Green Day’s Armstrong covers Secich-Bators song
One particular Monday during the COVID-19 quarantine turned out to be a lot of fun for Frank Secich.
Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong passed the time during the lockdown by releasing a different cover song every Monday. His pick on May 11 was “Not That Way Anymore,” recorded by Girard native Stiv Bators and written by Bators and Secich. Armstrong compiled the cover songs for an album called “No Fun Mondays” that will be released Friday by Warner Bros. Records.
Secich, who lives in Sharon, Pa., got a heads-up from Cynthia Ross, one of Bators’ former girlfriends, a couple days before Armstrong posted the video of his rendition.
“I was really thrilled about it,” he said. “I thought it was really cool … As a songwriter, that’s the greatest compliment you can get, someone covering your song.”
He was even happier when he heard Armstrong was going to release it on CD, vinyl and digitally.
“Green Day’s last album was No. 1 in six countries, including America,” he said. “It’ll probably go pretty high on the charts and be a nice little payday.”
Secich and Bators, whose real name is Steven Bator, became friends when both were in high school, meeting at the dances held in Warren and Youngstown in the late ’60s.
Secich achieved success first with his band Blue Ash, which was signed to Mercury Records for its 1973 debut album, “No More, No Less,” and to Playboy Records for its 1977 follow-up, “Front Page News.” Blue Ash regularly used Bators’ band as an opening act.
“They must have opened 30 gigs for us,” Secich said
Bators moved to Cleveland, where he started the band Frankenstein and later the Dead Boys, which relocated to New York and was a fixture at the legendary punk club CBGB’s in the ’70s. The band was signed to Sire Records, which released “Young Loud and Snotty” in 1977 and “We Have Come for Your Children” the following year. Bators later fronted Lords of the New Church until he died in 1990 at age 40 after being struck in a car-pedestrian accident in Paris.
When the Dead Boys imploded, Bators and Secich began working together. A cover of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was their first single for Bomp! Records; “Not That Way Anymore” was the second single.
“We were living out in California in February 1979,” Secich said. While Stiv was out a party, “I was playing around on my Rickenbacker 12-string and came up with that riff. It’s a pretty cool freaking riff. I started working on the melody line and had the title too.”
When Bators came back, Secich played what he had, and Bators finished the lyrics.
They recorded the song at Paradise, a recording studio founded by musician Leon Russell in California’s San Fernando Valley. The Rickenbacker guitar he wrote the song on was being temperamental that day and wouldn’t stay in tune. He asked one of the engineers if he knew where he could find another 12-string guitar to use.
“He said, ‘I got a buddy I can borrow one from.’ He comes back with this blonde Gretsch 12-string. I hit a chord and it’s amazing. I told him whatever price your friend wants for this guitar, I’ll buy it.”
The guy said his friend wouldn’t part with with it because it’s the guitar he used for all of The Monkees’ hits. The friend was Mike Nesmith.
The picture sleeve for the “Not That Way Anymore” single has a photo of Bators and Secich taken by legendary photographer Mick Rock. They were at a party in New York that Rock was at, and Bators told him they needed a picture for the cover of their next singe.
“He (Rock) was already really drunk,” Secich said. “Five minutes later he comes back with a ladder and a camera. We didn’t mean that night, but he said, ‘C’mon, c’mon.’ He’s teetering on this ladder and click, click, click, click, he’s done.”
When Bators told him he was used to photographers snapping a couple hundred photos, Rock said, “Trust me, you’ll like the last one he took.”
That fourth and last photo was perfect and became the cover shot.
The songs that Bators recorded with Secich draw more from Secich’s power pop roots than Bators’ punk notoriety, and “Not That Way Anymore” is a prime example. Armstrong is the latest, but not the first artist to cover it. Secich said it’s been covered more than dozen times.
“It’s got a really, really catchy guitar riff, and Billie Joe did it up really great. It’s short, snappy, to the point.”