In the ’70s and ’80s, accomplished songwriter and sound engineer, Ramona Jan was a founding member of and churned out songs with the Comateens, Dizzy & the Romilars, Nursery School and Venus Fly Trap. In the recording studio, Jan worked with tons of celebrated musicians from Frank Sinatra to Aretha Franklin. She also produced 50THIRDAND3RD favorite “Drive My Car,” for the short-lived 1981 punk ensemble, Nasty Facts which featured the imitable Cherl Boyze. She currently she writes and records with her band JANTURAN.
In the mid-80s, one of Ramona Jan’s bands, Venus Fly Trap, was a three-piece outfit that emerged from the ashes of a different group formed by friends, changed its name, and then evolved through a few iterations before breaking up. To this day, a few of the members are backup singers in the E-Street band. Venus Fly Trap eventually found itself performing as direct support for Buster Poindexter (the alter-ego of New York Dolls frontman David Johansen).
I’ve had the pleasure to interview Ramona Jan for 50THIRDAND3RD before and I am working on larger projects that will feature more in-depth information about her experience as a songwriter and sound engineer.
Here’s Venus Fly Trap’s five never-released recordings, “Push Button Drive,” “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend,” “Sometimes a Hero,” “Only One”and “Love’s Akimbo.” A short interview with Jan follows the videos. Enjoy!
CR: How did Venus Fly Trap get its start?
RJ: Soozie Tyrell and Lisa Lowell were singing in a trio on the streets with a gal named Patti Scialfa (now Mrs. Springsteen). I was good friends with all of them. I would go to see them play on the street all the time and wished I could do it with them. Then Patti got into the E Street Band and Soozie and I were at her house helping her pack for an 18 month tour with Bruce (her first). That’s when I asked Soozie if they would like to replace Patti in the trio and Soozie welcomed me with open arms. I forget what they called themselves but it seemed right to change the name. I came up with Venus Fly Trap and we each took one of the names, Soozie (Venus), Fly (me) and Lisa (Trap).
CR: Why did it start?
RJ: I think it started because we were all going to miss Patti and it was a way to keep the energy going and not miss a beat!
CR: Where did you play?
RJ: In the beginning on the streets of NY–in Soho mostly, when it was illegal to perform on the streets. Eventually, we became the warm-up act and the back-up vocalists with Buster Poindexter.
CR: What was the recording process like?
RJ: We only recorded about 5 songs on Soozie’s 4-track tape machine. The recording process was challenging because of the equipment but that’s all we had. Otherwise a tremendous learning experience for me as a singer. I learned so much from singing with Soozie and Lisa.
CR: Any strange or funny stories?
RJ: We played a gig at Rahway State Prison one afternoon and one of the prisoners tried to make a break by pretending he was our roadie. It didn’t work out for him and he probably got more time.
CR: Why did the band break up?
RJ: We were together for at least four years. We went to Europe and sang in England, France, and Italy. We were together all the time with differences of opinions, personal struggles and most of all musical styles. Eventually things just came to a head and we each went our separate ways.