Saturday, September 24, 2011

Styx's Lawrence Gowan: Mystery Man in a ... 'Mystery Van'?

Lawrence Gowan performs during Styx's "The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight" tour. (Photo: Jason Powell
 (Editor's note: This interview was conducted on Sept. 16, 2011, and published after Styx's appearance at USANA Amphitheatre in West Valley City, Utah, on Sept. 23.)

If you’ve ever seen Styx keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan in concert, one thing should be readily apparent: Dude’s got a great sense of humor.

If it wasn’t immediately obvious from his early days in Styx – he replaced original frontman Dennis DeYoung in 1999 – when he would periodically roam the stage with a Polaroid camera taking instant photos of his bandmates performing and hand them out to the crowd as souvenirs, then it became more so over the years as he added further flamboyant stage antics and often hilarious pre-song banter to his onstage repertoire.

In several previous interviews, I’ve also never known him to be lacking for a witty quip to any question that deserved one. Which is why I knew I was on safe ground to try and have a little fun with him in our latest interview.

With that in mind, I reached out to two of his Styx bandmates in advance, guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw and drummer Todd Sucherman, searching for inside questions that might momentarily knock Gowan off his game. Both delivered excellent queries that yielded vastly different responses.

Shaw’s question, regarding a certain recent reoccurring antic that kept cracking the pair up on stage, provided the lead section of my concert advance story for the Daily Herald. (You can read that story HERE.) The question was posed in a way that Gowan did not recognize it as a red herring, but his answer touched on some of the behind-the-curtain-type things band members do on stage to keep things fun and entertaining for themselves.

The fact he didn’t recognize Shaw’s question as an inside parry allowed Sucherman’s suggestion to score a direct hit. Gowan’s immediate response to a reference of “Dr. Starlight” was to have none at all. The couple seconds of complete silence on the other end of the phone was priceless. And listening to him stammer his way through the next few sentences, while obviously trying to figure out how the information might have reached me, was a fun interviewing moment.

Gowan’s humor is also evident in the nightly lyric quiz he throws at the audience where he belts out a well-known line from a rock classic -- Led Zep’s “Black Dog,” Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” are staples -- and exhorts the audience to sing out the ensuing words. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to put him to the test on some lyrics of my choosing. He started strong out of the gate, but then stumbled down the stretch. Ironically, he failed to recognize the lyrics to an old-favorite Styx song – one in which he gets to strap on an electric guitar on the extremely rare occasions it makes its way into the setlist.

I had the chance to chat with Gowan after the band’s Salt Lake show and we shared some laughs over the inside questions and lyric quiz results. His great sense of humor makes him eminently teaseable – a rare quality indeed -- but he certainly gives as good as he gets.

Many bands of Styx’s era have made key personnel changes over the years, with varying degrees of success. It’s a tricky proposition whenever a major vocalist is involved – especially when deciding whether to pursue the best talent available or search solely for a sound-alike.

Styx – which also features guitarist/vocalist James “J.Y.” Young, bassist Ricky Phillips and part-time bassist Chuck Panozzo -- chose the former option with Gowan, a popular solo artist in Canada, and by so doing, scored a direct hit of its own. The strength of that decision has been validated on stages across the country over 100 nights a year since 1999.

Here’s hoping you enjoy my latest interview with the “Strange Animal.”

DOUG FOX: Well, you’ll be playing in Salt Lake a week from today [Sept. 23] with a group I’m not sure if you’re actually familiar with, it’s a band called REO Speedwagon ... ever heard of them?

LAWRENCE GOWAN: Ah, you know what, my knowledge of rock is deep enough that I have heard of REO Speedwagon.

DF: OK, I wasn’t sure if you’ve ever done any shows with them or anything.

GOWAN: Once or twice. As I recall, there might be about 11 million people who are familiar with one of their records (laughs). We’ve toured so much with those guys ... it’s funny, the kind of rapport we’ve built up with them over the initial years, particularly when we were out touring with other acts, is the kind of rapport we’ve built up now with Foreigner, with Boston and other bands who really have embraced the double-bill concept and know that people absolutely love it, and they can sense the kind of, what do you call it, the symbiotic thing that goes on between the bands, it actually enhances the night.

DF: Now every summer you guys are always part of a co-headlining package, like you’re just mentioning all these other bands that you’ve gone on tour with. As you are a part of those, No. 1, do you have the time, and secondly, do you take the time to go check out the other bands at all and see what they’re up to and what they’re doing?

GOWAN: Yes, we always do because we want to see what kind of state they’re in (laughs). Basically we like to know how the audiences are reacting to the other bands that are out there. We’re very much, we want to give people a great night’s entertainment of rock because it bodes well for us when we come back. So, for example, I would go out and watch Def Leppard, I’d be thoroughly entertained, and I loved watching their audience. I realized a lot of their audience, had never seen Styx before and were suddenly becoming Styx fans. So that’s one very good band and we got on tremendously well with those guys. So it was great for both bands. I remember Joe Elliott telling J.Y. that one of the first concerts he ever saw [was Styx] — I think it was in Newcastle, no that’s wrong, it was Sheffield, of course, that’s where they’re from — back in ’77 and how much he liked Styx. So I mean, that’s another great thing, it just kind of builds a great kind of comradery that ends up elevating that tour. I remember by the end of that tour everything was on full cylinders, to the point that at the end of the tour, I know that Joe was wearing a coat that J.Y. gave him, Sav [bassist Rick Savage] gave me his bass. I gave him the coat that I wore at the Super Bowl, he wore it onstage for the next couple of years. So, you know, it’s like that. I mean, I knew their show extremely well, in fact, I got to where I was, because I was playing guitar backstage so much, driving J.Y. and Tommy completely insane with my guitar affections. It’s funny because to learn some Def Leppard songs, Phil Collen would show me some licks before the show. So it’s fantastic to have the actual guy from the actual band who played the actual lick on the record show you how it’s played.

DF: That would be very unique.

GOWAN: So it’s things like that. And I guess, for me, I went out and watched Yes this summer, more than any other band we’ve ever been out with, because that takes me back to when I was 15 years old and just really completely immersed myself in progressive rock — and Yes was the band for me. And so to be on tour with those guys and to hear those songs every single night was a fantastic experience. It connected me with the 15-year-old who still very much, hopefully, is in every night on stage. So, anyway, that’s the connection.

DF: Well, you’re good because you just wiped out about five of my questions just by covering those bases ...

GOWAN: My answers, Doug, are so long-winded, you just go in there and pick something that sounds like an intelligible sentence and use it (laughs).

DF: One thing you mentioned just sparked another memory for me when you were talking about Def Leppard and them showing you the guitar licks and things like that, but back when you toured with Def Leppard and Foreigner, I actually had the opportunity to interview Tommy, Mick Jones and Vivian Campbell ...

GOWAN: Oh? All at the same time? Great!

DF: Not together, but all before that tour, in separate interviews.

GOWAN: OK, yeah.

DF: And so what I did was, I wanted to ask each of the guitarists if they could get up onstage with the two other bands, what song would they love to play, as a guitarist, of the other bands’ music. And both Tommy and Mick each had songs for the other groups, but when I got to Vivian — of course, Foreigner was one of his big bands growing up and he played with Lou Gramm in a side project [Shadow King], he said, “You know, I’m really not that familiar with Styx, and I couldn’t tell you what that song would be.” By the end of the tour, though, or even a few nights in, he probably would have realized he knew a lot more about you guys and figured out a song he’d like to do that on.

GOWAN: Absolutely. That’s quite likely.

DF: About REO specifically, what are some of the things that make it so the two bands have such an affinity for one another?

GOWAN: Well, it obviously pre-dates my time in Styx, really. Although I’m well into my 13th year with the band and this year is the year that they were touting the fact that this lineup has played more shows as Styx than any previous lineup, so that’s a big deal. But still, you’d have to put REO Speedwagon ... the Chicago, I guess you could call it rivalry I suppose, when REO and Styx were out at the same time. Probably, and I’m surmising a lot of this because I wasn’t there for it, but there was probably a bit of mutual respect mixed in with a bit of mutual rivalry, mixed in with trying to outdo the other band in some way, I suppose. I’m guessing that. Now, that takes a different form when you’ve been around and had a successful career for over a quarter of a century. That transforms into something else, but the pride thing still exists, definitely. Look at the fact that Tommy and Kevin [Cronin] wrote that song a couple of years ago.

DF: “Can’t Stop Rockin’.”

GOWAN: Yeah “Can’t Stop Rockin’.”

DF: There you go again, I was just going to ask you about that (laughs).

GOWAN: There’s all that connection between the two bands. Sorry, but what was the actual nature of your original question?

DF: Specific things that make your pairing with REO special, maybe the way the bands interact ...

GOWAN: Oh, they’re the only band that we’ve ever done the two-bands-onstage thing with. You know, people out on stage playing all at the same time.

DF: With Todd playing the fake guitar?

GOWAN: Right. Smashed after about three shows. That’s how much he loves The Who. Anyway, yeah, so there’s that, and they’re the only other band we’ve ever gone into the studio with. I mean there were 10 of us in the studio one day, 11 of us actually, Chuck was there, too. So, yeah, that’s the only other band that we’ve done that with, so we have a close affinity and whatever happens on the night we play Salt Lake City, who knows. We might take advantage of the fact that we’ll eat up every single minute that we can with playing as many, you know, Styx classics as possible, as they will do the same thing with their REO [hits]. You can never say for sure what’s going to happen.

DF: Do you know if there are any plans to play “Can’t Stop Rockin’ ” when you get together?

GOWAN: I do not know. It’s the kind of thing that I can never say for sure because I feel if I say, “Yeah it’s going to happen” like we’re planning on it, at the last minute it will be scrapped and you’ll be like, “What’s going on?” (laughs) Or vice versa.

DF: So there’s a possibility, but who knows?

GOWAN: Yeah, there’s always a possibility.
The members of Styx. (Photo: Ash Newell)

DF: Now with Styx, you guys play so many shows every year that I imagine things come very naturally on stage for you now. You’ve been playing together for so long and every element seems to fit together in its proper place. But are there things you still work on, just little things that you still critique or tweak in the never-ending effort to play a perfect show?

GOWAN: The funniest question, the most common question bands get asked, particularly bands playing a lot of material that’s 25 years old, is “Don’t you get tired of playing the same song?” Now that’s a question you get when a song is 2 or 3 years old, let alone 25 or more. It’s funny, the reason, at least for us, and I’m on stage with five other very like-minded people, every opportunity that you play a song in front of an audience is another chance to engage. It’s not the notes that you’re necessarily playing, it’s the fact that there’s an emotion that exists in that moment with that audience on that stage in that city and with those other musicians on stage. The opportunity is there to kind of lift that song higher than you have in the past in some way. And sometimes these can be extremely subtle ways that eventually amount to something really quite outstanding. It’s the tiny, little nuances that are within each song, between the notes, you know, in the breath in between lyric lines, the taking in of what the audience is kind of pushing back your way, that suddenly makes it take on a life of its own. And it’s not a tough thing, even though we might play “Foolin’ Yourself” a hundred times a year on a hundred stages. Each time there are things that you just ... first of all you can’t take your eye off the ball because the song changes gears so many times, and second of all, like lyrically and musically there’s a lift that happens if you’re ready for it every single night. And that’s the challenge for musicians, be ready for where the lifting, exhilarating moments are and try to make everything of them that you can. And that’s how you play it. Once again, I’ve drifted so far from the question I can’t imagine what it was.

DF: You’ve actually tapped into something that I think is the essence of what most people who go to concerts, at least I know it is for me, but we love going and thinking that the show that we’re seeing that night is somehow as special to the people who are playing it as it is to us being there, and it’s somehow different and unique in its own way.

GOWAN: And that’s a feeling that, luckily, I’m in a band of guys that are onstage where that same emotion is being sought out every single night. Yes, I do remember what you were asking, are there little things we tighten up here and there. It’s ongoing, never-ending ... it will never end — it can’t. And you know something? The moment it does that, you can hear it from the band immediately. It’s so crazy evident to an audience when a band is just simply hitting switches, you know what I mean, instead of engaging with the musical capacity of something. So, yeah, we continue to do that, and I can’t really foresee a time when we wouldn’t be doing that because this is the type of people we are and that’s what we bring to the stage.

DF: OK, for example, can you tell me about this inside thing that you and Tommy have had going on these last few shows where you keep cracking each other up?

GOWAN: Oh my ... we try to avoid the inside jokes on stage in some ways because the audience should be in on it to some degree. But because we spend so much time together, it’s almost impossible sometimes. So I happened to tell Tommy a couple weeks ago, I mean there’s always some little thing floating around that snowballs into an inside, inside, inside joke and try as we might to keep that off the stage, there are moments when it’s just invariably going to rear its head and it’s usually when we’re on the same mike, usually in “Miss America.” Usually not in “Lady” because that’s too early in the show usually for us to be playing any games with. But even in “Lady” we won’t make any eye contact because of the latest thing. And the latest thing, I can tell you was just this bizarre dream I had where Tommy came up to me before a show and described how he wanted me to play this particular song. It was in E flat. And he showed me, in the dream, showed me how my posture should be like for this part. Well, that just kind of stuck with me. And just before we walked onstage, I went, “You know what’s funny? I had this dream last night where you showed me this certain posture on this thing in E flat.” Well, he cracked up. Well, of course, oh no, that means the moment we come together onstage he’s going to definitely, there’s going to be a flicker of the eye that’s going to go, “Hey, remember that stupid dream?” By the time we get to Salt Lake City it will probably become something else, some other little thing. and, you know, it’s funny. These seem like the most insignificant and superfluous, and meaningless things and yet, they can be part of what’s really the glue, the joie de vivre that comes into the performance. So, hey, only a person like you I think would pick up on that. Some people that have seen the show a few hundred times would pick up on that sort of thing. Other people out there just go, “What a strange bunch of people!” (laughs)

DF: Well, we’ll have to keep an eye out for that next week.

GOWAN: You almost feel dumb revealing these things, but just think of it as an inside thing you could have with your family that only you understand. And it blurts out when you’re in the most public of places. “I hope that doesn’t happen on stage.” And we try to make a musical moment of it. That’s the difference.

Lawrence Gowan at USANA Amphitheatre on Sept. 23, 2011. (Photo: Doug Fox)

DF: Last summer we talked prior to the beginning of “The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight” tour and I know out here in the West we’re kind of feeling a bit neglected because we didn’t get to see any of that.

GOWAN: OK, right I know. J.Y. has said that. We have not done that show yet west of the Mississippi and it’s time we did.

DF: Yeah, I was just going to ask, I’ve heard some rumblings that maybe next year that might happen. I just wanted to check and see if there was anything new to report on that.

GOWAN: Well, we’re all really proud of that show and the DVD is coming out later on this year of us doing it in Memphis, and we almost didn’t want to burn ourselves out on it too quickly. We did 22 of them, and we actually reprised it a couple weeks ago in Atlantic City. But it’s a different type of staging, it’s a different type of screen content and everything. It’s a completely different mindset to do that show because, for example, “Come Sail Away” comes fourth in the night, you know what I mean? It’s the fourth song on that record. So it’s almost like we want to meter that out judiciously, you know what I mean? We definitely would like to play it all and completely on the western side of America, but more likely it could be next year. It could very well be next year because we’ll be promoting that DVD. I hope it is. It’s yet another piece of the tapestry that makes up this band and hopefully we will do it at some point. We couldn’t do it on this one because this is a double bill.

DF: Are you still able to find time to work in a few of those songs into the setlist, though, that you hadn’t been playing regularly from those two albums?

GOWAN: It’s funny, Doug, after we did it in Atlantic City, even the next night, you’re like, “Oh, come on, we’ve got to play one or two of these.” I know we started doing “Pieces of Eight” and we did “Sing for the Day,” and so we went a little bit deeper in album tracks for the next good number of shows after that. It’s quite possible that may happen in Salt Lake City but I stay out of the setlist thing. I used to get completely involved, and it’s best if I just leave it to Tommy and J.Y. because they have the best sense of what we should be playing anyway.

DF: Well I have a setlist request for you where you need to interject yourself, but I’ll bring it up a little later.

GOWAN: OK. All right.

DF: But first, because we started to talk about some of the upcoming projects you guys have in the pipeline with the DVD you have coming out and the release of “Regeneration I and II” being released together, what I’m really wanting to know is when can we expect the completion of “Dr. Starlight”?

GOWAN: (Pause) Oh my ... ! That’s incredible that you would even bring that up. Oh my ...  (laughs)! Holy crap! Wow! Now where did you hear of that? How did you ... what do you know? I’ve got to find out your information here.

DF: I’ve got to come clean — I had an inside source tell me that’s what I should ask you.

GOWAN: It’s a fantastic source whoever it is. Is he a Deep Throat type of individual, I guess? In the Watergate sense not in the ...

DF: Yeah. He sits behind you every night.

GOWAN: (Pause, then laughter.) That would be him. It would be him. OK.

DF: Honestly, I don’t know anything about it except I tried to find out, and I found some old song from Rhinegold, was it?

GOWAN: Rhinegold, yeah. Rhinegold is the first opera in the ring cycle by Wagner, yes. A dreamy, classically based thing and, you know, I have all kinds of other little musical projects that pique my interest when I’m sitting in a hotel room somewhere and once I got out some of my oldest stuff that was never even recorded and the guy that sits behind me went, “Hey, what’s that?” So, you know, (laughing) there’s all kinds of little things like that. Actually the thing I’m most focused on right now is that next year, when I do my little solo run, because I’ve done that in the last year, I’ve done seven solo shows in Canada, you know, that’s where my records were sold, and a good number of Styx fans made the pilgrimage there, that’s what’s involved in that. And it’s a different type of show, it’s the entire career that I had prior to joining Styx. Last year I did the 25th anniversary of an album I had called “Strange Animal,” which was a No. 1 album in Canada and had three songs go to No. 1 and it was a triple platinum record, and so we did the 25th anniversary of that, played the entire album and people really responded well.

DF: Yeah, I read good things about that.

GOWAN: Yeah, good. So next year is the 25th of an album called “Great Dirty World,” but particularly there’s a song called “Moonlight Desires,” which is a No. 1 video and song in Canada. So I’m working on a conceptual thing that revolves around that. Because I was an ’80s video act, known as that very much in Canada, I kind of elevate that as much as possible too (laughs) in the live show. So that’s mainly what’s gotten my focus at this time. But, hey, listen. “Dr Starlight,” it still bugs me that it hasn’t been properly done, [so] who knows?

DF: Maybe it will show up in the middle of “Miss America” some night?

GOWAN: Fantastic question, though, I mean, that shocks the hell out of me that Doug Fox from Salt Lake City asks about that piece of music.

DF: Well, he did say you would be freaked out by that!

GOWAN: I am freaked out! Yeah.

DF: In the past when we’ve talked, and in other interviews I’ve seen, as far as your tenure in the band, you’ve enjoyed drawing on the David Lee Roth-Sammy Hagar comparison ...

GOWAN: I like that comparison, yeah ... (laughs) go ahead.

DF: I’m wondering now in light of the current lineup of Van Halen, does that alter your view on that comparison at all?

GOWAN: (Laughs) OK, so what’s the current ...

DF: Well, David Lee Roth is back ...

GOWAN: Back in the band. Does it alter it, no, it doesn’t alter it at all. Another good comparison would be (laughs) ... you know, there really are no comparisons. I mean, I try to draw these analogies so that, I think the most difficult thing for people to understand is why Styx didn’t go the way of other bands who had to get new members, because invariably if you’re around for a quarter of a century, you’re probably going to need a blood transfusion of some description at some point, and sometimes it’s more drastic than others. Styx chose not to go with somebody who sounds like any previous member of the band. It’s not that I’m avoiding saying Dennis’ name — he made a tremendous contribution to the band, but I just don’t sound like him and I don’t play like him, and to some people that’s part of why the band has continued on because it kind of acknowledges his contribution to the band and it also acknowledges John Panozzo’s and John Curulewiski’s contribution to the band and even Glen Burtnik’s with the fact that he was such a great stage presence with the group. So we are the culmination of everyone who has been in the band in the past, but we are different people now. I mean, Ricky plays Chuck Panozzo’s parts on stage, but he plays them like Ricky Phillips, invariably. I can only do my own interpretation of the songs, and really it comes down to whether the audiences are accepting of that or not. And, you know, I guess at this point, the majority of them have been very accepting of it, and they understand that that’s how a band often has to continue or they cease to exist.

DF: Right.

GOWAN: So that’s the situation here, and I love the fact that when I first joined the band, the first words out of Tommy’s mouth were, when we were about to sing together, it was, “Hey, don’t play a Styx song here, play that song ‘A Criminal Mind.’ ” And then at the end of it, he said, “We should make that a Styx song.” And we’ve done it on a couple of live things. We did it on that “CYO” thing, which I thought was a great thing. That, to me, was an indication that they understand that you really don’t replace anyone in a band. That doesn’t exist. And I think that’s part of why the public has a tough time with it sometimes, is when they see someone as a replacement, but it’s not that. The continuation of the band depended on them making a change. So it’s a change they made and that’s it. For Van Halen it’s a completely different situation as to what their politics were and the same thing with Genesis and the same thing with countless other bands that have had to deal with this. That’s where it stands.

DF: Well the whole Dennis DeYoung comparison, I’ve written it before and told a lot of people who’ve asked me, I love the main incarnation of Styx before, so there’s no slight at all, but to me, the band now is such a fantastic live band, and your contributions obviously are a big part of that ... to me you bring much more of a rock performer element to the live show.

GOWAN: And that’s part of the schism that took place. They really became of two different musical minds, and that’s understandable and there’s nothing wrong with that. And in order to address that you may have to go through some painful times — and they did. And they came to the conclusion that it was best to change the band.

DF: Right. And another thing I think that you really add is like an element of humor ...

GOWAN: Oh, OK. (laughs)

DF: So, to me, while there’s always going to be the inevitable comparisons, it’s obvious, like you just said, you never really set out to replace Dennis, but were more intent on just incorporating your own talents.

GOWAN: Yeah, exactly. I was far more interested, and every day I feel like I joined a great band. There is no replacing anyone in any band — really ever. It’s just the way it changes. I mean, did Ron Wood replace Brian Jones? No. Of course, it’s easier for the public to accept when someone has left the planet, I suppose. But really, when particular musical differences are really ingrained and become, to some members they become a real sticking point, a band has to make a change. And this band made a change. And it’s so long ago now, it’s hard for me to even ... there’s so many old pictures of us now, you know? So it really feels like ... and the other thing is Dennis is out there playing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking both. I love it when people say, “I saw the band in the past and I loved it then, [and] I love it now.” And there are more Styx fans.

DF: Now when I mentioned sense of humor, there are little things that are noticeable, but one of them that I really like is the lyrical song quiz that you give the audience before launching into a certain seafaring number ...

GOWAN: Yeah.

DF: So I was wondering if I could turn the tables on you a bit and give you a quick test of lyrics?

GOWAN: Shoot!

DF: I’m afraid these will be too easy. “She’s got electric boots ... ”

GOWAN: “A mohair suit.”

DF: Yes.

GOWAN: “I read it in a magazine.”

DF: OK (laughs). “What’s a poor boy to do ... ”

GOWAN: Oh, that’s ... uh ...

DF: I’m going north of the border. I’m going to Canada.

GOWAN: Oh, OK. I know the line so well, but I can’t get it. You’ve got to sing it.

DF: (Semi-sings) “What’s a poor boy to do ... when he’s falling in love with you.” Does that sound familiar?

GOWAN: Yeah it does. Who is that by?

DF: That’s Loverboy, “Take Me to the Top.”

GOWAN: (Laughs) I’m sorry! I lose, I failed on the second question.

DF: OK ... “Jumped into a taxi, bent the boot, hit the back.”

GOWAN: Nope, I don’t know that.

DF: That’s Peter Frampton, “Do You Feel Like We Do.”


DF: “I’m your mystery man in a ... ”

GOWAN: Mystery van? (laughs)

DF: “I’m your mystery man in a gold Lincoln ... ”


DF: “Midnight Ride?”

GOWAN: You got me. (Laughs, then suddenly realizes it's a Styx song.) Oh, it’s J.Y.’s! Oh, I love doing that one. I love playing “Midnight Ride,” that’s actually funny [to not recognize it].

DF: That’s the one last question I had for you, that I mentioned earlier that I wanted to talk about a setlist thing?

GOWAN: Yeah.

DF: For more than 10 years, it’s been my personal mission to see the full “Midnight Ride” in concert again. And I mention it to J.Y. every time I see him, and he always smiles and laughs. But then I thought, “Why not go to the guy who actually gets to play guitar on that song, he probably has a lot of fun.”

GOWAN: I love ... when I see “Midnight Ride” ... you know, we haven’t done it in a couple years, but when I used to see it right in the setlist I was elated because I took it as a tremendous vote of approval that my guitar playing was good enough to hack through those few chords behind, of course, Tommy and J.Y. And I loved playing that on stage, just loved it, you know, for that reason alone, plus I love the way J.Y. sings that. Actually, the J.Y. song I hope we do, and I love and I wish we’d do more of, is from “Pieces of Eight.” It’s “Great White Hope.”


GOWAN: I absolutely love that song. I don’t get to play guitar on it, but that’s J.Y.’s personality, it’s so front and center and so strong. I see that as kind of where he was going when he was writing “Midnight Ride,” and worked his way up to that. But anyway, “Midnight Ride.”

DF: Tommy has said he loves playing it, Todd says he loves playing it, you love it ...

GOWAN: Yeah, everyone does.

DF: Does J.Y. not like playing it? I can’t figure it out (laughs).

GOWAN: I don’t know. One thing I know about Styx is you’ll never completely discern what J.Y. is thinking at any given time. And I learned that early on. Never kind of assume anything from the guy because he will surprise you every time. So he may suddenly go, “I want to do ‘Midnight Ride.’ And then on a night when four other guys are going, “Hey, let’s do ‘Midnight Ride,’ ” he’ll go, “I don’t want to do it.” So I have no idea. To try to unravel the mysteries of J.Y. ... well, if we ever do, it would probably be the end of the band.

DF: Well, you could just interject and say there’s been a request to see more of your guitar playing live!

GOWAN: That’s fine. Not a problem. I’ll say we’ve got to get “Midnight Ride” in there, definitely.

DF: I told him, “If I just get one more time, I could die a happy man (laughs).”

GOWAN: Exactly. Yeah, let’s do it!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bassist Stanley Sheldon Shines On 'Frampton Comes Alive 35' Tour

For a few years there, bassist Stanley Sheldon was an integral part of one of the biggest phenomenons the music industry has ever witnessed. The Kansas native joined Peter Frampton’s band just two months before the fateful Winterland Ballroom show that provided the bulk of the tracks for “Frampton Comes Alive” – an album that arguably has had the greatest impact of any live record in history.

Bassist Stanley Sheldon is back with Peter Frampton.
Sheldon was there for Frampton’s meteoric rise from journeyman to superstar when the double album was released in 1976, spending 10 weeks at No. 1 and an astounding 97 total weeks on the charts.

He was also there when Frampton’s star descended, with the beginning of the end, as he described it, occurring with the release of the movie “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 1978. The movie, which starred Frampton and the Bee Gees, flopped, exposing portions of tin on what had been Frampton’s apparent Midas touch at the time.

Sheldon left the band in the early 1980s and was out of touch with his former frontman for more than 20 years. Ironically, it took the deaths of the other half of their “Frampton Comes Alive” compatriots – drummer John Siomos and keyboardist/guitarist Bob Mayo died a month and a half apart in early 2004 – to forge a reconnection between Frampton and Sheldon.

The pair collaborated on a song for Frampton’s 2006 Grammy-winning album, “Fingerprints, and Frampton eventually asked him to return for the current “Frampton Comes Alive 35” tour, which is playing the entire groundbreaking concert in its entirety night after night as part of a two-set, three-hours-plus performance.

With all this background at my fingertips, it was early in our phone conversation that I asked Sheldon what differences he had noticed in his relationship with Frampton between the glory days and now.

Sheldon said the relationship is so much deeper now, especially now that both men are sober and “actually coherent.”

That led to this exchange:

Sheldon: You weren’t around in the ’70s, but if you had been ...

Me (laughing): Actually, I was ...

Sheldon: Were you really?

Me: Yeah.

Sheldon: OK, do you remember, did you see the tour?

Me: I did, actually I was going to mention that I saw you guys play, well, I grew up in Southern California and I was in high school at the time, and I saw you ...

Sheldon: Anaheim!

Me: Yeah! I saw you at Anaheim Stadium and before that, you had four dates at the Forum ...

One of the most interesting aspects of interviews to me is how they can turn on a dime to unsuspecting topics and revelations. The string of Frampton dates in 1976 at the L.A. Forum – dubbed the Fabulous Forum or the House that Jack (Kent Cooke) Built in those days – was a treasured memory for me. It was only the fourth concert I had ever been to, and Frampton was at the height of his popularity. My brother and I got tickets through a secondary ticket broker – the only time in my life I can remember obtaining tickets that way.

The Forum show itself was fantastic, and I remember being amazed at how Frampton seemed to hold the crowd in the palm of his hand – eliciting cheers with every gesture and by merely putting a cupped hand to his ear with a quizzical look on his face, if to say, “Where’s the noise, people?”

Those were some of my memories from that night. Sheldon’s turned out to be much different.

Sheldon: I remember it well. Now that really strikes a chord with me because as we were doing those four dates, well, correct me if I am wrong, but was that ’76?

Me: Yes, that is correct.

Sheldon: Well, my best friend, the great fusion master guitarist Tommy Bolin, my dearest friend through life as youngsters, in fact, he and I moved to L.A. together before I met Peter and before [Tommy] went on the road with Deep Purple. I don’t know if you know about Tommy Bolin ...

Me: I do know somewhat about him, but I don’t know a ton.

Sheldon: Well, he’s a guitar player’s guitar player. Jeff Beck’s life was changed by Tommy. You know, anybody who was into fusion guitar, Tommy was considered the master. And he was only 26 when he died. Bittersweet. He had died during that four-day hiatus. I was not able to go to the funeral because of the four days in a row and Dee Anthony [Frampton’s gregarious and overbearing manager at the time] kind of pressured me ... into not leaving. That kind of haunted me through life, you know, not being able to attend my best friend’s funeral. ... But I’m sure Tommy would forgive me.

Me: Well, I do remember those shows, in fact they were in early December, the 5, 6, 7 and 9th, in a string like that.

Sheldon: Now you’re really getting close to me remembering his exact date of death, yeah. ... I don’t remember much about those shows. I put myself into a ... I had to numb myself to be able to get through them -- even more so than usual.

After the interview, I went and did some research on Bolin, and saw that he died on Dec. 4, 1976 – the day before the run of Forum dates began.

Sheldon’s memories of the Anaheim Stadium show – July 6, 1977 – were a bit more whimsical.

Sheldon: I remember there were some dignitaries there, like Danny Bonaduce [laughs] and who was the famous triathlete ...

Me: Bruce Jenner?

Sheldon: Bruce Jenner was there with Danny Bonaduce. And people parachuted into the middle of the stadium. Do you remember that?

Me: I do.

Sheldon: I have much better memories about that one. But yeah, that was a great time. Shoot, what could be better? Unfortunately, neither Peter nor myself really were weighing the gravity of it all and savoring it as we should have. I think we’re savoring it much more now.

My Instamatic captured this shot at Anaheim Stadium.

I had my own fond memories of the Anaheim Stadium show. It was the first time my friends and I ever camped out for a concert. I drove five or six of us out to Anaheim Stadium in our family’s Volkswagen bus the night before the show and we slept – or mostly didn’t sleep that is – outside the stadium on a rug a few of us had made.

(The rug is a story unto itself. One of our family friends at the time installed carpeting for a living. He was a cool guy – and used to wow us impressionable teens with his tales of installing new carpeting in the homes of rock stars like Mick Fleetwood and Alex Van Halen, among other celebrities. He always had lots of scraps, and he showed some of us youth how to cobble the scraps together to make our own novelty rugs. Naturally, we put a musical spin on it, and inset names to some of our favorite bands at the time. This particular rug said “Frampton” in the middle, so we thought it would be a great idea to take it to the concert instead of a blanket, since we envisioned staking out a great location on the outfield grass in front of the stage. It turned out to be a not-so-great idea – as it was hard for us to hold position on the rug during the show, what with the shifting nature of the crowd on the field. In addition, it was quite large, and was pretty cumbersome to lug around before and after the show. Ironically, we probably would have got even better “seats” on the field, had we not been burdened by carrying the rug across the field while others were racing past us to the best locations in front of the stage.)

The support bands that day were Derringer (decent), J. Geils (boring) and Foghat (outstanding). Things got so uninteresting during J. Geils that a huge trash war started on the field. I remember turning around at one point and looking behind me on the field. All you could see from center field back to home plate were compacted balls of refuse soaring back and forth through the air. I’ve always wondered what that view looked like to the members of J. Geils, from their on-stage perspective.

Frampton, as was his trademark at the time, started his show by running on stage by himself while jumping up and down and pumping his fists in the air. I’ve always been intrigued by the way bands open their concerts, and to this day, this type of opening has remained unique to Frampton, at least in my experience. He started with an acoustic set – also somewhat unique for someone who also plays electric guitar to his level – opening with solo versions of “All I Want to Be (Is by Your Side) and “Penny for Your Thoughts” before being joined by Sheldon, Siomos and Mayo for “Baby I Love Your Way.” That led into the “FCA” opener “Something’s Happening” and the show was off and running. Great memories.

It’s always interesting to talk to someone who was on the other side of those memories, the performing side, and probe their perspective.

Here are some other highlights from my interview with Sheldon that did not make it into my Daily Herald story:

On Frampton’s continued mastery of the guitar: “He’s surprising me on a nightly basis with his virtuosity. I mean, it’s simply staggering what that man has continued to improve. And the fans see it.”

Left to right: Bob Mayo, Peter Frampton, John Siomos, Stanley Sheldon.
On how his ability to play fretless bass led to his audition with Frampton and affected the “Frampton Comes Alive” sound: “I played a couple songs on my fretless bass, which, he was looking for someone that could do that. And I was among a handful of people playing a fretless, which, for musicians that know the sound, it’s subtle, but it’s so obvious on ‘Comes Alive,’ to bass players especially, that that’s a fretless bass. It’s a very unique sound, and I think that’s part of what made it kind of special. I like to think that.”

On how he would explain the difference in sound of a fretless bass: “Well, it’s more voice-like, as a violin is, or a cello, because there’s no frets on it, right, so the musician has to actually create the note with his own ear and his own vibrato with his fingers. And it covers the same sonic spectrum as the human voice does, too, basically about two octaves worth of notes. It’s certainly my voice, but it does have that type of vibrato and a quality that gives it a distinction. You’ll hear it if you come to the show ’cause I’m using it again on the whole ‘Frampton Comes Alive.’ ... And I use other basses, obviously, throughout my career for different sounds, but that’s really what I’m best known for, my work on the fretless. It sounds really great now. Peter and I, he’s loving hearing it again now, I think. It’s making us feel as close to that record as we can possibly feel, I think.”

On what his expectations were when he joined Frampton’s band in 1975: “Oh, I was on Cloud Nine. I’d always wanted to make it as it were -- I don’t know what ‘make it’ means now in the 21st century. But back then, it meant something specific, like successful records, touring, and girls and everything. For Peter and I both, it’s like be careful what you ask for because we got it more than we might have expected. I, for one, was not quite prepared for all that success. It was a shock, but it was great.”

Peter Frampton performing on the set of "Sgt. Pepper's."
On how the “Sgt. Pepper” movie hurt Frampton’s career: “No, it wasn’t Peter’s greatest decision, but he was pushed and prodded and badgered into doing it by Dee Anthony. I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t have succumbed to the same pressures.”

On how he actually was opposed to the idea of releasing “Frampton Comes Alive” – you know, one of the most successful albums in history -- at that stage of the band’s career: “That’s a funny story. It’s true. And I remember the road manager and I, we both thought it was a terrible idea. And Peter, we really hurt his feelings. We were all drunk, and [said] 'Peter don’t do ... ' and he got really upset. So, yeah, that’s funny.”

On the depth of Frampton’s guitar playing, and his jazz and blues background: “We’re just continuing that jazz and blues tradition here with Peter now. Peter’s playing some amazing bluesy, jazzy stuff. I don’t think his fans even know what a virtuoso he is. A lot remember him as the pop star. A lot of musicians and guitar players do know how deep he is, but everybody who doesn’t is in for a surprise at these shows. And I think that’s why the shows are going so well. Because people do stick around after we finish “Comes Alive.” They do sit there through the whole night and they walk away, from the reviews that we’ve been getting, flabbergasted. So it’s making us feel great out here, like we’re really doing it right.”

On his opportunity to be playing with Peter’s current band: “It’s really an honor to be back playing with Peter again. After all these years it’s an honor to be in this band because it’s a group of musicians that we, again, have that special chemistry, I feel. And that’s really rare. We were sitting on the bus, the four of us, and Peter maybe was not there. It’s really unique. There’s great bands that go out, but it’s not always one for all and all for one. In this band, it feels that way again, it truly does. It’s a really great bunch of guys and we all kind of are on the same page.

To read my Daily Herald story that contains much more from my interview with Sheldon, click HERE.

Like The Editing Room Floor on Facebook: CLICK HERE. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Journey's Deen Castronovo: A Tonal 'Eclipse' of the Heart

Journey features, back left to right, Deen Castronovo, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory and, front, Arnel Pineda.

The first time I interviewed Deen Castronovo, back in 2008, the Journey drummer had the audacity to thank me for taking the time to talk with him.

"It's usually Neal and Jonathan and Ross that get all the interviews," he said, referring to Journey's original contingent of guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist Johnathan Cain and bassist Ross Valory, "and Arnel [Pineda, vocalist] and I are just kind of like the little guys in the back. I'm just the drummer ... who wants to talk to the drummer? I appreciate you giving me the chance to talk to you, bud. I appreciate it."

I wish more rock stars were as gracious and unjaded as Castronovo.

When I got the opportunity in interview him again, this time in preparation for Journey's U.S. "Eclipse" tour — featuring nearly 50 dates in a package with Foreigner and Night Ranger (for my review, and a photo gallery, from the tour-opening show in Salt Lake City, click HERE) — I reminded Castronovo of his "nobody ever wants to talk to the drummer" quote from three years ago.

"And you know what, dude? It still rings true," he said. "But I'm just glad everybody is allowing me to do this stuff, cause most of the other guys, I don't know if they're into it or not, but I love it, dude. I really do. I just love doing this kind of stuff. It's great!"

Click HERE to read my story published in The Daily Herald based on the Castronovo interview. But, as always, there were many more highlights from the interview that wouldn't fit in the main story. Here they are:

On which songs from the new album, "Eclipse," were translating best to the stage during the band's European tour in June and early July:

CASTRONOVO: I’ll tell you, “City of Hope” is big, huge. That one’s coming off great. Another one is “Chain of Love.” People really love “Chain of Love” because it’s really hard driving. And we were surprised, we were doing “Tantra” and, boy, in Europe they were going nuts for that tune. So it was great, bro. All the songs are good and I love playing them all, but those three, I think the crowd really dug into those.

On the difficulty of adding new songs into the live performance when Journey has so many hits -- which the band refers to as "The Dirty Dozen":

CASTRONOVO: Well, you know, we have to do those and that usually takes up about close to an hour. So we’ve got, really, about half an hour to play the new stuff. We’ve got enough time to do those. We’ve been able to at least fit three or four in, it’s been great.

On the past couple tours, Castronovo has been featured singing lead on a few select songs -- and, incredibly, he also sounds a lot like former vocalist Steve Perry. Does he still get the chance to sing lead on this tour?

CASTRONOVO: You know, I’ve turned into the second stringer, the second-string quarterback, which is great. I’ve always been the second-string guy, what Neal calls the secret weapon. So if Arnel ... usually Arnel doesn’t have bad nights, he’s usually pretty spot on, but if he’s fatigued, after like maybe three shows in a row, or two shows in a row, or he’s got a cold or something, they call me up. They’re like, “You’re going to do ‘Keep on Running’ tonight and ‘Mother, Father.’ ” It just gives him a little bit of a break and he doesn’t have to kill himself. So I’m the second-stringer, and I don’t mind at all.

On this year's touring package, which also includes rock stalwarts Foreigner and Night Ranger:

CASTRONOVO: Well, the cool thing is both bands are the soundtrack to my teen years, which is awesome. I mean, we toured with Foreigner in '99 and it was an honor to tour with Mick Jones and Lou Gramm, when he was singing. And, of course, Night Ranger, I’ve got a long history with Night Ranger. Their lighting director was also Journey’s lighting director years back and he also managed the metal band I was in called Wild Dogs. And we would always go backstage and we would meet these guys and hang out, and it’s going to be great. And of course, wait until you hear Foreigner, they’re just incredible. They sound amazing, they really do. The new singer, well, he’s not new, he’s been there a while, Kelly Hansen, is flawless, flawless nightly. And Mark Schulman, the drummer ... he’s a Portland boy, from Portland, Oregon, where I’m from. So he’s a hometown boy, so it’s great to just hang out with him, it’s just fantastic.

More on Night Ranger and Foreigner:

CASTRONOVO: The funny thing is with Night Ranger, I know all their songs, and sometimes, you know, if they feel they want to do it, I’ll go up and I’ll play “Sister Christian” with them while Kelly [Keagy, drummer] goes out and sings lead. It’s awesome because I grew up with that stuff. And, of course, Foreigner, like I said, the soundtrack ... when I was 13 I remember when “Hot Blooded” came out. I can remember listening to that on the way to school one morning, it was like, “Oh, this is bad. I love it. This is awesome!” So, yeah, I’m a huge fan, dude.

On how he was a music fan first and has maintained that attitude and enthusiasm over the years:

CASTRONOVO: Dude, I’ve learned so much. I mean, I learned from those guys. Kiss was my Beatles. They really were. They were the reason I became a musician. You know, Journey, I learned all my drumming skills from Steve Smith. I mean, those were the guys I listened to. Steve Perry, of course, the voice, man, to me, one of the greatest singers of my generation. There’s not very many guys that can get near that guy. So I’m a huge fan, it’s pathetiic!.[laughs]

On his work with former Van Halen members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony in the short-lived project Planet Us:

CASTRONOVO: Oh, man, working with Sammy and Michael Anthony was a dream come true. A dream come true. And I got to tour with Van Halen when I was with Hardline, years ago, back in '92 ... we got to tour and did some shows opening for them, and got to sit down with Alex, what a sweet man. I mean an iconic drummer, pretty amazing.

On the amazing staying power of the song "Don’t Stop Believin’ ":

CASTRONOVO: It’s incredible, bro. I mean, we were in Sweden doing the Peace and Love Festival, 53,000 people, we start doing “Stop Believin’ ” — the crowd goes ballistic, right? OK, soon as we start the [sings] “Strangers ... waitin’ ” ... the crowd is bouncing. You know they do that European bounce? It was awesome! I’ve seen that before, but not 53,000 people doing it. "Don’t Sop Believin’. " It gave us chills. It was just incredible!

On why he thinks a band like Journey isn’t in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame:

CASTRONOVO: You know, my opinion and whether it’s valid or not, because I really don’t know much about it, but maybe because Steve [Perry] isn’t in the band anymore. That’s the only thing I can think of, man. Come on, 90 million records worldwide and they don’t want to put us in? That’s the only thing I can think of. “Well, Steve Perry’s not there, so who cares?” That’s very possible. I have no idea. Maybe another scenario is Journey was never popular with Rolling Stone magazine and the press. We were panned constantly, incessantly, you know? And I think the fans and the audiences have proven those people wrong. You know, so maybe there’s a little egg on those people’s faces and they’re like, “Well, forget it anyway.” Who knows? I don’t know the truth, but we should be in there. Put it this way, I shouldn’t ... I shouldn’t be in there. I have no part of the Journey legacy with the exception of I bought every record and I went to every show in Portland. But, I mean, those three gentlemen, Steve Smith, all five of them, Smith, Ross, Neal, Jonathan, Steve they should be there. Bottom line. Bottom line. And I’ll be in the audience checking it out! [laughs]

On opening the U.S. tour with Foreigner and Night Ranger in Salt Lake City:

CASTRONOVO: It’s going to be great. It’s a beautiful city. I mean, Salt Lake City’s gorgeous. One of the biggest memories I have of Salt Lake, we were supposed to play, I believe, if I’m not mistaken, the Delta Center, and the first tornado ever, ripped the Delta Center’s roof off. I was in my hotel room watching it happen. And when I saw the tornado rip the damn roof right off — it was awesome! It was a bummer, but ... and the funniest thing was Foreigner’s bus, they were there as well, the windows got blown out of their buses. Yeah, they were sleeping on their bus waiting for their hotel rooms ... the windows got blown out, so they had to go up to their hotel room, so they got them in early. That’s the fondest memory, or the biggest memory I have of Salt Lake.

[Editor's note: Journey was actually scheduled to play Franklin Covey Field with Foreigner on the day of the tornado in July 1999. The outdoor show, after much consideration, did go on as scheduled.]

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stairway From Heaven: Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience

Jason Bonham says he's glad Led Zeppelin disbanded after the death of his father, drummer John Bonham.

The Who delivered a rock ’n’ roll line for the ages in the 1965 hit “My Generation” when Roger Daltrey sneered, “I hope I die before I get old.”

Indeed, many rock legends have fulfilled that wish over the years, including both members of The Who’s rhythm section, drummer Keith Moon (in 1978) and bassist John Entwistle (in 2002).

But what happens to rock bands when one of their members passes away? When it comes to traversing the “Stairway to Heaven” question, it seems like there really are two paths you can go by. Most bands adopt the “He’d-want-us-to-carry-on-without-him” mantra and forge ahead after selecting a replacement. Certainly bands like The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Metallica, Def Leppard, Lynryd Skynyrd, Styx and Boston have enjoyed varying degrees of success after replacing original members who died.

That is their right and it’s a stance that’s understandable and easily justified.

However, I must admit, I’ve always fostered a tremendous amount of respect for the way Led Zeppelin handled the death of drummer John Bonham, who died while the band was rehearsing for a North American tour in September of 1980. Despite still being at the top of their game, the members of Led Zeppelin released a statement saying they simply could not continue on without Bonham and disbanded the group.

Indeed, the three surviving members have only reunited to perform publicly on four occasions, and three of those featured Jason Bonham, John’s son, sitting in for his late father. The last of those events — the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at 02 arena in London on Dec. 10, 2007 — even spawned reports of full-fledged reunion with the younger Bonham in the fold. That much-anticipated tour never materialized.

Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience in concert. (Randall Michelson photo)
 So, when I participated in a national teleconference call with Jason in late April as he was preparing for his Led Zeppelin Experience tour, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to delve into his unique perspective into the question of bands carrying on after a member’s death — seeing as how he was not only a surviving family member but had also subsequently performed in place of his father.
His insight didn’t disappoint.

“Well, definitely I love the fact that they stood by their word,” he said. “It was a respect thing, very much so. It was wonderful. When they finally came out and said, ‘We cannot continue on without our friend and colleague, John,’ it’s one of the hardest things to listen to, one of the last-ever things of Led Zeppelin broadcast was that statement.

“And many years later, after the 02 [reunion concert in London], Robert [Plant] said to me, ‘Jason, as much as you are your father’s son and you play like nobody else, for me when I revisit these songs it’s not just revisiting the song — it’s revisiting the whole bunch of memories.’ And he adds, ‘For me, Led Zeppelin was with John on drums, not Jason.’ He says, ‘I hope you don’t hate me for that.’

“I said, ‘No, I get it.’ and there’s a whole bunch of fans out there which are actually OK with it now. Which in one thing is great and in another thing, you know what, I did it the once and I said to him, I only wanted to do one more show, and he said [sarcastically], ‘Yeah, you did.’ So we did that and I just hope that maybe that sees the light of day eventually.”

Jason’s fondness for the other members of Led Zeppelin was obvious during the hour-long conversation. But he appears to have forged a special bond with Plant.

“I would say I speak to Robert more on a regular basis than I do to Jimmy [Page] and John [Paul Jones], but I find that there’s still kind of that closeness when we see each other,” he said. “It’s like we haven’t been apart for years. It’s like we carry on the conversation where we just left off, that’s how it has always been.”

Another comment shed further light on their relationship.

“There was a big interview with me on a TV show in England, and it was about drummers all over the world, and I was quite open about what it was like growing up with dad as a drummer,” Jason said. “Robert suddenly went, ‘You know, I just forgot what it would be like for you. I really did, you know, having missed having a hero around to grow up to and him being gone for so long.’

“I think about this more now, when I make certain decisions in my life, now that I have my own family, and my son is the same age that I was when I lost my dad. So it’s a tough one to be in that situation when you haven’t got the advice of a father to give you. So I sometimes miss him there. I miss him when I go, ‘Dad, what should I do?’ And what I said to Robert was, ‘Sometimes when I don’t know what to do, I call you because you are the closest thing to dad for me.’ ”

One of the highlights of the Led Zeppelin Experience show for Jason is when he drum duets with his father via video.

“We didn’t have two drum kits in our house,” he said. “So when I get to do this these days it’s, you know, really for the first time ever that we actually get to play in tandem together because, sadly, we never did in real life. We never actually got to experience that.”

Jason has read interviews where his father said one of his dreams was to have his son play next to him at Royal Albert Hall. It wasn’t until the first Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience tour was under way last year that Bonham realized the first part of “Moby Dick,” in which he solos with his dad, features footage from his father’s original appearance at the venerable English venue.

“So, in essence, I actually get to fulfill one of his wishes as well as mine, to play with him,” Jason said. “It’s kind of a twist on things but, you know, I try and give it a ... make it as real as possible. There’s no fake in the show. You’re there, you’re exposed to all the elements that could go wrong, but it’s heartfelt and that’s what makes it very unique.”

Jason had many interesting things to say. Here are some other excerpts:

On how each night of the show offers a different personal journey for him: Each night’s a different feeling, and a different experience to the people coming. The people that come share stories with me after the show as much as I share stories with them during the show. And that’s been one of the key elements of keeping this thing going — the story, the fans, the letters I get and receive and it’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience for me. The tour is something that I will treasure because I’ve learned so much about my father, more so then I ever imagined I would know from just the moments where people met him in their life and captured, photographs of them together and, yeah it’s been very special.

"The song choices will always be a key part of this because I listen to what the fans say, but I also want to keep it as true as I can. We’ll never do a song we don’t think we can do well, so if for some reason there’s certain songs we don’t do in the show, we probably haven’t tried it yet or we have tried it and it wasn’t up to standard. We’ll only do the best ones we can so they sound the best."

On what he has been able to take away musically and personally from the Led Zeppelin reunions he has performed in: "What I managed to take away from the last one was the element of 'wow' because I was at an age where I was just honored and humbled to be up there. I was such a fan at this point in my life that I always felt that early on, I’d taken things for granted. When I got the chance to go up there and have a go at it was a very special time. Just to play with those guys and to play their songs and to do the show that we did at the O2, it was a very special moment that I will treasure forever. Being in the rehearsals and hanging with them and getting to know them as adults. You know, I always knew them when I was a young kid, so to relate to them on another level now, in another element was phenomenal.

"I felt like a journalist because I barricaded them with questions. I was like, 'Oh yeah, but you know this in 1977, well now, what did you really think when you did this and, you know, did you know at that point you were really special? And if so, how special did you really think you were, and did you kind of ... ' and they were like, 'OK, one question a day from now on,' ha! But it was a great moment, let me say that. I treasure it very much and I’ve had the greatest privilege to play with them more than once. When I look back at my wedding video, you know, it’s hard to believe but yes, they were there, and they got up and jammed on the local band’s equipment, and we did some Zeppelin songs, so that was very bizarre."

On Led Zeppelin mythology and whether his dad had ever offered any insight into Page's supposed deal with the devil: "We never talked about it to be honest with you. That whole side of him it was never brought up or even talked about in the British press. So, it was of a bit of a far-fetched thing which they probably wouldn’t deal with. I mean, I’ve talked to Jimmy many times about that home and I said, 'Have you ever been there?' And he goes, 'I went once, kind of freaked me out.' So he didn’t own it any longer, but I never really imagined him being that guy anyway. I mean when you see him with children he’s just way too sweet. He’s not that guy.

"Yes they had bad luck at certain times, but they had success and the price of fame, you know? It’s a similar tragedy and success story that Def Leppard had, from the moment 'Pyromania' became such a huge entity, the next thing you know the drummer lost his arm. They finally get themselves through that period, then they make another fantastic album called 'Hysteria.' It sold millions and millions and millions again, even more than 'Pyromania' and then their guitarist died. There’s another great band from England with a double-barrel name that seems to have had the success and the tragedy.

"There was a lot of success and tragedy in Led Zeppelin when you think about it — in ’77 when Karac [Plant] died and then my dad, you know, three years later. But, you know, I wouldn’t say the deal with the devil thing was anything. And I’ve been around the boys enough to know."

On the personal nature of playing these songs every night and putting everything into the performance: "You have to take everything in consideration when you’re performing these songs to make them feel believable because if you’re getting out there and just go through the motions, you know, you might as well put the wig on and the dragon suit and go out and do it."

On why the reported reunion tour with Led Zeppelin after the 02 arena show in 2007 never materialized: "Well, I was very much under the illusion ... that we were going to write an album and we were going to put together a new project. Whether it be under the banner of Led Zeppelin, which I doubted, but it was going to be a new project that would feature Jimmy and John Paul and myself. In winter, like early December of 2008 when it kind of came to a halt, which was a hard thing for me to get over for a while. You know, I had just played the concert of my life. Playing with them was a great point, one of the greatest points of my life. Then when I got the call to come back and do some work with Jimmy and John Paul in the writing environment, it was fantastic. I believed it was eventually going to continue on and be whatever it was going to be.

"But, you know, who knows? There are a lot of things I will never understand and it’s purely, as I say, you’d have to ask them. But on my end, I enjoyed every moment. Anybody would when you get a chance to again. You get the phone call from them to go and jam and in a writing element and go over ideas. It was fun, a lot of fun."

On his memories of Steven Tyler auditioning to replace Plant in the Page-Jones-Bonham project: "My memories of Steven coming over, I had no idea he was coming because the guys knew that I couldn’t keep my mouth shut half the time because I felt like I’d got the golden ticket, but I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody. I remember having an incident ... which is one of the reasons I don’t take it anymore, I used to have trouble sleeping touring on the road and I’d been given an Ambien by my doctor. All I remember was I kind of got woken up after only going to sleep for two hours to do a radio interview. I did it and thought nothing of it, and then suddenly to have my email alert, come up with all these different emails going, 'Oh, my ... what did you say?' I’m thinking, 'What did I say?' I didn’t say anything bad. I had no memory of telling the world that I was working with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones again. So they weren’t going to tell me that Steven was coming in. Believe it or not, I’d just tied a bunch of scarves to my cymbal stands on the weekend prior to being there on a Monday. So he must have thought I knew, but I had scarves tied around all my drum stands and obviously that was the thing that Steven did then. When he came in, he sounded great. I remember him being brilliant. I was a big Aerosmith fan. I remember him getting on my drum kit and playing, and then he got on the keyboard and played a bit of “Dream On” and, you know, I enjoyed it immensely.
"He kind of went for it the first day, but then when he came back in a couple of days later it was good. I mean for me, my take on it is it sounded like Steven Tyler singing Led Zeppelin songs. You know, there was no mimic, there was no mime. He was Steven Tyler singing Led Zeppelin songs and there was something quite cool about that."

Note: To read my main preview story on Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience, with quotes and content not contained in this blog entry, click HERE.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tommy Shaw interview: Part II (Styx, Yes announce summer tour)

Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw in concert at USANA Amphitheater in 2007. (Photo by Doug Fox)

Styx announced its U.S. summer tour plans this morning, releasing dates for a 22-city co-headlining tour with Yes. The one-month jaunt, dubbed the "Progressive U.S. Tour," will kick off July 4 and conclude Aug. 3.

While Styx's tour with Yes will not have a Salt Lake City date, local fans of the band can look forward to a co-headline outdoor date with another well-known band in the fall.

When I interviewed Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw on March 12, we mainly discussed the impending release of his new solo bluegrass album, "The Great Divide." The album, incidentally, debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Bluegrass Albums chart, coming in behind "Rare Bird Alert," by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.

The last portion of our interview, however, touched on Styx's tour with Yes, as well as other projects the band and Shaw have in the pipeline. Styx has probably been one of a handful of bands that have most taken advantage of the popular double- and triple-bill format — aggressively touring in packaged formats nearly every summer. Past Styx touring partners include REO Speedwagon, Def Leppard, Journey, Foreigner, Kansas, Boston and many others.

One touring package that is kind of the Holy Grail for Shaw fans would put Styx with Night Ranger and Ted Nugent. Once those lynchpins were in place, you could add on Damn Yankees (the 1990s supergroup that featured Shaw, Nugent and Jack Blades of Night Ranger) and also Shaw-Blades (the Tommy-Jack enterprise that has released two albums to date with a third in progress). What a night of music that would be — well, if you didn't have to sing and perform most of the night. As Shaw was quick to point out when I raised the possibility, such a nightly grind would certainly exact a physical toll. Still, for fans, it's a fun prospect to think about, even if it never materializes.

Also in the works, a DVD of last fall's "Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight" theater tour and "Regeneration, Volume 2," a CD which features eight re-recorded songs from the Styx and Damn Yankees catalog. The CD, which will be available at tour stops this summer, includes new versions of "Renegade," "Blue Collar Man," "Too Much Time on my Hands," "Queen of Spades," "Snowblind," "Miss America" and Damn Yankees tunes "Coming of Age" and "High Enough."

Here's the concluding portion of my interview with Shaw:

DOUG FOX: I would probably be remiss if I didn’t ask you about Styx’s summer tour plans ... and I know the Yes thing is not announced yet, but in this part of the interview I’m hoping to get a few more updates and then when things become available kind of plug them in.

TOMMY SHAW: Well, we’ve been saying that we should do this for years, and it never would come through — I don’t know if schedules just wouldn’t allow or you couldn’t get everybody on board to do it. I don’t know your experience with Yes, but I just remember getting that first Yes album and putting that on and hearing that music and thinking, “Where did this come from? This is, like, music from another planet ... it’s better than anything I’ve ever heard.” It’s taken rock music to a level that I didn’t even know is possible. And Styx was influenced by Yes. If you listen to songs like “You Need Love,” you can tell they were listening to Yes. So we’re very excited about going on tour with them. 

DF: Is there a third band, too?

SHAW: There’s probably going to be an acoustic act or just someone to play, you know, to get people in the building. It’s a great opportunity for, like, an acoustic guy to come in and warm everybody up and introduce themselves.

DF: So will that mean that each of the bands, you and Yes, obviously, would get maybe a little extra time on stage as opposed to the triple bills?

SHAW: That’s exactly the plan. That’s exactly what the intent is.

DF: Can you just comment generally about co-headlining tours and how popular they’ve become in the last, what’s it been, seven or eight years?

SHAW: Yeah, we would join forces with people, and as fan bases get older, you know, some people, their life just dictates that you’re not going to as many shows as possible. It gives people a reason to go, “Wait a minute, these are two of my favorite bands, I’ve got to go see this.” And you wind up playing to their fans, and hopefully they become your fans and vice versa. It’s a great way to keep constantly infusing the genre with new fans. It’s a great idea because it’s working. We’re constantly looking out there, and I’ll say, “How many people are seeing Styx for the first time?” Routinely, it will be 20 to 50 percent of the people are first-time concert-goers to a Styx concert. That’s pretty amazing.

DF: And you’re playing with Journey and Foreigner in Europe.

SHAW: Yes.

DF: And you’ve been with both of those bands before ...

SHAW: Yes ... we all light a fire under each other, which is only that much better for the fans that are coming to see it.

DF: And I guess Night Ranger is playing with Journey and Foreigner during the summer in th U.S.

SHAW: I think that’s awesome.

DF: Now, I always thought ... and this is probably just my thought in looking at the tour schedules and what not, but Night Ranger has maybe never been involved, perhaps, with Styx as a full-time touring partner because it seems like they don’t do full tours very much but just kind of weekend dates and things like that.

SHAW: Right.

DF: Is this a change for them ...

Tommy Shaw stomping out "The Grand Illusion."
SHAW: Yeah, it’s a change. I’ve always encouraged Jack, you know, Night Ranger is such a great band, you really should do something like this. Not that I’m taking credit for it, but I’m just glad that he’s finally pursuing it like that, because they have the music, they have the hits, and they have a great band, and everybody’s still in great shape. When you go hear them, you’re singing along to every song — you’re getting your face ripped off by the guitar shredding. “Sister Christian” is in “Rock of Ages,” and it’s a pivotal song in that play. So I’m really happy to see them getting the recognition they deserve.

DF: You know, people think that Styx and Night Ranger would be the perfect touring couple.

SHAW: I don’t disagree. I’ve been saying that for years. Fortunately, they don’t listen to me because I don’t necessarily know what’s going to make up a successful tour. But I think eventually, I’m going to be proven right on that one.

DF: Because that’s the one a lot of fans are holding out for.

SHAW: For one thing, you know you’re going to get a third act out of it! (laughs)

DF: Exactly!

SHAW: Whether it’s on the bill or not.

DF: I think that’s why everybody wants it.

SHAW: Yeah, I would love to see that.

DF: Of course, I know the schedules lining up are probably the big thing that would prevent this, but people are also looking at the fourth and fifth act ... by inviting Ted [Nugent].

SHAW: They want me to die! (laughs) “Maybe he’ll keel over on stage and I want to be there!”

DF: They better get tickets for the first part of the tour!

SHAW: Oh crap! It’d be great for the first three days, and on the fourth one I’ll be on a gurney up there. (laughs) I like the concept of that, though.

DF: And then if you could just tell me what are the future plans for Shaw/Blades. I’m sure people would be interested in that.

SHAW: Well, there is a future, definitely. We just suddenly got sidetracked doing other wonderful things. But there is a record that was started already, that has some great songs on it, which I told you about. Once this [bluegrass project] has run its course for the time being, then that will be the next thing we jump on. We’ll finish that. We want to go play some shows, and offers are out there. So it’ll happen.

DF: And then the DVD of your theater tour [doing "The Grand Illusion" and "Pieces of Eight" albums in their entirety]?

SHAW: We’re in post-production with that right now.

DF: I know we’ve talked before, but you said the great thing about being where you guys are right now is there’s no set timetables or deadlines, things just kind of happen when you can do them.

SHAW: Yeah, there’s no rush to kind of put it out prematurely. So we can take our time and produce it the way we want it to be. We’re recording our old masters because the record company, there aren’t really any original people who were there during the days when we made those records — so whoever has the masters has not stepped forward. So we’re just redoing them. It’s actually better because it’s the guys who you’ve been coming to hear play it for the last generation are playing on it. So they sound very much like the original, except it’s like we put a bigger engine in it.

DF: So you really don’t know where any of these masters are?


DF: Wow.

SHAW: It’s pretty amazing isn’t it?

NOTE: If you missed the first part of the interview, you can find it HERE.

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Introduction to the Mighty Van Halen

This photo captures the raw exuberance of a young David Lee Roth. While innocence is not a word you would normally associate with Van Halen, there was a “the-world’s-at-our-fingertips” vibe at the Logan show. Everyone should have the opportunity at least once to catch a great band in the early phases of its career.
All photos by Mitch Hancock from March 31, 1979, in Logan, Utah.

I've had Van Halen -- a group I first saw in concert 32 years ago this past week -- on the brain a lot recently.

It is pretty common knowledge that the group is in the studio recording a new studio album with original frontman David Lee Roth. This is a gift not taken lightly by Van Halen fans. It's been 27 years since the band's last full studio album with Roth (1984's "MCMLXXXIV"), 13 years since the band's last full studio record with any singer (1998's "3" with Gary Cherone), and seven years since any new music of any kind (three new reunion songs with second singer Sammy Hagar in 2004).

So, clearly, I've had plenty of time in between albums -- not to mention frequent personnel changes and years of utter silence -- to question my devotion to this little old band from Pasadena. Besides just the fantastic music, I've determined that a lot of it goes back to my initial introduction to the band.

There are moments of clarity in every person’s life that are ingrained in one’s memory so completely as to almost be imprinted on the DNA.

Most people, for example, can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when world-altering events occurred.

Personally, I find that this phenomenon also happens with music. I have always tended to mark specific instances and periods of life based on certain songs and when I first heard them.

But nothing quite prepared me for that day in the summer of 1978 when my musical theory received relativity.

Living in Southern California at the time, the local hard rock radio stations of the day had been playing a trio of songs from an L.A. band that had just released its debut record. There was something about those three songs that seemed to force my hand — as if drawn by a tractor beam — toward the stereo’s volume dial, where a quick right turn would raise things to a more enjoyable level.

Eruption: A classic Eddie Van Halen guitar solo pose.

The songs in question were “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love,” “You Really Got Me” and “Runnin’ With the Devil.” The band was Van Halen — and life as I knew it was about to change.

I remember clearly the day my brother and I drove down to the local record store to purchase the cassette tape of this much-buzzed-about new band. Being the sensible older brother, I hedged my bets by allowing him to buy it — figuring that if I ended up not really liking the rest of it, at least I wouldn’t have risked my own hard-earned money on what was still a largely unknown entity. It turned out to be the best $5 I never spent. (Don’t worry. I would later plop down money, most willingly, for the vinyl album and remastered CD.)

 Leaving the record store, we pushed the tape in the car stereo, turned up the volume and headed for home. The short drive from Foothill Boulevard up Lowell Avenue in La Crescenta only used up one song, and we were just pulling into the garage as opening track “Runnin’ With the Devil” came to its fiery conclusion.

And that’s when the future officially arrived — and it was named “Eruption.”

The plan was to pop the tape out and continue listening inside the house, but the second song had just started and neither one of us could even remotely fathom reaching for the eject button.

To be quite honest, we weren’t exactly sure what we were hearing during that initial listen. A torrent of notes exploded out of the left speaker at a dizzying rate as we looked at each other in slack-jawed amazement and wondered aloud whether what we heard was accomplished on synthesizer or guitar.

And while I didn’t know exactly what I was hearing, I recognized that the music landscape as I knew it was changing before my very ears.

As it turned out, what we were experiencing was a 1-minute-and-42-second explosion of jam that changed guitar playing forever and signaled the arrival of a new six-string sheriff: Eddie Van Halen.

David Lee Roth in the days before spandex and seatless chaps
Later that summer, our family moved to Utah where, in a shocking surprise, the mention of Van Halen resulted in nothing more than dumbfounded stares — as the band had yet to break on Salt Lake City radio stations. However, once I started attending college in the fall, I was back in familiar territory, as Van Halen was a big favorite among those on our dorm floor, since most of my new acquaintances were students from out of state. Well, all of them that is except a longtime friend from California, Mat Yeates.

It was late in our freshman year (March 1979) that we heard a radio ad for a Van Halen concert at Utah State University in Logan — about two hours north of Provo, where we were going to school. But we were undeterred. I remember Mat and I being elected to drive up and procure the tickets — for our group of eight or so who wanted to attend. On the day before tickets were to go on sale, Mat and I drove up to Logan to camp out for the best seats. When we got there, we were first in line. Well, basically, we were the entire line — as nobody else was there. We sat there for a couple hours — no doubt talking about Mat’s love for the band Legs Diamond, some band he was always pimping as the next big thing — before somebody showed up at the ticket office, which is when they informed us that there had been a problem at the ticket printer's, and that they had been forced to postpone all ticket sales.

The tickets did eventually go on sale a few days later, and we scored some sweet seats on the seventh row on the floor. We were pumped.

Van Halen II was released on March 23 — so we had eight days to familiarize ourselves with the new material before the show. I can still picture walking into the quaint locally owned record store -- Remember those? -- near campus and hearing "Light Up the Sky" for the first time playing over the loudspeakers as the shop owner was spinning the new disc.

Michael Anthony performs his bass solo before leading into "You're No Good."
March 31 finally arrived and the weather was terrible. I recall making the couple hours drive to the show through a torrential downpour.

The support act that night was a band called the Granati Brothers. Never heard of them? Neither had we. They jumped out on stage in their poodle-boy hairdos. That’s pretty much all I remember about their set — although a couple years back I did run across a couple of news stories out of Pennsylvania (Motto: Home of the Granatis) where they reminisced about how they had remained friends with the Van Halens for years after that tour. But I digress.

A young Eddie Van Halen took guitar playing into the future.
I have never stood on the tarmac behind a 747 when it takes off, but it can’t be unlike the experience of seeing Van Halen open a concert. The sheer power of “Light Up the Sky” erupting from the amplifiers as Van Halen took the stage was an experience to behold. What a complete rush! It was a show unlike anything I had ever seen prior to that. There was the technical wizardry of Eddie Van Halen on guitar, offset by the exaggerated macho posing, high-pitched wails and animated song intros of frontman David Lee Roth. There was action all over the stage, augmented by Michael Anthony pounding on his bass and Alex Van Halen on drums (he even set the big gong behind him on fire at the end of the show). It was powerful. It was funny. It was completely over the top. And I loved every minute of it.

The best analogy I can come up with to describe the experience is to compare it to the pivotal scene in the movie "Back to the Future" where everyone is at the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance and, as a member of the band, Marty McFly starts riffing on Chuck Berry before falling down on the stage and playing a cacophony of lead guitar notes, leaving everyone in the audience with stunned looks on their faces. (Is it a coincidence that earlier in the film, when Marty plays music from the future to frighten his father into asking his mother out, that the tape is labeled "Van Halen"? I think not.) Van Halen was ahead of its time -- both musically and from a stage-show standpoint.

One recollection I wish I had, but can't pull out of the memory banks, was whether or not Eddie played his infamous "Shark" guitar that night. He was using it on select songs throughout that tour, so chances are good that he used it at our show as well. The "Shark" guitar is an Ibanez Explorer that Eddie — a noted tinkerer in search of the perfect "brown sound" tone, as has been evidenced over the years with all his developments in guitar-related products and even his own line of guitars — took a chain saw to, drastically altering its appearance and sound. The cut-out chunk gave the guitar a slight Jaws-esque appearance, which led to its moniker. Of course, I didn't begin becoming familiar with his guitar collection until several years down the road, so it would not have resonated with me that evening. Still, that particular guitar has always fascinated me — it just looks cool — and it nags at me that I might have seen it played and just not realized it at the time.

There is a bit of a mystery involving that Logan show. To this day, the Logan concert — Van Halen’s first live appearance in Utah — does not show up on any of the band’s archived tour lists. I heard a rumor several years back, supposedly emanating from a former member of the band’s road crew from back then, that due to some bet, for some reason Alex Van Halen said the band would never acknowledge that tour date. (I can’t vouch for the source, but it is strange that the date remains unlisted.)

Surf is up, Eddie: Let's see the Granati Brothers do this!
On a ridiculous note, a few years ago I read a review of that show written in the Utah State University student newspaper. The reviewer waxed poetic about how this great new band had graced the USU stage and was sure to be the next big thing in rock music. Unfortunately, he was talking about the Granati Brothers. He completely dismissed Van Halen. (Rock critics ... sigh ... what do they know?) I actually felt sorry for the sap that wrote that review. There was a future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act on the bill that night, not to mention arguably the greatest guitarist of his generation, and the poor guy totally missed it. A complete whiff. Not to worry, I’m guessing that writer went on to a successful career forecasting futures on Wall Street.

Well, of one thing I’m certain. The show did happen. And I’ve got the ticket stub and pictures to prove it. Not to mention, 32 years reflecting on the memories of that one night.

David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen and Michael Anthony in happier times.
The photos, incidentally, were shot by a friend of mine who was taking a photography class on campus at the time. We went to the university darkroom and printed these pictures up, and I have held on to them all these years. Several of them capture the raw power and energy of a young band that would become the biggest band in America within the next five years. (Mitch Hancock, wherever you are these days — I salute you!)

Eight days after the Logan show, Van Halen played the second day of the Califfornia (yes, with two f’s) World Music Festival at the Los Angeles Coliseum, appearing with the likes of Aerosmith, UFO, Toto, Mother’s Finest, Eddie Money, Brownsville and the Boomtown Rats.

A little over six months later, Mat Yeates and I, and two other friends, were on the doorstep of Eddie and Alex Van Halen’s childhood home in Pasadena — on the day of the band’s first headline appearance at the Great Western Forum — having a chat with their father, Jan Van Halen (a delightful character). Ah, but that’s a story for another day.

That's the tale of my introduction to Van Halen ... what's yours?

Note: Included below is the setlist from the Logan show, as well as links to an article on the Granati Brothers and their history with Van Halen, details and photo of Eddie's "Shark" guitar, and a travel piece I wrote detailing the last time I've seen the mighty VH. Also, some videos that have popped up on YouTube in the last couple years taken from the tour-opening show in Fresno, Calif., on March 25, 1979 — just six days before the Logan show. This footage is the closest thing available to what I witnessed that first Saturday night in Logan.

Eddie Van Halen inspired a whole generation of guitar players with his unique tapping style.

Van Halen
Utah State University
March 31, 1979

Light Up the Sky
Somebody Get Me a Doctor
Running With the Devil
Dance the Night Away
Beautiful Girls
On Fire
You’re No Good
Jamie’s Cryin’
Feel Your Love Tonight
Outta Love Again
Ice Cream Man
Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love
Eddie Van Halen Guitar Solo
You Really Got Me

Encore I
Bottoms Up

Encore II
Atomic Punk

Performance time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Like The Editing Room Floor on Facebook: CLICK HERE.

A great article on the Granati Brothers and their experiences on tour with Van Halen can be found here.

For a closer look at some of Eddie's iconic guitars, including the "Shark," click here.

This was a report of my first Van Halen concert. Here's a report of the last time I saw the band — Tiger Jam 2008 in Las Vegas.