Sunday, December 6, 2015

Fossils: Jo Jo Gunne's Bite Down Hard (1973)

Jo Jo Gunne's Bite Down Hard
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Jo Jo Gunne – Bite Down Hard

Boogie rockers Jo Jo Gunne were formed in 1971 by former Spirit members Jay Ferguson (vocals) and Mark Andes (bass), with Mark’s brother Matt (guitar) and Curly Smith (drums) rounding out the line-up. The band’s self-titled 1972 debut scored a Top 30 U.S. hit with the single “Run Run Run” (Top 10 in the U.K.), the album itself hitting a respectable #57 on the U.S. charts. Mark Andes fell out with his brother and Ferguson after the debut album’s release and left the band for a stint with Firefall before hooking up with Heart for an extended run.

Undaunted, Jo Jo Gunne brought in new bassist Jimmie Randall, who would stay with the band through its bloody end, and they rushed into the studio to record a follow-up to their debut in order to capitalize on its relative success. Bite Down Hard was the result, a similarly boogie-based high-octane set that nevertheless sounds rushed, tired, and repetitive. There was too much of the same raucous vibe that fueled the debut, but no single song popped and crackled like “Run Run Run” and, lacking an obvious hit single, the album struggled to hit #75 on the charts.

Asylum Records certainly supplied an eye-catching advertisement to push the new album, even if it did little to improve the band’s diminishing fortunes. Featuring a pair of cartoon teeth chomping down on a bullet and the tagline “music you can really get your teeth into,” it’s an irreverent attempt to introduce rock fans to Bite Down Hard while making a cheeky play on the album’s title.

The band’s third album in two years, Jumpin’ The Gunne, was essential a Jay Ferguson solo album and would be saddled with atrocious cover artwork that did nothing to help it barely squirm its way onto the charts (peaking at #169). Matt Andes left after this third album, to be replaced by John Staehley, another Spirit alumnus. One more LP would emerge – 1974’s So…Where’s The Show – which would be the band’s hardest rocking and most consistent album. It was a case of too little, too late, however as Jo Jo Gunne burned out from too much touring, too many records, and only one hit song to show for their work.

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