Salutations, soul fans, and welcome to another year – the 35th in the career of AWB – and hopefully one that will wear a little easier on the tread than 2006. We seemed to be out there most of the year and the travel bag never got unpacked once; just a change of nightie to allow for climate differentials according to our next ports-of-call as they came at us thick and fast like bagels out of a dodgy toaster. Mustn’t grumble though – it’s good to be able to enjoy your collective company as much as we do, especially at this stage of the game when a lot of our contemporaries would give their top strings to have our kind of date-sheet.
Now, without dwelling on the morbid, I want to make mention of some fine people who have meant a great deal to us, who died in 2006, and left us all the poorer by their absence. Most notably, Arif Mardin – our producer, mentor and dear friend who passed away in September. It’s some irony that, at Arif’s birthday party back in March, both Peter Boyle and Ahmet Ertegun were present; now they, too, are gone and we will miss Ahmet’s earthy growl. Always the face of the Atlantic Records we knew and loved – along with Jerry Wexler, of course, who signed us to the label back in ’74 – Ahmet, brother Nesuhi, Tunc Erim and Arif were the Turkish ‘mafia’ here in New York and took every opportunity to challenge us Scots when ‘the shots’ were down, and we found a great collective kindred spirit among them and their families that sustained us in our first years of self-imposed exile in the USA.
Of course, you all know about Wilson Pickett, Billy Preston, Ruth Brown and the one, the only JAMES Brown; finally Robbie Mac. will get a chance to play with him on the nightshift – the only gig he would rather have done than be with ‘his boys’, AWB - and the guiding template for our groove from day one. Seemed he would forever Stay on the Scene – Like a Sex Machine. Alas, not.
Which brings me to where’s it all going; I still find it hard to believe that Tower records is no more, and idly wonder just how long the CD will even be around when the places to actually browse and buy are drying up. I know the argument is, “well, just go on line and get it”, but to me there’s something fundamentally wrong with sitting for hours in front of a monitor, gaining weight, diminishing sight, and atrophying everything else while blagging for music - might as well just download it, live with the squashed (MP3) quality, forget artwork & package and give it all the magic of a soft parcel from Granny, no more, no less. I hope I don’t sound dinosaurian when I say that rooting around for hot, new records used to have a certain frisson of adventure and excitement to it, but it did, and if Goody didn’t, then The Wiz might, Tower/Virgin/HMV SURELY would, and could I be the first to brandish it in front of pals and impress the gals? It all now seems so very ‘ho-hum’ as music is released before it’s really ‘released’, and you can snatch anything anytime from anywhere, if you’ve a mind to sit vegetating in front of the primal screen. It’s even got so bad that police no longer turn over your house any more in the dawn raid – they just take away your computer, since that’s where 90% of your 21st Century life will be found….wanting!
So, 2006 saw a shift of power in America, with GWB now having to make nice noises for the first time in his tenure (how uneasy that must sit with him of all people), not to mention Darth Cheney who appears to have retreated to the undisclosed location he occupied right after 911. Perhaps they’ll find him just like Saddam – beard an’ all – muttering about the apostles, Halliburton, Kellogg Brown and Root while brandishing an unloaded skeet rifle in all directions. Mind you, Tony Blair’s still sniffing around Georgie-boy like a horny cousin that needs shagged from time to time, and will go along with just about anything that’ll keep his grinning head above water. He, too, could sink his party in the UK this year with the same warhead that did for the old gang in the USA. AND, while I’m on the body-politick in some form or other, I would like to mention to you all that there is a big new push to pass legislation in Washington DC that would allow the giant media companies to own everything – TV stations, newspapers, radio, film studios, internet and outernet and for all we know your local PTA newsletter. You may recall that Michael Powell (son of Colin), then head of the FCC, tried to ram it through two years ago. Needless to say those of us who live or die via broadcasting and media activities fought hard and won that skirmish by a slim margin. Well, they’re at it again and to be brief it would mean the virtual end of independent news, radio or TV, and basically a WalMart-ization of the media. That leads only one place, the monopoly and total manipulation of news and views across the country. If you live in The States, and if you value local broadcast freedom, please, PLEASE call or write to your congressman immediately – the vote is on the 16th of Jan, next Tuesday. If you don’t know how, log on to MoveOn.org and they will tell you whom to contact. It’s easy, and we all of us thank you in advance.
Before I go, there’s a milestone I ought to mention. As of May this year, Onnie and myself will have completed a forty-year partnership which started in ’67 in London with the Scots Of St. James, a resident group at the famous club of like name (The Scotch), and where Beatles, Byrds, Animals and other rare species hung out after dark and gave us our first up-close glimpse of real stardom and celebrity when Paris was a city, and Hilton a hotel. Back then it was “I’m a Rock Star – Keep me IN here”. We then set off for Germany, Sgt. Pepper was Man of the Year, the world was our proverbial clam, and it’s fair to say we’ve never looked back except to marvel at our bloody good luck and the great friends that helped us along. A toast to all of those here and gone, and a very prosperous New Year to the lot of you. See you onstage!