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The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Music news, rumors, what you're listening to, how you're listening to it and whether it's all on the up-and-up.

Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby snoqueen » Tue Jul 29, 2014 6:23 pm

I'm a fan of the last.fm site, which has a good page on Lefty Frizzell. Here's the link. Click Tracks at the top, or click Albums, for details of what they've got:

http://www.last.fm/music/Lefty+Frizzell

Give a quick listen to his Long Black Veil from 1959.
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Wed Jul 30, 2014 12:44 am

Thanks so much for posting that, sno!
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby minicat » Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:51 am

That's actually the original recording of "The Long Black Veil."

Frizzell's '50s work has always been woefully under-compiled. Most of it didn't come out on LPs even back at the time, other than some scattered Harmony budget line jobs. If I remember correctly, the Columbia main-line LPs that were hits collections are all re-records. To my knowledge, the Bear Family box is the ONLY coherent source for much of that material, other than the original 45s and 78s.
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:22 pm

THE G-CLEFS -- Good, not great, doo wop on this comp. from the great Relics label. "Ka-Ding-Dong" is the one most prized by fans, and "I Understand" was a (mostly forgotten today) hit, but there are a handful of other cuts here of similar quality. But about half of these tracks get bogged down in unncessary production goop, so the earlier stuff tends to be the best. Unfortunately, "Big Rain" is not on YouTubes, as it is probably the most delightful re-telling of the story of Noah's ark I've ever heard. Probably not for casual fans.

PETER GABRIEL -- The only album proper I have on CD is his first self-titled one. "Solsbury Hill" is still one the best things he's ever done and a song I really never tire of hearing. "Modern Love" sounds like a late-era Who rocker (and I mean that as a compliment). I can handle the fake noirish-Randy Newman-jazz of "Waiting For The Big One" but the music hall nonsense of "Excuse Me" can suck it. Overall, not bad, but not something I pull out too often either.
I've owned virtually everything by Gabriel at some point, some of it I still have on vinyl, but much of it has been purged from the CD collection over the years just because, although he's maintained a fairly consistent quality over the years despite several left turns into new musical territory, I just never listened to'em very much and there were times in the past when I needed the rack space.
The only survivor of these purges is Sixteen Golden Greats, which is a pretty poorly chosen best-of and a pretty boring listen, but it does have "Games Without Frontiers" plus so the fun singles from So.

{In an odd alphabetical coincidence, both Peter Gabriel (on "Down The Dolce Vita") and the G-Clefs (on "I Understand") appropriate bits of "Auld Lang Syne", proving once again that there are only so many musical ideas out there.}

GANG OF FOUR -- All I've got is Entertainment!, but honestly, that's all I need. I used to own several other Gang LPs/Eps but I never listened to'em much, because every time I wanted to hear the Gang, I just grabbed Entertainment! This has been a favorite of mine for 20 years now and it's easily one of the greatest debut albums in music history - it really did sound like nothing else at the time and I don't think its impact has lessened after decades of bands who've found inspiration in it (or merely sought to imitate it.) An absolute must-have for any discerning music fan. There's nothing wrong with (some) of the other albums, naturally, it's just as I said, they simply aren't this great, so they never got played. I don't mind hearing them, I just don't need to own them. Feel free to post songs to prove me wrong, of course.

THE GANTS -- I own this comp. and it's decent mid-'60s garage rock/Beatley pop rock, but nothing particularly noteworthy (and there's definitely better versions of "Road Runner", which is what they're apparently most famous for.) The covers are mostly obvious (although Bo Diddley's "Crackin' Up" was a nice touch) and the originals are awfully derivative ("I Wonder" is a blatant rip-off of The Beatles' "In My Life", for instance.) Genre fans will almost certainly enjoy this, but everyone else will likely find it pretty pedestrian.

DON GARDNER & DEE DEE FORD -- This Collectables CD features lots of pretty great early '60s gospellish R&B, in the vein of early Ray Charles and Solomon Burke. Both Don and Dee Dee have powerhouse voices and they combine sublimely. "I Need Your Lovin'" was deservedly a big hit (this is the full-length version -- both it and the single cut are on this CD), but much of the rest of what's here is also pretty fantastic. "Dog Eat Dog" (unfortunately not on YouTube) is a standout but really, I loved all of this. Generally tasteful arrangements without mucking around with obtrusive back-up vocals or ornate instrumentation, both of which were often the style at the time. Highly recommended to fans of soul from this era.

RED GARLAND -- I have but a lone Red Garland CD, a 1957 session entitled Groovy, which it certainly is. Swingin' piano-led trio jazz, with Red abetted by Paul Chambers on bass and Arthur Taylor on drums. Delightful stuff.

That's all for now.
Next up... the inimitable Marvin Gaye!
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kyle Motor » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:22 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:THE GANTS -- I own this comp. and it's decent mid-'60s garage rock/Beatley pop rock, but nothing particularly noteworthy (and there's definitely better versions of "Road Runner", which is what they're apparently most famous for.) The covers are mostly obvious (although Bo Diddley's "Crackin' Up" was a nice touch) and the originals are awfully derivative ("I Wonder" is a blatant rip-off of The Beatles' "In My Life", for instance.) Genre fans will almost certainly enjoy this, but everyone else will likely find it pretty pedestrian.

I'd say that comp is far better than pedestrian, but I am a genre fan. Sid Herring had a great voice that rode the line between melodic and garage-punk snotty. I never really thought of "I Wonder" as an "In My Life" rip-off (although I can certainly hear the similarity)....but where the Beatles were looking back nostalgically, The Gants were in the teenage moment, which is kinda neat.

I love their fuzz-wah'd take on Johnny Burnette's "Little Boy Sad". They also excelled at the poppier side of things, as on 1965's great jangler "My Baby Don't Care", and the underrated "Greener Days".

Wow, I used to listen to that comp a lot more than I remembered. I'll have to dig it out again.
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:42 am

Kyle Motor wrote:... the underrated "Greener Days".
It ain't underrated by me. Easily my favorite cut on the CD.
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Aug 11, 2014 1:33 pm

MARVIN GAYE -- Marvin Gaye, like so many other black singers of pop and R&B, really aspired to sing ballads and "proper" songs a la Nat King Cole but there simply wasn't enough of a market for such, and so he fell into the Motown machine and came out as probably the best of all the male singers in Berry Gordy's stable of talent. Smokey was a greater all-around talent, as he was also a top-notch writer and producer (not that Gaye couldn't do those things) but Marvin's voice had such great range that he could sing everything thrown at him with the same seeming effortlessness, bringing gritty power and gospel fervor to what could have been pretty standard '60s r&b fare. Gaye's modern legacy rides mostly on his string of early '70s album successes, but for my money, he was at his best as a non-stop singles machine in the '60s. His early string of hits remain some of Motown's very best -- "Hitch Hike", "Pride And Joy", "Can I Get A Witness", "Baby Don't You Do It", "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow", and the list goes on. Everything works on these great singles.

His second career was as Motown's premiere duetist, first teaming with Mary Wells, then Kim Weston, and ultimately with Tammi Terrell (in the mid '70s, he made a lackluster album with Diana Ross, but that's filed under Ross, so I won't get to it for quite some time.) All of this material is pretty great too. The Mary Wells album Together and the Kim Weston LP Take Two are both very solid by Motown album standards and the 2CD Complete Duets with Tammi Terrell is packed with pleasures. Something about singing with these ladies really brought out the best in Marvin and with the full Motown production team feeding them top-notch material, the results were generally better than a lot of the filler which was standard for his solo LPs. (The only two of which I have on CD are M.P.G. and That's The Way Love Is, which are both good but only hint at what he'd do with the album format once he was freed to do his own thang.)
After the massive success of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", Gaye lobbied for, and was given, greater creative freedom than any other Motown artist had ever been allowed. The result was What's Going On, the first true album from any Motown artist. It's subsequent success, for better or worse, meant Gaye was free to do whatever he wanted from that point on, and it opened the door for Stevie Wonder to do likewise (with even greater results) and its sound and topicality opened up new vistas for black pop in general. That said, Gaye never again made a record as thoughtful again. The immediate follow-up was the soundtrack for Trouble Man which is... well... a soundtrack. It's great background music but doesn't really benefit from listening too closely, packed with instrumental jams and half-baked ideas. That said, the title track is one of the greatest things Gaye ever recorded. Absolutely fantastic.

After that, Gaye retrenched with Let's Get It On, which finds him in his super-stud mode, a persona he'd tried to get away from in the '60s but which he seemed to fully embrace here. To my ears, it's nowhere near as great as What's Going On, but it's generally considered another 5-star masterpiece by review guides and such. And while many find the lyrics liberating ("We're all sensitive people/With so much love to give") they're also pretty damn sexist (women should "give themselves" to men, doncha know, and although he insists he "ain't gonna push", the whole song is just one giant neverending come on.) Part of my problem with this era in Marvin's career is his over reliance on falsetto, something he used to only utilize much more tastefully on his '60s hits. After a while, it starts to wear on me. This is especially true on his nowhere-near-as-great I Want You from 1976 which is all feel and no songs. Marvin definitely knew how to work a groove, but after half a decade of nothing but grooves, it makes me start to wonder if he'd lost his muse.
To my ears, the truly great album from this era is Here My Dear, which is unprecedented in black pop music for its absolute frankness and lack of syrupy sentimentality. Recorded as a "fuck you" to his ex-wife -- who, as part of her divorce settlement, had finagled a large chunk of royalties from his next album -- it is powerful and angry but thoroughly compelling and listenable. Just check out the album openers, "Here My Dear" and "I Met A Little Girl". Nasty stuff, but so so very groovalicious. Gaye portraying himself as a victim is a bit much to take (he was tremendously sexist -- he's actually quoted as saying that "a woman should be whatever her man wants her to be" -- although his sex machine image was all put-on; he apparently suffered from both premature ejaculation and occasional impotence. Aren't you glad you know that?) But overall, this is his great '70s masterpiece, if you ask me. As a general rule, broken hearts make for better music than goopy-eyed love, so that's probably a big part of what's at play here. I'm not entirely sure why this is -- perhaps it's a stronger emotion overall, or perhaps it's because broken-heart lyrics always sound so personal while lovey-dovey ones strive for a much simpler universality and "let's get it on"-type "sexiness" always comes off a bit creepy and/or desperate -- but I suspect it plays a large part in my preferring Here, My Dear to Let's Get It On. It's also less full of Gaye's spiritual concerns, which never really jibed with his sexist views anyway.

His 1974 Marvin Gaye Live is pretty pointless, reducing his great '60s output to some drastically rearranged medleys and failing to achieve the slick groove of the '70s studio output. Love Starved Heart collects lots of rarities and such but is for completists only. People who want to dig deeper than just the singles would be better off investing in The Master box set, which has all the hits but does a great job highlighting key album tracks and a few rarities and unreleased performances as well. Absolutely essential stuff, at least until the early '70s material dries up. I don't own his big comeback album Midnight Love, but I've never found "Sexual Healing" to be particularly exciting (and the cheesy keyboard production is such a turn off.) But Marvin finally got his wish to be a balladeer, albeit posthumously, with the release of Vulnerable, which could easily have been titled Marvin Gaye sings With Strings. Marvin puts his all into these old school torch songs and his voice really shines. I was pleasantly surprised by this album, as it's been sitting neglected on my shelf for some time gathering dust. It's no kind of masterpiece, but he hadn't sung this well in so long and the project was clearly near and dear to his heart, and that really comes through in the performances.

Next up... I will attempt to answer the puzzling question, "Why the heck do I have 3CDs-worth of Gloria Gaynor?"
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby minicat » Mon Aug 11, 2014 1:59 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:To my ears, the truly great album from this era is Here My Dear, which is unprecedented in black pop music for its absolute frankness and lack of syrupy sentimentality.


Yes yes yes. This and What's Goin' On are where it's at for his albums (and That's the Way Love Is is pretty easily the best of the '60s hits+filler packages). Let's Get It On is mysteriously overrated; I guess all the critics managed to get laid to it or something. It certainly ain't bad but it just sorta lays there, so to speak.
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby chainsawcurtis » Mon Aug 11, 2014 4:25 pm

Duh...on me. I lived through the sixties and had no clue that "Baby Don't you Do It" was a Motown tune. I always thoought it was original to The Band. For some reason I was listening to the duets a lot in the early 80s and it really brought me back. Thanks for the lesson and the great links.
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:38 pm

chainsawcurtis wrote:Duh...on me. I lived through the sixties and had no clue that "Baby Don't you Do It" was a Motown tune. I always thoought it was original to The Band.
We all gotta learn this stuff some time. My introduction to the song was via The Who (and hey, that's Leslie West on guitar!) as I had some weird Australian comp. which included it. Needless to say, I was quite surprised when I finally heard the original years later. The flipside of such revelations would be an old college buddy who insisted that Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride And Joy" was a Marvin Gaye cover. It was much harder to convince him that this was not the case than it should have been.

minicat wrote:[Here My Dear] and What's Goin' On are where it's at for his albums (and That's the Way Love Is is pretty easily the best of the '60s hits+filler packages).
Yeah, I kinda glossed over What's Going On, but rest assured, I do love it. And you all should too if you don't already. That album has great flow and the production and playing on it are really fantastic. Plus it's got some of James Jamerson's finest bass playing, which is really saying a lot. Hey, why not check out his isolated bass track now? (According to legend, after being rousted from a bar to play the session, Jamerson played his part lying flat on his back.)

Also: I shoulda given a shout-out to Martha & The Vandellas and the mostly unknown Andantes, who provided the lion's share of backup vocals for Marvin's sixties work. Nice job, ladies!
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby minicat » Tue Aug 12, 2014 10:24 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Yeah, I kinda glossed over What's Going On...


Well, you shouldn't really have to point that one out too much -- even casual music listeners are likely to be somewhat familiar with that one -- though it deserves all praise that comes its way.
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Tue Aug 19, 2014 10:18 am

GLORIA GAYNOR - So the explanation for why I have 3cds worth of ol' GG seems pretty straightforward, actually. This single-disc best-of has single edits -- not just of the classic "I Will Survive", but also of the great trio of tracks from her 1974 breakthrough LP Never Can Say Goodbye: "Honey Bee", "Never Can Say Goodbye", and "Reach Out (I'll Be There"). They're even in their original running order. But the thing is, on the original LP, those three tracks all run together into a giant album-opening medley with a runtime of nearly 20 minutes, and in that form they are the first example I know of a massive disco medley where the butts never have to stop shakin'. It's fantastic (although the tracks are arranged in descending order of greatness.) To get them in their original form, I picked up this double-disc set, which is at least one disc's worth of Gloria Gaynor too many. The trouble is, she's not a particularly great singer, so she really needs some serious songcraft/production behind her to be interesting. The 2cd anthology has some other album-length medleys but no single edits (except for the worthless "remix" of "I Will Survive", otherwise included in its 12" version.) Unfortunately, the other medleys aren't nearly as good (and "I've Got You Under My Skin" as a disco song is one of the worst -- and worst executed -- ideas in a genre full of such wrongheaded covers) and the second disc is mostly just goopy drek. But that's the disc with perhaps her greatest track ever (also from Never Can Say Goodbye), "Real Good People", which is inexplicably not included on the single-disc B/O (which is otherwise a pretty solid collection.) What a mess. Hence, three CDs worth of Gaynor.

GAZA STRIPPERS -- Rick Sims of Didjits fame fronted this band after a couple records with The Lee Harvey Oswald Band and a one-album stint with The Supersuckers. Laced Candy ain't gonna make anyone forget his past glories, but it's pleasant enough, guitar-driven raunch with Rick's characteristic screamy vocals. The clear highlight here is the album-closing barnburning of the Love And Rockets song "Yin & Yang (The Flowerpot Man)". But the Strippers will always have a special place in my heart (even if I'm much more likely to be listening to Didjits or Lee Harvey) because I got to see them many years ago at Chicago's Empty Bottle. I fully expected them to put on a great show (as anyone who's ever seen Rick Sims live knows he's likely to do) and they did. But they were blown off the stage by The Dictators, a band I never thought I'd ever see live, and one which at the time, I had no expectation of being anything but washed-up. That Dictators set may well have been the greatest rock and roll show I've ever seen.

Next up... Gonna have a houseparty with The J. Geils Band!
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Sep 08, 2014 2:29 pm

Yep, I really have been virtually non-stop partying it up with the J. Geils Band for the last two weeks. This stuff's so awesome I had no problem slowing down the Project's progress to revisit this great American band that gets almost no props anymore.

In a nutshell: Every J. Geils Band album is pretty great. Their earlier records are heavy on the covers, but they had such a great knack for picking obscure songs that they would have been generally unfamiliar to most casual rock listeners. At first, they were simply a white (Jewish!*) rock 'n' blues band, but they had chops aplenty (the weakest member probably being guitarist Geils himself, who gets by with a handful of tricks and a tastefulness nearly unheard of in the world of bar band boogie) and in fast-talking ex-DJ Peter Wolf, they also had a true original in the annals of obnoxious front men.

For the unitiated, the place to start is their first live album, 1972's Full House. It's got great versions of the Contours' classic "First I Look At The Purse" (one of the most fun songs to sing ever, based on my limited experience singing songs with a rock band), Otis Rush's "Homework", John Lee Hooker's "Serves You Right To Suffer", and a then-little-known song by the Valentinos, "Looking For A Love", transformed into a true rave-up by Wolf and the boys. It's also got "Hard Drivin' Man", their first self-penned classic, as well as the definitive version of the Magic Dick harmonica showcase "Whammer Jammer" (credited to "Juke Joint Jimmy", which was the J. Geils equivalent of Nanker Phelge.) If you don't like that track (or Magic Dick's phenomenal blowing in general) than the J. Geils Band simply ain't for you.

Their second live album, 1976's Blow Your Face Out is twice as long, but not quite as fantastic. It's still pretty great, mind you, but the Geils boys had devolved a bit into full-on party mode as their popularity as a live act had increased and this became their default, so there's more white-boy boogie jamming and less straight-up blues and rock.

I could break these down record by record, but seriously, with the exception of their final, Peter Wolf-less outing (You're Gettin' Even, While I'm Gettin' Odd, which I don't think I've ever actually heard) there isn't a clunker in the bunch, and their albums are surprisingly devoid of filler. (Their third live album, 1982's Showtime! is basically just contractually obligated filler, but it's not entirely devoid of pleasures. Just save it for last.)

The first two albums (1970 and 1971) set the tone, the live album brought it home, and the one-two punch of Bloodshot and Ladies Invited, both from 1973, showed these guys meant business. (Ladies is a slight step down, IMHO, but Bloodshot was a hard act to follow, I'm sure.) The only hit they managed in this era was the "reggae" "Give It To Me" which may have sounded like a novelty but is at least as good as anything any other white (did I mention Jewish?) boys were doing with such an influence in the early '70s. But the Geils Band really got around to expanding their sound on the amazing Nightmares ...and other tales from the vinyl jungle from 1974. Apart from containing several bona fide classics -- "Detroit Breakdown", "Givin' It All Up", and "Stoop Down #39 -- it also has their first totally transcendent pop single, "Must Of Got Lost", which, in a truly just world, would have been one of the biggest smashes of the '70s. Absolutely perfect.

But despite the Top 20 success of "Lost", neither Nightmares nor its immediate followup Hotline were particularly big sellers and so after the stop-gap Blow Your Face Out, the band retrenched and updated their sound again with the "mature" sounding Monkey Island (bizarrely credited only to "Geils".) It's a great leap forward in terms of songwriting and adds a lot of new elements to their sound. For some reason, the fantastic album-opener "Surrender" is not on YouTube, but it's an itchy, funky barnburner that really cooks and another fantastic single. The whole album is really solid. If it isn't my second-choice pick for where to start listening to J. Geils and crew, then 1978's Sanctuary is. A new record label seems to have reinvigorated the band -- and finally got them back on the charts too (with the sublime "One Last Kiss", although I think they should have released "I Could Hurt You" instead) -- and the songwriting is heading towards the more pop-friendly moves they'd perfect on their last two albums (again, ignoring the Wolf-less swan song LP.) Even the "disco" of "Wild Man" sounds fresh in this context. Great album all around.

At this point, someone bought these fellas a synthesizer. This would be death for most similarly inclined bar-band 'n' boogie groups, but what they did with it was generally tasteful and perhaps not surprisingly, harkened back to the kinds of keyboard stylings favored by 60s garage bands, even while clearly trying to gain some New Wave cred. Just check out their second absolutely perfect pop single featuring those great roller rink keyboard sounds: "Just Can't Wait". Seriously, I could probably listen to that on an endless loop without tiring of it anytime soon. That's the lead-off track on 1980's Love Stinks, which also features the title track, one of THE great trash-rock hits from that era (or, really, any era -- and listening to it over and over again during the last couple weeks, I only just noticed how very similar the riff is to "Smells Like Teen Spirit"...) And while they do go overboard with the synths on occasion (I'm looking at you, "Come Back") and it does include their worst track ever in the "comedy" stylings of "No Anchovies, Please" (The Firesign Theater they ain't...) this is a really solid record. As they all are. Because The J. Geils Band were fucking awesome.

And they go out with a bang on 1981's Freeze-Frame which is one of the best pop albums of the early '80s. Besides containing the classic "Centerfold" and the hey-look-another-perfect-pop-single, "Freeze-Frame", it's also got the supercharged "Rage In The Cage", the lovely throwback "Angel In Blue", and the album-closing raveup "Piss On The Wall". Oh, and although it ain't on YouTube, it's also got one the absolute best versions of the classic garage rock stomper "Night Time" ever committed to wax. This album was a great way for a great band to go out.

Go listen to the J. Geils Band now. For two weeks. You'll be happy you did. (Cue rrnate to explain why everything I just said was wrong, and actually, JGB sucks...)


*For the record, J. Geils himself was not Jewish. But I'm pretty sure everyone else in the band was. Certainly, no other band featured as many Jew-fros on their album covers.
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby chainsawcurtis » Mon Sep 08, 2014 5:19 pm

I concur with the Prof. In the early 70s I saw a lot of great acts at the Performing Arts Center in Saratoga when I was on the security crew and this band was way up there. They were touring after "Looking for a Love" became a minor hit and Muddy Waters (!) was the opener.

Muddy didn't show and ten minutes after he was supposed to start the Geils Band took the stage. They blew through an hour and fourty-five minutes of killer material from the first two albums for a crowd that started with about a thousand people. There was very little patter between songs and the performances were outstanding. All the kids who showed up an hour late because they didn't know who Muddy Waters was got mad because the Geils band had done such a short show. I think there was a rush on the box office for money back because of it.
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Sep 08, 2014 8:38 pm

Jealous. So wish I could've seen J. Geils back in the day. (They apparently play a couple shows a year these days, having made up with Peter Wolf. Oh, but they've kicked J. Geils out of the band!) So thanks for the great story.

chainsawcurtis wrote:... and Muddy Waters (!) was the opener.

From Dave Marsh's original Book Of Rock Lists:
10 Bands That Have Opened For J. Geils

1. The Cars
2. The Eagles
3. Earth, Wind And Fire
4. Peter Frampton
5. Billy Joel
6. Little Feat
7. Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
8. Bob Seger
9. Van Halen
10. Yes
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