July 9, 2008
By David Huff
Zebra - Rocklahoma 2008 - July 9-13
After Rise to Stardom, Star Burns Out
New Orleans was the birthplace for Zebra in the mid ‘70s when Randy Jackson (vocals/guitar), Felix Hanemann (bass/keyboards) and Guy Gelso (drums) joined forces to create music. While sitting in a bar trying to come up with a band name, they spied an image of a lady riding a zebra on an old 1926 Vogue magazine cover hanging on the bar wall. Problem solved.
For several years, Zebra split gigs between Long Island – where they all eventually moved – and New Orleans. Two demo tapes were also recorded around this time in New York and later Los Angeles. Between the two, most of the songs that would appear on their first album were written. As Zebra shopped the tapes to record labels, radio stations in both New York and New Orleans gave the band an important boost by airing a song from the demo called “Who’s Behind the Door?”
In late 1982, Jason Flom signed Zebra to a five-record deal with Atlantic, although only the first album was guaranteed. The self-titled debut, Zebra, was released on March 25, 1983 and became the fastest selling debut record in Atlantic Records history. It sold an amazing 75,000 copies in the first week. “Tell Me What You Want” and “Who’s Behind the Door?” became instant classics and kept the album on the Billboard charts for eight months. Late in the summer of 1984, Zebra’s second album, No Tellin’ Lies, was released amid great expectations. It never happened. Album sales didn’t took off and there was no hit single to push on radio.
As quickly as the band rose to stardom, their star would burn out just as fast. No Tellin’ Lies stumbling out of the gate was a commercial and musical disappointment the three musicians never really recovered from. By the time 3.V was released, the general public had all but forgotten the group. Though the disc proved to be an excellent return to form, no one cared. This would lead to Atlantic dropping the band (after a final live release), with the members themselves deciding to put Zebra on the backburner to pursue individual projects. It would be seventeen years before the next group project surfaced, Zebra IV. A DVD of live performances, mostly from a show at the House of Blues in New Orleans, was released in the summer of 2007.