What happens when you take a Bangle, a touring Beach Boy, half of Barnes & Barnes and “THE Bass Player” and put them together? Bippity Boppity Boo. Action Skulls.
They had gathered at a Christmas party for some festive holiday cheer. Yes, they were casual acquaintances, having run into each other at gigs over the years, but until that party, Vicki Peterson, her husband John Cowsill and Bill Mumy had never sung together. But they did that night. Gathered around an upright piano at Angela Cartwright’s home, they sang until the early hours of the morning. The three of them dug the blend their voices made together and the idea of forming a group was discussed.
It was only a few days later that Bill was at a gig with Rick “the bass player” Rosas, and they talked about making music together. Rick texted Mumy late that night to follow up on it. Rick had played with John before and was excited about the concept of recording with Vicki, Bill and John.
Mumy started writing. Like a fiend. New songs poured out of him almost daily. The songs were different from his usual solo material, and certainly different than Barnes & Barnes. He left many of these new songs partially completed so that Vicki and John could add their own creative powers to them.
A recording session was booked.
The four of them gathered at ReadyMix Music, which back in the day was where Jackson Browne and Little Feat worked. ReadyMix has a cool vintage vibe mixed with modern tech.
They recorded old school. All four of them together in the same room playing at the same time, making eye contact and damn the leakage.
And it was good. It was real good. And it was fun.
They planned to record an album’s worth of original material. But between the busy touring schedules of The Beach Boys, (John has been the drummer in that iconic band for 16 years), Rick’s European tour with Neil Young and Crazy Horse as well as his working on Meryl Streep’s film “Ricki and the Flash”, The Bangles heading back out on the road, and Mumy making a film and producing projects, getting the four of them together to record became somewhat sporatic and difficult. But they all made room in their busy schedules to do just that because… they were ACTION SKULLS.
Yes, the name had been decided upon early in a very late night text exchange between John and Bill. John had suggested naming the group Action Figures. Bill had suggested Peace Skulls. They compromised, much to Vicki’s chagrin and Rick’s delight.
More songs were written. More recording sessions happened. More good vibes.
Until the terrible, unexpected sad and tragic loss of Rick. He died November 6, 2014.
The Action Skulls project was put into suspended animation.
Vicki, John and Bill returned to their other individual commitments and got on with their lives. But the eight songs that they’d recorded with Rick on bass haunted them. They’d had a great time creating them and if these were some of the very last recordings Rick Rosas played on, then surely they deserved to be shared with the world.
More songs were written. More sessions happened. Mumy played bass on two tracks and John’s son, Will Cowsill, played standup bass on the other.
It felt right.
Now they needed some time to polish it all up, mix it and get the design together.
They had initially come together at Angela Cartwright’s, so it was only fitting that the iconic multi talented artist should photograph the group and design the CD package. So she did. And after a bit of, “can you make that more blue?” and “Look! There’s an ORB in these shots! It’s Rick!” the final design fell together.
Then, there was a need for a title. A line from Vicki’s song, “Map of the World” fit perfectly. “There be angel’s here.” John wisely tweaked it.
ACTION SKULLS “ANGELS HEAR”.