When I was a kid, my mom used to go ape-shit anytime a Michael Stanley song came on the radio. She would always tell me this story about how her sister met him once, and he autographed something for my mom, and how it was basically the greatest thing that ever happened. She had all of his records, and would play that shit constantly. Occasionally I would look at them, and the artwork on the covers, and I remember one specifically that had a bunch of naked dudes, sporting trench coats. As a child I would always wonder, “why are those dudes naked?”, “where are they going?”, and “are they going to circle-jerk?” Of course as a kid I wasn’t sure what a circle-jerk was, but I was just pretty sure I didn’t want to find out. But regardless, I could not escape this dude in my childhood, he was just everywhere.
Since then, the years have passed, and looking back, he seems long forgotten, as the Cleveland musician obviously never made it big. Recently, I heard one of his songs in a gas station, and for a brief moment, I remembered all of the fanaticism experienced in the 80’s, my mother’s undying love for this dude, and all of the radio requests for this guy’s music. So I guess my question is, who the fuck is Michael Stanley? Doing some internet research, I guess he was kind of a big deal… to people in Northeast Ohio, anyways.
So in 1973, this dude from Cleveland named Michael Stanley decided to put out an album, aptly titled Michael Stanley. It didn’t quite crack the Billboard 200, peaking at #206. Later that year, Stanley proceeded with a follow-up album titled Friends and Legends, recruiting the likes of Joe Walsh, Todd Rundgren and David Sanborn, however this album only ever hit a disappointing #207 on the album charts. In 1974, he then formed the “Michael Stanley Band”, and performed with this group until the band called it quits in 1986. They experienced moderate success, hitting #99 on the Billboard 200 with the album Cabin Fever in 1976, #86 in 1980 with Heartland, and #63 in 1983 with You Can’t Fight Fashion. Looking at the singles charts, they peaked in 1980 at #33 with “He Can’t Love You” off the album Heartland.
I’ve read several articles that claim that Stanley was on the edge of greatness, but was never able to make that leap into “super-star” status. After the band called it quits, he went on to perform around the region with various members, and a new group assembled that called themselves “The Resonators”, but he never again achieved even the moderate success of the early 80’s. Since then, he’s lived in the area, becoming more of a local legend, hosting the WNCX 98.5 radio show, generally resigning to the fact that he’s stuck in Ohio, and that’s how it goes for most of us.
In summary, I still know dick about this guy, or why he was such a big deal in the 80’s. I’ve heard his music, and although it’s not totally shitty, I still find it pretty average, especially when you place it up against all of the other music of the early 80’s. I guess you can just lump him into all of the other myth and lore that is Northeast Ohio, along with the burning river, and ten cent beer night. Isn’t Ohio great?