Suddenly, Tammy! gets there from here

(March 30, 1995)

Beth Sorrentino, lead singer of Lancaster, Pa.-based alternative-pop band Suddenly, Tammy!, isn't asking for much.

She's not dreaming of a No. 1 album, arena shows or a headlining slot on Lollapalooza.

Her objective is much more ... let's say adolescent.

"My goal is to make the jukebox at Pizza Hut and then I can sleep easy," a half-serious Sorrentino said recently from Warner Bros. Records' headquarters in New York to promote the trio's big-label debut album, "(We Get There When We Do)."

"When I was a kid, you got five songs for 50 cents and those five songs were always my favorite songs. If some 12-year-old kid walked into Pizza Hut, like after a roller-skating party, and picked 'Hard Lesson,' that would be so excellent."

Indeed. "Hard Lesson" is the exuberant leadoff-single, bursting with potential pop appeal (you would swear Sorrentino was Jane Wiedlin's vocal twin). That and the other tracks have such an amiable, garage-pop spirit, it's barely noticeable that Suddenly, Tammy! is not-so-suddenly guitarless.

For Sorrentino (piano) and her brother, Jay (drums), and Ken Heitmuller (bass), adding a guitar to the fold just wasn't in the picture.

"We didn't need it," Sorrentino said. "We thought we had enough, and we also knew that it'd be a challenge just to get the most out of our instruments that we play, as opposed to not playing a lot and adding more instruments. It's also more manageable; I mean, three people is definitely more manageable than four or five."

With influences ranging from Ray Charles to Bugs Bunny, Suddenly, Tammy! - the name is an offbeat tribute to Tammy Faye Bakker - carved its own niche with a four-song demo that attracted interest from the majors. A few summers ago, they landed an opening spot on Suede's tour and Warner swooped in. "(We Get There When We Do)," recorded at Bearsville Studios (N.Y.), was produced by Warne Livesey, who has worked with Midnight Oil, Julian Cope and the The.

Sorrentino's greatest fear is that her bandmates will get lost in the shuffle.

"We're a band," she said. "It's not a female vocalist backed up by a rhythm section. That's the thing I'm trying to avoid the most, people thinking that I'm a girl singer like other girl singers out there, that I have some womanly perspective.

"It's definitely a fusion of three people, and we all play equal parts in the band. That's not the impression most people get, I'm afraid."