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The Friends
Thanks to these great musicians, writers and friends who contributed to this record.

Richard Altieri
Richard Altieri
Mark Bluhm
Mark Bluhm
Dave Borucki
Dave Borucki
Jim Butterfield
Jim Butterfield
Billy Capuano
Billy Capuano
John Castrigano
John Castrigano
Dan Cook
Dan Cook
Terry Hartman
Terry Hartman
Laura Hasek
Laura Hasek
Tom Leatherman
Tom Leatherman
David Lowery
Dave Lowery
Bill Rouse
Bill Rouse

With Friends Like These

by Paul Nickels

"An immediate power pop gem"
Chris Noga, The Listen Project
With Friends LIke These CD Cover
Now Available! Stream it everywhere or
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“With Friends Like These” is the product of two things: An enduring interest in arranging and recording great original songs, and an immediate need to absorb time in the suspended animation that was The Year of Covid. Both needs were satisfied and result in the record you are holding.

THE FULL STORY: Deeply excited by seeing The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan show in February 1964 (I was nine), I gravitated straight to Ringo and was in drum lessons a few months later. High school brought opportunities for typical “jam” sessions and rudimentary renderings of the hits of the day with friends. After college, things heated up... My first opportunity to join a (semi) serious band arrived in 1979, when the drummer’s chair opened in a now legendary Cleveland psychedelic pop band called The Backdoor Men.

While the band covered some obscure non-originals from the likes of the Velvet Underground and older acts such as Del Shannon, its forte was that it included two extraordinarily productive and talented songwriters in Terry Hartman and Dan Cook. These two childhood best friends from Fairview Park, Ohio had very different writing styles, but both were animated by a rich knowledge of pop, country blues, and folk music. Both were also influenced heavily by the twin pillars of Bob Dylan and the British Invasion. Doesn’t get much better than that for songwriters-in-training…

During the band’s decade-long run, mostly under the BDM moniker but occasionally disguised by other names to fool suspicious club owners, Hartman and Cook wrote more than 100 originals. The two couldn’t STOP writing – in fact, they became a go-to source for other Cleveland punk and new wave bands who simply didn’t share the writing gene. Thus developed my keen interest in playing music that hadn’t been heard before. Every rehearsal was like Christmas day… What would they bring next?

All good things must pass, and The Backdoor Men did not see the end of the 1980s. But the lads reunited in the early years of the 21st century to record the delightfully titled punk masterpiece “Mohawk Combover” as a final act (and another bounty of songs). Today Cook lives in Portland, Oregon and continues to write and play, while Hartman, after a terrific internationally successful run with The Deadbeat Poets, is in retirement in Akron, Ohio. My own path had led to a strong interest in the recording process – which began to burn brightly after the experience of recording “Mohawk Combover.” Thus, the founding of Handsome Studios.

After a break to raise a family, my own musical career continued with bands like Inner Ring Conspiracy, The Clifton Beat, and The Old Brown Shoe Revue, giving me the opportunity to work with other writers, as did production duties in the studio for a number of other very talented original artists. In addition to Hartman and Cook, who both came through in stellar fashion, the disc includes tunes I co-wrote with my long-time rhythm section cohort and friend Mark Bluhm, as well as contributions from Richard Altieri, David Borucki (A.K.A. Dave Blaze), Jim Butterfield, John Castrigano, and Bill Rouse. I am grateful to all of them for contributing their magic – and make no mistake, I consider songwriting to be a magical endeavor.

Special thanks go to Jim Butterfield and Mark Bluhm, who were particularly helpful and provided constant support and honest feedback, and to Billy Capuano, who, for no other reason than his love of music, made very important musical contributions to this project. I am also extremely thankful to all of the musicians who contributed their chops, both in the studio and, due to the Covid circumstances, remotely, and to my dear wife Colleen for enduring the noise (and the louts who make it) that accompanies the dream. And finally, love and thanks to Terry Hartman and Dan Cook, who gave me the shot at the drummer’s chair more than 40 years ago… I’m glad I passed the audition.

The album is dedicated to the memory of Karl “Casey” Meers, the original and classic drummer for The Backdoor Men. Still using that ride cymbal, Casey. Rest in peace.

Paul Nickels, June 2021

The Songs

Time To Play (P. Nickels, M. Bluhm)
Literary Tradition
(T. Hartman)
Everything Will Be OK (R. Altieri)
(T. Hartman)

Falling and Rolling (J. Castrigano)
I Don’t Mind (B. Rouse)

Girls Girls Girls (T. Hartman)
Don’t Hang Up (T. Hartman)
I Wanna Be A Cowboy (J. Butterfield
Inner Peace (D. Cook)
Our Dog Days (P. Nickels, M. Bluhm)
Are You There (D. Cook)
Jen Jenny (D. Cook)
Pavlov’s Cat (T. Hartman)

Schoolgirl Tomboy (B. Rouse)
Shit Outta Luck (D. Cook)
New Crazy Now (B. Rouse)
Change on Me and You (P. Nickels, M. Bluhm)
Well of Rage (P. Nickels, D. Cook)
Cry If You Want To (D. Borucki)

The Credits

Produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Paul Nickels for Handsome Productions. Recorded at Handsome Studios in Bay Village, Ohio. Additional recording by Trina Emig at Boopie Recording, Cincinnati, Ohio and by Billy Capuano in the spare bedroom of his home in Twinsburg, Ohio.

All contents ©2021 by Handsome Productions. Published by Mab Zab Music/BMI with the exception of those written by Terry Hartman, published by Talking Dog/BMI. All Rights Reserved.

Lyrics at the bottom of this page. Address correspondence to paul @ handsomeproductions.com.

The Players

Paul Nickels:
rums and percussion, electric and acoustic 6- and 12-string guitars, occasional bass guitar, lead and harmony vocals
Richard Altieri            
Electric and acoustic guitars, lead vocals
Mark Bluhm:
Bass guitar, lead and harmony vocals
David Borucki:           
Electric and acoustic guitars, lead vocal
Jim Butterfield:
Acoustic and electric guitars, harmony vocals
Billy Capuano:           
Acoustic and electric guitars
John Castrigano:       
Acoustic guitar, lead vocals
Paul Castrigano:        
Electric and acoustic guitars, synthesizer
Dan Cook:                  
Electric guitar, piano, lead vocals
Terry Hartman:         
Acoustic guitar, lead vocals
Laura Hasek:
Violin and harmony vocals
Geoffrey Kelleher:     
Acoustic guitar
Tom Leatherman:     
Piano and organ
David Lowery:
Lead Vocals
Bill Rouse:
Electric guitars, lead and harmony vocals

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All contents © Handsome Productions, 2021. May be used with permission.