Together from 1967 to 1980 (and recently reformed for special occasions), The Other Side continues to be Eastern Pennsylvania’s most famous and successful band. During its heyday, the band played before nearly a million fans in clubs, colleges, concerts and festivals up and down the Eastern Seaboard. The Other Side has always represented not only great music but fun, entertaining their audience in a way that other bands, although perhaps more musically competent, just don’t do. This has earned the band a fan base that is still rabid more than 25 years after the band’s end and the reason for the release of the “Anthology 1969 – 1977” CD.
Although The Other Side has featured various line-ups over the years (with 42 player changes from beginning to end), three members have been mainstays – rhythm guitarist Vince Kalochie (who started the band), bass player Jim Siemanis and drummer Charlie Kirschner. Charlie was the only member to survive all the various editions, as Vince left for the Army in 69-70 while Jim departed just prior to the band’s demise in 1980. Lead guitarists Eddy Frank (1967-74, 1979-80) and Frank Arant (1969-72, 1974-78) were other pivotal members with a long tenure. The members of the band’s so-called “golden edition” where the band peaked in popularity in 1975-77 were Kalochie, Siemanis, Kirschner, Arant, lead singer/keyboardist Kim Burns and Bobby Owsinski on keyboards and guitar.
The band reformed for reunions several times since it’s final gig in May of 1980. Once for a series of gigs in PA and the New Jersey Shore in 1985, a sold-out 1988 return to the band’s home base, The Alley in Schuylkill Haven, PA, and a brief set at the 1998 wedding of Jim’s daughter.
On May 13, 2006, the band reunited once again to play a benefit for the public pool and library in their hometown of Minersville, PA. Selling well over 2500 tickets, the various members of The Other Side (including some of the original members from the 60’s) received proclamations from the city in recognition of their achievements as well as gold records for their 1977 release “Rock X-ing”.
The recordings of The Other Side are many and varied in style, but unfortunately quite a few have been lost to history. The band’s first record was a cover of the Terry Reid song “Writing On The Wall” in 1969, featuring the charismatic Freddie Dengler on vocals. In 1972, the band met top Buffalo DJ Jackson Armstrong who helped them secure a deal with Columbia Records. After recording 4 songs (all on the Anthology CD and featuring the vocal duo of Kim Burns and Kenny Staller) at the famous Bearsville Studio in Woodstock, NY (home to platinum recordings by Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, REM, Muddy Waters and Dave Mathews), the band was dropped when Armstrong moved to California to host a short-lived television show.
In May of 1976 the band met producer Billy Terrill who signed the band to De-Lite records. De-Lite was the home to Funk bands Kool And The Gang and Crown Heights Affair, was flush with money from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack (which prominently featured Kool and Crown Heights) and was looking for a Rock band. The group recorded at Kool’s studio in Philadelphia in between gigs and released the album “Rock X-ing” (pronounced Rock Crossing) in 1977. The label titled the record to signify its crossover from Funk to Rock music.
Although “Rock X-ing” sold only 57,000 copies (a hit by today’s standards), the band showed enough promise to warrant a second album. Before the recording could commence De-Lite was purchased by the then powerhouse Polygram Records, and The Side was assigned to it’s Mercury Records subsidiary, which was the biggest Rock label at the time. But prior to entering the studio Owsinski left for Berklee College of Music (replaced by Dale Kaufman) and Burns left during the recording, significantly changing the sound of the band. Despite repeated tries, the band couldn’t recapture the magic and was eventually dropped from the label.
Without a record deal, interest within the band waned, core players left for better gigs and the bands sound changed even more. The final blow was the Disco Revolution and entry of the DJ as star of the club scene, limiting the number of places the band could play and hastening the end.
The Other Side’s “Anthology 1969 – 1977” CD provides a retrospective of not only the band’s recording career, but also the band itself. With the 3 most played songs from the “Rock X-ing” album from the 1975-77 band, the 4 songs recorded at Bearsville (never released and rarely heard) by the 1972 edition, the first single from 1969, and ending with 3 live cuts (board mixes) from the 1977 band at it’s peak, “Anthology” is truly a history of The Other Side, a great band from one of the smallest towns in Pennsylvania.