Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Damnation of Adam Blessing: Back to the River

few weeks ago, Greg Rector reminded me of a Cleveland area band that I had completely forgotten. Taking their name from the 1961 crime novel by Vin Packer (Marijane Meaker’s pseudonym), the Damnation of Adam Blessing had limited national success, but was popular in various Rust Belt towns. I remember them being played in Pittsburgh at certain outlets.

Although possibly a candidate for trademark litigation, Meaker was flattered by the band’s choice of names. The band was a merger of two previous Cleveland acts – the Society and Dust. Lead singer Bill Constable, who saw an advertisement for crime novel on the back cover of a Ray Bradbury science fiction book he was reading, wanted to reinvent his persona and latched onto the name.

For their second and third albums, the name was shortened on the covers to simply “Damnation,” but "The Second Damnation" album’s label and its associated singles utilized the band’s full name – that would change with their third LP, “Which is Justice, Which is the Thief,” where the rebranding was complete.

The Damnation of Adam Blessing had conquered nearly every hurdle to become stars: they had a loyal following, a great sound, a record deal with a major label (United Artists), and a plethora of publicity. But they didn’t have a hit single – much to the chagrin of UA and its parent company Transamerica. Perhaps radio was not yet ready to announce a band whose name included the word “damnation.”

When the third album failed to yield a hit in 1971, they were released from their contract with UA. But that was not the end of the story. In 1973, they were approached by Grand Funk’s manager Terry Knight who offered the band a deal with the fledgling Avalanche Records label. The kicker was Avalanche was distributed by United Artists and Knight believed that a deal that involved their former label might be disastrous if they continued with their current name. Hence the band was rechristened and the band went to the other side of the spectrum with the name “Glory.”

Today’s track, “Back to the River” from “The Second Damnation” album did quite well in the smaller markets where the band was well known. Some stations reported “Back to the River” as a #1 record; however, nationally, the single flopped. It only peaked at #107 in Billboard and did significantly better on Cashbox’s charts, as the recorded stalled for two weeks at #85 in December 1970. The production on this recording is fantastic, but it probably was their branding that kept them off the airwaves elsewhere in the US.

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