Top 10 Countdown “The Singing Bassist’ – # 7 (Roger Waters)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

Take a second and try that schoolyard trick of patting the top of your head while rubbing your tummy. After the expletives have died down, you can better appreciate the challenges of being a Lead Singer/Bassist. The Lead Singer/Bassist is another unique brand of musician that deserves a little extra combat pay. Singers who play guitar have the option of coasting, or burying their mediocrity in the mix.  The Lead Singer/Bassist is the center of attention AND the center of gravity in the band dynamic. One false step and the house of cards comes tumbling down. No surprise that in successful bands, the Lead Singer/Bassist shows a distinct predilection for control freakery. Here then, is my top 10 list of the greatest down-low multi-tasker; The Lead Singer/Bassist.

Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)

Roger_Waters

When original Pink Floyd visionary Syd Barrett failed the ‘electric cool aid acid test’ and left the band to pursue his own fine madness, Roger Waters jumped into the gaping void and eventually seized control of the rudderless band. Keyboardist Rick Wright was a superior singer and capable writer, David Gilmour was a superb singer and wrote a bit. Roger Waters willed himself to be the lead singer and main writer of the band. Ultimately Waters, (in Ziggy Stardust fashion)  morphed into the fictitious, megalomaniac, a-hole character ‘Pink’ whose pathology Waters chronicled in the super-sized slab of psychosis “The Wall”.  Waters ultimately filed suit against the band, stating that (he alone) was “Pink Floyd” and the three other charter members were merely grifters not fit to sully the name. David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright thumbed their nose at  Waters, carried on with the Pink Floyd brand and made millions.  Waters failed to prevail in court, but settled for sole possession of “The Wall” as a consolation prize.  Waters is a modestly gifted bassist with an idiosyncratic vocal quality. However, the sum clearly added up to more than its component parts. Waters is an  indisputable musical genius, and (by some accounts) a miserable bastard.

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Mandocellos on Parade – Wood and Wires perform “Stained Glass”

Wood And Wires were an acoustic duo who played the clubs and cafe’s of NoHo during the 90’s. They never achieved commerical success but put out quality music none-the-less. Here we have a video capturing their essence for posterity. This track is available on the acoustic anthology “A Different Distant Past”.Click for Itunes link Stained Glass

Wood and Wires:

Dominic Bakewell – Guitar, Fretless Bass, Drum Programming

Dale Nickey – Mandocello, Piano

Before And After Vol. 3 (GENESIS) – Music Makeovers That Made Sense AND Dollars

GENESIS

Before (1967-1975)

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Genesis was a hard working, dues paying member of the Progressive Rock elite league. However, they could not seem to throw the commercial knockout punch that Yes, ELP, and Jethro Tull had been able to deliver. The band’s stock and trade became quirky, phantasmagorical mini-operas, and elaborate stage presentations with multiple costume changes.  By the time the band released their sprawling double album, “Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, they were in the same prog purgatory as King Crimson; a critically acclaimed band with a large international cult following and no hits.

After (1975 – ?):

genesis

Enigmatic lead singer and creative visionary Peter Gabriel left Genesis in 1975 to start a solo career. Most observers thought Genesis were finished.  Indeed, auditions for the lead singer slot were going nowhere fast until drummer Phil Collins took a crack at the vocal mic.  Not only was Collins a capable vocalist, his eerie (vocal) similarity to Gabriel helped maintain the sonic continuity of the band. And, against all odds, Collins had the commercial Midas touch that led the band out of the Prog wilderness and onto the Billboard charts to stay.

What Happened Next:

Gabriel became a platinum selling solo artist and started dating movie stars. Collins became a platinum selling solo artist and got divorced. Genesis became a platinum selling band and entered  The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. The world still awaits the final reunion of the ‘classic’ Genesis lineup; a reunion that will likely never happen.

2008-09-12-genesis_united

Exclusive Interview with Deborah Gee

Deborah Gee  is having an eventful century. Her critically acclaimed debut solo album “Portal” was released in 2000.  After that album ran it’s course, a chance meeting in a coffee house resulted in a liason with her future significant other (ex-Dickies) guitarist Glen Laughlin.  Together they birthed a new band, The Cherry Bluestorms.  Led by Gee and Laughlin and employing a rotating cast of L.A. musicians, they released their Psych-Pop debut “Transit of Venus” in 2007.  More critical acclaim followed as they unveiled the album in Britain, including gigs at the fabled Cavern Club in Liverpool; the British Pop mecca that informs the band muse.  Now in 2012 the band is planning another tour of Britain in support of The Cherry Bluestorms second album, “Bad Penny Opera”. On top of all this frenetic activity,  Deborah Gee is planning the release of a new solo album at the end of the year “Geeology”. I recently caught up with Deborah to sort this all out…..

www.thecherrybluestorms.com

Interviewed by Dale Nickey:

Q. Your bio says you are from Texas. However, I don’t hear any ”twang’ in your music, what are your musical influences?

DG -I wanted to get as far away from twang as possible, since that was what my parents were listening to. 🙂 I started listening to The Beatles, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Beach Boys, The Association, The Kinks, Joni Mitchell, The Byrds, The Buffalo Springfield, The Turtles, Donovan and all the Stax/Tamla/Motown type stuff when I was around 14 or 15. Heart were an influence as well, probably because there were so few real female rockers other than Grace Slick, who I always admired. Peter Gabriel came later for me, after his days with Genesis. After I started playing out, people started telling me about Sarah McLachlan, Aimee Mann and Chrissie Hynde.

Q. What was the inspiration behind forming The Cherry Bluestorms?

DG – Glen and I were working together on what was going to be my second solo album. Glen had recently broken up his prior band. As Glen started contributing more to my music, it became apparent that some of our music was becoming a third entity that wasn’t just my solo stuff, but wasn’t just Glen’s either. We were considering putting a band together to do my solo material, but we decided to join forces and see where the collaboration took us.

Q. How do you compare  solo work with the collaboration and compromise required of a band situation.

DG – I clearly have a lot more freedom in my solo efforts. I collaborate with other musicians there as well, but it’s all under my direction. Glen is co-producing my next solo album, but he’s very clear that this is not a Cherry Bluestorms album. We have other musicians contributing and he’s there to help me realise my own goals. The thread that holds my solo material together is my voice and my sensibilities. So, the results will probably be more eclectic. In The Cherry Bluestorms, the roles are more defined and Glen is obviously very involved in every aspect.

Q. Regarding the new Cherry Bluestorms record, “Bad Penny Opera”, the title would suggest a ‘concept album’ …. Is that correct,  and how does this album compare to Transit of Venus?

DG – Yes, BPO is sort of a concept album. There is a story that is more implied than spelt out. I suppose you could say it’s more of a song cycle. Aside from the story concept, the underlying concept is a sort of homage to our ‘60’s influences. I think that’s true of TOV as well, but it’s more developed in BPO. TOV was our first album and I think there are strong traces of the process of moving from my solo project to a band. By the time we got the BPO tracks together we knew what The Cherry Bluestorms was.

Q. All bands have friction. Leading a band with your significant other must add a whole different layer of drama. How do you keep it going with out killing each other…?

DG – Truthfully, we don’t have much friction about music. We have little flare-ups over stupid things, but thankfully they usually snuff themselves out really quickly. Once in awhile I get upset because Glen doesn’t want me to play guitar on stage and I want to. But not on the recordings!

Q. How was your music received in Britain?

DG – Well, last time we only played in Liverpool. The first show seemed like it went really well. The next night we played a bigger stage. The place was empty when we went backstage. When we came onstage, it was packed! There were a lot of familiar faces from the night before and it really felt like the word had gotten out. We had a great show and were very well received.

Q. What challenges have you encountered trying to present such a Euro-Pop sensibility to younger audiences weaned on Hip Hop and Grunge?

DG – It’s hard to know. We haven’t played any shows with a hip hop act. It seems like most of the bands we’ve played with have been very complimentary to us, regardless of their style. I think musicians tend to be pretty generous. Sometimes fans have some sort of misguided idea that liking more than one thing is somehow disloyal. But we haven’t run into that. We just do what we do and hope people will dig it. We were very curious to see how Bad Penny Overture would go over when we opened with it at a festival in Pasadena. There were a lot of younger people there compared with the clubs we usually play. As the name implies, the Overture is an instrumental with a strong dance groove. The rhythm section grooved on the intro and when Glen came in with the main guitar riff I thought they were going to get a standing ovation!

Q. I (your interviewer) played in a lot of bands with women during the Seventies. It was still  a novelty then to be a female rocker. They caught a lot of crap.  Did you ever encounter that and how is today’s environment for female musicians?

DG – I have had some problems in the past with male musicians who had a hard time taking direction from a female. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, I simply found another player.

Q. When do you think your next solo album is coming out?

We’re working hard to get BPO finished in time to have it when we’re in England in May. When we come back we’ll start working on my solo album again. It’s already about one-third finished. I’m hoping that it will be out by year’s end.

http://www.newusb.co.uk/artists/profile/index.php?profile_id=Deborah%20Gee

Q. How difficult are the challenges of being an “Indie” band in such a glutted market….

DG – I think it’s really hard to get anyone’s attention these days and even harder to keep it. In fact, it’s practically a full time job trying to connect with our audience and reach out to new fans. We recently started working with a guy in England who is helping us spread the word. We may start working with a radio promotion company here soon as well. We’re doing a lot on our own, too. We just started offering a free download of a new version of one of our songs on our website, http://www.thecherrybluestorms.com to those who sign up on our email list.

Q.  How do you cope with the challenges of trying to promote and sell new music in a market environment where so much ‘free’ music is available?

Whether music is free or not, people want to hear music they like. We’re not against making some tracks available for free. But, if you give all of your music away free, you are doing a disservice to yourself and the music community in general.  Fans don’t mind supporting you if they believe you are doing something worthy. We put a lot into making music that doesn’t just reflect the style of bands in the ‘60’s, but tries to maintain that quality from the writing to the performance to the production values.

Deborah Gee – Geeology

A Shaman, A True Star (Ballad of Jimmy Townes)

By Dale Nickey:

jimmy

I answered an ad for a Bass Player. Something about spoken word, freeform music and the Grateful Dead. I was 41 years old and thought I had seen it all. I had had decided to reinvent myself as a fretless bass player. I was ready for something different.

I called the ad. An impossibly gentle, fey voice with a strong Texas accent answered. It was Jimmy. He invited me over with the suggestion I play what was in my heart.

At the time, Jimmy lived in North Hollywood. He had a rented house in the industrial, ass end of NoHo. It was a nice house in a tolerable neighborhood with a high vaulted ceiling in the living room. Percussion instruments of every type and ethnicity festooned the living room walls and any available counter-space or tabletop. Colored Xmas lights were strung around the room as well. Night vibe. Very New Orleans. I showed up at the appointed time. Jimmy said his wife Kelly was out getting donuts.

Jimmy was a bohemian.

Jimmy was a Shaman.

Jimmy played guitar and described his music as “spoken word”.  Jimmy was six years my senior. He started by handing me a loaded pipe. Then grabbed a tuned wood block and told me he was going to “turn me on to something”. It was a poly-rhythm. He called it “2 against 3”. It was just as he said. It opened me up. I grabbed some hard wire drum brushes and started playing his upturned school fire bells that he had spread out on a folding table like a vibraphone. We clicked instantly. Wife Kelly showed up. She was a plus-sized blond beauty who happened to favor shawls and horn-rim glasses as a fashion statement. She was a world-class flautist and played piano beautifully as well. She was also the drummer of the band. She played a snare drum and cymbal that sat next to her piano and she would really drive. I had been looking for people like these all my life.

First, I played some acoustic bass. Then, we smoked some more and I played a bit of piano. Jimmy seemed shocked at my musicality. At one point,  Jimmy looked over at me and said, “man, I can see the music flow out of you.”  Jimmy’s poetry rants floated over our improvisations and were equal parts evocative, evolved, bawdy and homespun.

Click to hear : Blue Fog (NoHo Trance Band)

Jimmy wasn’t copying anybody. Jimmy’s band was “The North Hollywood Trance Band”. I half jokingly asked when our next gig was.  He said “Tuesday”. I made note of the three or four riffs we worked on. I was high on music and ready for adventure.

I showed up Tuesday at a coffee house in NoHo. The venue was inexplicably packed with college kids spilling out onto the sidewalk. On a weeknight no less… No place to stand, let alone sit. The butt to flank throng herded us to a tiny corner of the hall. We winged it for two hours armed with four riffs, bottomless cups of coffee, percussion, ganja and raw nerve.

Jimmy’s “look” consisted of a stocking cap and his trademark Egyptian chin whiskers.  The rest of the band were wonderfully weird looking people.  The conga player looked like Dennis Weaver with horn rim glasses.  He was six foot four and wore a shirt with human skulls all over it. He also had the largest Adam’s apple I had ever seen. He carried a suitcase with duck calls, whistles and other toy instruments.  During the set, he would swing plastic vacuum cleaner hoses around his head and make tones.  Dennis Weaver’s girlfriend was an albino, hippie, scarf dancer who played congas and stared at me lustily and demonically while we played; the reddish pigment in her iris taking on a disturbing aspect.  Jimmy’s running buddy in the band was a guitar player I called King Tut. He was a downtown L.A, art-loft kook.  He likewise had an Egyptian chin whiskers, shaved his head and wore a fez. He  carried a guitar that had a screen door handle screwed on the side of it.  I turned up to the gig wearing a floral silk shirt with slacks. I looked like a jazz geek and felt like a damn fool.

To my shock and awe, the gig was great.  The kids dug us but barely acknowledged our existence at the same time. Jimmy said that the kids considered us a different species of animal.  He compared it to when “a hound goes exploring a holler and smells some strange critter’s shit. They’re curious, they sniff and move on”.  I guess  the kids were the dogs, the club was the “holler”, and our band was the strange critter shit.  The analogy somehow made sense.

The band carried on for a few months.  We were eclectic to say the least and our look and approach fit the arty Zeitgeist of the clubs and coffee houses in NoHo and Silverlake. We drew good crowds at the gigs.  Jimmy would have people “sit in”. Lesbian singer/songwriters, Rastafarian harmonium players.  I once did a six minute duet with an old queer beat poet; him shouting out verse and me jamming on fretless bass.  People actually sat and listened attentively. Weird and amazing.

I realized Jimmy was not trying to lead a band. He was trying to build a community. However, to my annoyance, Jimmy started turning down gigs at better clubs because they would only offer us one-hour slots. Jimmy was an African in a previous or future life. African musicians play for hours without a break. Sometimes drum circles would last days. A one-hour slot at the Crocodile Lounge wasn’t Jimmy’s style.

Jimmy loved animals.

Jimmy was a visionary.

Jimmy threw great parties.

Jimmy loved herb… Oh how he loved herb…

FLAPJACKS: One time I showed up to a jam party and Jimmy and Little King Tut with the screen door guitar were making pancakes that looked like hunks of peat moss. I think they dumped a whole ounce of industrial strength ganja into one bowl of pancake batter. I ate one. We had a circle jam. As I played, the flapjack kicked in and my brain felt the sensation of going up a cosmic elevator at high speed. It finally let me off at the 9th floor. I had played music all my life. I had gotten high many times in my life. With Jimmy, I saw the nexus and got the chance to stick my head into the vortex of a different dimension.

Jimmy and I squared off at a gig once. I was an asshole. I felt the jams should be shorter. I felt we could shape our trip into something entertaining that people would buy. I kept trying to gesture Jimmy to wrap it up by giving the cut signal across my throat. I was sitting with my wife during a break when I suddenly looked up and Jimmy was standing over me, accusing me of trying to turn the band into the Ed Sullivan Show. I suggested we step outside. We talked loud. It was the only time I saw Jimmy pissed off. I said we should go back inside and play. We played. Jimmy had been bugging me to play a particular riff a certain way for months. It was tough on the hands. However, tonight I would play it his way. I was going to play just as long as Jimmy wanted just to show him I could. We burned for 10 minutes straight. I stood ramrod straight and stared right at him out of spite and respect. The audience was riveted. Jimmy finally let me off the hook and signaled the end. I had tendonitis in my left index finger for the next couple of years after that night. It was worth it. I think it was the last gig I did with him.

Rehearsals were a somewhat moot exercise, since we were a freeform unit. The main benefit was the fellowship and the restorative properties of our twin sacraments; ganja and improvisation.  One sad, unproductive Sunday, the point came when  I knew the fragile, innocent magic that possessed our little concern had evaporated into the ether; lost forever.

I looked at Jimmy and just shook my head and said, “Man, I gotta quit the band.” Jimmy, shouted towards the kitchen at Kelly, “Honey, guess what? Dale just quit the band.” I still regret the decision.

Jimmy and his wife moved to New Mexico soon after I quit the band.  He said there were lots of Indians there. I told him I learned more about music in my six months with him that I had in my previous 10 years in music. He seemed astonished and touched. I wish I had stuck it out with Jimmy a little longer.

Jimmy was a Texan who couldn’t stand America. Even wrote a song asking God not to make him an American again. He rapped about places where the language of art was “freely spoken”. He was a bluesman from a red state.

I remember Jimmy yelling at me as I was driving away after a rehearsal, “Dale, It’s all rigged against the poor man”. This was during the peace and prosperity years of the Clinton administration. I wrote him off as a crackpot. Time has shown the wiser.

Jimmy was a great photographer. That was his day gig. His masterpiece was a large, poster-sized photo of a jet-black male to female transsexual sitting in a chair in the dark… naked. It hung in his living room like a family portrait. It was beautiful and unsettling like Jimmy’s music. I’m no expert or curator, but that picture was as good as anything Robert Mapplethorpe ever put out. I remember him patiently instructing my non-musician wife how to play percussion during one of our recording sessions. He was always asking my musician friends if they wanted to “sit in”. Elitism was not in his spiritual vocabulary.

Jimmy was a guitar player.

Jimmy said he realized early on he wasn’t good at playing the chords to other people’s songs, so he played guitar while he recited his poetry.

He played what was in his heart.

In 2004, Jimmy’s life ended.  The man who gave me the news said Jimmy simply stated he could no longer live in this world.

It’s the world’s fault.

R&R Hall Of Shame (Spotlight) – The Moody Blues

Author: Dale Nickey

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame carries a stink. Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner is also co-founder of the R&R Hall. And it is common knowledge that his personal musical taste dictates the nomination list. The list fails to include some of the more accomplished British Bands or any artist he ‘don’t cotton to’.  He seems to have a particular distaste for British artists in the progressive wing of rock music.

The Moody Blues:

70 million albums sold

Hits,  sell-out tours, zillions of records sold, classic rock evergreens (Nights In White Satin, Ride My See-Saw, Tuesday Afternoon, Question). Not enough to elbow aside The Dells I guess.  Another band that was body slammed by Punk and New Wave in the late 70’s, only to pick themselves up in 1981 and answer with more hits and an updated sound “Gemini Dream”  and  “The Voice”. Early purveyors of stoner rock, who issued very prescient and preemptive musical warnings about corporate rape and environmental disaster as early as 1970 “A Question Of Balance”. Traffic beats them in because Stevie Winwood had a slew of solo hits and swings a big dick in the American record industry.

Early on The Moody’s displayed a rebel spirit that should endear any Hall Of Fame voter to their cause. Their greatest album “Days Of Future Past” was a bold and defiant work. Deram Records gave The Moody Blues the task of recording Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” in a rock context for the purpose of demonstrating their new ‘Deramic’ Sound innovation. The Moody Blues had other ideas and surreptitiously recorded the epic song cycle “Days Of Future Past” instead. The corporate listening session was the first time Deram executives became aware of the bait and switch concept album. They grudgingly put it out anyway and it went mega. The single from that record “Night’s In White Satin” became a classic rock standard.

Johnny Winter Dead at 70 – King of Texas Blues

Author: Dale Nickey

Johnny Winter, a storm force gail that issued forth from Texas just in the nick of time to bring hard electric blues to the tie dyed Woodstock Nation, has died. He had androgyny, an endless well of virtuosity and blind blues mystique. He was the whole package. To say his passing is a shock would be lying. He had been playing seated for several years. His health has always  been in a precarious state.

JOHNNY WINTER:

Imagine the talent agent that first caught wind of Johnny Winter. “Wait, you’re tellin’ me that you got a snow white Texas albino who sings and plays the blues like a mother#$%*%#! and his name is WINTER?……Huh, what?!! Are you shitting me? He’s got a TWIN??!!”

Its unfair that Stevie Ray Vaughn is on the outside of The HOF looking in. However, Johnny Winter has to go in first.  How many Texas blues rockers has he blazed the trail for?  ZZ Top,  StevieThe Fabulous Thunderbirds to name a few.  He’s one of the few blues players who displayed staggering virtuosity without compromising the blues ethos.  Substance abuse and bad management blunted his hopes of a commercial crossover.  He refused to sign a release allowing his Woodstock performance to be included in the film.  And, rumors persist that he shrugged off an offer to replace Duane Allman in the Allman Brothers.  No, matter. He was a trailblazer and a hell-raiser.  He produced three Grammy winning albums for Muddy Waters when the blues giant was kicked to the curb after Chess Records closed.  Now he’s gone, found dead in a hotel room in Zurich. He leaves a void in the universe and a void in The Hall.