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Monday, July 21, 2008

"we both know we're never gonna make it / but when we touch, we never have to fake it, Leah!"

Straight outta Beaver Falls, PA, came Dominic Ierace, playing in local combos until he and his band The Jaggerz hit number two in the ‘70s with “The Rapper”. After The Jaggerz dissolved, Ierace played with Wild Cherry, who had a hit with the ubiquitous “Play That Funky Music”. Then by 1980, Wild Cherry hit the pits.

That’s when Dominic Ierace, R&B/funk band sideman, became Donnie Iris, power pop/new wave hitmaker.

Teamed with keyboardist Mark Avsec, Iris had a decent run of chart singles in the early ‘80s, his biggest Pop hit being “My Girl”, a sickly sweet ‘60s-tinged Beach Boys-ish rip which peaked at #25. But thankfully, history won out over chart positions and Iris is better known these days for a brilliant 3:42 blast called “Ah! Leah!”

“Ah! Leah!” was huge in the Cleveland/Pittsburgh markets where Iris made his home(s), played in constant rotation in 1981, and spilling over nationally. It was deserved. “Ah! Leah!” is classic power pop, all crunchy chords, harmonic backing vocals and an echoing “Ah! Ah!” bridge that still gives me goose bumps. “Ah! Leah!” struggled up to #29 on the charts which is a shame – so many people still remember and love this song – in fact, I got an e-mail about it today that inspired me to finally finish this post I’ve been puttering around with for months (thanks, Mark!).

Iris returned to the Top 40 a year later with “Love Is Like a Rock”, another regional smash that if recorded by, say, Rick Springfield (ahem), would have been a Top Ten smash. As it is, it barely squeaked into the Top 40. If I asked you if you remembered this song, you’d look at me blankly – however, if I played it for you, you’d say, “Ohmigod, who did this song! I used to LOVE it!” G’head, try it.

Another year later, Iris and MCA Records wanted some of that MTV video action the kids were all hot about. Riding the new wave bandwagon, Iris released “Do You Compute?”, a very timely play on TRS-80s, Timex Sinclair 1000’s, and romance. The video is HYSTERICAL, with Donnie attempting to build a perfect woman via computer, (years before “Weird Science!”), only to end up trapped in the computer himself. I wish I had it – I’d post it so you could see if my theory that the woman in the video is indeed Joanna Lumley aka Patsy Stone from “Absolutely Fabulous”. I swear it is.

And hey, how about a modern-day remake of that video, done shot for shot in someone's rec room?

What’s Donnie up to these days? Still playing dates here and there, and…well:

Image from Parallel Time, the Unofficial Donnie Iris Site

I would KILL to have Donnie Iris as my mortgage broker.

Get Donnie Iris CDs here...and you should, they're great.

”Ah! Leah!” peaked at #29 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in 1981.
“Love Is Like a Rock” peaked at #37 in 1982.
“Do You Compute?” peaked at #64 on the same chart in 1983.


posted by John, 10:15 AM