Posts Tagged ‘real gone music’

Album Review: Tower of Power — Hipper Than Hip

Monday, April 7th, 2014

For quite a number of years – primarily the mid 90s to around 2006 – I was immersed in a consuming hobby of sorts: I collected and traded bootlegs (aka ROIOs or recordings of indeterminate origin). For me, listening to unreleased recordings of artists I like – studio outtakes, live concert tapes, radio broadcasts and the like – provided an additional window of understanding into their work, a depth of understanding often unavailable through more conventional means.

With the rise of faster internet speeds and peer-to-peer sites, the trading of physical artifacts has largely died off. In the same way that trading of those physical CDs put a practical end to the for-profit (and illegal and unethical) practice of commercial bootlegging, the end of trading came on suddenly.

But a desire for these kinds of recordings persists. And just when one thinks the unreleased cache has been completely mined, something new turns up. The latest example of this is Hipper Than Hip: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow by Tower of Power. This 2CD set documents a WLIR radio broadcast from Long Island’s Ultrasonic Recording Studios on May 14, 1974. While Real Gone Music focuses primarily on rare and archival reissues, Hipper Than Hip is two-plus hours of previously unreleased material.

Tower of Power was (and remains) an eleven-piece band to be reckoned with. They brought the energy and fire of funk by expanding the basic rock lineup (guitar, bass, drums) with keyboards, percussion and a horn section. With Lenny Williams fronting the band on vocals, TOP tore through their tunes, giving ample spotlights to soloists. Chester Thompson‘s keyboard work is the centerpiece of many of these tracks, often engaging in incendiary dialogue with the horns (trumpet, two tenor saxes and a baritone sax).

Recorded in the studio but with a live audience, the recording is the best of both worlds: high quality recording techniques and the energy that can only be captured when the band plays in front of real human beings. The 2CD set captures the band at the height of their success, running through their hits (“Soul Vaccination,” “You’re Still a Young Man,” and “What is Hip” along with perennial favorite “Squib Cakes”) and a dozen others.

Led by founders Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka (both of whom remain in the band today, along with a couple others from back in the 70s), Tower of Power provided a sort of updating of the hard-charging road bands of the swing era (Duke Ellington‘s band, for example), injecting the music with heavy doses of soul, r&b and the ever-present funk.

From start to finish, Hipper Than Hip is a thrilling document of a band and horn section at their best. Whether it’s a smooth soul ballad such as “You’re Still a Young Man” or an irresistible groove, Tower of Power delivers. The liner notes provide a bit of history and context along with some background on the sessions that produced this historic recording. As successful as the studio albums of that era were (1974′s Back to Oakland was the group’s then-current release), it was in concert that Tower of Power were best experienced. And while they did release a live album in the 70s (1976′s Live and Living Color) that contains versions of four of the numbers on Hipper Than Hip, this new 2CD set is worth having for its combination of up-close-and-personal with studio production values.

 Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

Hundred-word Reviews: Reissues

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Those CDs continue to pile up here at Musoscribe World Headquarters. And even after I cull the unsolicited or semi-solicited ones that don’t make the cut for coverage, I still end up with more music than I can possibly cover in the depth of detail I’d like (and that they deserve). So occasionally – and more often of late – I schedule a group of hundred-word capsule reviews in which I endeavor to hit the high points. All of these are worth your time. Toady’s batch are all reissues of older releases, several of which are somewhat rare.


Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys – Albion Doo-Wah
This little-known outfit was initially championed by no less a luminary than Jimi Hendrix, who produced their debut album. This, their second, was no more successful in the marketplace, but it remains an interesting listen. From the opening track, “Riff Raff” onward, the band leans in a city-headed-country rock direction, with the results sounding like some cross between The New York Rock and Roll Ensemble and The Band. Some of the truly deep-fried tracks like “Turkish Taffy” are only partially successful, but the genre hybridization of “Boonville Massacre” still sounds delightfully fresh and appealing forty years later.


Mason Williams – The Mason Williams Ear Show
Like the above title, this is the second of two Real Gone Music reissues by a mostly (and unjustly) forgotten artist. Released a mere nine months after The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, this album very much continues in a similar musical vein (how could it not?). For many artists, such a rush-release schedule wold result in an album full of half-baked, tossed-off tunes, but it would appear that Williams was a prolific composer of quality material. Like the last record, this one is full of eclectic mainstream pop Americana (though in its formal sense rather than its 21st century one).


Surf Punks – Locals Only
Neither the best nor the worst of its kind, this album is a reasonably successful amalgam of comedy rock and surf music. The titles tell you the story: “No Fat Chicks,” “Born to Surf,” “Spoiled Brats from Malibu.” It’s fun enough, and with the principals’ connection to Captain and Tennille (drummer/composer/producer) Dennis Dragon is the brother of “Captain” Daryl Dragon) one can be all but certain that there’s a commercial appeal to these bratty tracks. And there is; it’s more revved-up garage rock (with party trappings) than anything approaching punk. A welcome dose of 80s nostalgia.


The Alabama Stare Troupers – Road Show
A curio from the anything-goes early 1970s. An all-star (sic) lineup takes to the road – presaging Bob Dylan‘s Rolling Thunder Revue – and one show is documented as a tour souvenir. Don Nix (his Living by the Days was also reissued) rounded up country bluesman Furry Lewis and vocalist Jeanie Green plus assorted musicians and a choir. The result 2LP didn’t sell like hotcakes. But Furry Lewis – who gets half of the first CD – is in fine form, and the full-band tracks – sounding very much like The Band with a choir – are soulful and enjoyable.


The Lords of the New Church – Is Nothing Sacred?
Give this CD five seconds of your time, and you’ll say “1983.” But “Dance With Me” – the most well-known track from the Gothic rock band led by former Dead Boys singer/guitarist Stiv Bators – still sounds great. Sure, it’s more than a little reminiscent of Duran Duran, The Church and Billy Idol, but this foursome – with punk veterans from The Damned, Sham 69 and The Barracudas – earned their punk/new wave cred honestly. Two other Lords studio albums – their 1982 debut (their best) and 1984′s The Method to Our Madness – have also gotten reissue.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

A Conversation with The Tubes’ Founder Bill Spooner, Part Five

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Continued from Part Four

“We’re waiting for an investor.
Maybe it’s you.”

Bill Kopp: I remember something from a little later in The Tubes’ career, from The Completion Backwards Principle era tour. The way you opened the show was that you’d all come out dressed in business suits, with briefcases. But you weren’t in that; it was all the guys in the band plus, I guess, a roadie or something. The song was “Business.”

Bill Spooner: That was because I had just had knee surgery. I’m singing on the track, and I had done it onstage for a year before that. But then I screwed up my knee skiing and had surgery. Plus, I wasn’t really a dancer to begin with. But the knee injury was my excuse not to do it. Because it did hurt.

I’m actually singing two of the parts on the track [not on the album, but on a laserdisc that came out around the same time] because when we recorded it, Roger was out of town. So I figure that made up for it.

That was Chopper [onstage], our road manager.

BK: I saw the Tubes several times in those days. One time, at Atlanta’s Civic Center, I was in the front row with a 35mm camera that had a 200mm zoom lens. I was removed by security.

BS: Oh, really?

BK: Yeah, but they were actually very nice: “Go put your camera away, back in your car. Then you can come back in.” They didn’t take my film or anything. The pictures came out great. I have a poster print of one on my living room wall. You’re sitting on a bar stool playing guitar, and you have one of those calculator watches on your wrist.

BS: Calculator watch? That was to calculate time between pills, I imagine. I guess that was from when my knee was still screwed up.

BK: A left-field question, if you don’t mind. On the Outside Inside tour, when you guys did “Tip of My Tongue,” it seemed to me that the horn parts were being played by you on guitar, through some sort of effects. True?

BS: Right, but we were also playing along with a tape. We had a tape that ran, and it had a click-track on it. And I played along with the horn parts using a Mutron or something. Basically, an envelope follower. And I tried to make it sound like it was real. We just couldn’t find a way to duplicate it. Mike Cotten could have made the horn sounds, or he could make the other sounds that the song needed.

Plus, they were really complicated; the horns were done at The Compound, Earth, Wind & Fire‘s studio. That was the EW&F horns. Those guys are tight, I’ll tell ya. Very hard to duplicate. Somewhere I have a version of that song with Maurice White singing it.

One of the few benefits of working with David Foster was his relationship with Earth, Wind & Fire. He had a few other friends I liked, too. Like Bobby Kimball, Steve Lukather.

BK: One last question. For years now, I’ve been hearing about a Tubes documentary that Mike Cotten has been working on. Do you know anything about how that’s coming along?

BS: I think it’s finished. He’s been working on it for abut ten years. The problem is that to put it out, we have to secure the rights to the songs. Even though we wrote the songs, the versions that people are familiar with are owned by A&M and Capitol, which is all Sony or EMI. And between the two of ‘em, they want about $250,000 just for the rights to put those in a movie. It is a lot of songs, but you’d think they’d be a little more generous with their licensing. But they’re not.

So we pay that, or go in and re-record all those songs, which would probably cost just as much. And it would never sound the same anyway. So that’s the hold-up. Kenny Ortega [Tubes choreographer who went on to greater fame with the 1996 and 2002 Olympics – bk] has expressed interest, but he’s not going put in his own money. So we’re waiting for an investor. Maybe it’s you.

It’s a very interesting film. Besides all the live stuff, there’s interviews with everybody we’ve ever worked with, plus another fifty people we didn’t work with. It’ll be a pretty interesting movie if it ever gets released. I hope I’m still alive by the time it gets released.


The 2CD set pairing The Tubes’ Young and Rich with Now was released in 2012 on Real Gone Music. Copies are still available, and are well worth seeking out. — bk

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

A Conversation with The Tubes’ Founder Bill Spooner, Part Four

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Continued from Part Three

“No one would get my wheelchair.”

Bill Kopp: We’re talking about the songs on The Tubes‘ 1977 album Now, and whatever comes to your mind about each of them. Side Two continues with “I’m Just a Mess.”

Bill Spooner: That’s a Roger [Steen] song. He came over to my place when I lived in an apartment in Pacific Heights, and we made a little [demo] version of it on a four-track reel-to-reel. Everybody liked it; it was a really unique song. Unique chord progressions. But with Roger’s songs, you’re never really sure what they’re about. He talks in metaphors. A strange guy; he’s not weird-strange, but he has a strange way of saying things. But it doesn’t matter what it’s about. Some songs are message songs, and some are more melodic experiments.

BK: The Re Styles lead vocal, “Cathy’s Clone.”

BS: That was a Jane Dornacker song. And I think Captain Beefheart played saxophone on it, too. Some wacky sax. I just thought it was a funny song: “I’m not Cathy / I’m Cathy’s clone.”

BK: What possessed you guys to cover Lee Hazlewood‘s “This Town”?

BS: On the original double-album concept, “This Town” was going to segue into “Town Without Pity.” We had an orchestra on that one. On both. But we never really finished the “Town Without Pity” part, so we just faded “This Town” out at the end. And then we put a little [big band version of] “White Punks on Dope” at the end. It was supposed to be a cool departure…

BK: It has that whole Vegas thing about it…

BS: That’s how we did it on stage, too. But we didn’t do it very long onstage, because…a lot of stuff, we’d do trial runs to see if it was going to work. And that one really didn’t work. People just didn’t get it. You can get a pretty good read from the audience. We had street sweepers onstage, kind of Frank Sinatra streetlights. And Fee [Waybill] had a kind of Sinatra outfit on. We had a conveyor belt on the back of the stage, with various New York archetypes going across it. And a film, too.

BK: No wonder you never made any money!

I’ll tell you a quick story. We had a song called “Dinosaur Blues.” This was very early on. We were playing at a club called The North Beach Revival, I think; a place in San Francisco. Now, there was this costume…and I’m not a costume maker. But I made this costume for Fee. What it was, I took oil cans and flattened ‘em out, and made ‘em into a Stegosaurus tail. All the way down his back and out. And I gave him some little fake claws for hands. He was a kind of cross between a Stegosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. And he said, “What? Aren’t you going to paint this or something, make it green?” And I said, “Nah, just leave ‘em as oil cans. That’s where the oil comes from, right?” “Yeeeeahh, but…”

So, being a good sport, he tried it. And we did it, and that didn’t go over.

Another one we tried was “Baby, Your Face is Mutated,” which got released eventually.

BK: That’s on Dawn of the Tubes.

BS: For that one, we had these horrible masks made out of urethane foam. Blobbing, melted faces. And by the time that song was done, there was only one person left in the audience. There was this one girl sitting there. So I went over to her, and I said, “Y’know, I realize that song’s a little raw, and the costumes are a little strange, but I want to thank you for staying. I’m glad that someone stayed all the way through.”

And she said, “No one would get my wheelchair.”

I knew right then that song was never gonna cut it.

BK: There’s two tracks left on the Now album. “Pound of Flesh.”

BS: “Pound of Flesh” was a Ron Nagle song. I don’t think that one really…it came out all right, I guess. But in the grand scheme of things, it was not a good choice. That’s about all I could say about it. Wasn’t one of my favorites.

BK: So what happened to the remainder of the material originally planed for the double-album that never was?

BS: Some of them became part of Remote Control, with different words. And some of them never got finished. It was just too much. When it came time to do another album, the last one had left a bad taste, so we didn’t really want to dwell on that material.

BK: the last track on Now is “You’re No Fun,” a very Vince Welnick-sounding kind of song with all those piano glissandos and everything.

BS: It was also kind of early Tubes and Beans-esque. A lot of pounding rock, but piano rock. Mike Cotten might have written the lyrics to that one; I’m not sure who he was referring to. It could have been me, for all I know.

Mike was really emerging as a songwriter back then. He was, and still is, a very smart guy. So it was inevitable that he would start writing songs. But when he first started with us, he was an artist; we grew up with him in Phoenix. He hung around with the band, but he didn’t play anything. And he absolutely refused to go onstage. And then some relative of his died…this is a strange story. They left him some money; I don’t know, maybe $10,000. And he was going to buy a Bolex movie camera. And we said, “Naah, Mike, you don’t want to do that. Buy a synthesizer!” And he said, “What am I gonna use that for?” “You can make squealing noises! Wacky spaceship-taking-off sounds!” “Where would I do that?” “Do it onstage with us!”

So he did break down and buy an ARP 2600. But for the first two years, he wouldn’t play it onstage. He’d sit out at the mixing console and do it from there. I can’t remember when he had the final breakthrough and got him to actually appear onstage with us. But pretty soon he was up there dancing, and spinning his console around. And then he started singing! So it was just a matter of time before he was going to be a songwriter. I knew he would. And he’s a good songwriter, too.

That wraps up our discussion of the Now album. In Part Five, we’ll cover some other odds and ends about The Tubes’ career, including a discussion about the documentary film that’s in development.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

A Conversation with The Tubes’ Founder Bill Spooner, Part Three

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Continued from Part Two

“If I get you guitar lessons,
will you stop playing that?”

Bill Kopp: Let’s talk about the Now album from 1977.

Bill Spooner: What do you know about the album? Do you know the circumstances behind that album?

BK: I’ve understood that it was done during a difficult time for the band. On the liner notes there’s a Roger Steen quote that reads something like, “If you figure out how this album fits together, call the office.”

BS: First of all, it started out as a double album, with this producer named John Anthony. His only real claim to fame was that song “How Long” by Ace. And he turned out to be a real strange guy. He would dose people with acid; he dosed the studio owner one time, put it in his coffee. That got him kicked out of that studio, and eventually we ended up locking him out, and finishing the album ourselves.

And at that point, we had spent so much time and money already, we pruned it down to a single album. So it was kinda thrown together in a weird way. It had some good songs on it, but it was generally…it didn’t hit the mark, I guess.

BK: The first track on the album was “Smoke (La Vie En Fumer).”

BS: Vince [Welnick] wrote the music, and I think Mike [Cotten] wrote the lyrics. Vince was always writing these big piano kind of…I don’t want to say Ferrante & Teicher…but big, overblown-type melodies. And it was nice; we liked it. We turned it into this sort of modern subterranean angst thing about the fragility of life. Or whatever. I guess that sounds kinda stupid.

And we had a great stage presentation for it. A kind of café or nightclub scene. Fee [Waybill] comes out as a smooth guy, and he get “whomped” by dancers wielding giant cigarettes.

BK: There are some still photos of that in the inner sleeve of the What Do You Want From Live 2LP set.

Tell me about “Hit Parade.”

BS: “Hit Parade” was a song I wrote about searching for true love. When you find somebody who really likes you, y’know? And all the myriad ways you can blow it.

And the middle-eight/bridge part had a Vince thing; that was one of his songs we incorporated into “Hit Parade.”

BK: “Strung Out on Strings.”

BS: That was pretty much the story of my life. My first guitar was one my mom got with green stamps. I don’t know if you know what those are…

BK: Sure, I do. S&H Green Stamps; I used to put ‘em in the books, to save up and get stuff. When I was a kid. We never saved enough to get anything decent, though.

BS: Well, my mom was firm believer in green stamps. The first guitar we ever got, she actually got for my dad. I think I was eleven or something like that. She got me a giant model train. Christmas morning, I got up and immediately started bangin’ on the guitar, and my dad started messing with the train; he was an electrical engineer at the time. So my mom never said anything, for years. She just kinda left it like it was.

There was a popular song around that time [1957] called “Party Doll,” by Buddy Knox. It had a little solo in it [vocalizes: “neener-neener-neener-neener”], and I figured out how to play that. I’d play it over and over, and my mom finally said, “If I get you guitar lessons, will you stop playing that?”

BK: The next track on Now is “Golden Boy.” I know a little bit about that; it’s about a friend of the band, a guy who had been in The Beans with you.

BS:Bob McIntosh, right. I don’t remember if he ever made it to [being in] The Tubes, because he died of cancer when he was 24. The thing about him was that he had two and a half feet of blond hair, and he was just a monster drummer; he could make the whole building shake. He was a golden boy; really handsome, and all the chicks loved him. Totally straight; he didn’t smoke pot like the rest of us. Didn’t drink; he was…perfect. His father was an astronaut, and his mother was a professor of something or other. He was really smart kid; great genes.

Being an Air Force kid, he was raised on all these Air Force bases. All over Europe; Turkey and all over the world. And the military is notorious for just dumping their garbage. Fluorocarbons, PCBs…they just dump ‘em. And so [if you live on base] you just live in this stew of carcinogens. And that’s how he believed he got cancer. He was so healthy; he was the first person I saw that jogged, ever.

BK: The Captain Beefheart cover, “My Head is My Only House When it Rains.”

BS: Just a song we really liked. The day we recorded that…You know what magic mushrooms are, right? We all ate those. Fee played guitar on that one; and he didn’t even know how to play guitar! It was a very simple song, so I showed him this little part. And we had four or five acoustic guitars going at once. We were all even breathing together. It was a very…cathartic experience. Pick whatever word you like; it was unique.

BK: The Mingo Lewis instrumental, “God Bird Change.”

BS: That was a wacky thing that he came up with. We thought it would have a great stage application, which it did. The title came from a TV show…I can’t remember the name of it, but it from a cartoon robot Japanese thing. One of those “Japanimation” things. A little kid would go around, and he’d be in the eye of this giant robot, where he’d control everything. The robot walked around smiting its enemies and so forth. And then the kid would scream out, “God Bird Change!” and he’d turn into a spaceship/jet fighter thing.

BK: While I’m thinking of it, how did Mingo Lewis end up in The Tubes? How did you guys find him?

BS: He found us. We had a gig at a place in San Francisco called Bimbo’s; a really plush nightclub built in the 1940s, I think. A beautiful place with crushed red velvet curtains, waiters in tuxedos. It held about seven, eight hundred people.

We had four nights booked there, two shows a night. We thought that was really cool; we could play eight shows in a row. But after those eight shows, they were so sold-out and popular that we added another week. And another; we ended up playing six weeks in a row: two shows a night, five nights a week. We figure we played to about 50,000 people or something. That was one of the first major things we did.

As we moved into the theatre, we added more and more crap. Each night, we’d say, “Let’s add this thing over here…” And we did little vignettes out in the audience. And people would come and sit in, too. Boz Scaggs would come, John Cipollina…all the local people. Especially for the big “White Punks on Dope” finale; we’d have this army of guitar players. Whoever was there would come up and play guitar at the end.

Mingo started showing up after a week or so, bringing in a couple conga drums. And I was like, “Um, I don’t know if there’s anything that…I don’t know if this is your kind of music.” And he said, “That’s okay; I can fit into anything!”

And I asked, “Well, who are ya?” He was age 17 or 18 at the time, y’know. “I played with Santana,” he said. And I said, “I don’t know that any kids ever played with Santana!” But there were: Neal Schon was pretty young at the time, too. But anyhow, Mingo came up, and he was terrific. The audiences loved it, and he was really great. Because beside being a monster percussionist, he was a great showman.

He didn’t want to get paid; he just wanted to play. And he really liked our music. And this went on for the whole Bimbo’s run; at the end of six weeks, we couldn’t conceive of playing without him. Prairie [Prince, drummer] really liked playing with him; Prairie really missed it when Bob left. For those five formative years before we got signed, we had had two drummers. And it was like a thundering herd of elephants. And having a second drummer freed Prairie up to do some other things on drums.

Our track-by-track discussion of The Tubes’ Now LP continues in Part Four.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

A Conversation with The Tubes’ Founder Bill Spooner, Part Two

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Continued from Part One

“Can’t you control your bitches?”

Bill Kopp: If you don’t mind, I’d like to run down the track lists of the Young and Rich and Now albums, and just get whatever comes to mind from you for each song. As much or as little as you would care to say. First track on the 1976 record: “Tubes World Tour.”

Bill Spooner: I liked it. It was obviously written about The Tubes going from place to place, but it was kinda written about my cousin, who was a poet in Paris. The lyric included some sort of French slang that means, “you’re cool” or something. The rest of it was silly stuff about going from town to town. Blowing our own horn about how great we were.

BK: Roger Steen‘s “Brighter Day.”

BS: That was a really, really old song. That song is from before The Tubes, really. First there was a band called The Red, White and Blues Band

BK: And then there was The Beans

BS: Yeah. And “Brighter Day” was a song from the early days of The Red, White and Blues Band. The Beans played it for a long time, and then it didn’t make it onto the first Tubes album, but [producer] Ken Scott liked it, and we did it.

BK: Then one of your own songs, “Pimp.”

BS: There’s a book called A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren. They made a really crappy movie out of it, but the book was awesome. It was kinda my manual for life for many years. And that what “Pimp” is about.

But the main line, “Pimp, can’t you control your bitches?” That’s a good story. We used to haul all our shit around in a big box truck, a rented truck. It was parked in front of the house of one of our roadies, who lived out by the park in San Francisco. We were going to a gig, so we went in to pick him up. This was in the early, early days.

There were these two black kids – they must have been ten or twelve – messing with the lock on the back of the truck. I yelled, “Dudes! What are you doing?!” They said, “We’re just checkin’ to make sure your lock is okay,” they said. And then, “Give us a ride! Give us a ride!”

So – being the hippies that we were, and thinking that the kids were gonna rob us – we did. And on the way, one of them says to the other, trying to be real cool, “Can’t you control your bitches?” Little kids, y’know. And I thought, “Now, that’s a good line.” From our ten-year-old, would-be robbers.

BK: “Stand Up and Shout.”

BS: That was written by a fiend of ours, Ray Trainer. He lived in Arizona, and he was a very troubled musical genius. He could play about twenty instruments. Bass, violin, clarinet, saxophone…if you gave him a half an hour, he could play it. He was kind of a sociopath: quick-tempered, fights. He shot his girlfriend! He had problems. I think he’s dead now. He was a really good songwriter, and we always liked that song.

We did part of another one of his songs. On the first album, “Up From the Deep,” there’s a part that used to be called “Where Are You, Rudy?” It was an instrumental that he wrote.

BK: “Don’t Touch Me There.”

BS: That came from Jane [Dornacker] and Ron Nagle. I don’t know if Jane was still with us when you saw us.

BK: No, not by that point.

BS: She had a comedy/dance troupe called Leila and the Snakes. This was around ’75. They were good dancers, and very funny. And we thought, “Boy, these people are perfect.” So we just hired their whole act, and incorporated it into ours. Eventually she decided she wanted to do her own thing, so she left the group. But she wrote that song. She wrote a lot of great songs. She was a really fine songwriter.

BK: One of my two favorite songs on the album, “Slipped My Disco.”

BS: That was about me and my bad back. And the big disco craze of the mid-to-late seventies. I just thought it was a funny way to riff on all of that.

BK: One of the things I like about it is that while it’s sort of about disco, you’re playing a jazz guitar riff.

BS: I like the harmonica part that Roger Steen plays on it. It’s a whiny, melancholy sound of pain.

Another interesting thing about that song…Deniece Williams, do you remember her?

BK: Sure. She had a big hit in the 80s, “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.”

BS: She sang on “Slipped My Disco.” And at that stage of her life – in her early 20s – she was super religious. She’d read her bible between takes. I guess she thought that would keep the Devil away because of the stuff she had to sing.

BK: So that’s her in the background?

BS: And on “Pimp,” singing about pimps and bitches: “I don’t feel comfortable singing this stuff.” She had an awesome voice, though. “Just sing it,” we said. “We’re not serious, y’know.” Actually, “Pimp” was pretty serious, but I didn’t want her to know that.

BK: And then my favorite song on Young and Rich, “Proud to Be an American.”

BS: There was a guy in town in San Francisco; his name was Satty, with an umlaut. That’s not his real name; his real name was some German name. But that was his “art name.” And he really liked The Tubes; he thought we reminded him of cabaret. And the concept of cabaret is “as above, so below.” So if you have something funny, something light, you have to have something dark. And to make one song as different as possible from the next. And that’s what we tried to do with that song.

BK: “Poland Whole / Madam, I’m Adam.”

BS: “Poland Whole” was another old Roger [Steen] song, and it was only about a minute long. And “Madam, I’m Adam” was a play on words about sex. We had a chorus for “Madam, I’m Adam,” but there really weren’t any verses. We messed around with it, and finally, at the last session before the bigwigs from A&M were coming to see us, and then quickly I scribbled down a bunch of crap about a Broadway musical with God as the director, Fee [Waybill] as Adam, and Re [Styles] as Eve. What’s really amazing is that the first reading that Fee did was the one that we used. He kinda stumbled on one word, – “wr-wr-wreck your career” – and he said, “I gotta fix that.” I said, “No no no no no. That’s awesome. We’re keeping that.” A last-minute thing that worked.

Usually the way I wrote songs is that I write a chorus, and then that gives me some sort of direction on what the verses are supposed to be.

BK: And then the last track on the album, the title cut, “Young and Rich.”

BS: We had this house in San Francisco on the Avenues out by the beach. It’s pretty foggy, cold and dark out there. And we rehearsed in the garage-basement thing. And there was just one light bulb hanging from a string. I thought it would be cool if we put a shade on it, but that didn’t work; we kept running into it. So out of extreme poverty and food stamps, and daydreaming about a brighter future, came that song.

Coming in Part Three: a track-by-track discussion of the songs on The Tubes’ 1977 album Now, reissued with Young and Rich by Real Gone Music.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

A Conversation with The Tubes’ Founder Bill Spooner, Part One

Monday, February 24th, 2014

“No titties in the Twin Cities.”

Customarily, I try to keep up with the interviews I do. Unfortunately, one fascinating interview has gone un-transcribed for more than a year and a half. In connection with the 2012(!) release on Real Gone Music of a pair of Tubes albums (Young and Rich from 1976, and 1977′s Now), I interviewed Bill Spooner, founding songwriter and guitarist with the band. In addition to discussing the band’s career arc in general, and the stories behind the albums, he was kind enough to share track-by-track reminiscences. Here, belatedly and with deep and sincere apologies for that delay, is that conversation. – bk


Bill Kopp: Though released only a year apart, these two albums are very different. Lyrically, Young and Rich leans a bit more in the direction of comedy and satire, with 50s pastiches, disco and so forth. To my ears it’s almost a slice-of-life, “Tubes look at America” concept album. Did you approach these albums with any sort of overarching concept, as you did on Remote Control and (to some extent) on Completion Backward Principle?

Bill Spooner: No concept. Just a collection. The only concept album, truly, was Remote Control. Everything else was just a bunch of songs, and we tried to find something that united them into an album. That used to be important; I don’t think anybody cares about that any more. Maybe Neil Young does.

BK: A friend was in the car with me while the Young and Rich CD was playing. He commented that it sounded like Frank Zappa. What sort of artists of that era do you think informed and influenced your work?

BS: In the Young and Rich era? As far as I was concerned, I was pretty much wrapped up in my own world. We used to rehearse seven hours a day, six days a week. Basically, I didn’t really have time to listen to what else was going on. I liked Stevie Wonder back then, and I liked Zappa to a certain degree; the earlier stuff, at least. But [Captain] Beefheart…I guess he was a pretty big influence.

BK: Of course! You covered one of his tracks, and he’s on one of your songs…

BS: On Now, yeah. He kinda comes under the heading of, “You never want to meet your idols.” And Zappa heads that list. But Beefheart was just crazy. I respect him as an artist, but he was a real crazy mother, I tell ya.

BK: I saw a documentary on the making of Trout Mask Replica, and they interviewed some of the guys in The Magic Band. That made him seem as if he was a sociopath.

BS: He was pretty crazy. He wasn’t like violent crazy, but you really couldn’t predict what was going to come out of his mouth. And it was very hard to work with him. Because he’d find the most absurd reasons to not do what he was supposed to be doing. I could tell you some stories, but I don’t want to get into that.

But the answer is, we were really just trying to refine our “thing.” By the time of the second album [Young and Rich], we were touring a lot. A third of the songs – or maybe forty percent – were older songs that were rejected from the first album, but [producer] Ken Scott liked ‘em. So…

That’s what you sometimes do: you let the producer pick the songs. If there’s something you feel really strong about it, you agitate for that particular song. But in general, I think Ken Scott picked most of the songs for that album.

And he was a great producer. Very even-keeled. So was Al Kooper; I liked ‘em both.

BK: Really? Because on the What Do You Want From Live album, on the song “I Was a Punk Before You Were a Punk,” the lyric goes, “the producer we got was a jerk.” I more or less assumed that was autobiographical…

BS: No, no, no. I just used that line because it rhymed with “work.” Limited rhyme schemes, y’know. Ya gotta go with what fits.

No, he wasn’t a jerk. They both had idiosyncrasies, but they were both very good producers, I think. In different ways. Al Kooper was like the musician-producer, and Ken Scott was like an engineer-producer. He could hear a squeak that nobody else could; he’d stop everything in the middle of a session: “What’s that squeaking sound?” And we wouldn’t hear any squeaking sound. Finally, we’d find that it was someone’s stool that they were sitting on, twenty feet away from a microphone. But he could hear it. He had great ears, and he was a really good engineer.

BK: I saw The Tubes three or four times in the early 80s, and then once in the mid 1980s with David Killingsworth taking Fee Waybill‘s place as lead singer…

BS: [deadpanning] That must have been a thrill.

BK: I’ve always been impressed by the playing and arranging on Tubes albums. Some people would argue that the visuals, the show, they lyrics etc. overshadowed that to some degree; I don’t think the causal listener often stopped to notice just how great the band was musically. Do you think that the band got its proper critical due musically?

BS: Well, you have a good point there. But I think that because we started with such a dramatic flair, as time went on we realized that we were always going to be in the red. We’d book tours – 150 dates of sold-out shows – and still lose money. Because of all the people we’d drag around, and all the props and extra trucks full of shit.

So finally we dumped the show, or at least pared it way down. And then it was a case of, “You can’t keep ‘em home after they’ve seen ‘Paree,’” y’know? We didn’t get the same reaction. We’re obviously the same musicians, so it was a combination of the two things that made it popular.

You’ve got to remember: it was the 70s, and we were at the cutting edge of outrageous stage behavior. Which would be nothing, today.

BK: It would be considered relatively tame now.

BS: It would be R-rated today. But back in those days, we used to bank on that, too. I remember – you’ve probably heard this story – in Minneapolis, some women’s group or some citizens’ group were protesting our show coming to town. [According to them,] we debased women, and we had actual sex onstage…that kind of crap.

So what we did was get our three girl dancers, and dress them up in old-lady costumes, grey wigs and baggy dresses, and they showed up with signs that read, “No Titties in the Twin Cities.” So we protested our own show. And that made the local news. As a result of all that, we got the mayor, the governor of Minnesota, and the whole city council…they all came to the show. Because they had to see what was so terrible. And they loved it.

BK: Of all the Tubes’ albums, which would you say is your favorite?

BS: I really like a lot of the Love Bomb album. I don’t like all of any of the albums, but I like a lot of that one. The first one had a lot of great stuff on it, great orchestral arrangements by Dominic Frontiere. I thought it was pretty impressive for a first album. But I couldn’t pick a favorite; it’s like your kids, y’know? Even if you do have a favorite, you can’t tell anyone.

BK: The liner notes for this twofer reissue completely ignore the existence of Remote Control; they suggest Now was the last studio album you did for A&M.

BS: Who wrote the liner notes?

BK: Gene Sculatti. Overall it’s good stuff. But he makes some errors.

BS: Yeah, I think I saw something like that on Wikipedia or something…

BK: Maybe that’s where he found it. Can you tell me: the unreleased “Black Album” – also known as Suffer for Sound – was that done while you were still under contract for A&M? Where does that fall in the Tubes chronology?

BS: There was supposed to be a renegotiation period…I guess it’s illegal to negotiate with a label when you’re already on one. So we had heard rumors from our manager – Rikki Faar, who’s not the most scrupulous guy in the world – that if we got off A&M, we could get a much bigger deal with Capitol. But I think the point of that project was to make a collection of demos. When we actually made an album, we spent a lot of time getting everything thought out perfectly; we didn’t spend that much time on [the “black album”]. Stuff was a little out of tune here and there…

We figured it was kinda dark, too. It was kind of a…there are a couple of songs on there I like, but the majority of them are throwaways. I’m sure the point was to get off of A&M, because we didn’t think they’d put it out. And they didn’t.

BK: Not to wander even farther into the weeds, but this question has always nagged at me. I have a bootleg of a studio version of “Show Me a Reason.” The live version on What Do You Want From Live sounds exactly the same, just with some crowd noise. And I’ve never seen a set list that included it. Is that an actual live track, and did you ever perform it live?

BS: I don’t remember ever recording that one in the studio, so it might be the other way around, that we took the recording off of the live feed. Maybe we did; I don’t remember. I mean, we recorded a lot of crap. A lot of songs didn’t make it onto albums. We did a version of “Satellite” with another producer that nobody else liked, but that I did like. A big name producer whose name escapes me at the moment. Some of those made it onto flip sides of singles.

BK: There’s some good stuff on Tubes b-sides. It’s never been released anywhere else, but I love the live version of “Sports Fans.” I think it’s better than the studio version.

BS: A little more energy, I thought. Another b-side that I liked was “Keyboard Kids.”

Coming in Part Two: a track-by-track discussion of the songs on The Tubes’ 1976 album Young and Rich, reissued with Now by Real Gone Music.

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

The Brotherhood / Phil Volk Interview, Part Seven

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Continued from Part Six

Bill Kopp: For me, from a musical standpoint, there’s a paradox where the two Brotherhood albums are concerned. Of course it goes without saying that I am a big fan of both (and the Joyride album as well), but what’s fascinating to me is that the original band labored over the first album, and cobbled the second one together with a significantly different lineup. And the second album – for me, anyway – holds up better than the first. It has aged a bit better. Do you agree, and if so, why do you think this is the case?

Phil “Fang” Volk: I think I’m a little too close to the subject to give any preference to the approach used on these two very different and diverse Brotherhood albums. Bottom line: I love them both for different reasons, and because they encompass a time period in my youth when I was very prolific musically, one song is not necessarily better than the next one. It’s just a body of work – an artistic endeavor with lots of passion and sincere motivation – even some incredible innocence for that time period.

We weren’t living in a vacuum. This music unfolded as we grew and matured. It was always a work in progress, and a reflection of our current feelings on love, romance and youthful angst, and occasionally our personal vision of a world in turmoil and what might solve it. These two albums are obviously very different. The first Brotherhood album was over-produced and way over budget, and it was hard to hear a distinctive rock-band-sound in the midst of all that audio lushness, but the songs are still good. And there’s enough soul and musical nuance to make this an enjoyable listening experience. I also feel it’s a very worthy, creative effort showing our versatility and wide musical range.

It’s obvious we were heavily influenced by the theatrical production of The BeatlesSgt. Pepper album; who wasn’t? We had the budget. Why not? In hindsight, we probably should have concentrated on being a rock band, remembering that we were the core rhythm section of one of America’s top bands at the time – the Raiders.

During our sessions at RCA, an unknown group of country-and-western-type boys showed up with their band and started recording in the studio next door to us. They even asked us, as “experts,” to come over and listen to one of their basic tracks they had just laid down. It was just a couple of guitars, bass and drums, and basically a rhythm track with no vocal, but it was in the pocket with a good simple, primitive groove – so different from the huge production stuff we were doing in our studio. Privately, Drake, Smitty and I had to grin and chuckle a bit that these boys had such an elementary approach to their music, while we were stuck in the “Beethoven syndrome.” As it turned out, these boys called themselves Creedence Clearwater Revival. And once John Fogerty put the vocal on that simple, little rhythm track – the one that made us grin – it was called “Proud Mary.” Those boys soared to the top of the charts, leaving us scratching our heads wondering where we were missing the boat.

That’s one reason why the second Brotherhood album sounds a lot more like a rock band with a more consistent power trio sound throughout: minimum production and overdubs, with the emphasis on making a solid rock and roll album. And that’s exactly what it was, with enough grit, simplicity and punch to fit in with the musical vibe of the day – and artistically, nothing to apologize for – and perhaps, the angle we should have used, commercially speaking, on the first album. Maybe then the public could’ve recognized who we were, and the marketing could focus on our rock’n'roll roots and our Raiders legacy, which was still a very valid launching platform; we still had the respect of our fans.

Unfortunately, the second Brotherhood album – although having many strong performances which definitely “kicked-ass,” – this lean and mean, streamlined production was a worthy effort, but it was simply a case of too much, too little, too late. Plus the record label didn’t get behind us to promote the band and get us on the radio, or on the road, or on TV, or simply get us in front of the public with billboards and magazine articles. It seems like RCA had already written us off as a loss, and from a business standpoint, they were exercising the law of diminishing returns, even before the album came out.

We felt the end was near during the production of this second album. Drake and I tried to hide our discouragement, but it was hard.. The music kept us sane and focused as we forged ahead with what we thought was a damn good rock’n'roll album, and although it never hit it big, it still resonates with great energy and pride of ownership. The second Brotherhood album speaks volumes about our determination to survive and not give up. Back then it just seemed like the cards were stacked against us.

This new CD release of our complete recordings is the most terrific gift I could imagine. All these songs are like my “children” who have grown up and made something of themselves. It’s great to be alive and see this day finally come.

Brotherhood: The Complete Recordings is out today, available on Real Gone Music. — bk

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

 

The Brotherhood / Phil Volk Interview, Part Six

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Continued from Part Five

Bill Kopp: We’ve spoken in the past about Brotherhood recordings that might still be “in the can.” I know that no finished cuts – that is, songs that were fully recorded and mixed down from multi-tracks – exist beyond what’s on the albums – But are there multitracks out in your garage or something? And if so, do you think that the renewal of interest in the band might lead you to do something with those in the future?

Phil “Fang” Volk: Actually, there are a few songs that somehow didn’t make the cut. They were recorded, and mixed down, but for some reason, we didn’t include them on the albums. One was called “Problem Child,” which seemed a little juvenile, or even too teeny-bop for our current music direction. Another one that I’m really sad we didn’t include was our version of “Slow Down.” It was a killer version, and our old manager Leo Makota kept insisting on us releasing it as a single, but we were reticent about that, thinking instead that our main goal was to promote our original songs. After all, that was the main premise – the main guiding force and idea behind us forming Brotherhood – to get our original material into the marketplace, which we felt was relevant for the times.

We wrote all types of ditties – fragments of songs that never got fully completed or recorded – or if they did get recorded, they never got finished. We even dabbled with a very cool song that Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil had written for the Raiders. It was a song we had previously recorded at Columbia, but producer Terry Melcher decided to scrap it and not include on the Spirit of ’67 album. It was called “Long Way to Go.” It was kind of a dark, eerie, druggy sort of love song, but it had a great musical hook – a constant, repeating guitar line – that was almost hypnotic.

There are a couple more songs that I recall had been recorded, and mixed down, but weren’t included. One was a song I wrote called “Colorful Day,” a soft little sensitive love ballad, written in waltz time, that documents my slow recovery out of the darkness of the past two years in grieving my brother’s death, as well as our painful and traumatic break with the Raiders, with all the lawsuits, and the inevitable struggles of Brotherhood to get back into the marketplace. My wife (the former Tina Mason) was the inspiration for this song, because she brought sunshine and joy back into my life at a time when I really needed it. Someday I’ll release a version of this song on my own. It’s a sweet tune. It was part of some of our experimental “bootleg” sessions where we held on to the tapes prior to doing any official recording at RCA. Friend Sound‘s Joyride [also included on the new The Complete Recordings set – ed.] was actually that – an experimental, “bootleg” session at Valentine Recording Studios. Ironically, RCA bought the master tapes and released it as an album, but none of it was done at our RCA studio. It was all done on the side and at our own expense, so it was fortunate that RCA picked it up – didn’t question our motives, methods or legal protocol – and, amazingly, we ultimately got paid for it. I have to thank RCA for sponsoring and supporting our creative adventures, and giving us the freedom to experiment with our music.

I have several tracks from these “bootleg” sessions. Often we would try out a song, but later change or modify it at RCA. So, I have a few rare gems of alternate versions of songs that later appeared on one of our Brotherhood albums. I have a very cool alternate version of “Family Tree,” that I like every bit as much as the album cut.

Decades later, I went to San Francisco and stayed at Drake’s house for several days. He had built a beautiful recording studio in his basement. We recorded three songs. We mixed them down, and when were were finished, I think we both got a little sentimental thinking about our amazing journey we had made together in this crazy music world. Probably, one of the main reasons we both got a little choked up is that two of the songs were from our Brotherhood catalogue: a new and jazzy version of “Forever” with my voice as the lead singer this time, and a quirky, rock beat version of “Box Guitar.” Drake had mixed feelings about these two new versions, but we had some fun with them, and I think they were decent, especially “Forever.” My oldest son Christian thought it was a very fanciful, hooky, creative interpretation of the song. But the song that won Drake’s stamp of approval was one of my originals called “Blue Revolution.” This bluesy, protest rocker is cut from the same cloth as many of our message oriented Brotherhood songs, like “Doin’ the Right Thing,” except it was more funky and snarly, on the order of the Rolling Stones. I wrote it after the Brotherhood days, but it would have been perfect for us. Drake played some exceptional blues guitar riffs on “Blue Revolution.” That was probably the last time I really heard him play so great – with so much soul – before his cancer took him down.

Bill Kopp: Some 45 years have passed between the release of the last of these albums and now. I’d like to know some of your thoughts upon hearing the masters again for probably the first time in a while.

Phil “Fang” Volk: It’s funny you should ask that question. Because I would expect a question like that, but the fact of the matter is, hearing these songs on CD, remastered, and rehearsing with my current band Fang & the Gang to learn a few of these tunes has been nothing short of a very poignant, emotional roller coaster for me, from the word “go.”

It’s easy for the emotions to be stirred up when I listen to each song, and remember each recording session. The vibe of those turbulent, creative, prolific years is still resonating with me, as if it were yesterday, but at the same time it feels like another lifetime, far, far away, and long, long ago! It’s especially a sentimental journey due to the fact that my fallen brothers, Drake and Smitty, are no longer here to enjoy this unexpected revival.

What’s so amazing is that when my band started rehearsing these tunes I thought it would be a cake-walk, but as it turns out, it’s been terribly challenging to re-create all that passion, nuance and creative range that’s so indelibly stamped into each one of these songs. I’ve gained a new appreciation for our musical prowess, and our unfading dedication to precision, soulfulness and groove. These songs have really held up over the years, and it makes me proud that we put so much heart and soul into producing this music. It really shows that we had “burned our ships, and there was no turning back.” We really believed in our musical mission. That fearless dedication to our musical vision really shines through in these albums. The fact of the matter is: the music lives on as a testimony of three guys who loved each other and wanted to leave a distinct footprint in the musical landscape. despite some very difficult odds. But at the end of the day, the music and the story have a life of their own.

My children and grandchildren think that this music is pretty cool, and that’s good enough for me!

Click to continue

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.

The Brotherhood / Phil Volk Interview, Part Five

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Continued from Part Four

Bill Kopp: I understand you remained close to Drake Levin in the post-Brotherhood years. I believe you mentioned that the two of you even played music together on an informal basis in the years before his passing. Can you tell me about that?

Phil “Fang” Volk: Drake and I stayed in touch throughout his life, and of course, right up to the very end, which was the hardest for both of us. He knew his days were numbered and so did I. He lost his battle with cancer on July 4th, 2009. That’s just like Drake: going out with a bang! I’m sure he planned it that way, and held out until July 4th rolled around, so that his passing would have some sort of cryptic symbolism and impact. That was his kind of sense of humor: a little mystery, mixed with some tongue-in-cheek irony, and a dry sense of humorous morbidity. July 4th is a date that has impact.

Drake hated things that were mundane. He always looked for the package that had the best impact. Drake would always think big. That was his way. That’s why the failure of Brotherhood hurt him so deeply, because his dreams for our success were so big. He really believed in Brotherhood. It was almost an obsession. Perhaps that’s why we locked horns so often, because his vision of the band was so deeply personal that it was often very difficult to re-route his thinking, and get on board with some of our ideas.

At times, he was just stubborn, but at other times, it felt to him like we were messing with his dreams, and he would dig his heels in pretty deep, and wouldn’t budge. That’s when Smitty would usually enter with the voice of reason, and help move things in an amicable direction. Drake and I were both very opinionated and strong-willed. Thank God, Smitty was a peacemaker and a cool head in the midst of heated moments.

Anyway, getting back on track, whenever I would visit Drake up in San Francisco, he was usually doing a gig with his blues band. He always had me sit in and do a few songs. Drake always admired my ability to jump on stage and turn the room around, and make the crowd sit up and pay attention. He was always very complimentary about my showmanship and the way I could connect with an audience, and make them have fun and get involved with the show… We were a good team.

Speaking of gigs, in 1997, four core Raiders from the mid 1960s – Mark Lindsay, Drake, Smitty and Fang – performed together at a 30 year Raiders Reunion Concert in Portland, Oregon. There were 10,000 people in the audience! For all intents and purposes, it was a very successful gig, and it let us know that we still had drawing power as a concert attraction.

Initially we thought we could do a few more gigs using this four ex-Raider format, but it wasn’t to be. So instead we decided to pursue a Brotherhood-type revival, simply called “Fang, Drake & Smitty,” with the emphasis being focused on our Raider legacy. We got one major gig in 1998 in Oakland, CA, at a big music event called The Zucchini Festival. It was a big success. We performed in front of about 7500 people.

Shortly after that, Smitty moved to Hawaii, which made it logistically difficult to rehearse and do gigs with Smitty involved. So, Drake and I hooked up with some other musician friends, namely a couple of guys from the The Grassroots, one guy from The Buckinghams, and fellow ex-Raider Keith Allison. So with three Raiders on stage, along with the other guys, the sound and presentation was very solid and rockin’ real good. We called this band The American Rock All-stars.

Despite extensive rehearsals to cover all the hits from all three groups, we were having trouble getting booked. I was doing most of the lead singing, but Keith picked up a few tunes, and Marty Grebb from The Buckinghams sang all their hit songs. It was a very strong band, and I was really proud of what we had put together, but we only did one gig. You guessed it – The Zucchini Festival in Oakland, California in 1999.

It was a shame that this group didn’t get more gigs, because there was a lot of talent on stage and we all liked each other and had fun together. The chemistry was great. Rob Grill of the original Grassroots sued our guys from the Grassroots for using the name, and lawyers had sent us a cease-and-desist notice warning against our using any “Original Raiders” references in our advertising. With no gigs, and the threat of lawsuits looming in the air, the band folded. Another heartache.

In the meantime, I had formed my own group during this time period, a group called Fang & the Gang. We started doing shows in 1997 and over the years have picked up gigs here and there, even doing the Zucchini Festival twice!

While in the Bay Area during some of these engagements, I would pay Drake a visit and stay at his house where he had built a recording studio. We did some sessions together, and came up with some pretty good stuff that has never been released. His health was up and down at this point in time, so our musical activities together were somewhat limited due to his health.

Fang & the Gang has kept me busy from 1997 to the present time, with recording, and doing gigs on the road, as well as several gigs right here in Las Vegas where I live. I think the last time I performed live with Drake was up in San Francisco at a club at Fisherman’s Wharf where he was working with his blues band. That was somewhere between 2005 and 2007; the date is foggy. As always, he had me come up on stage and sing a couple of songs. It was always great to feel his fantastic guitar rhythm – his groove – his “pocket.” He was solid. When it came to rhythm, he was as solid as a rock! He really knew how to lay it down, like no other… That was the best part of his guitar playing… his impeccable sense of rhythm. “The Kid” could rock!

Click to continue

Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.