Roots Report May 2022: So many shows, you MAY be overwhelmed

Okee dokee folks… I think some people out there may need a little reeducation as to how to behave in public now that things are getting back to normal. Folks spent a little too much time in their bubbles watching Netflix and doing whatever they wanted, when they wanted. It shows. What exactly am I talking about? I have been going to shows and I have witnessed a lot of bad-mannered behavior. Concerts are no longer in your living room. You cannot adjust the volume, rewind or pause them at will. If someone interrupts the goings-on, things will be missed.

I went to a show the other night that was supposed to start at 8pm. It did not. Many ticket holders were late arriving to the theater. Twenty minutes past go time, the show still had not begun. An announcement was made alerting the audience that the show was going to begin soon and that they should take their seats. The alert actually seemed to have the opposite effect. Lots of folks began to get up and head to the lobby. Shows are supposed to start at a predetermined time. If you are late YOU should miss out, not make everyone wait. These shows are not on demand.

Most shows are 75-90 minutes long. Most times there is an intermission. What boggles my mind is the excessive and steady flow of people that get up from their seats during a performance and disrupt the enjoyment of the folks around them. Can’t anyone sit still for 90 minutes anymore? Don’t even get me started on the spilled drinks! My camera bag has been soaked twice over the past couple of weeks!

Oh, and one more thing. Hats! Seriously? It used to be proper etiquette to REMOVE your hat when indoors, especially at a seated event. I had to ask the person in front of me to either take his hat off, slouch down or turn the brim down — it was flipped up like Gomer Pyle’s and extremely obtrusive.

Please, for the sake of everyone around you, reintroduce yourselves to proper, polite and considerate behavior. The outside world is not streaming, it is real and live. This has been a public service announcement. Thank you. Read on…

The band Chicago has always been a favorite of mine. No other band has ever produced so many horn-driven hits. They are now in their 55th year of playing music. Though the band has endured many personnel changes and styles, they always return to the brass section for their core sound. Jimi Hendrix famously said of the band, “The horn section is like one set of lungs and the guitar player is better than me!” I had a good, long chat with Jimmy Pankow, trombonist and songwriter for the band. He shared many stories from his 55-year career with the band. Listen to that on Motif’s Roots Report Podcast! Chicago will be at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sat, May 7. For more, don’t be “Searchin’ So Long,” just get to: MoheganSun.com

Joan Osborne hit it big in the mid-’90s with the song “One Of Us.” Since then she has kept busy playing her own music, the music of Bob Dylan, joining with others such as Funk Brothers and touring with the Dead. It’s been a while since she has performed her breakthrough album Relish in its entirety. She will be making her only area appearance doing just this on May 13 at The Garde Arts Center in New London. Also performing at this show is Madeleine Peyroux who will be performing her Careless Love album. Don’t miss this one! Look for my interview with her online. For more, climb the “Ladder” to: GardeArts.org

There are so many great shows coming up besides the few I talked about above. I will mention some here. Ready. Set. Go! At Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland; North Sea Gas, music from Scotland on May 8; Matt & Shannon Heaton perform a “Take It Outside” concert on May 15 and Cantrip on May 22. Row over to RiverFolk.org for more. 

The Odeum is always a busy place. Coming up: Get sedated with Marky Ramone on May 6, SNL and Weeds star Kevin Nealon May 12, one of the hardest working musicians around; Adam Ezra, on May 14; rumor has Graham Parker playing on May 15; Anders Osborne and Jackie Greene on May 21; a solo, electric show by Bob Mould on May 26 and the Mighty Max Weinberg with his Jukebox show on June 3. Yodelayheehoo to: GreenwichOdeum.com for more. 

The Narrows always has a big, wide schedule! In May catch: Jonathan Edwards on May 6, Jon Butcher on May 7, Matt Anderson May 11, A Tale of Two May 14, Danielle Nicole May 18, Low Cut Donnie May 19, Quinn Sullivan May 20, and Beaver Brown on May 21. The Narrows has made it a bargain for college students to attend shows with a new student discount. All you have to do is show up on a concert night, show your student ID, and get in for $15. (This does not apply to sold-out events). For more, Braga over to: NarrowsCenter.org 

PPAC has the cerulean-faced Blue Man Group with what is promised as a “Still Blue, The Rest Is New” show on May 20. Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli is also at PPAC for two shows only on June 2 & 3. Make your Weybosset to PPACRI.org for more. 

I know Rhode Islanders don’t like going very far, but sometimes you just have to if you want to see something special! The Only Former US Senator Currently on Tour Tour with Al Franken will be at The Wilbur Theatre in Boston on May 14. Do you remember when he and Tom Davis used to imitate Mick and Keef on SNL? Neigh over to TheWilbur.com for more. 

Shawn Colvin will perform her breakthrough recording Steady On in its entirety to celebrate the 32nd anniversary of its release. It will take place at The Cabot in Beverly, Mass on May 7. Nice theatre and not a bad drive — a little over an hour. Colvin is the perfect reason to check it out! Cheddar over to TheCabot.org for more. 

The Who, or as I say, half a Who, will be at the Garden in Boston on May 18. Who knows how long Roger and Pete will keep doing it. See them now! “Magic Bus” to TDGarden.com for more. PHEW!!!

Don’t forget there is so much more online from Motif! I have the Roots Report Podcast, interviews and event reviews at MotifRI.com, and lots of concert photos on the Motif Facebook page Facebook.com/MotifRI. Please check it all out! That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

“Get Ready” For A Show: A tempting musical catches an era

Okee dokee folks… The Temptations endured personnel changes, drug and alcohol abuse, racial tension, personal tragedy and still managed to come out on top, with timeless hits and a legacy that continues today. The Temptations musical Ain’t Too Proud, based on the history of the singing group, opened to a full house at The Providence Performing Arts Center Tuesday night. The show relates the history of the band with lots of great music and energetic dance.

The stage set of a theatre façade and marquee that varied with projected words and images was the minimalistic backdrop for the almost constant song and dance that propelled Ain’t Too Proud. The show is narrated by Otis Williams, portrayed by Marcus Paul James, as he tells the tale of the group’s formation intermingled with songs by the Temptations as well as other singing group contemporaries such as the Supremes and Cadillacs.       

Otis remarks at start of the musical journey that “There is no progress without sacrifice” and wonders if “The measure if it is worth the cost.” Williams seamlessly moves from singing and dancing to directing his dialogue towards the audience and imparting more of the Temptations’ tale to them. The production takes place over the span of approximately 30 years: from the group’s inception until the deaths of four of the original members.

The music is energetic and will have you tapping your feet and clapping your hands. The soundtrack includes classics such as “Ball Of Confusion,” “Get Ready,” “I Can’t Get Next To You,” and about 28 more musical gems during the over two-hour show.

Marcus Paul James is the star as Otis Williams and he carries the weight of the story as the real life Williams carried the weight of The Temptations. The group’s line-up changed over 20 times since its formation leaving Williams the only living original member. Elijah Ahmed Lewis perfectly captured David Ruffin’s moves, vocal prominence and demons. Jalen Harris was brilliant as Eddie Kendricks. Every voice in this cast was outstanding and powerful. The dance moves were amazing and if you are a fan of performers jumping and landing in a split then this is definitely the right show for you! If you are not on your feet applauding at the finale then you must not have a musical soul. The audience applause and cheers for this were the loudest I have heard in quite a while.

If you a fan of Motown, The Temptations, dance, jukebox musicals and great performance then get to PPAC to experience Ain’t Too Proud-The Life and Times of the Temptations. The show runs until April 17th. For more about this show and others at PPAC, “Speedo” over to PPACRI.org 

You can listen to my interview with Ain’t Too Proud star, Marcus Paul James on the Motif Magazine Roots Report Podcast at: motifri.com/rootsreportpodcast/episode-11-marcus-paul-james/ That’s it for now. Thanks for reading (and listening)! www.JohnFuzek.com

Roots Report April 2022: They ain’t what they used to be, but they’re still damn good

Okee dokee folks… Back in the ‘70s I used to read Creem and Circus Magazine cover to cover. We didn’t have the internet, no MTV, nor any constant source of information about performers. Most of the featured and advertised bands I was already a fan of, but there were a few that I do remember but never really heard much. If it wasn’t on the radio, on the turntable at a record store or if a friend didn’t have the album, it was more than likely my ears never experienced it. One of these bands was The Sparks — brothers Ron and Russel Mael. Their careers began in the late ‘60s and though now the brothers are in their mid-70s they are still at it. Recently I found a documentary about them on Netflix called The Sparks Brothers. If you have not heard of them you definitely should watch this and get turned on to what they have done: They have inspired many, many bands in their 50+ years of music-making. The Sparks were behind the very bizarre Adam Driver/Marion Cotillard film musical Annette. Although their music has seen shifts in style and ups and downs, they are definitely worth a listen not only because some of it is great, but because they never gave up! Read on…

During the early ‘90s there was a new boom in singer-songwriters. The film Clueless introduced many to the work of Jill Sobule, who contributed the song “Supermodel,” which led to songs in many more films and TV shows. Long before Katy Perry, Sobule released her own “I Kissed a Girl” that was more cute and flirtatious than the blunt sexuality of Perry’s. Sobule’s music has the quirkiness and wit of Warren Zevon and Randy Newman as well as the story style of Harry Chapin. She was one of the early pioneers of crowdfunding and made her 2009 recording California Years with fan support. Sobule has produced a dozen recordings in her 30+ years as a performer and continues to write, record and tour. I interviewed Sobule for an episode of my Roots Report Podcast: Listen to it at MotifRI.com/rootsreportpodcast. Jill Sobule will be at The Greenwich Odeum on April 9. For more about the show, “Vrbana Bridge” to GreenwichOdeum.com 

When I list my top five concerts of all time, people are always surprised that Weird Al Yankovic is included. He honestly presents one of the most entertaining shows you will ever see. You may think he is goofy but he is a Grammy-winning, world-class musician and his bandmates effortlessly transcend all genres of music. If you have never been to a Weird Al show, now is your chance. Yankovic is bringing “The Unfortunate Return of the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised, Vanity Tour” to the Zeiterion in New Bedford on April 29. His special guest this time around is Emo Philips! In past years I have interviewed Al but this time around I spoke to his longtime guitarist, Jim “Kimo” West, who is a star in his own right. West won a Grammy in 2020 for his solo album More Guitar Stories. Listen to that interview here: MotifRI.com/rootsreportpodcast. For more about the show, squeeze box to: Zeiterion.org

The Jefferson Airplane was one of the best bands to come from the Summer Of Love/ Woodstock era. Although they are down to three surviving members you still have the chance to see two of them in concert. Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady formed Hot Tuna in 1969 as a side project while they were still members of The Airplane. Hot Tuna has had many members, including Airplane bandmates, but Jorma and Jack have always been the core. Kaukonen and Casady will bring acoustic Hot Tuna to the Narrows in Fall River on April 23. I spoke with Jorma Kaukonen and you can read that interview here: MotifRI.com/Jorma2022. For more about the show, “Embryonic Journey” to NarrowsCenter.org

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon stayed on the music charts for 962 weeks and sold 45 million copies. Their catalog of music has exceeded 250 million in sales and they are one of the most successful bands in history. Unfortunately the entire band will never reunite as keyboardist Richard Wright passed away in 2008 and band founder Syd Barret died in ‘06. Various incarnations of the band have toured over the years and the individual members are still making music. Roger Waters will be in Boston over the summer and Nick Mason’s postponed show should be rescheduled for this fall. If you want the next best thing to a full-on Floyd experience then Brit Floyd will fix you. They perfectly recreate Pink Floyd’s sound and stage show and will present this at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in PVD on April 13. I spoke with band leader Damian Darlington about the show. Listen to that here: MotifRI.com/rootsreportpodcast. For more about the show, “Run Like Hell” to: TheVetsRI.com

In the late 1960s The Boxtops and The Buckinghams had many hits on pop radio: The Buckinghams with “Kind of a Drag,” “Don’t You Care” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy;” The Boxtops with “The Letter,” “Soul Deep” and “Neon Rainbow.” The two bands have joined forces to bring a night of nostalgic music to the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket on Friday, April 15. I spoke with the Boxtops’ Bill Cunningham about the band and his career. Listen to that here: MotifRI.com/rootsreportpodcast. Constantine Maroulis finished 4th on American Idol but he went on to star in Rock of Ages and Jekyll and Hyde on Broadway. Now he is part of the tribute band Foreigner’s Journey. They will “Faithfully” present the music of Foreigner and Journey at the Stadium Theatre on Saturday, April 16. For more about these shows it’s “Urgent” that you get to: StadiumTheatre.com

I have been podcasting up a storm and been producing lots of content for The Roots Report Podcast. Please give it a listen! I have added another Look Who’s Laughing podcast (MotifRI.com/lwl) with comedian Vic DiBitetto who will be at The Greenwich Odeum for two nights on April 22 & 23. PHEW!!! Thanks for reading…and listening. www.JohnFuzek.com

Prepare for Takeoff: Fuzek interviews Jorma Kaukonen of The Jefferson Airplane

Okee dokee folks… The Jefferson Airplane was one of the best bands to come from the Summer Of Love/Woodstock era. Though they are down to three surviving members, you still have the chance to see two of them in concert. Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady formed Hot Tuna in 1969 as a side project while they were still members of The Airplane. Hot Tuna has had many members, including Airplane bandmates, but Jorma and Jack have always been the core. Kaukonen and Casady will bring acoustic Hot Tuna to the Narrows in Fall River on April 23. I spoke with Jorma Kaukonen and you can read that conservation below:

Jorma Kaukonen: What are we talking about today?

John Fuzek: You have a show coming up at the Narrows in April.

JK: Hold on. My son is calling but that’s going to be a long conversation. I’ll call him back when we get done. Ok, let’s get back to this.

JF: You have an acoustic Hot Tuna show coming up. That is you, Jack (Casady) and who else?

JK: Just me and Jack.

JF: OK, I worked with you a couple of times at festivals. Rhythm and Roots and Grey Fox.

JK: Oh, yeah, man, great fun! That’s a while ago. I remember Ricky Skaggs was on that show.

JF: I stage managed that show.

JK: We didn’t offend you, did we?

JF: No! You two were a riot! Really liked working with you. You and Jack were a trip to work with. It was ten years ago at Rhythm and Roots festival was the last time we talked. You did an electric set there.

JK: Well, we’re still hanging in. I’m heading across the panhandle of Florida right now we’re on our way to Houston, man. Jack and I just did three shows in Florida. It’s the first time we’ve played together since New Year’s. We’re playing well, we’re having a good time and people showed up to hear us. What’s not to like, you know?

JF: You were doing live streams over the pandemic.

JK: Yeah, that saved our bacon being able to do that. It was such a pleasure to be able to reach out like that.

JF: A friend of mine watched those live streams religiously during the pandemic.

JK: We had a heck of a good time doing that and we just did one a couple of weeks ago with me and my friend Johnny.

JF: Is that Hurlbut?

JK: That would be Mr. Hurlbut, yes. We’re probably going to do more when I get home.

JF: My friend wondered if you were going to do any touring with John.

JK: I did a short tour with him last year. It was a Jorma tour but I cut him in on like half of each set. I love playing with him. We have such a good time. I hope we will, it’s in the forefront of our minds.

JF: What does John do at Fur Peace Ranch?

JK: He’s been our ranch manager for over 20 years. He’s starting to wind down a little bit. He’s sort of semi-retired. We’re not doing a lot of in-person teaching things this year. We’re doing a lot of that online but we’re doing lots of concerts and he’s the guy who puts our shows together.

JF: What kind of concerts do you do there?

JK: We have a 250-seat theatre and we just bring in artists we like. It’s great! We also have a weekly radio show on our local NPR station out of Ohio University. WOUB is the station and our archives are up online, of course, like everything is.

JF: I was wondering if you remember Marjorie Thompson.

JK: Of course. Absolutely. I think she’s been gone 6 or 7 years now. She was one of our dear friends and one of our instructors at the ranch and she taught at Brown. She opened for me at the Narrows a couple of times. She was an exceptional person.

JF: Yes, she was a friend of mine, we did quite a few gigs together and she used to speak highly of you.

JK: This kind of illustrates the kind of woman she was, when she was diagnosed with cancer, there really wasn’t any cure for it and she elected not to do the horrible treatments and right before she passed she did a road tour. She called me before she came home and said, “Jorma, I’ve had a great year.”

JF: I can hear her saying that.

JK: I had so much respect for that.

JF: Some folks posted questions on Facebook that they wanted me to ask you. My girlfriend wants to know if you will play “Embryonic Journey.” It’s one of her favorite songs.

JK: Well, since she requested it I will be more than happy to do that! 

JF: She will be thrilled! She also loves the guitar playing in “Today” as well.

JK: That’s not me!

JF: Oh, I know but she loves the guitar playing in that one, too.

JK: I was just listening to Surrealistic Pillow recently and that’s such a beautiful song. I wish it was me!

JF: She always tried to get me to learn these songs. I am good but not that good of a guitar player.

JK: You know, songs like that…It’s so alien from my approach to playing the guitar. It’s one of these things that’s so minimal in some ways but really hard to do.

JF: It also has to be the right environment to play it, too.

JK: That goes without saying.

JF: So, besides you and Jack, Grace is the only one left from the Jefferson Airplane.

JK: Yes, it’s just the three of us.

JF: Are you still in touch with Grace?

JK: We have business interests in common, we have a legacy company… I had dinner with her a couple of years ago and I hadn’t seen her in years. We talk maybe once a month or so. Grace never lets us down. She has no verbal boundaries whatsoever and you just know it’s going to be a fun conversation.

JF: She’s not singing anymore but she is painting. I like her paintings.

JK: It’s interesting, she was one of the great voices of my generation but when she was done, I couldn’t imagine being done with guitar playing, but when she was done with singing, she was done with it. So she’s just been painting and she’s really good. Now that being said, I was talking to her a couple of months ago and she said, “You know, I’ve been messing around with the piano at my house” and I said, “Grace, if you ever record and don’t cut me in on it I am really going to be mad!”

JF: Yeah, I would be, too! It would be great to hear you, Jack and Gace do something together.

JK: Nothing would make me happier, that would be so awesome.

JF: Even if she just sits in on a Hot Tuna show or something.

JK: The one thing about Grace is that you never know about her. I am not predicting anything but I wouldn’t be surprised if I were surprised.

JF: You’re 81 years old now, right?

JK: I am. Grace is pushing 82. So, we gotta get this done, you know!

JF: I talk to a lot of performers and I am a performer myself, and I wonder how long performing can be kept up. It’s very taxing on the body. I have had hand problems for the past couple of years and I am just 61.

JK: You need Jorma’s CBD products!

JF: I actually use CBD on my hands.

JK: Well, you should go to our Fur Peace Ranch website (FurPeaceRanch.com). If you like CBD we have a whole line of great shit. You should just check it out just for the laughs! We even have CBD calming shit for dogs! Anyway, to get back to it, I am really lucky because so far I am healthy, I don’t have arthritis in my hands. I’m an older guy that doesn’t feel as good as they used to but what it’s done is that it has caused me to work on my guitar technique in a more classical kind of way if you know what I mean. The kind of stuff that they try to teach us when we are kids but we would just say, “I don’t need that, I don’t need to play like that.” I think my technique is better than it used to be and it doesn’t hurt as much.

JF: That’s probably my problem. I was just a stubborn kid who didn’t want to learn the right way.

JK: We all were. We all thought, “Who needs that shit you don’t know anything.” I was telling Jack, for example, a lot of this has to do with age, my callouses are nowhere as thick as they used to be, and they don’t get thick, but my hands don’t hurt because my technique is better. You don’t need to grab the strings that hard. I use 12’s on my acoustic guitar and 11’s on my electric. I guess 12’s are considered light gauge these days in the acoustic world. They’re not wimpy strings. I am lucky that I am still able to do this. It’s fun. I still guitars in general, just as much as I ever did. So far, so good.

JF: I am hoping when I am your age that I can still play!

JK: There’s no reason that you can’t

JF: Someone wanted me to mention your cousin in RI, John Brett? I guess he is friends with a few of my FB friends.

JK: He is a bonafide distant cousin. His mom was one of my mom’s nieces I think. They are all from those tobacco farms in CT.

JF: Someone mentioned a show in Boston where after the show Van Morrisson showed up.

JK: That is not true. It’s an urban legend. I would have remembered that!

JF: Another thing that someone asked if you remember is playing at URI and someone spiking your drink with acid.

JK: I have been spiked with acid at gigs twice and it wasn’t in RI. Once was at Pirates World with The Airplane in Florida. The other was with Hot Tuna at the Carousel Ballroom in San Francisco. So, it has happened, but not there.

JF: The last time I saw you play you were with electric Hot Tuna on the Tedeschi-Trucks tour and you were the first opening act.

JK: We kind of rotated that but we were there. I love Susan and Derek. In my opinion that is arguably the greatest band in the world today. We were out with them for a couple of months and I got to know them all, that’s a big band, and they were like family. It was awesome.

JF: Do you plan on going out with electric Hot Tuna again in the future?

JK: In April were doing, even though I am 81, we are doing my 80th birthday, because it got canceled, we are playing Carnegie Hall, and that’s going to be electric! We do select electric stuff. Later this summer we are going to be on tour with Little Feat. We’re going to be doing a trio with Justin, our drummer but we’re doing it acoustically, but I realize that when I use the word acoustic we are all plugged in. We are going to be playing as a stand-up acoustic trio. 

JF: I remember your set at Rhythm and Roots and loved your set at the Tedeschi-Trucks show. The sound is amazing. Jack has such a chunky bass sound.

JK: Jack is such a tone chaser. The tones he is chasing change from time to time but I totally agree with you, man. Again, Grace never lets me down with her lack of verbal boundaries and Jack never lets me down by coming up with some kind of great tone and great lines. Jack and I have been playing together forever but every night something new comes up it’s like “where does this stuff come from?”

JF: You two have been playing since high school right?

JK: Since 1958.

JF: Wow, that’s amazing!

JK: Totally! That’s a long time!

JF: Has it been smooth the whole time or have you had ups and downs?

JK: Honestly, we sort of “hiatused” for a while in the ’70s but Jack and I have never had an argument. People ask, “How does Hot Tuna stay together for so long?” You play in a band so you will appreciate this: We have never had a band meeting! There is nothing that will break up a band like having band meetings!

JF: The Airplane did a rooftop concert, do you remember when that was?

JK: I would have to Google it.

JF: I was just wondering it that predated the Beatles rooftop concert.

JK: Oh, we were before, absolutely!

JF: I thought that but I wasn’t sure. It was almost the same situation as the Beatles though.

JK: But we never got a permit and Marty got arrested. One of the funny things about it, Jean Luc Godard, the French filmmaker was making a movie and he was going to use this Airplane thing, I don’t think anything ever came of it. Anyway, we did this thing on the rooftop, we were really loud, you gotta check out the YouTube video! Marty starts the thing off by screaming, “Good morning New York, wake up you fuckers!” or something like that. Anyway, we played the songs and the police came and shut us down. When we got downstairs the cops asked, Who is the leader of the band?” We all pointed at Marty and they took Marty away!

JF: I have watched that video a few times, I really like it.

JK: It’s funny shit!

JF: So, The Narrows show will be you and Jack. What do you anticipate doing for that show? How long, etc.

JK: Normally we do two sets. The first is an hour and the second is 75 minutes. But we always run over. That’s what we are looking for. Thanks to the quarantine concerts I have resuscitated songs we haven’t played in decades. And had it not been for the quarantine I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to relearn them. We will be doing some new old songs. I’ve also written a couple of new songs. So we’re going to get everything from the beginning to the present. And “Embryonic Journey,” of course!

JF: Very good! She will be happy! What kind of guitar are you playing these days?

JK: I am glad you asked- there’s this guy in Greene, Iowa named David Flammang. One of the things he does is build guitars in the style of a 1936 Gibson J-35. I have had two of these guitars for the past few years and I am so in love with them. That is what I am playing now. And that is what you will see when we come to the Narrows.

JF: It has been a pleasure talking with you again.

JK: Back at you! Take care, man!

Acoustic Hot Tuna will be at the Narrows in Fall River on April 23. For more about the show, “Embryonic Journey” to NarrowsCenter.org. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Blue Oyster Cult Rocks the Cabot

Blue Oyster Cult takes the stage at The Cabot Theatre in Beverly, MA on March 5. Photo by John Fuzek.

Okee dokee folks… Blue Oyster Cult fans converged on The Cabot Theatre in Beverly, MA on Saturday, March 5 to experience a 50-year celebratory show of the band Blue Oyster Cult (BOC). Though the band was formed in 1967, they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of their eponymous first album.

I saw BOC quite a few times in the mid ’70s at venues like the Providence Civic Center and the Cape Cod Colosseum. Back then their arena shows were elaborate affairs with special effects lighting, smoke and lasers. BOC was one of the first bands to incorporate lasers into their shows, and guitarist/vocalist Eric Bloom often used a hand held laser that he would shoot into the crowd. Not only was BOC memorable, but their opening acts were as well. I was introduced to new acts such as Cheap Trick and Rush because of their warm-up spots. BOC’s show at the Cabot was a big contrast to those old arena days: this 50th anniversary performance was a straight ahead no-frills rock show with no opening act.

The band walked out on stage to pre-recorded instrumental music pumped though the PA and launched right into “Dr. Music.” Eric Bloom encouraged the crowd to sing along with the lyrics, “Raise your can of beer on high and seal your fate forever,” and, of course, raise it again as they played “The Golden Age of Leather.” It wasn’t long before they performed one of their biggest hits, “Burnin’ For You.”  They ran through “Buck’s Boogie” that incorporated other melodies in the jam such as “Mary Had A Little Lamb” as well as a little ZZ Top. The new song “Tainted Blood” was fronted by newer BOC member Richie Castellano: Not only did he nail the vocals, his guitar solo screamed talent. The band’s vocal harmony skills were demonstrated on another new number, “Train True.” This song has a roadie take center stage wearing a conductor cap and blowing some harp. “Then Came the Last Days of May” was introduced as being a true story and once again featured a blazing solo by Castellano. Guitarist “Buck” Dharma had cleared to the side to let Castellano shine but soon it was his turn and Dharma did not disappoint.  Soon Bloom was yelling, “Do you hear that? Something big is coming!” Fans knew, it was “Godzilla!” Dharma slid his guitar across his mic stand to emulate the sound of Godzilla “pulling the spinning high tension wires down.” This song was followed by the picking a chords and the tell-tale sound of a cowbell. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” closed out the show.

Chants of “B-O-C, B-O-C” brought the band out for a two song encore that included “The Alchemist” and “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll.” BOC performed a satisfying set of new songs and classics. After 50 years the band’s sound still holds up and founding members Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom, the only original members left in the 5-piece band, still can bring it. Though they are now in their mid-70s they had no problem rocking hard and keeping up with the younger blood in the band. Their voices and chops have not withered over time. Though the Cabot was a far cry from their arena shows of the ’70s the band still has it and the Cabot Theatre provided an intimate atmosphere to experience rock legends of BOC’s stature. 

To check out photos from the show head over to the Motif Magazine Facebook page! (Facebook.com/MotifRI) There are lots of other concert photos there as well. You can find my new podcast at MotifRI.com. Have a listen. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Raising the Barre: Beatles, Jethro Tull and John Hall

Okee dokee folks… Back in 2004, I was asked to write for a fledgling publication called Motif. The magazine had only put out a couple of issues and I wasn’t sure what to think. Fast forward to 2022 and it is obvious I made the right decision. In the past 18 years, I have tried new approaches to my Motif contributions: Motif TV, performer interviews, reviews, photography and others. Some have stayed, others not. Now I am embarking on yet another Motif adventure: I am entering the world of podcasting. Since I already conduct phone interviews I decided to incorporate those into a podcast. My biggest concern was the audio quality that I was getting from the recorded conversations, but fortunately I was able to solve that problem with a new-fangled device that is made just for podcasts and has a direct input setting for phone calls. Et voila, the Roots Report Podcast was born (along with interview entries in our new comedian podcast, Look Who’s Laughing)! Admittedly I will more than likely stumble through the first couple until I get my bearings, but like anything, I learn as I do and evolve. I already have a few recordings “in the can” and I just need to do a little post-production and they will be ready. I hope that folks will give them a listen and chime in with comments on what they would like to hear. I will still write my main print column as well as photograph and review shows. You can always find it all online: check it out at motifri.com and fb.com/MotifRI. Read on…

Since the Beatles Get Back documentary was released Beatlemania has been reinvigorated. I admit I was enchanted by the 8 hours of squabbling and music from the film and have been listening to more Beatles than before. If you need a fix of the REAL thing then you are (kind of) in luck. Unfortunately, we can never see the four Liverpool lads live again, but we can see the remaining members solo. Sir Paul McCartney has just released dates for his 2022 Got Back tour and he will be bringing it by Fenway Park in Boston on June 7. At the time of writing, tix were not yet on sale but will be by publication. You may need to sell a kidney to afford them but this could be the last time as Sir Paul has reached octogenarian status. We have already gone through the “is Paul dead” thing once. I wouldn’t take my chances: I don’t think there is another Paul doppelganger to fill in. For more, “Jet” over to: PaulMcCartneyGotBack.com. 

Ringo Starr, who is my second favorite Beatle (George is my fav), will be swinging into PPAC on June 12. Right now there are a few tickets left so if you want to see a Beatle then grab them before they’re gone. I have seen Ringo and His All-Star Band twice and these shows are really a lot of fun. In addition to the Beatles’ songs the band runs through a few of each member’s hits. This time around the lineup consists of Steve Lukather (Toto), Colin Hay (Men at Work), Gregg Rolie (Santana and Journey), Hamish Stuart (Average White Band and Paul McCartney), Warren Ham (Bloodrock, Kansas and AD), and session drummer Gregg Bissonette. If you think “It Don’t Come Easy” to see a Beatle then you should get to ppacri.org and see how easy it really is. If you still need a full-on Beatles’ fix then I suggest you try out RAIN: A Tribute To The Beatles. I spoke with band member Steve Landes who has been portraying John Lennon for decades in the long-running Rain Tribute. You can LISTEN to this conversation as an episode of my new Roots Report podcast! (motifri.com) TWO shows of Rain take place at the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford on Sunday, Mar 12 at 2 and 7pm. For more, “Helter Skelter” to: Zeiterion.org.     

The opening six guitar notes of Jethro Tull’s masterpiece album Aqualung make up one of the most memorable guitar riffs in rock history. The masterful guitarist behind them is longtime Tull member Martin Barre. He will be bringing the sound of Jethro Tull-The 50th Anniversary Aqualung tour to the Narrows Center for the Arts on March 18.  For more about the Martin Barre show and the many others coming up at the Narrows, “Locomotive Breath” your way to: narrowscenter.org.

The band Orleans is “Still The One” for that ’70s sound of music. With hits that still linger on the radio and now in commercials like “Dance with Me,” “Love Takes Time” and the aforementioned “Still The One,” the sound of Orleans is omnipresent. Songwriter, guitarist, vocalist and founding member John Hall has been through a lot during his music days, before and after his Orleans time. He fronted the John Hall band and had the hit song “Crazy.” He was one of the founders of Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) and organized the concerts as well as writing the anthem “Power” for the movement. In addition to that he was a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives. These days Hall is back with Orleans and the band will be at The Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket on Mar 25. I spoke with Hall via phone – you can listen to that interview on my Roots Report Podcast. For more about the Orleans show, “Reach” over to: stadiumtheatre.com

If there was ever a comedian who seemed like their head would spontaneously explode on stage it would be Lewis Black. If you have witnessed Black’s “rant style” comedy you would understand. If you haven’t, well you should. Black goes off on tirades that have him finger-wagging and yelling to the point where you wonder if he will actually stroke out. Black says the things that sane people think but may not say. He vents for us. He riffs on politics and society and will have you splitting a gut. Black will bring his appropriately titled Off The Rails tour to Veterans Auditorium on Mar 12. I once again had the opportunity to talk with this comedic rock star and he is featured on our debut Look Who’s Laughing podcast. For more about Black’s show and other goings-on at The Vets, choo-choo to: thevetsriI.com   

Okee dokee, you all have your listening and reading assignments. Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Setting the Barre High: An interview with Jerthro Tull’s Martin Barre

Okee dokee folks… The opening six guitar notes of Jethro Tull’s masterpiece album Aqualung make up one of the most memorable guitar riffs in rock history. The masterful guitarist behind them is long-time Tull member Martin Barre. He will bringing the sound of Jethro Tull to the Narrows Center for the Arts on March 18. I spoke with Barre about his tour and his work with Jethro Tull.

John Fuzek: Hi Martin, where are you calling from?

Martin Barre: I am in Mississippi where my son and daughter-in-law live, it was gorgeous hot weather and then it snowed, it dropped 50 degrees in a day.

JF: I didn’t even know it snowed in Mississippi!

MB: Oh, it does, really it does! Believe me!

JF: You’re on tour now but is COVID-19 giving you problems? I have noticed some shows being canceled again.

MB: So far none of mine are canceled and we are presuming that they all are going to go ahead, we are just being optimistic because it would be a disaster for everyone if they were.

JF: I’ve had a quite a few of my own cancel, it’s been a tough couple of years.

MB: We did a tour of Europe and it was fine, it was safe, the audiences were amazing and so grateful to hear live music again, in a way that sort of put me at ease because performing is still possible.

JF: Your show is in March so it should be fine. (I spoke to Martin in January) I had an interview cancel because they were unclear as to whether their show was going to happen.

MB: We have no control over it, we are all triple vaxxed, we travel in a bubble and we’re really, really careful; if we are not careful at one gig then it affects them all down the line and we have a responsibility to do a whole tour, sixty shows and I want to do them all!

JF: This is a 50th anniversary of Aqualung tour? 

MB: Well, it was, but now it’s the 51st. We play all of the Aqualung album in sequence, the first half of the show is our favorites- a mix of mine and Tull’s music, more of the stuff we really want to revisit and then the second half is mostly the complete Aqualung album. It works brilliantly, we did the show in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for three weeks and fine tuned it. People love it, they haven’t heard many of these songs in a long time.

JF: Do you still have Clive (Bunker) performing with you?

MB: We have Clive playing drums, two girl singers who do the acoustic songs, we do the show as a four piece, and it’s great.

JF: I have been a Tull fan almost since the beginning and the last time I saw Tull back in 2014-15, it was the Thick as a Brick anniversary show, Ian (Anderson) could barely sing at that point and he let others handle the vocals for the most part.

MB: That sounds like it was Ian’s band, not Tull: it’s a bone of contention, Ian’s going out and doing shows with his own band and calling it Jethro Tull. I will leave people to make their own judgement on that, I’m just getting on with what I do.

JF: Is there bad blood between the two of you?

MB: Ah, no, there isn’t, because everything that has happened since Ian and I stopped working together has been fantastic. I’ve been released from the shackles, to be dramatic, I only found out when it happened that I was being held back musically. So I can do a tour, as we’re doing now, and I sit down and write the set list, anything I want to play. I can play any Tull song, the band can play any Tull song really, it’s a great position, it’s a great band, a better band than most Tull line-ups were! I’m not degrading anything that Tull did, we had great line-ups, classic ones and then ones that weren’t so strong, a lot like all bands that swapped and changed and it didn’t always strengthen the concepts. I’ve got a brilliant band and it’s taken me 8 or 9 years to get to where I am, it’s been brilliant fun. There’s no crossover at all. What Ian does is a million miles from what I do.

JF: Well, he can’t really sing anymore, can he?

MB: I don’t… I think he has medical problems but I’m not to be the judge of that. I play two hours every day to make sure I don’t get arthritis, I mean I’m 75 and I have to make sure I can play as well as I can.

JF: I get it, I am 60 and I am having hand issues, it’s a drag.

MB: Yeah, yeah it is. I really try to look after myself, I listen to how I played 30 years ago and I think, “wow, I don’t know if I can do that anymore.” I am just trying to keep the standard as high as I want it to be, and that’s pretty high.

JF: Were you responsible for the riffs that defined songs such as “Aqualung” and “Cross Eyed Mary”?

MB: We sat down and wrote them together. Ian always had the lyrics and the basic chords of the song, we sat down and moved them around a bit, there was no method in any one direction. Some things Ian recorded completely on his own, “Mother Goose,” he would do everything himself, and other tracks we would sit down and write the arrangements and play with the riffs and the music. There were no rules, and it was important that it was that way: it was a healthy, working method.

JF: I didn’t realize that you played the flute as well!

MB: I played flute before I met Ian. I still play, during lockdown I worked really hard on my flue playing, so for my own enjoyment, and when I left the UK I was looking at my flute and thinking to myself, “should I take it?” but essentially I don’t want to play it on stage and have people think that I am trying to be Ian.

JF: So you don’t play it at all on stage?

MB: I love doing it but I made the decision not to do it. But maybe in the future I will.

JF: Does anyone play flute in the band?

MB: No, don’t have any flute, no keyboard, no flute, the two guitars cover all the keyboard parts, my guitar covers all the flute parts, the voice of the guitar and the flute are very similar in strength, and ability, it’s an easy crossover. 

JF: As far as your own stuff, what do you include?

MB: I change it, we do an instrumental but I am going to change that, I like the ability to show up at the gig and at sound check I say, “what if we play this instrumental tonight instead of the normal one?” and we do it, at the drop of the hat, I try to keep it balanced. There’s something from Back To Steel and Roads Less Travelled and something from Stage Left. I try to keep it balanced and I like my music enough that I want to keep it ticking over in people’s minds.

JF: You don’t sing but someone else handles the vocals?

MB: Yes, the singer, Dan Crisp, has a great voice.

JF: Are you still play Paul Reed Smith (PRS) guitars?

MB: Yes, but I brought along an old Les Paul Jr, the same guitar I played on Aqualung, I thought it would be a bit of fun to play when we play the Aqualung album, I will have the original guitar as well.

JF: I am happy that you are still out there playing music, Tull music is tough for folks to play and not many folks are playing it so you don’t get to hear it live very often.

MB: I totally understand what you are saying, I feel the same way. It has an essence to it, you can learn it but it won’t be the real thing. I’ve heard other bands play Tull music and it’s not quite right, and I’m pleased because that means that only me or Ian really understand that essence that made the brand, it’s quite unique.

JF: You two were the most consistent members of the band. 

MB: Right.

JF: I saw the band many times with different members. I remember meeting drummer Barriemore Barlow after one of those shows, I remember John Glascock.

MB: We had some great musicians, they all added to the chemistry, what they left behind was very unique, they all had their own very different way of playing and it was not like a generic style, no one had a generic rock style. They all had, and I hate to say it, a very English approach to music where there’s lots of influences all put in a melting pot. It’s not something that you can learn on YouTube.

JF: You also had that kind of Renaissance influence to a lot of the music.

MB: I mean England has a great tradition of Irish, Scottish, and Cornish even, folk music. In the US there’s bluegrass, country, there’s lots of music styles you can bring into Rock and Roll. It’s just sort of being adventurous.

JF: I hate to bring up Ian again, but I was wondering if you had stuff on the side like his salmon farming.

MB: No, I don’t have anything like that, just music, that’s all I do, and I am happy doing it as well.

JF: I know that with a lot of things that have gone down in the past few years- streaming, CD sales drop off, the pandemic, has that affected you financially?

MB: It does, but I keep my head above water. I am not rich, I’m not buying up houses and cars and helicopters, I am a working musician and I can pay my band, and I can stay in decent hotels, not the best but not the worst. It’s a comfortable lifestyle otherwise I wouldn’t do it, but it’s not crazy, it’s not on any level that you would call eccentric. It’s a real working band, in the old tradition, there’s no pretensions anywhere, no luxury, but it works and we have fun and we all want to do it and we love what we’re doing, it’s a great combination.

JF: That’s a far cry from the excess of stadium shows in the 70’s.

MB: I suppose it is, but we never took it that seriously, we never really swam in that way of life. We never took it on board, we had our feet on the ground, quite firmly and we were always putting hard work before anything, we never went crazy, even in those days.

JF: You’re 75 now, how long do you want to keep doing this?

MB: I would like to be playing until I can’t play and when I can’t play I’ll just play in a room on my own. But I think I’ll know when I’m not good enough, and the minute I think I am not good enough to put on a show that people would pay money for and get great value and enjoyment from then I won’t do it.

JF: At least you still enjoy it.

MB: Absolutely, I couldn’t do it unless I did, there would be no way I would. I love playing, I play my guitar every day religiously. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night, I am never bored because music fill all the gaps between family and all the other things that everyone else does.

JF: Anything else you want to add about what folks can expect at the Narrows show?

MB: I think they will be really happy with what we play. I don’t like to give too much away, we like to play songs that people go “Wow! I haven’t heard that for a long time!” I like people to be surprised and hopefully in a pleasant way but I always go for left of field and keep people guessing and surprised and apprehensive. It works great and we have a great show. We road tested it in Europe and we know it works well so it will be good!

JF: I noticed that you played with a lot of other musicians over the years besides Tull members, who was your favorite person to play with outside of Tull?

MB: I think they were more about the opportunity to meet famous people and my opinion of fame is very guarded, I don’t put a lot of mileage on people just because they have a huge name, so musically I love playing with the guys in the band and I’ve never done anything better. It’s nice to tell people you’ve met famous people because they’re impressed, but really, everybody’s the same, there’s nothing that special at all, I think I’ve had more disappointments meeting famous people.

JF: I have to agree with you there having met a lot of famous people.

MB: Yeah, there’s a lot of disappointment, It’s good because I put a lot of value on ordinary people, and that’s the way I like it.

JF: I am hoping that the show goes on, it’s been a long time since I have seen you play!

MB: Thanks, John. Thanks for the chat!

Martin Barre will be bringing the sound of Jethro Tull-The 50th Anniversary Aqualung tour to the Narrows Center for the Arts on March 18. For more about this  show and the many others coming up at the Narrows, “Locomotive Breath” your way to: NarrowsCenter.org That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

The Canadian Bob Dylan: A conversation with Bruce Cockburn

Okee dokee folks… Are you “Wondering Where The Lions Are”? Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I Had A Rocket Launcher”? Or maybe, just maybe, you’re puzzled as to why they “Call It Democracy” in this country when the system is being rigged? If so, then you are definitely in need of a night of music from the legendary Bruce Cockburn.

The first time I ever heard of Bruce Cockburn he was described to me as being the Canadian Bob Dylan. He has been around almost as long as Dylan and produced an impressive body of work in that time. His music is revered world wide and he’s won countless awards, including 13 Juno awards.

Bruce Cockburn will be performing solo at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River on Wednesday, March 2. I had the opportunity speak with Cockburn via phone from his California home about the upcoming show and his career. It took a couple of attempts to get this done as Bruce was in the middle of moving into a new home.

Bruce Cockburn: Sorry about missing you the other day, we just moved and there is a lot going on, yesterday was the big moving day.
John Fuzek: No problem at all, thanks for calling! Where did you move to?
BC: I’m in San Francisco, I have been living here for the past dozen years but we moved to a new place in San Francisco.
JF: Moving can be traumatizing.
BC: It can be!
JF: Why did you move to San Francisco? You’re a Canadian.
BC: I married an American.
JF: I figured that these days people would be more apt to go to Canada than the US because it’s so messed up here.
BC: (laughs) There is that, yeah but the messed up nature was less apparent a decade or so ago than it is now. But I lived in Boston in the 60’s.
JF: That’s right, you went to Berkeley.
BC: Right and it wasn’t very different back then, we didn’t have COVID-19, which has put pressure on all the systems everywhere, but there was the war and racial tensions, the polarity that those things brought out is the same polarity we are seeing now.
JF: True. I was only a kid in the 60’s so I only have vague recollections but didn’t have to deal with it as people of your generation did. I am sure that it impacted you as a songwriter.
BC: The whole era did, not just the social milieu; it was me and every other songwriter who were the products of that. There’s a continuous line, you can go back to Joe Hill and the early days of the labor struggles and you’ll find singers singing about political stuff that we can actually relate to and understand. And if you want to look at the spiritual side of things people have been singing about God forever. 
JF: I am singer-songwriter as well and I was influenced by your work in the mid 80’s, most notably “If I Had A Rocket Launcher.” I had a bit of a late introduction to you though. Someone I used to work with turned me on to your music. Then “Rocket Launcher” influenced me to write more socially and politically minded music. I do have to thank you for that!
BC: You’re more than welcome! We’re all influenced by somebody and for me Dylan was probably the biggest influence, I was listening to him before I started writing my own songs- or at least before I started taking the idea of writing song seriously. I tried to write a couple of songs while I was still in high school and that’s about when I started to listen to Dylan, he more than anyone else, but there were others, too: well, the Beatles and The Stones and the other songwriters of the time that were writing rock or pop songs. They were able to say more in their songs than previous generations, like my parent’s music was able to say. There’s some older stuff that speaks about this too- of course Pete Seeger was of my parents’ generation and he was busy doing that same thing then- but I didn’t know about him then.
JF: Pete Seeger is my musical hero.
BC: He was great, he was a great presence in the world as well as being great at what he did.
JF: I saw you a few times in the 80’s and at the Newport Folk Festival in the 90’s. One of the times I saw you at the Folk Fest you were doing this thing with wind chimes attached to your mic stand and you would occasionally kick them.
BC: I have done quite a few things with wind chimes over the years.
JF: Was there a significance to the wind chimes?
BC: Other than sonically, no. I have them there because I like the sound. They’re a bit weird to use outdoors- I don’t do it much outdoors now because outdoors there is actual wind that makes them go. And you’re hearing wind chimes whether you want to or not. I have these big sets but when I am playing solo I’ll use the smaller sets. With the band I don’t tend to use them because the mics pick up too much of the drums and everything else. I did a couple of tours with these very large sets of wind chimes, they’re five feet long, I have two sets that play in D minor and two sets that play in E minor and use them in different songs, depending in the key. That made for a really rich and interesting thing, and we rigged up some bass drum pedals to make them go so I didn’t have to actually kick them because I’m getting a little old for the high kicks (laughs). The last tour I was using them for one song and it was a pretty effect, that tour I was playing  a song from Bone on Bone that I wrote on the charango, a song in French called “Mon Chemin” and that went really well with strings and the wind chimes. This tour I am not.
JF: On this tour are you solo or will you have others with you?
BC: Actually, I lied, I am using them, but not the same ones! I just remembered, sorry. This is a solo tour. Completely solo.
JF: What are you reaching into your catalogue for to play this tour? Are you changing it up every show or sticking to a strict set?
BC: Pretty much the same show from night to night, varies a little in the encores possibly but I tend to do that. I get a show that works and I stick with it. Unless there is some drastic reason to change it: sometimes there is poignant request for someone who is local and just died and would I sing such and such a song in their honor; things like that you can’t ignore, so then the set will change a little bit. It’s a cross section of the old and the new, that what all my shows have been over the years, but a different selection of older stuff. In particular from the past tours: this is our second attempt at the 50th anniversary tour, trying to do the “anniversarial” thing!
JF: A lot of folks have run into that, what was supposed to be the 50th is now really the 51st or 2nd at this point because things have been postponed so much.
BC: It’s interesting how many of those anniversaries there are.
JF: That’s when all the good stuff came out! All the good stuff and all the good performers are aging out. The new stuff is just not as memorable.
BC: Yeah but something will come out of it that is, I bet.
JF: I hope so!
BC: That’s my impression, too. I pretty much agree with you but I feel like I am probably not in the best position to judge. I don’t exactly have my ear to the ground at this point. I’ve got a ten year old daughter who listens to the radio and I hear what shows up there (laughs). I don’t find that it attracts me.
JF: I haven’t heard much, if anything, that I like these days.
BC: We don’t hear it, but what we do hear is the surface stuff. If you listen to what was on the radio in 1965, it was mostly garbage. I think what is on the radio is almost always mostly garbage but with some good things that get through. I went through this a few years back when all these young kids were trying to play bluegrass and they were rediscovering the old folk music that we “discovered” back in our day. They’re learning it from scratch and doing shitty versions of it and then it got good, and you wind up with a band like Crooked Still who are brilliant, and other bands that really took it somewhere interesting. So if you’re only listening to pop music on the radio, something will surface at some point and get through. I was just reading an article about Janis Ian, who I am acquainted with, though I haven’t seen her in quite a while
JF: Isn’t she retiring this year?
BC: Yes, and she talks about how she could handle being part of the music business, but being part of the music industry is not something she is interested in. I think the distinction is interesting though I haven’t really articulated it that way to myself, but it is like that, everything has become like that, not just music: everything is globalized and everything is corporate, everything is this and that, and more and more so Jeff Bezos is going to own everything and all of us after a while.
JF: Too much concentration of power in one place is not good and leads to homogenization.
BC: There are always going to be people who are rebelling against that, I don’t know how much the matrix or the metaverse is going to take us all over. There are indications that it is happening but I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as some would like it to be.
JF: I hope people tire of it. I am getting tired of technology in general. It seems to be interfering more than helping lately.
BC: Yeah, I have to get an app to pick up my kid from school. What the fuck is that? It’s a private school, I am happy with the school, it’s a really good school. This new house we moved into has a garage, I’ve never had a garage, it has a door that opens automatically and in order to open the garage automatically you have to get an app!
JF: That’s the kind of shit that bothers me because I don’t have a smart phone and I don’t want a smart phone. I have a flip phone and it’s brand new, I just got it! People are just too addicted to their phones.
BC: I know, I certainly am though I’m not as bad as some people. I’m always looking at it to see what’s going on and to look at the news, and e-mails, you just get into the habit of pulling this thing out of your pocket and looking at it
JF: It happens in my band, if we stop playing for two seconds the phones come out!
BC: (laughs) There’s a church I go to, when I first started going to it, there’s a whole bunch of really good singers and a good band and I end up sitting in the band a lot. When we did the Bone on Bone album I got a bunch of them to come and sing on it, we recorded a couple of songs with them on it and when the album came out I went around with my box of CDs and wanted to give them all a CD, but no one had a CD player! This was me being obsolete! It was also slightly distressing!
JF: Right, you have a product that once was a physical commodity and now it’s a virtual thing that is hard to grasp and it has degraded the value because people don’t seem to see value in something that is downloaded.
BC: I mean I have my share of downloaded music, that’s just how you get music now.
JF: But you still put out CD’s.
BC: Yes, and thank God for vinyl! I mean people talk about it like it’s a big happening thing: it’s really a small niche market, but they have the big graphics and the actual information about the album- that’s the thing I miss most that downloads don’t have. It doesn’t come with anything. You don’t get the credits unless you hunt for them and sometimes that can be quite difficult. I mean the info is out there but where do you find it? Who played on that track and who played on this track? And who wrote the songs. You don’t get that information.
JF: And then there is Spotify and the streaming platforms.
BC: The same thing applies. I mean I am happy to be out there on Spotify, I want to be heard, but I’m not making much from it.
JF: Musicians used to be able to have one hit single and that would carry them on their music career, now you have a hit single and you might be able to buy a cup of coffee.
BC: Yeah, and if you’re really, really good you might be able to buy dinner.
JF: So, you have a book at, a memoir, correct? Your life, road stories, song inspirations, what have you?
BC: All of the above really, Harper-Collins came to me and wanted me to do a memoir, they wanted it to be a spiritual memoir. I asked them what a spiritual memoir is and they didn’t know- I was supposed to come up with that. So, what you have is an attempt at a spiritual memoir. I still don’t know what the phrase is supposed to mean. It’s framed around, I mean the early childhood stuff is just early childhood stuff, but once I started writing songs the books is sort of framed around a bunch of the songs but primarily the songs that have a spiritual element to them or spiritual components. It’s not exclusively that, I talk about “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and “Wondering Where The Lions Are” too. The songs that people are familiar with it’s my life from more or less a sort of spiritual perspective but it worked out to be kind of my life in the context of the 2nd half of the 20th century. This is how it’s received and seen by other people. I didn’t think of it that way when I was writing it but it is kind of that. It’s one person’s spiritual witness to the goings on in the second half of the 20th century.
JF: Do you incorporate some of the stories from this into your set?
BC: How much I talk depends partly on the mood I am in and partly on how much I have had to drink on a given night. I don’t specifically tell stories: I might talk about where songs come from. In the past I’d done that a lot more, like with “Rocket Launcher” I did a lot of talking because I wanted people to understand where it came from. I mean I might talk about songs as a means of introducing them but I’m not reading excerpts from the book or anything like that.
JF: Is there anything you would like to add before we wrap this up?
BC: I’ve got my fingers crossed that these shows actually get to happen, but the odds are good I think and we have the same sense of suspense we had before the shows we did in December on the west coast and those worked out quite well so I am definitely looking forward to getting out and playing for people.

Cockburn will be performing  at the Narrows in Fall River, on March 2. For more about the show, “Put It In Your Heart” and get to: NarrowsCenter.org

Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Talking Funny: Fuzek catches up with comedian Bobby Collins

Okee dokee folks… In the 1980’s there was a comedy boom. New comedy clubs were opening all over the country and cable television began presenting comedy programming. A relatively new comedian, Bobby Collins, had to make a choice: should he keep his job as vice president at Calvin Klein in NYC or should he take a leap of faith into stand-up comedy? He jumped and never looked back. Almost forty years later Collins has maintained a successful comedy career and regularly performs two hundred shows a year across the country. Collins will be bringing his stand-up to the Greenwich Odeum on Saturday, February 26. I spoke with Bobby via phone from his Santa Monica home.

JF: So I remember when you started back in the 80’s, I used to see you a lot on TV and I even remember the Certs commercial you did!

BC: Oh, God, that was wonderful! They came to me after I did one of them, there were two other comedians that did them as well. They told me that mine did the best and wanted me to do more. Then they wanted to put “Certs Presents: Bobby Collins.” I didn’t say anything but I felt like saying “I will pay you to put that on!”

JF: It’s all about PR!

BC: True, but you always have to be truthful.

JF: Do you have any comedy specials out right now? 

BC: No, but I have a best-selling book and I just finished another book. As a matter of fact, when I was in Denver last week I brought 175 copies with me and they all sold out during the first show, I didn’t have any left for the second show!

JF: What is the book about?

BC: It’s called, On The Inside-Witisms and Wisdomisms. It’s about all the things that I wish someone had sat me down and told me but I learned in life. People love it! I use comedy. I use examples. God first, family second, career third. I do the right thing and it pays off. That’s how I wound up being the host of VH1’s Standup Spotlight. Rosie O’Donnell passed that show onto me.

JF: I haven’t heard about Rosie in a long time. She used to battle with Trump all the time and I figured when he was in power it would have gotten worse but I didn’t hear anything.

BC: Oh, God, Oh, God. Donald Trump. Sometimes I do politics on stage… I make fun of Biden, too, someone get him a shawl or a blanket. But, Trump, I’ve known Donald Trump for over 20 years, but if I sat next to this guy on a plane I’d tap him and say, “you gotta lose the spray tan and your hair is the color of Tang, you look like an emoji, you can’t tell people to drink bleach and put lights up their ass!”

JF: You have had some great gigs over the years, opening for Frank Sinatra is pretty cool!

BC: I opened for Frank, Dolly, Cher, Julio, I put it all in the book! They asked me to open for Sinatra because his usual opener was sick. The guy picked me up at the airport, he said, “Bobby, don’t call him Frank, it’s Mr. Sinatra, don’t talk to him unless he talks to you…” I go into a room and the guys are all answering phones and they’re all named after parts of the body, “this is Tony the foot, this is Billy the arm…”

JF: How is it in comedy now that people have become so delicate?

BC: I just put it out there the way that I see it. For example, the other night I was in Florida and someone hollered, “Yo, we love Donald Trump!” and I looked at the audience, the guy stood up, and I said to him, “when you’re dead you don’t know you’re dead, other people feel the pain. Same thing when you’re stupid!” They all applauded and he sat down and was embarrassed! You have to do it cleverly. 

JF: That’s from all your years of working stand-up.

BC: Exactly!

JF: When I saw that you were going to be at the Odeum I had to talk to you! I used to see you on TV a lot but I haven’t seen you in a bit, what have you been doing? You are still very active, obviously.

BC: I do about 200 shows per year. I have been on all three tonight shows, I am always getting calls, I have a new series coming out from Disney, I’m just taking it easy with it. Some guy wrote a book called The Adventures of Little Billy in The Forest. I am the voice of Bosco the Bear. Disney picked it up and asked me to do the series. That’s pretty cool! I’ve been lucky and I’ve toured with the best. The best compliment I get from venues is that they tell me they get such a variety of age groups when I am there. They get the young, middle-aged and the old! We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Right now people are so anxious and want to come out, they want to laugh! You can feel it; you can see it in their eyes! They just let it out. I look at them after an hour and fifteen-minute show and I said “you really needed to get out, too, didn’t you?”

JF: Yes, people do want to get out, I have seen it as well. You used to say, “I got ca-ca”.  I thought that was funny. Do you still do that?

BC: I got ca-ca? I don’t remember that. (laughs) I do use the one where I am impatient with someone because I am a New Yorker (he makes these weird sounds that I cannot translate into words). I lost my keys, can’t find my car, gimme a gun. Who was the guy in Rhode Island, was it the Mayor, what was his name?

JF: Buddy Cianci.

BC: He used to come to see me perform!

JF: He was an interesting guy, to say the least, but he did change Providence.

BC: My father was brought up in Swansea, MA. My whole life and people still ask me about this. “You’re a New York City kid? But you made the baseball all-stars.” Yeah, but I didn’t play because I was going to Massachusetts to stay in Swansea with my grandparents. I would do work there and then I would go to the private beach club and then we’d run to Providence and eat in some of those great places. Loved it! Loved it!

JF: OK, something else you used to say a lot, maybe you don’t anymore because she got tired of it, was you always joked about having a hairy, Italian wife.

BC: We vacuum a lot! As a matter of fact, people think we have cats.

JF: Doesn’t she get tired of that?

BC: No, she just says, “Why do you tell people I’m so hairy?” I say because you are! I say, “kids, mommy’s off the couch grab the vacuum.” She’s a special lady! I do have a special needs child, my youngest, my favorite. We do everything to accommodate her. She goes to a camp that is up in Vermont. There are 94 of these kids. Nobody pays. Me, Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall we do, three times a year, “Comics For A Cause” to fund it because none of those kids have money. Remember when we were kids? People called them “retarded” or “mongoloids” and their parents would put them in closets, especially in NY. I remember my mother used to say about this one kid Julius, “If anyone makes fun of him, do something” and we did, me and my brother. We stood up for him, and here I am with a special needs daughter and I say “God works in mysterious ways.” She doesn’t walk, she doesn’t talk, but I must be pretty special if God gave her to me. It’s the best but it’s not easy.

JF: I can imagine. It must be tough but she has you and that’s a good thing.

BC: Look at us, we’re circus people! A musician and a comedian. Here we are! What do you play anyway?

JF: I play guitar, solo and in a Neil Young tribute band.

BC: Wow! Very cool! I used to know his manager! What was his name?

JF: He just died. Ugh, I can’t remember.

BC: He wanted to manage me! He hooked me up with ICM years ago. What was his name, John????

JF: Ugh, I can’t remember, let me look, I have my laptop right here, it will drive us crazy!!!

BC: I know, he was a good guy, and we played basketball!

JF: Elliot Roberts!

BC: Elliot Roberts! Yes, lived here in Malibu. And his main guy called me recently. “Bobby, you’re a best seller!” Yeah, I just put down some feelings from my heart, On The Inside, you know, and it worked. It’s a pandemic so I wrote another one!

JF: At least you did more than I did. I hung out in my jammies and binged a lot of Netflix!

BC: Ugh, did you? Ah, Shit! Did you go out and perform? Anytime?

JF: No, it was a year and a half of nothing.

BC: Ugh, John, I would have killed myself!

JF: It was tough. I am getting out now but have had shows cancel again.

BC: I know. Remember we all thought this thing was going to be a month, month and a half? Don’t touch your eyes, don’t touch your nose…I was peeing with my elbows! I tell stories because it lightens people up.

JF: That’s what good comedy is, you hear the truth in a funny way.

BC: And you can change people’s minds about how they look at things, that’s a gift, that’s what I love. That means to me more than anything. You see that staunch Republican talk about money, money, money and then you do this one bit and you realize he never saw The Wizard of Oz, it’s about your heart: if your heart is in the right place that’s gold, no but one ever taught him that.

JF: Some people just don’t get it.

BC: They don’t, they don’t and that’s ok but our goal is to keep trying to change that.

JF: Hopefully you will keep doing it for a long time!

BC: I hope so! They’re all dying now. My two friends died.

JF: Who?

BC: Bob Saget and Louie Anderson, Louie was a great guy, gentle, sweet man.

JF: Evidently they have a seat dedicated to him at The Greenwich Odeum.

BC: I did hear that. He was just a sweet, good guy. He would go out of his way to sit down and have fun with a new comic. Comics ask me all the time, “can you watch my set” if they are opening for me or something, “can you watch my set, Bobby and give me any advice?” Yeah, I’ll tell you but don’t turn it around on me! You know, some of them do!

JF: The only way you will get better is to hear the truth and move on.

BC: Thank You!

JF: If someone tells you that you are great all the time then you never progress.

BC: Right, right! Growth means change. Change doesn’t always mean growth. When you grow you have to change…and look at things…move on. Especially during a pandemic! God’s pushing the reset button for us.

JF: So, what can folks expect at your Odeum show on February 26th?

BC: Oh, we’re going to talk the truth. We’re going to have a lot of fun. We’re going to talk about everything from the pandemic to politics to the pharmaceutical treadmill-what I’ve been through and what I went through, also technology. This call is being recorded, monitored…blah, blah…bullshit, it’s a con job! Anything you do they want to know. You’ve got thirteen e-mails telling you this and that…it’s a game!

JF: Don’t get me started with technology. I have kind of had it with tech!

BC: I am with you on that, John! It’s a joke! You need a password to take a shit now! I had to go to a urologist, I don’t go to doctors, I’m from NY, our attitude is doctors treat the symptoms and we create the causes. So, here I go to a doctor, a urologist, and next thing I know I’ve got a prescription, I’ve never been to CVS, I was on line, there were so many people, I thought people were buying tickets for a Billy Joel concert. And I was behind people and I hear their conversations, “I have restless leg syndrome, then my throat started hurting now I’m taking antibiotics, and then my nipple fell off, then mesothelioma.” Oh my God get me out of here!  Then you read that the pharmaceutical companies made 78 billion dollars during the pandemic. Everything on television is all about drugs.

JF: That’s why I binge Netflix, can’t stand the commercials!

BC: Good boy, good boy!

JF: Well, I should let you go. I am hoping that I am free and can get to your show. So far, no gigs that night!

BC: We’re performers, we hope something comes through! Well, thanks, John. We’re circus people! Let’s change the world!

JF: Always!

BC: We’ll do it! We’ll do it! Keep it up!

JF: Thanks! Fun talk!

Grab your tickets for this show before they’re gone. We all need a good laugh and Bobby Collins will surely fill that prescription. Catch his show on Saturday, February 26 at the Greenwich Odeum. For more about the show, giggle over to: GreenwichOdeum.com

The Sounds of the Bee Gees are Stayin’ Alive!: An interview with Peter Mazzeo of the New York Bee Gees

Okee dokee folks… Back in the mid 70’s when I was in high school, the Bee Gees were riding high off the success of Saturday Night Fever. I used to call it Saturday Night Disease! I was one of the “Down With Disco” folks and was not a fan. What made matters worse for me is that at that time in my life my friends decided that I bore a striking resemblance to Barry Gibb. After high school the comparisons waned and then I began working at Rhode Island College where one person in the programming department next door to my office was convinced that I was Barry Gibb’s twin. He would start singing Bee Gees songs whenever I passed him in the hallway. Once I found a Barry Gibb cassette on my desk and immediately knew who the culprit was. As I got older I got over my Bee Gees issues and actually started to like and appreciate their music. In all honesty, I did like them a bit in the pre-fever days but that was eclipsed by the over exposure of their “Boogie Child” style. Their songs “Nights On Broadway,” “Jive Talking,” “Massachusetts,” “To Love Somebody,” “Fanny,” “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and so many others were hits long before the disco days. In fact I love the song, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” and often cover it when I play solo gigs. The recent Bee Gees documentary rekindled my interest in the trio and when I watched it I gained a whole new appreciation for them. Of course one of my friends watched it and sent me an e-mail telling me that I look like Barry Gibb.

It’s a “Tragedy” that time has taken it’s toll on the Brothers Gibb. Fraternal twins, Robin and Maurice, passed away at relatively early ages leaving Barry as the sole Bee Gee. Like many folks who may have grown to appreciate them later in life I was never able to see the Bee Gees perform in concert other than the PBS fundraising TV specials. Fortunately tribute bands have filled in the Bee Gees void and will serenade you with somewhat similar harmony styles to enable the sound to keep “Stayin Alive!”   

Bee Gees fans are in luck because the New York Bee Gees are making an area appearance at Bally’s Twin River in Lincoln on Friday, February 11 at 8pm. I spoke with Peter Mazzeo, who sings the “Barry” parts in the New York Bee Gees, via phone from his home in Florida about their upcoming show.

Being in a tribute band myself and wondering why other people get into doing tributes, I asked Mazzeo how he wound up forming a Bee Gees tribute band. He replied, “We are in our 7th year as the NY Bee Gees but we have been playing together over 20 years. We performed around Long Island as Peter Mazzeo and the Hit Squad and I was getting tired of that. We kicked around the idea of doing a tribute and discussed who should the tribute be. Many bands were already doing Beatles and Stones tributes. I have a pretty large vocal range so thought we would give the Bee Gees a try. We were playing hits from the 60’s-90’s. The players in the band are very versatile musicians. Our lead guitarist Mike Flyntz is in the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame with his band Riot. Our keyboard player, Manny, has played with Alan Parsons. Tommy, our bass player, looks a little like Robin Gibb so I thought if I put some round rim glasses on him he’ll look more like Robin! Manny wears a hat and has a beard like Maurice. I grew my hair and a beard to look more like Barry. We all dress up, I do all the stuff for the band, I costume them, book the gigs, you know. Our first gig was at BB King’s in Times Square and it just started growing from there.”

With all this prep and time put into this show I inquired as to where they usually bring the show. Peter told me that, “East coast mostly, but we’ve done a west coast tour, Chicago, all over the states really.” I was curious to know if he had ever seen the Bee Gees live or met any of them. His disappointed answer was no, but went on to say, “When we play in Florida there are many people who know Barry or have been to events that he hosts and they are very complimentary to us, the same in NY where we run into people who used to work with the band and they have high praise for us as well.”

Finally, I quizzed him about the content of the show.  Mazzeo filled me in: “We do a 90-minute set but there’s only so much you can do in that time. They want to hear the high notes and the audience wants to be on their feet! We start off with “Night Fever” and “More Than a Woman” to give them a couple of big hits right off the bat and then we go back to the 60’s. We also do a couple of Andy Gibb tunes because Barry and Andy were very close and it just seems right. During the performance we tell anecdotes about the songs as well. The audiences are extremely receptive to our show.”

We went on to discuss how we both are about the same age and both sort of look like Barry. We also talked about how we know the music from growing up with it and understand it more than, as Peter put it, “if we were some young American Idol kid trying to learn it in a week.”

They pull it off. They have the look and most importantly, they have the sound. Hear for yourself on their website: NewYorkBeeGees.com Peter added, “We want people to have the best Bee Gees experience they can!”

The New York Bee Gees will be at Bally’s Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Friday, February 11. For more, use these “Words” and get to: BallysLincoln.com

Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com