Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Farewell, Century 20

The half century since the birth of Rock n' Roll has seen the unfortunate demise of almost all of its creators. A healthy lifestyle this Devil's music?...........hardly, and if it had been, then it would never have outlasted the men and women who barged their way into our collective heart and soul, not so very long ago.

The varieties and variations in the music form that we first heard from Carl Perkins, Elvis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, only served to foster the illusion that time sped up toward the last quarter of the century, as we raced through rhythm n' blues to funk, to soul, to soul r&b, to hip-hop, to rap, right up to the present melting pot where the right concoction of all and any of the above guarantees a great concert - a packed nightclub - a crazed crowd - a BIG record .........a bloodletting, if you will. And they said, in '58 and '64 that it wouldn't last! Well, they were right in a way - it didn't simply last - it changed and twisted and morphed into a vast collage of sounds and cultures that no one could have readily forseen. However, the world was never the same again.

That quarter century has been our home, too, and it is odd to think that if somebody had told me in my early teens that this is where I'd be now, I'd have taken his candies AND followed him home just to hear more. This is the dream of a lifetime being able to create that concoction and perform it afresh night after night, and then be able to conceive new music, make new records, and have them accepted by an audience as sophisticated (and spoilt) as it is in the beginning of the new Millenium. By the way, I'm sorry if you disagree that the new one begins now, especially after all that money you must have spent last year on champagne and party favours, but you see I've always remained a Millenium separatist, in that this is the actual, factual thresh- hold of the new, glittering 21st Century. Official, certified, rubber-stamped and approved by Romans, Saxons, Huns, the Mongol hordes, and whoever started the old clock running at 'Year One' (not year None).

Hence 2001. God bless you, Stanley Kubrick, 'Hal', and the tribe of apes we rode in on to the tune of "Thus Spake Zarathustra", and the feeling of gobsmacked euphoria as we left the cinema that afternoon in London. It didn't hurt either that John Lennon, Paul and George were also standing on the same pavement, equally gobsmacked and totally oblivious to the mild frisson of excitement that ran along Old Compton Street as we realised we were in the presence of royalty. Such are the rewards (small but hugely meaningful at times) of risking one's all for the vagaries of the business of show - a career that allows for the oddest hours and therefore the strangest of rendezvous and encounters that will sometimes keep your spirits up and your disappointments diminished. So it has been for Onnie and me since forging a partnership in 1967, and seeing it develop into what would eventually become AWB, in 1972, along with the other great characters that took the icy plunge with us.

And amazing, too, that the start of the new century sees the start of a brand new regime in the United States - albeit one that has a long way to go to legitimise itself in the world's eyes. Great Britain has one of the strongest voices in real international terms that it ever has in our lifetime, Scotland has her own parliament for the first time in hundreds of years, and no millenium bug in sight anywhere. Yes, there's much to be thankful for but yet much to be mindful of in light of the awful conditions that many people in our so-called civilised countries live under, never mind the third world and the strife-ridden war-torn wastes of the mid East and the Balkans.

So we are lucky and fortunate to be in our relatively safe havens at this juncture and privileged to have been this year the honourees at the Nordoff Robbins awards in Glasgow, Scotland back in September. I thought it might be fitting to include a selection of photographs from the gala evening that Onnie and I had with the local intelligentsia and high- lifers in our homeland, not just to show off......although there's nothing shy about either of us if there's a whiff of posturing to be done, and a gullible crowd of onlookers to be bedazzled......simply to share our obvious pride and gratification at being given the kind of recognition that goes way beyond anything that charts, sales, or 'industry' can give. This was a night to celebrate a long road with old and dear friends who had started alongside us, and who have similarly made it through all the puddles and pratfalls, and are still in our corner when push comes to shove.

And a reminder that charity (Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy is one of the most successful and meaningful children's charities) is the keynote at this time of renewal and festivity. Please give as much as you can to the bellringers and the tin-rattlers who brave the cold to warm someone's Christmas season or fill someone's belly who would otherwise stand outside hungry. We all spend far too much on ourselves and our inner circle anyway, so throw some extra to the collectors of conscience while there is still time for it to get to the people who are desparately relying on it for any glimpse of the Holiday cheer that we take for granted.

Finally, let us wish all of you a very healthy and happy holiday season, and I hope you will join me in making a toast to the new era, even if you did that last time - I know we did, as we were part of a rather large and salubrious gathering in Dallas for the occasion - and remember, there's never an excuse for not celebrating something or other, so it might as well be a new Century.

We'll see you in the new we begin the countdown all over again!

Merry Crimble, everybun, and a Hairpiece New Ear.

Thursday, October 5, 2000

The Crescent City

New Orleans is one of the great loves of my life. Over the years she (it is most certainly of female gender.......or I'm unwittingly gay) has provided me with much warmth and affection, a ready and sumptuous welcome, and a tangible feeling of well-being when I allow myself the time to stop and savour her many-faceted delights. They are borne on the bayou breezes....... the smells of fried okra, crawfish, hot peppers, catfish & oysters cling to your senses, and are as exotic a stew as is to be found anywhere on the planet. So it goes for the music, and music is most certainly the life-blood of N'awlins. It is everywhere in a libidinous and carefree way, an extrovert whore who cares nothing about her weight & size, but only about her passions and her next shot or whatever to maintain the fun and fury of the moment.

And where there is music of this rare depth and commitment, there is an audience to match. We had just such an audience here two nights ago, at the House Of Blues (though the venue, great though it is, is probably irrelevant - it would have been the same at Tipitina's or elsewhere). From the moment we walked onstage, to the final rousing notes of the encore, the spirit in the house lifted us to the kind of heights we marvel at in the local musicians from the wards of New Orleans....the Nevilles, the Meters, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint & co, and Ellis, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, to name but a few. Then there are the lesser-known gems that we are beginning to discover, like Kermit Ruffins, a younger version of Louis Armstrong, who must find it impossible to frown in life, so thoroughly happy and alight is his persona when he performs with his B.B.Q. Kings. We were lucky enough to catch another of his sets last night, on our rare night off, at the old Bon Temps Roulee; you will hear more of that joint, as it features in a song I've been writing over the last four years. "Four years?" you say - yes, sometimes songs, like sculptures or paintings, take much revisiting for little bits of paint and clay that, over time, make the gradual but uncanny difference between the mediocre and the truly formed.

Even the sunset here is a work of art; the sun doesn't simply go down at seven o' clock, it puts on a performance worthy of the great emperor that it is, tumbling across the gulf coast sky with an intensity that blisters the senses and strips them of their paint, but like a great molten magnet it pulls you in towards the orange and red, turning to sapphire, and eventually to the deep ink, and, of course, the real reason for existence here - the night time.

Well, we have no more nights here this visit, so it's back to the road and the reality, as we head north towards Virginia, Washington DC and finally Philly area for the final three hits of this run. However, I must divert from the tour for a second to let you know about a rare and wonderful event that took place just one week ago, in Glasgow, Scotland, no less, and where the great and collective 'WE' were honoured by our own countrymen with a lifetime achievment award for services to Scottish music and culture over the last 28 years. It certainly was a glittering occasion, held in the magnificent City Chambers of Glasgow - an incredible marble edifice that was opened by Queen Victoria in 1888, and the likes of which would be unfathomable in this day and age of minimalist and economist architecture. By jove, in those days, budgets were for wimps...........when the design called for marble, ships were sent to empty the quarries of Italy to provide the pillars & pilasters of this towering statement, and the finest of painters were called in to decorate this Scottish Sistine Chapel with a pictoral ceiling sixty-odd feet above the floor of the main chamber. Quite awe-inspiring, and a fine place to be given the accolades of one's fellow musicians, media, and others of note in the fabric of Scottish life at the sharp end. Only Onnie and I were able to attend unfortunately, but, like Stuart Adamson who accepted on behalf of Big Country, we share the honour with everyone from the past to the present........Molly, Roger, Robbie, Hamish, Steve, Eliot, Fred, Adam, and also Pete & Tyger, who were such a big part of our resurrection.

The only problem was the leaving, next morning, to begin what was for us an incredibly arduous journey, first to London, then on to New York, where we met the rest of the troops, and a dawn flight to Houston, Texas, to begin this run through the South, which brings me back to New Orleans again, as we pack up the circus tent and prepare to leave here. A last but fleeting touch though, just to point out what a massive cultural (and geographical) divide between the opulence of our surroundings back in cool, rainy Glasgow last week, and our presence here in the heat and humidity of this swampy delta, where it seems all of America's substance is washed down the mighty Mississippi through this final cleansing stop, before being released into the Gulf for recycling, and rejuvenation in the form of rains returning northward to nourish the soul of the land.

Right now, however, and before this all begins to smack of a paid 'travelogue' for the Crescent City, I must answer those (two) of you who were clamouring for some political comment or other, in this season of election fervour. I think that my views are of very little importance in the present scheme of things, but the one thing I do want to impart to everyone right now, is that I hope you will all damn well get out there and VOTE. If you aren't registered, and are eligible, GO to the post office or wherever, and fill out the (very simple) form that allows you to practise what two world wars have been fought for and lives sacrificed to preserve - freedom and democracy. Only by your vote will the right man win. Only by your vote do you have the right to complain, criticise and control what happens afterwards. Only by your vote do you have a voice, and a very, very valuable one at that. Right now, ask yourself what either of the candidates would pay for your committed vote were you able to call them up and offer it unconditionally; quite a lot, I'm sure.

It doesn't matter if you adhere to the widespread body (there's that whore again) of opinion that neither candidate is made of Presidential stuff; I've heard that one before and it didn't make any difference to the fact that you're going to get at least four years of one of these characters, so you may as well take a moment to make a decision, and then put your choice in the only place it matters - the ballot box. Where I come from, everyone votes. Grannies are wheeled from sickbeds, workers miss their midday bite, chairmen are chaired (or whatever pompous and highly visible conveyance can be found) to the polling booth, but no one would dream of missing their chance to make their presence felt.
Otherwise, we might as well cancel the whole process, and then kids wouldn't get a day off school, and that's a scary thought, kids, isn't it?

Well, music's alive and well I'm delighted to report, no hurricanes have yet destroyed much of anything this season, Onnie & I have recoverd somewhat from our travels, and the general air of well-being is firmly in the tyres below us...............did some smart-ass just say 'bowels?' Let's not go there, please. Why scratch the otherwise perfect veneer of respectability that covers the rest of this piece, to reveal the soft underbelly of filth and cheap humour that lurks just beneath.

It is time to look northwards to fall weather and cool nights, so my advice to you all is to huddle together for warmth and safety. It may not protect you from everything, but it's a lot more fun than sleeping alone. Saves oil, too.

Time for Community coffee and beignets at the old French market, so I will pack up my ancient Remington, my quill pen and indian ink, and saunter - yes, saunter through The Quarter to gratify this last craving for "Storyville." Who knows, I might bump into the ghosts of Sidney Bechet, Jack Teagarden and Satchmo on the way home from The Nightshift..............


Thursday, July 20, 2000

Cloudy - chance of Heaven...but Stop The Rain

If I find that any of you out there were engaged in rain dances toward the end of last week, I swear I will personally hire whatever means of transport necessary to visit your neighborhood, along with members of the New England Witches Coven, some fanatics from the "Nuisances For God" Northeastern sept, a few mercenaries from the Guns Of Vengeance Social Club, and maybe a couple of nasty people as well, since I hold you directly responsible for an historic 'first' in our entire career - TWO consecutive washouts (Fri. & Sat.) when monsoon rains called off both Pittsburgh Boardwalk, and McGeary's in Albany.

Talk about frustration; to travel all that way (about 1800 miles round trip) and to set everything up each afternoon, and to stand there helpless while the elements literally piss all over your cruise, is just too unfair. And unfair to all those good folk who remember two smashing gigs last summer at each of these respective gigs. There is, however one small crumb of comfort in the story, and that is that last Wednesday saw us complete the show we had truncated mid-set last year, at Riverbend pavilion in Chester, Virginia. You may recall my dissertation on that one, when the mini-tornado touched down during Pick up the Pieces, and blew away drums, tents, covers and all, only for one 'Martian' lady backstage to enquire when we would be going back on! (she probably thinks nothing of taking her vacuum cleaner through puddles)

Otherwise, this has been a superb summer season for us, all the way since California, and even Vegas before that. Talking of which, we have been asked back to the capital of Wager-World for a concert in September, at the Fremont Street Experience, an open-air event celebrating the original 'strip' in Vegas, which I guess they are trying to give the kind of status that Memphis gives to Beale St., or New Orleans to Bourbon St., etc. Anyway, it should be a grand night with us on one stage, and our pals Tower Of Power on another, a couple of blocks down. Hopefully we're not both playing at the same time, as that would prove a dreadful conflict of loyalties for most of our fans, who seem to like both of us in equal measure. If that's the case, we'll just have to turn up the volume to twelve, or bribe someone to switch off their power supply. Then they'll be simply "Tower Of................"

I note with complete indifference that while we have been barrelling round this great Nation for the past couple of months, that there have been two rather large political conventions which seem to have something to do with finding something for CNN News to cover in the midst of a delegational drought, while legislation languishes, and the Prez putters along unnoticed (save for his Barak & Arafat show). Now, far be it from me to suggest that all of you feel this way - for all I know you have been glued to your televisions, hanging on every (rehearsed) word uttered by Herr Bush, Goofy Gore, and their middle-management minions, but it occurs to me that, on a scale of one to ten, this has had all the entertainment value of post-anaesthetic dentistry, or the semi-finals of the all-England croquet tournament during a rain-break ( not to mention the Women's Rural Institute's annual bake-off, when they couldn't get the camera started till after the oven doors were closed )

Honestly, what a load of insignificant, pompous, self-aggrandizing, bogus and bewildering ballyhoo this is; thank god for the finals of Euro 2000, the international soccer championships in Holland & Belgium, which saw France (the world champs) narrowly beat Italy for the title, after a series of great displays from the likes of Portugal, Romania, Spain and Holland in the run-up to the eventual final pairing. It was some of the best and most skillful football ever, and some of the most gripping television, too. Seldom does sports coverage get to that level, but it must be said that the answer to this is in the fact that it was a truly international endeavour in the filming, broadcasting, and local delivery of the programs. How nice it would be to watch these world events here in the USA, if, instead of ABC or CBS and their plodding, non-stop, inane (and often ill-informed) commentaries we could have the local feeds, who really know their stuff in these sports, and who know how to let the drama of the moment speak for itself instead of babbling ceaslessly over the entire occasion as if it were no more than a backdrop for their self-appointed importance.

Send them all back to the political conventions, I say. They deserve each other.

Oh, yes, I know where we started all this: touring, summer, music, entertainment and the wonderful world of AWB as it relates to you and me. Well, we have one more weekend of gigs to go before taking our annual break, which we manage to convince ourselves is hard-earned and well-deserved, despite convincing evidence to the contrary. I refer to several embarrassing instances recently, when five of us were seen strolling on the beach at San Juan Capistrano on a glorious early-summer evening, for all the world like five carefree girl scouts on a break from their jamboree (that is until some rotten little kid's kite suddenly nosedived and almost decapitated Matt......then we showed our true colours - the mood got ugly); then the day I was spotted nonchalantly whacking my way around the golf course near Atlantic City (Hey, I made twenty-four bucks off two old guys that insisted on playing for an ante.......what could I do, for chrissake?), and then of course the ultimate gruelling chore a couple of weeks back, when we all had to show up at Dave Brunetto's wedding and were forced, against our will and better judgement, to consume vast quantities of fine wine and champagne while doing our bit to bid our boy farewell, adieu, and God speed.

Dave will be known to most of you as the extremely charming and witty young man who has for years manned our public relations station (the merchandise table, to you) in a manner and style that would have suited his lookalike, the young Dean Martin. D.B., as we call him, was always an erudite and inspiring fellow traveller with a wealth of knowledge, and rapier of wit when challenged to a duel. No surprise then, when, at the end of his wedding night speech, he toasted his new bride affectionately, then after a perfect pause, added, "............and at table fifteen the Average White Band will be signing autographs after the show...."

Cue the applause, bring down the curtain, and give the band a break - QUICKLY.


Wednesday, June 14, 2000

Ups and Downs from the Left Coast

Well, what a weird and wonderful week this has been in the world of AWB, full of highs and a couple of lows just to make life windswept and interesting. First, though, the peaks have been unexpected in some cases, such as the triumph in Scottsdale last Tuesday - a gig that the promoters almost cancelled on us, and which turned out to be really well attended, and with a great audience (sound familiar, anyone?), and last Friday we had the pleasure of none other than Mr. Steve Ferrone sitting in with us for an impromtu version of "Person To Person" and "Schoolboy Crush".

Magic moments indeed, and certainly charged with some emotion, as it has been over ten years since we played a note together, and you would have thought that we'd done this only yesterday, so tight was the groove! L.A House Of Blues was, of course, 'slammin', and we had our best reception yet from the Hollywood crowd - loud, rowdy and crowded. Thanks, L.A.

Now the 'lows': An unfortunate situation developed over the last week involving our attempts to move.........not cancel.....a show in New London from the Saturday to the Sunday evening due to what I will honestly say was an "offer that could not be refused," to stay one more night on Martha's Vineyard for a very, very special show. Now, this is where touring with the schedule we have makes life very difficult when these kinds of situations crop up, and our inability to get to points of communication allowed for misunderstandings and misconceptions to rule the roost.

Suffice to say, without boring you with the details, everyone was able to make it happen and we are delighted to be doing that particular show on the Sunday evening, 23rd July. Bring da whole family...rack up the kids, jack up the car by the beach, and let's have a midsummer night's scream.

What all of you should know, however, is that the band's opportunities to scan the website are few and far between, so if you really want to have a go at us for some particular gripe or other, or are just in the mood for a bit of sport and jousting at our expense, then that's not really going to achieve very much, especially when you cannot possibly be aware of the facts as we are, and just how much we try to be accessible to one and all within the bounds of reason. If anything, one person's gripe that they couldn't get to meet us when we'd spent over 45 minutes with fans after a very strenuous show, is really making a jab at other fans who did. It is very easy to please most of the people ALL of the time.......but there's always one that gets away, so be aware of that, everyone, and bear with us if you're ticked off for a minute. This band will usually find a way of turning that into a smiley-mouth before you've got your pen back in your pocket.

And so on to Sam FranksDisco, and our next gig at "Slim's" (named for its owner, Boz Scaggs, whose nickname locally was Presidio Slim), where this will be our first visit, much looked forward to by all. It is sooooo hot here this week, I can only hope you've paid the electric bill, Boz, and the air is turned up full, or else we'll have casualties galore - on and off stage. "FUNK BAND FIZZLES INTO PINK FOAM" could be a potential S.F. Chronicle headline for Friday morning.

Now we await the first childbirth as a result of a union via our website, and a bottle of the finest when we hear the news........provided it checks out true, so don't any of you suddenly jump up with a false claim on a bottle of bubbly, and a tape of baby noises and a used diaper :-) On that charming note, I'll leave you for a cool drink before boarding the coach.


Friday, June 9, 2000


Ladies and gentlefolk of the record buying public, I come among you now to warn of a supposedly German release purporting to be an Average White Band "Best-Of" and featuring a motley selection of songs entirely unknown to us, unrecorded by us, and certainly never even performed by us...........titles like "Sweet Lorraine" etc., and then with some version of "Let's Go Round Again" tacked on for a tiny modicum of legitimacy. This appears to be only available on the internet, so do not be tempted to reach for your plastic, log on, and aim to purchace this piece of nonsense.

It is a sham, a fake, bogus, a simulation, a pretense, an unscrupulous attempt to fleece the ever-growing legion of AWB fans who log on to the web to find the latest tidbits offered at the base of the fountain that is our continuing output. And it's not real, either!

On a happier note, thanks to all who came and saw and concurred in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and last night in San Juan Cappucino. Lovely shows, all of them, and you have been more than generous in your praise and applause. It is the food we artists thrive on - the very air we breathe.........and so much better for our energy than drinking the blood of newly-borns, don't you think.

But if I live to be a thousand, you'll know I've reversed my theory on that 'Gory' topic. More from this page later in the tour, when Matt stops whipping me toward the impending bus departure for the next stop on this merry-go-round.

Once again, beware the phony Teutonic release. 'Tis a travesty!


Saturday, May 20, 2000


A very personal and heartfelt thanks to all our friends and fans in the UK for the wonderful reception we had over the last two weeks touring the 'sceptered isles'. It began with the usual splendid hospitality of Steve and Linda at Ollie's in Ascot - already one of the premier R&B/Jazz/Soul venues in the Home Counties, and they're planning to enlarge and improve it all before our next visit. Now that's what I like to hear.........perhaps the 'big' boys like the Jazz Cafe could take note, and do something about the PA system, or the accoustics, or whatever. The word is IMPROVE.

Can you imagine the stick we'd get if, when we came back to Britain, we didn't improve on the last time around, or at least make strenuous efforts to change, challenge ourselves, or at least try some new approaches? I can hear the moaning already, were it not for the fact that we really do make changes (sometimes subtle, but always in flux and in character) all the time with a view to keeping everyone just a little bit surprised and energised by our presence. Good on you, Ascot (nice crowd response, too)

On to Southampton, and what I can only describe as the one audience on the whole tour that gave us the impression of being slightly baffled by it all. I think it's the 'Southern Tribes' thing (and you can't get more southern than Southampton), although along the coast a bit in Brighton, I hear there's a very healthy scene for funk/soul/acid jazz, that I would really like to explore next time around. Anybody listening there, Brighton? Still, the hotel were very friendly, and the breakfast was brill.

Then a Saturday on the railways experience to take us to Bromsgrove, where Andy put on a first-of-its-kind marquee gig at the beautiful Tyler's Lock on the canal there, and we had a fantastic little gathering on what should have been a dismal, wet night in the Midlands. Lots of fun, and a genuinely ecstatic reception from a bunch of people who appreciate our kind of music, and who will definitely be there in 'doubles' next time around. Well done, Andy - it's going to be a great gig once people in the City (Birmingham) realise it's for real, and that you're putting on the best. Nice, also, to work with the Bullet Sound guys from Stoke-on-Toast....... always a great bunch to have a few drinks with - and they're all called Dave to avoid confusion!

So to the Jazz Cafe for the sixth year running. The Monday, our first night, was surprisingly free of hassle compared to previous visits when the (minimal) sound system has at times conspired to make our initial setup and soundcheck something of a nightmare. This time, however, thanks to a combination of Phil, our sound engineer's expertise, and a couple of pre- planned accoustical shortcuts, it turned out to be a very relaxed and quite pleasant afternoon in the bat cave, culminating in an off-the-cuff taping for London Live, the BBC's local affiliate, who came to the soundcheck with their state-of-the-art digital recorder, and we were able to whack off a couple of live tunes for their early evening broadcast. The gig went very nicely, too, and from then on each night got progress- ively better both musically and attendance-wise, culminating in a really stonkin' night on Wednesday, when our old friend Daryl Hall, and his phenominal guitarist, Paul Pesco (he of many Madonna records, amongst others) took the stage with us for an encore rendering of "Work To Do", complete with Paul's George Benson-esque guitar solo which brought the balcony to its collective feet, and the standing floorbodies to their knees. A great night.

I had a feeling when we found that we could end the tour with a double- night stint in Edinburgh, that the Gods were definitely with us this time around, and there was a distinctive 'tingle' in the air from the get-go at the Liquid room there. It had been two years since we last played on native soil, and we were as ready as you can imagine for this one. All the heavies were there for the Thursday night, and we had some raucous response from the Embra' hooligans, some of whom joined us for a little reception that the wonderful people at the Point Hotel threw afterwards in our honour. First, let me say that it's one of the best hotels in Britain, if not in Europe - very much high New York style, and design-conscious to a 'T', without being witheringly trendy. Full marks to Andrew Doolan and his fabulous staff for making our stay the highlight of the tour. Thanks also to Liz Smith, and Pauline for their unbridled hospitality.

Friday night had all the promise of a grand finale to the tour, since all tickets were sold out in advance, and we knew that there was a strong national presence of people from all over Scotland in the house. Nothing, however, prepared us for the reception as we walked onstage while Adam played his thundering drum intro. According to our sound- engineer, Phil, the needles in the mixing booth went off the clock when we climbed aboard, to what can only be described as a "Hampden Roar" (the national football stadium, for those unacquainted with the term). It was pure dead brilliant. From that moment on, I don't think I stopped grinning like a demented daschund all night. The band was truly on fire and the audience knew it; they also knew all the words of every song, and there were times when we literally could have stopped singing, and simply let them get on with it. We eventually did, in the encore, when we finished up with "Let's Go Round Again," much to the amusement and amazement of all present.

Altogether a fitting end to a lovely tour, and a moment to savour and dig out of the memory banks when faced with the odd 'difficult' audience, or less-than-wonderful circumstance, as one does in one's travels as an itinerant busker. In this business you learn to take the rough with the rough.

We now set off for the absolute cultural antithesis of Edinburgh, steeped in history and antiquity that it is.............Las Vegas; mind you, I wouldn't be surprised if they had a fake Edinburgh Castle by the time we get there. After all, a bogus Eiffel Tower, an ersatz Statue of Liberty, and a few phony pyramids are already in place, and every time we go there another travesty of tackiness has been erected with a view to hoodwinking the hordes of midwestern junket gamblers that this is what the world at large has to offer, and that there's really no need to leave American soil, let alone bother to own a passport. Well, who am I to burst their bubble. After all it was Kant who said that "the only reality is that which resides in the eye of the individual." It's just that a lot of people need glasses out there. Wagons Ho, and see you in Vegas or California.


Friday, April 21, 2000


(A purely personal and unofficial view) - any reference to characters real, living, or even imagined, is entirely intentional -

After a long absence, I thought it was time to bring everyone up to date with the goings on and various happenings around the AWB campfire, now that it has been relit for another touring season. The first run of the year turned out to be a very successful and fulfilling one, with a series of wonderful concerts with our good pals Tower Of Power, and an interspersing of some nightclub dates of our own, most notably The Tralf, in Buffalo, where we had an ecstatic reception from a jam-packed house, and The RamŸs Head in Annapolis with a ditto there. Two of the triumphs were, we felt collectively, Stamford Connecticut, at the Palace theatre, and in Boston, at the Avalon Ballroom - none of which either band has played before, and both of which seemed to take a bit of convincing to put on the show in the first place. Well,I both found out the die-hardiness of AWB/Tower fans, and both were tremendously well-attended; also, both were on absolutely crappy nights, weather wise, but that did little to deter the faithful from braving the elements for a good dose of rhythm and blues, served up at fever pitch by both bands. Thank yŸall kindly.

Now we get ready for our next major expedition, to the Motherland (well, it is for me and Onnie, anyway) of the UK, which will deliver us to London for three nights at the Jazz Cafe, and a much-looked-forward-to return to Edinburgh for a couple of good nŸ sweaty nights at the Liquid Room, there to finish up the tour in style. IŸm always being accused (fairly, I might add) at home, of our neglect for Scotland in our annual touring schedules, but it is an unfortunate fact of life that there are so few venues there that seem to be remotely interested in AWB, or its music, that it becomes virtually impossible for us to play in our own country. No longer is soul music the common language that it was when we were growing up in Scottish cities - when Stax and Motown reigned supreme(s), and the New Orleans funk of Lee Dorsey, Allen Toussaint, The Meters, and Fats Domino was all over the dance floor like a cheap suit on a dwarf skeleton.

ItŸs probably one of my biggest disappointments that a whole generation of young Brits is growing up with little or no knowledge of real honest soul music and steaminŸ R&B. I read with some degree of apoplexy in the UK Sunday Times a week or two ago that Macy Gray is (I quote) œThe reigning queen of R&B.” Give me a break....what does R&B stand for in that context....rough and ballsy? Give her her due, sheŸs a storming success on these shores, and her music ain't half bad, but sheŸs as much to do with R&B as Oasis have to do with surf music. Talking of whom (just so I can alienate a few more of you), these guys have done more for soul music than anyone could have driving people away from puke-rock into the waiting arms of music that demands neither posturing nor posing the way these two twerps play it. How can the world take British music seriously when the charts are dominated by crap like Pond Life, Stoops, or other such totally manufactured and manipulated messengers of teenage trivia, when there has always been a tradition in the past of well crafted and world influencing music and lyrics, starting with Stones and Beatles, and going on until recently with the Peter Gabriels and the Stings of this world. Really, the mind boggles. I believe the phrase is êdumbing down,Ÿ in the States.

Anyway, to brighter things. Aha........just when you thought i was going to change direction, I surprise you by having a êgoŸ at the USA, and its idiosyncrasies, too, just to balance out the two sides of the Atlantic. Throughout this tour of the northeast, almost all weŸve seen on US television has been the most absurd and ridiculous brouhaha over the small refugee kid from Cuba, Elian Gonzales. Now exactly how the êmost powerful nation on earth,Ÿ as Americans like to remind us, could get so embroiled in a virtual custody battle over a boy in a rubber tyre that happened to be spared another day at sea, is beyond all comprehension. And what are these Miami Cubanistas thinking when they do all they can to prevent him seeing his dad, for chrissake? TheyŸre as nutty as old Fidel himself, who must be absolutely pissing himself as this farce continues unabated, dragging along with it like a bad flood, the President, the Vice President, Secretary Of State, and god knows how many blathering politicians of dubious motive.

Yes, America may have its music scene together (and we have the Baptist Church to thank for that in the first place....I suppose we canŸt expect much with the Church of England or the êWee FreeŸ in Scotland as our wellspring), but Lord does it have its head up its rectangle with its ideal of democracy - oh, and defense, that other bastion of tax-spending by the êleader of the free world.Ÿ Defense against whom, exactly? Are we to suppose that Castro is going to launch giant cigars at all major cities, while millions flee for shelter as Cohibas rain down on this blatantly unprotected nation.......I think not. Meanwhile the poor get poorer..........but, boy, can they SING.

And thatŸs what itŸs all about, really. Singing for your supper - the only life we know - but we can observe, and we can see, and sometimes itŸs hard to keep shtum while all about you is going to hell in a handcart, and nobodyŸs putting the big foot down. WhereŸs Gulliver when you need him? œHi, IŸm Mr. BIG, and IŸm so sorry I stepped in all your shit....I thought you might have sorted that out by yourselves.” œ...but, no, it seems you needed old Gullible here to come and bang heads and wakey-wakey you all up”

And so to the final lesson: open your books at Marvin Gaye, Isley put away the Gallagher Brothers, weŸve covered that in the last chapter.....and look again at Al Green, Aretha Franklin (now THEREŸS the queen at last), and check out œHow does it Feel” by DŸangelo for starters. Then thereŸs Lauryn Hill, Mary J., Mint Condition, Eryka B., and try like hell to get some Kirk Franklin and the Family. ThereŸs gospel that will curl your hair and bring you to your knees. Only then can you see some of The Light, and I know itŸs difficult, but DO try to avoid boom-chick, boom-chick, boom-chick êrave-house-trip-hopŸ dance music for just one 24 hour period. Yes, I know itŸll probably mean doing no shopping of any kind whatsoever (certainly not clothes), going near no British airport or public place for that matter, and you may have to have double glazing speedily installed, as passing êyoofŸ vehicles will pollute the unwary among you, and then youŸll have to start all over again.

Meanwhile, for my êhomiesŸ in Scotland, it looks as though êThe ForeignersŸ have won the Scottish Premier title again, with consummate ease, leaving all our provincial clubs fighting over the crumbs of discomfort, and I believe that St. Mirren are looking so good that they have now installed seating there that actually faces the pitch! Amen to that.

- Alan