"Hey man, we're getting the band back together!" - a Blue Collar Observation
By Mick Polich - 01/23/2008 - 09:24 AM EST
“Hey man, we’re getting the band back together!!”
These immortal words, re-phrased and pieced together in countless versions now for the American, and world slang vernacular, were spoken by John Belushi and others from the now – classic “Blues Brothers” movie. Nowadays, it seems to be fact rather than movie ficton…..
We are getting the band back together – visions of aging baby boomers trying one last fling at youth, be it a ‘classic rock’ band revival, or your dad’s buddies trying to play their setlist from their bar band days 20,30 years ago. Reunions are good, for the right reasons (and maybe for the wrong ones, too). Seems to be the thing to do, and is actually a fairly old concept, even before the times of preserving sound to slabs of petro - based product or digital bits. I remember seeing ads and hearing stuff on the radio for tours and shows of some of the old ‘doo-wop’ based, rhythm and blues groups from the 1950’s –playing the small hall or state fair circuit to stretch out their gig life, and give some nostalgic comfort to those that remember them from hazy Saturday night rituals like the sock-hop and drive-in gatherings. Hell, you can go back even further to ‘Grandpa and
Grandma’s music’ – the Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman big bands, some of which are still playing to huge, mixed age crowds (thanks of which to the ‘90’s swing revival).
So, is ‘getting the band back together’ keeping tradition alive, or is it another one of those annoying, pesky Boomer activities to show everybody how eternally young and relevant they still are??? I know, I know, I’m with ‘choo, mama – I’m a Boomer myself, part of the still-on-coming siege of never- say- die men and women that just don’t care what you think, just listen to us, because we invented the concept of the 1960’s and social change, baby!!! We were the REVOLUTION - even though we got tired of the whole damn thing and went into stock investments (How’s your portfolio doing these days, Jerry Rubin? Oops, sorry, man, you passed in 1994 – thanks for the revolution attempt,though, pardner!)…...
Yep, EVERYBODY is getting the band back together – hey, Van Halen!!!! A little older (o.k. sorry, Wolfgang), wiser, and sober?? Duran Duran (lord, why, but hey, that’s me…) – lookin’ good in the sharkskin suits, boys ( a few pounds here and there, lads, but so be it, they’re not doing coke any more!!!)! The Police – aren’t you guys a little late with the reunion gig? Oh well, Sting, Andy, Stu – good to see you back (nice piece o’ literature, by the way, Andy!). And the Big Kahuna – the mighty Led Zep – good deal, guys! Hmmmm – I’m curious about a studio recording also – why the heck not, ya know? Get the economy rolling by getting the Big Corporate Rock Bands Of Yore back together – booomers gotta pull it out again by influxing some moola into the system with some heavy – duty rock concerts and buying up those repackaged, remastered ‘greatest hits’ and ‘classic rock’ album reissues!
Springsteen –well, it’s like he never left with the E Street Band, is it? Way to go, Bruuuuuuuuce!
Yep, and down at da local level, you’ll see guys and gals from Middle to Late Age - Ville slugging the hits out from yesterday –well, why not? Harmless enough, right? Or does it just BUG YA???!!
USA Today had a recent article on rock and roll fantasy camps – a big ol’ music camp for anybody who can plunk down the change to be on stage with Vince Neil, Roger Daltrey, or former Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson (hey, gigs are gigs, and you get ‘em anyway you can, right, boys and girls?). Music camps have become the new escapism and re-invention – for several thousand dollars, you can get that one shot at rock stardom and immortality! Of course, this is without all the messiness of the music biz – no stiffs on money from promoters, no nasty, smoke-filled bars where you have to change into your rock attire in the bathroom (which is also nasty in a different sense…), and no dread of playing those stupid songs that have been in your setlist for 6 months and you’re soooooo over them anyway, so why do I have to play them? AND… there’s always an audience –YIPPEE!!!! All the lean meat, and NO FAT!!!
Rock n’ roll camps have been a local staple, too (jazz and marching band camp has been probably the oldest in the books, along with blues camp, and there’s more than likely a country camp out there in MusicLand….). Summer is the optimum time, because these camps fall right in line for kids, and parents eager to occupy their off springs schedule with meaningful activities beyond video games and the home computer. And why not? Keep that brain activity going thru the summer months – learning about music is a qualifier and a keeper in my book, o’ course.
What about the Guitar Hero gaming series? Harmless fun – in fact, I can forsee more clubs and coffeehouses having “Guitar Hero” nights, kinda like karouke. Then it becomes part of the lexicon of culture. It doesn’t replace the facts of working your ass off to become a musician or play music in some capacity, but maybe it can lead some people to pick up instruments and take the next step. I do keep in mind, as Codgerville Example #235, that I didn’t go to the blues directly in my music listening/ learning. Two reasons got me there: one, the English invasion of guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Irish triumphant Rory Gallagher, then two, the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, which all those guys played to a degree. THEN…… the Chicago blues cats – Buddy Guy, Otis Rush – playin’ those Strats, baby, YOWZAH!!!
But back to ‘getting the band back together’ – local or international, this is an acceptable thing, right? Well, sure, and some might argue some bands may best have been kept in the ol’ hamper, others are excited at the possibilities to hear what kind of music can be made at a later date in life. For the third year in a row, my ol’ Iowa buddies have had a reunion of two bands that all of us collectively played in back in the day – the Subdivisions, a rock band that pretty much covered the ‘classic rock’ dudes (and then some), and Gladys Kravitz, an eclectic, acoustic/electric based duo/trio/ whatever, whenever group of our little conglomerate of music eccentrics, that rose up during the “MTV Unplugged” years of the early 1990’s. Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis tunes with accordian, acoustic guitar, fretless bass, and various percussion implements – that was the wacky, crazy fare we cooked up. Perhaps too weird for some, and not weird enough for others, we did what we had to do for the first half of the ‘90’s. And WHERE on God’s green earth did the name come from? Well, apoplectic reader, ‘tas yours truly – if anything, I can take credit for coming up with two El Weird-o names that live in some sort of subculture infamy back in the ol’ hometown – Salmon Dave and Gladys Kravitz!
So, we’re all getting the band back together, right? It’s all good, people, really. At one point in time, I thought ‘getting the band back together’ was a pointless exercise, but let’s look at it on a local level: for some folks, this is their ‘bowling night’ or ‘girl’s night out’. Even if it doesn’t lead to any gigs, the once-per-week excuse to get together to play music is age-old, and needed, if for the mere fact of putting out sound waves. It’s tribal, it’s communal ! Secondly, the local $$$ it can generate –well, boomers still got da cash, so the influx of the plastic or green into buying equipment, guitars, CD’s, downloads, etc., might do a locale economy good (not to mention ‘event sales’ –beer, t-shirts, ads, etc.).
Could be that this Codgerama Band Thing is QUITE profitable!!!
Am I getting the band back together? Well, depends on which band and where in the U.S. – the ol’ neighbor hood band is still going strong back in Atlanta, and getting ready for a spring gig. Our experimental lab band back is no more back in Westerville, as is the coffeehouse and record shop that we would play at in some configuration, but the people are still playing. The “Groove Kings”, also back in Atlanta did one festival last year –might do another, but some of those folks have splintered off into one of good buddy John “Johnny Eldorado” Zibrida’s long-time neighborhood band, Cadillac Tattoo. Which leaves Iowa - we still have some semblence of band reunions and gigs, one being the aforementioned February bash now in it’s third year and counting! Personally, there’s no need for me to go out and gig the ‘old tunes’, even in an abridged capacity at this point. Plus, keeping the gig schedule as in the ‘old days’ – yikes, Martha, no way, baby!! The guys back home (along with my lovely bride) who I would want to do those gigs and the ‘old stuff ’with are married, involved with their kid’s lives, have stripped – down gigs doing the old numbers, and are older and wiser at this point - reunions are just fine, as is the proposed reunion gigs if we are deemed lucky enough for anyone to get chosen for the Iowa Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame – if that happens, then cool, if not, still cool. I might be living in the past on that one - time and tide will take care of any old hurts, wounds, and sufferings to mask it with the good times that came about while collectively banging out those old tunes – but when you keep viewing once was from afar, there’s a certain hazy, joyful glow that illuminates those times, and that music, anyway. Given our lives at this juncture, I’m getting my music together – stuff written that’s made the light of day thru mostly home-release recordings since 1982 – gonna concentrate on creating more (recording technology is a great, great thing now…). I’m still giving back to my community on what I’ve learned from “getting the band back together” when I had the bands together many moons back - got to make sure the young ones don’t stumble over the same musical stones twice (or three times, in my case).
So, ‘ getting the band back together ‘ has so many different meanings for so many different people. One attitude is, ”Why tread the same ground again?” whereas the other attitude is, “Why not?” Sure, we lap up all the nostalgia, the joy of banging out those arrangements, chords, and lyrics (see Frank Zappa’s song “Joe’s Garage” for the humor bit, along with a touch of the ‘good times, mate, good times’…), and in the endless Narcissistic Age, you gotta take yer Rock Stardom when you can get it, right, Rock Geezers??
As stated, I’ve rode the fence on this for awhile – given the sign of the times, it’s probably the most harmless non-issue that even deserves a second thought. So, get going, head to the computer for the Sweetwater Music website or go to you local music store, pull out some jing, and get that equipment and somebody’s garage to throw it into to. Call Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and tell them we’re putting on a show because, dude, WE’RE GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER!!!!!
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