Firefall is a rock band that formed in Boulder, Colorado in 1974. It was founded by Rick Roberts, who had been in the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Jock Bartley, who had been Tommy Bolin's replacement in Zephyr. The band's biggest hit single, "You Are the Woman", peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard charts in 1976. Other hits included "Just Remember I Love You" (#11 in 1977), "Strange Way" (#11 in 1978), "Cinderella" (#34 in 1977), "Headed for a Fall" (#35 in 1980), and "Staying with It" (#37 in 1981) with female vocalist Lisa Nemzo.
n 1975 Bartley, Andes and Roberts were brought into Chris Hillman's band. Before a scheduled performance at The Other End in NYC in June 1975, Hillman took ill and was unable to play the show or finish the tour. Burnett and Clarke were then flown in to complete the commitments. Atlantic A&R representatives (who had already heard the band's demo tape) saw the Other End show and quickly signed Firefall to a multi-album contract. Work on their first album began in late 1975.
Just before the debut album's recording sessions at Criteria Studios in Miami, they brought in Roberts' high school friend from Bradenton, Florida, David Muse. Muse was a multi-instrumentalist who played the saxophone, flute,harmonica and keyboards. Jim Mason, who had worked with Poco in the past, was producer.
The album was recorded in one month and the result, the self-titled Firefall, released in May 1976, became Atlantic Records quickest album to reach Gold status. The group's first single, "Livin' Ain't Livin' ", stopped just short of the Top 40. In the following months the band toured with Leon and Mary Russell, the Doobie Brothers and The Band.
The band's next single, "You Are the Woman", made the Top 10 and the band began touring with Fleetwood Mac, who were at the beginning of their commercial peak. Their next single, "Cinderella", though it reached the Top 40 and was played extensively on FM radio, did not fare as well on AM radio because of its controversial lyrics which caused feminist groups to pressure the stations to avoid playing it. However, this did not have a lasting effect on the band's sales.
The group then headed back to Criteria Studios to record their second album, which was to be titled Tropical Nights. They were joined on these sessions by Cuban percussionist Joe Lala (ex-Manassas) and the Memphis Horns. But after hearing the final mix, Atlantic Records decided that the album needed to be reworked. Firefall then redid several songs and added some new ones. The album was renamed Luna Sea and released in July 1977. The revamped LP peaked at No. 27 on the charts and went Gold less than two months after release. The single from the album, "Just Remember I Love You", featuring backing vocals by future Eagle Timothy B. Schmit, hit No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.
It was around this time that tensions were beginning to rise within the group, stemming from non-stop touring and management problems, not to mention frequent alcohol and drug abuse. At this time the group was also incredibly popular and playing to sold-out crowds with Fleetwood Mac as part of their Rumours tour. But this only delayed their disintegration for a short time.
In 1978 the band brought in producer Tom Dowd, who had worked with the Allman Brothers Band and Eric Clapton among many others, to produce their third album Elan, recording some at Criteria and some at L.A.'s Record Plant. The band and Dowd got along well personally but they had conflicting musical visions. The differences were apparently noticeable enough that the band's new management, with help from their new friend Mick Fleetwood, pressured the record label into letting the band rework the album. This put the band in debt with the label, and within the year they parted ways with their new management. The production team of Ron and Howard Albert were brought in to finish the record. Elan, released in October 1978, was a massive success, and it became their first album to reach Platinum status. The hit single "Strange Way" continued the band's commercial hot streak.
The band recorded the album sporadically over a year. The Alberts were again brought in to produce the album. But the band once again required a second effort, which was produced by Kyle Lehning. The result, titled Undertow, was released in March 1980. This would be the last album with the original lineup. During a 1980 tour of Japan, Michael Clarke, due to his excessive drinking, missed gigs or showed up in no condition to play. The band resorted to hiring a German drummer, Dan Holsten, whose playing technique was similar to Clarke's, to sit in. Holsten, who even looked a lot like Clarke, had played in several other bands in the Colorado area and caught the eye of Jock and Larry one night at a Colorado Springs bar. He became known as a 'reliable' back-up drummer for tours and some studio work. Upon completion of the tour, Clarke and Mark Andes both left the band. Clarke later died of alcoholism at his Treasure Island home in Florida in December 1993.
Andes and Clarke were replaced by Kenny Loggins' former rhythm section, consisting of bassist George Hawkins and drummer Tris Imboden. With the two new players, the band recorded Clouds Across the Sun, which was released in December 1980 and spawned the early 1981 hit "Staying With It", which was done as a duet with singer Lisa Nemzo. After only a few television appearances, Hawkins resigned from the group to join up with Mick Fleetwood's Zoo, a side project the Fleetwood Mac drummer was recording in Africa. Hawkins was replaced by Kim Stone. Everything seemed to be on track until Larry Burnett suddenly disappeared from the group after playing a show in Orlando, Florida in April 1981 to return to his hometown of Washington D.C. to enter a rehab (Burnett eventually kicked a serious drug habit and after working in radio in the late 80s/early 90s, began pursuing a solo career in 2004). The group continued on to play their next show in Las Vegas without him. But after playing a concert with the band in Hawaii in August of that same year, Rick Roberts announced that he also was leaving for a solo career. With the band lacking personnel and increasing in financial debt, Atlantic dropped Firefall from their roster in 1981 and releasedBest of Firefall at the close of that year.