Tonio K – Life In The Foodchain

Watching the shadows for anything moving
And hoping they don’t come around

My friend CB (Cincinnati BabyHead) introduced me to Tonio K a few weeks ago and I’ve been listening to him heavily. I liked him right away because he mixes it up in his songs. His songs all have a great groove to them…  and will roll you like wholesale carpet. What intrigued me the most though were the witty lyrics he throws out plus some out of the box arrangements…that work.

The album I listened to is called Life In The Foodchain released in 1978. Click on that link and it should take you to the complete album. There are a lot of good songs on this album. The title track alone should have made the charts.

Who is Tonio K? He was born Steve Krikorian on July 4, 1950, in California. He is a singer/songwriter, whose songs have been recorded by Charlie Sexton, Bette Midler, Peter Case, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Vanessa Williams, Bonnie Raitt, Brian McKnight, and others. His most successful song is “Love Is”… a #1 hit for Vanessa Willams with Brian McNight.

Krikorian and Alan Shapazian (rhythm guitar) formed a band called The Raik’s Progress which recorded one single for Liberty Records, released in 1967. In 1973, he appeared as a member of the former Buddy Holly backing band the Crickets on their album “Remnants”.

By 1978, Krikorian went solo, adopting the name of Tonio K, possibly a reference to the Thomas Mann novel Tonio Kröger, with Life In The Foodchain.

In 2004, he reunited with the Crickets for a track on their album, The Crickets and Their Buddies, singing lead on the Holly song, “Not Fade Away.”

The record was produced by Rob Fraboni ( who produced The Band, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker) and featured a cast that included Earl Slick, Garth Hudson, Dick Dale, and Albert Lee. What a cast that is!  It was also the first Pop/Rock record to feature the percussive sounds of an AK-47 firing live ammunition. The album garnered much critical acclaim.

The track list is

Life In The Foodchain
The Funky Western Civilization
Willie And The Pigman
Ballad Of The Night The Clocks All Quit (And The Government Failed)
American Love Affair
How Come I Can’t See You In My Mirror
Better Late Than Never
A Lover’s Plea

I picked just 3 songs below…click the link in the article to check the album out.

Tonio K: I lived at Shangri-La for much of 1978, and we recorded Life In The Food Chain there. Shangri-La is The Band’s studio out there, the studio that’s in The Last Waltz. The place, I think it was built by Kaiser Aluminum in the ’40s. Real cool California ranch style house. I think Kaiser used it to entertain corporate guests, which is to say they used it basically as a brothel. They would send guys out there and send women out there with them, way north of Malibu, at Zuma Beach.

But, anyway, Garth was my neighbor there. He and Molly, his wife, would spend a lot of nights there. They had a farm somewhere further up in Decker Canyon or somewhere. But I got to know him and he played on my first two records, Garth did. And he’s pretty trippy.

Life In The Foodchain

Well your mother was there to protect you
Your papa was there to provide
So how in the world did the excellent baby
Wind up in this hotel so broken inside
You lie on your bed in the midnight darkly
Listening to every sound
Watching the shadows for anything moving
And hoping they don’t come around

‘Cause it’s dog eat dog
And it’s cat and mouse
It’s watch your step and cross yourself
And get back in the house
And it’s do or die
It’s push and shove
Because everybody’s hungry
And there isn’t quite enough

That’s right, we’re talkin’ about the good life
In the foodchain
Love among the ruins
I guess that you’ve finally got to accept
That there’s nothing you can do about it
It’s kind of like carving the turkey
It’s kind of like mowing the lawn
Everything gets to this certain dimension
Winds up on a customer’s plate and then gone

‘Cause it’s dog eat dog
And it’s the cat and mouse
You know it’s cut the cake and grab a plate
And hope it goes around
I said it’s a do or die
It’s push and shove
It’s because everybody’s hungry
And there just isn’t quite enough

Well it’s dog eat dog
And it’s the cat and mouse
You know it’s cut the cake and grab a plate
And hope it goes around
And it’s do or die
It’s push and shove
That’s because everybody’s hungry
And there just isn’t quite enough


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

32 thoughts on “Tonio K – Life In The Foodchain”

  1. Heard him on WNEW-FM back in the day and bought and loved the record. In 1992 when I lived in Texas, he lived in Austin and I got to see him and a group he put together called Sixteen Tons of Monkeys. There’s a live album that they put out that you can get on Amazon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I hadn’t heard of him…listened to the track you were writing about (‘Life in the foodchain’) and can see why he didn’t have big-time success but I am a bit surprised he didn’t make more of a name for himself with a sort of cult following ala the Velvet Underground. To me he sounds like a mix of early British punk with David Bowie at his most experimental – his voice especially on that song seemed Bowie-esque to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought it was commercial enough for the time…a lot of his songs are out there but they are catchy…that is the thing about them…but so were Big Star and The Velvet Underground.
      He is a superb lyric writer also.


  3. I’m completely new to Tonio K. Earlier this afternoon, I decided to go for a walk and listened to the entire album. I love the guitar sound and sax work. Steve’s voice reminds me a bit of John Cafferty and Peter Wolf. Sometimes, I could even hear a resemblance to Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott, though stylistically the music is very different!

    I take it Tonio K. isn’t exactly a household name. The main reason I can see for that while the songs are solid, they lack memorable hooks – unlike tunes by Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, for example. That said, I still like the album!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. He tries different things but the songs are catchy…the title track I can’t get out of my head. He has written so many songs for other people like Bonnie Raitt’s “You” and other songs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. The title cut on ‘Foodchain” was my hook into his world. It is the intro into all that follows. Putting albums together is all about sequence. I have learned over the years how much time is put into that by the artists. The two cuts I mentioned are what I do with a lot of records, looking for cuts that may get a wider audience.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That is why I featured that one more…Hatred also is very catchy to me.
        But when it comes down to it…I’m a B side kinda guy.

        Liked by 1 person

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