Session Man: Guitar Player Wayne Perkins

This incredible article keeps disappearing from the internet and having to be tracked down again. Sometimes you can find it here. I’m posting it here so I can always find it:


Wayne Perkins on Bob Marley, “Hand Of Fate” and auditioning for the Stones

Session Man

How many people do you know who almost joined The Rolling Stones? That experience is just one of many that comprise the unusual musical odyssey of Birmingham guitarist Wayne Perkins.

By Ed Reynolds
October 29, 2009

In 1973, Island Records released Catch a Fire, the major-label debut of Jamaican band The Wailers, featuring a then-unknown Bob Marley. The album includes the reggae classics “Concrete Jungle” and “Stir It Up.” Few music fans are aware, however, that those songs’ memorable guitar parts (on one of the first albums that helped turn reggae into a worldwide sensation) were played by Birmingham guitar virtuoso Wayne Perkins. Decades later, on a recent afternoon at his Center Point home, Perkins recalls his memory of the session.

The Wailers had recorded the album’s basic tracks in Jamaica a year earlier. Marley took the tapes to London where he supervised overdubs suggested by Island Records president Chris Blackwell to flesh out the Wailers’ barebones sound into something more palatable for American and European audiences. Blackwell brought in Perkins and John “Rabbit” Bundrick, veteran session player and current keyboardist for The Who, to add riffs that went officially uncredited until the album was re-released in a “deluxe edition” in 2001 (the set features both the widely known mix as well as the original Wailers version).

“Chris Blackwell came to Muscle Shoals to record Jim Capaldi’s Oh How We Danced. Paul Kossoff, Free’s guitar player, was there. [Steve] Winwood was there, and all of us became buddies,” says Perkins, who was doing session work at Muscle Shoals Sound at the time. While at the studio, Blackwell heard the band Smith Perkins Smith that Perkins had formed with brothers Tim and Steve Smith, from Homewood. Impressed, Blackwell signed the group and took them to Europe to launch the band’s career. “The first date we ever played was at the Cavern Club in Liverpool,” recalls Perkins. “We were living out our rock ‘n’ roll dream a little bit.” Smith Perkins Smith were soon touring Europe opening for Free, Uriah Heep, Fairport Convention, and Mott the Hoople, among other groups.

In the documentary Bob Marley & the Wailers: Catch a Fire (one in a series covering classic albums), Chris Blackwell says that the Wailers’ record was “enhanced [with overdubs and other elements atypical of reggae] to try and reach a rock market. What I was trying to merge [reggae] into was more of a sort of hypnotic-type feel with a kind of wah-wah [guitar] feel and different sorts of guitar going all the way through, and make it much less a reggae rhythm and more of a sort of drifting feel. . . . It’s particularly distinctive because of Wayne Perkins’ playing . . . this is the sound that started the album. ‘Concrete Jungle’ introduced Bob Marley and the Wailers to the world.”

Perkins continues: “We were in the middle of working on a Smith Perkins Smith album in London, and I ran into Blackwell on the spiral staircase at Island Records. He said that he had some reggae music that he wanted me to try to play on. I really wasn’t familiar with hardcore reggae. He wanted me to ‘do that Southern rock guitar thing, or whatever you do.’ So I met Marley, but just briefly. I didn’t know any of these guys. And the first thing I noticed when I walked downstairs was that the basement was in a fog. Lots of [marijuana] smoke. It was too funny. I tried to get down to business.”

With guitar in hand, waiting to begin recording his part, Perkins requested an explanation of how to approach this music with which he was unfamiliar. “Blackwell explained that the bass drum, sock cymbal, and the snare [drum] are on the one and three [beats]. He told me to ignore the bass guitar because it was more of a lead instrument [as opposed to a bass’s typical role as a rhythm instrument]. It’s great music, but it’s kinda weird in that everything feels like it’s being played backwards. ‘Concrete Jungle’ was the very first thing that I was handed. That was the most out-of-character bass part I’d ever heard. But because the keyboards and the guitars stay locked together doing what they’re doing all through the song, that was sorta my saving grace. I thought I could follow the song, but I still didn’t know what I was going to do on guitar. So I started doodling on the front of it, and I told the sound engineer to start over about halfway through it. Then I started picking up a little something here and there. I nailed that guitar solo down on the second or third take, I think. It was a gift from God, because I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing. And then Marley came into the recording room. He was cartwheeling, man, he couldn’t get over what had just happened to his song, he was so excited. I couldn’t understand a damn thing he was saying. And he was cramming this huge joint down my throat and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He got me real, real high.”

Meeting the Muscle Shoals Sound

Though Perkins was only 21 when he played on Catch a Fire, he already had several years of professional studio experience under his belt. He was 15 when he recorded with producer Emory Gordy in Atlanta in the mid-1960s. By age 16, Perkins had dropped out of high school to play music for a living. In 1969, the 18-year-old Perkins moved to Muscle Shoals to work at a studio called Quinvy’s for $100 a week. A year later, he took over lead guitar chores at Muscle Shoals Sound (MSS) when session guitarist, songwriter, and soul singer Eddie Hinton quit to pursue a career as a recording artist. “Eddie told me, ‘I’m leaving here. You want this gig? Duane’s gone and he ain’t coming back. He’s busy,'” Perkins recalls. (Duane Allman played lead guitar on sessions in Muscle Shoals in the late 1960s before forming the Allman Brothers Band.)

Perkins says he will never forget his “job interview” at Muscle Shoals Sound. “I went in to talk to Jimmy Johnson [Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section guitarist and MSS sound engineer]. He handed me a stack of records about two feet tall, and it’s albums of all these different players, all the greatest guitar players,” says Perkins. “Johnson said, ‘I tell you what. You want this job? You want to be one of us? I don’t want to be sitting in the control room with [Atlantic Records executives] Ahmet Ertegun or Jerry Wexler and ask you to give me a little something more like a Cornell Dupree lick or a little more ‘Duane Allman kind of blues’ in style, and you not be able to do so. Any kind of guitar lick I ask you for, I don’t want to see any kind of doubt on your face. You just nod your head and go on with it. Don’t embarrass me in front of Ahmet or Wexler because these guys are our bread and butter.’ So I went home and took about two weeks and consumed that stack of records. And I got the gig.”

Perkins recalls an after-hours Joe Cocker session at MSS when the studio’s regular musicians and staff had gone home. “I walked into the recording room with my bass, I’m thumping around. It was me and [drummer] Jim Keltner and Cocker. Everybody’s sitting around high as a kite, didn’t know what to do. They’d been that way all week, hadn’t gotten anything done. And Cocker’s sitting back there rolling these long joints with hash and grass, and apparently something else that I wasn’t aware of. They’re sitting back there in the recording room not doing anything, and then I go back there to check on them and they handed me this joint and I took a couple of hits off of it. I started thumping on my bass and both of my hands started going numb. I went over and laid down on the couch, and I woke up the next morning with the bass still strapped on me. And it’s almost time for a Ronnie Milsap session. Somebody said to me, ‘You better get some coffee.'”

Around the World with Leon Russell

Perkins’ work on the Wailers’ Catch a Fire caught the ears of several prominent names in the music industry, including the Rolling Stones and Leon Russell, with whom Perkins had worked at MSS for the album Leon Russell and the Shelter People. “After Blackwell signed us and got us to England, we started on our second album and got halfway through it, then he stopped it,” Perkins says. Smith Perkins Smith soon broke up. The guitarist returned to the States in 1973 and within a few weeks Leon Russell called to offer him the lead guitar spot in his legendary backing band. “There was a first-class airline ticket to Tulsa waiting for me, and the tour was starting within weeks,” Perkins recalls. “Leon picked me up in this Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud in Tulsa with a couple of chicks, and we go out for steaks bigger than our heads. He told me I had less than a week to learn the Leon Live album, a three-record set. So I said, ‘That ain’t a hell of a lot of time, Leon.’ I didn’t sleep for three or four days. I listened to that album over and over. But thanks to Leon, I got to see the world. With Smith Perkins Smith I had lived in England, toured Europe, and all that. But Russell took me to Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong; it was just unbelievable. Great times. I’d done more before I hit age 25 than most people will ever dream of. For my money, that was the best band I ever played with.”

After a world tour, Russell disbanded the Shelter People. His next backing group was comprised of fellow Oklahomans The Gap Band. “We went out to this place called the Rose Room in Tulsa and there was The Gap Band. And they were kicking ass, the whole place was going crazy,” Perkins says. “So we picked The Gap Band up, but Leon kept the Shelter People drummer—Chuck Blackwell—and me, because Chuck knew where all the changes were, and Leon was always one to throw changes and stuff at you that nobody in the band had ever heard before. We went from first-class airline tickets with the Shelter People to a bus with The Gap Band. Leon wanted to go out and get funky, put his cowboy hat on.”

“Wayne picks up a guitar and does stuff with his fingers that other people can’t do, and they couldn’t do if they worked on it all their lives.” —Boutwell Studios’ Mark Harrelson

It was Russell who coined the nickname bestowed on the Muscle Shoals Sound house band. “Leon came up with the term ‘The Swampers’ for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section when he recorded there. [The Swampers were immortalized in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”] Shortly after that, Ronnie Van Zant and them were in Muscle Shoals recording Skynyrd’s first album and I had a copy of Leon’s album [where he mentioned the Muscle Shoals Swampers in the liner notes]. I showed it to Ronnie. Leon had a song on there called “Home Sweet Oklahoma,” which is where Ronnie got the idea for ‘Sweet Home Alabama.'”

Joni Mitchell and a Pink Paisley Guitar

Perkins went to Los Angeles around 1973 to visit Jackson Browne and ended up at A&M studios, where Joni Mitchell was recording her masterpiece Court and Spark. “Yeah, that was a real special thing for me. I stopped in at A&M where Joni was cutting,” recalls Perkins, who also had a romantic fling with Mitchell. Mitchell was recording in a studio across the hall from Browne. “Joni came out of her studio and I said hello and we started talking,” he remembers. “She asked if I wanted to hear what she was working on. Joni and I hit it off. Oh boy, did we ever hit it off!”

“So the next day I went to see her at the place she was sharing with David Geffen over in Beverly Hills—this big, huge mansion. Geffen lived in one half and she lived in the other. I ended up going into the studio with her a couple of nights. I was watching Tom [Scott] overdub instrumental parts on ‘Car on a Hill’ when Joni asked me, ‘Do you hear anything on this?’ I did, but all my gear was with Leon. So we got her band’s equipment but the guitar wouldn’t stay in tune on the bottom three strings, so I told her this wasn’t going to work like I wanted it to. I pointed to this huge anvil guitar case in the studio that had ‘James Burton’ [Elvis Presley’s guitar player in the 1970s] written on the side of it. It’s 3 a.m. Joni was hesitant to mess with it. But I flipped the case open and there was that pink paisley Telecaster [Burton’s signature guitar]. I told her, ‘Here’s what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna do some city sounds like you want.’ So I took Burton’s Telecaster and I overdubbed the slide parts on “Car on a Hill” on James Burton’s guitar. When I put the guitar back in the case, I folded the damn strap different than the way I found it, so he’d know somebody had messed with it [laughs].”

Like a Rolling Stone

Guitarist Eric Clapton, with whom Perkins had been hanging out in Jamaica while Clapton was preparing to record There’s One in Every Crowd, contacted the Rolling Stones to arrange an audition for Perkins after Stones guitarist Mick Taylor quit in 1974. “I stayed in Kingston with Clapton for a month or two,” Perkins says. “One morning at the breakfast table Eric said, ‘Did you hear that Mick Taylor quit the Stones?’ And I said, ‘Naww, have they found anybody to take his place?’ Eric said he didn’t think they had, so I said, ‘Well, hell, put in a phone call for me.’ So Clapton called Jagger and told him, ‘Yeah, this boy Perkins can play some guitar.’ So Eric—and Leon Russell—were my references to get to the Stones.” Months earlier, Perkins had played bass on Stones bassist Bill Wyman’s solo debut, Monkey Grip.

Keith Richards, a reggae fanatic, was familiar with Perkins’ work on Catch a Fire. “Far as I know, I was the last one to audition for the Stones job. They had rented a theater in Rotterdam. I basically got off the plane and walked into the audition room,” recalls Perkins. “Keith was sitting on a couch with Bill Wyman. And there was a spotlight in the middle of the room. I set my guitars down and was just standing there, and they’re all looking up at me. I had never met them before. I was standing there in that spotlight. It was kind of understood that that’s where I was supposed to stand because nobody offered a chair. I was talking to Keith when suddenly Jagger and Charlie Watts came up behind me, and they both stood right next to me, really close. Mick and Charlie were looking straight ahead, they wouldn’t even look at me. I looked to each side and both of them are staring straight ahead like they’re posing for an album cover. Then they walked off without saying a word. They put me in the center of this portrait thing that they were doing, like a lineup. They wanted to see if I looked like a Rolling Stone, and I hadn’t even played a note for ’em yet.”

It is now known that Perkins was competing with Jeff Beck and Peter Frampton, among others, for the job. The Stones eventually chose Ron Wood.

Perkins’ audition impressed the Stones enough that he was invited to play on the sessions that would become the Black and Blue album. “We started out cold on ‘Hand of Fate’ one night. We were just kind of starting from scratch with something that Keith had a musical idea about,” Perkins says. “He had the basic track down, but he didn’t have a bridge, or what they call ‘a middle-eight.’ I was playing a counter-guitar part to Keith, and I started doing this Motown lick that goes along to what he’s playing. And so we’re cooking along there, and Mick’s walking around the room with a tambourine, and he’d go stand in the corner and shake that damn tambourine. And he’s singing to himself, and he’s off in his own world trying to figure out what’s what. The whole thing sounded real rough, too. It kinda just sucked. [Perkins is not the first musician to comment on the Stones’ lack of musical finesse.] It was like the worst garage band I’d ever heard in my life. Then the engineer turned on the red light [to begin recording] and it’s like somebody reached out with a magic wand and went, ‘Bing!’ And all of a sudden, it’s the Stones! Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Perkins lived with Richards and his longtime girlfriend Anita Pallenberg for a month or so in a cottage behind the London home of Ron Wood (who was still a member of The Faces at the time). Richards treated Perkins as the new band member. “We started hangin’ out and having a big ol’ time. We got along great,” says Perkins. “But when Mick came into the picture . . . If I was with Mick, it was all right. If I was with Keith, it was all right. But when the two of them got together, I seemed to automatically fall under a microscope without even trying. Keith and Mick were still going at it over me, because I was under the impression from Keith that I was already in the band. Keith was teaching me their songs and gave me two cassettes of about 60 songs that included what the Stones might play on their 1975 tour. While we were in Germany, they had these two rooms and on the walls were [designs] of different stage setups and they were asking me my opinion of which stage I liked. We cut ‘Memory Motel’ from scratch like we did ‘Hand of Fate.’ Keith was on Fender Rhodes, Mick was on grand piano, and I was in some soundbooth with an acoustic guitar and I overdubbed electric guitar later. And then I overdubbed some slide on ‘Fool to Cry.’ We cut like 10 tracks that were just jamming, and then later on they turned this into some stuff, and a couple of those ended up on Tattoo You.” 1981’s Tattoo You, though presented at the time as an album of new songs, was actually cobbled together from unreleased songs recorded from 1973 to 1975. Perkins plays the jaw-dropping guitar solo on “Worried About You.”

Sweet Home Alabama

In 1975, closer to home, Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King had quit the band in the middle of a tour. They continued as a two-guitar act for a year but wanted to return to a three-guitar lineup. “Lynyrd Skynyrd offered me the job, but something didn’t feel right to me,” says Perkins. “I turned them down in December ’76 and the plane crash was in October ’77. I think about that one from time to time. Ronnie [Van Zant] was one of my best friends. I knew all the guys in the band, and I would have made a ton of money. And God knows, fate could have changed and that crash might not have happened.”

One day Perkins went to hear his brother Dale’s band, Alabama Power. “They had a great band and no songs,” he says. “They had the vehicle and I had the gasoline. I had the connections in Hollywood after all these years.” Perkins says that lawyers for the Alabama Power Company were not pleased with the band’s name, so the group changed it to Crimson Tide. “I much preferred the name Alabama Power to Crimson Tide because that’s sacrilege, to me. Crimson Tide is a great name but [the University of Alabama] was already using it.” Crimson Tide released two albums on Capitol Records, the self-titled Crimson Tide in 1978 and Reckless Love in 1979, the latter produced by Donald “Duck” Dunn, bassist for Booker T. and the MGs, with the MGs’ Steve Cropper contributing guitar parts. Crimson Tide became the house band at the Crossroads Club in Roebuck for a couple of years in the late ’70s, where well-known acts such as Yes, Joe Cocker, or Rick Derringer, if they had performed elsewhere in town that day, often showed up to sit in. “That’s one thing about the Crossroads Club. You never knew who would show up,” Perkins says. Crimson Tide split up in 1979. Perkins later released a pair of solo CDs, Mendo Hotel in 1995 and Ramblin’ Heart in 2005, as well as having his songs included on soundtracks for several films and TV shows.

An Impressive Résumé

The wide range of musicians that Perkins has worked with is impressive. In addition to the aforementioned acts, his credits include work with Albert King, the Everly Brothers, Michael Bolton, Millie Jackson, John Prine, Delbert McClinton, Jerry Jeff Walker, Roger McGuinn, Levon Helm, Bobby Womack, and the Oak Ridge Boys, among others.

Mark Harrelson, co-owner of Birmingham’s Boutwell Studios, first met Perkins in the late 1970s. “Wayne’s been a part of more big time things [musically] than anybody else in Birmingham that I can think of,” Harrelson says. “To be part of that Marley thing, and then to even have a shot at being part the Stones is something that nobody else around here can even come close to. Wayne is first and foremost a player, when you break it right down. He’s a good singer and good songwriter, and he’s had a hand at making some good decisions about production and things like that, too. But the first thing that Wayne does—to me—that is better than anything else that he does is to pick up a guitar and do stuff with his fingers that other people can’t do, and they couldn’t do if they worked on it all their lives. When he went to Muscle Shoals he was a kid, and yet the first time they turned him loose on a session, everybody went, ‘Wow, this kid can really play.'”

“For my money, the best times I’ve had musically interacting with Wayne is when I told him, ‘I need you to play from here to here,’ and he just does something absolutely phenomenal to fill up that space. He’s fabulous at it. Wayne was always fearless at coming up with new ideas and just really nailing stuff.”

Recent Years

In the late 1990s, Perkins began suffering from poor health. Some days, his headaches are almost unbearable, yet he remains determined to forge ahead. Several years ago, he got his I.D. card that officially recognizes his heritage as a native America Indian, and he continues to play bass on occasion with his good friend Lonnie Mack. He’s also working on a new CD. “I’ve been one of the most blessed people you’ll ever run into in your life. And fortunate,” Perkins surmises with an engaging grin.

He’s one of the music industry’s great unheralded guitar players, often receiving no credit on records to which he has made contributions. His confidence has never waned. “I did have to work for it, and when I’m thrown in the damn shark tank [in a studio or on stage] I can swim and I can do battle, or whatever. I can hang,” he admits. “It was a lot of hard work, but the stuff just kept coming. I did everything I wanted to do, including playing with the biggest rock band in the world. If I had joined [The Rolling Stones], by now I’d probably be a dead millionaire.”

Sebastien Grainger may be alright after all.

I actually really enjoyed Death from Above 1979, but the Pitchfork-axis jungle telegraph was all het up about whether or not Sebastien was a colossal prick or not.   

I stumbled across Sebastien’s solo MySpace page today.   I have always thought he was a fantastic drummer, and I tried to model my duo group (with Zaxx from Music Hates You, alternately called Inkfist, James Dean Death Guitar, or something else) as a cross between DfA1979 and Emotional Legs era Leaving Trains.  

I am particularly feeling the symphonic Cheap-Trick-meets-Built-to-Spill pop of “American Names” and the Big Star/Sparks stomp of “I’m All Rage.”  Check out the naked telecaster sting of the intro contrasted with the sweet string section in the chorus.  Really lovely.  

The solo album comes out in early 2008.  I’ll snag a copy as soon as I can and let you know what I think.  

In the meantime, I hope to see more pictures of his dog. 

Sebastien's dog. 

How to get some of the music I’ve been raving about….

You can get the startlingly subtle and gorgeous ohbijou record here

Shannon Wright’s new record is called “Let in the Light.”  

Five-Eight’s only record available online is here.   

Dead Confederate have an EP in the iTunes store here.   

Band of Horses “Cease to Begin.”   

Pylon has just re-released their classic album “Gyrate.”  

You can walk into your local record store and buy Gang of Four, I feel fairly confident.  If not, you should check on them in the iTunes music store

 Baroness is a Relapse Records band.  Relapse has a ton of bands I love, and hopefully ONE DAY they’ll sign Music Hates You.  You can get the Baroness record through their (exceptionally well done) online store.   

Christmas is coming- give music to your nieces and nephews… how hip would you suddenly become in their eyes? 

The Indestructible Beat of Soweto

Today I am revisiting the “Indestructible Beat of Soweto, Vol. 1” that I got in the mail last year.  Released in 1986, it was a document of the vibrant and rocking music scene from the shanty clubs and party spots in the black villages and “homelands” of Apartheid-era South Africa.   As I have said here before, I believe that the Civil Rights Movement in the US is one of the greatest struggles for human justice and dignity in the history of the Western World.  The soul and R&B of the late ’50s and the ’60s is the soundtrack of this amazing story.   The same goes for this music and its relationship to the struggle for justice in South Africa.  Looking back, I remember that there was a time when I found it difficult to imagine a world without Apartheid in South Africa.I boycotted acts who played Sun City, wrote letters of support for Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu on behalf of Amnesty International, and I bought ALL of these records when I could find them.  The music, like the music of the American Civil Rights movement, was amazingly positive, almost giddy with its skittering guitars, sinewy basslines and pounding acoustic disco drums.  It was the vocal harmonies that lifted this music into the sublime, though.  Not being any more of a musicologist than the average record buying nerd, I can only guess that this is a logical extension of the strong vocal music tradition of South Africa.  All of the demonstrations I saw on television and read about in the copies of the Manchester Guardian I found at the library seemed to be accompanied by unison dancing and chanting, often with songs sung in these amazing harmonies.  This flawless vocal stratification comes through loud and clear in the pop music of the era.   Speaking of record nerds, here is our king, Robert Christgau, reviewing this same record

At once more hectically urban-upbeat and more respectfully tribal-melodic than its jazzy and folky predecessors, marabi and kwela, the mbaqanga this compilation celebrates is an awesome cultural achievement. It confronts rural-urban contradictions far more painful and politically fraught than any Memphis or Chicago migration, and thwarts apartheid’s determination to deny blacks not just a reasonable living but a meaningful identity. Like all South African music it emphasizes voices, notably that of the seminal “goat-voiced” “groaner” Mahlathini, who in 1983 took his deep, penetrating sung roar, which seems to filter sound that begins in his diaphragm through a special resonator in his larynx, back to the studio with the original Mahotella Queens and the reconstituted Makgona Tsohle Band. But with Marks Mankwane’s sourcebook of guitar riffs hooking each number and Joseph Makwela’s unshakable bass leading the groove rather than stirring it up reggae-style, it’s also about a beat forthright enough to grab Americans yet more elaborate than the r&b it evokes. The defiantly resilient and unsentimental exuberance of these musicians has to be fully absorbed before it can be believed, much less understood. They couldn’t be more into it if they were inventing rock and roll. And as a final benison, there’s a hymn from Ladysmith Black Mambazo. A+

 This is not just one of those “important” records, it’s a FUN record.  See if you don’t find yourself dancing around the living room if you put it on.

Also, as Christgau mentions, Ladysmith Black Mambazo have a song on this compilation.  They inspired Township Vocal Band tradition which later flourished in the culture of the South African workcamps.  Men in these camps toiled ten or more hours a day, often working in the horrible conditions of the South African diamond mines.  They had been bused hundreds of miles from their families and they largely lived in barracks.  When they weren’t working they grouped together by township and had contests to pass their off-time to see which band could sing most sweetly.   Imagining music this entrancing and gorgeous being created by people living such desperate and hardbitten lives often brings me to tears.   This is the music of the waters being parted so that people could come up out of slavery and degradation. 

You really should own this record

This is where metal is going

You should check out the live footage of the Baroness show from the Bowery Ballroom.  I dig these guys.  Their idea of metal is much closer, I think, to Can than it is to someone like, say, Megadeath.  I think it’s a lot more interesting, this sort of improvisational metal.  However, it can get a little too proggy for me at times, and I get Black Flag cravings. I definitely think it’s sort of a ‘metal-fans-only’ genre, this weird new byzantine jammy metal, but it’s a nice break…     

Fountains of Spain

The Fountains of Wayne have announced their tour dates in 2008:

  • 1.11.08   Murcia, Spain, EU   Murcia Auditorium
  • 1.12.08   Valencia, Spain, EU   Mirror Club
  • 1.14.08   Santiago, Spain, EU   DC Capitol
  • 1.17.08   Madrid, Spain, EU   Joy Eslava
  • 1.18.08   Bilbao, Spain, EU   Kafe Antzokia
  • 1.19.08   Zaragoza, Spain, EU   OASIS

I am gonna buy a lottery ticket today, y’know, just in case.  I have been to all of these cities, and I love them dearly.  My love for the Fountains of Wayne is well documented. If there was a perfect vacation for my lovely wife and me, well there it is. 

Band of Horses

What can I tell you about Band of Horses? Here is everything that I know: They lived in Seattle for a number of years, then moved back to their hometown of Easley Motherfucking South Carolina. This is a move that i totally understand, both for pragmatic reasons and for more esoteric reasons. Band of Horses have become a touring machine, as best as I can tell. Fact #2 about them: Microsoft bought them a “Zune” branded tour bus for their US tour. It’s way more practical for a band that is touring as much as they are to keep residencies in a small South Carolina town than in a place like Seattle, particularly when it comes to things like rent costs and getting in and out of town.

More esoterically, back when I lived in Chicago, I remember this time of year, as the skies turned grey and it just got colder and colder. It got to where I thought “This is the coldest I have ever been. My god, how could it be so cold?” Then it got even colder. I was really struggling to find work up there and I was starting to find that a lot of my time was spent driving from here to there to there chasing ever more elusive dollars. It was rough. Then, one day I heard a story on the radio about rural people who watch trains in South Georgia, and I heard their soft voices on the air. I heard the softness in their ways, too- the way they said “Thank you” to the interviewer and how they listened to the questions that they were being asked, laughing politely at the right times. I had to pull the car over and just sit for a while until my heart wasn’t so heavy. I knew I was done with Chicago. I knew I had to get home.

I hear Band of Horses, and I remember what that was like.

Here are the lyrics to “The General Specific”:

If your trials end, are really getting you down
We had a close call, I didn’t even see it, then another one, I hardly believed it at all.
What the writers say, it means shit to me now.
Plants and animals, we’re on a bender when it’s 80 degrees, the end of December was coming on,
Only for you and me.
When the showing up ends, going back to the south, where hungry necks that I know, and runnin’
A blender in a lightning storm, disguised as a blessing I’m sure.
Knowing up here, there comes a fork in the road, pants have gotta go, we’re on an island on
The fourth of July, looks like the tide is going home.
In time I’d find a little way to your heart, down to the general store for nothing specific,
Gonna wash my bones in the Atlantic shore – only for you and me

I have heard criticisms of Band of Horses, mostly that they’re trying to take their brand of indie/Americana mainstream, and that they’re the most commercial (and this implies: “possessing the least integrity”) of the Low Lows/Sparklehorse/My Morning Jacket mope-along-little-doggies axis, but I love this band, so far. Talk to me again in a week, we’ll see. But right now, I am digging it.

Suddenly awash in new music, and I think it’s my responsibility to share

I am really enjoying ohbijou. I find them to be sort of orchestral pop without the kind of OHMIGODWE’RETHEMOSTIMPORTANTPOPBANDEVER!!!! presentation of Arcade Fire. Don’t get me wrong, I see where Arcade Fire are going, but I think ohbijou is a little more subtle and lovely. I suspect that I will be just as into ohbijou a year from now.

Also, my old friend Shannon Wright has just(?) put out a new record. I knew her as “the girl from Crowsdell” back in the ’90s, then lost track of her, only to have her pop back on to my (admittedly limited) radar as having done some amazing work with Steve Albini at Electrical Studios in Chicago. You should check out the songs on her MySpace page.

I have been playing with Five-Eight lately. God, what a blast that’s been! I played with Five-Eight for about nine years back in the ’90s. We did innumerable tours, including at least five Big Laps around the country. It was good, then it was great, then we got tired of each other and touring and I left the band. After eight years off, the drummer who replaced me has moved out to Los Angeles and I have been filling in here and there. It’s amazing what happens when you take a little time off. The practices have been revelatory, amazing, moving. There’s a level of communication that happens when you’ve played with guys for that many years. It’s good. It’s been a lot of fun. I have no idea what the future holds, but y’know, even when I pretend that I do, it’s all guesswork, so we’ll see.

I have also been listening to Dead Confederate a lot. These guys are from Athens, and I stumbled up on them from the nice things that they had said about Music Hates You in an interview. They’re an interesting mix of influences. I hear a little Radiohead, some Flaming Lips, some Sonic Youth, but there’s no denying that they’re a great pop songwriting team. I dig this band, and I predict great things. You can see some very funny photos of them doing Sonic Youth covers on my friend Mike’s website.

There will be more music updates soon. I am starting to think this might need to just turn into a music blog. I am so much more interested in music than politics these days.

Back with Music Hates You

I got back to Atlanta on Wednesday, got to bed at two a.m, or so, then was up the next morning and back to the Day Job. Hi, boss! Eight a.m.? No Problem!

After work, I met up with Music Hates You and we went back to Atlanta to play the Drunken Unicorn with Hope and Suicide. It was good to be home- MHY hadn’t done a lot of publicity for the DU show on the outside chance that I might have been delayed coming home and they would have been forced to cancel, so, the show was kind of sparsely attended. The lovely gentlemen of Zoroaster were there, except for Dan, because he never comes to our shows. Dave and Eric from Doomsayer were also there. It felt like a proper homecoming.

I would guess that there were between 7 and 10 thousand people at the Furs’ Costa Mesa show, and there were between 7 and 10 people at the Drunken Unicorn. Oddly, I was totally alright with that. “Become attached to action, not the fruits of action.” It was good, deeply satisfying on a fundamental level, to play with MHY last Thursday. It was nice to peel the lid back and let some “Hell, yeah!” fly out.

There was some of the usual craziness later, only more so. Some things don’t change. I got two hours of sleep and was back at work on Friday. Yep, I am home.

The trip home

After the Costa Mesa Massacre, Tricia and I sat in the back of the bus and talked about everything that went wrong and how frustrating it was for her to try to undo the damage and slip past security at the same time. It’s gotta be tough being a woman and a front of house engineer. I personally saw more than one occasion where some crusty local sound guy, with a ponytail and an extra 150 pounds on him, condescended to her over something like microphone choices. Idiotic, but it’s the way of the rock and roll world. When a guy’s only interactions with women are looking at them in pornography, I suppose it’s a real challenge to deal with a woman who has actual opinions and skills.

We got to the hotel next to LAX and checked all of our gear in with the bell captain. Oddly, the lobby of the hotel was PACKED with young high school aged kids speaking Spanish with a Castillian accent. Or, I should say, thwarming with thudents thpeaking Thpanish. I am guessing they were on some sort of high school trip and their flight had been delayed or canceled. They all still had their luggage and were clearly just waiting on SOMETHING (or… “thomething”…) to happen…

Tricia and I went looking for a convenience store within walking distance…. “Walking,” you say? In LA? Ha ha ha! (Yes, I know…) We actually had to take a taxi to the nearest Ralph’s, where we discovered it was too late in the day for T to get a couple of Boddington’s. Costa Mesa was the crap day that would never end…

When we got back to the hotel, the lobby was still swarming with Madrilenos. I finally got back to my room after some elevator wrangling and I sat on the bed, thinking long and hard about what I could have done different when all the sound went (as Tricia likes to say) pear-shaped. On reflection, I think we all did the best we could.

Years ago, my father came to Athens to see me after learning that my first wife and I were splitting up. I was kind of a mess, and he and I went hiking in the woods to have some time alone. He listened patiently to me as I vented and I was going over all the things I thought I should have maybe done differently, and finally he said “Son, did you do most things the best that you could?” and I could honestly answer that Yes, I had. “Then it’s time to decide that it’s ok and to not waste too much time trying to fix the past.”

With that in mind, the Costa Mesa show now lives on the shelf in my mind marked “Fuck it.”

The next morning, even though I had a later departure time than most of the rest of the band, I decided to go down early and help with check-out in any way I could. Unfortunately, the lobby was STILL thwamped with thudents, so I was unable to buy coffee or breakfast. Without coffee, I was no help. Mostly my contribution to loading up all our gear and getting everyone and their guitars to the airport was standing dumbly ALMOST out of the way. My friend Christopher once remarked that my personality isn’t dependent on having two cups of coffee in the morning, my personality IS two cups of coffee in the morning. Leave that out and you get the Madame Tussaud’s version of Patrick.

Tour manager Bob (who is my personal hero for the tour, btw) procured a bus for us, and we shuttled to LAX, then he checked everyone in at once, sent bags to the right planes and then he and I went to find our own flight (we’re the only two Southerners on the tour, and both were flying into Hartsfield) and some breakfast.

I skipped an EIGHT DOLLAR(!!!) sandwich at Starbucks and we each had a hotdog instead. Ah, the glamourous life.

The flight was uneventful, for which I am thankful, because I don’t much care for flying.

My lovely wife met me at the airport, and we went and had a late, late supper at our favorite Korean place in Atlanta before driving home.

Later, after she had fallen asleep, I found myself sitting up in bed, with my dogs around me and her sleeping peacefully at my side, thinking “Well…….. that was interesting.”