European fans discover Totally Lost Cause

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First Posted: 4/20/2015

Fate is a funny thing, especially in the music business. Take for example the story of Scranton’s own Totally Lost Cause; or TLC, as they were known.

The melodic, hard rock band, after gigging heavily throughout the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania region and recording a pair of independent albums in 1991’s “Original Sin” and 1993’s “Serious Trouble,” went their separate ways, due to the waning popularity of their genre in a post-Nirvana climate.

Fast forward to a phone call TLC guitarist Charlie Russello received during that flurry of ’90s activity that came into play now – 18 years after the band split, to ignite the interest in the boys trading a few riffs again.

“Somehow our CD got into a used record store in Florida,” Russello said. “A distributor called me and said that he had the CD – he found it and he loved it. He asked if he could distribute it.”

After Russello gave the green light for distribution of the “Original Sin” disc, the album was eventually shipped and sold throughout Europe. Produced by Tom Borthwick, currently of Old Forge’s SI Studios at Borthwick’s original haunt – the album is a sought-after collector’s item among hard rock afficianados.

“We actually used to get fan mail from Italy, Greece, and Spain,” Rusello said. “So, our fan base existed, but very far away from here. We didn’t have the resources to capitalize on it back then.”

Long out of print, it’s since become a regular occurrence for the “Original Sin” disc to fetch over $100 on eBay.

“We decided that we’d get back together to play some shows and have some fun, as we’re all great friends,” Russello said.

The band will play its first live show in 18 years April 24, at Bar on Oak in Pittston.

“We thought maybe we can get those two CDs up and running again, and maybe even record a third CD – capitalize on the thing going on in Europe.”

Russello admits the thought of playing Europe is always in the back of his band’s mind ever since TLC’s music began shipping to the continent.

“If something happens and we can get the right people behind us, we might be able to get to Europe and play; maybe sell new product there,” he said. “If not, we don’t care. We’re just doing it for our own fun – just to be able to play together again.”

Comprised of guitarist Russello, bassist Tony Garuba, drummer Kevin Brislin, and vocalist Michael Devlin Blare, TLC played with all the top-draw NEPA bands of the late ’80s and early ’90s. There’s one particular name that sticks out in Russello’s mind, for good reason.

“Do you remember a band called Arc Angel?” Russello asks. “Arc Angel’s guitarist, Karl (Logan), who is now in Manowar, was a student of mine for a long time. Arc Angel and TLC played shows together everywhere – I always remember the old Staircase Lounge, Gallagher’s, the big clubs that were in the area back then.”

Russello connects the dots to another international musical icon that TLC shared stages with.

“I’m sure you heard about the passing of A.J. Pero (Twisted Sister drummer),” he said. “Well, A.J. was in Arc Angel, and we used to play together all the time. I’ve got a bunch of old VHS tapes of us playing together. It was also at that time that Karl was taking lessons from me that he auditioned for Manowar out in New York. He came back one day and told me he got the job – I said ‘fantastic!’ and that was it. He moved on, and Arc Angel ended. TLC kept on until about 1995, when we said to ourselves that this kind of music isn’t going to work anymore.”

There were a ton of great times during TLC’s heyday that Russello can pinpoint.

“We actually did in-studio performances at radio stations where we’d play live for 40 minutes between commercials,” he said. “One was in New York City, and we got some great exposure from it – we even played CBGB’s. We played some shows with a national act back then called Life, Sex & Death – all the while just trying to make it. There were A&R people that were supposed to come and see us and never showed, but we always kept playing – people seemed to love it. And, of course, all the silly rock ‘n roll stories applied to us as well!”

TLC’s reunion is nothing less than kindred musical souls coming together for the love of playing.

“We’re like four brothers,” Russello said. “We love each other’s company, we love writing music together – and writing music wasn’t just about writing music; it was about hanging out with each other. It’s a short life as we’re all realizing as we get older.”

Russello is intent on bringing the music full circle.

“We did what we did, and we’re happy with the material that we created. Apparently, a lot of other people were happy with it too.”