NEAL SCHON OF JOURNEY JAMMING AT GOLDEN GATE PARK ON 4-18-75. PHOTO ART BY BEN UPHAM.
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“WORKS ROCK MAGIC”
BY BILL STEINAUER
RENO EVENING GAZETTE
DECEMBER 29, 1977
Reno concert promoters desperately searching for a successful formula guaranteed to lure the crowds have evidently discovered it — rock. And the harder the rock the better. Evidently, it’s Reno’s under-21 set which has been waiting for the opportunity to regularly let its collective long locks down while swaying, clapping and raising Bic lighters to its favorite electric-music producers.
Journey and Eddie Money, two rock names far from either extreme on the musical success ladder, helped to prove just that Wednesday night, wailing their ear-piercing music to the delight of some 2,000 Washoe Fairground fans. Not long ago, some 6,000 gathered in Reno to hear the bigger-named Blue Oyster Cult. So rock promoters — once leery of the Reno market – should reconsider. Hard rock works here.
All those promoters seemingly have to do is to hire groups both powerful and loud —two ingredients in which Journey excel.
Following the relatively-tame Eddie Money, Journey put on a show often reminiscent of old Black Sabbath concerts. In other words, don’t worry much about the melody. And forget the words because you can’t hear them anyway. But it’s terrific music on which to get high, an opportunity obviously taken advantage of by many a rocker Wednesday night.
Although Journey is led by two former members of the Latin-rock group Santana, influence was hardly recognizable until the second of two encores. At that stage, keyboardist Gregg Rolie and guitarist Neal Schon mellowed (relatively speaking) into a smooth instrumental rock number. But, for the most part, the rockers did everything rockers are supposed to do. Bass guitarist Ross Valory delivered a skilled, but boring, solo. And if there’s anything worse than a boring bass quitar solo, it’s a drum solo. Sure enough, drummer Aynsley Dunbar — skilled enough when backing up bandmates — pounded his drums in a eight-minute solo not noted for large amounts of creativity.
The first 40 minutes was clogged with much more of the same — well-received jam session which, to me, became boring after a few chords. But the crowd seemed to like it, so …It was well into the night that Rolie spoke his first words to his fans, “All right how are you doing?”. Those words proved to be more significant than you might think. Thereafter, some of the songs words were understandable (even over the poor sound system), and the music somewhat melodic. Some of the songs: “On a Saturday Night,” “It’s All Too Much,” and one song that was either “Now You’re on Your Own,” or “Make Up Your Mind.” I couldn’t make up my mind — both lines were repeated at least 85 times.
The band developed somewhat of a good rapport with the audience, and vocals — mainly supplied by Rolie and Schon—were good, I think. And — keeping in line with the traditional rock concert theme — drummer Valory tossed his sticks into the crowd. It was obvious that the crowd (noticeable for its lack of real tiny people, such as 9-year-olds) preferred Journey to Money, a San Francisco-based rocker and show opener, and I thought he was by far the better of the two acts.
Garbed in an Oakland Raider jersey and a long white scarf, Money comes off as an appealing cross of a goody-goody Beatle and Mick Jagger. Dancing and twisting in Jagger-like motions, Money delivered music that had catchy melodies. Don’t let that scare you, though. The music was loud enough to fight the old ears. Playing for about 45 minutes, Money graveled his way through a dynamite version of the old “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” his single “Two Tickets to Paradise,” a powerful “Call on Me,” “Gambling Man,” and a Chuck Berry-like “I’m Going Back to New York.” For the most part, you could even understand what Money was singing. Quite a feat in light of the sound system—provided by Elvin Bishop’s Go-For-Broke Co. — that produced a mumbled-jumbled sound, much like you get when you have a radio dial slightly off a station.
Still, for a rock concert, it was a good one for Reno. And it started on time, normally unthinkable for rock concerts. And it proved that if you provide heavy rockers, Reno youths are bound to come.
1976 Look into the Future
1981 Captured (Live)
1986 Raised on Radio
1996 Trial by Fire
2005 Live Houston 1981
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LARRY JUNSTROM ON BASS FOR 38 SPECIAL IN SPOKANE, WA. ON 3-21-80. PHOTO BY BEN UPHAM.
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38 Special makes happy return to rock ‘n’ roll southern roots
By Gary Graff
Saturday January 7, 1989
Turn on the radio and you will hear the members of 38 Special boasting about their “Rock ‘n’ Roll Strategy,” which they say is “a system that’s guaranteed.” Maybe so, but a year and a half ago, it seemed like a dubious scheme. That’s when the group decided to part company with singerguitarist-songwriter Don Barnes, the man responsible for a five-year string of hit singles that included Hold on Loosely, Caught Up in You and If I’d Been the One.
Drummer Steve Brookins also dropped out at the time, but for non-musical reasons: He wanted to devote his energies to golf-course architecture. Artistic differences Barnes’ split, however, was strictly over artistic differences. According to guitarist Jeff Carlisi, the other members felt Barnes’ writing — a mainstream, pop-oriented approach — had robbed the group of its character. “We were losing some of that edge, some of that rock ‘n’ roll, southern spirit,” Carlisi, 36, said. “The spark and energy we had on records like Wild-Eyed Southern Boys was disappearing. We wanted to get back to that.”
The battle over the southern sound had long been a civil war within 38 Special’s ranks. Formed in 1975 in Jacksonville, Fla., the group was born out of the same musical community as the Allman Brothers, the Charlie Daniels Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd; singer Donnie Van Zant, in fact, is the younger brother of the late Skynyrd vocalist Ronnie Van Zant. The heritage was a blessing and a curse, however, and 38 Special’s tag as “just another southern rock band” was too much for its members liking.
“The audience was getting bored, and so were we,” Barnes said in 1986. So he began experimenting with the sound, taking away the twangy guitars, cowboy hats and whisky, adding pop elements like the Cars’ clickety guitar rhythms and crafting catchy, radio-friendly melodies.
Carlisi said the rest of the band agreed with the approach at the time. “We were proud of the heritage,” he said, “but for the sake of trying to get the press off our backs, we were trying to avoid it, which turned out to be a bad thing to do; we sounded less like 38 Special and more like a band trying to sound like 38 Special. “People were asking us, ‘Why’d you cut your hair? Why’d you take off your cowboy hats? Will you make up your mind about what you want to be?’ ” Deciding to get back on the southern approach, however, meant getting rid of Barnes, which was like tearing up a winning lottery ticket. “But we thought that, if you make a good record, that’s all that matters,” Carlisi said. “Look at the Doobie Brothers. A lot of people
said, ‘Gee, without Tom Johnston, what are they going to do?’ Suddenly they got Michael McDonald and got bigger than ever.”
Carlisi said 38 Special had an easy enough time finding new members.
Max Carl, former vocalist and keyboardist with the acclaimed Bay Area band Jack Mack & the Heart Attack, was a musical and personal match. “It clicked immediately,” said Carl, 38, who was renovating houses in Los Angeles when 38 Special called. “We all had the same kind of sense of humor and cut our teeth on the same kind of music. When we sat down to play, it was all blues shuffles; that’s my wheelhouse, so I figured this couldn’t be too bad.” New guitarist Danny Chauncey also came with sterling credits — he was a member of Billy Satellite and co-wrote Eddie Money’s hit I Wanna Go Back. And he had one other
“He stepped off the plane and said, ‘Do you like to play golf?’” Carlisi said. “I told him we all loved the game, and he said ‘Good. Can I be in the band?’” The new 38 Special is already seeing positive results of its Rock and Roll Strategy, the title of its latest album. Rock radio, which all but abandoned the band two years ago, has embraced the title track and Little Sheba, a Carl-written track about female mud-wrestling. Carlisi, meanwhile, is betting that a year of road work will restore 38 Special’s good name with an audience he fears has grown disenchanted.
38 SPECIAL CONCERT PHOTOS BY BEN UPHAM
38 SPECIAL DISCOGRAPHY:
1977 38 Special
1978 Special Delivery
1980 Rockin’ Into the Night
1981 Wild-Eyed Southern Boys
1982 Special Forces
1984 Tour de Force
1986 Strength in Numbers
1988 Rock & Roll Strategy
1991 Bone Against Steel
1999 Live at Sturgis
2001 A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night
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