Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Rox Rocks From Hayward To Japan!

Rox with vocalist Dyan Buckelew - center.
Dyan left for a solo career after the group returned
from Japan. She later married Rick Derringer.
Originally published in East Bay Band Calendar, December 1979

By Devorah Ostrov

They're not the Runaways and they're weary of the constant comparisons to that heavy metal outfit. "We try to interest the audience with our music," says Rox bassist Toni Falconio. "We can't avoid the fact that we are girls, but we hope that the audience will like our music and not just us."

And upon a listen to these East Bay rockers, the only comparison to be made is that both bands are all females. Rox - consisting of Falconio, vocalist/guitarist Nina Markert, keyboardist Gere Fennelly, and drummer Christie Nehlick - are all highly accomplished musicians, each with several years of musical experience behind her. There's a toughness in each one, a defensiveness that comes from having to prove herself in a male-oriented field where females are only tolerated.

It became a running joke that while they rehearsed at Pearl Studios in Fremont, neighborhood boys would appear at the door wondering who was playing such hard-core rock, and would be quite taken aback to find GIRLS behind the instruments.

In fact, according to Markert, the only people who don't accept Rox on the level of comparative male bands are "guys who don't want girls to make it because they don't want us to show them up."

Cover of the "American Kan Kan" 45
Although recognition has been slow for them in the Bay Area, a recent seven-month tour of Japan found the girls on a level with most top American bands, playing to packed halls, being chased for autographs, and being hounded for TV commercials.

Rox (spelled Roxz before the tour) had been together for less than a year when a representative from Shinka, Japan's largest music publishing company, saw them perform at San Francisco's Mabuhay Gardens and signed them to a Japanese contract.

In Japan, the girls were well taken care of, with all their expenses paid for by Shinka - including chauffeured transportation - and they were given heavy promotional advertising, such as a "shopping tour" of Japanese malls, several TV appearances (only two of which were "dubbed," the rest were filmed live), and dozens of radio interviews.

And, of course, at each promotional stop the fans would be waiting.

"We had some fans that would follow us to radio stations and wait three hours just to see us," says Markert. "And when we'd drive away they'd chase our car!"

Rox post-Japan tour L-R: Christie Nehlick,
Gere Fennelly, Toni Falconio, Nina Markert
(Photo originally used in the East Bay Band Calendar)
"At concerts, they would throw all these little superballs onstage and streamers and balloons," adds Falconio. "They have guards standing in the aisles to make them sit down, but you know, if they didn't, it would be total insanity."

Not bad for a band that got its start just two years ago by taking first place in the Hayward Battle of the Bands with a set consisting of Kiss' "Detroit Rock City," Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak," and Montrose's "Rock the Nation," during which Falconio slipped and fell and Markert's guitar got out of tune.

While in Japan, Rox recorded an album (half in Japanese) called Tantrum (only available by import), and two 45s - "American Kan Kan" and "Okay Boys," written for them by Japanese songwriter Tokura.

They weren't allowed to record their own material because "the company didn't think we could sell anything." But, according to Markert, it was the other way around. "You should have heard it ('Okay Boys') before we rearranged it. We were pulling our hair out saying, 'We can't rearrange this. It's too far in the pits!'"

As for the album, Nehlick says they're happy with their playing but that the production "could have been a lot better. When we went into the studio the Japanese producer said, 'Use this amp, use this... this... this...' Next time we go in, it will be nice because we'll know how to use the sound the way we want to."

Rox pose with Abba for a Japanese music magazine!
Although the album won't be released in America, it supposedly shows a totally different Rox. With the Japanese idea of hard rock being the Bay City Rollers, the girls were force to record songs in the commercial pop vein.

"Not pop like power pop," states Fennelly, "but pop like puppy pop." Quite a change for these rockers whose sets include tunes by Van Halen, the Scorpions, Cheap Trick, and Led Zeppelin as well as their self-penned heavy metal numbers.

Still adjusting to the culture shock of not being chased down the street anymore and just recently returning to Bay Area stages, Rox wish to dispel any rumors of their demise. They are still together and rocking harder than ever!

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