“I don’t like it,” says producer Phil Nicolo with a wide grin. “I love it. Now, if we could just get David to hit the drums harder …”
The drummer in question is David Uosikkinen, the logistical brains and the organizational brawn behind In the Pocket: Essential Songs of Philadelphia, our Best Local Charity You Can Sing Along to. Uosikkinen is also the muscular rhythmic backbone to beloved Main Line rockers the Hooters. At the moment, he’s already five tunes into his mission of resurrecting an eclectic assortment of classics either recorded in Philly or written and performed by local talent. ITP’s one-off sessions employ a rotating lineup of the region’s most revered musicians, including fellow Hooters Eric Bazilian, Rob Hyman and John Lilley, Ben Arnold, Tommy Conwell, Richard Bush (The A’s, the Peace Creeps), Jeffrey Gaines, TJ Tindall (Gamble & Huff), and others. All work for free.
Uosikkinen launched the In the Pocket project in 2010 with a bouncy update of the new wavey “All My Mondays,” initially recorded by obscure ’80s outfit Youth Camp. Next came versions of Todd Rundgren and the Nazz’s “Open My Eyes,” the Dovells’ “You Can’t Sit Down,” the Hooters’ little-known “Soon You’ll Be Gone” and Robert Hazard’s shoulda-been hit, “Change Reaction.” All tracks can be downloaded on iTunes, and a portion of the proceeds from sales benefits Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School, whose impressive list of graduates includes Kevin Bacon, G. Love, Stanley Clark and Kevin Eubanks.
Proving that no style is off-limits when it comes to this project, the latest incarnation of the ITP collective has gathered on this dreary May afternoon for a crack at “Disco Inferno,” the Trammps’ contribution to 1977’s Grammy-winning Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Due out later this summer, the song features Uosikkinen on drums and Hyman on keyboards, along with Tindall and Greg Davis (Beru Revue) on guitars. Graham Alexander is charged with filling the rather large shoes of Trammps singer Jimmy Ellis, whose recent passing inspired the selection of the tune. The Soul Survivors’ Charlie and Richie Ingui will add backing vocals, and Schoolly D will tack on a rap at a later date.
Bearing a passing resemblance to Paul McCartney, Alexander actually played the sad-eyed Beatle in Broadway’s Rain. He’s the son of Hooters’ bassist Fran Smith Jr., who’s also pitching in this afternoon. In fact, it’s Smith’s funky, fluid bass lines that have everyone buzzing in the control room, where, surrounded by framed gold and platinum records from the likes of Billy Joel, Dishwalla and Phil Collins, the ITP gang has assembled for the second and last time. Everyone, it seems, is happy with take two—especially Uosikkinen. “It’s greasy; it’s got soul,” he gushes. “Not bad for a bunch of old white guys.”
To learn more, visit songsinthepocket.org.