Review in The Main Edge

Posted on Jul 8, 2011 | 0 comments

As posted on www.maineedge.com

The Red Button – refreshingly retro

By Mike Dow
edge contributor

If you’ve ever listened to a great 60s song and thought, “I wish they still wrote ’em like that,” The Red Button is the band for you. In 2007, their debut album “She’s About To Cross My Mind” was issued to boisterous acclaim from fans of vintage pop around the world. The record inspired a true grass roots effort among fans to spread the good word of The Red Button. At the end of the year, the album topped numerous “Best of the year” lists in multiple magazines, online sites and blogs.

Imagine The Beatles meeting The Zombies, The Kinks, The Monkees and The Byrds for afternoon tea and then getting down to the business of creating an album together. It might sound like The Red Button. I asked some of my radio friends and fellow Red Button fans for their thoughts on the group.

Adam Osborne (production director for Clear Channel in Portsmouth, NH): “There are three things that I love to hear in a song. Fender Rhodes (Wurlitzer is acceptable), thick vocal harmonies and at least one chord change that you didn’t expect. More often than not, the Red Button masterfully smooshes the three together track-after-track. The result is a warm, creamy swirl (best enjoyed with a pair of fine headphones) that leaves you craving a raspberry bismarck and a vanilla milkshake.”

Bobby Russell (GM for The Zone Corp. and morning co-host on WKIT 100.3): “Finding the Red Button was like discovering a long lost band from the British Invasion. Great hooks, harmonies and Rickenbacker guitars – just a lot of fun. The CD is always in the truck.”

Thom Osborne (production director for Cumulus in Brewer): “If these guys were around in the late 60s or early 70s, they’d be multi-millionaires. They do the things that were done back then … BETTER than they were done back then. Catchy melodies … rich harmonies … pure pop perfection. I can’t stop listening. More, please.”

Sabrina Pierce (account executive and morning co-host on Z 107.3): “I love The Red Button! Their writing is genius and their 60s style pop music simply makes me happy. If you’re in a bad mood, listen to The Red Button … you’ll be smiling in no time.”

The group’s second album, “As Far As Yesterday Goes,” has just been issued, and the early reviews are glowing. Some are even calling it the album to beat for 2011. Seth Swirsky and Mike Ruekberg have crafted another sonic wonderland of retro splendor.

Swirsky’s name might ring a bell for anyone who has spent time examining the credits on CD jackets or labels. He wrote “Tell It To My Heart” and “Prove Your Love” for Taylor Dayne back in the days when he tried to “get in the head space” of popular recording artists and come up with a song that would give them another hit.

He crafted songs for Celine Dion, Al Green, Michael McDonald, Eric Carmen, Olivia Newton John, Air Supply and many others. While all of those hits were great for his bottom line, he wasn’t writing the kind of music that satisfied his soul. That’s where the Red Button comes in. A band whose creed is at least partially inspired by Swirsky and Ruekberg’s life-long passion for The Beatles.

Swirsky is a major “Toppermost-of-the-Poppermost” Beatles fan and has spent the last five years creating a documentary called “Beatles Stories” featuring personal stories of people (including some in and around The Beatles) sharing tales of how The Beatles affected their lives.

Sports fans know Seth Swirsky as owner of one of the world’s most impressive baseball memorabilia collections. The ball that slid through Bill Buckner’s legs during Game Six of the 1986 Red Sox / Mets World Series? Seth owns that ball along with dozens of other priceless and legendary baseball artifacts.


Seth Swirsky with Ringo Starr

Dow: “The new Red Button album, ‘As Far As Yesterday Goes,’ is fantastic. How do you and Mike do it? Every song is amazingly good.”

Swirsky: “We grew up with the idea that you put a Beatles record on and you never took the needle off. Every song was good … every song was thought out. The song meant something. And we’re trying to stick to that credo. It’s very important to us to make an album of songs that we feel are of a certain quality. We don’t like to go beneath a certain level. There’s no filler for us. So the 12 songs we put on this and the 11 songs we put on the first record … to us, they are very, very meaningful. We really try hard for each one of them to be special.”

Dow: “What do you find the most artistically gratifying? Working with Mike on The Red Button or doing your solo material?”

Swirsky: “Fantastic question. We’ve been interviewed since 2007, and I’ve never gotten that question. I can be more free when it comes to my solo material and I take more chances. On ‘Watercolor Day’ (Seth’s 2010 solo album), I very much tried to weave melodies in at the end and in during sections in a similar way to what Paul McCartney did on ‘Ram’ (1971) or other records. That was a challenge to me and one that I wanted to take on.”

Dow: “I like to think that Red Button songs are not derivative, they’re evocative.”

Swirsky: “”Yeah. That’s an interesting way of putting it. Mike likes to use the term ‘refreshingly retro.’ I don’t have any phrase that I’ve coined yet … I just see them as that genre of music. That two-and-a-half to three-minute pop song with hooks in it and it makes you feel good generally and makes you think a little bit.”

Dow: “You have quite the baseball memorabilia collection and have written three books about the sport. Has your love for baseball been with you for your entire life?”

Swirsky: “I love baseball but was never a fanatic about baseball. I played baseball as a kid – little league – and loved it, but I never had baseball dreams. I had Beatle dreams. In 1994, the players went on strike and my first son, Julian was born. It was a very bitter strike. I thought, ‘I’m going to write letters to some old baseball players.’ Some players who played in the early part of the century were still alive. I wrote them all letters. Every day, I’d get 12, 15, 20 responses in my mailbox. It was overflowing with these responses. Then I started writing to bigger players. Ted Williams and Cal Ripken, Whitey Ford. It was unbelievable, and it turned into my first book, ‘Baseball Letters,’ because that’s exactly what they were. The letters were faxed to my friends, and they got into the hands of an agent at William Morris who called me up one day and said, ‘You don’t know me, but I just got you a book deal. They’re concerned that you won’t be able to get rights to the players having written those things.’ I then wrote back to every single player and said, ‘I did not set out to make a book, but your responses were fantastic. I’m enclosing a release form and hopefully you’ll say “yes” to it.’ Every single one of them signed their names to the release and, on the back, some of them wrote ‘Let me tell you more about that play.’ When they talk about a labor of love, that was very true in this case and that was my first book. ‘Baseball Letters’ lead to a second book called ‘Every Pitcher Tells A Story.’ And the third book, which came out in 2003, was called ‘Something To Write Home About,’ which was handwritten letters not only from people who played baseball but people who had a great story about baseball. George W. Bush, as President, on White House stationary contributed. I’m in my house writing a song and a FedEx arrives from The White House and you open it up and out pours three hand written pages from the current President. Ted Kennedy wrote a long letter and Paul McCartney writes me a letter…”

Dow: “How did that happen?”

Swirsky: “I didn’t have a standard letter asking ‘Do you have a story?’ I did a lot of research on each of these things. I was watching TV and saw that he was at a Yankees game. During the seventh inning stretch, they were playing ‘I Saw Her Standing There,’ and there he was bopping away. So I called his lawyer in New York and I told them my story like I’m telling you now. I said, ‘I’d love to get a letter from Sir Paul telling me how he got into baseball and what it’s like for him when a Beatles song plays at one of the games.’ Four days later, a Saturday morning, there’s a FedEx from London. Out pops a handwritten letter from Paul McCartney…’Dear Seth.'”

Dow: “How did that feel?”

Swirsky: “It was amazing! He used the word ‘Yeah!’ I thought, ‘This is Paul McCartney writing the word “Yeah!”‘ The Beatles are associated with two words. ‘Yeah’ and ‘Love.’ It’s two paragraphs and he signed it, saying ‘Please use this in your book.’ What was amazing was that Paul McCartney doesn’t participate in many ensemble pieces from other people.”

Dow: “How did you acquire one of your most prized baseball artifacts, the Bill Buckner Ball?”

Swirsky: “The ball was put up in a charity auction in 1992. There was fierce bidding war and Charlie Sheen won the ball. The underbidder was Keith Olbermann. Later, Charlie was trying to get sober or whatever and he auctioned a bunch of memorabilia, so he gave it back to Leland’s Auction House to auction off in April 2000. The auction started via phone and the internet. It was 2 a.m. Nobody was up. I won the ball. Nobody was looking – they were all asleep. Oh, and the kicker of the whole story? Once again, the underbidder was Keith Olbermann.”

Mike Dow is part of The Mike and Mike Show airing each morning on Kiss 94.5. Check him out at www.facebook.com/mikeandmike and www.mikedow.net.

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