On Being a Name-dropping Groupie for a Lesser-known Pop Band with Roots in Philly (Part Three)

The next time I heard from Scot, I didn’t even realize it. For reasons that are still unclear to me, I had gone to the movies to see American Pie, and as the closing credits finally started to roll, I heard a familiar voice say hello. Or, more accurately, Hello to your mother, your brother, significant other—I am the summertime! They were the opening lines of the best song on the movie’s soundtrack, and although my gut told me that it was Scot singing, I stuck around just to make sure. But as the credits continued to roll, I learned that “I Am the Summertime” was performed not by Wanderlust, but by a band called Bachelor Number One. So, duty-bound by the groupie code, I sprinted home to compose a quick letter to Scot. To wit: There’s a band out there called Bachelor Number One, and they’re stealing your sound! Although Scot had once again moved without informing me, the letter eventually reached him in Los Angeles, where he and bassist Mark Getten had been recording under the Bachelor Number One moniker. Their home-produced debut CD, The Miniseries, presented an understated version of the high-powered pop of the duo’s Wanderlust days and was reminiscent of late-sixties Beach Boys recordings in which the group abandoned Brian Wilson’s studio wizardry in favor of a more modest and homespun sound.

The best way to describe The Miniseries is to say it’s organic. On some tracks, you can hear the soft clunk of the piano keys and the squeaky pedal on the bass drum. On others, you can hear Scot aping David Bowie’s delivery if not his distinctive vocal quirks. Clearly the work of two musicians in love with making music, The Miniseries remains to this day a do-it-yourself classic. Which is to say that the CD didn’t have a lot of commercial appeal. Which is also to say that it didn’t help me a whole lot in the name-dropping department. But American Pie was a big hit, so I could at least get some mileage out of “I Am the Summertime,” and much to my delight, Scot and Mark hired a new drummer and guitarist, rechristened themselves Feel, and were signed to Curb Records in 2002. Their self-titled debut included a remake of “I Am the Summertime” and nine other songs—all of which prove, in my humble estimation, that Scot Sax is the master of the three-minute pop song.

What Wanderlust, Bachelor Number One and Feel all have in common is great songwriting, and Scot is a rare specimen—the singer-songwriter who can craft intelligent pop songs without being pretentious. He’s as comfortable dropping references to Andy Warhol and Alberto Vargas in “Stage Name” as he is with placing himself on an uncharted desert island with Gilligan and the Professor in “Brand New Plan.” His writing is also impressionistic. Instead of musing on the nature of loneliness, he gives you the girl in the raincoat and the stranger longing for her as he passes in a moving car. He peeks through blinds for glimpses of sunshine. He predicts a day when the world will close. There’s a bittersweet tension in all of Scot’s songs, a delicate balance of joy and apprehension that has become more pronounced in the band’s latest CD, Invisible Train. Their first outing since asking to be released from their contract with Curb Records, Invisible Train begins with a paean to life itself (titled “Oh Life”), and as Scot sings “Once in a while, you just gotta smile when you think about it all,” it’s hard not to read his entire career—the ups, the downs, the joys and disappointments, the veritable rollercoaster ride that is the life of the professional songwriter—into the line.

To paraphrase the Ramones, Scot has proven time and again that he has the strength to endure just about anything the music industry can throw at him.  And through it all—or perhaps because of it all—he continues to deliver some of the best songwriting in the industry.

(Pictured: Scot with Sharon Little in an episode of CSI!)

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