Ohio Repress

:: Beg, Borrow And Steal ::

:: Maybe ::

Hard to imagine a band with a more fucked up history than the Ohio Express.

Yes, once again, the Robot revisits the sticky, a.b.c. bubblegum nether regions of Kasenetz-Katz, or Super K, the production team that brought us not only the Express, but the 1910 Fruitgum Co., and of course, The Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus.

Not surprisingly, the Ohio Express were from Ohio. Mansfield, Ohio to be exact. Kasanetz and Katz had already had a hit with another Ohio band, the Music Explosion (Little Bit of Soul), so they were on the lookout for more regional talent. They found their way to Mansfield, where Sir Timothy & The Royals were a popular act opening for touring bands that came through town. Super K were suitably impressed and signed them up. First thing they did was change their name to the more American sounding Ohio Express, then issued this single. Thing is, Beg, Borrow And Steal was actually recorded by another group of hapless victims called Rare Breed, who apparently didn't want to play ball the Super K way. Kasenetz-Katz took their unsuccessful single, originally issued on the Attack label, put Ohio Express' name on it, and issued it on the Cameo-Parkway label (who knows who plays the instrumental, "Maybe" on the B side). Confused? It gets worse.

Super K had a good relationship with Cameo-Parkway's A&R guy, Neil Bogart. Unfortunately, Cameo-Parkway was about to go belly up, so Bogart jumped ship and established himself at the fledgling Buddah label. At Buddah, Kasenetz-Katz thrived and thanks to a stable of songwriters and studio musicians, cranked out a string of dumb-ass hits which were dubbed "Bubblegum". The Ohio Express became synonymous with this term, but the band were not much more than a touring representation of their recorded output. Actually, some of the stuff on the albums were performed by the guys from Ohio, but the hits were mainly done by the studio guys in New York. At points, the touring band didn't even know the material the kids were expecting them to play live.

One of the big guys behind the whole Super K assembly line was a fellow named Joey Levine. Hired with his partner Artie Resnick, they wrote many of the signature bubblegum hits, and Joey sang many of those songs including Yummy, Yummy, Yummy and Quick Joey Small. He cut a demo of Yummy, Yummy, and Bogart insisted it be released as is as an Ohio Express single. The rest is history. His nasal tone became the sound of bubblegum rock, but once again, when the bands hit the road, they sounded nothing like the record. Levine went on to write commercial jingles such as "Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut"(!!!), and "You Asked For It, You Got It, Toyota".

And what of the real Ohio Express guys? Well, they're still out there trying to sound like Joey Levine on Chewy, Chewy, of course.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007 12:43:00 PM

I hadn't heard anything previously by the Express prior to their Buddah output. The a-side clearly lacks the infamous Levine/Resnik touch, but what really surprises me is just how good the flipside is - if, indeed, it actually is the Ohio Express. Kind of like one the Velvet Underground's sweeter moments; i keep waiting to hear Nico coming in on the break.

I notice from the label pic "Beg, Borrow and Steal" is credited to J. Day/L. Zerato (??). Is it - incredible as it seems - the same partnership behind "Maybe" too ?

- ib    

Thursday, March 01, 2007 4:02:00 PM

Over the years, I've had to play this record for several people, as they've never heard it. The comments I've heard are well recieved. "They should have stayed with that sound", being the most common.

An excellent choice. Exposing it on the internet, might finally turn it into a hit, and wouldn't that be yummy? (yummy yummy)

..... bbb    

Thursday, March 01, 2007 4:08:00 PM

I neglected to mention the B side was writen by Kasenetz, Katz and some other dude (I don't have the record with me at the moment). I assume Beg, Borrow... was writen by the guys in Rare Breed, but who knows? Also, if you can find anything by Levine/Resnik's pre-Super K band, The Third Rail, I highly recomend their catchy garagey rock.


Friday, March 02, 2007 2:12:00 AM

Thanks for the lowdown on the b-side, Mike. I have a couple of tracks from the Third Rail's "ID Music", and also a couple From the Cheap Skates and Crazy Elephant which are co-written by Levine with Resnik and a guy called Cordell. All good stuff.

- ib    

Friday, March 02, 2007 6:38:00 AM

I also remember that the B sides to "Yummy..." and "Chewy..." were instrumentals played backwards. I now have the program to play these forwards. Maybe? We can only wonder.

..... bbb    

Friday, March 02, 2007 10:23:00 AM

bbb - as was "Wow Pop" (j. kasentz/j. katz/m. gutkowski), the flipside to 1910 Bubblegum Co.'s "Indian Giver", originally written, i'm led to believe, by Steve Dworkin and Gary Willet, and passed on to Lt. Garcia's Magic Music Box ( "Buddah" to "Kama Sutra" ; or vice versa, i'm easily confused).

Whatever, i'd love to hear them.

- ib    

Friday, March 02, 2007 2:27:00 PM

I'ld have to play the records and then process them 'backwards'. It'll be fun to find out what they really were (LOL) I got nothing to do tonight, so let's warm up thee ol' turntable and see what happens.


..... bbb    

Friday, March 02, 2007 4:24:00 PM

Great post!

I second the Third Rail esp "Run, Run, Run" as well as "Latin Skate" by the Cheap Skates, both sung by Levine.

Mike, last year you posted a song by the Rock And Roll Dubble Bubble Trading Card Co. Of Philadelphia 19141........anyway, did Levine sing on that one too?    

Friday, March 02, 2007 6:12:00 PM

I found three backwards Buddah B sides in my collection, and have now heard them forwards.

Zig Zag-The Ohio Express (B side of Yummy... This sounds like the backing track of "Poor Old Mr. Jensen" (B side of Quick Joey Small)

Pow Wow-1910 Fruitgum Co. (B side of Indian Giver) This is a cool song that I heard before. I think the proper title might be "Bring Back Howdy Doody". I also think this shows up on another Fruitgum Co. B side.

Candy Kisses-1910 Fruitgum Co. (B side of Goody Goody Gum Drops) This is a hard rock instrumental.

If anybody wants these, drop me a line at badboybacky@hotmail.com, and I'll ship them out.

..... bbb    

Saturday, March 31, 2007 11:19:00 AM

Left to right:
Alexander (bass)
Barry (keyboard)
John (vocals, guitar)
Tony (drums)
Joel (rhythm guitar)
not pictured: Jim Pfayler (organ)

Okay folks, this is where it all started. The Rare Breed were THE original bubblegum band, and their song "Beg Borrow and Steal" ( Attack Records 1966 ) is THE bubblegum anthem! It has it all: Teenage angst, rockin' Louie Louie guitar riffing, pumping organ and a killer beat. And then there's the chorus hook: "I'd rather beg borrow and steal, THAN GO BACK TO YOU". Before they were of legal age, they were spittin' out macho lines like "There's only so much a man can take". And how 'bout that primal scream at the end of the first chorus?

The Rare Breed were no assembly line bubblegum product. They were the actual band who recorded the hit version of "Beg Borrow and Steal". Interestingly enough, the song was released twice: first as The Rare Breed, then as The Ohio Express. The song has won over the hearts of pop fans everywhere, as well as earning the group a spot on the famous "Nuggets" compilation ( volume 3 ). Nuggets lists their personnel as "Unknown", but BUBBLEGUM WORLD has the scoop, right from the bubblegummer's mouth's! We were contacted in early 2003, by Barry, the talent behind the song's sweeping keyboard fills, and get this, he gave us an interview, too! These questions were answered by Barry after conferring with John about them:

BUBBLEGUM WORLD: So what's the story behind "Beg Borrow and Steal"?

BARRY: Joey Day wrote this song. After speaking with John, he reminded me that Sylvestor Bradford wanted us to do work for him, but was not a writer. As far as I know, it was just a commercial song. It was released on a label called "Attack". It didn't sell. It was re-released by Cameo Parkway and sold about a half million copies. Another copy of the song was produced by Beau Gentry, but no one liked it and it disappeared.

BUBBLEGUM WORLD: What was the membership of the original band ( was it the same as on the recording? ), and what were some of the names you had before it became the Rare Breed / Ohio Express ( if any ). Any major membership changes, etc? Was the band that recorded Beg Borrow or Steal the same band that played on the non-Joey Levine cuts on the 1st Ohio Express album?

BARRY: The members of the original band were John (lead singer, lead guitar), Barry on keyboard , Alexander (Botts) on bass, Joel rhythm guitar, and Tony on drums. We played under the name "The Conquests" among other names. No one who made Beg Borrow and Steal played on any Ohio Express album. After Jeff ( Katz ) and Jerry ( Kasenetz ) took the master, they found other people to make the tour.

BUBBLEGUM WORLD: Where did the names The Rare Breed and Ohio Express come from, and who thought each one of them up? I've recently heard a recording called Lightning Doesn't Strike Twice. It's easy to hear that it's the same singer that sang Beg Borrow and Steal (John). It was to be the follow up song to Beg Borrow and Steal. At that time, Lou Christie came out with "Lightning Is Striking Again", so it wasn't released. What happened with the group at that point? Was the Rare Breed still a band when the Ohio Express hit?

BARRY: The Rare Breed was just a name put on the label when the song was first release under the Attack label. No one performed under the name Rare Breed. We were kids.... 16 and 17 years old, living in Brooklyn and the Bronx. We were in High School and couldn't tour. Jeff and Jerry took the master and gave it to other people to do the tour. We assumed they were from Ohio, hence the name. They lip synced the song Beg Borrow and Steal when they performed it. Joey Day wrote Lightning Doesn't Strike Twice. Jeff and Jerry took that song too. On CD's now in the stores, they recorded over the bass and drum tracks on those two songs. We heard the song on the radio back in the 60's, but received no credit or compensation from Jeff or Jerry. The song still plays occasionally on oldies stations.

BUBBLEGUM WORLD: Was the exact recording of the Rare Breed single re-used as Ohio Express single ?

BARRY: Yes, it was the exact recording. Only the label and group name changed. No one from the original band played with the Ohio Express. We once heard them play. It couldn't be more obvious that the person that sings the other bubble gum songs does not sing Beg Borrow and Steal.

BUBBLEGUM WORLD: As musicians, at the time, what was your relationship with Kasenetz & Katz like?

BARRY: Our relationship with Katz and Kasenetz was business. They brought us to the studio to record. We had no idea they would use our voices and instruments to make money and give us no credit.

BUBBLEGUM WORLD: There was a legal battle between Jeff, Jerry, Joey Day and Silvester Bradford (the writers). What was it over, and what were the results?

BARRY: John reminded me that the legal battle was between Joey Day and Jerry. It seems Joey was not given any credit or compensation either. The case was in the courts for some time. We assume that the case was settled, and/or Joey was compensated in some way. However, we're not sure as to the outcome.

BUBBLEGUM WORLD: There seems to be so little info on Kasenetz and Katz on the internet. The last record I know of that they produced was "Black Betty", by Ram Jam. Do you know of any other projects they were involved with since then & what they are doing now?

BARRY: We don't know what Katz and Kasenetz are doing these days.

BUBBLEGUM WORLD: What have the musicians in the original group been doing over the years, and what are they doing now? Any records or CDs we should be on the look out for?

BARRY: John and I are in the business world. We still get together and play for fun. Botts has written some recordings of jingles for commercials. We're not sure what Joel or Tony are up to. We've discussed looking up Joel and Tony, but we haven't made the effort up to this time. You may have rekindled our interest.

BUBBLEGUM WORLD: I'm flattered! One more quick question: In the Nuggets compilation booklet, it says "Personell unknown". Could you give me the first and last names of the original band? Also it describes the band as Kasenetz & Katz "Proteges" and that " the band's contract with K&K was terminated ( shortly after the release of the single ) due to their reluctance to become puppets to their producers". How much of this is true? It seems by your earlier response that some of this had to do with your ages. I've been in contact w/ some relatives and members of the original Ohio Express, and I hear a similar story: Kasenetz and Katz took advantage of them.

BARRY: There's no question that J&J took advantage of us. I'm not sure what the puppet reference is. We were too young to sign contracts so there were none. The names of the original group were: John Freno, Barry Stolnick, Alexander (Botts) Norbett, Joel Feigenbaum and Tony Cambria (spelling of some names might not be 100% correct). I think our story typifies what the music industry was like back then (we're not sure what its like today). People had no problem making money on the talents of young people and not compensating them in any way. Beg Borrow and Steal started the Bubblegum genre. John's professional voice and the group's back up created a unique sound that was born and died with Beg Borrow and Steal.

BUBBLEGUM WORLD: I'll second that! Any final words?

BARRY: I spoke to John, and we're ready for a come back tour..... (just kidding)

photo courtesy of Barry    

Friday, July 13, 2007 8:41:00 AM

As far as what I've read, the Rare Breed didn't want to mold to Kasenetz and Katz's ideas of production or song selection. Rather than being the "first bubblegum band," they refused to become one at all. The guys who were picked to promote the single on the road were Sir Timothy and the Royals, a popular band from Mansfield, Ohio, who were discovered by K&K around the same time as the Chosen Few who were renamed the Music Explosion. The group were promised they would make records, but when Joey Levine's demo of "Yummy Yummy Yummy" became the next single and Levine became the "voice" of the Ohio Express, it all changed. Sir Timothy and the Royals recorded a few good psychedelic tracks on the first couple albums, but their singles were completely done in studio by Levine and session cats who never even met the guys who played the songs on the road. If "Beg Borrow and Steal" was a bubblegum record, then "Yummy Yummy Yummy" makes it sound like "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath. If it wasn't for the Ohio Express and the whole bubblegum movement, "Beg" would be remembered as just another cop on "Louie Louie."    

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:23:00 PM

Actually, Beg Borrow and Steal was a hit before the Ohio Express started recording and before the Bubble Gum movement, so the success of Beg Borrow and Steal couldn't possibly have been because of the Ohio Express. If anything, it was the other way around.    

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 8:42:00 PM

The previous post is correct. Here in Pittsburgh, Beg Borrow and Steal was a pretty big hit in 1966, and it as never referred to as bubblegum. No one had even heard of bubblegum. The local rock n' roll station also made it very clear that it was a locally recorded record. (we've always considered Ohio local) And the Ohio Express didn't show up on the airwaves until at least a year later.

The thing I find most interesting about all of this is that everyone says that the Rare Breed and Ohio Express versions of the song are the same. I've played both versions side by side on numerous occasions, and without getting overly technical, IMO there ARE differences. The mixes are different. The Ohio Express version sounds a wee bit more polished, whereas the original Rare Breed version sounds more raw. Even the vocal track is different. It's a subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless.
Those of you who have the luxury of being able to play both versions side by side should try it out for yourself.

In closing, it's an awesome song. It's 60's garage rock at it's best, and it should NEVER be confused with bubblegum.    

Sunday, January 30, 2011 3:25:00 PM

For the record, the b-side of the "Beg Borrow And Steal" (as released under the Ohio Express name) was actually recorded by the Measles, a Cleveland band led by Joe Walsh (the same Joe Walsh of the James Gang and Eagles). A vocal version of the song (with a different title), also recorded by the Measles, appeared on the "Beg Borrow And Steal" LP on Cameo. The bulk of that album was recorded by Sir Timothy and the Royals.    

Saturday, March 10, 2012 10:56:00 PM

i beleive that the song "beg borrow and steal"is like many songs that can be tagged as more than one style.it can be considered as garage rock or bubble gum as it seems to be derived from both styles.much like the stuff by (sky saxon and)the seeds,the outsiders,paul revere and the raiders,etc.there's elements of both bubble gum and garage band rok in most of their tracks.another example would be the blues magoos.all of these bands are not cmpletely garage rock band but not completely bubble gum.the ohio express was undoubtedly pure bubble gum.1910 fruitgim co.was also bubble gum but kind of went into a different direction with one track, "reflections from the looking glass".then there's the strawberry alarm clock.pdychedelic rock (blues magoos,alarm clock,seeds,)had a sound that i'd define as a hard rock bubble gum sound.in closing,let me point out ,as an example,that some people call roxette hard rock,others might consider them alternative./ie,when two or three elements or styles of music crosses over so obviously into an artists music,it's a more versatile product and does real well in the retail market./i believe that there are more people with a versatile taste in music than a narrowed palate. wile i enjoy the seeds' "the gypsy plays his drums"and 900 million people daily"( from their "raw and alive" LP),i also enjoy "chewy chewy" by the ohio express.    

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