Diamonds Are Forever
1931 - Legs Diamond 'the gangster' is shot down for the fourth time but survives, amazing his physician with his ability to survive such serious injuries. Legs declares 'I made it again, nobody can kill Legs Diamond. I am going to settle a few scores just as soon as I get my strength back, just you wait and see.' 1975 - Legs Diamond 'the band' starts to form into a recognized, cohesive unit, little aware that in years to come England's acclaimed 'Kerrang!' magazine would have them on a front cover under the banner 'The Bands That Refused To Die!' Parallels between a Californian hard rock quintet and a New York mobster become more apparent when one looks back at our band's many experiences of perseverance, bad luck and refusal to give in. The gangster's personality would also describe their music -- 'mean as hell with a touch of class; hard hitting but stylish.' So, when gangster fans Jeff Poole (drums) and Michael Gargano (bass) chose this name, it became even more appropriate than they could have imagined. A relocation to Los Angeles resulted in the addition of Michael Prince (keyboards, guitar), Rick Sanford (vocals) and Detroit native Roger Romeo (guitar). Legs Diamond was ready to start with guns blazing. 1976 - Their first venture onto vinyl came in 1976 on a compilation sampler by LA radio station K-West. 'Rat Race' stands out as the jewel. But in the music business you also need lucky breaks -- theirs came when they crashed a Kiss after-gig party and met Gene Simmons. They convinced Gene to come to their rehearsal room and he liked the band. He wanted to get his management company and booking agency involved with Legs and that's how they got the first three gigs on Kiss' 'Rock & Roll Over' Tour.' How many groups can play to (appreciative) audiences of 30,000 before their first album? Kiss even wanted to record one of their songs ('Satin Peacock'), but Legs kept it to themselves. The band were signed to Mercury on November 9th, 1976, and started an enviable touring schedule for several years. The likes of Styx, Sammy Hagar, Alice Cooper, Black Oak Arkansas, Bob Seger, Riot, Angel, The Babys, Montrose, Golden Earring -- to name but a handful -- would share the bill around the USA. Sometimes, (famously in the case of Ted Nugent), they would upstage the headliners. Add to this a friendship with the members of Deep Purple -- they attended each other's rehearsals -- and it was looking good. True fact: Eddie Van Halen and Dave Lee Roth begged Legs to let Van Halen open for them! 1977 - The self-titled debut album, produced by Derek Lawrence (that Deep Purple connection again) contains just seven songs -- but these remain today as some of the fan favourites and stalwarts of the live set. The tunes were mainly in the long, hard and heavy vein, each with it's own identity -- variety would soon be recognised as one of Legs' greatest assets. A change of pace or mood within a song was not unusual and Sanford was not averse to an occasional use of flute. The follow-up album 'A Diamond Is A Hard Rock' was also released in 1977. An apt title, a classic sleeve, and superb songs. The tunes are shorter and a touch more commercial than those on the debut and the Eddie Leonetti production brings out the best in each one. ('Eddie was great fun to work with -- he came up with some good stuff.'). This record contains 'Woman', a ballad of more than six minutes, which is still today a rock anthem in San Antonio, Texas and much of middle America. In the future, a festival there would see 20,000+ singing along, word-for-word; this was their 'Stairway To Heaven'. 1978 - More touring around the USA and Canada consolidated Legs Diamond's reputation as a blistering live act. Legendary DJ Joe 'The Godfather' Anthony would play whole sides of an album, helping to create their legendary, god-like status in San Antonio, Texas for decades. Unfortunately, record labels like Mercury were always going through changes of personnel, and when management problems became intertwined with label politics, the ones who suffered because of a lack of promotion or readily available information were the band and it's rapidly-growing legion of fans. 1979 - Album number three, 'Fire Power', would surface on the small Cream label. Cream insisted upon the inclusion of cover versions and were keen to try and get hit singles (but only from the covers) via a more commercial approach. Unwilling to promote them as a heavy metal band, yet lacking the power to put them into the pop charts, the big breakthrough seemed to be ever out of reach in these conditions. That said, there were small efforts in merchandise and memorabilia that can be found today. 1980 - Here comes the first of several 'quiet periods' in the band's career. When a gangster goes into hiding, it may be to lie low until the police or rivals are out of the way. The only enemies that Legs Diamond the band had at this time were record company indifference and the onset of new wave, which combined to pose a threat to the aspirations of many rock bands in a music world where there was not room for everyone. Although two sets of classic demos were recorded, the stunning album they could have formed would not materialise (...at least, not for twenty years!) In this period, guitarist Roger Romeo left to work in new directions and in his place came Jim May. Various changes of name (including 'Rag Doll', who recorded two songs for a local compilation album of unsigned bands) followed, but the LA club scene was not where Legs Diamond should have been after the early quick start to their career. With the departure of Michael Diamond, it looked as if Legs Diamond was a seventies memory. 1984 - The motto 'Never Say Die' could not have been more emphatically proven when Legs Diamond burst out of their 'jail' of exile with the glorious 'Out On Bail'. Initially a six-track EP on Target Records, it gained immediate worldwide acclaim in quarters starved of quality rock after the novelty of punk and it's amateur limitations had worn off. A new audience joined the ranks of the faithful to celebrate the return of Sanford, Prince, May, Poole and, now on bass, Mike Christie. The latter took the place of various short-lived personnel, including Greg Chaisson (Badlands, Steeler). 1985 - After topping import charts in the UK and Europe, it was only a matter of time before 'Out On Bail' had two extra tracks added for English release on the Music For Nations label. Fans that had only previously had access to the group via hard-to-find imports now had the album readily available. In Germany, the popularity was sufficient to release 'Fugitive' as a single. 1986 - Although with hindsight a European tour at this time would have been a huge advantage, the determination of Legs Diamond to regain lost ground in their homeland with a resounding 'We're back!' is understandable. With new album 'Land Of The Gun' delivered onto a waiting audience (along with an EP featuring 'Turn To Stone' and two bonus tracks in the UK), the band's profile had never been higher. Magazine articles in many languages grew ever more plentiful. The medium of CD had eased itself into everyday culture by now, but not to the degree we recognise today. To get the album out at the best time, vinyl was still the means. Poole had by now left, replaced by skinsman Dusty Watson. (Jonathan Valen, pictured on the album sleeve, did not actually play or record with the band on any album. It's one of those long stories, shortened to the fact that Dusty wasn't available for the band photo session!) 1989 - Once again, the Underworld Kings had been forced into a period of inactivity by the bad luck that seemed to follow them around. In the preceding years, Rick Sanford tried to establish a solo career and Michael Prince had found equal resistance with a side project Roq Royale. The rock groups of a more sleazy nature (including Guns'n'Roses -- who confess to having been Diamond fans in their early careers) had been dominating the business and our heroes were sorely missed. The announcement that Roger Romeo was back on board for another reformation and attack was greeted with enthusiastic anticipation. 1990 - Legs Diamond fans remain loyal over the years and the head of Metal Blade Records, Brian Slagel, remembered the groups that influenced his passion when younger. The result was their first official CD 'Town Bad Girl' complete with controversial sleeve and crammed full of classy songs. Legs even entered the video age, with the promo for 'I Am For You' being aired on MTV both in the USA and Europe. With 'Out On Bail' and 'Land Of The Gun' also being reissued as a 2-on-1 CD, they had everything to play for again, if the luck held out ... 1992 - Maybe the ghost of that gangster was around, haunting the group, with karma ensuring his misdeeds in a previous life were being punished. A motorcycle accident to Sanford the previous year had put paid to plans for their first European tour, and Jeff Marcus was now the guitarist after Romeo left again. On bass we welcomed Adam Kury. Selected dates in Texas happened, but it was not until this particular year that two eagerly awaited events became a reality. A handful of British dates at the end of the year -- including a magical night at London's legendary Marquee Club -- followed the release of a live CD, 'Captured Live'. This was actually from a concert played in 1990 and is a perfect example of what those Texans had enjoyed for so long. 1993 - New songs had been introduced into live shows and these formed part of 'The Wish', released on Music For Nations Records. The heaviest album they had ever recorded, it contained as ever an impressive variety of styles -- although all are firmly in the hard rock genre; There were no diversions into the more 'fashionable' areas of music that were taking over the media. Just as in the dark days of the Prohibition, a cloud hung overhead, threatening all that had been held dear in the past. The name of this cloud was grunge ... 1999 - The longest hiatus in Legs Diamond's career left even the most optimistic concerned. We were used to periods of inactivity without any formal announcements of breaking up, but one had to wonder if there was any way back this time. Just as Jack came 'back from the dead' so many times in the thirties, this Legs Diamond would not lay down. 'Uncut Diamond ... The legendary lost fourth album' finally saw the light of day, twenty years late, but no less welcome. The boys were back in town. 2000 - Talk of a new CD was plentiful and although songs were worked on, it was no longer a case of being able to devote energies to it on a full time basis. The members had other musical diversions as well, but San Antonio promoter Bill Lee did the impossible and organised a show with Dio and Budgie at the Sunken Gardens Theater in April. The ecstatic followers treated this like the Second Coming and Legs played a concert that they rate as one of the best of their lengthy career. Four decades of music now and back in the drummer's seat for this momentous event was Jeff Poole. For the rest of the world, the big event was the release, finally, on CD of the first three albums by Zoom. All were mastered with painstaking care by Michael Prince in response to years of demands from fans and all came with tasty bonus tracks. These releases spawned the greatest amount of media attention, in terms of reviews, that the band had ever experienced. 2002 - Jumping forward two years and Bill Lee decided it was time to repeat the San Antonio magic. This time, Saxon and Moxy were in support and, once again, it was a special event. 2003 - With still no new album on the horizon, Zoom produced 'The Collection' -- a limited edition boxed set of the first four albums, in deluxe packaging. 2004 - If it was going to become a tradition now to play San Antonio every two years, then it was that time again. A scheduled April concert with Starz and Pat Travers was cancelled at the last minute when Jeff Poole injured himself in a karate match. It was rescheduled for September with an incredible bill -- Legs Diamond, Montrose, Starz, Michael Schenker Group, Uli Jon Roth -- fully deserving the title 'The Legends Of San Antonio Rock'. An all-star jam closed the show to rapturous reception. As an added bonus, the event was filmed for future release as the band's first DVD. A new 'Best Of...' CD entitled 'Favourites Vol.1' became available and featured two brand new songs. The first new material written for more than a decade did not disappoint and expectations for the next album were high. The tunes resulted in Legs Diamond being signed to German label AOR Heaven. 2005 - The year starts with news of reissues of 'Out On Bail' (with three bonus tracks) and 'Uncut', but no-one expects the next announcements. Firstly, an invitation to play in Bradford, England at the inaugural 'Firefest' festival in May -- secondly, the news that Legs Diamond have parted company (amicably) with singer Rick Sanford. The voice that had become synonymous with Legs throughout eight albums (and appearances on many compilations) had to be replaced -- no mean feat. Welcome Johnny Levesque (ex-Montrose, Wild Horses, Shout), who helps the band perform a stunning set in Bradford. He impresses all there. Once again, it was onward and upward with with the strongest lineup to date. As of this writing, Legs Diamond has just released their new studio recording, a CD titled 'Diamonds Are Forever', with shows in the US and Europe to follow. The new album has received rave reviews from the media and diehard fans alike. 2007 looks to be a busy year for the gangsters of rock. If you didn't know it before, you know it now -- 'Diamonds are Forever'. John Watson.