The Rubinoos formed when American power pop musicians Tommy Dunbar and Jon Rubin were still in junior high school. By age fourteen, after playing a few school dances, Rubin and friends graduated to the club circuit. In 1975, they were signed as one of the original acts on the new Beserkley label. Since then, they've toured and released studio albums for decades, becoming massively influential in the power pop sub-genre and sometimes breaking into mainstream success such as with songs "Revenge of the Nerds" and "I Think We're Alone Now". They currently consist of the core duo of Dunbar and Rubin with Al Chan, Donn Spindt, Susie Davis. and David Rokeach.
Known for their melodic songwriting as well as their deliberately 'nerdy' public image, the Rubinoos made their public recording debut in 1975with the song "Gorilla" on the 'Beserkley Chartbusters' LP. By 1977, the boys had finished recording their first full album, an LP titled simply 'The Rubinoos'. Gene Sculatti of the New York Rocker called it "the best pop album of the decade." The band took influence from both contemporary rock music as well as from the bubblegum pop music of the past twenty-five years.
The first single was "I Think Were Alone Now", a cover of the Tommy James classic pop track, and it reached the top 40 nationwide as well as the top 10 in many major U.S. cities. Appearances on 'Dick Clarks American Bandstand', 'The Rolling Stone 10th Anniversary TV Special', and in numerous teen magazines of the era helped put the Rubinoos into the pop consciousness. At the same time, the group was receiving a lot of attention overseas: critical acclaim and airplay in Europe came alongside top tens in Japan and Australia.
In 1978, they left for their first European tour. The first show was an appearance on German TV's 'Rockpalast'. The rest of the tour took them through northern Europe performing concert dates and appearing on assorted TV shows such as 'Top Pop (The Netherlands)', 'Old Grey Whistle Test', and 'Rock Goes to College'. As there was no photo on the first LP, the British press sometimes assumed the group was a mere studio contrivance (similar to The Archies or The Banana Splits), but they were startled to find that the Rubinoos were the real thing.
During that summer the seminal power pop song "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" was recorded and released as a single in England, ending up as number 4 in terms of the highest airplay song chart of that year. It was also chosen as Music Week magazine's "Record of the Year". The Rubinoos finished recording their second LP, Back to the Drawing Board, in late 1978 for release in early 1979. Because of their success in the UK, the Rubinoos were chosen to open the U.S. portion of Elvis Costello's 'Armed Forces Tour', playing fifty-six sold out shows to screaming encores and rave reviews. Meanwhile, Back to the Drawing Board was a breakout hit all over U.S. radio, selling over 100,000 copies and making a run for the gold which was unfortunately cut short by the bankruptcy of its distributor GRT/Janus, a harbinger to come of the band's difficulties maintaining commercial success from the late 70s onward.
In 1983, the Rubinoos were signed by the label of Warner Brothers and made the mini LP Party of Two. produced by fellow power pop musicians Todd Rundgren and his mega-band Utopia (their first production project as a group). The video for the single "If I Had You Back" achieved heavy rotation on the then fledgling MTV. Still, by 1985 the band members had decided to pursue other interests apart, leaving behind a reputation as one of the best pop groups of that era.
By the mid-90s, rekindled interest in power pop combined with The Rubinoos stature in the field earned the group major releases of two compilations containing previously unavailable material: Basement Tapes and Garage Sale. In 1995, Basement Tapes was picked by Billboard magazine as one of the years ten best CDs. In addition, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", a contendor for being the band's 'signature song', has been included on many recent multi-artist pop compilation albums.
In the fall of 1999, the Rubinoos reformed to play at the I.P.O. (International Pop Overthrow) festival in Los Angeles. Their appearance was a major hit of the event. Along with the rare live performance, Rubinoos fans were treated to the debut of material from the May 2000 release Paleophonic. This stellar collection was produced by the late, great Kevin Gilbert.
The next couple of years were spent playing occasional pop festivals in the US and working on their individual musical projects. In 2002, the band, getting a little nervous and not wanting to spoil their streak of one CD every 10 years or so, headed back into the studio to record a new CD with a brand new idea, featuring only covers of bands that the Rubinoos have taken influence from. Titled Crimes Against Music, the group explored tracks by such diverse artists as Eurythmics, The Beach Boys, and the Raspberries, among others.
After finishing recording, they hit the road for two smash tours of Japan and Spain. The group has spent the past decade of so sporadically playing live, experiencing success in 2007 with their massive retrospective album titled Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Rubinoos. That 'best of' collection received rave reviews from the All Music Guide, praising it as "exhaustive" while giving it a rating of four and a half stars out of five. A legal run-in with pop punker Avril Lavigne of all people, accused of plagiarizing the Rubinoos, ended in a confidential settlement and also brought the group some sudden publicity. Fans hope for a new album as of 2013.
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