Bob Cowsill On “All Mixed Up” – New Christmas Music From the Cowsills
Bob Cowsill is a part of the legendary Cowsills family group. First coming to fame in 1967 with the hit single “The Rain, the Park, and Other Things,” the Cowsills continue to make great music and have just released a new Christmas EP.
The latest full-length album from the Cowsills, Rhythm of the World, came out in 2022. Bob and Jim talked about some of the history of the Cowsills, and the incredible legacy of music they’ve created over the years.
The influence of the Beatles February 1964
JIM MONAGHAN – February 1964 – we’re coming up, of course, on the 60th anniversary. And I wanted to ask you about your memories of sitting in front of the television that night. Well, it was really the first time.
BOB COWSILL – You’re talking about the Beatles on that Sullivan I guess that’s what I would think. Look, here’s the deal. Back then, we only had their records when they first arrived. And we’re a band, a young band, obviously, with the brothers, and we’re trying to figure out how to play their songs. We’re working on it, because you develop your ears, there’s no YouTube, there’s no research, there’s no nothing.
There’s records and radio play. When they finally hit Ed Sullivan, the Beatles, it’s very important to us because they’re going to be on three Sundays in a row. They’re going to play this live. We’re finally going to see it. You got to be in front of your TV at 8 o’clock. You must cancel everything. You can’t miss it because you can’t record it.
So you got to make the effort. And we all did. And the reason it was so big was we were coming out of folk music. And the Beatles were, of course, you all know, even the young kids know, how historic the arrival of the Beatles was and what it did to the music scene, and it did it to us. It changed our hair, it changed the gear. We bought the songs we’re going to learn. It changed everything. We were right there. Sponges for it all. I’m like 14-15 years old. I’m soaking this up, like, okay, at least we have guidance now.
JM – So I was a little younger than you. I was in elementary school, and I did watch it, and I remember being captivated and fascinated by it. I just know something’s going on there. So fast forward a few years and I’m in Asbury Park. My sister and I have convinced our parents to take us to a concert. And having seen the Beatles, I’m thinking, well, wouldn’t it be cool to do that? Well, that night in Asbury Park, I’m watching a drummer who’s about my age, and I’m looking at him going, “Well, I’ve been playing drums for a year. This looks really cool. Maybe I could do this someday.” That was your brother John. It was the very first concert I went to, was you guys in Asbury Park.
BC – Oh, you passed the Beatles. You couldn’t get to the Beatles. You took us. That’s great. Hey, listen, John Cowsill, to this day, is one of the great drummers, but back then, even was a great drummer. And I have to tell you, as his older brother, I stood in front of him our whole career. I rarely turned around. I remember telling him one day, “John, you’re really a good drummer.”
The Cowsills new Christmas EP
JM – Rhythm of the World is the latest album. It’s been out about a year, but there’s a brand new EP that has just come out, A Christmas Offering From the Cowsills. There are three tracks on it. Tell us about “Christmastime (Song for Marissa),” Bob.
BC – That song was the longest song ever that it took us to write some songs. You can get them done in 15 minutes. This took years. And the reason is that it started as an instrumental and we had no way of putting lyrics to it. We tried, but they sound so bad. When we did it, we gave it to another writer, and that person tried to do it. He couldn’t do it. And I said, okay, it’s an instrumental. This is the late 70’s. This is how old the melody is. It’s an instrumental. “Wipeout” was an instrumental, “Pipeline.”
This is an instrumental. And I let it be. Well, then we’re having our children and our youngest was born and very sick in NICU and maybe not going to make it. That was going on. So we said, all right, I’m going to give the melody to Marissa. I called it “Song for Marissa” and thought, great, the instrumental has a title, and it stayed that way for years. And then one day, I don’t know why it was in the late 80’s. I’m in a heat wave and it dawns on me for some reason this is a Christmas melody. It’s been that all along. That’s why we couldn’t put lyrics to it.
I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. And it took two weeks for my wife, Mary Jo, and I to put the Christmas lyrics to this Christmas melody. And we had, without intending it, to be a Christmas carol. Because if the music is Christmas and the words are Christmas, that’s a Christmas carol. A lot of them are pop melodies with Christmas words. That’s our Christmas carols. But this one is. And we finally called it “Christmas Time” and got into the studio was August of whatever year it was in the early 90’s. It’s 100 degrees. We put the air conditioning up, get the Christmas tree, decorate it packages.
We decorate the whole studio like Christmas. And then got the little choir in that we got with some of our friends and co artists and man, we couldn’t believe it. We finally finished it and here it is. And Omnivore heard it and they said, guys, we don’t care how long this took. This is top-shelf Christmas music. So they got excited. And then “Some Good Years” is from our Global (album) and that will be reissued by, or really issued by Omnivore in the near future.
But from Global we took “Some Good Years,” which they viewed as a New Year’s song, honestly. And then we finished an acapella album that will come out eventually of our old hits and a lot of our historic songs. And we did “Winter Wonderland” because we’re having so much fun doing acapella recordings. We said, let’s do a Christmas carol. And so we put acapella “Winter Wonderland” on there with the other two songs. And there you go. Merry Christmas from the Cowsills.
The Global album
JM – I’m so glad you’re putting “Some Good Years” out because that whole Global album was wonderful. It’s just a power pop masterpiece, if you will.
BC – Thank you. You would appreciate we have the Cowsills podcast. And every Wednesday a new episode comes out. And just this last Wednesday it’s been running with a guy named Marc Nathan, who worked for Atlantic Records. You should hear him tell it on the podcast. He took “Some Good Years” and “Is It Any Wonder” from our Global album.
And he was so convinced that we had hit a grand slam with these songs, he walked right into Atlantic Records, tried to get us signed with Doug Morris, who wasn’t going to hear it because he liked the music, but when he heard it was the Cowsills, it was that old thing – “The Cowsills?” And Mark got fired as an A R guy because of it. He tells the story on the podcast. I don’t want to get into it. The detail is, we just couldn’t believe it. That’s how close it got to really having a major release.
The Cowsills will be in New York City at the Cutting Room on February 11, 2024 and will also be on The Happy Together Tour this summer, with an appearance at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown. You can check out their music, including the new Christmas EP on their website cowsill.com.