Came The Ravyns
Before there were The Ravens, there were The Ravyns, an iconic local rock band whose members remain a big part of the local music scene here in Baltimore. The busiest of the band is singer/songwriter Rob Fahey.
Fahey’s passion for music is nearly rivaled by that for his hometown and its professional football team. Recently I caught up with Rob to take a trip down memory lane and to get his thoughts on the sports landscape here in Charm City.
Rob, let’s start with a look back in time and if you could, talk about the origins of The Ravyns, and how you decided on the band’s name and spelling of “Ravyns”.
Rob: Kyf Brewer and I really seemed to like the bird theme or connotation for a band name from the get-go. A couple of the names that we had considered were Nightingale and Night Raven. Then we decided, on the advice of Greg Therres who was acting as our manager at the time, to just go with Ravens. We also really liked the local flavor of that name because of the connection with Edgar Allan Poe and Loch Raven Dam and Reservoir. As for the spelling change, we discovered that there had already been a vocal group out of Baltimore, in the late 50’s I believe, that went by the Ravens. We also thought that using the Y in the spelling added a little English twist to the name, like the Byrds. Always thought that was a cool name.
Your band is very talented and remarkably tight given your very limited schedule. What do you attribute that to?
Rob: I think that is mainly due to the fact that we are all still musically active and playing gigs on a regular basis with our own projects, so that helps us to keep our chops, or stay sharp, so to speak.
Raised on the Radio is a classic, particularly here in Baltimore. How did it end up being featured in the popular movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High?
Rob: Now there’s a story of overnight success following years of labor. In the Spring of 81, guitarist David Bell was introduced to the Cars’ tour manager, Mike McGinley, at Merriweather through some mutual friends. Mike asked that we send a demo to his office in LA, where he put it in the hands of people whose ears and opinion he trusted. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so he wasted no time in playing the demo for Irving Azoff, an LA music mogul (manager for Eagles, Styx, Dan Fogelberg) who at the time was in charge of assembling the music soundtrack for “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”.
Azoff and his team agreed immediately that they wanted the song to be featured in the movie, and by Memorial Day weekend we were in Los Angeles re-recording the song. Yes, it happened very rapidly. “Raised” was released as the second single from the soundtrack. We then had a pending recording contract with Warner Brothers that didn’t pan out, but within the next year we signed with MCA.
What is a song or two that you guys have written and recorded that you thought was a hit that never got the traction you expected?
Rob: To this day I think that it was mistake that “No Regular Woman” was never released as a single. It definitely was and still is a local hit. Another song that I thought never got a fair shake was Kyf Brewer’s “Love or Suicide”. The band wanted that song to be included on our first album (yes, I said album), but the bigwigs at MCA thought that using a song with the word “suicide” in the title was risky and in questionable taste. Yes, the world has changed a bit since then.
Staying with how the world has changed, when I grew up albums were the thing. You dropped a needle on some vinyl and then listened from start to finish. Now, the industry is dominated by digital downloads. Has that changed the way artists record and/or compose songs? Has it changed you guys?
Rob: Yes, yes, and yes. Unfortunately, the change in the music business was not for the better. The record album is now a lost art, from the concept of the album cover to the point (as you stated) that an album was intended to be listened to from the start to the finish. Who has time for that anymore, right?
The Ravyns were a song-oriented band, and we had a lot of songs. The self-titled release on MCA in 84 was actually categorized as an AOR (Album Oriented Rock) release by MCA and on Billboard’s music charts. The first single release, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, also had a video which showed on MTV. At that time, MTV was an avenue for many music acts that were considered AOR, giving them exposure that they were not likely to get on popular American radio. Although “Don’t Leave…” didn’t chart well on Billboard, it was actually a top ten hit on various FM album-oriented rock music stations across the country.
Many artists now put the emphasis on digital releases for success, but I sure miss having the tangible product, where you get more of a feel or vibe for the artist, and you also get the liner notes where the people involved with the music get the recognition and credit they deserve.
It’s sort of mind boggling when you hear some local bands with range and talent that never make it nationally, the Ravyns among them. Why do you think that is, and if you could wind the clock back to the band’s origins, knowing what you know today, what would you do differently?
Rob: In hindsight, one of our first mistakes was not having a video to accompany the release of “Raised On the Radio” when it was released as a single in 82 along with the release of “Fast Times…”. (Note: The video below was released sometime later). The song was getting airplay nationally, but I think a video could have put it over the top.
In the 80’s, our area had a handful of locally performing bands that were signed with national labels. Major record companies did take notice of the talent in our area, but we could never seem to get the embracement we needed from the rest of the country. Our region was – and still is – enriched with many talented and dedicated musicians, and a lot of these guys (like me) are still out there doing it. I have to give credit to the people and fans here as well for their support over many years.
I’ve heard you play the National Anthem several times on the roof at the Gameday Firehouse on Ridgely Street outside of M&T. Your rendition is so heartfelt and emotional. Upon hearing it the first time, I was reminded of an idea that I suggested to the Ravens a few years ago – to allow local artists an opportunity to sing the National Anthem prior to home games at M&T. Your thoughts…
Rob: I think it would be wonderful, but not necessarily for every home game, reason being that I think the Ravens should be extremely selective as to the artist they choose, and the game that an artist is chosen for, to keep the performance caliber at a high level. We have seen far too many poor, if not cheesy, national performances of our National Anthem over the past several years. Let’s set the bar high for something of such significance.
You’ve probably had opportunities to move to communities with stronger music scenes. What has kept you grounded in Baltimore?
Rob: I make a living here doing what I love. What’s not to like about that?
Rob, you’ve written disparaging songs about Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Who might be next on your hit list? Jose Bautista?
Rob: I am a Ravens fan, and what is there that’s better than a rivalry like Ravens/Steelers? A Ravens/Patriots game is probably a close second. I have all the respect in the world for Ben and Tom as quarterbacks, but you have to admit they have given the press, and someone like me as a songwriter, plenty to work with entertainment-wise. Baltimore does get more worked up when Ben comes to town, and I know I’m not alone when I say in jest, I f’ing hate Tom Brady. It’s football, no ill intent. As for who’s next, honestly not sure. Nobody has gotten me worked up enough as of late to inspire me. That could change.
What is your outlook for the other Ravens this coming season?
Rob: My fingers are crossed. Due to the string of preseason injuries and the uncertainty of our starting roster, this may well be the most difficult upcoming season in the Ravens’ history to make a prediction on. Let me just say, “Go Ravens!”
A few quick knee-jerk, word association questions:
The ultimate Mr. Oriole: Brooks Robinson or Cal Ripken? Brooks
Terrell Suggs: Hall of Famer, yes or no? Yes
2nd best Baltimore QB: Joe Flacco or Bert Jones? Joe
The Beatles or The Stones? No-brainer, Beatles
Prince or Michael Jackson? Michael Jackson
Best Rock Vocalist of All-Time? Freddie Mercury
Gladiator or Braveheart? Gladiator
Godfather or Sopranos? Godfather
Word Association – what’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear these names or words:
Ray Lewis – Warrior
Earl Weaver – Genius
Peter Angelos – Businessman
Best show on TV – Twilight Zone
Worst show on TV – Any reality show
Favorite original song to perform – Lucky
Favorite cover song to perform – Whiter Shade of Pale
If I wasn’t a musician I’d be a _____ Teacher
Finally Rob, you’re stranded on a desert island, you get to take one of each of the following. What are they?
An album – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Genesis
A Ravens jersey – Todd Heap
A person – my wife, Carolyn