It’s been a busy week in the music world. In fact, it’s been a busy two weeks, which is why there was no column last week. Furthur at The Capitol Theater in Port Chester took up a lot of my time, and drained me physically, because I got the stomach virus that was going around the night of the first show, (which, of course, put a damper on my enthusiasm for the performance), and I caught the flu the night of the last show, which I am still suffering from now! It could have been worse. At least I didn’t faint onstage, like Bobby Weir did at the last Furthur show!
Bobby was wobbly the whole night, and finally did fall, and had to leave the stage! The rest of the band carried on, after a brief pause. The good news is that I talked to some friends who saw them in Atlantic City, and they said Bobby came roaring back in A.C., and was once again in top form!
Of the three shows I saw, the Sunday night was the best, with flashbacks to The Grateful Dead very prominent! Furthur is a good band, but I’m partial to Phil and Friends! More jamming, more experimentation, and more rockin’! Lesh is more!
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Water has finally found it’s own level in the Rock n Roll world! Ted Nugent is touring with REO Speedwagon and Styx! I suppose it should come as no surprise, as Tommy Shaw of Styx was in Damn Yankees with Nugent, but the point I’m making, is that as much as The Nuge has the Motor City Madman image, he’s really more at home with bands from the Midwest who sing in high voices, like REO and Styx! The Nuge is bottom billed, and here’s why.
The Nuge is a great guitar player, but in my opinion, is not a much bigger star because of the quality of his songwriting, which is not really very good, with a few notable exceptions! One of the most memorable shows I’ve ever seen was Damn Yankees at a private party at The China Club in Manhattan, where they performed a series of Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones, and Beatles tunes. Awesome show! I’ve seen The Nuge on his own, and nothing came close to that show! Why? Songwriting! He showed me he’s a great guitar player, but he also showed me he’s not a songwriter!
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Rock music criticism lost a true original last week. Paul Williams, the man who founded Crawdaddy magazine from his college dorm room at the age of 17, passed away March 27, from complications arising from a bicycle accident that occurred in 1995! He was 64.
Crawdaddy, whose first issue hit the streets in January, 1966, a full 18 months before the first issue of Rolling Stone, was the first national magazine of rock criticism, and Williams was the first journalist to take Rock n Roll seriously as an art form and write about it as such! The writing style Williams pioneered created modern rock criticism as we know it! Crawdaddy influenced every Rock magazine to follow it, and I’m sure that even writers like Hunter S. Thompson had to be aware of it!
Williams championed young writers like Jon Landau (now Springsteen’s manager and producer), Sandy Perlman (producer of The Clash), and Richard Meltzer! We used to breathlessly wait for each issue like it was The Word of God Himself! It’s difficult to understand how important Crawdaddy was at the time, living today in our always connected universe! Magazines like Crawdaddy were the distributors of information and the counter cultural lifeline to suburban hepcats in the making! They built bridges between regional scenes and brought record company attention to artists who otherwise would probably never get any. When a new issue came out, it was the highlight of our week!
This is shaping up to be a great summer for music! Touring this Spring and Summer are Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, The Black Crowes, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Further, and The Eagles. I’m sure we’ll hear more announcements, but I’d say that’s pretty impressive, so far!
Also impressive, is the talent of a young guitarslinger whom I recently mentioned here, one Michael Johnson, of Grahamsville, NY! Michael is 17 now, and has been playing guitar since he was 9! Michael’s father has been taking him to open mics since he was 12, where he’s impressed the likes of Slam Allen, John and Chris Reddan, and just about everyone who’s heard him play! Slam Allen said Michael plays better than most adult guitarists!
Michael loves the Blues, and his strongest influences are Jimi, Stevie Ray, Vernon Reid, and similar like-minded players. He can play anything he puts his mind to, and this week performed an acoustic version of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” with his school orchestra, at the orchestra leader’s request! The electric Blues is where Michael shines though, and where he gets to really wail and put his heart and soul into his playing. It’s where he gets to really cut loose and play from the heart!