Friday, January 24, 2003

Bringing It All Back Home

Back during the early eighties, we fans of loud guitars, crashing drums, and gutsy singers (you know: rock 'n' roll) had to endure what was referred to as "The New British Invasion." It was all over the radio, magazines, and MTV and was NOT fronted by bands who imagined themselves to be the new Yardbirds or the next Pretty Things. Instead, it was made up of a bunch of swishy con artists like Duran Duran, Culture Club, and ABC.

These were desperate times. Heavy metal was in a recession, hip-hop hadn't exploded yet, and it seems kids across the USA were exchanging their guitars for synthesizers and drum machines. It was enough to turn an impressionable teenager like myself deeper and deeper into Old Rock - it seemed I spent way too many trips to record stores digging through the "M" section of the used bins, looking for Mott the Hoople and MC5 albums. One winter during this era over a long-distance phone call, my older brother told me about a band called the Blasters.

"Check 'em out - they're rockabilly," he advised.

"Rockabilly?" I scoffed, "Like the Stray Cats?"

I didn't pause to think for one lousy moment that this was the same kind, wise brother who had turned me on to Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd when everyone else in the schoolyard was listening to John Denver and Abba.

"Yeah, only much better," he replied.

"Rockabilly won't come back until Creedence Clearwater Revival re-forms," I said, quoting something I had read in the Rolling Stone Record Guide.

"Yeah, that's what these guys are," he said, "Creedence."

Then I'm sure I came back with something even dumber, handed the phone over to Mom, and probably proceeded to contemplate buying the new Rainbow album.

That summer while flipping through the unorganized bins in a newly-opened used record store, I came across a Blasters EP - Over There: Live at the Venue, London. I decided to heed my brother's words (the three-dollar used price didn't hurt) and bought it, along with Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. The Derek and the Dominos album is one of those that you are Supposed To Like and hence hasn't graced my turntable in about fifteen years. The Blasters EP, on the other hand, is a tiny slice of live on-fire magic that never fails to bring a smile to my face. Covers of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Piano. Saxophones. Loud guitars. Crashing drums. A gutsy singer. Rock 'n' roll.

Today whilst doing some menial paperwork here at home, I threw on Over There. While placing the vinyl upon the turntable, I noticed something I had never noticed before: A small postage-stamp-shaped box containing a certain hell-yeah symbol dating back to the Revolutionary War. How, after twenty years of owning this slab of kickass vinyl, I had never taken note of that stamp is beyond me. But the freakin' Blasters put it on the label of an EP recorded in the capital of the British Would-Be-Empire. And they did it smack-dab in the middle of yet another failed, over-hyped, British musical invasion - surely it was to let the Haircut 100s of the world (and anyone foolish enough to buy the Brit hype) know which country was the once-and-forever King when it came to music. Yeah.

Tonight I played Over There again, loudly and proudly. Don't tread on me, don't tread on the Blasters.

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