Just Water's plan was to get the kinks out in upstate New York, and then go to The City. Anyone who grew up in the shadow of Manhattan referred to Manhattan as "The City". Sure, if you were from Brooklyn (as Mitch, Danny, and Marty were), you knew it was technically part of New York City. But it wasn't "The City". The City was the center of the music scene for the sixties as well as the seventies. There were certainly other important cities - Detroit, San Francisco, London - but NYC was home of the Brill Building (which turned out most of the early 60's hits), home of the Greenwich Village beat and folk scene (which gave us Bob Dylan), home of the Fillmore East (which showcased every important late 60's act), and home of more record companies than any place on earth. In 1975, Just Water moved to Brooklyn, to launch their career at the gates of The City.
The band decided that they should record, even before concentrating on playing gigs. Their determination to learn the art of recording (without waiting for a record company to fund them) resulted in Just Water creating a larger body of recorded works than most bands of the punk era, including bands that were signed to major labels! According to Mitch, "We loved playing live. But we knew if we were going to have a real career, it was the records and the songs that really mattered. I figured we had just one shot. We needed recordings that we could hand to any A & R people who came to see us. If we were good live, and we could back it up on records, then maybe we wouldn't blow that one shot."
Just Water started a life-long relationship with the sound engineer Neal Steingart. Their first recordings were with Ira on vocals, and were made in Neal's house in Brooklyn using two four-track tape recorders that were somehow connected using a strange invention of Neal's involving tape synced together by a pencil! Ira left the band soon after those recordings, resulting in the creation of the classic Just Water line-up (Mitch, Danny, Tom, and Marty), which carried on until 1979.
The band needed a new recording that featured the new line-up with Mitch doing most of the vocals. Their most important song had been the 15-minute suite "Last Phonograph In The World." That song was strongly identified with Ira's voice and was scrapped. However, parts of that song morphed into the song "Drastic Change", which (along with "Play It Loud") was recorded at Just Water's first sessions at Neal's new Fly Studios, and appeared in 1977 on The Riff album. Another track, "King Kong", was released in 1975 as a single (with "Play It Loud" on the flip side.) It was credited to the record company label Just Records, which did not actually exist. However, the band soon completed the creation of its own record label, Branded Records. "King Kong" and Television's "Little Johnny Jewel" were among the very first independently released records of the punk era.
Just Water was aware that The New York Dolls had opened up a new scene in NYC. The Dolls were looked at as the lunatic fringe of the Glam movement (which included Ziggy-era David Bowie), when they were really the leading edge of the punk movement. Mitch's friend, Binky Phillips, was playing with his band The Planets at the Coventry club in Queens, where Kiss also played. You could feel that something special was happening in NYC, but it was a totally local scene, and had not yet been labeled as punk.
Binky suggested that Just Water hook up with The Planets' manager, Barbara Bothwell, to see about playing some gigs together. Barbara, who was soon to became Just Water's manager too, told the band that the club Max's Kansas City was reopening under new ownership, and needed new bands to play. It was physically the same Max's that once featured Lou Reed's Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol's crowd, but it was about to reopen as a rock 'n roll club run by Tommy and Laura Dean. The very first show at the new Max's was The Planets and Just Water. It was also the first show that Just Water ever played with Mitch on lead vocals. Each band played two sets. Just Water's sets included "This Kid", "No Strings On Me", "Shangri-La", "Drastic Change", "Branded", "God's A Good Guitarist Too", "Ready To Lose", and they closed the late set with a 20-minute song-suite called "Black Belt" which included parts of their song "Private Eye". "Black Belt" was the story of a kid (who Mitch remembers being based on drummer Marty) that tried everything to be noticed, including pretending to be a private eye, a black belt, and burning his parent's house down. Punk pretty much ruled out long songs, and "Black Belt" was retired after a few gigs. It was never recorded. However, the song "Privatizer", which was recorded at the first Just Water sessions at Fly Studios and is available on www.justwatermusic.com, includes themes that found their way into Black Belt.