The First Album Straight Out of Pittsburgh - with a little help from their friends Big Label Blues Joe's Solo Work What the band meant to me In 1983, MCA records lined up their big guns to make the Iron City Houserockers the hit they deserved to be. 

Unfortunately for Joe Grushecky and the boys, MCA's big guns in the early '80s were to promotions what Barney Fife was to law enforcement.  

The Houserockers (they dropped "Iron City" from their name; they'd had problems alienating rust-belt crowds outside the Pittsburgh area, including getting the band's van's tires slashed at least once in Cleveland) released Cracking Under Pressure.

Two days after it was released, the band was dropped.  Six months later - in June of 1984 - the band broke up.  

It was the early-mid eighties; "Heartland Rock" was, arguably, at its' zenith, with Tom Petty and Bob Seger both at the tops of their respective games, halfway between Springsteen's artistic tour de force, "Nebraska", and his sales juggernaut Born In The USA", John Mellencamp just out with his first respectable album ("Uh Huh", the first album that didn't make most of us barf) and many other artists working the genre.

Cracking Under Pressure was a departure from the first three albums; harmonica man Marc Reisman had left the band (along with drummer Ned Rankin), and the space was filled by more keyboards.  Gil Snyder had incorporated some very raw synthesizers into the group's sound, jumping the music's overall effect from the early sixties into the early eighties.  The title song  was a jittery. key-drifting steamroller, driven by guitar and synth parts that could have been borrowed from The Suburbs - there was a new wave influence, although punctuated by Grushecky's hard-bitten yelp and tight, hard lyrics.  

Cover scan courtesy Sweating Steel

1 Rock And Roll Heart
2 Loving Cup
3 Angels
4 Hit The Road Jack
5 American Son
6 Girl Problems
7 Cracking (Under Pressure)
8 Breaking Point
9 Soul Rockin'
10 I Should've Never Let You Go
11 There'll Never Be Enough Time

 

Despite the occasional new-wavey references, the album has some great songs; Loving Cup is a gem, American Son has a guitar riff I've been dying to steal for two decades, and Rock and Roll Heart and Soul Rockin' are as good as anything the band ever did.  

The real classic, of course, is the ballad Never Be Enough Time, a song that seems to continue the story and characters started in This Time The Night (Won't Save Us), from Blood On The Bricks.  

Well your mama didnít like me
So we just ran away
Got a little apartment in a hotel
Down in Brownsville way
I used to sit in the kitchen and play guitar
When night turned to day
We always thought we had something
No one could ever take away
But the time run out
And the paymentís due
Thereíll never be enough time to forget about you
Well thereíll never be enough time to forget about you.

The album didn't sell terribly well, despite solid reviews.  After getting dropped from MCA in 1983, the band disappeared for nearly five years, returning as a very different organism than the one that had started out, as we'll see in the next section.