LOCAL MUSIC: In the Pocket remake of ‘Frankford El’ expands scope of song

Involved in re-recording The American Dream song “(Can’t Get to Heaven on the) Frankford El” were, left to right: Don Van Winkle, Jack Mara, Harrison Karsch, Wally Smith, Sally Wetherell, Abigail Pacca, Gianna Atella and David Uosikkinen.
Involved in re-recording The American Dream song “(Can’t Get to Heaven on the) Frankford El” were, left to right: Don Van Winkle, Jack Mara, Harrison Karsch, Wally Smith, Sally Wetherell, Abigail Pacca, Gianna Atella and David Uosikkinen. PHOTO COURTESY OF DALLYN PAVEY/DISH PUBLIC RELATIONS

IF YOU GO

What: David Uosikkinen’s In The Pocket in concert.

When: 8 p.m. April 28.

Where: Ardmore Music Hall, 23 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore.

Tickets: 30 in advance, $35 day of show.

Info.: (610) 649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com.

Hooters drummer David Uosikkinen has added quite a curiosity to his living, growing “In the Pocket” playlist of quintessential Philadelphia songs.

Having previously re-recorded the song “I Ain’t Searchin’” by Philly band The American Dream, with his rotating In the Pocket band of all-stars, he returns to The American Dream’s Todd Rundgren-produced 1970 album with a re-imagined version of the raucous, “Louie Louie”-like sing-along “(Can’t Get to Heaven on the) Frankford El.”

Helping Uosikkinen bring it back from obscurity with the new version were The American Dream’s Don Van Winkle on lead vocals (Van Winkle did not sing the lead on the original), Cyndi Lauper’s bassist William Wittman, guitarist Greg Davis of Beru Revue, Wally Smith of Smash Palace on keyboards; and Charlie Ingui of The Soul Survivors, Steve Butler of Smash Palace and singer/songwriters Skip Denenberg and Cliff Hillis on background vocals.

On their 1989 album “Zig Zag,” The Hooters reference “Frankford El” on the closing track “Beat Up Guitar.” There’s also a book titled “You Can’t Get to Heaven on the Frankford El,” written by Thomas J. Lyons in 2010.

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On its own, “Frankford El” is a colloquial inside joke about a train that ran from the 69th Street terminal in Upper Darby to a station in the Frankford section of the city. The easy-to-master chorus goes:

“Can’t get to heaven on the Frankford El.

Can’t get to heaven on the Frankford El.

Can’t get to heaven on the Frankford El/’cause the Frankford El goes straight to Frankford.

Can’t get to heaven on the Frankford El.”

“It’s not like it’s great poetry, but it’s a great song about a great area,” Uosikkinen said in a phone interview. He noted that at the time The American Dream were emerging on the local scene, “the A&R guys (record company talent scouts) weren’t flying into Philadelphia” despite the success of “Expressway to Your Heart” by The Soul Survivors and “Open My Eyes” by Todd Rundgren’s band The Nazz.

But the new “Frankford El” — which will debut with a music video and making-of documentary during an April 28 David Uosikkinen’s In the Pocket show at Ardmore Music Hall — has some surprising depth to it thanks to a rap about the Frankford neighborhoods performed by students from the School of Rock Fort Washington and Main Line. Wally Smith is a School of Rock teacher and got them involved in the song.

“Winkle (Don Van Winkle) added that rap,” Uosikkinen said, adding that the School of Rock students showed what they were made of because they did not get a heads up that they would be called upon to contribute more than backing vocals to the track.

And they had to do so with cameras on them. Footage of the recording of the rap is included in the full music video. “I not only thought it had to sound cool, I thought it had to look cool,” he said.

Scheduled to perform as part of David Uosikkinen’s In the Pocket on the 28th are: Tommy Conwell, Fran Smith of The Hooters, John Lilley (The Hooters, Robert Hazard & The Heroes), Michael Pilla of Robert Hazard & The Heroes, Kenny Aaronson (The Yardbirds, Joan Jett), Ben Arnold, Richard Bush (The A’s, The Peace Creeps), Buddy Cash, Kenn Kweder and several of the musicians involved in making the new “Frankford El.”

“I hope people come out because it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Revisiting songs since 2010, that were either recorded in Philadelphia or by Philadelphians, David Uosikkinen’s In the Pocket has paid homage to Hall & Oates’ “Fall In Philadelphia,” Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw The Light,” “Punk Rock Girl” by The Dead Milkmen, The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno,” “Back Stabbers” by The O’Jays and more. They can all be heard at www.songsinthepocket.org. There’s also an “In the Pocket Sessions CD” and an In the Pocket live album recorded at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville.

“I think the music scene in Philadelphia is as good as any in the world. We have a vast pool of different genres,” Uosikkinen said, mentioning Philadelphia International Records, the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the rising hip-hop career of Vin Winkle’s son, Major Van Winkle.