Not Your Average Hit List

© Kevin Westenberg for the album cover photo.

© Peter Kingsbery/Barclay for the music (excerpt).

© Per A.J. Andersson for the text. Written July 2003, updated November 2011.

Once in a Million
by Peter Kingsbery

Peter Kingsbery has one of the most passionate voices in popular music. Its warmth and timbre, lengthening of vowels and almost wailing voicing of words are well adapted to songs dealing with heart-felt emotions of love and longing, hope and despair. Of which he has written his fair share.

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When Peter (born 1952 and raised in Austin, Texas) graduated from the music conservatory in 1974, he immediately went to Nashville, Tennessee. The idea was to "detoxicate" himself of all the classical music, down in the capital of country. Goal accomplished (?), he took his synthesiser under his arm and moved back west, not stopping until Los Angeles, with dreams of making a living writing songs.

One year later, in 1977, he made an encounter that would prove vital. Via a mutual friend and guitarist he met with a sparkling teenage girl of mixed Chinese-Italian descent. She was brought up to Elvis Presley (mother was a big fan) and digging fast and furious music. She was participating in different kinds of stage shows and loved to dance and perform. Peter was impressed by the exuberant 15 year old with her vibrant voice, and his musical skills made a big impression on her – Anna LaCazio.

And in this case the first impression came to last. Years later the two of them indeed started singing together. Just for the fun of it, and for those wanting to listen. Peter was struggling as a songwriter, and Anna was only beginning to find a place for herself and her fondness of voice and movement.

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Eventually dreams came true. In 1985 Anna was center stage, with the tambourine in hand, dancing and wailing to the songs of Peter. Part of a pop group Cock Robin which finally had gained a record contract after lots of stumbling efforts on the road. Alongside the singer-songwriter and the young Anna there were Louis Molino III and Clive Wright.

Cock Robin was born amidst the British wave of pop romantics, and the band was heavily into light pop ballads and synthesized dance rhythms. Initially the group fared quite well, performing for the same public as the likes of Cyndi Lauper. Well-crafted and melodic songs like "When Your Heart Is Weak" and "Just Around the Corner" kept their record company content, and the delicate singing of Peter and Anna became popular even abroad. Or, let's say, mostly abroad.

European tours followed, and their fanbase in countries like France (where Peter's singing style is well known and loved as part of the "French chanson") and Germany continued to grow. While they had apparent problems of making a name for themselves at home. Finally, in 1990, this sadly lead to the end of Cock Robin.

— • —

The group then consisted mainly of Anna LaCazio and Peter Kingsbery. Anna vanished almost completely from the music scene, witnessing an sadly aborted record release in the late '90s (featuring more rockish, very engaging material). She has only now and then surfaced on local performances, often joining in with background singing. For years she has been living in the Californian desert.

Peter, who's troubled relationship with Anna preceded the break-up of the band, moved to France and continued a solo career. One cannot say he has had the best of luck. The quartet of records produced all witness his sense for emotional pop and carefully crafted songs, but continuing the (European) success of Cock Robin was quite another trick. Bad experiences with record companies, producers quitting half-way through a recording and tours being aborted have been all too common. And two of his albums are nowadays almost impossible to buy, through any kind of dealer.

Still Peter is a respected artist within the French music community, making friends around. He has been performing at festivals and recording with jazz ensembles. In 2002 came his first stab at making a record singing in French. It was an inevitable next step, considering his vocal qualities and the French tradition of chanson.

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My own favourite of the solo albums is "Once in a Million". I still miss Anna's voice on it, but here Peter is in top shape, musically as well as with the lyrics. The fact that a lot of producers have been involved in the making on the album doesn't take away a thing from its qualities...

Sensitive and restrained use of piano and electric guitar ("Sorry for Myself") brings backmemories of late Cock Robin efforts. Harmonicas play emotional duos with electric guitar ("Bells of Freedom"). Spare use of strings and backing vocals add dynamic relief ("There's No Magic to It"). And when lyrics make room for really strong feelings, the arrangement is up to it ("Madness"). But most of all Peter's own voice shines as bright as the sun (witness the soft wailing in "Brand New Year").

Maybe there still is a place for a singer-songwriter with more talent for heart-felt emotions than gimmickry. Looking at Cock Robin's aftermath one might believe so. Remarkably enough, for a band only producing three albums during its short lifespan, there have been no less than eleven (11) "best of" collections and such put out on the marketplace. So far. //

— • —

PS. Update of 2007. Miracles happen. After so many years apart, Peter and Anna recently started working together again. And last year the duo reformed Cock Robin, releasing (at least in France) a studio album of new material and embarking on a French tour. And they sound like they always have. Remarkable.


(Barclay, 1995)

• Better You Know
• After All's Said and Done
• Sorry for Yourself
• There's No Magic to It (EXCERPT)
• Bells of Freedom
• Once in a Million
• Brand New Year
• Madness
• Nothing but a Stranger
• Blinded
• Wedding Day
• Stirred in Water

Compositions: P Kingsbery
Production: F Alias, S Bramardi, David 1R2B, G Langan, A Richards, P Kingsbery, D Gahman

ALBUM by Anna LaCazio
• Eat Life (produced 1996?/m4a release only 2009)

ALBUMS by Cock Robin
• Cock Robin (1985)
• After Here through Midland (1987)
• First Love/Last Rites (1989)
• I don't want to save the world (2006)
• Songs from a Bell Tower (2010)

ALBUMS by Peter Kingsbery
• A Different Man (1991/92)
• Once in a Million (1995)
• Pretty Ballerina (1997)
• Mon inconnue (2002)

(partly in French)
A different man (older version of above site?)
Only Pleasure and Pain
le Soleil se lève à l'Est
All Music Guide
Yahoogroups (mailing list)

Not Your Average Hit List 43 minutes... Alla är Ambition Consequences Door to Door The Dreaming Dzien i noc État d'urgence In the Spirit of Things Kaze no tani no Naushika Lights in the Night Martwa woda Nuit d'amour Once in a Million Open Door People Are Strange The Royal Scam Stationary Traveller Victim of Love Whore Music Up North Music Out West Music Far East Music Down South Films I Like a Lot Comic or Not On and Off TV About Me There's so much more out there ...