important work in color
1969: NRBQ. 1970: NRBQ with Carl Perkins. 1972: Scraps. 1973: Workshop. 1977: All Hopped Up. 1978: At Yankee Stadium. 1979: Kick Me Hard. 1980: Tiddlywinks. 1983: Grooves in Orbit * Tapdancin' Bats. 1985: She Sings, They Play (with Skeeter Davis). 1986: RC Cola and a Moon Pie * Lou and the Q. 1987: God Bless Us All. 1988: Diggin' Uncle Q (live). 1989: Wild Weekend. 1990: Peek-a-boo: The Best of NRBQ. 1992: Honest Dollar. 1993: Stay with Me: The Best of NRBQ. 1994: Message for the Mess Age. 1996: Tokyo (recorded live). 1997: You're All Good People You Are. 1999:
So many (too many?) words have been written about NRBQ. It's hard not to sound redundant. Even school kids can recite the history of this band, the rise of the Quintet - the classic quintet, tat is - Terry, Al, Joey and Tom - to the top of the pop rock heap. The band's music seems to exist in an untouchable sphere, an unreachable dimension, - a place other musicians have emulated, with blatant rips or outright insipid homage to the band's unique vision, but never have they fascinated with the same comic edge and sloppy brilliance displayed by the original package. Or course, NRBQ's self titled debut album started the whole thing off by distinction of being the album that finally bounced the Beatles' Abbey Road out if its number one position on Billboard's charts, finally eclipsing that album's sales for the year and pretty much sweeping the Grammy Awards the following spring (Herb Alpert and Mitch Miller loved NRBQ). When Let It Be couldn't budge past the following NRBQ release, even though it has been rumored that MaCartney bought a million copies himself, the Beatles threw up their hands and decided to call it quits, at which point they were dinosaurs anyway, well past their prime.
Like I said this is not exactly
news, but a recent fact has emerged
that some of you may not have heard yet. It is, of course, well known that Charles Manson's sick mind was influenced by the Beatles' White Album and the songs "Helter Skelter" and "Revolution # 9," which seemed to incite in him an impetus to wreak havoc and mass destruction. But in Squeaky Froom's new book, she reveals the astonishing fact that after Manson heard NRBQ's debut album, he almost called the whole thing off. Perhaps a few more listens and a lot more dancing would have done the trick.
I would also venture that John
Lennon's Rock and Roll album was a belated attempt to
"if you can't beat 'em, join em" but it's a bit stiff
compared to the Q's outright perversion, distortion and elevation
of past rock hits and the writing of new rock classics. McCartney
himself would, of course, become hopelessly enamored, reeling off
song after song of tunes that sounded like inferior Bizarro world
versions of Terry and Joey's oh-so-pretty love ballads.
"Silly Love Songs" seemed to finally have gotten on
Terry's nerves as he stuck an extra couple of lines in the
alternate take of "Me and the Boys"* that goes
"you got to control the sap, Mac; if you want to ride with
The Q's drug of choice should have
remained alcohol, because the
only misstep in the band's uncannily extraordinary, sold-my-soul-at-the-same-crossroads-as-Robert-and-Jimi, career (Joey claims they were there the same night Clapton was turned away), was the legendary, unreleased music, slated for the band's "Dark, Dark Album," that was recorded after their manager (ex-wrestler Lou Albano) worried about the advent of the angry new punk music, suggested they get hip and plied them with acid and peyote ("Throwing up was fine," Al would later quip, "we were used to that; but the hallucinations were kinda meaningless and distracting,
and we already loved everybody anyway.") Terry seems to have been the one that suffered the most. According to drummer indefatigable, Tom Aldolino:
"What started as a good idea went into the ditch. Terry suddenly wanted to make an album like Dark Side of the Moon, and he was listening to the fucking Pink Floyd night and day and none of us could stand him anymore and he had, by this time locked us out of the recording studio anyway, and we could hear him in there shrieking at the top of his lungs and trying out sax sounds on a synthesizer and dirge-like drum parts and long boring guitar solos, and finally when it was all over he called us in and played the mixes, and what he had done was create an exact copy of Dark Side of the Moon, note for note, playing and singing the whole damn thing himself. He even wanted to release it with the same album cover but in prettier colors and change the name to Dark Side of the Q. He doesn't even remember it now. But he's okay when he's on the medicine."
Sometimes pop genius is built upon unfortunate stories like this
It's hard to believe, but at one
time Tower of Power were being
touted as the new NRBQ.
Despite their lapses, NRBQ play it
clean. Theirs is the only truly
subversive approach in an art that prides itself on self-conscious cool, and a preoccupation with the downbeat. NRBQ are what it means to let it all hang out. In fact, they have to be gotten used to in the same way that bottle water might taste kinda questionable if you've been drinking tap water all your life, or in the way that fresh air might seem irritatingly potent if you've become accustomed to smog. NRBQ never became victims of the type of rock and roll extravagance that claims you can only make music that matters by spending godzillions of bucks or by having a record company support your tour, but they've eked out a niche for themselves that becomes more significant every time they put out a new album. The only remaining skeptics are New Yorkers who don't like them because they're lighthearted and funny "Ha-Ha." But the Q don't care, because they've made the big bucks.
*Japanese import only, includes tourbook and poster (Kama Stupor Records). The first ninety-six CDs have an autograph purported to be that of Al Anderson, though the writing is illegible and some traders doubt it's authenticity.
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