stylistically to Kiss and Aerosmith output.

Their third album, the self produced Attention Shoppers!, was more in the vein of power pop than heavy metal and featured a Cheap Trick influence in songs like "X-Ray Spex". Brendan Harkin and Pieter Sweval were asked to leave the band after Attention Shoppers!, reportedly since they wanted to continue in that record's musical direction, while the others favored a return to the harder sound of the first two releases.

On their final Capitol album, Coliseum Rock (produced by Guess Who producer Jack Richardson), Harkin and Sweval were replaced by Bobby Messano on guitar and Orville Davis on bass. Previously Orville was the bassist for the southern rock band Hydra who released multiple albums in the mid-70s. His contributions can be heard on the first two LP's: 1974's Hydra and 1975's Land of Money. After leaving Hydra, Davis joined Rex, a hard rock outfit fronted by Michael's brother Rex Smith, who went on to TV and pop stardom in the late 70s and early 80s.

After leaving Capitol, Starz split up in 1979 and Dube and Ranno put together a trio with bassist Peter Scance called Hard Core. In 1980 Starz reunited with a lineup of Smith, Ranno, Harkin, Orville Davis and Doug Madick (later with Prism), a drummer who was working with Smith at the time. The group played clubs up and down the East Coast in what amounted to a farewell tour.

In 1981 Smith, Ranno, Madick and Peter Scance regrouped. At first they were to continue as Starz but decided to change their name to Hellcats. Hellcats recorded five new songs and released them as an EP on the small Radio Records label in 1982. Radio Records, unfortunately, went out of business not long afterward. Another mid-80s lineup of Hellcats with Ranno and Scance, this time with Perry Jones on lead vocals, also went nowhere after putting out another record in 1987 on the King Klassic label as well as a 4-track EP in 1988.

Brian Slagel of Metal Blade Records contacted Ranno in 1989 telling him of his longtime admiration of the band and asked if Ranno held the rights to any of the band's material. Ranno stated he owned two unreleased live shows and allowed Metal Blade to compile them as Live in Action, which contained cuts from a 04.08.1976 Cleveland show and a 30.03.1978 radio promotional show in Louisville, KY previously known as Live in Louisville. The release of Live in Action was a precursor to the 1990 release of the four Starz studio albums on compact disc as the inaugural releases by Metal Blade's "Classics" imprint. The albums have subsequently been re-released on CD (by other labels and the band themselves) several times, most recently in 2005 with bonus tracks primarily made up of material from the band's days as Fallen Angels, as well as a few songs from the 1992 reunion independent album, Requiem.

1976 - Starz
1977 - Violation
1978 - Attention Shoppers!
1978 - Coliseum Rock
1992 - Requiem
2016 - TBA


I saw them open up for KISS and later for Rush and that was a GREAT show. Both bands were trying hard to get your attention!

All of their albums KICK ASS and the listener will find Rock N Roll gems that will have you scratching your heads as to how this band wasn't bigger than they were. Those that knew them were loyal rabid fans that preached their "gospel" to friends and made them fans too. It was the 70's! I tell people to start with "Attention Shoppers!" and then bounce to their self-titled album and then "Violation"...they had one radio hit with "Cherry Baby". While it's a good song, it's lame for them. It was pop bubble gum for the radio only.