[Editors note: This post has been revised to correct some misinformation in the original post. Clarification on a few points were given by Steve Whiting, bassist for The Misunderstood. He has provided a wealth of information in the comment section below. We Flipsters hope you'll take time to read his illuminating comments.]
If ever a band was appropriately named, it was London, England's, no, I mean Riverside California's The Misunderstood. The band only put out enough singles that you could count them on one hand. And they were only released in the UK. But what singles they are!
The Misunderstood hailed from Riverside, California where they plugged away in southern California clubs with great anonymity. That's when British radio host, John Peel happened into an outdoor performance at the Riverside Mall at which our heroes-of-the-week were performing. (Discerning readers of On The Flip-Side may recall that John Peel has a direct connection to one of our favorite self-penned articles...which can be found here). Peel knew that something great lurked just beneath the surface and convinced the boys to make the trip to London where he would represent them. In a must read of Ugly Things magazine that chronicles, with great detail, the misunderstood story of The Misunderstood, the music fan is left with that all too familiar lament of "what could have been?". Poverty, broken promises, the Vietnam draft, work permit issues, drug use and a general haze of bad luck, left The Misunderstood failing to live up to their true potential.
Not long after the boys landed in the UK, rhythm guitarist, Greg Treadway, heard the potential door knock of the draft and, coupled with the memory of a girlfriend left behind, headed back to the US. Into the void steps British guitarist, Tony Hill. Hill and the Yanks only record 7 songs together. Four of them produced as singles for Fontana Records. Those were: Children of the Sun/I Unseen and I Can Take You To The Sun/Who Do You Love? It is no understatement that all output in London are of thee highest quality. Each song is better than the last one to which you just listened and each demonstrates great songwriting ability, musicianship and singing. Our song of the week is the startlingly original cover of Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love?
The Misunderstood's massive re-imagining of Who Do You Love opens with a descending riff played by bassist Steve Whiting while lead guitarist Glenn Campbell (no, not that Glen Campbell) plays a gentle ambient riff on his pedal steel. He is then joined by guitarist Tony Hill just before the band explodes into the first verse. Campbell's virtuosity on the pedal steel is at play throughout the entire song, but nowhere better than when the band dials it down during the musical interlude and Campbell's slide guitar work interfaces beautifully with Hill's chordal fills. As he did on all songs the band recorded, bassist Steve Whiting drops some amazing bass lines that give the song a beautifully articulated bottom (regular readers know that here at Flip-Side's Rocky Mountain HQ, we love well articulated bottoms!). Drummer Rick Moe controls the band's manic energy that vacillates between the tranquil and the violent. And then, not to be outdone, there was the growl of singer Rick Brown who had the chops to front a band of such dynamic quality. If you ever get a chance to hear him belt it out in Find The Hidden Door, then you know what I'm talking about. The highlight of the song, for this flipster, is at the end of the verse directly following the music break [at 1:44]. That's when Rick Brown and Glen Campbell "duet" on the line, "Now tell me, who do you love?". Those three seconds of vocals and slide guitar float together in the dark, open void of the song like a ship sailing off the end of the world.
In the end, it was the end. The band dispersed into the sunset, riding their own ways. Glen Campbell went back to Riverside where he kept busy in the music biz. Others found their way towards spiritual quests high in the Tibetan mountains. Others found themselves in the Navy stationed in Alaska (presumably he could see Russia from his front door). All in all, they went about life.
For a great, must read article on the band, I strongly suggest you take a look at Mike Stax's definitive work in Ugly Things #21 from 2003 and even plunk down a few dollars on The Misunderstood's Lost Acetates CD or LP available from UT.
Last, it kills me that this band gets tagged as a British band (I'm talking to you Rhino Records!). This band is from California, with a great musician in Tony Hill hailing from the UK. Just clearing up some misunderstandings of The Misunderstood (with a little help from Steve Whiting and Mike Stax).