Back in 1979, I had a white-label promotional copy of Durocs on vinyl. I played side one only once, but really got off on the first two songs on side two. The Durocs’ version of Gene Pitney’s “It Hurts To Be In Love” and their driving “Seeker (You Be Sucker”) seemed like criminally neglected nuggets that only I knew about, at least in my circles. Thirty-three years later, I now have another promotional copy of Durocs. This time around, it’s on CD with 8 “Bone Us Tracks.” This time around, I see there were more neglected nuggets than I remembered. In addition, those bonus tracks add up to a virtual bonus disc as well.
The Durocs were multi-instrumentalist Scott Matthews and singer/keyboardist Ron Nagle. Pairing up in 1973, they were producers, composers, and players for film scores like One Flew Over the Cuckcoo’s Nest. Matthews had drummed for Elvin Bishop and worked with a young Steve Perry. Among other achievements, Nagle had contributed to the score for The Exorcist. Together they worked with or contributed songs to performers like Michelle Phillips, The Tubes, Glen Campbell, and Barbara Streisand. After earning the attention of legendary producer Jack Nitzsche and a short fruitless tenure with A&M Records, the partners were encouraged to come to Capitol Records as producers. But the offer came with the attached string that they had to release an album as a band.
Naming their project after a pig known for large ears and equally pronounced genitals, Matthews and Nagle complied. But they discovered Durocs fell on largely deaf ears. For one matter, their music wasn’t easily defined. For another, the pair refused to tour which left Capitol with a reasonably viable record but no real band out there supporting it. Even more importantly, Matthews and Nagle lost label goodwill when they released an actual duroc loose at a corporate board meeting as a promotional stunt. Not even a five star review in Rolling Stone could outweigh the “suits” dismay over having a porker delivered to them via a limousine, heralded by a dwarf with a trumpet.
The fact that the Durocs couldn’t be readily pigeon-holed is a tad ironic as they were skilled craftsmen with their fingers squarely on the pulse of popular styles of the era. This means many of their songs are strongly evocative of other acts. They come out of the box sounding like the E Street band on “Hog Wild,” where they debut their dense sound recorded on 48 tracks. There’s a large dose of mid-60s Brian Wilson in “Lie” and especially “We Go Good Together” and the falsetto choruses in “Saving It All Up For Larry.” Then, there’s a bit of George Harrison in “Don't Let the Dream Die” and David Bowie in “No Fool No Fun.” It should come as no surprise that, in subsequent years, Matthews and Nagle would work with both Harrison and Bowie. Carl and Brian Wilson were so taken with Durocs that Matthews spent studio time with The Beach Boys.