Review: Mudcrutch, Denver, Co; Ogden Theater 25May16

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*Mudcrutch takes a bow in front of your intrepid blogger (apologies to Tom Leadon on the right who I drunkenly cut off)

It was about a month ago I got the text…. it was from one of my dearest friends, Stormin’… it went: “My prayer has been answered. Mudcrutch May 26, Ogden Theater. Unfortunately my pre-sales code only allows for two tickets. Thoughts?” “Thoughts” indeed….the hook was baited but would I be able to take it? My first thought, as it always is when Stormin’ invites me off to an adventure was “How am I going to work this?…” The Rock Chick, strangely, is not a fan of Mudcrutch but is a fan of Tom Petty. It’s a little like saying you like Superman, but you’re not crazy about that Clark Kent guy. There were options… I could go alone but I quickly realized this was Memorial Day Weekend and that wouldn’t fly. I could buy the Rock Chick a ticket but that option was facing some stiff resistance. Or, and this is what we compromised on, I’d go alone with Stormin’ and the Rock Chick would get to go to Vail the next day… It was a dicey gamble, the Rock Chick likes to shop, but I can now say with clear hindsight, it was a good bargain all around.

In the old days, when Stormin’ and I went off into the night time, in search of rock and roll and other recreations, there was a good chance one or both of us would end up in shackles. There have been “episodes” in the past that decorum prohibits me from discussing in this rather public format. Things are quieter now that we’re both married dudes… I was on vacation all week anticipating this concert. The last time Mudcrutch toured they only played dates in LA and SF or maybe just LA… this was their first real trek across the States. I got to Denver Wednesday night to discover Stormin’ had his vegetable crisper full of beer and, of all things, “Sad Wings of Destiny” by Judas Priest on the stereo. Oh, yes, this was working out perfectly.

The only other time I was in the Ogden Theater in Denver was when I was there for the Cult’s “Electric” Tour where they performed, not surprisingly from the name, the entire “Electric” album. That was a banner evening. The Ogden seats, and I’m guessing here, maybe 1500 to 1600 people. I was assuming being able to see Petty and a few of the Heartbreakers in Mudcrutch in this small room was going to be something special. For once, I was right… It was an amazing night. Since we had the VIP package, we got in earlier than the rest of the GA crowd and ended up right at the stage, two people back from the barricade. There’s an intimacy in a small theater that I experienced first hand. When Petty came out, with his bass guitar slung low, he’d look slightly to his left, right into my eyes. As he sang, there were a few times I had to look away, it was like he was looking right into my soul. That’s how close I was. So naturally, this was not a normal show for me.

First and foremost I must call out Mike Campbell. He is one of the greatest guitarists I’ve ever seen. Whether in the Heartbreakers or Mudcrutch, he’s (as my friend Stormin’ said) “the glue.” Whether it was mandolin or guitar, the guy just shredded. To see his dexterity up close was something I will not soon forget. Benmont Tench, the other Heartbreaker in Mudcrutch, on keyboards was equally amazing. His boogie-woogie piano was all over the music. Each member sang at least 1 song and I must give a shout out to rhythm guitarist Tom Leadon (Bernie from the Eagles brother) for the amazing lead, harmony and backing vocals he contributed. He and Petty’s banter caused most of the laughter during the show. Randall Marsh on drums was a big hitter – not a lot of swing – but he was very capable and his vocal turn on “Beautiful World” was spot on. Petty played a nice bass guitar. He seemed almost nervous to be away from his natural instrument, the guitar. His hands were even shaking a bit as they came on stage. His vocals were amazing as usual. “I Forgave It All,” a haunting ballad and “Hungry No More” were vocal performances that I will never forget. Simply beautiful.

The show opened with a tune off the first Mudcrutch album, “Shady Grove” which spotlights both Leadon and Petty’s vocals. They followed up with three more tunes from the first record until they got to the first single from “2,” “Trailer.” They played almost all of “2” with the exception of “Beautiful Blue” which I’d liked to have heard and a good portion of “Mudcrutch.” The encore was a Jerry Lee Lewis cover, once again spotlighting the amazing piano of Ben Tench. Anyone expecting to hear something from the Heartbreaker’s repertoire will be disappointed… I was not.

Highlights for me include the Byrds cover from the first album, “Six Days On the Road,” which is just a great, galloping road tune. “Beautiful World,” “Dreams of Flying,” and “Crystal River” were all great performances. The latter tune being the longest jam they played all night. The interplay between band members was a lot of fun. Campbell would walk over to Leadon to trade licks, or all the guitarist would end a song standing near the piano watching Tench bang out a solo. The song “Hope” from “2” which on the record is an organ driven Animals’ style rocker, turned into a muscular guitar showcase for Campbell.

“Bootleg Flyer” was the last song in the main set and it was a scorcher. It was the perfect way to wrap up the two hour set. The band quickly returned for the encore, the aforementioned Jerry Lee Lewis’ cover, “High School Confidential.” The crowd was frenzied at that point. I could barely hear over the screams as Petty and the rest of the band took their final bow, right in front of me, as pictured above.

My legs were sore, but I had a huge smile on my face as a hobbled out of the Ogden. I once again grabbed my buddy Stormin’s shoulder and yelled, “Fuck, wow!” It was all I could muster. Storm and I staggered down to a deserted bar and had a few celebratory beers and finally managed to convince the bartender to call us a cab.

Where ever you happen to live… if Mudcrutch is in your town, call the ticket broker, this is a must see show.

Cheers!

Review Redux: Mudcrutch “2” (Full Album) A Very Strong, Tighter Return

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First and foremost, I must apologize to any of you who read my original review of the full album “2” by Mudcrutch. I wasn’t happy with my original title, which included the words, “A Band Having Fun.” I felt like that title was misleading and made the album sound more upbeat than it is. I do think, in terms of fun, Petty is  having a great time playing bass, playing with different musicians and having the entire band contribute songwriting, but that doesn’t mean all the music is happy. So, I went in and tried to edit the title. Being the Luddite that I am, I didn’t realize that changing the title would delete all the actual text under the title in the body of the post. Technical SNAFU’s seem to be my specialty. I will attempt, in this Redux Review, to recreate what I wrote earlier from my notes. Again, I am sorry for my technical stupidity.

If anything, these few extra days have only made my esteem for this record grow… leaps and bounds, in fact.

I’ve always been a huge Tom Petty fan… I can still remember buying “Damn the Torpedoes,” my first Petty album, on vinyl at the record store in the mall. That album was a certified masterpiece. I’ve always felt Petty’s career had a bit of an ebb and flow to it until “Fool Moon Fever” came out. Petty’s popularity exploded. I can still remember driving to the office when I was exiled to Arkansas and hearing “I Won’t Back Down” on the radio and thinking, “this is my new theme song…” It didn’t work, I ended up backing down, I quit. It was the best thing for me at the time. As Keith Richards once sang, it was time for me to “walk before they made me run…” but those records are also sealed.

After “Full Moon Fever” Petty seemed to have had the Midas Touch. Everything the guy did, with or without the Heartbreakers, turned to gold. That purple patch lasted him from “Full Moon Fever” through the whole Wilbury’s thing up to “Wildflowers.” Even the departure of founding drummer Stan Lynch during this time period seemed to make the Heartbreakers even stronger, which many times is not the case with a band member’s departure. Then came the superb and highly under-appreciated “Echo” album. For reasons unclear, the album didn’t reach the heights of Petty’s then recent successes. I will say, “Echo” had a bit of a melancholy fog hanging over it likely caused by Petty’s recent divorce. Petty did not react well to the lukewarm reception of “Echo” and recorded what seemed like a very angry follow-up, “The Last DJ.”

But after “The Last DJ,” the strangest thing happened. It’s as if Petty decided, “fuck it,” and started making music that made him happy and music that the Heartbreakers clearly enjoyed playing. He has a trio of great, late-career. kick-ass albums – “Highway Companion,” “Mojo,” and “Hypnotic Eye.” These are the types of albums that inspired me to start writing BourbonAndVinyl in the first place. All three are on the highly recommended list.

During this late period surge, in 2007, Petty agreed to doing a documentary on his and the Heartbreaker’s history, “Running Down a Dream,” and I must say it’s a must see for Petty fans. In the documentary, they dedicate a section to Mudcrutch, Petty’s first band out of Florida. Randy Marsh (drums) and Tom Leadon (guitar/vocal) were in the band with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Petty on bass guitar. Later, after Leadon left, Benmont Tench (keyboards) joined. The band recorded a few singles that were completely ignored before disbanding. Petty switched to guitar, kept Campbell and Tench, formed the Heartbreakers and the rest, as they say, is history. But something in the documentary must have inspired the whole “what might have been” thought process…usually that leads to calling an ex-girlfriend, but in this case, Petty pulled together Mudcrutch in 2008 and recorded the album “Mudcrutch.” It was a loose-limbed, “jammy” affair, but I really liked that record.

I had always assumed “Mudcrutch” was a one-off affair, but then late last year the rumors began that Petty was reassembling Mudcrutch to record another record. This past weekend saw the release of “2,” the band’s second record. Clearly with album names “Mudcrutch” and “2” it’s clear that Petty and the lads don’t put a lot of time or thought into their album titles. Having had some recent “title problems” of my own, I get it. Damn technology. The record starts off with an old outtake from Petty’s “Playback” box-set, “Trailer.” “Trailer” is one of those wistful, looking back tunes about a relationship that failed. At first, I was surprised he dug out that old tune for this album, but the sentiments in the tune sort of sum up the whole Mudcrutch enterprise. It’s a great version of the song.

Petty required everybody in the band to write a song. My favorite band contribution is “Beautiful World” by Randy Marsh. I think he sings it. I do wish, as I stated when the single came out, that Petty had sung it, but it’s still a kick ass rock song. It and “Dream of Flying” (which Petty sings) are the closest you’ll get to a Heartbreaker-y sound here. “Dream of Flying” is superb. I do think Petty is enjoying this different group of collaborators but that doesn’t mean the songs are all as upbeat as “Beautiful World”.

The centerpiece of the record for me remains “Hungry No More.” It’s a defiant song about resilience that makes Scarlett O’Hara’s vow to never be hungry again seem tame in comparison. Mike Campbell’s guitar is all over “Hungry No More” and his performance here is why he’s one of the greatest to ever strap on a guitar. “I Forgive It All” is a beautiful, spare ballad in the manner of “Highway Companion”s song “Square One.” It and “Beautiful Blue” are the best love songs here. “Beautiful Blue” simply shimmers. “Victim Of Circumstance”is Campbell’s writing effort here and it’s another exceptional tune.

The only tunes that left me cold are Leadon’s “The Other Side of the Mountain” mostly because there’s a banjo (not to sound like the Rock Chick, but I am “banjo-interolerant) and Ben Tench’s “Welcome to Hell.” I love Tench’s boogie woogie piano on the song, but the lyrics are like a joke that just misfires. But these are minor complaints, neither song is terrible. Mudcrutch’s first album, as I mentioned, was such a loose jam, it’s nice to hear these guys so focused. The songs are finely crafted, much tighter than the first record and well played.

“2” is a highly recommended purchase from BourbonAndVinyl. Play it loud and often… and the best part of this album is that for the first time Mudcrutch is playing concerts outside the state of California… which means I’ll be heading to Denver for Memorial Day Weekend with one of my best friends Stormin’ and Mudcrutch. If you get a chance to see these guys, run to the concert, don’t walk. I’ll post an update after I’ve seen the show!!

Again, my apologies for accidentally deleting the original review of this superb record and as always, Cheers!

 

Review: Mudcrutch “2” – Three Songs Released So Far

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I got a text a few weeks back from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Stormin. Storm and I roomed together with GP and some other dudes back in college but those records are sealed until twenty-five years after my death. Storm’s text was in reference to Tom Petty’s side project, Mudcrutch and their upcoming concert in Denver. “My wildest dreams have come true and Mudcrutch is finally coming to Denver. I’ve purchased 2 VIP tickets…” Now this was interesting… The next thing I knew I was booking a trip to Denver to see Mudcrutch.

Storm and I saw Petty together on the “Full Moon Fever” Tour. We weren’t going to go to the concert, but a few of our friends were attending so we went down to the old Kemper Arena and stopped in Sutera’s Tavern for a few quick brews. We made the cursory walk over to check on scalped tickets and a guy approached and asked if we thought twenty dollars was a fair price for the two tickets he had… they were 10th row, center on the floor. Other than seeing Van Halen on the “Fair Warning” tour it was one of the best concerts of my illustrious concert career. Best 2o bucks I ever spent.

To describe Mudcrutch as a “side-project” is probably a misnomer on my part. Mudcrutch was Petty’s first band. They had all moved together from Florida to LA and actually recorded a few singles. Those songs never really broke and I didn’t even hear them until Petty released his monumental box set “Playback” in the 90’s. Mudcrutch’s line up changed a bit but it consisted of Randy Marsh on drums, Tom Leadon (whose brother Bernie was a founding member of the Eagles) on guitar/vocals, Petty on bass guitar/vocals and Mike Campbell on lead guitar. Later after Leadon left Benmont Tench joined on keyboards. After Mudcrutch broke up, Petty moved to rhythm guitar, Stan Lynch took over drums and Ron Blair took over bass, they dubbed themselves Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the rest, as they say, was history.

In the excellent 2007 documentary “Running Down a Dream” chronicling the Heartbreaker’s history, they touched on Mudcrutch. I don’t know if it was revisiting his  history, or this was something that Petty had been considering for a long time, but merely one year later in 2008, Petty regrouped the Mudcrutch lineup and put out the great record “Mudcrutch.” It was written and recorded in like, 10 days. To support the album Mudcrutch did a two week, 10-concert residency in some LA theater. I think they might have done a few nights in San Francisco, but my mind gets foggier with time. I really loved the “Mudcrutch” record but I figured that was going to be the end of the story for these guys. It was like going to see an ex-girlfriend, Petty was curious, checked it out and realized he was better off where he was… so to speak… not that I’ve ever done that, I’m just saying’… it happens.

Now, eight years later, Mudcrutch is set to return. The second album is creatively titled “2.” Naturally I’v done the pre-buy and they’ve released three very strong tunes so far. The first track “Trailer” was actually originally released on the box set “Playback.” I think it was recorded around the “Southern Accents” timeframe. The “Southern Accents” album was supposedly Petty revisiting his roots, and telling the he and the Heartbreaker’s story. It got a little weird when he brought in Dave Edwards from the Eurythmics to produce it but such is life. “Trailer” got left in the can, as they say. Like returning to Mudcrutch “Trailer” is a wistful look back at a relationship long gone. It’s a great song, but like I mentioned in the Peter Wolf review a few weeks ago, when a band redoes a song already released, it feels a little like cheating to me. Unless of course the song is significantly different like Sting’s solo version of “Shadows In the Rain” which is a radical reinvention of that song vs the Police version. So I liked “Trailer” but I’d already heard a very similar version on “Playback.”

The second song, “Beautiful World” is a great, upbeat and hopeful tune. It’s got a nice little riff and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to hear live. It was written by Randy Marsh, the drummer and I don’t know if it’s him or Tom Leadon who sings it but it’s not Petty singing. Petty wanted a more “group” feel for this album so each member was asked to write one song. Marsh’s “Beautiful World” is a superb tune so we can only hope the other contributions from band members are as strong. I do sort of wish Petty had sung this one though. Still, it’s a great rock song.

Finally, the third song was released last week, “Hungry No More,” and it is awesome. It is certainly the pick of the litter so far. It clocks in at over six minutes and it allows Mudcrutch to stretch out quite a bit. It’s a mid tempo tune but has some blistering lead guitar work from Mike Campbell. Whatever he’s doing to his guitar is probably illegal in a number of states, but it sounds fantastic. The song has an impassioned vocal from Petty. It’s a down on your luck story but it’s sung with a beautiful, defiant vocal. “You can’t live on nothin’ at all, and I ain’t gonna be hungry no more…” Wow. With the economy like it is, it’s hard not to feel that this song was ripped from the headlines… but as usual, I digress.

I have to say, so far, so good on “2.” Petty has been on a hot streak since his solo album “Highway Companion.” Everything the guy touches lately is gold. There’s an exploration in his music – blues, country, jam-band – that is adventurous and always interesting. I am really looking forward to hearing the rest of this album… and actually seeing these guys destroy it live in Denver with my buddy Storm!

Until then, I’ll keep you posted as I hear more Mudcrutch. Check it out!

Cheers!

Summer Drinking: The Food Center Liquor Store, Brookline, MA

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“Time is a jet plane it moves so fast” – Bob Dylan, “You’re A Big Girl Now”

I was texting with my drummer friend yesterday. He’d read my review of the RHCP’s new song, “Dark Necessities” and had reached out. Like me, he’s a huge fan of bands with strong rhythm sections like the Who, Rush, Rock Garden and of course, the RHCPs. Give me that bottom. He was complaining about the overly-produced sound of the drums. I have to admit that Danger Mouse put so much polish on the record I can almost see my reflection in it, but I still love the song. It’s in high rotation here at the house. He then mentioned his band had a gig that night, and said, “It’s almost like summer, man!”

Ah, summer. It always makes me think of Boston and the Food Center Liquor Store, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s nothing better than summer drinking. And while I have to consume some bourbon today (I’m working on a “deconstructed” mint julep, straight bourbon from the bottle with a peppermint in my mouth) for the Kentucky Derby, the world’s greatest sporting event, when summer comes it’ll be time to put away the dark liquors and heavy beers. Time to dust off the vodka lemonades and the Blue Moon. I would suggest buying stock in Ketel One immediately, they’re about to have a sales surge. When summer comes to the Midwest the entire region opens like a flower.

This time of year always takes me back. It’s not only summer’s arrival, but the fact that it’s graduation season takes me back to my own college graduation.  At the time, I took all the money I’d been gifted for graduating and bought a ticket to fly to Boston to join my buddies Matthew and GP who were both living out there. Matthew was in Law School and GP was peddling soft drinks. I had somehow convinced GP to move out there with me…I’m not sure he’s forgiven me yet. My corporate overlords didn’t need me until September, so I thought, “What the Hell, why not?” Once I arrived in Boston and got myself ensconced at the apartment the three of us shared on Commonwealth Avenue, I immediately spent the rest of my Graduation Money at the used record store two blocks up from us, “In Your Ear.” I found all the Faces records on vinyl I’d been searching for in that used record store and I can close my eyes and still see myself standing there, mouth agape at my “huge” discovery. Unfortunately spending all my money on used albums wasn’t going to sustain me for the summer in super-expensive Boston.

Matthew and I went to the local grocery store on the outskirts of Brookline, the birthplace of JFK, and after watching Matthew fail while hitting on the beautiful, Hispanic store clerk, I noticed a “Help Wanted” sign on the window of the liquor store adjacent. My reduced circumstances made me bold and I strolled in and inquired after the opening. I was told the job was in the “other store,” two miles away, in the main village square of Brookline.

The next day, I set off on my adventure to find the Brookline Food Center Liquor Store. I walked for what seemed like forever until I finally spotted it, situated on a main street, next to a police station which I regarded with suspicion at the time. I strolled in and a man with sunglasses on (while inside) and a 70’s porno-star mustache was behind the register. I introduced myself and asked about the job. Being from Kansas, I had always thought I had no accent at all. Apparently to this hardened, Boston liquor store owner I sounded like I’d just wandered in off the plantation in Mississippi. He probably couldn’t delineate between Mississippi or Missouri as I was to find out later… He smiled at me and immediately started on my accent… “You ain’t from around here are you (it sounded like “ah yoo”)? You from down South somewhere?” I told him I was from Kansas and that was suddenly my name, “Kansas.” I asked again for the job and he replied “Uh, Ok Kansas, you uh, wanted for anything criminal? I got cop friends, I’ll know so don’t fucking lie to me.”His Boston accent was so thick I struggled to understand him. It took a while to adjust (he kept saying Food Center as Food Centah). It was an odd interview question. I replied that I had no record and I wasn’t wanted for anything criminal… well, nothing that would stick. “Ok Kansas, welcome to the Food Centah, you start (staht) tomorrow, be here at 3pm.” I had a job!

The next day, and really for the rest of the summer, it was my job to show up at the liquor store and a) stock the beer fridge and b) take the Massachusettes 5 cent beer can returns. The man with the mustache who was named Doug but referred to himself as “Uncle Chico” explained it to me my first day. He took me out of the cooler to the front of the beer display. We stood a few feet back and he said, “Kansas, look at that, do you see any gaps in the beer coolah?” There were none. “Thats how I wanna see my coolah from now on, no gaps.” I was literally responsible for walking into the cooler and pushing six packs forward so people could easily reach them. Every now and again, I’d get busy with beer can returns and I’d hear, in that thick Boston accent, “Kansas, Kansas?” and I’d run out to the store floor from the back cubby hole where we took returns and he would always say, when he was upset about the beer cooler, “Do you love Uncle Chico? Do you love Uncle Chico?” There was only one reply, I’d mumble “Yes, I love Uncle Chico…” “Then, uh, Kansas, will you do the fucking beer coolah, I see gaps.”

There were a group of guys that I worked with, salt of the earth guys, Kenny, Wardy, and Matt. The guy who was the night manager was named Murph. One was an artist, one was going to be a cop and one of the others was always looking for a construction job. People always speak of folks from the East being cold or stand-offish but those guys embraced me almost immediately. I have to admit they asked me if I grew up on a farm, I was from Kansas after all. I had to explain I didn’t grow up with a cow in my yard. I used to tell them the only thing different between Kansas and Boston was that in Kansas everything was in black and white and here in Boston everything was in color. They liked the Wizard of Oz comedy…

These guys went out drinking every night. The liquor store closed at 11pm and everyone on the shift was allowed to drink one beer of their choice. It was where I really developed a taste for good beer – not this American piss that passes for beer here – but good, exotic beers from far away places. That one beer after shift usually led us to the bar across the street. After the first couple of nights drinking with these guys, on a Tuesday night, I demurred when Matt asked me where we were gonna get beers later. He looked stunned when I said I was just gonna walk home. “Kansas, what the fuck are (ah) you talking about? It’s summah (summer)… you drink… you know, with your friends.” It was wisdom I carry with me to today. It’s what I always think of when I think of summer drinking. I was embarrassed I’d been so stupid and said “no” and at the same time I was honored that these guys had already accepted me as a friend. Although, I must confess they continued to ask me if Kansas was in the South… apparently I had an accent I was unaware of and they don’t teach geography in the Boston schools.

Now, here I am, all these years later and I’m on the cusp of summer. Another summer has snuck up on me. I’m not sure where all the time went… It slips away, people. Dylan was right, “time is a jet plane.” I’m happy, with a great family and my job now doesn’t entail pushing six-packs forward to the sound of “do you love Uncle Chico?” Although I have to admit, pushing six-packs forward was a lot more fun and it didn’t keep me up at night…

I always try to remember the wisdom of the Food Centah…. And, I hope you all will remember this wisdom folks – “It’s summah (summer), you drink beer, you know, with your friends.”

Cheers!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from B&V

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There are holidays sprinkled throughout the year on the calendar. Some were created by Hallmark Cards, i.e. Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and the grandmother of them all, Valentine’s Day. There are government mandated holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day and Arbor Day. Yes, Arbor Day, trees need some love, people. There’s even one holiday I actually like – Thanksgiving –  all I have to do is show up, drink and eat and watch football while napping after dinner, it’s almost perfect. Of course, there are religious holiday’s like Easter, Christmas, and Hanukkah just to name a few. For me, there is only one religious holiday I still observe and that is St. Patrick’s Day. Is there any other holiday that could better represent the ethos of BourbonAndVinyl than St. Patrick’s Day? I think not. St. Patrick’s Day is the BourbonAndVinyl “High Holy Day”.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me. Italian, Austrian, Belgian, English, and who knows what else. I could be part collie, although I’m much taller than the average collie and not nearly as hairy. I’m the classic American mutt. But I love St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone is in green, everyone is drinking and everyone is just a little bit more friendly.

Perhaps it’s the timing of St. Patrick’s Day, in the spring, just after the Ides of March that I love so much. The weather is often sketchy but for the most part spring has begun to sprung and that rebel spirit of my youth is reawakened. My home town has purportedly the third biggest parade or the third biggest “celebration” (depending how you define that) in the U.S. There’s something cool about being the “third” best or biggest. Neil Young and Crazy Horse toured in the late 80’s billing themselves as the “Third Best Garage Band In the World”. They claimed that being first brings a lot of pressure: to remain on top, to remain #1. To be Second Best brings a lot of pressure to overtake the First Place guy. If you’re Third, you’re just cool and you know it. I can live with that title for my hometown.

In the old days, we’d go downtown to Westport and have breakfast at Kelly’s, the city’s oldest bar. From there we’d hit the parade, full of floats, some from old, historic Irish clans, others from local charitable groups and quite a few marching bands. As soon as that was over it was back to Westport. All the streets are blocked off, the cops form a perimeter, and drinking in the streets, where God intended it to be done, is legal for a day. We’d rage until the sun went down and beyond, eating from food trucks and staggering about women with “Fuck Me I’m Irish” buttons on. Ah, the wearing of the green. It’s a spring tradition in my town. Alas, now I work all day and if I’m lucky slip out to a local Irish pub for  one or two and then back home before dinner. But I always try to make it out however briefly to commemorate The Day.

In my early professional days, I’d always meet my buddy, the General, no matter what was happening and we’d head to Westport for St Patrick’s Day. We would occasionally slip down there early, but as the years wore on, we’d get down to the celebration later and later. We made a tradition of saying, “To hell with work and responsibilities, on this one day, we ride!!” The years seemed to strip away and we were college kids on spring break for eight or nine hours. Alas, my pal the General has disappeared into the fog of work and parenthood. I don’t get to see the General much these days. I keep telling him he’s in a tunnel and he will come out, but I digress. And my own situation has changed considerably. The Rock Chick loves St Patrick’s Day too, but I always feel overly protective of her while were out on St Patty’s. Work responsibilities have often shackled me to the desk just the same as it does the General.

Early in my career, I was interviewing internally for a job. The guy I was interviewing with decided to fly in on St Patrick’s Day. We were to meet at 10 am. Because the parade ran past our office he wasn’t able to even get through the parade traffic to the office until noon, my scheduled departure time. I can still remember sitting in a corner office, in what was an intense interview, while constantly glancing over the executive’s shoulder to the parade and my drunken friends who were waving at me below. “Why yes, I can be very responsible in a management position sir, uh, how long is this gonna take, I have a drunken, green train to catch?” He was a religious man so I had to tread lightly.

A few years ago, I drunkenly got on stage at an Irish pub up North and told my favorite St Patrick’s Day joke…which goes something like this… A proud Irishman in a kilt was walking home to his farmhouse after a wedding in town. He was terribly drunk and laid down by a tree and passed out. Around dawn a pair of milkmaids were walking by and spied our intrepid Irishman asleep. Shyly they approached the Irishman, and curious, peeked to see what was under his kilt. One of the milkmaids pulled the blue ribbon from her hair and tied it around his…manhood. They giggled together as they walked away. About an hour later the Irishman woke and feeling something was amiss “below”, pulled up the kilt. Spying the blue ribbon, he said, “I don’t know where you been lad, but I see you won first prize.” I think that sums it up.

While I’m not crazy about all Irish music I shall spend tonight listening to Van Morrison and U2, loudly! My day tomorrow won’t be complete if I can’t open my windows and hear a bagpipe or two off in the distance. Who doesn’t love bagpipe music?

I want to wish everybody out there in Ireland, the Irish diaspora and those of us who are merely Irish in spirit for a day – Happy St Patrick’s Day from BourbonAndVinyl!! Enjoy it people. Get out there and enjoy the spring weather (if it cooperates). Raise a Jameson or two! Put on something bright and obnoxiously green. Skip work and do something naughty! Head down to the tavern and “talk a little treason” as they say in my favorite John Wayne movie, ‘A Quiet Man’. Me, I’ve got work and responsibilities, so you all have to carry the torch for me… although I must admit I received a text from my old pal the General, my first in a while, asking what I was doing for the holiday… Hmmm, that rebel spirit just may be calling me. St Patrick’s Day, like Hope “springs eternal”…

Cheers! Slainte and Erin Go Bragh!

BourbonAndVinyl’s List of Overlooked Bands Whose Members Went On To Stardom

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“Got a call from an old friend, we used to be real close…” – “My Life”, Billy Joel

Well, it wasn’t actually a call, but I got an email from a high school friend of mine recently. I don’t think I’d seen or been in contact with the guy since they laid the diploma on me, many years ago. High school was something I wanted squarely in my rear view mirror. But I always liked BG and was delighted to revisit our friendship, virtually speaking. As part of our conversation, inspired by B&V he mentioned he was a fan of the 60’s English blues-rock band Free. Other than “All Right Now” I didn’t know much of their music. I did know two of the members of Free, lead vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke went on to form Bad Company. I have since picked up a couple of Free’s albums and I must admit, I’m damned impressed, but that’s another post in the making.

As I thought about Free vs Bad Company, I started thinking about some of those great bands, like Free, that were to some degree overlooked. Sure, everybody hears about the “Supergroup” when it forms – Cream was considered a super group at the time it formed, or Manassas when Steven Stills formed them. The Traveling Wilbury’s may have been the super-est of the Supergroups. Even today we have Chickenfoot, a Supergroup made up of Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, and RHCP drummer Chad Smith. Famous musicians come together all the time to form new bands.

But what about those bands who formed, didn’t hit it big and then split up and one or several of the members went on to stardom or superstardom. How bad would you feel if your lead singer went onto platinum success but you couldn’t make it work. It all gets back to chemistry. There is something magical when the right three, four or more guys get into a room and make music together. You wonder why some of these bands stay together when they can’t stand each other – they know their chemistry is magic. Don Henley couldn’t make the same kind of music without Glenn Frey and vice versa. There is something that David Lee Roth brings out in Eddie Van Halen’s guitar that no other lead singer has been able to. I quote Joe Strummer’s comment, “never underestimate the chemistry of the right four musicians in a room” (or something like that) all of the time. When I started thinking of some of these early “near-miss” bands I realized that there were more of them than I realized. I guess you could say about these bands, the whole was less than the sum of its parts. I guess the chemistry just wasn’t there. In most cases, I would suggest that these bands deserve another look, or perhaps another listen would be more appropriate. In each of these cases, one or several members went onto “greatness”.

This list is in no particular order:

  1. Free – I figured I’d start here since we already mentioned them. I think these guys were bigger in England than in the US. They were an influence on Zeppelin (who quote their song “The Hunter” on their first album) and The Faces who covered several of their songs live on stage. Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke went on to form the hugely successful Bad Company, but I love Free, it’s harder, bluesier music.
  2. Montrose – Sammy Hagar’s first band. They cut two fantastic albums, “Montrose” and “Paper Money” before Hagar went on to solo success. The records produced several hits, including the incendiary classic “Bad Motor Scooter” but Montrose never caught on the way Hagar was able to on his own.
  3. The Jeff Beck Group – as you probably suspect here, I’m talking about the original version of this band with Rod Stewart on vocals and Ronnie Wood on bass guitar. Beck treated the rest of the band as side men and they never came off the road long enough to write enough original material. Beck fired Wood and Rod left right behind him. Obviously Woody went on to join the Faces and then the Rolling Stones and Stewart went on to individual superstardom. The Jeff Beck Group was due to play Woodstock, which would probably have been a game-changer but Beck who was fond of fast cars, got into a car wreck and they had to cancel. Damn shame, as I think Jeff Beck is one of the greatest guitarists ever. The two albums these guys cut, “Truth” and “Beckola” remain huge influences on blues rock to this day.
  4. Generation X – formed in the heyday of Punk Rock, Generation X recorded two albums and were in the process of recording a third album when they broke up. Their lead singer was none other than Billy Idol. They even did an early version of “Dancing With Myself”. During the recording sessions for the third record, they split citing “creative differences”. Some in the band wanted to stay true to their punk roots, and some wanted to expand their sound.
  5. The Runaways – Now, this girl group may or may not have been famous. I can only tell you that the Runaways never got any radio play in my home town. Movies have been made about the craziness around this band. After they finally broke up The Runaways spawned the solo careers of Joan Jett and Lita Ford.
  6. John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Mayall’s Bluesbreakers have gotten a lot of attention over the years, and they did record the seminal “With Eric Clapton” album, which is still in high rotation here at B&V. I think of Mayall’s band as an English Prep School for Rock Stars. Who didn’t serve a stint in the Bluesbreakers – Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Ginger Bruce, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie. Every one of those folks went on to much bigger careers after leaving.
  7. The James Gang – Joe Walsh’s first group. After a promising debut, the other guys wanted more creative input and they wanted to veer away from the guitar, riff-driven songs that made their name. Everybody wants to be the front man, sigh. They veered back to the guitar rock that made them famous on “James Gang Rides Again” which is a classic, but the writing was on the wall. Joe took off and formed Barnstorm. After a string of solo hits including “Rocky Mountain Way” he joined the Eagles.
  8. Mother Love Bone – these guys were on the verge of stardom when their lead singer, Andrew Wood sadly overdosed. I love the stuff they’ve released. Who knows where they would have gone. Guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament ended up reforming a band around Mike McCready’s lead guitar. At the suggestion of Jack Irons of the RHCP’s, they auditioned a guy from San Diego named Eddie… I think it was Vedder… Pearl Jam became one of the biggest bands in the world.
  9. The Faces – the second band where Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood (now on lead guitar) left to go on to bigger solo success. Actually Rod had a dual solo career at the same time he was serving as lead singer in the Faces. It apparently confused early-70s rock fans… Are the Faces his back up band? His solo career took off after “Maggie May” and the Faces died in the shadow of that success. Ronnie went on to the Stones, and drummer Kenny Jones went on to join the Who. Oh, and Rod did pretty well on his own too. The Faces absolutely deserve a second listen, but anybody whose read these posts before know I’m biased…
  10. Them – Van Morrison’s first group. They changed their line up so many times by the end it was just Van and whoever was available to come to the studio. I think Jimmy Page even played on a few Them singles. Van was probably destined to be a solo artist as he is rather mercurial, but Them had some great songs including “Gloria” and “Baby Please Don’t Go”.
  11. Buckingham-Nicks – Fleetwood Mac, at a loss after another guitarist had quit, were given the “Buckingham-Nicks” album as an audition of sorts for producer Greg Olson. They hired the producer and both Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. I always loved Lindsey and Stevie’s chemistry. I still do. This album is a lost gem.
  12. Buffalo Springfield – this band did better than most of the folks on this list. But with Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Bruce Palmer all in the band, who knows what they could have accomplished if they could have just gotten along. They didn’t want Neil to sing because, well for obvious reasons, and Stills kept wanting to play the lead guitar parts, which were supposed to be Neil’s. Too many cooks spoiled the broth.
  13. Uncle Tupelo – Both Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy who went on to form Son Volt and Wilco respectively were in Uncle Tupelo. I was never that big into alt country but Jay and Jeff apparently couldn’t get along. Everything I’ve read would suggest Jay Farrar is a control-freak but there are always two sides of the story. Son Volt had early success but Wilco is the band that has really stood the test of time.
  14. Whiskeytown – Ryan Adams’ first band. They were always a little sloppy but I like Whiskeytown. They’re another alt country band that I’ve seemed to get into as I get older. “Stranger’s Almanac” and “Pneumonia” were great records. Ryan went on to quite a solo career after “Heartbreaker” came out. Of course now that he’s cutting Taylor Swift cover albums, he’s dead to me.
  15. The Spencer Davis Group – for a band with Steve Winwood in it, these guys only had about three or four actual hits. After three years Winwood finally split to form Traffic, another personal favorite. The Spencer Davis Group even boasted bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson later of Elton John’s band. With all that talent you’d expect a little more here.

Honorable Mention:

  1. Mudcrutch – Tom Petty and Mike Campbell’s first band. After they split Petty went on to form the Heartbreakers. Mudcrutch didn’t record more than a handful of singles, including an early version of “Don’t Do Me Like That” but they just didn’t take off. Petty and Campbell along with Benmont Tench revisited Mudcrutch a few years back and recorded a great album. Rumors have it their follow-up record is in the works for this year release.
  2. Band of Joy – Another band that only had a handful of singles, released on their lead singer’s retrospective, “Highway 61 to Timbuktu”, none other than Robert Plant. They also boasted a drummer by the name of John Bonham…. I wonder whatever happened to those guys?

If you like some of the artists mentioned in this post, perhaps you might want to check out their “back pages” as the saying goes. I really like most of the bands on this list. It’s great to check out some of these artists in their more formative period. I encourage everyone to do the same. Let me know if I missed any bands that should be on this list.

Turn it up loud, enjoy and as always, Cheers!

Playlist For My Friend’s Kerouac Retirement Drive

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There was a time when I was younger, when I felt like my life was going to be extraordinary. My life was going to be special, “outside the norm”. I wanted to be a rock star, but I neglected to learn an instrument, oh well. Some might say the fact that I waited so long to settle down, or the casual, gypsy-esque approach I took to life and career could be considered out of the ordinary, but in the end I’m just a working stiff punching a time clock. Some of the execs in places I’ve worked over the years behave like old-school French monarchs in advanced stages of dementia – inept and/or insane, think Louis the X, The Quarreler. I hear a lot of screaming at work. As I get older, I feel less and less extraordinary. This of course may have something to do with my good fortune to be friends with so many extraordinary individuals. My friends are an amazing collection of people – millionaires, consultants, lobbyists, architects, painters, musicians, Harley-enthusiasts, accounting partners, oil industry folks, astrophysicists, hummus enthusiasts, ex-basketball players, drummers… the list goes on. I am blessed with these friendships and I cherish them, but it certainly makes it hard to consider myself even “above-average”. These guys really set the bar high. The only thing I can point to as extraordinary in my life is my wife. I married extremely well. Thank God for the Rock Chick, she makes it all worth while.

One of the foremost of these friends of mine is my old pal GP. I usually don’t take requests here at BourbonAndVinyl, but just this once I had to make an exception when GP asked me for a playlist. I met GP (names obscured to protect the guilty), whose nicknames include Stinger, Pringle and The Mayor of Eldorado, my first week of college when we were both 18. He was one of my first room mates. I can still remember Matthew and I in the front seat of Matthew’s car driving to a freshman “mixer” with Stinger and another kid from Western Kansas in the back seat blaring Van Halen’s “Panama” with the windows down. Stinger’s face was a mask but the other kid looked terrified. I don’t think either of them were prepared for our David Lee Roth impersonations. The drunken evening ended up with Stinger holding me over his head and spinning me around like he was King Kong and I was a city bus. It was an odd beginning but it was the start of a wonderful friendship.

Stinger went on to be the “Campus Rep” for a big name beer company. During my intermittent stints of living with him, he’d drag me along to some beer event. I vaguely recall going over to Junction City to work a “Ladies Night – Male Stripper” event. My pay for the evening was all the beer I could drink, which is sadly how my current corporate overlords pay me. I did that a lot for Stinger, work for beer. We got to Junction City and these women were ready to party. The male stripper dudes were pretty lame and it didn’t take long for this rowdy crowd of drunken women to turn and start chanting, “we want the  beer guys”. Naturally Stinger ended up standing in the back of the room and I ended up on stage. The last thing I coherently remember is being ushered to the stage to the sound of Tina Turner singing “What’s Love Got To Do With It” in front of the unruly rabble of women who were out for blood. Well, at least they were out for some flesh. I seem to remember doing my “overbite, run in place” dance move while twitchily taking my shirt off. I barely escaped alive. I can say that I woke up with a few bucks in my underwear but that’s about all I can tell you about that night.

After college Stinger and I ended up in Boston for a summer working for some crazed character in a liquor store. Pretty soon I headed into exile in Arkansas and Stinger went to work for a big beer company. My father always said, “Son, marry a rich woman whose daddy owns a liquor store.” Stinger outdid us all on that scale. He rose through the ranks of the beer company like a rocket. Not only was he successful in work, I’ve always considered him successful in life because of the amazing amount of charity work he did and continues to do to this day. Eventually Stinger went to work selling the dark and murky brown fluid that gives this blog part of it’s name. And then, out of the blue, at a very young age, in my opinion, he announced he was retiring. Well, not exactly retiring, but stepping away from the rat race for a bit. He’ll focus on his vast real estate empire and his charity work and get a little rest. I’m sure he’ll end up working for somebody soon enough, he’s too industrious. But in the interim, and this is where I get jealous, he’s going on a Jack Kerouac excursion. He’s loading up the car with a camera, a small bag of luggage, some bourbon and an atlas. I trust he’ll be driving from sea to shining sea, as it were. I’ve always wanted to do that. I told the wife after a recent medical procedure, before the anesthesia wore off, we were selling everything, buying a Porsche and hitting the open road. It never quite materialized. But I can always imagine driving from the swamplands of the deep South, through the plains and climbing into the mountains while Kerouac’s jazz influenced cadence runs through my head. But alas, I gotta go to work Monday.

As part of his retirement announcement he said, “Ken, this might be a BourbonAndVinyl story”. Now, I don’t usually do requests, but he called me out in a rather public way. I felt compelled to put together a playlist to celebrate his freedom in retirement. And, let’s face it, there is no freedom like the open road. The Rock Chick is better at play lists than I am, but I put together about 2 hours of music to get Stinger down the road a piece, as the saying goes. Now putting together a list like this is tough with Stinger. He’s not a screaming rock guy, I still remember the look on his face when he was trapped in Matthew’s Subaru when we met. I seem to remember he has a fondness for country music, which I despise outside of Johnny Cash. His two suggestions were “Dust In the Wind” and “Long May You Run”, not exactly “Highway to Hell”. I mixed the well-known with the obscure, the rockers with the mellow tunes… exactly what the Rock Chick advised me not to do… but what the hell. Here’s to my buddy Stinger… and you know with friends like him, and all the friends I’ve got, maybe just maybe, I am kind of extraordinary.

  1. Long May You Run – Stills-Young Band, by request
  2. Dust In the Wind – Kansas, by request
  3. Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers, “rollin’ down high 41…”
  4. Roll Me Away – Bob Seger, “I took a look down a westbound road, right away I made my choice…” My pal Dennis loves this song.
  5. Rockin’ Down the Highway – The Doobie Brothers
  6. Take It Easy – The Eagles, “don’t let the sound of your wheels drive you crazy…” RIP Glenn Frey
  7. Truckin’ – The Grateful Dead
  8. Running On Empty – Jackson Browne, it starts slow but it’s a great road tune
  9. Call Me the Breeze – Lynyrd Skynyrd, J.J Cale wrote this tune, a classic road tune
  10. Six Days On the Road – Mudcrutch, Tom Petty’s side project, if you haven’t checked out this album, do yourself a favor and do so
  11. Helen Wheels – Paul McCartney, “hell on wheels”
  12. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen, If you know anything about BourbonAndVinyl, you know this had to be on here
  13. Road To Nowhere – Talking Heads, I hope Stinger wakes up every morning and thinks, where to now
  14. Roadhouse Blues – The Doors, this song works as a road song and a drinking song, so I get the double word score here
  15. Road Trippin’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers, mellow tune but there’s something about the lyric, “these smiling eyes are just a mirror for the sun” that I like
  16. Life Is a Highway – Tom Cochrane, “and I’m gonna ride it all night long”… hmm this might be a metaphor
  17. Route 66 – The Rolling Stones, this is a virtual travelogue of where Stinger may travel
  18. Take the Money and Run – Steve Miller Band, this could literally be Stinger’s theme song here
  19. Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty, another great Petty road tune
  20. Going Mobile – The Who
  21. Travelin’ Man – Bob Seger, I actually prefer the studio version on the ‘Beautiful Loser’ album
  22. End of the Line – The Traveling Wilburys
  23. All Down the Line – The Rolling Stones, probably more of a train song than a road song but who can resist this riff?
  24. I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide – ZZ Top, hopefully Stinger’s travels take him from Florida to Idaho, where it just so happens, we know a guy
  25. The Wild Horse – Rod Stewart, obscure gem here from the ‘Out of Order’ album about a guy who rambles about, totally overlooked
  26. Hitch a Ride – Boston, my buddy DJ feels there should always be a Boston song on every play list
  27. Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers, Gregg Allman also does a great version of this tune solo
  28. I’m Free – The Rolling Stones, “I’m free to do whatever I want, any ol’ time…” and Stinger is free now
  29. Free Ride – Edgar Winter, I mean, this playlist really writes itself
  30. Travelin’ – Tom Petty, an obscure B-side from his boxed set, it’ll stick in your head for days

I suggest putting this on “shuffle” and nudge that volume knob up as far as it’ll go. If anybody has a tune to add to this list, please feel free to respond in the comments.

Cheers!!