Franke & the Knock­outs

Classic Rock - - The Dirt -

The song­writ­ing ace on smash hits, show­biz id­iocy and Bon Jovi steal­ing his band.

Franke Pre­vite never tires of dis­cussing the globe-strad­dling smash that has trailed him since 1987. But to dwell on the 72-year-old’s in­escapable Dirty Danc­ing theme, (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, would be to cru­elly over­look his zing­ing early-80s work as leader of New Jersey pop-soul-rock­ers, Franke & The Knock­outs. A new com­pi­la­tion in­clud­ing rar­i­ties has just been re­leased, and a dol­lar from each sale will go to the Pan­cre­atic Can­cer Ac­tion Net­work. Pre­vite tells us about the band’s rise and fall.

The Knock­outs have a rep­u­ta­tion as a ‘lost’ band. What hap­pened? We were on Mil­len­nium/RCA for our first two records, and that la­bel re­ally got be­hind us. Then we went to MCA and they said: “We’re gonna make you sound like Night Ranger. We’re gonna take a song off the third record, have Night Ranger’s pro­ducer pro­duce it and see what ra­dio thinks.’ So they put out a song called Out­ra­geous, ra­dio gave it the thumbs-down, so did MCA, and that was kinda it for us. It’s frus­trat­ing, be­cause you have your whole life wrapped up in your art, then all of a sud­den, you find your­self sell­ing cars out of your drive­way.

So what will we find on the The Com­plete Col­lec­tion?

I call my songs my kids, so this col­lec­tion is a chance for my kids to get out there and play. For twenty-eight bucks you can get all the records, eleven un­re­leased songs, plus six live tracks. To me, those were my favourite ver­sions of the Knock­outs songs, be­cause they just kick ass more. The en­ergy of ten thou­sand peo­ple cheer­ing for you gives you a dif­fer­ent en­ergy than stand­ing there in a fish­bowl, record­ing. Did you cross paths with Bon Jovi on the New Jersey cir­cuit?

Jon used to fol­low our band around. Y’know, he’d come up af­ter­wards and say: “Oh, you’re my favourite singer.” Many years later, I was hav­ing din­ner in As­bury Park and this guy comes up and says:

“Hey Franke, how are ya? I was the orig­i­nal road man­ager for Jon Bon Jovi. You know why we fol­lowed you around?” I thought he was gonna say: “Be­cause we loved the band.” He goes: “We were try­ing to steal Tico Tor­res [drum­mer].” So Tico joined Bon Jovi and the rest is his­tory. But both of our paths ended up okay, be­cause two years later this guy called me to write (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.

“MCA said: ‘We’re gonna make you

sound like Night ranger.’”

Is it flat­ter­ing or an­noy­ing when jour­nal­ists still ask about that song? Win­ning an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, ASCAP song of the year, a Grammy nom­i­na­tion… it’s be­yond my frickin’ dreams as a song­writer. I got to hang with [Dirty Danc­ing star] Pa­trick Swayze at the Academy Awards and he told me: “We were get­ting ready to do that last scene to a Lionel Richie track, but the last cas­sette came in and it was you. We knew then that we were gonna make a great movie.”

Swayze died of pan­cre­atic can­cer in 2009. Is that why you’re do­nat­ing to that char­ity?

I’ve been sell­ing demos on my Face­book page for ten years, and I’ve raised about thirty thou­sand dol­lars for the Pan­cre­atic Can­cer Ac­tion Net­work. So I thought here’s an­other great op­por­tu­nity with me putting out this col­lec­tion. If you want to not buy my record, it’s cool, but just do­nate to them, that’s even bet­ter. HY

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