It’s been a bit so let’s do some reviews of musical happenings. On Monday, October 19 my friend Ted and I saw the reformed British Invasion group The Zombies at the Paramount in Denver – a truly excellent show in a classic old theater setting. The core of singer Colin Blunstone and keys player/singer/songwriter Rod Argent sound great and look amazingly lean and fit for being 70. The first half of the show was given over to them with their current backing band playing songs from their decent new album Still Got That Hunger along with old 60s tracks including their hits “She’s Not There”, “Tell Her No” and the album cut “I Love You” which the one-hit wonder group People took in to the charts.
My fave tracks from their new album are “Chasing The Past” and “Beyond The Borderline” of which they did the former in concert. Perhaps the highlight of that portion of the show was an extended workout on the old Argent hit “Hold Your Head Up” which showed Rod Argent’s considerable prowess on keyboard matching players like Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson in pyrotechnical skill while throwing in classical references. There were song bass notes in that song that had me looking at the ceiling to make sure the powerful vibrations weren’t going to knock chunks down – it was that penetrating. After the band took a break, they were joined on-stage by the other living original Zombies in drummer Hugh Grundy and bassist/songwriter Chris White to play their 1968 psychedelic masterwork Odessey and Oracle from beginning to end – something they hadn’t done back at the time as they had already broken up.
It was highly fitting that augmenting the keyboards (mellotron samples notably) was Darian Sahanaja of the Wondermints who also leads Brian Wilson’s backing band – fitting because so much of the vocal interplay on Odessey and Oracle has a strong Pet Sounds era Beach Boys feel. Seeing and hearing the Zombies play this amazing album ranks right up with finally getting the do the same a few years ago in the same venue with Brian Wilson at last playing Smile. They ended the night with an even better version of “She’s Not There” than they had played in the first half – what a great night (and a fun dinner with Cruisin’ 950 AM jocks Randy Jay and Chuck St. John at the Paramount Cafe – listen to their station live or streaming online for the classic old music us baby boomers grew up with).
Baby You’re A Rich Man – Suing The Beatles For Fun & Profit –
My friend Professor Soocher (at the University Of Colorado Denver he teaches rock history and the nuances of the music industry) has previously written (1998) They Fought The Law: Rock Music Goes To Court. This new book covers a myriad of Beatles lawsuits that have dogged the band seemingly since they hit our shores (with the awful job Brian Epstein did in handling the ancillary marketing of the band via dolls and other ephemera being a starting point it seems). To the best of my knowledge, no other book has dealt with the Beatles strictly in a legal sense and Soocher has done a thorough job of covering many interesting cases. All the details are here about George’s and John’s plagiarism suits (“My Sweet Lord” and “Come Together”) plus the fight with Allen Klein and Lennon’s tribulations trying to stay in the U.S. There is a lot more and it is a worthwhile addition to the Beatles canon.
Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music – John Fogerty
It’s interesting to see all the music autobiographies that have come out since Keith Richards’ Life. Too often for me, these books deteriorate into the same exact thing: all the drugging and whoring they all seemed to revel in plus how much they hated their band/record company/fans/you name it. Very little time seems to go into talking about the only reason I am reading the book – their music. Thank heavens then that for at least the first 225 pages or so, this is the best book I have read for actually showing me why I liked/still like the music of the artist I’m reading about (in this case John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival). There is something fun for me in reading about how one of my heroes knew and liked the same records I did – you feel like you could get together some time over a pizza and play records (heck he even liked the obscure rockabilly “Henrietta” by Jimmy Dee & the Offbeats). You get the feeling he genuinely loves music which so many other music artists seemingly don’t. Fogerty tells about how he wrote songs like “Proud Mary” and “Born On The Bayou” plus how CCR recorded them. Where he lost me was in the predictable last section of the book when he got bitter about his old band and his record label – something understandable given the circumstances (let’s face it – Fogerty was the only reason CCR and Fantasy records was successful) but still tedious. John, we love you and your music so thanks for enriching my life – hopefully you can stay happy and come over to play records some time.
Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol
Rocks: My Life In And Out Of Aerosmith – Joe Perry
These two music autobiographies are a year old now, but deserve a mention as both are interesting reads. Idol and Perry both have a lot to say about the music they loved and again it seems to have matched much of what I loved as well which gives you at least some feeling of kinship (just like I would love to talk to Tom Hanks some time about the Dave Clark 5 – not his acting). Aside from the overuse of swear words, Idol is a surprisingly fine writer and sheds some interesting light on his early career and his hit era. I’m not a huge expert on him other than his hits so I defer to my bro-in-law Matthew who, however, feels like Idol does a poor job of covering a lot of his later career skipping mention of several of his albums. Perry like Keith Richards seems to be more interesting then their respective lead singers Steve Tyler and Mick Jagger because they were/are the musical guts of their bands. As a frustrated guitarist about Perry’s age, much of what he talks about of getting started in music sounds familiar with the exception that he had talent and a great cast around him – still we all dreamed of taking our Gibson SG on-stage and strumming a powerchord through a Marshall stack. Sadly, the book does deteriorate into the usual band squabbles and drug/drink issues but you can skim those parts of both books to settle into the meat.
The Wrecking Crew DVD
This was a wonderful music doc in the movie theater, but is an even more amazing DVD/Blu-ray release due to over 6 hours of bonus interview material. Denny Tedesco is the man behind the documentary and is the son of the late guitarist Tommy Tedesco who along with the other players shown in the release played on virtually all the music of my 60s youth (though none of us knew it at the time). Where would “A Taste Of Honey” be without Hal Blaine’s bass drum thump lead-in? Where would “The Beat Goes On” have been without Carol Kaye’s seminal bass riff? On and on you see and hear from each player (many now deceased) about how they created the music for which they were given no credit at the time and were only paid session wages. It’s pretty interesting to hear Tedesco talk about Gary Lewis’ guitarist griping about the difficulty of the flamenco guitar part on “Sure Gonna Miss Her” he played in the studio or how much black drummer Earl Palmer felt abashed seeing a young white band on TV miming to instrumentals he played on that came out by studio bands like the Marketts and the T-Bones. Most of these players liked jazz it seems but needed the paychecks. Thankfully Tedesco managed to interview Dick Clark before he passed and Glen Campbell (a great studio guitarist before stardom) before dementia took over.