The Wackers were formed in the small Northern Californian town of Eureka by Segarini, Bishop, and singer-guitarist-keyboardist Michael Stull. "We had all met, hung out, and worked together in L.A.," Bob remembers. "Basically, we'd write songs and sing constantly in living rooms. Then at night, we'd get drunk, go out to one of the bars, and play for free, for beer. We did that for weeks, and I got a phone call from Elektra going, 'You owe us some more records.' And I'm going, 'Fine. But I'm not coming to L.A. to do it. I got a great band called the Wackers, and we'd love to make a record, but we'll do it in San Francisco.' They go, 'Ah, we're not sure about that. Who's going to produce it?' And I went, 'Well, I don't know. Who do you got?' For the next few weeks, people would call from L.A. and I would talk to them. I wasn't really impressed with anybody. Then one day I got a phone call from a guy named Gary Usher."
Usher was a major backroom architect of 1960s Los Angeles rock, having co-written some Beach Boys songs (including "In My Room" and "409") with Brian Wilson, and done some renowned albums as a producer, particularly the Byrds' Younger Than Yesterday, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and Sweetheart of the Rodeo. "The guy had a phenomenal history," enthuses Segarini. "Because I know my rock lore, I knew who he was, and we talked. We're on the phone for like two-and-a-half hours. What sold me on him was, at the end of the conversation he goes, 'Do you know why bums drink their booze out of a paper bag?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'Because they don't want to know when the end is coming.' I went, 'Alright, I'll talk with you.' I called Jac Holzman the next day and said, 'I like this Gary Usher guy. So I'm good with that.'"
The quintet that recorded the Wackers' debut album, Wackering Heights, was completed by bassist Bill "Kootch" Trochim (who'd played with Segarini in the late 1960s in the Family Tree) and drummer Ernie Earnshaw. The more pop-rock- and vocal harmony-oriented sound they were pursuing was reflected not just in the LP's material, but also its production. "We were an anomaly at the time, and proudly so," declares Bob. "We knew that people still loved that music, even though radio had quit embracing it.
The reason that all three Wackers albums are so acoustic for the most part is because everything we did always started around a kitchen table or a living room coffeetable. We could entertain at a moment's notice anywhere, even without a guitar. We'd go into a place called the Keg in Arcata and be standing in line waiting to order burgers and get a pitcher of beer, and we would sing 'Nowhere Man.' The place would go nuts, and we'd get free hamburgers. The records always reflected what the producer heard, and the producer always heard us around a kitchen table."
Where every song but one on the Roxy album had been penned by Segarini, in the Wackers a more collaborative songwriting process was at work. The tracks (except for a cover of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel") were sometimes credited to Segarini, Bishop, and Stull; at others to Segarini and Bishop, or Segarini and Stull; and at others, to either Segarini, Bishop, or Stull alone. "Travelin' Time" was written by Segarini, Bishop, and Rita Coolidge, with whom Bob and Randy worked in the early '70s, singing backup vocals on her first album. "Things would come together so fast and fully realized," remarks Segarini. "'Such a Good Thing,' I dreamt that song from beginning to end, almost every word.
Like the material, the production on Wackering Heights was less ornate than much other rock music in 1971, when the album saw its release. "We went down to Wally Heider's [studio in San Francisco] and cut thirteen complete songs, mixes and all, in ten days," Segarini informed Shakin' St. Gazette. "We were so hot -- neither Randy nor I had been in a studio for a year and a half -- that we just went berserk. In the first four days we recorded nine songs, tracking vocals with no overdubs. It was just time, we couldn't wait, not even long enough to make sure or bully our way to having the album sound like we'd dreamed it would."
When the first album was recorded, according to Segarini, "Usher told us that if it did well, meaning critically or sold a bunch of records or whatever, we could go someplace exotic to cut the next one." Wackering Heights did not make the charts, but it must have done well enough in some regard for Elektra to give the go-ahead for another album. Largely recorded in Montreal, it would give the band some opportunity to reflect their harder-rocking live side -- a story told in the liner notes to the CD reissue of Hot Wacks.
by Richie Unterberger
1. Travelin' Time (B. Segarini, R. Bishop, R. Coolidge) - 2:55
2. Body Go Round (Bob Segarini) - 3:00
3. Don't Be Cruel (D. Blackwell, E. Presley) - 2:58
4. Country Queen (Bob Segarini, R. Bishop) - 3:17
5. Strangers (Bob Segarini, R. Bishop) - 3:22
6. Don't Put Down The Singer (R. Bishop) - 3:16
7. I Don't Want My Love Refused (Bob Segarini, M. Stull) - 2:49
8. White House (M. Stull) - 3:40
9. I Like (Bob Segarini, R. Bishop, B. Bishop) - 2:08
10.On The Way Up (Bob Segarini, R. Bishop) - 2:29
11.Such A Good Thing (Bob Segarini, R. Bishop, M. Stull) - 3:15
12.No Place For The Children (Bob Segarini, R. Bishop, M. Stull) - 3:21
*Bob Segarini - Guitar, Vocals
*Randy Bishop - Bass, Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Spencer Earnshaw – Drums
*Michael Stull - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*William "Kootch" Trochim - Vocals, Bass, Slide Guitar
1972 Hot Wacks