Poor Poco: They Were "The Next Big Thing" Four Years Ago
Author: Cameron Crowe
Publication: Rolling Stone
Date: April 26, 1973
Abstract: The members of Poco express their frustration at all of the bumps in their career path which have kept success out of reach.
LOS ANGELES – "Our audience is the same now as it was two years ago, and the reason is that Poco just hasn't been able to get the kind of commercial record success that broadens a group's following."
Richie Furay, 28, sighs, sinks back into the Holiday Inn sofa and stares at the Hollywood Hills view from the 12th-floor picture window. "We've never had a hit single or a really big album. That's the name of the game, man, and we are playing a Game.
"Whoever says, 'We're artistic, man, and that's all we believe in...' is playing the Game himself. It took me awhile to realize that because I used to say that to. 'Fuck, man,' I used to think, 'I'll just play my music and leave the business to other people. I'm not gonna worry about that stuff at all.' But I think as you get older, you start worrying more about your responsibilities towards a family and stuff. I mean, it's a life now. It's a Game for life, and it's not based on how good you are, because I believe that Poco is a great rock & roll band. And they've been overlooked."
It's been four years since Poco played their first gig at the Troubadour and everybody made a point of saying the band would be The Next Big Thing. Five albums and many tours later, Poco is still on the verge.
"I get frustrated by the whole thing of hearing all kinds of stuff that we used to do that AM radio wouldn't touch," bassist Timmy Schmit says. "And now they're going crazy for it with the Eagles and stuff. It's probably even more of a frustration for Richie, I suppose, where everybody he's cohorted with is off to stardom now."
Initially beginning as Pogo, the band was put together after the breakup of the now legendary, almost mythical, Buffalo Springfield. Ex-member Jim Messina and Furay put together one of the first "country-rock" bands; they rounded out the group with session steel-guitarist Rusty Young, bassist Randy Meisner and drummer George Grantham. Since those days and over the years, Meisner left and joined Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band and, later, the Eagles. He was replaced by Schmit. Messina quit the band in 1970 to pursue a producing career; ex-Illinois Speed Press guitarist Paul Cotton took over. Now, according to Furay, the band is playing more than "country-rock." Cotton, he says, "adds a lot more of an electricity to Poco... and that's how I had envisioned the group from the very beginning."
Yet Poco is still a second-billed act. The first of the year, however, brought with it the execution of a pair of major shifts in business personnel. Former agents CMA were canned in favour of Premier Talent, but more interesting was the discarding of Shiffman and Larson Management for David Geffen's Asylum Management stable. "We're just looking for a little more support," said Furay. "And whatever we're looking for in terms of popularity and such, if it can be done, it can be done with David Geffen as our manager."
The switchover had been brewing secretly since as far back as late May of last year when Geffen called Furay at his Boulder home on the rumor that he was planning to record a solo album.
"The rumors were true," said Furay, the lead guitarist and vocalist behind Poco. "I was gonna do it. Now, I've backed off it a bit. I think David, when he called me, had me recording it for Asylum strongly in mind. I called him back a month later. I figured that if he was interested in having my album, he might be interested in just having the whole group. He said, 'Yeah' and it's take this long to put together."
The move to Geffen comes at a point in Poco's hard luck career where the spirited enthusiasm generated by change is long overdue. The past six months had been particularly rough ones for the band.
It was last summer, for example, that Poco finally agreed that it almost always takes a hit single to seduce a mass audience into appreciating and supporting a group. They then set out to compose a dignified out-and-out attempt at conquering the AM market and came up with Furay's ‘Good Feelin' to Know’.
Needless to say, the single bombed. "It was a blow to me that ‘Good Feelin'’ wasn't a hit," Richie admits in retrospect. "I thought it was a smash all the way. It's just plain disappointing and frustrating."
Up until that single, ‘Come On’, pulled from the Deliverin' album, came the closest to hitting. The single, at one time, was getting heavy West Coast airplay, and chances looked excellent for a nationwide hit until an influential Bill Drake station in Dallas decided the tune's chorus was "come on and suck me." The station made a big fuss, and ‘Come On’ was whisked from all the playlists that had previously been playing it. "The fuckers," Schmit fumed. "That chorus was actually 'Come on and love me.' Ah well..."
After ‘Good Feelin’’ fell flat, Poco went back into the studio and recorded their first piece of outside material in quite some time. ‘Go and Say Goodbye’, and old Springfield tune penned by Steve Stills, was a last minute inclusion on the band's fifth album, A Good Feelin' to Know. "Even the album was robbed," added Richie. "It's very disappointing that it wasn't received any better than it was. It makes you stop and wonder just what's going on. Good Feelin' to Know was a good album. It had a really nice feel to it. An album like that shouldn't have to get lost in the shuffle."
One of the major reasons that Good Feelin' to Know turned out so musically satisfying to the band was because it was Poco's first outing with a producing team they felt confident with. After using Messina for the first three albums, Pickin' Up the Pieces, Poco and Deliverin', the band tried Steve Cropper for the fourth, From The Inside. "Steve just missed the boat with us," Furay recalled with a bad taste in his mouth. "We were one of the first groups to record in Trans Maximum Studios in Memphis, and Cropper wasn't altogether educated in the studio and how it worked. Plus, we just couldn't communicate with him, and he couldn't communicate with us."
Finally settling upon Epic producer Jim Mason and Jack Richardson, producer of the Guess Who, Poco found something that clicked. "They're real pros," grinned Richie.
Poco signed with Epic Records for nine albums. Now, the band is anxious to record and release the four LPs left in their commitment. Why? "Well," says Schmit, "it's pretty obvious we want to sign with Asylum Records. Epic just doesn't know what to do with us. We should have our contract finished in about a year. Maybe less. We've never been consistent with our material before. It's gonna blow Epic's mind that we'll be putting records out so fast now."
And what if Geffen's guidance doesn't put Poco over the top? Would they break up?
"I'd say there's a chance," admits Schmit. "Geffen told us that if we aren't busted right open by December, it's probably never gonna happen. But he believes that it is gonna happen. And so do we. We're not ready to quit yet."