Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush. Photo/Art by Ben Upham.
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Frank Marino- “Beyond Mahogany Rush”
As told to Stu Simone by Frank Marino
Guitar Player Magazine
Last profiled in September 1976, rock guitar powerhouse Frank Marino shows no signs of easing off the throttle at the ripe old age of 27. The leader and creative force behind the noted ’70s power trio Mahogany Rush, Marino continues to draw sell-out crowds in concert halls across the country. He also remains active in the recording studio, sustaining his album-per-year pace for nearly a decade now. July ’82 marked the debut of “Juggernaut”, the tenth LP of the guitarists career, and one of his most successful.
Marino discovered the guitar in 1969 at age 14. It was like finding a friend in need, or perhaps a life preserver-the future rock star was in a Montreal hospital recuperating from the effects of a bad acid trip. A precocious self teacher, Marino recorded his first album just two years later with the group he christened Mahogany Rush.
The band grew out of a basement instrumental jam crew consisting of Frank, drummer Jimmy Ayoub, and bassist Paul Harwood. High school and club gigs eventually led to an enthusiastically received concert performance at the ’71 Montreal Expo’s huge pop festival. The groups first album followed on the heels of that success.
“Mahogany Rush IV” (released in April 1976), their fourth album, was their first with a major label, Columbia. Since then, Marino has generally spent half of each year touring and the other half in recording sessions. The veteran performer expresses a taste for the concert hall setting saying: “The masses that collectively trudge through the elements to see and hear us play-they’re the power. You have to play for them one-on-one, because they’re the ones that matter.” Marino’s consistent studio work and dynamic concert hall presence have built him a loyal, if not fanatical, following over the years.
In 1981 “Frank Marino And Mahogany Rush” became simply “Frank Marino.” Jim Ayoub departed, to be succeeded by Timm Biery. In their latest album, the power trio of old has matured into a five-piece band, with Franks brother Vince on second guitar (a 77 addition), and Argentina s Claudio Pesavento debuting on keyboard.
As he mentions in the following discussion, such crowd-pleasers as his Jimi Hendrix renditions are not his artistic lifeblood-Marino is a prolific composer/lyricist in his own right, claiming influences ranging from folk to jazz and classical. Furthermore, he explains why he s not a heavy metal guitarist (despite his sometimes being saddled with that label). And the electric wizard reveals some of the secrets behind his most intriguing sounds, provides a step-by-step equipment rundown, airs his views on tubes and transistors, and explains his philosophy of soloing and creativity.
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Being heard by people is my first objective, and I’m not just referring to volume. Sometimes I feel as though something else is moving me. I know there are things I’ve got to say, and each album I do is a way of saying them. I’ve been given this gift-to be lucky enough to be in a position where a lot of people can hear me.
The lyrics are about the world-almost like Woody Guthrie in a way. But they’re not about drugs or sex or even rock and roll. They’re about serious things. Yet the music is hard rock and, technically, jazz-oriented. If you take a jazz musician’s technical approach to music, a rock musician’s approach to sound, and a folksinger’s approach to lyrics, you’d probably have what makes up Frank Marino.
It’s true that the first album I released under my own name, “The Power Of Rock ‘n’ Roll” was my most straight-ahead rock album. But I wasn’t happy with the direction we were going in, and I had to say to myself at that point: “Stop! How do I get my group onto the track that made it unique in the first place?” You’ve got to play what made you what you are as a human being, not just what made you commercially successful. Let’s face it, a lot of bands can get up and play “Johnny B. Goode,” and some can even play it better than we do, but nobody gets up and plays “Strange Universe” or “Juggernaut” or “Strange Dreams” [both on Juggernaut] with that attitude and that sound, except Frank Marino. That is what makes us unique-not the “Johnny B. Goode” songs, not the guitar speed or technical proficiency. The content and the attitude of the music makes us a show that’s not like the rest. I believe Juggernaut has put me back on the track towards meaningful, unique music that is only Frank Marino.
We used to play Hendrix material before we had originals-when we’d play at high schools-but we didn’t play “Foxey Lady” or “Fire. “We’d play”1983″ or “Castles Made Of Sand”-the stuff that nobody else could play. Gradually we had our Hendrix set interspersed with originals, and then an original set interspersed with Hendrix. The only reason I still play “Purple Haze” is because people want to hear it from me. I have it as a second encore, because I’m trying not to do it, but they keep calling me back to do it.
Having a five-piece group now makes things easier for me, and also sweeter. Now when I playa melody, it has a chord behind it. I held out for the trio live-but not on record-because I was comfortable playing the extra guitar or keyboard parts myself. Live was totally different-we were caught in that whole image thing. I finally got fed up because I wanted to do that unique music from the albums. Now in concert I play for almost three hours, but it just seems to fly by. People are surprised at the variety, but some people seem to say, “What’s your real face, are you apples or oranges?” I say I’d rather have a fruit basket than a basket of apples.
People sometimes call me a heavy metal guitarist, but that term miffs me, because I don’t consider myself a heavy metal player. I suppose that that music is similar in sound to some of my records, but I don’t have a heavy metal attitude towards music, and neither does any member of my group. Our music is loud and deadly sounding, and although heavy metal is usually deadly sounding, we’re not in the mold of the metal of today. Maybe I’m a heavy metal player from the earlier ’70s. I don’t consider myself in the vein of AC/DC or Ozzy Osbourne.
In my music-whatever the hell you want to call it-I do feel the necessity to come up with different sounds and different ideas. This necessity is easier for musicians today than, say, ten years ago, because we have devices available to us now that can virtually make us sound better. It’s like: Go in, and spend the bucks, and you’ve got this device that can inspire you to write a new tune because of what it does.
I don’t necessarily like that idea. It’s almost like hockey players today who buy skates that hold their ankles up. A lot of the older players frown on that-they go for the old leather skates, because they think that you should learn to hold your ankles up by yourself. But now we have this abundance of equipment such as DDLs [digital delay lines], Harmonizers, compressors, guitar synthesizers-it’s almost like whoever’s got more bucks is going to come up with the heavier music now.
A player now is going to buy this device that he doesn’t know about, and even the dealer doesn’t know what you can get out of it. So he’s gonna turn some dials and the thing’s going to make an envelope sound, and he’s going to think he invented this sound and be inspired to write a tune around it, rather than saying, “I need a specific sound for the tune I already have in my head.” So it’s putting the cart before the horse, because devices available today make it a little easier to find new sounds to break heavy metal ground. But are these musicians breaking the ground? Or is the ground being broken by the technicians who designed the equipment? Are the musicians just putting music to the effects? That’s the question I always ask myself.
I have a lot of effects, too, but I always try to use them in the spirit intended. I think of what I want, then try to make the effect do it. And if it doesn’t, then I try to find the effect that does. Now, Frank Marino does this specific thing 30 times, thinking of a song, thinking of a sound, hunting like crazy to find that sound, and finally achieving it. And another guy finds 30 devices that give him 30 sounds, and writes 30 tunes around those.
You’re going to end up with two guys, each with 30 real nice songs, really well done. But one is going to have a lot more confidence, and that’s going to be me. Because I’m going to know inside, without having to mention it to anybody, that it’s my baby-I really thought about it, I worked hard on it, and it came. for the other guy, the minute technology stops or his equipment breaks down, he’s dead as a creative person. His creativity basically is coming from outside. I think that a musician should always use the creativity from inside, because that well is not going to dry up. A lot of people think it does dry up after a while-that’s bullshit. If a guy’s creativity dries up then I say, (a) it never came from inside of him in the first place or, (b) he got so fucked up on drugs he lost his mind. You could be 90 years old and still create. The mind is still there.
Constructing A Solo:
My philosophy on soloing is to do what fits. I don’t like to turn a solo into a finger exercise. A lot of guys come up with the old one-two-three: They’ll show, you know, what they can do, in terms of physical dimensions. Of course, it often comes out sounding good, but basically it’s finger exercises. I can’t say that what I do is the end-all, but if I’m really feeling the song and haven’t played it so many times that I’m bored to death with it, then I try to play what really fits at that moment, and that can consequently be totally different from day to day, depending on the mood.
I find that letting your fingers guide your playing is a pitfall, a bad habit that I try to break. Yes, my fingers become my guide sometimes. I have to watch out that that doesn’t happen. I mean, it’s all very well that I have enough flashy tricks to look real good for an audience, but that’s not where it’s at. It’s not enough for the people who know, the ones I’d like to reach as a guitar player, the people whose respect I really want. And for their sake, I try to be as honest as possible and just play what I feel fits.
If the fingers start to become a guide, it’s almost like a habit of biting your nails or sniffling or something. You’ve got to watch that, because it can just creep in. It’s typical when you see somebody go to a music store to try a guitar out. The first thing they do is to go through rudiments. And that’s what tells them if the guitar feels good. That’s all very well, but basically what you see there is the habits of the individual taking precedence over anything else. If you’re just testing a guitar, then you don’t have to play anything with feeling. But that tends to happen to people onstage and in the studio, too. For that split-second they lose their concentration and waste time by just going through triplets and quadruplets and this and that, vibrato this and vibrato that, finger taps, and all that stuff.
You can get more speed out of a familiar finger pattern, so a lot of people go for it because to them, being faster is being better. And I don’t necessarily share that view. As a matter of fact, I have that problem. I find sometimes that I play too fast, which probably stems from my boredom from sometimes playing the same songs over and over again-I end up doing the solos faster and faster. It’s a problem because I don’t think the listener can really appreciate this high-gear, full-speed playing all of the time. It’s kind of a copout to always do that. It’s great to know I can do that, that I can play real fast, but it’s not criteria for being a great guitar player. I think that speed comes with being sure of yourself. If you’re really sure of yourself, then you’re automatically going to start to play fast when you want to.
Avoiding repetitious solo patterns is almost a two-edged sword. It’s paradoxical, because the advice is to concentrate on not doing it, but yet in order to play a good solo, you gotta not really be concentrating on anything and sort of let your mind feel the music. So how do you overcome the problem of concentrating on avoiding bad habits, while at the same time not concentrating on anything at all so that you can just feel the solo and be more than just a technician? It’s real hard. I try to split my personality up a little bit. Before the record or the gig, I’ll really hammer it into my mind that I’m not going to make mistakes I usually make, and that I’ll try to be a full musician. But then when the time comes to actually do it, I’ll have confidence that this thought process worked, and I’ll go out there and just do it. I’m not saying it’s always successful, but nine times out of ten it will be.
As far as daily practice goes, I don’t do a lot of scales and that sort of thing. If there’s something I can’t do, and I want to be able to do it, then I will figure it out and practice it. But generally, I find that when you have a good feeling about a guitar, nothing comes hard to you. There are some things another guy happens to do, and you just never thought of them, but once you see it or see how it’s done or read it or whatever, it’s not a question of eye-hand coordination anymore.
If I turned the guitar around left-handed, it would then become a question of hand coordination again. I think I can do anything; there’s not a rudiment or a pattern that’s going to give me any trouble. If I haven’t played it before, I’ll do it once and make a mistake or two. I’ll play it twice, and the mistakes will be gone. I guess that’s what my talent is, the ability to hear a piece or see a piece done or even just think of the notes I want to play, and be able to put them straight to my fingers. I don’t have to force myself, and I don’t have to do it in what may be the “correct” way. I do it in the way I feel comfortable.
For instance, I do everything with three left-hand fingers. I very rarely use my little finger. But sometimes you’re in the middle of a solo, and in the wink of an eye you’ve boxed yourself into a corner and there’s no more fingers. Your mind tells you, “up, next higher note, ~ but you’re on your 3rd finger, and there’s no way to get your first finger back on it. Then the little finger comes into play. It’s like a reserve fuel tank. It’ll do what it has to when you’re really stuck. Some guys use it all the time, but that’s not the way it works for me.
Solo construction depends on the kind of music. We do play a lot of blues and jazz when we’re not on the stage, believe it or not. Like from rehearsals, we have thousands of hours of blues and jazz that never got on record. That’s the kind of music I really love. And when I say jazz, I don’t necessarily mean John McLaughlin kind of jazz-it could be that kind of music on a given day, but I’m talking about a little more on-the-wall jazz than off-the-wall jazz. In music like that, you have to have a little bit more discipline. You can’t just take off like you can in off-the-wall jazz or in crazy rock. You’ve got to know certain chords, and you’ve got to have your majors, minors, minor 7ths, and major 7ths together; otherwise it’s just going to sound Like You’re doing a finger exercise when the chords change.
It’s all very well for a guy to pick up the tonic note, a 3rd, a 7th, and a 5th, and run around them, and then the chord changes behind him and it makes what he’s playing sound real good because of the way the notes fit into the next chord. But I’ve always said, if a guy can play good blues or good jazz, he should be able to play the solo with no backup-no chords behind him, no bass, no nothing-and you should be able to actually hear the chord changes by the notes he plays. Then, from a technical standpoint, the guy’s playing what I call a really good blues or jazz solo. The linkup notes are very important-those semitones and the odd notes he uses here and there. They’re like the spice of the solo. The band stops, and it might be a seven-chord progression, and yet he’ll play the solo with no backup, and you’ll say, yeah, that’s where the chord changes. That’s really important.
Then again, in some rock the approach is basically to play that rock scale, making sounds, cause you know you’ve got a I chord behind you, and your job is to actually take what would be a boring rhythm track and use the sound and the right notes to make it seem a little bit exciting and tasty. That’s an art in itself too.
There’s all sorts of ways to keep your solos interesting. Go with the flow, but at the same time try to control the flow. Since you’re often the lead instrument you’ve got to take the initiative. I think the most important thing a guitar player should have is confidence, to know that he’s good enough to lead the rhythm track. Let’s face it-the rhythm track’s just going to do the same thing over and over for five minutes. But if you play with volume dynamics, try different techniques, and have the confidence that you will do the job, then it’s going to sound good, not boring. But if you just fill in the time and be the “lead player” for five minutes, and do all this flash just to be doing it, it’s going to be a joke, and a lot of people are going to know that.
The guitar I first started playing on is the same model I’m using now, a 1961 Les Paul/SG model. The ’61 had that very thin, flat neck-almost too thin to hold it together. My first guitar, not surprisingly, was broken. Then I got an SG Special, which was stolen. And then-when I was about 15-I got my current guitar, which I’ve been playing for the past 12 years.
Over the years I’ve had such a love affair with that particular SG that whenever I find one, and they’re hard to find, I buy it. Just the other day I got a fourth one-in bad shape. I don’t care about the finishes, just so long as they have the right pickups and frets-Fender frets, very thin and low.
I have a ’61 Fender Stratocaster, and between that and my SGs, that’s about it. There are also two SG Juniors, which are now with a violin maker in Calgary who is making the necks thinner and putting in three Stratocaster pickups. I had a Gibson Flying V, but I gave it to a kid in trade for that same SG that was stolen 12 years ago. The Strat is the best guitar, sound-wise. But I cannot play that thing as freely as I can the SGs. The one thing the Strat won’t do, that the SGs will, is to really scream. The standard Fender single-coil pickups just don’t have, the gain that the Gibson PAF humbuckings have.
I go for the clearest pickup I can get, to eliminate the variables-but it’s got to have some gain. So, I’m going to try some Seymour Duncans with stacked coils; they have the Strat sound but more gain. I go for the clearest speakers, too, to eliminate the variables. Then, when I want distortion I can build a pedal that will give me the perfect distortion every time.
I know my guitars, and this helps get around problems with the tremolo bar. After using the arm I know what string to pull on to yank it back into tune. I also retune while I play. Now I tried the Floyd Rose tremolo, but it has its drawbacks. Number one, if you break,a string, you have to undo the locking nut on each end with an Allen key, tune, and lock ‘em down. If they’re not in tune, you have to retune them sharp to compensate, since when you lock them down, they go flat.
I just ordered a new tremolo by Kahler that has a separate locking nut for each string at the nut and adjustable tuners at the bridge, which is a slight improvement. But the one thing those systems won’t let me do is play behind the bridge to make sounds. I do that a lot. On “Maybe It’s Time” [Juggernaut], for example, I make a funny metallic sound that comes out almost acoustic.
As for strings, I use very light gauges, like .008, .009, and .012 on the top, depending on the tune. On the bottom I’ll use anything from a .015 plain to an .018 wound for the fourth string, and then a .026 and a .038 for the fifth and sixth.
Sounds From The Albums:
A lot of people ask about that incredibly high squeal on the solo in “Johnny B. Goode” [California Jam II]. That’s harmonics. I’m playing in the highest register and getting harmonics by picking off my thumb to go even an octave higher than the guitar’s highest notes. There’s another way that I play harmonics, and that’s by tapping the notes one octave up, and I’ve been doing that long before Eddie Van Halen came around.
Speaking of tapping, you see a lot of guys tap single notes on an open string and just hit one string. But what I’m doing on, say, the solo in “Juggernaut,” is playing different arpeggios with the tap, and I’m changing with the chords. It’s the same with “Ain’t Dead Yet” on The Power Of Rock’n'Roll. I’ve been fret-tapping for years, and suddenly people are getting famous off of it. So when I went into the studio, I said, “I’ll do real fret-tap solos-on several strings at once. And it was very appropriate for “Ain’t Dead Yet” and “Juggernaut.” It’s like the organ used to play in Deep Purple.
I also get asked about “Little Town Of Bethlehem,” which is a Christmas carol I do in concerts, using fingerpicking and making it sound like a pipe organ. The key to doing this piece is to use the right dissonant chords; you have to look at it classically and have the bass lines pass from the chords. I play three notes at a time, using my index finger, third, and thumb. Sometimes you’ll see me really stretching to get some dissonance, like a low F and a high B, and that’s what creates the impression of a pipe organ. I call that my “symphony,” and it’s been my favorite part of the show for years.
I don’t use a flanger for “Bethlehem”-I found that it tended to muddy the sound. I do use one for the volume swells in the solo at the end of “Talking ‘Bout A Feelin’” [Live], but again, it’s the same technique as the “symphony,” only with full distortion. I start with everything clean and get my distortion with the notes, like at the beginning of “Purple Haze,” where that tritone intro sounds distorted.
Sometimes when I bend a note and really want it to scream with distortion, I’ll pick up the note on the next string to create a growl. I play a lot of two-string solos. When I was playing Top 40, I used to do Allman Brothers and Hendrix with riffs built inside chords, so I got used to playing solos in chords instead of in notes.
As for “Guit War” [Child Of Novelty]: Yes, honest to god, it was done with just a Strat and an old Fender amp-I’m not sure of the model-just like it says on the cover. It starts with ocean waves splashing up against the seashore. This was created by using the treble control, which had a dirty pot, and swishing it back and forth. Then you hear B-52s coming in the distance. I did about eight tracks of drone sustaining notes with a slight vibrato, each slightly out of key to the other.
You’ll notice that the waves fade out to the right as the bombers drone in from the left side. Then as the bombers get closer, the air raid sirens go off. What I did there was take the two notes of the siren, do each note on a separate track, and do the rise and fall on the tremolo bar. So now the planes are overhead, the sirens are blaring from different sides, the waves are practically gone by now, and then the planes begin to dive, which is an art in itself. Machine guns were created by banging on the guitar and flicking the pickup switch from a closed to an open pickup. And at the end is the bomb. “Juggernaut” ends with a nuclear explosion, too- from the beginning it’s all been related. “Guit War” starts with the Bible passage, “There shall be wars and rumors of wars,” which is basically the same thing I’m talking about today.
Amps And Effects:
I started out using Fender tube amps, but when I found the Acoustic 270 transistor amps, I went: “Wow! Look at all of this low end!” So I started experimenting with it. I used the Acoustic 270 tops exclusively from 1974 until I got my new system. I love their power and beefiness-when I did the bombs on the Acoustics they sounded 50 times better than the new amps; that’s the only thing I’ve given away.
My new amps have tubes again-though tubes will never produce the transient lows that the transistors will. As much as I like doing the bombs and the symphony stuff they’re hellacious on the Acoustics-I couldn’t stand the lack of sustain. All those years I had to use five buffer amps in a line just to get the transistor amp to stop being so clean. And it would still break up, so I’d have to end a note a lot sooner than I wanted to. Tubes are the greatest for singing sustain, and the kind of distortion I like, while the transistor amps have the beefiness and the clarity in the low registers.
Right now I’m working on a hybrid system. I still haven’t got it to the point where it’ll give me the super-lows-the 40 to 50 cycles [per second] you can” achieve with a graphic equalizer. The tube amp won’t get the quick response time you get from transistors, and it doesn’t have an active equalizer-it’s passive, so you filter out the highs. In a transistor amp you are boosting selected frequencies parametrically. Unfortunately, only tubes give you that sustain. Mesa Boogie is an example; my amps are designed around the parameters of the Boogie.
The original designer of my amp system was Richard Onslow, an amp technician in Montreal. Onslow designed the preamp, which is like three amps in one: a clear channel, a rhythm channel, and a lead channel. The channels are switchable with relays, so instead of hitting a fuzztone when I want sustain for a lead, I just switch to the lead channel, which has preset overdrives inside the amp that are laboratory-tested for the perfect amount of sustain. The rhythm channel is just the clean channel with one more tube added to the circuit. My old pedal board was about seven feet wide, but my amp man, Nick Ciarello, and I have rebuilt the pedals and redesigned the whole unit.
Starting with the guitar, the signal goes first to the wireless receiver, then to the pedalboard, through the pedals, then to the preamp rack. On the preamp rack it goes first to the Echoplex, and then to the preamp itself, which has its own effects loop. Then the signal goes to the power amp rack, and finally to the speakers. It’s a very modular system-it can be fixed in a snap. The cables are standard mike cables, and everything is standard wiring.
There is a weakness to the system in that everything is wired in series. But there are failsafe systems, so if a pedal conks out, a relay will automatically bypass the effect. Plus, a light will come on as soon as the pedal fails; the pedal can be removed by quarter-turn fasteners, and there are spare pedals ready to go. All the power for the pedals is DC, and they all plug right into the wall of the pedalboard.
After the signal from the guitar is picked up by the receiver, and before it enters the pedalboard, it goes to FET unity-gain preamps-or buffers-which make up for the long line by changing the impedance. Then I have your standard Cry Baby wah-wah, an octave divider that we built to give a really strong octave down, a modified Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi fuzztone, then a cheap fuzztone-a really crappola old fuzz circuit; I can’t even remember where it came from, but I like the raw, harsh sound. We have all these things built onto cards, and we put the cards in the footswitch boxes that activate the relays. After the cheap fuzz is a volume pedal, and then the signal goes out to the preamp rack.
Though there are a half-dozen cords coming out of the pedalboard, only two are for audio-the rest connect 4-ohm DC switches for the relays. We’re switching things with relays at the rack instead of running the audio out to switch them. When you switch an Echoplex, you’re actually switching the output signal to the input signal, so with a long audio cord you’re actually creating a big loop, which makes it noisier. So the signal goes to the relay box on a very short cord, and we switch the relay box remotely with DC. From the relays in the preamp rack, the DC terminates at a footswitch on the pedal board. When you hit that, it switches the DC to ground, which makes the effect switch on.
Inside the preamp rack there’s the three-channel tube preamp, an Eventide Flanger, which I find to be the nicest flanger, a Roland SRE 555 Space Echo, and an Echoplex mounted on top of the rack. The only reason I use the Echoplex is that it has a certain sound that nothing else has. It’s a noisy unit-in my opinion one of the worst echo units in the world. But for certain things, when you want to feed a lot of juice into it, the Echoplex is the only thing that’ll do it-the Roland is just too clean. I’ll use the Echo-plex to get that backwards-sounding guitar. You have to drive it into distortion to get that effect, so it’ll fade away when you play a note and come in when you let go of the note. Then there’s a Schaffer-Vega wireless receiver mounted on the rack.
Behind my stack is the power amp rack, which contains three Onslow tube amps and a Crown DC-300 transistor amp, which we haven’t yet wired in. What we’re working on now is a system that takes the signal, splits it up, takes the low end below about 180 cycles, and sends it to the transistor amp; everything above will go to the tube amps. So we’ll get back the lows that we had before.
There are two 6oo-watt tube amps-one 80-watter and a Crown PSA2, which is as much as 1000 watts on the low end. I have a selector with LEDs on the back, and the preamp rack is patched to the power amp rack, so I have a selection of all combinations of amps and speakers.
I use two cabinets on each side of the stage. These were originally a bass cabinet design. They have two 15″ Fane Crescendos in them, without a doubt the best speakers ever. They will take power like you wouldn’t believe; they’re rated at 200 watts RMS, but they’ll take up to 450 watts without distortion. They have an isotropic magnet that does not deteriorate with heat, whereas if you’re doing a show over two hours long with a normal speaker, or if there’s extra humidity in the air, gradually the sound will get funny. These speakers sound the same after 50 hours with 400 watts into them, and nothing will distort them.
I don’t go in for speaker distortion; it’s uncontrolled and unreliable. Speaker distortion depends upon humidity and other factors, and you want to eliminate all the variables if you want to control your sound. The next day, it could sound totally different, just because of density changes in the air.
With the Fanes, we’ve eliminated the speaker as a variable-we know what the speakers will produce, and that they’ll sound the same under any conditions. Plus, the Fanes are so much louder because of their super-efficiency. My same setup with JBLs, say, wouldn’t sound nearly as good.
The use of the speakers depends on the room. For a small rock club I just use the80, but for an auditorium I use the 600 to create ambience. I stand in front of the drums, thank God, because I hate to hear the direct sound, since it’s so unmixed to the rest of the band. So I have amps on both sides of the drums, and by miking them and putting it slightly in the side-fill monitors, it brings it right back to clarity, and I’ve created a panorama of guitar on the stage. We want to get to the point where the sound man won’t have to deal with the stage at all. But then we have to tackle the problem of PA systems, none of which sound nearly as good as what I hear in the middle of the stage.
Right now we’re two components away from perfecting the sound I need. The two components are a slightly better cabinet-Fane doesn’t build cabinets, so we did them ourselves-and the hybrid amp system so we can get the low end from the transistors. What we’d like to do is to bring the signal from the tubes and transistors back into one signal That way we eliminate the variable of having two separate cabinets that have to be stacked in different places so you don’t have coupling of your sound.
In the future I’d like my group to have as many as nine players. The instrumentation would be the same as I have now, keyboards and guitars. I’ll want all the guitars to have the same setup and sound as I do, so you don’t know who’s playing what.
We just came back from Europe, and it was fantastic. The appreciation level for what we did there was unreal. In all my ten to twelve years touring nothing comes close-I was totally amazed that it could be like that. The audiences there were so high and knowledgeable that I had to be real good every night.
The tour lasted three or four weeks. We did Amsterdam, a couple of places in Finland, Sweden, Holland, Germany (all over Germany), Belgium, France, England-that’s about it. And it was really, really something. It’s funny, because before the last album I did, Juggernaut, I had been to England to do an outdoor festival, and that inspired the whole trend on that album. And now that I’ve been to Europe, it’s even inspired me further.
I think that we suffer in our hemisphere here; we suffer from an abundance of too many things. And I think we’re a little bit spoiled over here-we have so many great artists and so many talented individuals, and we have so many people on our continent that are into the whole thing. It’s on TV, it’s on MTV, it’s on radio, it’s in music stores, it’s in every club you go to. I think we’ve become a little bit jaded.
A lot of times, we’re clapping for the wrong reasons over here. What band doesn’t get an encore today? Very rare-it’s almost part of the show. The bands don’t even wait until the show’s over-they wait right behind their equipment because they know they’re going to be back. I find that a little bit ridiculous. Who the hell do we think we are, that we should wait behind our equipment, like we know we’re going to be called back? The crowd should decide whether we’re going back or not.
I think the reason we’re doing that is not because we’re hypocrites-and when I say we, I mean all of us-I think that it’s because it’s become so standard here. When you go to Europe, it’s a little bit different-you’ve really got to be first rate. You’ve got to deliver the goods. If you’re no good, they know, because they don’t see as many shows. They seem to spend their money a lot more frugally.
We played alone at every place. We didn’t have an opening act because we’re doing these long, three-hour shows now. We played alone everywhere, and we just sold out. It was really amazing-the promoters didn’t expect it. We obviously have some kind of a great cult following over there because sometimes with very limited advertising in a place such as Oulu, Finland, all these kids came out of the woodwork. They knew who we were, they knew the songs-and something else-a lot of them knew the words to the tunes even though they couldn’t speak English. They could sing all the songs along with the band. It was a magical sort of tour. I t really inspired me.
You might think that playing for a quarter of a million people at Cal Jam II would be the all-time high. But it wasn’t. The greatest thrill in my lifetime was hearing my record on the radio after 12 years ["Strange Dreams," from Juggernaut, made the top ten in Billboards Top Tracks chart, which rates album airplay]. Cal Jam, in my opinion, was a carnival of sorts. I’ve spoken to many people that played there, and they said that they didn’t have a good time, although they wouldn’t admit that to the press. It was too big, too remote-us and them. Woodstock wasn’t us and them, it was real; this was an attempt to recreate Woodstock, and I think it failed miserably.
In terms of my writing and the band’s playing, I’d say some of our best work went into “Strange Universe,” “Juggernaut,” “Ain’t Dead Yet,” and “Something’s Coming Our Way” [from What's Next). As a guitar player, I like "It's Begun To Rain," [Mahogany Rush IV], and “World Anthem” [World Anthem). Actually, “World Anthem” was one of my favorite moments as a writer and as a poet. Though I wrote on the cover inset that it probably wouldn’t do anything, creating an anthem for the world was just something I wanted to do.
Looking toward the future, I have some things in the can that are like, say, Pink Floyd, and I’d love to try doing some instrumental scores for films. Right now I do have a 22-minute instrumental piece that is very movie-esque, and it’s very dramatic. I hardly ever listen to the radio or records-what I like to listen to more than anything is movie scores-just sit down and listen to the film score for Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments, or something by John Williams. That is where my new roots are. My original roots were in the ’60s with the rock and the blues and the soul. But now my musical idea roots are in the symphonic approach to music. I had no training at all, but I’ve been a closet symphony freak for years. Of course, it isn’t “cool” to like that when you’re in the rock scene.
I do listen to my own music too, -I listen to it for regeneration. Like, what did I do, and where am I going to go. And you know, I really am proud of my work.
FRANK MARINO & MAHOGANY RUSH
1974 Child of the Novelty
1975 Strange Universe
1977 World Anthem
1979 Tales of the Unexpected
1980 What’s Next
1981 The Power of Rock ‘N’ Roll
1986 Full Circle
1988 Double Live
1990 From the Hip
1997 Dragonfly (Best of)
2000 Eye of the Storm
2004 Real Live
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Duane Allman (1946-1971)
by Jas Obrecht
Guitar Player Magazine
During an amazingly fertile five-year recording career, Duane Allman metamorphosed from a teenager struggling for a psychedelic sound to the foremost slide guitarist of the day. Ten years later, the importance of his greatest work, the Allman Brothers Band’s classic At Fillmore East and Eat A Peach, Derek & The Dominos’ Layla, and a handful of studio R&B and rock tracks-remains undiminished. Duane mastered bottleneck guitar as no one had before, applying it to blues and taking it to a very melodic, freeform context. He brought the style new freedom and elegance, and for many he is still considered the source for blues/ rock slide.
As the founding and spiritual father of the Allman Brothers Band-surely one of the best rock acts of the era- Duane became the figurehead of a musical style known as “the sound of the South.” With the Allman Brothers, he carried a deep-felt love for his native music-especially that of black bluesmen-to a rock audience, just as British guitarists had a few years earlier. Having learned his blues-based playing first-hand in the South, Duane had a more authentic feel than many contemporaries who had learned only through records. With co-lead Dickey Betts, Allman also helped popularize the use of melodic twin-guitar harmony and counterpoint lines.
Fortunately, Duane’s playing is documented on close to 40 albums, many of these studio projects done as lead guitarist for the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. As a sideman, Allman added a compelling, natural feel and distinctiveness to whatever he played on. (A good sampling of his studio work was released by Capricorn as Duane Allman: An Anthology and An Anthology, Vol. Il.) According to Jerry Wexler, who as VP for Atlantic Records used Duane on many sessions, “He was a complete guitar player. He could give you whatever you needed. He could do everything-play rhythm, lead, blues, slide, bossa-nova, with a jazz feeling, beautiful light acoustic-and on slide he got the touch. A lot of slide players sound sour. To get clear intonation with the right over-tones-that’s the mark of genius. Duane is one of the greatest guitar players I ever knew. He was one of the very few who could hold his own with the best of the black blues players, and there are very few-you can count them on the fingers of one hand if you’ve got three fingers missing.”
Friends describe Duane as an inspiration, a proud, likable man whose presence immediately drew attention and whose artistry profoundly influenced those who worked with him. He was an original, as unafraid to take chances onstage as he was in other sides of his life. By all accounts, he lived for music and the pleasure his playing brought people. During the ten years since his tragic death at 24, Duane has become one of the legends of guitar.
Howard Duane Allman was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on November 20, 1946. His only sibling, Gregg, was born a year later. Their father was killed while they were young, and the boys were raised by their mother, Geraldine. They attended Castle Heights Military School in Lebanori, Tennessee, where they briefly studied trumpet. In hopes of finding better work, their mother moved the family to Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1957. In 1960 Gregg saved up and bought himself an acoustic guitar. Soon afterwards, Duane got his first motorcycle. “A Harley 165,” he told Tony Glover in an interview printed in An Anthology. “Ring-ding-ding-ding; had a big buddy seat, would do 50 miles an hour-boy, I had a great time with it! I still got that motorcycle jones on me, I can’t get away from that. Anyway, I tore up the bike and Gregg learned to play the guitar. I traded the wrecked parts for another guitar, and he taught me. Then it’s just apprenticeship, your regular old thing-you play for whoever will listen and build them chops, build them chops.”
Duane quit high school to stay home and practice on his new Gibson Les Paul Junior, often jamming with his pal Jim Shepley. By then, Allman was sure that playing would be his life. He later told interviewer Ed Shane for a Capricorn promo album called Duane Allman Dialogues: “There’s a lot of different forms of communication, but music is absolutely the purest one, man. You can’t hurt anybody with music. You can maybe offend somebody with songs and words, but you can’t offend anybody with music-it’s just all good. There’s nothing at all that could ever be bad about music, about playing it. It’s a wonderful thing, a grace.”
Duane listened to Robert Johnson, Kenny Burrell, and Chuck Berry albums during the day, and at night switched on R&B radio stations for further inspiration. He Was influenced by Jeff Beck’s playing with the Yardbirds, and always had a special affinity for B.B. King: “He can do anything! He could sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and bring tears to your eyes.” At the time of the Layla sessions, he told an interviewer that Eric C]apton “wrote the book, man-The Contemporary White Blues Guitar, Volume 1. His style and technique is what’s really amazing. He’s got a lot to say, and the way he says it just knocks me out.” Later Duane came to especially appreciate jazz horn players, claiming: “Miles Davis does the best job, to me, of portraying the innermost, subtlest, softest feelings in the human psyche. He does it beautifully. John Coltrane, probably one of the finest, most accomplished tenor players, took his music farther than anybody I believe I ever heard.”
The Allman brothers’ first gigs were at a local YMCA, covering Chuck Berry and Hank Ballard & The Midnighters tunes. Although it was uncommon at that time for white and black musicians in Florida to mix, Duane and Gregg then joined the House Rockers, the rhythm section for a black group called the Untils. Duane remembered, “We were a smokin’ band! Boy, I mean, we would set fire to a building in a second. We were just up there blowing as funky as we pleased; 16 years old, $41 a week-big time. And all we wanted was to hear that damn music bein’stomped out. That’s what I love man, to hear that backbeat popping, that damn bass plonkin’ down, man. Jesus God!”
Gregg graduated from high school in 1965, and the brothers formed a band called the Allman Joys. They loaded up a station wagon and began touring the southern roadhouse and bar circuit. At best, things were stormy at first as they threatened to break up several times. Then the Joys began getting all the work they could handle-six shows a night, seven days a week-and discovered they loved the energy of the stage.
After appearing at NashVille’s Briar Patch Club in 1966, the Allman Joys were recorded by Buddy Killen and songwriter John Loudermilk. A pulsing version of “Spoonful,” complete with organ and reverb-heavy, psychedelic guitar licks, was released as a 45 and sold well regionally. Other tracks from the Nashville session were issued in 1973 by Dial Records as Early Allman. “Doctor Fone Bone” showed the influence of their early days backing R&B acts, and the fuzzy solos in “Gotta Get Away” and “Bell Bottdm Britches” briefly hinted at Duane’s future style. Even on these first recordings Gregg sang with a smoky, black-sounding voice that the liner notes declared “anguished, world weary.” Still, they were searching for a sound, and there was little hint of a future guitar star in their midst. Duane was to progress a long way in the next five years.
The original Allman Joys fell apart in St. Louis in 1967, and Duane and Gregg formed a lineup with drummer Johnny Sandlin and keyboardist Paul Hornsby. At first they used the name Allman Joys, then Almanac. While appearing in St. Louis in 1968, they were spotted by a manager who told them they could make it nationally if they went to California. The group moved to LA and signed with Liberty Records, who renamed them Hour Glass. By Gregg’s account, this was one of the low points of the brothers’ careers. There were plenty of clubs in the city’s burgeoning rock scene, but the label would selddom allow them to perform in public. The musicians had little income.
For the cover photo of their debut Hour Glass album, the group was taken to a costume shop and dressed in fancy, pre-20th century outfits. The liner notes described the music within as “Psychotic phenomenon, from rhythm and blues to driving psychedelic beats. And soul…reeking of soul.” At best, Hour Glass was miscast in image and material. Most of the smooth, superficial album consisted of over-produced, pop-vocal tunes, complete with overpowering horns and backup singers. Although writing songs then, Gregg managed to include only a remake of “Gotta Get Away” on the first album. “A good damn band of misled cats was what it was,” Duane told Tony Glover. “They’d send in a box of demos and say, ‘Okay, pick out your next LP.’ We tried to tell them that wasn’t where we were at, but then they got tough: ‘You gotta have an album, man. Don’t buck the system-just pick it out!’ So okay, we were game. We tried it-figured maybe we could squeeze an ounce or two of good out of this crap. We squeezed and squeezed, but we were squeezing rock. Those albums are very depressing for me to listen to-it’s cats tryin’ to get off on things that cannot be gotten off on.” Duane’s solos were fairly primitive and mixed to the background ..
On the band’s second release; Power Of Love, the horns were mercifully gone, and Pete Carr had replaced the original bassist. For the first time Duane began to step out with supple rhythm grooves and several interesting, fuzz-heavy solos. He added B.B. King-style licks to “I’m Hanging Up My Heart For You,” and appeared on electric sitar on “Norwegian Wood.”
In April ’68 the Hour Glass drove to Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where, without interference from slick LA producers, they could lay down blues tracks. With Jimmy Johnson at the controls, Duane opened up as never before- fluid, raw-toned, and emotionaL Hour Glass’ “B.B. King Medley” (chosen to open An Anthology) contained the first prime examples of his expressive blues style. The unmistakable Allman touch had finally been captured on tape. The group took the demos to their West Coast manager, who said they were “terrible and useless.”
Hour Glass returned to the South and drifted apart after a few engagements. Duane and Gregg jammed with various bands and worked as paid sidemen on an album their drummer friend Butch Trucks was cutting with 31st Of February. The original project was never released, although nine poorly-recorded 31st Of February outtakes with Gregg singing were released by Bold Records as Duane & Greg Allman. Of special interest here is the only legally-released version of “Melissa” featuring Duane, one of his earliest recordings with a bottleneck. Even then his slide parts were lyrical, clearly enunciated, and sophisticated.
Gregg went back to LA in 1968 to fulfill contractual agreements with Liberty, and Duane started jamming in Jacksonville with bassist Berry Oakley, who was in a lineup with Dickey Betts called The Second Coming. He moved in with Oakley until Fame owner Rick Hall, remembering the Hour Glass dates, sent him a telegram inviting him to participate in Wilson Pickett’s November ’68 sessions. Allman came up, and suggested that Pickett sing “Hey Jude,” which eventually became the LP’s title track and sold a million singles. According to Wexler, Duane’s contributions to the tune were a dazzling departure from the usual R&B sound. The guitarist also splashed effecient blues solos on “Toe Hold” and “My Own Style Of Loving.” Pickett’s “Born To Be Wild” put his psychedelic training to good use.
The Muscle Shoals rhythm section loved Allman’s authentic country funk and blues playing, and invited him to become their staff lead guitarist. Duane signed a contract with Hall and moved up to Muscle Shoals, then a conservative town of 4,000 where you couldn’t even buy a beer. The new musician in town was a striking sight with his long red hair, tie-dye shirts, jeans, and red-white-and-blue tennis shoes. For Duane, the first few months in Muscle Shoals brought well-needed peace. “I rented a cabin and lived alone on this lake,” he later remembered. “There were these big windows looking out over the water. I just sat and played to myself and got used to living without a bunch of that jive Hollywood crap in my head. It’s like I brought myself back to earth and came to life again, through that, and the sessions with good R&B players.”
In January ’69 Duane joined singer Aretha Franklin in New York to record This Girl’s In Love With You. He added a smoldering blues solo to “It Ain’t Fair, and his opening slide glissando established the whole tone of “The Weight. He also appeared on the singer’s Soul ’69 album and added a track to Spirit In The Dark. A month later he accompanied his friend King Curtis on the saxophonist’s Instant Groove album, and was the only sideman credited in the liner notes. Duane played at least four show-stopping solos on the LP, and by then his phrasing was honed considerably. He was back on electric sitar for Curtis’ “The Weight” and “Games People Play”, which won a Grammy that year for best R&B instrumental. Both tunes are on the Anthology albums. After a few months in Muscle Shoals, Al1man was asked by Hal1 if he wanted to try recording as a front man. In February, backed by Berry Oakley, Hornsby, and Sandlin, he recorded several tracks. Duane sang, proving to have a surprisingly gentle voice on “Goin’ Down Slow,”which is on An Anthology. Two other cuts, both on An Anthology: Vol. ll, show a penchant for humor: He galloped through Chuck Berry’s “No Money Down,” and sang an original called “Happily Married Man,” which is actually a tribute to being on the road and free from your spouse. The album was never completed, and Hall sold Duane’s contract to Atlantic VP Jerry Wexler. Later Wexler sold it to Otis Redding’s manager Phil Walden, who was assembling a roster for a new Atlantic specialty label called ‘Capricorn Records’.
Meanwhile, Duane was becoming increasingly disenchanted with studio life, as he explained to Ed Shane in Duane Allman Dialogues: “Studios-that’s a terrible thing, man! You just lay around and get your money. All of those studio cats I know, like one of them gets a color TV, see, and then the next day, man, they’re all down to Sears or wherever-’Hey, I’d like to look at some color TVs.’ And like this one place I know, all these cats-five of them-had Oldsmobile 442s. One of them traded for a Toronado, and so all of them traded for Toronados. And now one of them’s got a Corvette, and now they’re all looking for new Vettes. Man, this is sickening. They’re just keeping up with the Joneses and not playing their music. I was down there for about a half year, and I got sick of it. The sessions I do now, I just go in there and do it and leave.”
During one of his occasional visits back to Jacksonville, Duane jammed with Betts, Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jai Johanny Johanson, a drummer he met at Fame. Except for Gregg, these were all of the future members of the Allman Brothers Band. “We set up the equipment and whipped into a little jam,” Duane remembered. “It lasted two-and-a-half hours. When we finally quit, nobody ever said a word, man. Everybody was speechless. Nobody’d ever done anything like that before–’:it really frightened the shit out of everybody. Right then I knew-I said, ‘Man, here it is!’ I told Rick I didn’t want to do session work full-time anymore. I had found what I really wanted to do.” On March 26, 1969, Duane called Gregg back from California. After years of disappointments, one-night stands, and studios, the Allman Brothers Band was born.
Despite the fact that he was the group’s founder and had a prior reputation, Duane insisted from the start that they were to be equals. They pooled their money and rented a house at 309 College Street in Macon, Georgia. They slept on six matresses Walden provided, and plowed all of their money back into the band. The musicians jammed together a lot, occasionally going to nearby Rose Hill cemetery to play acoustic guitar and write songs. In fact, reported Twiggs Lyndon, the band’s original road manager, most of the songs on the first Allman Brothers album were written at Rose Hill.
True to his plan, Duane returned to Muscle Shoals several times while the Allman Brothers were still rehearsing. Boz Scaggs, recorded in May ’69, was one of his finest early studio efforts. “Finding Her,” which contains some sophisticated slide, climaxes with Duane using his Coricidin bottle to produce the far-away bird sounds that later show up in “Layla,” “Mountain Jam,” and several other cuts. Other standout Allman tracks on the project are the raw, long-building solo in “Loan Me A Dime,” the pedal-steel effects in “Another Day,” and a few Dobro parts.
His next project was The Dynamic Clarence Carter (a misprint in An Anthology dates this session to 1967). For a studio blues player from the South, Carter’s “Road Of Love” was a perfect slide vehicle, and Duane cut through the horn’s funky groove with a fat, vocal tone. Later in the year Arthur Conley’s More Sweet Soul gave him the chance to blast blues licks through a quasi-Jamaican “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” He also lent funk rhythms and firey leads to “Stuff You Gotta Watch,” and a touch of slide to “Speak Her Name.”
Back on College Street, Betts and Allman were discovering that they brought out the best in each other as they worked delicate harmony and counterpoint lines into their jams. In September ’69 the band traveled to New York City and cut The Allman Brothers Band in two weeks. The album signalled a new direction in American rock and roll. Tight, danceable, and loaded with rhythm changes, the music clearly resulted from days of inspired jamming. Even from the start the massive guitar hooks opening “Don’t Want You No More”-Betts and Allman exploded the two-guitar band tradition of having one player relegated to rhythm while the other played lead. Instead, guitars were used for unison and counterpoint lines, and there was plenty of slide and innovative blues, with special attention to tone. Duane soared through “Dreams” with a lovely, melodic slide solo remarkable in its control and shifting tones. As Gregg and Dickey point out in their companion pieces, it’s one of the best recordings he made.
The Allman Brothers Band sold only moderately well, but Duane’s unshakable confidence kept them together. Over the next two years they played over 500 dates, usually traveling with 11 people in a Ford Econoline van. Within a short time, Johnny Sandlin reflected for An Anthology, “Duane was very well-known throughout the South as the guitar player. Every band had seen him; guitar players all watched him. He influenced a lot of people into playing their own thing instead of just being copy R&B bands. If he met other guitar players that he thought were promising, he’d either loan or give ‘em a guitar, anything he could do to help.”
Johnny Jenkins’ October ’69 Ton-Ton Macoute! sessions reunited Duane with former Hour Glassers Carr and Hornsby. Duane played slide Dobro on “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” and a soulful, moving version of “Rollin’ Stone,” and electric slide on three other cuts. Jenkins’ “Dimples” contained Brothers-style twin lead guitars. In late November Allman also played slide and lead on four cuts on John Hammond’s Southern Fried. Of note here is the well-controlled bottleneck on “Shake For Me” and a swinging blues lead on “Cryin’For My Baby,” during which Duane used the theatrical technique of reaching behind his fretting hand to raise and lower the pitch of the string. In 1969 Duane also appeared on Otis Rush’s Mourning In The Morning, Barry Goldberg’s Two Jews Blues, and a Percy Sledge album. With Eddie Hinton on lead, he also cut the Atlantic single “Goin’Up The Country” as part of a studio lineup named The Duck And The Bear.
The Allman Brothers’ Idlewild South, recorded in Miami, New York, and Macon, marked the beginning of the band’s association with Tom Dowd, who also produced At Fillmore East, Eat A Peach, and Layla. Dickey and Duane continued to explore the use of guitars in harmony on “Revival,” “Leave My Blues At Home,”and Bett’s magnificent “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed,” which is surely one of their best studio instrumentals. Using long-sustaining, sweeping tones, Duane turned in a masterful bottleneck performance in “Don’t keep me Wonderin’,” and the second Side ot the LP found the guitarists outshooting each other in a blues jam on Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man.”
After Idlewild South’s release, Duane told a radio interviewer that their strategy for the next recording would be different: “The stage is really our natural element. When bands start to play, they just play live. We haven’t got a lot of experience in making records. I do, a little bit, from doing sessions, but not like a polished session man or anything. We get kind of frustrated doing the records; so consequently our next album will be for the most part a live recording to get some of that natural fire on it. We have rough arrangements, layouts of the songs, and then the solos are entirely up to each member of the band, Some nights we are really good, and some nights ain’t too hot, you know. But the naturalness of a spur-of-the-moment type of thing is what I consider – the most valuable asset of our band. When you make records, you can’t just do it over and over if somebody makes a mistake. Plus, the pressure of machines and stuff in the studio makes you kind of nervous. So a live album, I’m sure, would probably be the best thing.”
The Allman Brothers were recorded live in April ’70 at Cincinnati’s Ludlow Garage, and a rare track of Duane singing “Dimples” is preserved on An Anthology, Vol. II. The Allman Brothers’ reputation for high-powered live shows began drawing larger and larger audiences, as did their free concerts on days off. As Duane philosophized, “Anytime you’re getting paid for something, you feel like you’re obligated to do so much. That’s why playing the park is such a good thing, because people don’t even expect you to be there. About the nicest way you can play is just for nothing. And it’s not really for nothing-it’s for your own personal satisfaction and other people’s, rather than for any kind of financial thing. A lot of bread hangs people up; they try too hard. You can either do something or you can try to do something. Whenever you’re trying to do something, you ain’t doing nothing.”
Over 1970′s Fourth Of July weekend, the Allman Brothers played a two-hour set for more than 200,000 wildly receptive spectators at the Second Annual Atlanta International Pop Festival. Duane belted out clean, aggressive slide that day, and “Statesboro Blues” and “Whipping Post” were chosen for Columbia’s Isle Qf Wight/Atlanta Pop Festival anthology. In studio projects around this time, Duane sat in on Ronnie Hawkins, laying down killer electric slide on Hawkins’ versions of “Matchbox” and “Who Do You Love,” and swapping Elmore James-style licks with King Bisquit Boy’s harmonica on “Down In The Alley.” He tracked acoustic bottleneck on Hawkins’ “One More Night.” Allman also added lead to the track “Beads Of Sweat” on Laura Nyro’s Christmas And The Beads Qf Sweat album, and to Lulu’s New Routes.
Later in July Duane began his three-album association with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett. He recorded with them in Miami and New York for To Bonnie From Delaney, playing an incendiary electric slide solo on “Living On The Open Road.” He also added fine, old-timey acoustic to their “Medley,” which included snatches of “Come On In My Kitchen.” Duane recorded “Come On In My Kitchen” with them in 1971 for their Motel Shot album, and again for a New York radio show (this version appears on An Anthology, Vol. II). Motel Shot also featured some high-pitched electric slide on “Sing My Way Home,” and several fine acoustic slide solos in “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad.” His last project with the Bramletts, D&B Together, was released in 1972.
In the last 13 months of his life Duane recorded his most important work, including Derek & The Dominos’ Layla, the Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East and Eat A Peach, and studio projects with Herbie Mann, Cowboy, Ronnie Hawkins, Delaney & Bonnie, and Sam Samudio. Derek & The Dominos was probably his favorite and most important studio project. He was invited to participate after Tom Dowd brought Eric Clapton to an Allman Brothers gig. As Duane later described, “I went down there to listen to them cut [Layla], that’s what I went for. And well, like he’d heard my playing and stuff, and he just greeted me like an old partner or something. He says, ‘Yeah, man, get out your guitar. We got to play!’ So I was just going to play on one or two, and then as we kept on going, it kept developing. Incidentally, on sides I, 2, 3, and 4, all the songs are right in the order they were cut from the first day through to ‘Layla’ and then ‘Thorn Tree. ‘I’m as proud of that as any albums that I’ve ever been on. I’m as satisfied with my work on that as I could possibly be.”
Layla proved to be the meeting of two kindred minds and 20 amazing fingers. Duane and Eric pushed each other to new levels, and Allman played the unbelievable slide solos in “Key To The Highway” and “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.” At the conclusion of “Layla,” he tracked a kind of bottleneck symphony that concluded with imitation bird sounds. Later Duane noted that Eric played some slide on the cut, too: “He gets more of an open, slidey sound. But here’s the way to really tell: He played the Fender, and I played the Gibson. The Fender is a little bit thinner and brighter, a sparkling sound, while the Gibson is just a full-tilt screech.”
Allman also added slide to “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” and “It’s Too Late.” On other cuts the guitarists jammed or played in harmony, reaching their highest peak in “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad.” In addition, a lovely Clapton-Allman acoustic slide duet of the old blues tune “Mean Old World” is on An Anthology. After Layla was released, Duane toured with Derek & The Dominos for a few weeks. In his Guitar Player interview in 1976, Eric Clapton credited Duane with getting him interested in electric slide: “There were very few people playing electric slide that were doing anything new; it was just the Elmore James licks, and everyone knows those. No one was opening it up until Duane showed up and played in a completely different way. That sort of made me think about taking it up.”
On March 12 and 13, 1971, the Allman Brothers recorded live at the Fillmore East. When you combine At Fillmore East with the other tracks recorded those nights-Eat A Peach’s “Mountain Jam,” “One Way ‘Out,” and “Trouble No More,” and An Anthology’s “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin”‘-the Allman Brothers emerge as one of the finest live bands of rock and roll. There were no wasted words or notes, no pointless jams. Duane’s performances on “Statesboro Blues,” “Done Somebody Wrong,” “One Way Out,” “Trouble No More,” “Mountain Jam,” and “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin”‘set a still-unsurpassed standard for electric slide. His collaborations with Dickey Betts roared to life onstage with incredible power and emotion as they challenged and inspired each other. They gave commanding blues performances in “You Don’t Love Me” and “Stormy Monday,” and harmony guitar parts abounded in “Hot ‘Lanta,”"Mountain Jam,” and “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” Duane’s no-holds-barred solos in these latter two cuts are among the most inventive and creative of his recorded work. The band recorded at the Fillmore East again on June 27, 1971, and the cut “Midnight Rider” was issued on An Anthology, Vol. II.
Next to the two Allman Brothers LPs, Herbie Mann’s Push Push contains Duane’s finest electric performances of 1971. The flautist’s easy, jazzy grooves and open spaces allowed Duane to create free-form, well thought out solos. By now Duane was as comfortable in the studio with a Dobro as he was with an electric, and he added some excellent acoustic slide to Ronnie Hawkins’ The Hawk, especially on “Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles,” “Patricia,” and “Odessa.” Late in his career Duane played Dobro on Sam Samudio’s Sam-Hard & Heavy, and reportedly appeared on the Everly Brothers’ The Stories We Could Tell. His last session as a sideman was with the laid-back Capricorn band Cowboy, playing slide Dobro on “Please Be With Me.”
In addition to the Fillmore material, Duane completed three studio cuts for Eat A Peach: a slide tune called “Stand Back,” a touching acoustic duet with Dickey Betts called “Little Martha” (the only original tune Duane recorded with the Allman Brothers), and “Blue Sky,” the rippling guitar harmonies of which are among the best the group ever recorded.
During the Eat A Peach sessions, Duane was asked by Ed Shane to express his thoughts on rock and roll: “Everybody is expending all this energy in various ways to get the same old feeling out of it that Little Richard can get in five minutes. And people are finally waking up to the fact that you can get as much of a good feeling out of a simple thing as you can out of something that’s hard. A lot of people who would have you believe they are intelligent musicians are playing bullshit. Music’s become so intellectualized. Man, music is fun. It’s not supposed to be any heavy, deep intense thing-especially not rock music, man. That’s to set you free! Anybody that ever listened to Chuck Berry or any of them cats knows that…. Rock is like a newspaper for people that can’t read. Rock and roll will tell you where everything is at. It’s something to move your feet and move your heart and make you feel good inside. You know, forget about all the bullshit that’s going on for a while, fill up some of the dead spaces.”
With At Fillmore East rapidly becoming a hit album and two years of touring behind them, the Allman Brothers Band decided in late October to take a few weeks’ vacation. Duane journeyed from Miami to New York City, where he visited his friend John Hammond. He then returned home to Macon, where, on October 29, 1971, he went to Berry Oakley’s house to wish the bassist’s wife a happy birthday. After leaving the house about 5:45 PM, he swerved his motorcyle to avoid hitting a truck that pulled out in front of him. The cycle skidded and turned, pinning him underneath. He died after three hours of emergency surgery at Macon Medical Center. Duane was 24.
The rest of the Allman Brothers Band played at the funeral in Macon, with Dickey filling in Duane’s parts. Delaney Bramlett then led everyone in “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” and Gregg Allman sang a final tribute. The band concluded the day with “Statesboro Blues.” Duane was buried at Macon’s Rose Hill Cemetery, where he had often gone to meditate and play acoustic guitar during the early days of the band. Berry Oakley, who died a year later in a remarkably similar accident, is buried nearby.
Some say that the best music Duane created was never recorded; it was born on-stage and forever given away. Or it was the old country blues songs he sang by himself in the still of the night. For those who missed those occasions, Duane will always live on in his records. In talking about records near the end of his life, Duane shared some last advice with his brother musicians: “Develop your talent, man, and leave the world something. Records are really gifts from people. To think that an artist would love you enough to share his music with anyone is a beautiful thing.”
rock art art
JORMA KAUKONEN PHOTO/ART BY BEN UPHAM.
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JORMA KAUKONEN- “Fugitive from the Past”
by Martin Porter
Guitar World Magazine
Up on the stage the group could easily pass for any number of new wave rockers that are trying to forge a place for themselves on the current rock & roll scene. The sound is loud and basic. The three man organization known as Vital Parts keeps the show simple and rocking and impressively meshes a hard driving contemporary sound with a respectable dosage of the grand masters, from Bo Diddley to Chuck Berry. And despite the fact that the group has yet to cut an LP and is out on it’s maiden concert voyage, the crowd is sizable and already adoring.
Because the man out front, the one with the slicked-back greaser cum rockabilly hairdo, pounding away with a raw combination of heavy metal power chords and blues/country flat-picking, is a bonafide grand master in his own right. In the revolving door of pop stardom, Jorma Kaukonen is among the rare breed who have survived the whims and follies of public taste.
For the former lead guitarist with Jefferson Airplane and founding father of Hot Tuna, survival has never meant taking the easy way out. It has meant taking chances, doing what moves him at any given moment, changing styles, and adapting while many of his San Francisco com¬patriots have stiffened and fossilized.
For Kaukonen it meant bailing out at 2,000 feet with an Army surplus parachute just when Jefferson Airplane (on the verge of Starship) was hitting stratospheric levels of commercial success. It meant pulling the plug on his famed psychedelic Gibson 345 stereo guitar and picking up an acoustic for an exploration of American traditional sounds. And once again it meant abandoning the hot Hot Tuna ship when that too grew stale. Once again, his current venture has taken him back even further to a fun, devil-may-care rock-and-roll that has left his old following disappointed, his new following raring to go, and his record label (RCA) wondering what this 39-year-old guitarist, vocalist and songwriter of Finnish descent is going to pull on them next.
“I don’t live in the past at all, like a lot of people do,” Kaukonen ex¬plains, reclining on the king-size bed in his motel room between gigs. It is Mother’s Day and the motel lobby is crawling with families. There is no room service. Kaukonen has a local radio station on the air. “It is pretty funny to see a nostalgia period start happening. It makes me want to throw up. I hope that if I get hot again it has nothing to do with that nostalgia stuff.”
He has been trying to get the same message across to the promoters on the recent tour that have been billing the new. group as a hodge-podge of acoustic/electric Hot Tuna/Airplane on the venue marquees. Anyone shell¬ing out eight bucks for the old Jorma Kaukonen sound was due to be disappointed. So was Kaukonen himself. In the midst of the interview the radio d.j. announced a special, weekend salute to Grace Slick and the Jefferson Starship, both of whom have long ago gone off on their own orbits, both of whom have current LPs on the Bill-board charts. No matter how hard he tries, Jorma Kaukonen can’t escape his past.
“I don’t mind talking about the Airplane because that was a fact of life and I had a good time. We are doing an interview and talking about it, but as far as a company putting together a current reality program, that stuff is shit, who cares?
“We’ve got a good rock-and-roll band. I don’t know how to categorize it because that’s not what I’m into. I think we are going to make a good rock-and-roll album. We have a lot of good material. We will have a good product and if we can get the company behind it it’ll go. I think the timing is perfect for it. But it would almost be easier for the other two guys (Denny DiGorio on bass, Scott Herron on drums) to be playing with another guy. because they wouldn’t have to be playing with the inertia from the past.
“You know, in fact, before I went out on this tour I took my old stereo Gibson out of the closet, the one I used to play with the Airplane. But the old stereo sounded pretty awful. I don’t know if it was the guitar or if it was the way I was playing now.”
That psychedelic painted stereo Gibson and Kaukonen, whose hair then was a trademark, shoulder length and scraggily, cut a handsome couple during those mid-sixties years when psychedelics and flower power were the code words for a new generation that for some reason found its home in San Francisco.
“Something special was happening in the 60′s in general and in San Francisco in particular,” Kaukonen relates freely. “That was fun to be in; we were all younger then. There was a lot of activity, a lot of real things happening, people becoming aware of things that they hadn’t been aware of before, people becoming aware of political realities. Paul (Kantner) was really into the intellectual aspect of what was going on. I was just interested in playing the guitar.”
Kaukonen began playing guitar in high school, first a Gibson J -50 and then an ancient L-5 Gibson jazz model, and began working in bars in Washington, D.C. With the mixed influences of rockabilly and rhythm-and-blues he began strumming the simple Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley songs that were then popular. It was when he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio that he became interested in the finger style guitar. It was there he met Ian Buchanan, a friend of the Reverend Gary Davis who taught him the basics of the blues guitar. After a short jaunt to the Phillipines, Kaukonen ended up in California, in Santa Clara, and there worked his way into the then burgeoning folk circuit. He joined forces with a banjo picker named Paul Kantner, a stand-up bass player and formed the nucleus of the band that a fashion model with a pedigree named Grace Slick would lead to national acclaim.
The style of music the band evolved was a spaced-out cousin of the current pop idiom, dressed in madras prints, light shows, feedback and half-hour lead guitar solos. At the root of the problem was the ad-mixture of the blues and lysergic acid (LSD).
“The drug scene was happening, that was a big part of what was going on,” Kaukonen says. “After the fact it sounds real easy to say the drugs were responsible; they were just a factor. I don’t trip while I play. But the drugs were certainly conducive to listening.”
For Kaukonen a more important influence was the sudden onslaught of new equipment that was first being made available to the inventive guitar players of the day. “More important than the drugs was the fact that I owned four Fender Twins (that were eventually stolen by a disgruntled roadie who split for Morocco), a wah-wah pedal and a fuzz tone. You would hear people doing stuff and it was fun. Playing the electric guitar is a real physical thing and prior to that time there really weren’t that many guitar players getting the maximum out of the instrument. There was just a trans¬formation of what people were doing with it: Before that time people were just going for the clean sound. Every day it was something new.
“Today if I’m listening to a song on the radio and a guy takes a half-hour solo I get bored to tears after about five minutes of it. That stuff was real self-indulgent. In those days a lot of it was happening because a lot of guys who were up on stage were still learning how to play the guitar. They were practicing their instrument and getting paid for it .. Now here’s a case where drugs figured strongly. In those days people were getting high on psychedelics. Hell, I’ve been high on acid and watched the toilet flush for a half hour. You can get behind anything if you get high enough.”
Kaukonen came down from his high with the Jefferson Airplane in 1972 when he and Airplane bass player Jack Casady called it quits.
“Boredom caused the split,” Kaukonen explains. Still stationed with his back flattened against the back¬board of the bed, he lets his eyes drift to the four corners of the room. “I was tired of the music. The Airplane was starting to be kind of like being in a play, or something like that. Everything was pretty much the same every night. I think basically the reaction of the band members was pretty realistic about it.
“In my career most things have happened by accident. I guess there are some musicians who plan out every¬thing. I’m not one of them. What hap¬pened when we started Hot Tuna was that we had a material shortage and I just happened to know a lot of blues songs. They were fun to play so they became part of the repertoire.
The various transformations have also signaled a change in the hardware Kaukonen has favored over the years. “In the later Hot Tuna days I was using trillions of effects boxes. I’ve gotten away from it now almost completely. I’m using a Roland Chorus and a wah-wah and that’s it. Right now the sound I like is those (Mesa) Boogies I’ve been using. That sound is killing me. I really like that clear guitar sound.”
On stage today Kaukonen favors a Gibson L-5S, the ancestor of the guitar on which he learned how to play. For emergencies, and stationed near¬by, are a Firebird and a Strat. The Fire¬bird is a reissue (number 65) that has been busted and repaired several times. “It’s a real strange guitar,” Kaukonen comments. “The neck is about two inches thick and the strings that I’m using on it are twice as heavy as heavy gauge strings. It’s an utterly bizarre guitar. It’s not fun to play with on stage but its great in the studio. Its got a real full sound. I had an old Fire¬bird that I just sold. Just because a guitar is old doesn’t mean it’s good. Some of them are good and some of them aren’t.”
As far as Kaukonen is concerned the same goes for bands. Hot Tuna was good and as with the Airplane could have hobbled along on momentum alone had he and Jack Casady once again not decided to can the whole thing. The two took up speed skating and went their own ways. Casady formed a new wave group and Kaukonen hit the studio for his second solo LP (the first since Hot Tuna) called “Jorma” which sounds similar to early-day Hot Tuna, but which Kaukonen feels “bridges the gap between Hot Tuna and today.” However, the difference between the two caused problems on the recent tour.
Up until five minutes before going on stage the promoter and my stage manager were telling me they wanted me to play acoustic. They were telling me, ‘Why don’t you just take your acoustic and hold it?’ I told them to forget it. ‘It’s going to work out okay.’ The same old man-and-his-guitar syndrome,” Kaukonen says.
The shows worked. The pared-down, economical rock-and-roll the new band presents is a complementary sound to the currently popular new-wave trend. So is Jorma Kaukonen’s look. His hair is slicked back and short (“I was a greaser in high school,” he explains). His body has been adorned in a fantastic tattoo fantasy that has been gradually gaining territory over the past few years and which will soon occupy his chest and leg with a portrait of a tiger in a bamboo grove. (“Small pictures don’t have any impact. It’s like doodling on a telephone book. If it’s a good tattooist, get something big, something big to look at.)” And with his lanky, slim physique he could easily pass as a punk rocker on the make. However, this guy just happens to be pushing 40, lives with his wife in California, doesn’t get into hanging out, prefers working on cars, and working in a dark room. And while any astute record mogul could easily repackage him “a la nouveau wave,” Kaukonen himself just grunts, “It’s all rock-and-roll to me.”
Is the current music scene in New York at all reminiscent of the good old days of the Haight-Ashbury 15 years back? Kaukonen feels that it is. “What I’m really impressed with today is the energy and general ambiance. People are having a good time again. It is a bona-fide scene in New York. Something vital is going on now. In San Francisco the same thing is starting to happen.”
Clearly the children of the Haight have gone their own ways and while those who missed the boat would like to feel that the groups and gurus that stood America on its ear 15 years ago are still one big happy communal family, that is anything but the case. Janis Joplin, with whom Kaukonen
played in the early days, is long dead Bill Graham is playing Bill Graham in Apocalypse Now.
And Jorma Kaukonen?
Jorma Kaukonen is still trying something new. His motel room may not be the plushest New York can offer. His royalty checks from BMI often total only 62 cents. But at least he hasn’t grown stale-at least he is closely in tune with what is happening today and wants to cut himself off
from the restraints of his history as much as he can. He explains by analogy:
“I used to have a pretty big collection of guitars but I’ve sold them. I just didn’t like seeing them sitting around not getting played. I still have the Gibson Stereo, but I’m not attached to it or nothing. I can be bought. I would sell it for the right price. When they have the rock-and-roll hall of fame they are welcome to it.”
As if he had been waiting for the most opportune moment, the d.j. on the radio again announces the upcoming Grace Slick and Jefferson Starship weekend salute. Jorma Kaukonen releases a humph that makes it clear he couldn’t give a damn.
If you enjoyed this Vintage article about Jorma please leave comments and share your interest.
Thanks for reading and being interested in such a fine Musician and Artist!
JORMA KAUKONEN SOLO DISCOGRAPHY:
1981 Barbeque King
1985 Too Hot to Handle
1994 Embryionic Journey
1995 Magic II
1995 The Land of Heroes
1998 Too Many Years
2001 Jorma Trio Live
2002 Blue Country Heart
2007 Stars in my Crown
2009 River of Time
ROD PRICE AND CRAIG MACGREGOR OF FOGHAT IN SPOKANE, WA. 1977. PHOTO/ART BY BEN UPHAM.
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“A Sizzling Session with Foghat”
Article in the July 1980 issue of “Pop Rock” Magazine.
Any band that lasts a whole decade has got to be good. Only the real powerhouses manage to excite the imagination of critical rock fans for so long a period of time, while still being able to create music that doesn’t sound stale and trite. Just such a band is Foghat. On the rock scene for a decade, this bluesy quartet made the transition from opening act to headliners in short order.
Foghat is comprised of “Lonesome” Dave Peverett (guitar, vocals), Roger Earl (drums), Craig MacGregor (bass), and Rod Price (guitar). The group started out in England way back when Peverett, Earl and Tony Stevens (Foghat’s original bass player) left Savoy Brown after that group’s demise and formed Foghat. Price answered an ad in the newspaper to audition for a guitarist and was chosen to complete the band.
Dedicating themselves to playing American blues and straightforward R&B, Foghat thought it best to leave their native England and head for the states, the hotbed of rock activity. Not only would they have a better chance of “making it”, but it was also cheaper, since they weren’t able to afford flying back and forth between countries.
As unlikely as it may sound now, Foghat’s first concert in America was a freebie in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Since they didn’t have visas, they weren’t permitted to have paying jobs. But with their legal problems straightened out, the group was free to get down to business. And that they did- with a vengeance!
It wasn’t long before Foghat began gaining a horde of fans. They opened up for some big-name bands, establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with. With their obtaining of a record contract with Bearsville Records, Foghat was firmly pushed into the spotlight. Soon it was a string of gold albums for the group, then headlining status. Their last few albums have gone platinum, and Foghat is now one of the premier rock & roll groups in existence.
They are best known as a touring band, hitting the road at a frantic, non-stop pace. Foghat’s incessant touring and big selling records have paid off in helping them remain fan favorites for these many years. It has also paid off monetarily, enabling the group to build their own recording studio. Their last album, “Boogie Motel”, a late 1979 release was recorded there. Foghat, in lieu of touring went right back into the studio to cut another album. That work should be finished as you read this. Foghat also set another tour, their first in a year and a half, to begin in March of this year.
Not long ago, we caught up with Rod Price at a New York Hotel where he and Dave Peverett were giving interviews. Rod made the perfect subject for the “Super Rock Hot Seat”. He was quite affable and didn’t dodge any questions put to him. The following is the result of the grilling which Rod went through on the Hot Seat…
RW= Rock World & RP= Rod Price…
RW: Before Foghat became big, did you ever think of calling it quits when the going got tough?
RP: No. We were extremely lucky. We formed in 1971 and and at that time we got a record contract. The first year we worked on an album. So the album was released in 1972, and it immediately hit the charts, in the first three or four weeks. So there really wasn’t any time to be depressed at all. When we started, we were really happy working with each other. We came over here in 1972, and we’ve been working ever since. The first show, we got like three encores, so we figured we were going to be okay. There are a lot of different ways of doing it, but we did it the best way.
We just went on the road and worked. We used to tour eight months out of the year. And the other couple of months that we were off was just recording.
RW: Did you ever think you’d get as big as you are now?
RP: You may find this hard to believe, but we never really thought about it. It’s rather like if you play, like we did in clubs, and then somebody says, “Hey, I’ll get you a gig”…And then it built up from there. We started touring, backing people like Humble Pie and Edgar Winter. We were just happy to be on the show, playing 2,500 to 5,000 seaters. Within a couple of years, we were headlining those. In certain parts of the country, like St. Louis, Chicago, and New Orleans, we were doing really good. You could just see it (the rise in popularity) as you went around the country. You could see the record sales go up the next week after you left that town. So after a period of about three years, it really started to escalate. We never really thought about it. As long as we were playing we really didn’t mind. This is just a great bonus, we couldn’t ask for anything more. Somebody asked me yesterday what would be going on in five years time. I said it’s hard to reply, but if we’re playing at the Palladium (small NY hall) instead of the Nassau Coliseum (large NY arena), that’s okay- everybody has their day.
RW: What were the main things that helped to accelerate your ascent to stardom?
RP: An extremely good manager, Tony Outeda. He’s been with us since the beginning. A good agency and making sure that the band’s been kept together morally, not let anything happen which causes so many bands to break up. Half the reason, at least I think a lot of the reasons are, they don’t talk amongst themselves. It happened in Foghat, but in very minor ways. What we do so that there’s never a problem, if something’s bugging someone, no matter how little it is, we all get together and say, “Hey, listen, I really think you’re out of line, and they’ll go, you’re crazy, you’re the guy who’s out of line. Then usually that person will go, “You’re right, I’m sorry”. As long as you keep the lines open, everybody in the band is very close. You can’t go wrong.
RW: How has success changed your lives?
RP: I always thought it hadn’t, but in reality it must have. Obviously, I live in a much nicer house than I was and I have a better car. I am not for one minute going to say that I’m not materialistic. I enjoy them, and I feel I’ve earned them. Nobody in the band has gone on an ego trip for the same reasons as I was just saying. We’ve always made sure that nothing like that ever happened, suddenly someone realized that, “Hey, I’m a star, I can do anything I want- I can throw steaks at the best restaurants and I can swear at the waiters”, we never got to that. I’m sure that’s because we weren’t like that to start with. I can see how it can easily happen to bands. I’ve seen it happen. I will not mention names, but people I’ve known, who’ve been tremendous people who’ve had success, and due to, not necessarily the band but the management and everybody around them, have turned into animals from what I’ve heard… We’re not really in that fame bracket of sort of movie star types. The band is big, and we do so good, thank goodness, but it’s not like our lifestyle necessarily goes in that direction. Nobody really goes jet-setting across the country to go to crazy parties and stuff like that. We’re all very happy. The four of us all live different styles. Dave and I are very home-oriented… Roger and Craig like to go out and go to the local clubs and jam and stuff… But when we all get in the studio, then we get on a good schedule. Then it’s work.
RW: Have you accomplished all the things you first set out to accomplish?
RP: I never really had a goal. I just wanted to play. It’s like when I was playing in a small blues band in London, it was great- I was in it and that was it. I never even thought about recording contracts. I thought great, I played like three nights a week, or even two nights a week. And that was fine. I never even thought, “Oh boy, where are we going to go”? I feel the same way now. I just want to continue. I would also accept it if—No I wouldn’t accept it. I was going to say I would accept it if “Boogie Motel” sold about 3,000 copies, but no, that would get me mad- but only because of the work we put into it. But if things did go down, I wouldn’t be bitter or anything like that. We’ve had a real good run. I’m very confident that this will continue.
RW: Are you pleased with “Boogie Motel”?
RP: Oh, yeah, totally, 100%. I don’t know if you know it, but we built our own studio, so we have our own engineer, and we produced it ourselves with our manager. So it was totally up to us, and we just did what we wanted to do. We just kept on working. If we didn’t like it, we threw it out and started again.
RW: How would you compare it with past albums?
RP: Every album, I always say, is better than the last one. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. It’s not like a publicity thing. I think it’s the best produced, best engineered that we’ve done…I don’t listen to the albums very much. After you’ve worked on them for six months or a year, you put them away. And then usually one cold Winter night, you sit by the fire and you take them out and you go, “Wow, I really like that”. I cannot think of one track that I’ve ever cringed on.
RW: Would you like to take a try at classifying Foghat’s music?
RP: I hate doing that. Obviously, I wouldn’t label us disco-blues or anything like that. The best description I’ve heard, which I think we sort of came out with, not really meaning to, was blues-rock, blues-oriented rock & roll.
RW: Do you think your sound has changed any since Foghat’s inception?
RP: You could listen to the first album and you could listen to the last album and the connections are there. Just everybody’s gotten better in every field. The writing has got a little more sophisticated- and I hate to use that word- just progressed a little. We were a lot more bluesy, or more sort of hard core rock. I would never use the word heavy metal. I think there’s a little more melodic stuff, some even more mellow, but don’t worry, we’re not getting older because we love playing rock & roll. A few years ago we had a lot of trouble doing slow songs. The slow songs were always the hardest to do for us, just technically, to be very precise and clean. With the last couple of albums, I would just say it’s progression, just getting better. It surprises me…. Recently, if the writing’s varied enough, you seem to come up with new feelings. I’m not saying I’ve changed my whole technique, but I’ve found it a lot easier to do the solo work on this album. It probably has to do with us having our own studio and working at our place.
RW: Does Foghat tour so much because you feel you have to in order to remain successful, or do you just love to get out there and rock?
RP: Yes to both. I think you have to go out, especially Foghat- It’s just that sort of band. Just to get out and play to the people. That’s what they like. Financially, you don’t make that much money. The money comes from the albums. I can understand how people think tickets are expensive, and they are. But believe me, when we can, we try to cut the price. When you go on the road you’ve got a crew of 23 people. Three tractor-trailers and two buses. Now you put all those hotel fares together. And with the production and everything, it can really get up there (price-wise), so you really don’t make that much money on the road.
RW: Well, do you prefer live shows to recording?
RP: If you would have asked me that question about a year ago, I would have said yes. I still do prefer them, but recently, I just started to enjoy recording. Now that we have seemed to our niche and are able to produce ourselves and we have a good engineer and a good studio, it’s a lot easier. It’s a lot more fun, but at one time I used to hate recording- I really did. I just tried to get it all together, but things just didn’t work out. Once you go out on the road, it’s second nature just to play, easy when you know how. So you can just go out there, then you can have a really good time. It’s the same in the studio. You do a track, and you’ve heard it all day, or maybe for a month, and then you put a solo down and you say, “I think I’m happy with it. This is great, But then you go, Oh, maybe I’d like to do it again”. I always think I can do it better. That’s the biggest joke going around. But then you take it home and you don’t listen to it for a couple of months, not even a couple of months, a couple of days, and then you put it on, and you go, “Geez, I wouldn’t want to change a thing on that”. Sometimes you do things like you’ve got a set solo in your mind and you’re putting it down and you hear something that you didn’t want to hear, and everybody goes, “Wow, that’s great” and you go, “But that isn’t what I wanted to do”, and they say, “Yeah, but that’s why it’s so good being in a band- a group. You have all the other people saying, “Hey, this is great”.
RW: If you were forced to pick one thing, what would you say has been Foghat’s biggest achievement to date?
RP: The biggest achievement? (long pause and giggling ensue). I don’t know. Staying on the road as long as we have without going insane. I remember a couple of years ago, I think I said, “I don’t want it anymore, give it to somebody else”. I mean I don’t remember too many nights over the whole period where we’ve come off the stage and said, “Oh, what do we do”? For the last tour, we had just come out of the studio after six months and then we went on a four month tour and everybody was pretty tired and we were playing better than we’d ever played before. But mentally and physically we were and we were playing better than we’d ever played before. But mentally and physically we were exhausted, so maybe we should go out for four months a year. But that’s definitely it (touring as biggest achievement).
RW: What do you think of the new wave and those artists representing it, like Joe Jackson, Nick Lowe and other new stars?
RP: Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds have been around forever and they’re good. It’s just that they haven’t got the recognition and now they’re getting it. But I think the new wave, when it first started to come out, was a little confusing. But I don’t believe in knocking other artists. I might not like it, but I know there’s a lot of people who do. I don’t think it’s fair for me to be detrimental to them. I’m not necessarily saying that I would be if you said be frank about it. There was a period where it was a little strange, but that’s because it was new. Everything evolves………I think a lot of good’s going to come out of it. I think for the last couple of years, there wasn’t too much going on.
RW: Well, then what do you foresee in the next couple of years?
RP: I have a feeling, a vision- that in the next couple of years there’s going to be some really good bands coming up. I think it’s just that time. I am not, for example, a Cars fan. But what they’re doing, I think, is good. That’s why I’d make such a great critic. I always wanted to be a rock & roll critic because I would never slam anybody. I would just tell it the way it is. And bands like that (the Cars) who are coming out, I think, are really going to be good and get better.
RW: Could you conceive of quitting the group?
RP: I wouldn’t quit because however bad it gets in any form you’re talking about, mentally, physically, or economically, all you have to do is think about those good times, and I’m talking about musically. I can pick out a night on stage where there was an extra bit of magic working, and that’s worth a million bucks. I couldn’t quit. I would never get out of the music business- this is the only talent that was ever bestowed on me. I thought about producing once, but I think that it would probably be frustrating for me. I’d like to help… Nobody really thinks too far away from Foghat. A lot of people say, “What are you going to be doing in five years?” I’d like to think that the band will still be together- and if we’re playing the small clubs that’s fine. I would never go into a small club with my head bowed and go, “Oh, here we are. This is it. This is failure time. We’ve gone from 30,000 all over down to this. As long as we’re playing and there’s an audience, that’s what it’s all about.
RW: If you were given a theoretical second chance, would you change anything you’ve done over the course of your career?
RP: Musically or morally? (Rod cracks up). Not at all, because when I started playing slide guitar, there really wasn’t anybody else playing slide guitar. Obviously, there were. There was Duane Allman, Lowell George and Ry Cooder. But at that point, I didn’t know about those people. I was in England. I just started playing it from listening to a few country-blues things. I’m glad that I stuck to it. It’s a strange instrument. It can be very limiting… I find it definitely a more emotional instrument than regular guitar as far as my technique goes. I feel that I can be a lot more creative. I’m happy that I stuck to the slide more than anything else. I would like to become a better guitar player. I’m satisfied with the way things have gone, totally. We’re very lucky. It’s a lot of hard work…We all look out for each other, and really, it works. Nobody has any thoughts about anything else. Everybody is always helping everybody else out in the studio, looking out for each other, making sure that things go all right.
RW: Would you like to add anything?
RP: Not really. I’d just like the people out there to know that we don’t intend to give up. I’m not sure if I did mention it, but we’re going right back into the studio. We’re not going out on tour right away…Also we’re going to try and do another live album on the Winter 1980 tour. And we may use a horn section. We’re thinking about redoing some of the old stuff which we feel we can do better. We were happy with it then, but we think we can do better now, stuff like “Step outside”. We’ve been wanting to redo “Step Outside” ever since we put it out. We just always felt that it was really a good single and that it just didn’t make it…. We’ve been talking about it (Live album) and talking, and talking. But usually we talk about something and before we know it, we don’t have the time to organize it. We’re always sitting back. That’s another reason “Boogie Motel” is so good. We had the time to sit back. We didn’t have to worry about going out on tour, we didn’t have to worry about the studio because it was ours. So it’s just getting better……..
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE!
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1973 Foghat (Rock ‘n’ Roll)
1974 Rock and Roll Outlaws
1975 Fool For The City
1976 Night Shift
1977 Foghat Live
1978 Stone Blue
1979 Boogie Motel
1980 Tight Shoes
1981 Girls to Chat and Boys to Bounce
1982 In the Mood for Something Rude
1983 Zig-Zag Walk
1994 Return Of The Boogie Men
1998 Road Cases (live)
1999 King Biscuit Flower Hour (Live)
2001 Road Cased Version 2 (live)
2001 Extended Versions (live)
2003 Decades Live
2003 Family Joules
2006 Live II
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Heart Live and in Action at the Coliseum in Oakland on 12-31-77. Photo/Art by Ben Upham.
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HEART- “What makes Heart Beat” ?
by Air-Wreck Genheimer
Heart (hart), n. 1. a hollow muscular organ that by rhythmic contractions and relaxations keeps the blood in circulation throughout the body. 2. a six member rock “n’ roll band that by melodic howls and whispers keeps enjoyment high for a rapidly increasing number of fans.
We shall confine our concern over the all important, if not greasy, meaty organ to its second definition. Let us elaborate.
The aforementioned six members have names and musical functions. You should be aware of them and they are as follows: Michael Derosier, percussionist; Roger Fisher, guitarist; Steve Fossen, bassist; Howard Leese, keyboardist/guitarist; Ann Wilson, vocalist/flautist, and Nancy Wilson, guitarist.
In pursuing an answer to the musical query: what makes this rock “n’ roll pump thump, we have enlisted the aid of four of the previously inventoried band members, (Mike, Roger, Ann and Nancy) as well as photographer Michael N. Marks (hereafter referred to as The M&M) and yours truly (hereafter referred to as A-Wreck) all for no particular purpose other than your enlightenment.
Birth (including School Daze and Self-Discipline for Nancy)
Ann: Heart’s been together five years as of August 1977, but Roger and Steve have been together as the basis of the group, for eleven years.
Roger: Yeah, and around 1970 we were calling it Heart. (Meanwhile, as Ann, Roger and Steve were jamming in Seattle, Nancy was cramming in college.)
Nancy: I went to college at a private university for a year. I went through this big trip where I said, “OK now, you really have to work, and all that.” I really dove into it and I really extended myself and “Wow! I did it.”
A-Wreck: Did they have someone standing – over you with a … a whip? (The M&M leans forward in his chair.)
Nancy: No, not really. (The M&M slumps back in his chair, then stands and exits.) I went to school mainly to gain some semblance of self-discipline .. I came out of a real “modern” high school where” Just be yourself and we’ll give you an A” so therefore, I didn’t know how to spell, I didn’t know how to write and I wanted to learn those things. I learned a little. The reason I finally stopped was because I felt I had gained what I had gone into it for, the self-discipline, and of course the long-standing offer from Ann to join the band was there ever since I can remember … so I just kind of drifted into the other realm and took off with these guys and “Surprise, surprise!”
Mushroom Success & Outrage
A-Wreck: So why, after all the success of your first album with Mushroom Records, did you blow them off?
Ann: Well, it’s not that we don’t want to talk about it, but there’s only a certain amount of stuff that we know.
In the beginning it was a mutual thing. They were just getting their start at the same time we were. At first it was a really great thing because both entities were just” going for it” in order to make it. What it all came down to in the end was that money came on the scene and with the introduction of money, there was like a chemical change. The people who were going to get changed by it “changed.” It kind of forced us out because we wanted to save our art. .. be true to our art and all those “words.” It’s like things have changed for us as a result of money, but I don’t see anybody in our group really wearing dollar bills for necklaces or anything.
Mike: There were a lot of power plays going on, too.
Ann: Yeah, and there was a lot of publicity that was starting to come out which we thought was really bogus.
Nancy: That misrepresented us. Ann: So we checked into it … and discovered all kinds of seedy little … (Ann pinches her fingers together making squirmy insect signs.) … kinda like turning over a rock. They were just implying things with some of the promo …
Nancy: Just doing things without our consent that we wouldn’t have done … No way. Just a lot of little things added up to a big thing.
Ann: Like not paying us for two and a half million albums until the court ruled that they had to.
A-Wreck: As a result of being known as a Canadian group, didn’t everyone make fun of you?
Nancy: A lot of interest was generated from that. A lot of people would say (Pulling back her jaw and stretching her upper lip flat across her teeth) “Ah, so you’re from Canada, eh? Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, eh!” That’s where the band got started. Most of us are landed immigrants of Canada, but we’re all American citizens. So actually it’s like we’re both Canadian and American, if you want to look at it technically.
Ann: That’s a real choice point- the disowning of Canada- because we’ve moved back to Seattle, a lot of Canadian people have accused us of just that… .
Nancy: But jeez! It’s only a two-hour drive.
Roger: We just moved back to where we were raised …
Ann: But we are forever grateful for the success we’ve had in Canada …
Mike: We still do a lot of good gigs there.
Ann: Thanks for the Juno Awards.
Mike: They’re real handsome.
Nancy: When your business is music; it’s not politics … for us, anyway.
Mike: Vancouver is really more like any other state on the West Coast.
Ann: We tend to look at it like that, too. It’s just the West Coast rather than a big division between countries … it’s just the West Coast and it’s all really beautiful.
A Question, The Return of the M&M and Guitar Symbiosis
Roger: How do you know when your tape runs out? (The M&M bursts through a door and drops a conspicuous cardboard box on a table, apparently interrupting an inquiry about Nancy and her guitar.)
Nancy: I’ve played guitar since I was about nine years old … various types of acoustic guitars, but through the guiding hands of Roger Fisher … Roger: (With very stern inflection) I didn’t really help her that much ..
Nancy: I showed him a few acoustic licks and he shows me electric things. (The M&M and A-Wreck exchange lewd, knowing glances.) .
Natural Food, and A Secret is Revealed
The M&M: (Slapping the cardboard box) I’ve brought food ..
Ann: ALRIGHT! THE GOODS!
Nancy: (Leans back in her chair and glances up at The M&M. A drop of saliva trickles out of his lips.) Thanks a lot.
The M&M: Frozen carrot juice.
Roger: Frozen carrot juice?
A-Wreck: Is this the kind of stuff you eat all the time?
Nancy: We wish.
Ann: Yeah, when we’re at home. When we’re on the road we try.
A-Wreck: Are you Natural Food Gourmets?
Ann: Not really. We try to keep the quality of what we put into our bodies fairly high.
A-Wreck: (Suspiciously) Well, what kind of stuff should one eat?
Roger: We were just talking about that this morning. How people spend billions of dollars to get up in airplanes and build fantastic hotels and then they give the people this …
Ann: Edible plastic.
Roger: Edible plastic, right… this poor excuse for food to eat. And it just seems that people, for the most part, don’t know what’s good for them as far as food is concerned. But your diet is very important to your being. Your mental and physical being.
Ann: That’s true. You don’t realize it because you’ll feel fine if you eat and drink the normal stuff that most Americans eat and drink. You feel fine! There’s nothing wrong if you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day and all, but when you go off that stuff …
Roger: When you go without it for a while …
Ann: You’ll realize where you were.
Roger: YEAH, It’s a big difference.
Ann: What your body was having to cope with; all the sugar and nicotine and all that stuff .. .Yeach!
Nancy: Chemicals and preservatives will pickle your livers.
The M&M: Pickle your livers?
A-Wreck:. Well, do, Natural Foods let you sing louder and play guitars faster?
Ann: Well, I don’t know about that.
A-Wreck: What’s a typical Natural Food lunch?
Roger: A real favorite is rice and vegetables ..
Ann: Well, it isn’t required that you eat “Natural Foods.” You can get natural foods at Safeway if you shop right. It’s stuff that’s not a bunch of junk. Like even chicken can be good, or fish.
A-Wreck: But isn’t life kind of bland without a taco?
Nancy: Oh, no. There’s good spices-not the kind you buy in the super market, but fresh herbs and spices are really good for you. You can have really well seasoned, spicy food, too!
Roger: We’re trying to get into Oriental foods as much as we can, too.
Nancy: Horseradish and ginger.
Ann: When it all comes down to it, some guy’s gonna kill somebody whether he’s a health food freak or not. (Puzzled looks abound.) If a person is weird, they’re gonna be weird and being on health foods isn’t going to alter their… basic make up.
(The M&M takes this opportunity to slip away with the Wilson’s for some “pictures.”) .
A-Wreck: Hey, Roger … What’s the secret to being the guitar player in a band with two girls as lovely as Ann and Nancy?
Roger: I use brass nuts.
Lesbianism and Incest
A-Wreck: (Upon the Wilson’s ana The M&M’s return) I’ve heard rumors that you two are dykes.
Ann: That was one of the reasons that we left Mushroom. That implication kept being made and it’s totally untrue.
Nancy: They did that just to sell records ..
Ann: Well, if it were true, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so angry. We were in Europe and when we got back we saw this whole, big Rolling Stone ad with a picture of Nancy and I wrapped up in towels with a caption, “It was only their first time.” So we asked them to cease and desist but the stuff kept coming out. We just said …
(waves her digits).
Ann: I can see where people might get that idea about incest and all, but it’s not true. We both are very, very much into men. (The M&M squirms back and forth in his chair.) We’re just real boring, little dressed-up girls. Sorry.
Vices, Drugs & Nutrition
A-Wreck: Well, if you aren’t perverts, don’t you at least have some vices?
Ann: Being on the road so much we really have to keep our health together and the quickest way to lose your health, under all the grind and pressure of the road, is to get into some kind of weird drug trip. God, I sound like my mother, “some kind of weird drug trip,” but it’s true.
A-Wreck: But you still smoke a lot of marijuana? ,
Ann: Oh, yeah. There’s marijuana and then there’s chemicals and things that get in and drive your resistance down.
Nancy: Marijuana is just an herb, that’s all.
The M&M: It comes from the ground.
A-Wreck: But so do worms.
Ann: Well, worms are very nutritious.
Nancy: Some people eat them.
The M&M: Do you?
Ann: There was a time when we ate dog food, though.
Roger: Blah! Really?
The M&M and A-Wreck: Woof!
Nancy: When we were kids.
Ann: Yeah! All those little biscuits … so nice and crunchy and they tasted good, too.
The M&M: Liver flavor?
Ann: And it wasn’t ’cause we had to.
Nancy: We liked ‘em.
Ann: Our parents were well enough off to give us normal food.
Nancy: “We used to eat Milkbones” says Ann Wilson of Heart.
Ann: “It was only our first time!”
Lust, Fashion Frenzy & A UFO is Identified
A-Wreck: Do you find it offensive when your male fans rush the stage, trying to pull your dresses off?
Ann: Ha-hut. RIP! Well, that seems very natural to me.
Nancy: Not that we try to encourage it.
Ann: We’d just as soon that people get off on our music and watch the show and jump up and down screaming.
The M&M: Instead of getting off on you, personally?
Ann: Well, that’s flattering and all that junk, but it gets dangerous. Damn dangerous.
A-Wreck: So you dress accordingly?
Ann: Well, we all wore an awful lot of scarves and stuff on our last tour, but that’s out now, Daddy-O. You know, Daddy-O?
(Nancy looks down at the petite lime scarf which decorates her own neck and feigns a whimper.)
Roger: English parachuting outfits are coming back …
Nancy: The kind that.. tie at the ankles. Just like Vogue Magazine.
Ann: We just usually try to wear clothes that are comfortable onstage ’cause we move around so much.
Nancy: (Shimmies gently in her seat.) You’ve got to move.
(The M&M’s tongue skims the floor..)
Ann: I can just move better in a dress. I feel more female. It’s more healthy to wear a dress. (Mike snickers into a plate of potato salad and exits.) Roger: I don’t know about that!
A-Wreck: Dresses for male rock stars too, huh?
Ann: Oh, yes. I think all male rock stars should wear dresses for hygiene.
Nancy: Oh, God. Especially the quilt-look … you know, cute.
(Roger exits with a chuckle, leaving A-Wreck, the Wilson’s and The M&M alone.)
The M&M: Would you like to smoke my toe?
Ann: Oh, sure. I’m game. (Nancy agrees and A-Wreck looks concerned, having smoked The M&M’s toe before.)
[An obscene, but unfortunately illegible logorrhea vaguely concerning dogs followed. The next segment, apparently about the concert itself, was the only salvageable portion. -Ed.]
The show’ begins and any apprehension due to their ten-month absence from the stage on the part of the musical muscle is successfully hidden. The M&M rolls into position for the photographic shoot-out as an unusually delirious Detroit audience proceeds to squish him against the stage in their quest to witness the compelling systole and diastole of the band. The M&M refuses to melt in their hands as A-Wreck staggers aimlessly around the auditorium muttering self-effacing oaths and swearing never to smoke anymore toe as long as he lives, which under the effect of the toe, he fears not to be much longer.
A humorous carcinogen within the body of the audience launches a blubbery projectile (actually an un-lubricated Trojan, filled with a combination of Stroh’s and urine, about the size of the deadly phallic sculpture in A Clockwork Orange) hoping to cause a blood clot.
The golden blob hits the stage managing, to wrap itself around Ann Wilson’s ankle. The singer bends Over to free herself, but has second thoughts about touching the undulating object when she apparently realizes its actual contents. Her face contorts in a grimace of disgust as she
rises erect and hops clear of the amoeboid assailant; all without missing a note. The scumbag begins to roll, seemingly by its own volition, falls off the stage and bursts slightly to the right of The M&M.
Based on the above data we are forced to draw our own conclusions in answer to the topic question and can, only suggest that the reader do the same. Class dismissed …
1976 Dreamboat Annie
1977 Little Queen
1978 Dog and Butterfly
1980 Bebe le Strange
1980 Greatest Hits Live
1982 Private Audition
1987 Bad Animals
1991 Rock the House Live
1993 Desire Walks On
1995 The Road Home (Live)
2003 Alive in Seattle
2004 Jupiters Darling
2007 Dreamboat Annie Live
2010 Red Velvet Car
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FRANK MARINO OF MAHOGANY RUSH PLAYING IN A CREEK ON MT. TAMALPAIS. PHOTO/ART BY BEN UPHAM.
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FRANK MARINO & MAHOGANY RUSH- “KEEPING ON THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW”
by Andy Secher
Pop Rock Special Magazine
“I don’t believe in following every new trend that comes down the pike,” Mahogany Rush’s lead guitarist and guiding light Frank Marino was saying recently, “Music that’s good will always be good. That’s why I think it’s ridiculous to just jump on every new musical bandwagon that comes along. Disco and New Wave may be all right for some people, but I’ll still take my chances with playing straight-ahead rock & roll.” Marino is undeniably something of an anachronism. With his waist-length hair, fringed leather stage outfits, and a guitar style that vividly recalls the halcyon days of such mid-60′s rock titans as Hendrix and Clapton, Marino often seems like a man out of place and out of time. Yet, somehow he manages to survive and prosper, proving that guitar-dominated rock & roll is still as viable and exciting a musical form as ever. “The type of music I play has really
never lost its popularity,” he said in a carefully worded manner. “People in media centers like New York or L.A. just don’t seem to realize that the rest of the world doesn’t always want to follow what they say is new and ‘hip.’ You go throughout the midwest, or down to Texas, and you’ll really see what’s happening on the rock scene. What it all boils down to is that people still want to’ hear loud, guitar-riff rock & roll and, quite frankly we’re a band that can give it to ‘em.”
On their new album, “What’s Next”, Marino and cohorts Paul Harwood (bass) Jim Ayoub (drums), and brother Vince Marino (rhythm guitar) have deftly avoided even the slightest association with the “dreaded” frontiers of disco aod new wave, choosing instead to stay firmly within the confines of their heavy metal approach. While it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing of styles, there’s’ little denying that on songs like Rock’n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and Marino’s guitar showcase Something’s Comin’ Our Way the band has has successfully managed to revitalize many of hard rock’s most time honored cliches. “I’m not trying to hype people when I say that “What’s Next” is by far the best album we’ve ever done,” Marino said in the clipped tones that reflect his Canadian upbringing. “The band has become a lot more cohesive over the last year, and I think we’ve become a little more dedicated to our music as well. We really cover a lot of terrain on the album, everything from the old blues thing Rock Me Baby to our version of the Door’s Roadhouse Blues, which is a real killer. All in all, I’m very proud of the album beoause it captures our vitality and all the energy that
we have in our stage show. Sometimes we had to work for 48 straight hours in the studio to get a particular song to sound right, but I think the results are well worth the effort.”
Somewhat surprisingly for a musician who has seemingly dismissed any temptation to incorporate new ideas into his musical philosophy, Marino has begun to plan a radically different Mahogany Rush for the future. “What I’d like to do, he said, “is get about nine or ten really talented musicians in the band. Maybe we’d even have four or five guitarists. I really don’t have any intention of changing our style, but I’m fascinated with the possibility of creating what would be, in effect, a heavy metal orchestra. Everybody would have a very well-defined role to play, and if we could just get everyone to put their egos aside and concentrate on playing specific things, I think it could be fantastic. It would be like a hockey team with each player knowing his role and playing not for personal glory but for the good of the team. Of course,” he added with a sly laugh, “every team needs a captain, the guy who can give orders and take command, and that guy would be me.”
While his dream of a heavy metal “orchestra” is still a thing of the future, Marino faces a far more immediate task – that of being a major part in one of the most grueling tour projects ever conceived. Mahogany Rush, along with such major acts as Humble. Pie, Angel and Mother’s Finest, has undertaken an unprecedented 100 city tour, billed as the “Rock and Roll Marathon,” which sees them crisscross the United States from coast to coast. “I’m really looking forward to the ‘Marathon’,” Marino said.’ “It’s really a challenge, but we’re a band that has always thrived on the road, so we’re looking at it as a great opportunity to reach literally a million people with our music over the next few months. We’re headlining almost everyone of the shows, which is a real advantage because we’ll get a little more time on stage than the other acts. I think the ‘Marathon’ is a very daring, and a very good, idea. We’re putting four top-notch bands on one show, and touring all over the country with the same people. We’re not charging an arm and a leg for tickets, and with four acts I don’t think anybody can complain about not getting their money’s worth. But most importantly, what the ‘Marathon’ does is help project an image that rock & roll is still the most exciting thing around, and providing that is still what Mahogany Rush is all about.’
FRANK MARINO & MAHOGANY RUSH
1974 Child of the Novelty
1975 Strange Universe
1977 World Anthem
1979 Tales of the Unexpected
1980 What’s Next
1981 The Power of Rock ‘N’ Roll
1986 Full Circle
1988 Double Live
1990 From the Hip
1997 Dragonfly (Best of)
2000 Eye of the Storm
2004 Real Live