Richard and the Young Lions, a Newark-based garage-rock band in the ’60s, released three singles, including one, “Open Up Your Door,” that became a regional hit, and rose to No. 99 on Billboard magazine’s national chart. In 1998, it was included on the boxed set version of the definitive ’60s garage-rock compilation, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968.
The band broke up in late 1967. But now, more than 50 years later, its first album is on its way.
Wednesday night at the Cutting Room in New York — at a private birthday party for Richard and the Young Lions drummer Mark “Twig” Greenberg, who was turning 70 — Steven Van Zandt made a toast, and mentioned that his record label, Wicked Cool, is planning to release a Richard and the Young Lions album in September or October.
Van Zandt is a longtime friend of Greenberg’s, as well as a fan of the band. “They defined garage-rock,” he told me for a feature story on Richard and the Young Lions that I wrote for The Star-Ledger in 2004 (and that was published the week before they performed at a garage-rock festival that Van Zandt was producing at Randall’s Island in New York).
The band’s frontman, Richard Tepp, had died two months before the festival, of leukemia, and singer-guitarist Mike Fornatale had been recruited to take over most of the lead vocals.
But Tepp and the band — encouraged by the growing interest in garage-rock — had begun performing again, occasionally, in 2000. And Tepp had sung on the tracks for the album that had been recorded in conjunction with their reunion, with Van Zandt handling most of the production.
Van Zandt originally had been planning to put the album out, at that time. But that never happened. But it looks like it finally will, later this year.
Van Zandt didn’t play any music for the invited guests at the Cutting Room, but two bands did perform complete sets: The Beatles-inspired group, The Weeklings, and The Carnaby Street Girls, who specialize in covers of songs by female stars of the British Invasion such as Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield and Marianne Faithfull.
Greenberg played bongos with both acts. The Weeklings nailed “Open Up Your Door,” with Greenberg helping to drive the beat. He also joined them on The Beatles’ “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” and “A Hard Day’s Night” (Ringo Starr played bongos as well as drums on the original studio recordings of both).
It was “the best nite of my life,” Greenberg wrote on his Facebook page, today.
Lenny Kaye, who produced Nuggets and has his own show on Van Zandt’s Underground Garage channel on Sirius XM satellite radio, was in attendance. And Mike Fornatale played guitar and sang backing vocals for the Carnaby Street Girls, and also contributed a killer falsetto lead vocal to their cover of Lulu’s “To Sir With Love.”
When making his toast, Van Zandt mentioned that Greenberg originally introduced him to his wife, Maureen, who was there for the party, too.
“He got her drunk enough to actually go out with me … she’s never forgiven him,” joked Van Zandt.
Here is a vintage video of Richard and the Young Lions. And, below that, Greenberg performs with The Weeklings at a different Cutting Room show.