Firefall is the name of an American rock, pop, soft rock and country band who once ruled the 70s airwaves, hitting the pinnacle of commercial success with their single “You Are The Woman”, which they are primarily known for. Firefall was formed in Boulder, Colorado, in 1974. The founding members were Rick Roberts, Jock Bartley, Mark Andes, Larry Burnett, and Michael Clarke.
They were finally signed to Atlantic Records in 1975, and during the sessions for their first album, the band also brought in a talented multi-instrumentalist David Muse. The second single from their self-titled album — “You Are The Woman” — hit it big on the Top 10 pop chart in 1976. Their second and third albums – Luna Sea andElan respectively – also did well on the album charts, while their subsequent singles such as “Just Remember I Love You” and “Strange Way” did decently on the singles listings.
But management problems, the tensions borne out of touring and so-called artistic burnout caused Firefall to change their lineup many times, with old and new members coming and going over the years. Founder Jock Bartley has remained as the only original member in the present lineup. Since the 2000’s Firefall has intermittently performed, with their last reunion concert occurring in April 2008.
Firefall was formed in Boulder, Colorado, in 1974. The founding members were Rick Roberts (formerly of the Flying Burrito Brothers), Jock Bartley (who was still then member of Gram Parson’s The Fallen Angels band), Mark Andes (a bassist who had worked with Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne), Larry Burnett, and Michael Clarke (who was Roberts’ bandmate in Flying Burrito). The members got together and performed in local clubs around Colorado. Firefall was recording demos for auditions, but were rejected by a few major labels at first.
Finally, the band were signed to Atlantic Records to a multi-album contract in 1975. The result was their eponymous debut album, released in 1976. During the recording sessions, the band brought in multi-instrumentalist David Muse.
The first single off that album was “Livin Ain’t Livin”, which just missed the Top 40 (at #42). But the second single — “You Are The Woman” — hit the goldmine. It features a prominent flute played by Muse. The sentimental theme was another major ingredient of the single’s success. During the summer of 1976 it peaked at #9 on the Hot 100 chart, and helped the band break into the mainstream. Their debut album reached gold status, thanks in large part to the single.
Firefall returned to recording, in the process of making their follow-up album. The working title was Tropical Nights, but after some remixing, it was renamed Luna Seawhich was released in the summer of 1977. The album debuted very well, peaking at #27 on the Billboard 200 album. The single off that album was “Just Remember I Love You” reached the Top 20 at #11.
Their third album Elan also did well when it was released in October 1978 — its single “Strange Way” peaked at #11. It also helped gain Elan platinum status, a first feat for the band.
Management problems as well as non-stop touring raised tensions among band members and reached to the point that Firefall began to feel an artistic and emotional burnout. Still, at the expectations of Atlantic, Firefall recorded their next albumUndertow, which was released in 1980. But the disbanding of the original group was inevitable. Michael Clarke, who didn’t get over his drinking problems (he would later die of alcoholism in 1993), left the band. Mark Andes left as well. They were both replaced by bassist George Hawkins and drummer Tris Imboden, both of whom had previously collaborated with Kenny Loggins.
With the revamped lineup, Firefall recorded and released their fifth album Clouds Across The Sun, in late 1980. It produced the single “Staying With It” which made a dent on the Top 40 charts (at #37). The single featured vocalist Lisa Nemzo was on it.
Everything seemed to go well until they had more band members leaving. Hawkins left Firefall to work on a side project with Fleetwood Mac’s drummer Mick Fleetwood. Larry Burnett also quit, but in a sudden fashion — he wanted to enter a rehab as he was developing a serious drug addiction. Rick Roberts also departed to concentrate on his solo career.
Atlantic Records dropped Firefall from its roster of recording artists, because of the band lacking active members. Fed up with the way things were going within the band, founder Jock Bartley decided to revamp Firefall with new members. They brought in singer/multi-instrumentalist Johnne Sambataro, Chuck Kirkpatrick and his brother Scott, and bassist Greg Overton. David Muse also came back to the group.
Firefall released their next album Break Of Dawn which they promoted on their national tour. But for the first time, the band experienced failure on the charts when the single “Always” didn’t make it to the Top 40. It quickly disappeared from the charts. Their next album Mirror Of The World, which many fans felt was a departure from the band’s unique sound, also flopped.
The band’s personnel changes were becoming more consistent as new and old members came and went. Rick Roberts returned to the group in the early 1990s. 1992 witnessed the release of Firefall: The Greatest Hits CD that also featured a new material titled “Run Run Away”.
In 1993, the band encountered the Great Flood of 1993 in St. Louis, Missouri, resulting in the cancellation of one show; in their remaining shows Firefall had to play on a higher elevation so that the flood wouldn’t reach them. In light of the events, Bartley wrote the song “When The River Rises”, which would receive heavy regional airplay, as a morale boost for those who were affected by the disaster.
After the flood, Firefall was set to find another record deal again. They finally settled with Redstone Records, a Colorado-based independent label, under which the band released Messenger in 1994. The album has the classic but somewhat updated Firefall sound and features diverse themes that range from love songs to stories of child/sexual abuse and environmental disasters. As you might expect, “When The River Rises” was included on the album. In 2007, Firefall released Colorado to Liverpool – A Tribute To The Beatles.
Since mid-2000’s Firefall has played at shows intermittently, with the current lineup of Andes, Muse, Burnett and drummer Joe Lala, who had sessioned with the band in the old days. A reunion concert was held in April 2008.
The band, with its ups and downs, is still soldiering on. As long as there are fans who continue to support them and love their music and classic hits, Firefall is still here to stay.