Pittsburgh is famous for its strong underground music scene, and a band that made this more evident is the Iron City Houserockers.
The Iron City Houserockers were started in 1976 by founding members Joe Grushecky, Art Nardini, Gil Snyder, Marc Reisman and Ned Rankin. They signed with Cleveland International Records and released their first album, “Love’s So Tough,” in 1979.
The song “Hideaway” is a standout from the album, as it appears in the band’s top five most-streamed songs on Spotify, coming in at 2,228 total streams. The song was also the band’s first single, released just prior to the “Love’s So Tough” album.
“I liked the combination of instruments that they used for the song,” Lily Carone (freshman, pre-med) said. “The melody of the song really got my foot tapping.”
Carone continued by saying that the voice of the lead singer was perfect for the song and genre. According to Carone, the raspier nature of the vocals was perfect for the style of song that the band was doing.
Grushecky is the one responsible for the vocals, which he did specifically to imitate the power and vocal style of vocalists like The Rolling Stone’s front man, Mick Jagger.
Following the small success that their first album saw, the Iron City Houserockers started work in the studio on their second album, “Have a Good Time but… Get out Alive.” This album was the first time that the band was made known to the nation, with the album being featured in Rolling Stone magazine, being headlined as a “New American Classic.”
The album features several standout tracks, including its namesake. “Have a Good Time (But Get out Alive),” “Junior’s Bar” and “Price of Love.”
“I like how catchy the chorus of the song [‘Have a Good Time (But Get out Alive)’] was, as well as how good the guitar solo was,” Delilah Rivera (freshman, finance) said. “It was hard to hear some of the words, mainly because of the vocal style.”
According to Rivera, the instrumentation was the best part of the song. Specifically, the ‘80s style of guitars and drums really stuck out, because, as Rivera said, it is easy to just listen and vibe along with.
The band experienced minor lineup changes between albums. For example, Gary Scalese played lead guitar on the first album but was replaced by Eddie Britt on the second, third and fourth albums.
This is part of the reason why the instrumental style of the band slightly changes to feature more heavy rock from the first to second album. A meshing of the two styles the band did can be heard with the song “Price of Love.”
“It’s definitely not the kind of music that I would normally listen to,” Gabby Probst (freshman, early childhood/special education) said. “That being said, it reminds me of the music that my parents used to play when I was younger.”
Probst went on to say that, since there is the connection to the style of music that her parents used to play, the song reminded her of summer memories with her family. Those memories are especially important in the pandemic lifestyle of seclusion and quarantines that many people have adopted through the past year.
Following 1979’s “Love’s So Tough” and 1980’s “Have a Good Time but… Get out Alive,” the Iron City Houserockers released two more albums: 1981’s “Blood on the Bricks” and 1983’s “Cracking Under Pressure.”
They were released by the band under the updated name of The Houserockers, as the “Iron City” moniker got the band in trouble when they toured at cities that were rivals of their native Pittsburgh.
The band split up shortly after the release of “Cracking Under Pressure,” as sales caused their record label to drop them. This led front man and vocalist Grushecky to start a moderately successful solo career, eventually crossing paths with artists like Bruce Springsteen.
Despite the breakup of the group in 1983, the Iron City Houserockers show the powerhouse that is the Pittsburgh rock scene. So, if you are in the mood for ‘80s rock, stream the Iron City Houserockers on Spotify.