Tonio K. was one of those hard-to-classify artists. He employed elements of rock, alternative, new wave, singer-songwriter, and more. He was too alternative for the mainstream, but not quite weird enough for indie rock. Let’s just call it rock and roll, shall we?
Born in Southern California, the son of Armenian immigrants (born Steven Krikorian), K began his career with garage rock band The Raik’s Progress (who opened for Buffalo Springfield), then played a stint with Buddy Holly’s band the Crickets, but he got his first real break with a publishing deal for Intersong. His first solo album, Life in the Foodchain was released in 1978 to much critical acclaim, but without much commercial success–a patten that would repeat itself thoughout the 1980s and into the 1990s.
I first heard/read about Tonio K. in the late 1980s. Although technically a mainstream artist, he was getting recognized in Christian publications due to his not-so-thinly-veiled faith references. Not long after, I found Notes from the Lost Civilization on LP in the clearance bin. I think I paid $.50 for it.
Notes and its predecessor Romeo Unchained are my favorites of his, and “Without Love” is taken from the 1988 classic. The album somehow manages to weave heartland-style rock, funk/disco, and new wave all into a surprisingly cohesive whole. And oddly enough, one of his biggest fans is parody superstar Weird Al Yankovic.
These days it’s a crime not to be beautiful
It’s a crime not to be young
It’s a crime to be different from everyone else
It’s a crime not to always have fun
Well, that’s okay, except of course that none of it is true
The real crime is how they have divided me from you
It ain’t worth nothin’ without love
It ain’t worth nothin’ without real love
I don’t know what it was
It was some kind of primitive dream
I saw all these prisoners of counterfeit love in the world
They were finally set free
Well, amen to that!