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