LAST TRAIN HOME TURNS 12!

Episode # 8  by Mike Mettler, official FoghatStorian   06-15-22

“We should do a Blues Album”

 

For many years, the above mantra was something the founding members of Foghat often said and thought amongst themselves — and occasionally shared with friends, confidants, and sometimes even the public at large. Unfortunately, the original four-man Foghat lineup never did get the chance to make that dream album prior to the February 2000 passing of the band’s original vocalist and primary blues-driving force, vocalist/guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett. “Over the years, Dave and I — as well as Rod [Price, Foghat’s original slide guitar maestro] — had talked about doing a blues album,” confirms founding drummer/percussionist Roger Earl. “On just about every record we did, we got to do some songs written by blues artists, but we never actually did a whole record of them. That’s one of the reasons why we finally did it.”

 

To that end, the band eventually got to realize their collective blues-based wish when Last Train Home, Foghat’s 16th studio album, was released 12 years ago today by Foghat Records on June 15, 2010. Produced by Foghat and engineered, mixed, and mastered by the band’s ace lead and slide guitarist Bryan Bassett, Last Train Home is a master-class mixture of an even-dozen cuts of respectful covers and spot-on originals.

 

Truth be told, Last Train Home is a modern-day blues record for the ages, performed to perfection by the 2010 Foghat lineup consisting of the above-noted Roger Earl and Bryan Bassett along with then-lead vocalist/lead guitarist Charlie Huhn and then-bassist/background vocalist Jeff Howell. Special guests on the album include Roger’s older brother Colin Earl on keyboards, Lefty “Sugar Lips” Lefkowitz on harmonica, and the late great blues guitar/vocal legend Eddie “Bluesman” Kirkland on the album’s final two tracks, “In My Dreams” and “Good Good Day.”

 For the record, Last Train Home is currently available on CD and can also be found on most digital streaming platforms. A gatefold, 2LP blue-vinyl version was indeed made available via Foghat Records at the time of release — though that particular pressing has since become somewhat of a sought-after collector’s item, as hundreds of copies were ruined due to flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012. “Our house survived but everything was flooded, and we had a foot-and-a-half of water in my drum room,” Roger reports. “All the vinyl, which had been stacked in the corner, fell over onto my drums, which were also affected. The records inside the sleeves survived, but the covers were all damaged. We basically had to give them all away for a dollar.”

 

Meanwhile, across the Pond, Metalville Records has reissued their own LP and CD versions of Last Train Home, which are available as imports. Foghat Records is considering reissuing the 2LP set itself someday, if demand warrants. (So please start demanding it, STAT!)

 

“This album was recorded in two different spaces,” continues Roger. “Some of it was done at EKO Studios here on Long Island [specifically, in Commack], but many of the tracks were done in our studio down in Florida — Boogie Motel [South, in DeLand, Florida].”

 

The album’s first track, “Born for the Road,” is a Foghat band original — as in, all four 2010 bandmembers share in the writing credits — and its title alone certainly speaks to Foghat’s M.O. since Day 1, now over 50-plus years and counting. “That’s such a good song,” Earl agrees. “I came up with the title, and the first couple of lines. If you’re on the record, you share in the writing —that’s how we work it. That song title seemed very suitable for us. I mean, I was born for the road — at least, that’s what they say. (Roger then adopts a lower register in order to continue with the song’s lyrics.) ‘Never give it up / ’Cause I just want to play.’ Oh, maybe I shouldn’t sing that,” he concludes with a laugh.

Could “Born for the Road” have also served as an alternate album title? “I think it was, actually,” ruminates Earl. “Charlie came up with Last Train Home, and we particularly liked that. Then Linda [Arcello-Earl, Foghat’s longtime manager and Roger’s significant other] went out with her camera and found the DeLand train station, which is what you see on the cover.” (We will hear directly from Linda later on in this story about how the clever cover art came together.)

 

The second track, “Needle & Spoon,” is a wonderfully slow-blues Savoy Brown song initially written and sung by Chris Youlden, and one that first appeared on that band’s April 1970 Raw Sienna album. Longtime fans will instantly recall that Roger was a member of Savoy Brown at that time, as were two other original Foghat members — Lonesome Dave (at that time, on rhythm, acoustic, and bottleneck guitar) and Tony (“Tone”) Stevens (on bass). Roger begins by citing a few key lines in the song, “And I feel alright / With my needle and spoon,” before adding, “It’s more of an anti-drug song, I think. You gotta stay away from that stuff — it’s nasty.” (Wholly agreed!)

 

Covering more than one Savoy Brown track on Last Train Home was no accident. “Charlie was a big Savoy Brown fan,” Roger affirms, “and he even used to come see us play live. We all loved ‘Needle & Spoon.’ Ours is a bit more up-tempo than the Savoy Brown version, though. And Chris Youlden has such a great voice! He’s one of the few English blues singers who really knows how to capture the moment. In fact, I was talking to George Thorogood a few months back, and he’s a big fan of Chris Youlden’s too. Chris sings in that lower-octave full voice — as does George.”

 

Track 3, “So Many Roads, So Many Trains,” originally appeared as a 1960 single by Otis Rush on Chess Records. Credited to songwriter Marshall Paul, “So Many Roads” has often been covered by a number of notable blues and rock aficionados alike, often times using just the first three words as a shortened song title. “Bryan [Bassett] always loved the way Peter Green played this song with John Mayall,” Earl observes, referring to the stirring version Green, the eventual Fleetwood Mac founding guitarist/bandleader, played on a 1967 B-side that also appeared on Mayall compilations like August 1969’s Looking Back. “We changed the arrangement a little bit, and I came up with a few things in the middle of that song. And Jeff Howell is playing bass on this one.”

 

Roger pauses for a moment to reflect on his and the band’s time with Howell, who sadly passed away just a few short months ago in March 2022. “Jeff was a fantastic bass player, and it’s so horrible that we just lost him,” Earl says. “And he was — how can I put this? Jeff was a little bit of a livewire onstage. The boy could dance! Everybody knew where Jeff was out there at some time or another. He never bumped into anybody, but you felt the wind when he was dancing around. (laughs) He was a good friend, actually, and I miss him. Great, great bass player.” (RIP, dearest Jeff.)

 

There’s also a strong family presence on the album, with Colin Earl doing his special thing on keyboards. Colin is perhaps best known for being a founding member of Mungo Jerry (“In the Summertime”), but “Colin also played on our first album,” Roger points out, referring to Foghat’s self-titled July 1972 debut LP. “We hadn’t really played much together over the years — just occasionally, when he would come over, or when he would get up and sit in on a few tunes. He wasn’t doing anything at the time of this album, so I said, ‘Well, why don’t you come down to the studio in Florida?’ He loves the warm weather. So, he came over, and actually there’s a masterpiece on here with my brother’s playing on it — but that’s further down the tracklist, and we’ll get to that one in a bit. But on ‘So Many Roads,’ he’s really tickling the ivories.”

One of the other key guests on Last Train Home is harmonica player Lefty “Sugar Lips” Lefkowitz, his nickname being courtesy Charlie Huhn. “He’s a great harp player, and a good friend of mine and Linda’s for many years,” Roger observes. “The first time I met him was when we started the Stone Blue Tour in Duluth [in Minnesota, on February 14, 1978]. We were there for a week before the tour started — it was freezing f—ing cold! — and that was the first time I met Lefty.”

As noted earlier, Charlie Huhn came up with the name for the album and its title track, another four-man Foghat original that appears here as Track 4, and it features some killer slide work from Bassett. “Yeah, he sounds so great there! Well, Bryan produced, recorded, and engineered everything, and that’s probably why it sounds so good,” Earl assesses. (Can’t argue with that logic!) “Basically, the four of us are playing together as a band on every song — and you can hear that. As long as we had the arrangement down, we only needed two or three takes at most to get it all down. ‘Last Train Home’ is a really good song, and that was either the first or second take you hear there.”

 

Next up are Tracks 5 and 6, which are a pair of Elmore James classics, 1961’s “Shake Your Money Maker” — a song that continues to be a mainstay in the early portion of many of Foghat’s current setlists to this day, in fact — and “It Hurts Me Too,” which was first recorded by Tampa Red in the 1930s but was made into an even more definitive version by James in 1957. Savoy Brown also covered the latter song on April 1969’s Blue Matter, with lead vocals by, you guessed it, Lonesome Dave. “We credited it that way because when Dave sang it in Savoy Brown, he said it was an Elmore James song,” details Roger. “And I take what Dave said quite literally. He always knew a thing or two when it came to blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, and country and Western. Dave was a great font of knowledge when it came to any kind of music.”

Track 7, “Feel So Bad,” is a 1954 Chuck Willis single that appeared as the first part of the legendary 22-minute live take of “Savoy Brown Boogie” that took up the entirety of Side 2 on Savoy Brown’s September 1969 release, A Step Further. And, yes, the original Foghat covered “Feel So Bad” too, on March 1973’s Rock ’n’ Roll (which was discussed in the FoghatStory about that very album as, posted here back on March 17). “The first time I ever heard it was Elvis Presley’s version [in 1961],” Earl recounts, “and it was brilliant! Elvis’ early stuff was fantastic.”

 

Also fantastic is Track 8, “Louisiana Blues,” a Muddy Waters classic from 1950. “That’s one of my favorites,” Earl agrees, “and we didn’t do too much to it, as we pretty much kept it to the same arrangement. Savoy Brown did it [on the above-mentioned Blue Matter], and Foghat did it many times too [in their live set, as well as on 1994’s Return of the Boogie Men and 2003’s Decades Live]. But, hey, if something works, why try and fix it?” (Again, no arguments here!)

And now, we finally get to Track 9, “495 Boogie,” the instrumental masterpiece Roger referred to earlier that showcases not only the jamming acumen of the entire band, but also the piano prowess of his brother Colin and the harp-blowing powers of harmonica master Lefty. As Earl recalls, “We had rented out some space at EKO Studios here on the Island, and everybody was in the studio together. We were just sitting there kind of messing around, so I said to Colin, ‘Play that song you used to play!’ He had a band called the King Earl Boogie Band over in England, and they would do this song. And he said to me, ‘You mean, this one?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s it!’ Everybody joined in, and that was one take. And that’s Colin at his finest, doing the boogie-woogie.”

 

By the way, if you listen closely, you’ll hear an unforced laugh near the very end of “495” that sounds suspiciously like Roger. Is that his official stamp of approval on these live-in-studio proceedings? “It probably is, yes!” the drummer replies with a laugh. “It was one take, so that must be it.”

Track 10 is a combo platter of two bonafide Willie Dixon classics put together as “Rollin’ & Tumblin’/You Need Love.” Of course, “You Need Love” also happens to have appeared as the final track on Savoy Brown’s July 1968 album Getting to the Point, where it clocks in at a rousing 7:40. “That was our rave-up number when I used to be in Savoy Brown,” Roger notes. “I did a drum solo in that one. I didn’t know what to do! They said, ‘Do a drum solo,’ and I said, ‘Alright.’ It isn’t a very good one, as I recall.” (Always the modest one, that Roger. It’s better than you might think, brother!)

 

Aficionados of both these legendary Dixon songs will note some variance in the lyrics, which is very much intended. Says Roger, “The band sat down together, wrote all the lyrics out, and took the ones we liked. And then we talked about how we were going to do the changes, because there’s a slightly different change in the feel when you go to ‘You Need Love.’ I do enjoy playing it — even though it’s 10 minutes long!”

Tracks 11 and 12, the album’s final two songs, are “In My Dreams” and “Good Good Day,” both of them by Eddie Kirkland, the beloved master bluesman who sadly passed away at age 87 in a car accident in February 2011, not long after Last Train Home was released.

 

Kirkland made his bones playing and touring with John Lee Hooker from 1949-62 before branching out as a quite determined solo blues artist, driving himself in his own car to pretty much every gig he ever did until his passing. “We actually recorded seven or eight songs with him,” Roger details. “We just sat there and played! One thing I recall from when we were working on ‘Good Good Day’ is that, being a drummer, I have this thing about counting off the songs. I would go, ‘One, two, a-one, two,’ and Eddie would look at me like, ‘The f– are you doing?’ (laughs) Eddie also liked to change the arrangements, so that’s probably why I wasn’t allowed to count the songs off! Eddie told us some fantastic stories too.

Linda filmed and recorded a number of them while we were sitting together on the back porch of our studio down in Florida. We’ll have to share those stories with everybody someday.” (Yes, please! I’ve heard tales about Eddie fixing cars on show days as well as the potential, er, problem with people who may have wronged him! So perhaps such intriguing tales should all go in our book to come, hmm. . .)

Roger is grateful for the time he and the band got to spend with Eddie over the years. “He had such a wonderful, incredible life,” Roger notes. “He was a bluesman to the nth degree. Such an incredible character, and fantastic to play with — and a great guitar player as well.”

One other important detail to note about Last Train Home, before we go — early on in this story, I mentioned the album’s striking train station cover art. You should also take special heed of the full recording band reading newspapers and/or magazines inside the train station itself in a photo that graces the inner sleeve. Manager Linda Arcello-Earl, who did all artwork and photos for the release, picks up the tale.

“I had been looking for a place, a train station, to do the cover shot for the record. I was driving all over the place, looking around. It turns out the DeLand Station, the train station in our town, was two miles away from the house,” she notes. “So, we were going to go to the train station the next morning after recording to do the filming.

“Jeff Howell was not a big drinker at all,” Linda continues. “The rest of us drink wine among other things though.  So he’s sitting with Colin, drinking wine after we had finished recording. I’m looking at him and I said, ‘Jeff, you’re getting a little wasted!’ And he’s says (slurs her words on purpose in Jeff’s voice), ‘Yeah, well, Colin’s great!’ He’s bonding with Colin, and they were  having a really great time just chatting and laughing!

“The next morning, when we’re getting ready to head to the train station, Jeff was extremely hung over. We’re all driving down to the train station, and he went with Bryan, who had to stop a few times for him. Inside the train station, they had all these great seats — they’re all almost like church pews — and I used some of them in the pictures in the album. I sat them all down, and they all had newspapers. I’m like, ‘Everybody — cross your legs, look at the magazine or the newspaper.’ Jeff was in the men’s room for the first few shots.

Then he finally comes out and I’m like, ‘Ok, Jeff — sit down, cross your legs, look at the magazine,’ but he’s there talking to Colin and doing all this other stuff! He was really funny. ‘Jeff, look at the magazine!’ In most of the shots, he’s looking everywhere else. But we did get a lot of fun shots. It was a great time, and Jeff was great too. We really miss him.”

 SIDE NOTE: Sadly we lost Jeff on 3/10/22 after a long bout of illness resulting from his fight with Lyme Disease! His struggle with Lyme spanned over 2 decades but Jeff still managed to perform flawlessly and give it his all when called upon.  His wife Linda shared this with us! “We later came to find out that the severity of that hangover was because the body can’t tolerate alcohol when you have Lyme Disease.  It breaks down into sugars, which feed Lyme.  It was shortly after this that he quit drinking altogether.  I think Lyme was responsible for many issues that occurred with him.”  He fought an amazing fight until the very end!

All told, Last Train Home is a stellar addition to the Foghat canon. It’s an album that has a deep spiritual connection with Foghat’s original, blues-entrenched legacy as well as with the band’s direct descendants known as Earl & The Agitators, a side project that is in fact comprised of the Foghat of today — namely, Earl, Bassett, singer/guitarist Scott Holt, and bassist/vocalist Rodney O’Quinn.

“I have fond memories of making the Last Train Home record,” concludes Roger, “and of working with Eddie, and especially working with my brother Colin — and of course with Jeff Howell, who was fantastic. This album was something I always wanted to do. In fact, we could probably do another one, now that we’ve got Scott Holt in the band. Not unlike Dave, he has an immense knowledge of blues records and blues songs. In fact, earlier today, I sent him some lyrics to work on. We’ve got seven or eight basic ideas that we’ve done some roughs on down in Florida, and we’ll hopefully get it all done by the end of the year.”

Much like the opening song says, Foghat is a band that was born for the road, and Last Train Home remains a powerful record that shows everything they can do in the blues idiom — and more. Based on Roger’s foreshadowing of the band’s next record, I hear the very next Foghat blues train a-comin’ — and I for one can’t wait for it to pull into the station.

Keep an eye on this space for many more in-depth FoghatStories to come — all of which are the precursors for the officially authorized Foghat biography by author Mike Mettler that we currently have in the works! Stay tuned!!

 

 

 

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UPSIDE OF TEAMWORK

FULL BAND INTERVIEW, PART II

Episode # 7 by Mike Mettler, official FoghatStorian   06-07-22

Those of you who devoured Part I of our exclusive roundtable interview with all four members of Foghat can attest how readily apparent the band’s natural, unforced camaraderie truly is. Indeed, founding drummer/percussionist Roger Earl, lead vocalist/lead guitarist Scott Holt, bassist/vocalist Rodney O’Quinn, and lead guitarist/vocalist Bryan Bassett are all quite at ease with one another offstage as much as they are onstage.   Here’s but another example of that. More than halfway into our interview, Bassett and O’Quinn were sharing their respective answers to my question about the vinyl format and their favorite albums when Holt and Earl were having their own separate side conversation about the cover art to Foghat’s seminal September 1975 release, Fool for the City. The album’s infamous front cover, of course, shows a then-mustachioed Roger Earl perched on a soapbox while he’s fishing into a manhole in the middle of a street in New York City (as one does).

I just happened to have brought the 2008 Mobile Fidelity SACD version of Fool for the City with me to the interview, and it was sitting there face up amongst the scattered stacks of CDs and LPs on the table we were all seated around. This was the point when Holt picked up the Fool SACD and flipped it over to the back cover, which depicts some bystanders standing next to the rest of the band that had then gathered behind Earl to observe just what it was he was doing there in the middle of that downtown NYC avenue. Here, Holt looks at Earl, pointing at one of the unnamed bystanders and asks him, “Who was this guy?” Earl replies with a grin, “He lived there! He said, ‘What are you doing in my street?’”

Laughter immediately ensued between the two gentlemen — the comfortable, friendly kind of release you automatically know is purely genuine in the moment.

Fact is, laughter was often on display during this particular interview session of ours, which took place in a private conference room at an East Amherst hotel in Western New York on April 16, just a few hours ahead of when Foghat would perform a rousing 14-song set at the historic Riviera Theatre in nearby North Tonawanda that same evening.

Back in Part I of our Foghat group interview, we discussed what it was like for Scott to join Foghat fulltime, how Rodney feels about singing lead vocals on more than a few songs himself in every show, and why performing live bonds Foghat with their audience even more deeply nowadays, following the shutdown. Here in Part II, Foghat talk about that special onstage comfort factor they all share, some of Rodney’s earliest favorite LPs, and why the Earl & The Agitators album is actually a Foghat record under a different name.

Mike Mettler: We’ve been talking about how important live performance is to the lifeblood of Foghat as a band. Do you feel like you have to “shift” personas, so to speak, when you’re offstage and when you’re onstage?

Roger Earl: Well, once you hit the stage, you are a performer. That’s just what you do.

Bryan Bassett: (nods towards Roger) And then, you’re in your world. It depends on the band, but I don’t see us being too much different offstage as we are onstage.

Earl: No.

Bassett: We just get into “concentration music mode,” but personality-wise, it’s not like we’re assuming some kind of “theatrical” thing. Well, ok, we do speak French when we’re not onstage. . . (much laughter)

Rodney O’Quinn: Bonjour! Sacre bleu! (more laughter)

Mettler: Well, like somebody said earlier, there’s a certain “comfort factor” we now see with you guys up there — that somewhat intangible thing where you just know you’re quite good together. It’s not being “put on” — you genuinely like being up there playing together, and I think that translates to the material. The audience hears and sees that.

Bassett: Mm-hmm. I’ve certainly been to shows where you could tell, whoever the main act is, if they’re upset or aggravated. That sort of anxiety actually transmits to you in the audience. Everybody’s sort of on edge, like, “Is something gonna go on here? What’s up?” It is funny how that can happen.

O’Quinn: Yeah, I’ve had quite a few shows like that! (all laugh)

Mettler: I’ve heard some of those stories. (laughs) Changing gears now — let’s talk about vinyl. We all love vinyl here, and some of us have talked about it individually. As musicians who are just starting to record new music together, do you feel vinyl will be the best way for listeners to hear what today’s Foghat is doing?

Scott Holt: (nodding) Oh yeah, it totally is.

Bassett: I’m old enough to remember, as I guess we all are, when a new album came out in the old days — this is pre-Internet, of course — whoever had the best stereo, that’s where you congregated to listen to the newest release. I mean, it was a communal thing with your friends. It wasn’t like putting in your earbuds to get the new digital download — it was a whole different experience. Everybody knew who had a new record coming out that week. And then you’d listen to every song and read every word that was listed on the album cover. To have that come back, and have the young kids experience it — I used to talk about this in some of the classes I taught in college about that thing. First of all, it was about the amount of money you had to spend — and what else did you have to spend your money on back then? It was a nice bicycle and a good stereo, you know? (Earl laughs)

I had my old vinyl collection in a locker and I was going to sell it all, but my daughter talked me out of it. So then, I had to pull my stereo out — and, of course, I had to pull my old amplifier out because a lot of the new amplifiers don’t have turntable plug-ins. I even found my old brushes — the ones you roll across the albums to clean them — and some other stuff.

Mettler: I’m glad to hear you got all of that out of storage so you can re-use your vintage gear. What brand of turntable do you have?

Bassett: I have two. I have a Dual that’s computer-controlled, and I have an old Technics. And I found a box of cartridges — serious ones, like Empires. Thousands of dollars’ worth of cartridges.

O’Quinn: Oh, man!

Mettler: Ahh, I can relate — but I can’t tell you how much my turntable system costs, because I might get into trouble for it. (laughs) I just had to replace a receiver, too.

Bassett: I have a Pioneer receiver, and a Marantz — and somewhere, I have a Macintosh, but I think I may have sold it off.

O’Quinn: I was at a dude’s place recently, and he had Macintosh tube amps. (audible gasps of envy arise from everyone around the table)

Mettler: Rodney, we haven’t gotten your take on vinyl yet. When you were growing up, what was the album that did it for you as a kid? What’s the one album that was “your thing”?

O’Quinn: I’ve still got the very first one! Literally, I went from the [1975] Goofy Greats release on K-tel over to Kiss: Alive! [which came out in September 1975]. (laughter all around) I still have the original Kiss Alive!, and I still have Foghat Live [which was released in August 1977] — my original one, from when I first got it.

Mettler: And it probably has some ringwear on it too, because of the mostly black cover art.

O’Quinn: (nods) Right — yeah yeah yeah! And like I said, I’ve still got all that stuff. Back then, I was hanging out with guys who were older than me. When I started getting into rock, they started dipping me back into the [Led] Zeppelin records, but also things like Montrose and UFO.  Everybody got all crazed when CDs came out, but I was kinda like (pauses), “Ahhhh . . . I don’t get it.” You know? ’Cause it was like, “Don’t you hear the difference?” It was so much cleaner, but then it just lost something.

Mettler: I think the convenience of CDs may have gotten in the way of the perception of the music itself — for some people, anyway.

O’Quinn: I think you’re right about that.

Mettler: Well, there’s one CD of yours I’d love to see get onto vinyl one of these days (points to one of the CDs on the table) — Earl & The Agitators: Shaken & Stirred [which was released in October 2018].

Bassett: (picks up the Agitators CD) This is one of those records that — well, when you make a lot of records, some just seem to make themselves, and it’s easy. To me, they always seem to be the best ones, you know? But the ones you really have to struggle and sweat over, and are a big pain in the butt to make? Those are the ones that, when they finally come out, you’re glad they came out — but then you go, “I just can’t.” You just can’t listen to them at all.

Holt: “I don’t really want to hear this anymore!”

Bassett: Exactly! But this [Agitators] album kind of made itself. We just kept recording, and we kept all the fun songs. We put it out, and everybody likes it. And we still like it!

Mettler: I feel like your audience is still discovering this album, now that Scott is an official fulltime Foghat bandmember. So it’s kind of a Foghat album in a way, since every guy at this table is on it.

O’Quinn: (exclaims) Re-release! Re-release!

Mettler: Could you call it something like, I don’t know — “The Foghagitators”?” (laughs)

Bassett: The Fogitators!

Earl: Agihat! (more laughter all around) Let’s do one of these songs tonight, shall we?

And then it was time to go — an interview postscript: After a brief group discussion about whether the Agitators track “Where’s the Rock ’N’ Roll” could make its way into that evening’s set (it actually didn’t, but we did get “Upside of Lonely”), the looming clock said it was high time for both the band and the crew staying at the hotel to head over to the venue to get ready for that evening’s big show. Hence, we had to conclude our lively group discussion in deference to Foghat taking great care of the audience waiting down the road apiece for their favorite band to show up and play a good number of their favorite songs. Going to the city, got you on my mind. . .

 

On June 15, our very next FoghatStory will celebrate the 12th anniversary of the release of Foghat’s 16th studio album Last Train Home, which was released on that very date in 2010. Keep an eye on this space for that story, plus many other in-depth FoghatStories to come — all of which are the precursors for the officially authorized Foghat biography by author Mike Mettler that we currently have in the works! Stay tuned!!

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UPSIDE OF TEAMWORK

FULL BAND INTERVIEW, PART I 

Episode # 6  by Mike Mettler, official FoghatStorian   04-25-22

If, like me, you’ve been following the “Backstage with Foghat” video segments that are posted fairly regularly in Foghat’s social media, you’re immediately aware of the undeniable chemistry and camaraderie between all four Foghat bandmembers.

https://tinyurl.com/BackstageWithFoghat

Fact is, there’s no denying just how well founding drummer/percussionist Roger Earl, lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Scott Holt, bassist/vocalist Rodney O’Quinn, and lead guitarist/vocalist Bryan Bassett get along together. They all share a mutual level of chemistry that can’t be forced or faked. It’s something that’s wholly natural — and it’s on full display not only in these videoclips, but also in the way Foghat performs onstage as well as how they conduct themselves together offstage.

 

Recently, I had the honor to witness this organic interactivity in person in Western New York, when the band came to town to perform a 14-song set at the truly historic Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda on April 16. (Longtime friends of the band Head East opened the show and by the way, they were fantastic! The audience loved them!)

A few hours before the gig, I joined the band in a private conference room at a nearby hotel in East Amherst to get the scoop on Foghat: Mach 2022 — and we’re now going to share the balance of that conversation exclusively with you here in FoghatStory in at least two parts (and maybe even three, if you’re, shall we say, third time lucky).

In Part I of our Foghat group interview, the band and I discuss what it was like for Scott to join Foghat fulltime, how Rodney feels about singing lead vocals on a few songs himself in every show, and why performing live bonds Foghat with their audience even more deeply nowadays, following the shutdown.

Mike Mettler: Now that you’ve all got the live Foghat machine going again, what does it feel like to be back on the road? Scott, you first.

Scott Holt: Me? Oh, I’m having a ball, man! I’m holding onto this gig like grim death! (everyone laughs) Well, these guys may not share my enthusiasm, but I’m really happy.

 

Mettler: Ok, let’s put everybody else on the spot right now and ask them what they really think about it.

Holt: I’m not sure I really want to know what they think right at this moment before we go out to do a show! (more laughter all around)

Bryan Bassett: Oh, I think we’re all pretty excited, and really thrilled it came together so fast. Of course, we’ve known Scott for a long time, and worked with him before on these projects (Bryan points to Foghat’s Under the Influence vinyl LP from June 2016 and the pair of Earl & The Agitators CDs sitting on the table in front of everyone), so it was very comfortable.

In fact, Scott was with us [down in Florida] working on some new material, and when Charlie [Huhn, former Foghat lead vocalist] retired in January, Scott was right there. So, instead of writing and learning some new songs, we made him learn 40 Foghat songs! (all laugh heartily)

Mettler: What, only 40?

Roger Earl: I think it was actually 47 and a half. (smiles)

Rodney O’Quinn: But then we decided not to play any of those 40! “We’re going to do these instead. . .” (chuckles)

Mettler: Isn’t hazing the official word for that? (laughs)

Bassett: It really was nice we had worked together with Scott before, and that we had done those Earl & The Agitators shows too — that’s basically us, so we had already done some performances together.

Mettler: Right — and you’ve even filtered some of the songs you’ve performed as The Agitators into the Foghat set as well, like “Upside of Lonely” [which appears on Earl & The Agitators’ 2018 CD, Shaken & Stirred].

Bassett: Yeah. We’re just adapting that into the Foghat songbook. The only thing, really, was just rehearsing the Foghat songs. I mean, we had already worked out dozens of tracks as Earl & the Agitators that we had both written and performed.

Earl: (nods, in affirmation) That’s right, yeah.

Bassett: It was just a matter of shifting gears and material more than anything — but we already knew it was going to work musically with Scott.

Mettler: When you have the idea presented to you as, “Hey, we want Scott to come in and join the band,” your first thought after hearing that is — what?

Holt: (exclaims with mock horror): “Not him!” (everyone laughs)

Bassett: Well, actually, the first thought was, “Ok, Scott — you’re in!” (more laughter) It was pretty much as simple as that.

Holt: I was sweeping up in the kitchen and they said, “Hey, you want to be in the band?” “Oh, ok!”

Earl: (gives Scott a stern look, but with a wink) No you weren’t!

Holt: Ok, maybe I wasn’t sweeping. “Fix me this cup of tea, finish folding the laundry, and maybe we’ll let you in the band.”

Earl: Actually, the first thing I remember him saying is (in a lower tone of voice), “Uhh, I need a day.” I said, “Why’s that?” “I need to call my wife.” (Scott laughs loudly)

Bassett: Yeah, we did kidnap him for nigh on a month, just to prepare.

Mettler: Scott, from what I’ve seen in social media, she seems to be pretty happy about it.

Holt: My wife? Yeah. Yeah, I try to keep her happy. I think that’s important. That’s Job #1.

Bassett: Yeah, for every touring musician, that’s Job #1. You make sure she’s happy, and then everything else falls into place.

Mettler: Rodney, from your point of view, how has it worked out with Scott joining the band?

O’Quinn: Oh, it’s worked out great! I mean, there’s a nice chemistry onstage, and everybody’s just loose, and having fun. It’s really nice.

Holt: And you’re not the new guy anymore.

O’Quinn: That’s right — and I’m not the new guy anymore too! [Rodney came aboard in 2015 to take over for longtime bassist Craig MacGregor, who passed away in 2018.]

Bassett: Plus, it expanded Rodney’s role as a lead vocalist.

Mettler: That’s right, because you get to sing more than one song in the set. [Rodney sings lead on “Somebody’s Been Sleeping (In My Bed),” “Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was a Fool),” and the traditional first encore song, which we won’t spoil here for those who haven’t seen the band recently!]

O’Quinn: Yeah — I step up, and yodel some. (howls) Woo!!

Bassett: Let the “Woo” loose.

Holt: Release the “Woo”!

O’Quinn (practically shouting): Release the “Woo”!

Mettler: I think that’s the next Foghat album title — Release the Woo. (more laughter) Rodney, now that you’re singing more, do you want to keep doing even more of it? How does that feel to you?

O’Quinn: Yeah, it’s kind of like my little guilty pleasure, for the most part. When I would kick around locally [i.e., when he’s back home], I kind of started singing a lot more. My other guilty pleasure is singing country too. (chuckles)

But to come up and start doing it more here [in Foghat], it’s like (whispers), “Yeah, this is cool.” It’s something new to kick me in the butt and make me want to grind, and work on something.

Mettler: It really does feel like things are re-energized. I mean, the engine has always been humming, but — well, I’m trying to get a car reference in here for our car guy over here (looks at Roger), so what gear have we shifted into now?

Earl: (no hesitation) Nine. Yeah, yeah.

Bassett: We’re in overdrive.

Earl: The new gear boxes have nine speeds, yeah — and we’re at nine. (Rodney mouths a car engine revving up, then going full-speed).

Mettler: Can’t go wrong with that — and that also makes me think of songs like “Drivin’ Wheel” and some other Foghat songs about motion. When Roger and I talked recently about the early Foghat albums [for future FoghatStories to come!], a lot of that material was about being on the road. A train was also a very important concept to tie into being out and about, moving around in the world. As you perform these songs today, does that feeling still stay with you? You guys are constantly in motion as both performers and artists, after all.

Bassett: Yeah, I think traveling metaphors work for a lot of different things — music and, you know, the sexual innuendo, and being on the road, and traveling. That’s a musician’s life — touring — so that works its way into a lot of lyrics.

Holt: There aren’t that many good songs about sitting still and doing nothing.

Bassett: Or golfing. Not a lot of good golf-rock songs.

Holt: “I was on the ninth hole, and everything was fine. . .”

Mettler: Maybe we should call those “shoe-gazing songs.” The feel of traveling now, because of this past — well, we’ll just call it the two-year gap, where there weren’t as many shows — does it feel different?

Holt: There was a period where there weren’t any shows. We were completely standing still.

Mettler: Do you feel there’s a different weight to songs like “Road Fever” and “Drivin’ Wheel” when you’re playing them now?

Holt: I think there’s a different weight to live performing, period, because you’ve got a lot of people that are hungry for it, you know? They might have taken it for granted before Covid — and you can see the enthusiasm, and the appreciation, even more so now.

Bassett: Yeah. You know, sitting at home for a year and not being able to travel — I mean, one of our favorite things to do is bitch about traveling. (all laugh) “All we do is travel!” — but when you’re not allowed to travel, it’s like, you gotta come in and rethink all that complaining.

We always joke that, “We played for free — we get paid to travel.” (more chuckling) But, no, we’re actually glad to be able to get out there and play again — as I think almost every musician in the world is, at this point.

Mettler: You’ve been able to directly see a response to that from your fans. And now, by having Scott in the mix, there’s probably a different level of reaction you can see and feel from the stage, in how the audience is receiving what you’re

doing. Some of them are definitely familiar with Scott’s work with Earl & the Agitators, Buddy Guy, and other things. Not everybody knows the story, but it seems like the onstage cohesion between you four gentlemen is pretty obvious by now.

Bassett: Scott’s such an experienced front man, having fronted a blues band and coming from a blues sensibility/ Just in the way you (looks at Scott) relate to the audience — it’s not so much a rock performance where everything’s cut and dried and the same every night.

I mean, it has a new looseness to it, just from Scott’s ability to be comfortable and talk to the crowds and all that stuff — so that’s new to us. It’s brought a new looseness to the stage. I mean, we still play the music tight, but we have a little more relaxed but also energetic thing going on the stage, which is different from the way we approached things before. In the old days, I think we were very much about being exact from song to song with very little time in-between the songs and trying to keep to a very strict set.

O’Quinn: Now, it’s a little more free.

Bassett: And I enjoy the spontaneity of it. (Looks at Scott) You’re good at just free form talking and being comfortable relating to an audience, like you will tonight. It’s not about presenting a “stock” show, but about relating to the audience we have in front of us. I mean, you told a joke last week!

Holt: (laughs) I did! I can tell a joke.

Mettler: My view of it is, there’s such a comfort factor up there, and I’m enjoying seeing this level of band interactivity. I mean, I know you guys are already well familiar with each other, but that also comes through in your stage presence. It also comes through in what I hear in the songs too — and, again, I’ll re-use the “Gear Nine” reference Roger was talking about earlier. You really feel that as a fan and audience member, and that’s something that’s really exciting to me. It’s something I need to see regularly.

Bassett: And it’s enjoyable for us too. I mean, I’m thinking, “As long as nobody dies, everything else is fine.” (more laughter) There’s nothing really to panic about, as long as you can handle it.

Holt: If you come to a show and the band doesn’t look like they’re enjoying what they’re doing, why would you have fun? And we have fun!

Part II of our full group interview is coming soon, so keep an eye on this space for that one, plus many other in-depth FoghatStories to come —

 all of which are the precursors for the officially authorized Foghat biography by author Mike Mettler that we currently have in the works! Stay tuned!!

[end]

Foghat & Mike Mettler Backstage

 Riviera Theater-N. Tonawanda, NY  –  4/16/22

______________________________________________________________________________

ROCK ’N’ ROLL TURNS 49!

Episode # 5  by Mike Mettler, official FoghatStorian   03-17-22

 

Rock ’n’ Roll, Foghat’s second studio album, was released 49 years ago by Bearsville Records on March 1, 1973. It was the first of two back-to-back Foghat albums produced by Tom Dawes, a man best known for singing and playing bass on The Cyrkle’s massive No. 2 hit single in 1966, the Paul Simon-penned “Red Rubber Ball.” The follow-up to the band’s groundbreaking, self-titled July 1972 debut album, Rock ’n’ Roll (a.k.a. Foghat) ultimately reached No. 67 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart.

The album’s lead single, the horn-enhanced groove-grinder “What a Shame,” reached No. 82 on the Billboard Singles chart — which, believe it or not, means it actually charted one position higher than where “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” the band’s signature single from their aforementioned first Foghat album, had peaked just the year before! Rock ’n’ Roll’s opening track, the driving, galvanizing travelogue “Ride, Ride, Ride,” was also released as a single, but it didn’t chart. Internationally speaking, the propulsive “Long Way to Go” was later released as a single across the Pond.

All nine songs that comprise Rock ’n’ Roll build on the promise of Foghat’s landmark 1972 debut album. In addition to the three songs mentioned above, Rock ’n’ Roll teems with songs like Foghat’s proto-blues cover of Chuck Willis’s 1954 R&B classic “Feel So Bad,” the reflective melancholy of “It’s Too Late,” the gnarly shave-and-a-haircut clinic of “Helping Hand,” the declarative frenzy of “Road Fever” (a song that remains in the band’s setlist to this very day), and the driving regret of “She’s Gone” — the latter track being the perfect lead-in for the album’s final tune, the touching balladry of “Couldn’t Make Her Stay.”

Foghat- Road Fever (LIVE 1974)

https://youtu.be/uQRdYORCKv0

 (For the record, and for all you fellow Foghat physical-media completists keeping score out there, in addition to the album’s inclusion in the Foghat: Original Albums Series and The Complete Bearsville Albums Collection box sets respectively, Rock ’n’ Roll also appears as part of a pair of two-fer import collections: 1) the Rock ’n’ Roll – Energized 2CD combo from Essential/Castle Music, and 2) the FoghatRock ’n’ Roll 2CD combo from Edsel Records.)

Fact is, Rock ’n’ Roll’s precise 38 minutes quite clearly cemented Foghat’s position as the premier boogie-rock band of the times, all thanks to the instinctive interactivity amongst that formidable first-born Foghat foursome — namely, the magical mesh of the undeniable talents of lead vocalist/guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett, slide-guitar and dobro maestro Rod Price, bassist Tony Stevens, and drummer/percussionist extraordinaire Roger Earl.

While the album itself has long been officially nicknamed Rock ’n’ Roll because of its iconic cover-art elements — which we’ll discuss in much detail in just a bit — the record is alternatively known as simply Foghat, perhaps due in part to the practically unassuming, all-caps green-hued band name that appears all alone in the upper-right-hand corner. According to Roger Earl’s best recollection, he and his fellow Foghat bandmembers never actually discussed, let alone agreed upon, a name for the album, per se. “We just went along with it,” Roger confirms. “We were all caught up in making music and recording, and we were also out on the road seven days a week. Even though both Dave and I were very artistic, we were also very, very busy as a band, and we just didn’t get involved with any of that stuff at the time.”

Almost by default, this hands-off approach essentially jibed with the wishes of their manager at the time, Tony Outeda — a man who had his own vision for the album’s, shall we say, minimalist visual presentation. Holding the original vinyl album in his hands during our Zoom interview, Roger zeros in on the copious amount of white space on both the front and back covers. “Looking back on it, obviously, our manager was some kind of Beatles fan. He was a huge fan of The White Album,” the drummer observes, drawing parallels with The Beatles’ legendary double album from November 1968. This artistic homage of sorts can be seen most directly via the perfectly square black-and-white photos of the four Foghat bandmembers that appear across the bottom of the back cover, aligned neatly and just to the left of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mini-block of album credits. These four uncredited band shots instantly bring to mind the four rectangular B&W shots of The Beatles that adorn the inner-right gatefold of The White Album.

Continues Roger, “Why didn’t we put something on there about where the songs were recorded, and who else appeared on the album? I mean, it was recorded all over the world — in New York, L.A., London, and Wales — and with a lot of other people involved. I’ve wracked my brain about it, and I really wish we had included some stories there about ourselves and who we were at the time — kind of like the way we do it now with what you see on our current releases. But when you look at Rock ’n’ Roll, it’s nothing but a piece of f—ing cardboard!”

That being said, the way in which the front cover image came together is quite an intriguing story unto itself. In fact, the imagery was based upon a black-and-white photo taken by Robert Downey — perhaps best known today as being the father of A-list actor Robert Downey Jr., but who was also an acclaimed director in his own right, having lensed notable of-era films like 1969’s Putney Swope and 1972’s Greaser’s Palace (the latter of which Roger remembers seeing in the cinema at the time).

“Robert Downey sent us a picture of a rock and a roll in black and white, which I thought was pretty cool,” Roger recalls. “I think it was either Tony (our manager) or the art department at Warner Bros. saying, ‘No! You can’t have anything that minimalistic.’ But I loved it — it’s coal and a bun! Rock and roll! I thought it was perfect.”

Since using a B&W image on the front cover was apparently out of the question, Jimmy Outeda (Tony’s brother) was enlisted to upgrade the “props” for an in-color photo instead. “Jimmy was sent off to find a proper, decent looking piece of rock. He went to Central Park [in New York City] with his hammer and chisel,” Roger recounts. “One of New York’s finest came up to him while he was hammering away and said, ‘What the f— do you think you’re doing?’ (laughs) As I recall, when all six-foot-two of Jimmy came down to explain what he was doing, the cop told him about a store that actually sold rocks. That’s where the rock you see on the cover came from — a rock store! And the bun probably came from a corner deli right nearby in New York.” Looking at the image anew, Roger now concludes, “It is pretty cool, isn’t it? It really is iconic.”

None of the above artistic endeavors are meant to overshadow and/or undercut the inherent boldness of the music found within the grooves of Rock ’n’ Roll, mind you. Because Foghat was in such high demand and constantly out on the road at the time, Rock ’n’ Roll wound up being recorded at various locales across the U.S. and the U.K., sometimes with additional personnel unfortunately neither logged nor properly credited on the album itself, just like Roger said. In certain regard, however — and in your FoghatStorian’s semi-humble opinion, that is — Rock ’n’ Roll shares some clear-cut lineage with the way Led Zeppelin put together their own iconic sophomore album amidst a cavalcade of tour stops here, there, and everywhere, October 1969’s Led Zeppelin II.

If Rock ’n’ Roll evokes any sort of central theme, it’s one born out of a sense of loneliness — a constant feeling of a band always on the move, with its members not quite connecting with the people around them no matter where they are. “That was life,” acknowledges Roger. “Dave and I both had wives and children, but we were never home. Tony lived with his mom and Rod lived with me until there was enough money for them both to rent somewhere. And if we weren’t on the road, we were in the studio. So you write about things like being lonely, coming home, I’ve just left home, I couldn’t make her stay.” (Those last five words are in direct reference to “Couldn’t Make Her Stay,” the album’s quite somber and acoustically driven final track.)

As soon as you drop the needle on Rock ’n’ Roll, the opening cut “Ride, Ride, Ride” brings forth a litany of train-related imagery, including the line that’s repeated twice at the end of the first verse, “I see the train I ride.” Confirms Roger, “Dave was a fan of trains. That’s how you moved around back then. Trains opened up the country, and the continent. You didn’t go on a bus to do that — you went on a train. And one of my earliest memories, from maybe when I was two years old [circa 1948], was my father used to make us toys. He made us a boat, and he made us a train that was gray, and black, and white. He made them because you couldn’t buy toys after the war [i.e., World War II]. Dad was really good with his hands.”

Roger believes the drums and bass for “Ride, Ride, Ride” were recorded at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York —

—tracks that were most likely held over from an earlier session helmed by Dave Edmunds, who had produced Foghat’s debut album — whereas the overdubs with the guitars, vocals, and uncredited female background singers were likely recorded in New York City, with Tom Dawes having written out the arrangements for those vocal parts. “I didn’t have a problem with it,” Roger allows, “but I was wondering how we’re going to emulate that because, most of the time, we liked the idea of recording everybody together. Whether we used the vocals or the rhythm guitar or not, we’d always have separation — but playing together was a big deal back then. It was part of our DNA; let’s put it that way. That’s how you made records.” (Incidentally, it’s worth noting eventual Foghat bandmember Nick Jameson was the engineer at Bearsville for a number of these sessions.)

One track retaining that Dave Edmunds sonic touch is the bluesy cover of Chuck Willis’s earlier noted “Feel So Bad,” which was also a hit for Elvis Presley in 1961, when it reached No. 5 on the singles chart. “Dave Edmunds most certainly would have dug Elvis Presley songs,” Roger agrees, “but [Lonesome] Dave came up with the idea of the song — and our version is very, very different than Elvis’s is. And I love that track. In fact, we played it live a few years back.” (We should also point out Foghat’s version also drops the self-referential word “I” from the very beginning of the original song’s title.)

Roger then reveals Lonesome Dave’s son, Jason Peverett, recently told him “Long Way to Go” is one of his personal favorite Foghat songs. It’s also a track where Roger gets to take a brief drum solo. “Well, I mean, I can count to four,” Roger says with a light chuckle. “That’s a track we did in Los Angeles. Tom Dawes came out for that, and we recorded a few of these songs there. The reason I say that is because of the following track, ‘It’s Too Late.’ The drum sounds on those two songs are very similar.” (In case you’re wondering, the organ-like sound on “Long Way to Go” is actually ace axe master Rod Price going for a Leslie speaker type of effect with his guitar tone.)

 

The song that opens Side 2, “What a Shame,” found Roger marveling at its writing credit, upon further review. “It’s funny because, for years, I didn’t realize that song was credited only to Rod Price,” he notes. “I remember one time when we were in Wallingford, England, where we were living. On our days off, I’d go down to the River Thames and up to the loch, and I’d fish for pike because we could eat them. They were food. And one day, Rod followed me down there. He came down with his guitar, and he started playing me ‘What a Shame,’ and I’m going, ‘Oh, wow! That’s cool.’ I think we recorded that one in Rockfield Studios with Dave Edmunds, and not with Tom Dawes. We originally did it for the first album, but it came out later.”

“What a Shame” is another track featuring a pair of uncredited, albeit quite well-known, musicians: namely, horn legends Jim Price and Bobby Keys. “We were over in England in Olympic Studios, talking with [noted producer/engineer] Andy Johns about putting horns on it,” Roger continues, We got Jim and Bobby in there, and they listened to the song. I think Bobby wrote out the charts. And Andy Johns did a fantastic version of it. I remember at the time thinking, ‘This f—ing guy’s great,’ but we actually ended up using a mix done by Dave Edmunds. In recent times, though, that Andy Johns mix came out on a later release.” (Indeed, if you want to hear that very same Andy Johns mix complete with a full sax solo, seek out the Rarities portion of the second disc in the 2CD Edsel Records set featuring the triple play of Girls to Chat & Boys to Bounce – In the Mood for Something Rude – Zig Zag Walk. In that Rarities section, you’ll also find the Dave Edmunds mix of “Ride, Ride, Ride” and the Bearsville Mix of “What a Shame.”)

Helping Hand,” the B-side to the aforementioned “What a Shame,” is another track recorded in New York, this time with legendary sessions drummer Bernard Purdie in tow. (To read Roger’s in-depth recollections about meeting and working with Bernard, please consult his extensive Pretty Purdie commentary in our FoghatStory on the making of January 1974’s Energized, which first posted here on January 7, 2022. By the way, if there’s one takeaway from that story: never, ever put a wallet down on any drum kit Bernard is playing in the studio.) “We didn’t play a traditional Bo Diddley beat on ‘Helping Hand,’” Roger adds, “but you can feel a little of the rhythm there.” At this point in our Zoom call, Roger pauses to tap out the song’s unforgettable groove on his knees for added emphasis.

As noted earlier, “Road Fever” remains a vital part of the modern Foghat setlist. “That one was recorded at Olympic Studios, I believe,” says Roger, “and it also has a horn section on it — but I don’t know who it was. It wasn’t Bobby Keys and Jim Price again. I think it might have been some London session guys Tom [Dawes] brought together and wrote out the charts for.”

Now dig this: Roger actually wrote some of the lyrics for “Road Fever” himself because, well, Lonesome Dave simply did not know how to drive. The recurring line “Give her the gun” is a Roger special all the way — and it’s a very personal one. “Dave knew I was an avid driver,” he notes, “and ‘give her the gun’ came from my grandfather. After the war, we would all cram into this 1950s convertible Opal. Dad fixed the top so it wasn’t a convertible anymore, and I don’t know how we all got in there!

“Anyway,” Roger continues, “I would sit in the front with my grandfather, and I was on his lap, and three, or possibly even four, people would sit in the back. I don’t know how; I guess we must’ve been small! (laughs) Granddad would say, ‘Give her the gun, Lar!’ Lar, or Larry, is short for Lawrence, which is my father’s name. And that meant, ‘put your foot down.’ I think 60 miles an hour was flat-out — maybe 65 down the hill — but that’s where that line came from. Pedal to the metal!”

“She’s Gone” is another favorite, and Roger believes it was “probably from the same time as ‘Long Way to Go’ and ‘It’s Too Late.’ I’m pretty sure, anyway; I could be wrong. But Rod’s guitar playing on that one is fantastic. I remember when we were working on the arrangement, I thought, ‘Rod’s guitar is so f—ing cool!’ I hadn’t heard anything even close to it before that. He was brilliant in that way.”

 She’s Gone

https://youtu.be/Ww3GGrKGCUc

Lonesome Dave’s “Couldn’t Make Her Stay” closes out the album, and it’s a track Roger admires, even if he doesn’t play on it. “It’s a ballad without any drums,” he observes. “What was that all about? I have no idea where it came from, because I wasn’t there! But it sounded like something Dave did on his own. Even his voice sounds very, very different on it, like it was done on a home recording or something — but I have no direct knowledge of that.”

All told, the power of all nine of these songs is further proof Rock ’n’ Roll is the connective glue between Foghat and Energized. “Very much so, yes,” Roger concludes. “It was a transitional record in many, many ways because we recorded it all over the place, and we were on the road as well. All of a sudden, we were always working, and it was a whole different animal. Rock ’n’ Roll really was the glue. There are some fantastic songs on there, and I’m really proud of the way we did it.”

In short, Rock ’n’ Roll is a bold statement from a band knowing its core strengths and lookin’ to its future — the types of things that Energized Foghat to give her the gun and continue raising the stakes yet again with their next studio album.

Keep an eye on this space for many more in-depth FoghatStories to come — all of which are the precursors for the officially authorized Foghat biography by author Mike Mettler that we currently have in the works! Stay tuned!!

[end]

 

SHAKEN & STIRRED: SCOTT HOLT JOINS FOGHAT! 

Episode # 4 by Mike Mettler, official FoghatStorian   03-03-22

 

The right man for the right job. That phrase, in a nutshell, describes new Foghat lead vocalist/guitarist Scott Holt to a blues-tinged T. Following Charlie Huhn’s retirement from the band in early January, Scott joined the family fold officially on January 13, 2022. From there, he immediately began rehearsing with Foghat founding drummer/percussionist Roger Earl, guitarist/vocalist Bryan Bassett, and bassist/vocalist Rodney O’Quinn for two truly intense weeks of preparation before making his triumphant debut with the band at the Mohegan Sun Wolf’s Den in Uncasville, Connecticut on January 28. As soon as the quite appropriate “Road Fever” kicked off their galvanizing set that night, all was truly right in Foghat World.

Jumping feet-first into the role of Foghat’s frontman might seem like a daunting task to some, but it’s something Scott has handled with style, grace, grit, and much aplomb — even if it took him a few tries to get up to speed in his mind, that is. “Here’s the funny thing about what I learned about these songs,” Scott reveals. “When you are in your car and you’re singing along to a song, you know every word. You sing every lick, and you know exactly how the song goes. But when you set up with the band to recreate that song, to play that song, it’s a whole different animal because now, you’re not singing along to a recording. The energy of playing a song live is completely different from listening to a record, and that’s always been the case for me. There’s knowing the songs, and then there’s knowing the songs. There was a big gap between knowing how ‘Slow Ride’ goes, and actually being able to play ‘Slow Ride’!” At this point in our group conversation, Roger looks directly at Scott and begins playing the opening to “Slow Ride” with his hands hammering the beat on his knees while also mouthing the iconic opening guitar riff, all in perfect time together. Scott laughs, then admits, “Roger knows it way better than me!” (Take it eeee-zay. . .)

Photo: Samuel W Johnston – Outsuite LLC

If the rabid fan response from the Mohegan Sun, plus the band’s electrifying appearance on the Rock Legends Cruise that set sail from Port Canaveral, Florida out onto the high seas from February 14-18 and the subsequent trio of shows in both Florida and Mississippi between February 24-26 are any indication, Foghat is already firing on all cylinders here in 2022. Indeed, all Foghat fans are in for a very special treat when the band dives right back into their burgeoning 2022 tour schedule in mid-March. (You can see all the currently scheduled Foghat tour dates right here. More shows are being added constantly, so please keep checking back!)

Of course, Scott Holt is no stranger to the Foghat faithful. Besides playing alongside his fellow Foghat bandmates Roger, Bryan, and Rodney (along with a few other good friends of the family) in the finely tuned, Shaken and Stirred, blues-lovin’ Earl & The Agitators, Scott also made his presence quite known on seven of the 12 tracks found on Foghat’s acclaimed June 2016 studio album, Under the Influence, including “Upside of Lonely,” which has since become a key element in the front half of the band’s current live set.

 

Scott first entered the Foghat orbit properly back in 2014, when the band was looking for an ‘understudy’ for their lead vocalist (just in case). “I came down here to Florida,” he recalls, “and it was me and Roger, Craig [MacGregor, the band’s bassist until 2015 who subsequently passed away in 2018], and Bryan. Roger had given me a list of Foghat songs to learn. I did my homework as hard as I could. I was nervous, as you can imagine, and wanted to do a good job. They were all very welcoming and were like, ‘Just relax. Let’s play and have fun.’ I had a great time, so that’s a very fond memory.” (To borrow a line from John Lennon, Scott had already passed the audition years before he even knew he was technically having one.)

Fact is, Scott has a lifetime full of music bonafides on his resumé. Born just south of Nashville in Lawrenceburg and having grown up forty-five miles south of there in Columbia, Tennessee, Scott’s early love affair with music consisted of a true melting pot of different but interconnected genres. “It was obviously a lot of country music to start because my parents liked country,” he acknowledges. “They also both sang in church, so there was a lot of gospel too. But I don’t remember hearing any blues until I actively heard about it — and then I went out and found it. That was way later when I was 19.”

 

Like many of us, Scott’s imagination was instantly fueled by the one and only Jimi Hendrix. “The first time I heard Jimi Hendrix, I picked up a guitar and said, ‘I got to play guitar — and I want to do that for the rest of my life,’” he confirms. “Behind that was figuring out where Jimi got his stuff from, so then I found out about B.B. King. Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Buddy Guy, and all those cats. And then it became kind of a treasure hunt, trying to find all those records. I think the first straight-up blues record I ever bought was a Vanguard Records compilation that had a Buddy Guy track on it.” (Scott subsequently had the honor of playing guitar right alongside Buddy Guy for many years — a story we will get much deeper into in a future FoghatStory.)

 

After the blues bug bit Scott hard, there was no turning back. “Once I found the blues, I spent all my money on blues tapes,” he continues. “I was finding out about everybody. If somebody told me it was blues, I would try it out and see if it was something that appealed to me. Like Roy Buchanan — he was definitely a one-of-a-kind guitar player. I think those were always the guys that appealed to me. In those early days, nobody sounded like anyone else, you know. John Lee Hooker didn’t sound like B.B. King, who didn’t sound like Muddy Waters. You could tell by a couple of notes who you were listening to. Roy was like that. Nobody played Elmore James like Elmore James. Hubert Sumlin, who primarily played with Howlin’ Wolf, was his own thing too.”

 

The deeply ingrained level of knowledge and understanding Scott has about the blues is something that has long appealed to Roger as an artist. “I’ve always tried to surround myself with really good players,” the drummer agrees as he nods toward Scott. “Ever since the first band I was in, in fact, I’ve always played with people who are really good players. I know that helped. We had really great players in Savoy Brown when I was 20 years old. It was like, ‘Wow. Well, this is happening.’ And that, of course, was when I was playing with Rod and Dave.”

Rod and Dave are, of course, Roger’s cofounding bandmates in Foghat — namely, slide guitar and dobro master Rod Price, and lead vocalist/guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett. (Bassist Tony Stevens rounded out the original four-piece.) Scott readily admits he feels a direct connection to Rod and Dave as his spiritual brothers. “I definitely feel a responsibility not to imitate them, but to try and understand them,” Scott observes. “I talk to Roger about this a lot. He gives me insight as to what their intentions were or what they might have been so I don’t ever stray too far from what Foghat is supposed to sound like, and what it’s supposed to be like.”

Roger adds, “You know, Rod and Dave were both great guitar players in their own right. Very different players. But Dave always, always, came up with a hundred percent performance every time. He was basically a Chuck Berry fan, and a big blues fan. Sometimes he would play a roaring solo like a train rolling downhill with no brakes! (Scott laughs) Dave’s playing was like he emoted it. And Rod did that as well, in his way. I mean, Rod had this fantastic vibrato on his slide. I remember other guitar players pointing that out at the time, but Rod also played with great emotion. He was technically gifted, and he was very schooled in blues as far as his musical heroes go. He played with emotion, and you can especially hear it on his live stuff. Rod and Dave were both great guitar players. They emoted. They weren’t sloppy. They weren’t careless about that because they cared a great deal about their playing — and that’s what’s important.”

 

How does the original Foghat template laid down by Rod and Dave back at the very beginning of the band compare with how Bryan and Scott fit into Foghat’s guitar/vocal tandem in 2022? “Bryan’s the same way,” Roger notes. “He cares about his playing. He has that same attitude — and Scott is the same way too. He lives with his guitar!” Just as they have all throughout our quite lively conversation, Roger and Scott look at each other and laugh together knowingly — like two long lost peas now living in the same pod. (It’s really quite endearing to see, I must admit.)

“It’s all about the emotions,” Scott concurs. “To me, the virtuoso blues players are not the guys who are playing the most incredible phrases so much as it’s the ones who are putting the most emotional content into what they’re playing. Roger has just described Dave and Rod perfectly. They’re both emotional players. You can hear that joy and energy in Dave’s playing, and Rod had that incredible vibrato that was just such a broad sweep when he would do those things live. They’re both highly underrated as players, I think.” Roger immediately chimes in with his own firsthand ruling: “Oh, I’ll rate them! I’ll rate them.” More laughter ensues all around. (Hear, hear!)

 

I then hit Scott with the serious question of the day: What do you see as Foghat’s legacy being over the next 20 years? Scott pauses, then deadpans, “Post-punk industrial zydeco. That’s a genre that hasn’t had a lot of attention. I really think we can find a niche there.”

 

He is, of course, kidding. His real answer is as follows: “I just think if we keep the legacy alive, make new music and it holds up to the original music of the Foghat catalog, we’ll have it just right.” Scott then cites “Home in My Hand” as one of his favorites to play in the current Foghat live set, a song that’s the perfect bridge between the band’s past, present, and future if ever there was one.

 

Roger again nods his own approval and concludes, “When we did the Agitators, I think we hit the nail on the head, didn’t we? That’s why it feels sort of natural now. When Scott, myself, and Bryan started writing, it was fun. We enjoyed the creative aspect. We were like, ‘Do that again! Play that part twice — no, three times! — and then go to the other part!’ It wasn’t hard work. It was great fun.”

 

As if it isn’t obvious enough by now, Roger is beyond pleased to have Scott as his fulltime Foghat bandmate. “I’m happy. Everybody’s happy,” he acknowledges. “The rehearsals have been hard on Scott because he’s hard on himself. But it’s been great fun. I mean, we’re really enjoying it. We sit around together, we have dinner, we have a drink, and then we talk about music.”

 

The band that stays together offstage plays together even better onstage, I say. With Scott Holt fully accepted into the fold, the mighty Foghat foursome, Mach 2022, are traveling across the land and trying to earn a living, giving everything they can.

Photographed by Steve Sirios

Keep an eye on this space for many more in-depth FoghatStories to come, including two additional new installments right here in the month March — all of which are the precursors for the officially authorized Foghat biography by author Mike Mettler that we currently have in the works! Stay tuned!!

 

 

 

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ENERGIZED TURNS 48!

Episode # 3  by Mike Mettler, official FoghatStorian   01-07-22

 

Energized, Foghat’s third studio album, was released 48 years ago by Bearsville Records on January 6, 1974. Produced by Tom Dawes (also known for singing and playing guitar on The Cyrkle’s No. 2 hit single in 1966, “Red Rubber Ball”), Energized reached No. 34 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart — the first of seven consecutive Foghat albums to make it into the Top 40 — and was certified as Gold by the RIAA, signifying over 500,000 copies sold, within a year of its release. (Just like we said about Night Shift last November, we feel it’s well beyond time for a revised, updated sales recertification!) A rousing cover of Buddy Holly’s 1957 rockabilly favorite “That’ll Be the Day” and the radio edit of the funky come-on “Step Outside” were both released as singles, though neither of them made any dents on the U.S. Hot 100 singles chart. (For those of you keeping stats, “Honey Hush” — a longtime Foghat favorite of ours that we’ll delve into further in just a bit — saw release as a promo single in Japan.)

 

 

The band’s firing-on-all-cylinders follow up to March 1973’s table-setting Foghat (a.k.a. Rock ’n’ Roll, which was also produced by Dawes), Energized was the album that put Foghat on the map as a rock band truly to be reckoned with. Energized’s 39 concise minutes served up a clear template for Foghat’s no-nonsense, boogie-rockin’ blueprint as laid down by the fully in-sync four-man collective comprised of lead vocalist/guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett, slide-guitar and dobro maestro Rod Price, bassist Tony Stevens, and drummer/percussionist extraordinaire Roger Earl.

Energized kicks off with “Honey Hush,” the album’s most-played song on Spotify, which eagle-ear fans will also rightfully note contains the band’s unabashed nod right out of the gate to the jump-blues classic “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” not to mention Lonesome Dave’s vocalized winks to The Coasters’ No. 1 1958 hit “Yakety Yak” and Jeff Beck’s 1967 reading of “Hi Ho Silver Lining.” In addition to the aforementioned “That’ll Be the Day” and the full-length version of “Step Outside,” Energized teems with the driving force of tracks like the true rockin’ aim of “Golden Arrow,” the riff-roaring “Home in My Hand” (another longtime setlist favorite), the hard-plucked “Wild Cherry,” the Stevens-penned travelogue “Fly by Night,” and the album-closing, slide-tastic pleader-teaser, “Nothin’ I Won’t Do.”

Incidentally, for all you Foghat physical-media completists out there, besides its inclusion in the Foghat: Original Albums Series and The Complete Bearsville Albums Collection box sets respectively, Energized appears as part of a pair of two-fer import collections: 1) the Rock ’N’ Roll – Energized 2CD combo from Essential/Castle Music, and 2) the EnergizedRock and Roll Outlaws 2CD combo from Edsel Records.

The Energized album’s, well, uber-energetic, electric blue-and-green typeface artwork also marked the first appearance of the iconic, spherically oriented Foghat logo that continues to appear on all the band’s albums and official merch to this day. Said cover artwork, as designed by Pacific Eye and Ear, sought to reflect the kinetic reputation the band was in the midst of reinforcing as an exciting live act literally in the process of moving up from being an opener to achieving wholly earned co-headlining status. “I would love to take some credit for it but I can’t, because it is a really cool logo!” Roger says of the Energized artwork with a hearty chuckle. “The Warner Brothers art department came up with it, and as soon as we all saw it, we all went, ‘Wow!’ We had a few other logos in mind, including one Dave had made — but as soon as we saw that one, we knew we had the right one. We said, ‘We’ll take that!’

You know, this reminds me I had to create a whole new font for that logo when I designed the cover for the Family Joules album, because I actually did the artwork for that one myself.” (Not to worry, fellow FoghatFans — we’ll get much deeper into the making of March 2003’s Family Joules just a few short months from now!)

Inside the cardboard confines of that storied Energized cover, much prime Foghat music was waiting to be found — even if the back cover of the original LP has all the songs listed completely out of order! — and much of it remains in the modern-day Foghat setlist wheelhouse. Take the galvanizing opening track, “Honey Hush,” a song that remains quite beloved by both the band and their fans alike. “It was originally written by Big Joe Turner,” Roger recounts of the R&B-leaning track from 1953, “so it was more of a swinging kind of thing that we took more towards Johnny Burnette’s Rock and Roll Trio version [from 1956]. Of course, we played it a lot faster because that’s how we looked at these things. And I believe Rod [Price] played his amazing lead solo live for the basic track.”

Another interesting aspect of “Honey Hush” is that, once its killer basic track had been laid down, producer Tom Dawes (who passed away at age 64 in 2007) suggested adding in some cello accents as an overdub. “You have to listen for them, but they give a great feel to the tune,” explains Roger. “It’s actually what Rod and Dave were playing, and it’s all circumvented with about a dozen cellos. But it would really be difficult to bring them all on the road with us, right?”

As noted earlier, “Honey Hush” also contains more than a nod to the early jump-blues standard “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” a song made famous during the initial rock era by The Yardbirds and Aerosmith, among others — and it’s a patented Lonesome Dave move, duly laden with his preferred vocal effects to boot. “Dave was a rock and roller, and he always liked a little bit of echo on his vocals,” details Roger. “What was it [original Foghat producer] Dave Edmunds would say — ‘A little bit of reverb goes a long way way way way. . . ’” Roger lets his voice trail off after whispering the last “way” before adding, “That’s stereo, everybody! We sure had fun with that one.”

Roger Earl discusses the recording of “Honey Hush” 

Concurs Bryan Bassett, Foghat’s ace lead and slide guitarist who, without a doubt, has put his own stamp on “Honey Hush” after playing it live for many years himself, “It’s a great song. It’s a classic, not only with the ‘Train Kept A-Rollin’ thing that’s going on, but it goes all the way back to the rockabilly era too. It’s just a great guitar song, and once we hit the center section where the solo is, the guys sometimes have to put the hook out on me to reel me back in!”

Perhaps the most fun Roger had while making Energized was when he got to play his own drum kit in the studio directly next to respected R&B/soul drummer Bernard Purdie, who came to play on a pair of Energized tracks thanks to a conversation Roger, Dave, and Tom had while hanging out together in Manhattan. Tom made mention of his working with legendary artists like Aretha Franklin and James Brown, pointing out Purdie was the only drummer he wanted to hire to get behind the kit for any of his sessions. “After he said that,” Roger notes, “Dave and I both looked at each other and asked, ‘Would he come and play on our record?’ And he said, ‘Yes — as long as you pay him!’”

Dave and Roger decided they wanted the inimitable “Pretty” Purdie to play on “Wild Cherry” and “Nothin’ I Won’t Do,” a pair of fairly straight-ahead rock and roll tracks whose arrangements had already been worked out. To them, these were the Energized cuts that made the most sense to have two drummers play on together. “We set up in the studio side by side, with the band facing me in a semi-circle, and Bernard Purdie to my left,” Roger recalls. “And he’s like a musical hero to me. Pretty’s played with anybody and everybody. He’s one of the best players who ever lived, and he’s an absolutely fabulous human being and a beautiful man.”

(Roger Earl discusses Bernard Purdie & recording “Wild Cherry” & “Nothing I Won’t Do” in 1974)

https://youtu.be/lsRgQ_HWm00ht

Soon enough, producer Dawes entered the studio and handed Purdie sheet music for the two songs to be played. After Roger and Purdie bonded over talking about drums and got more and more comfortable with each other, Purdie leaned in to tell Roger the secret to his success. “This has stayed with me forever, by the way,” Roger reveals. “He said, ‘We’ll do the song once to get the arrangement, twice to get the performance, and then we’ll do it a third time for fun.’ And that’s exactly what we did. He was an absolute gas to play with. I’d met him a few times after that, and he’s one of the greatest drummers to ever walk the planet, as far as I’m concerned.” (In addition to mastering what has long since become known as the “Purdie Shuffle,” Purdie, now 82, also played drums on albums from the likes of Toto, Steely Dan, Cat Stevens, Hall & Oates, The Rolling Stones, and a host of others.)

Speaking of the perennially tangy “Wild Cherry,” is it any coincidence that our main axe man Bryan Bassett just happened to play guitar in a popular band of the same name in the mid-’70s — as in, the Midwestern-faves Wild Cherry, best known for “Play That Funky Music,” their No. 1 single from 1976? “No, we never played the song ‘Wild Cherry’ while I was in Wild Cherry — no, no, no,” Bassett confirms with a laugh. “But Wild Cherry were playing in arenas across the country around the same time or a few weeks after Foghat would be at them, in 1976. I would always see their name on the bills, the ads, and the posters, but we didn’t meet until much later. What’s funny is, whenever I hear fans call out for ‘Wild Cherry,” sometimes I get confused and think to myself, ‘Well, which one?’” Interestingly enough, “Play That Funky Music” does contain Bassett’s all-too-brief Rod Price-inspired solo, and Foghat have recently added it to their set. The fans love this highly recognizable tune and you can hear and watch the Foghat version on their latest double CD/DVD, 8 Days on the Road which was released on July 16, 2021. 

All kidding aside, Bassett is forever grateful for his own energetic Foghat experiences. “I wanted to return to my blues rock roots,” he acknowledges, “and when I first met Dave [in 1989], it just seemed like it was my destiny to play with these guys.” (And we’re more than happy to have you in the fold, Brother Bryan!)

It should also be noted there was also a wonderful Foghat promo film put together by Penelope Spheeris, the acclaimed director of the history-of-metal documentary series The Decline of Western Civilization and the classic 1992 comedy film Wayne’s World. This 20-to-30-minute film short played in theaters at the time of Energized, and it definitely seemed to help spread the Foghat word far and wide. (And we very much look forward to speaking with Spheeris about that very film project for a future FoghatStory installment.) Observes Roger, “She was really lovely to work with, and Warners put a tremendous amount of effort into promoting it. Is that what put us over the top? No, it was all because of our skills as rock and rollers,” the drummer says with a nod and a wink.

The bottom line is, Energized continues to provide much juice for Foghat and their fans, 48 years and counting after its release. “By the time we got around to doing Energized, things were getting really, really hectic,” Roger concludes. “We didn’t have a lot of time off, but when we went into the studio to do it, we knew what we had to do. We really had a lot of fun making this record.”

Truth be told, it’s not too hard to see why Foghat had so much fun making such a game-changing album in the first place, for Energized clearly reflects the energy and promise that would only serve to fuel the band as they continued upward and onward to conquer the rock and roll outlaw horizon ahead of them.

 

Keep an eye on this space for many more in-depth FoghatStories to come — all of which are the precursors for the officially authorized Foghat biography by author Mike Mettler that we currently have in the works! Stay tuned!!

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   All I Want for Christmas Is . . .  Foghat!

Episode #2   by Mike Mettler, official FoghatStorian 12.21.2021

 

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the saying goes — though when it comes to Foghat, it also sounds a lot like Christmas as well.

While many bands from the classic-rock era are known for having one or maybe even two signature Christmas songs in their arsenal, Foghat actually have more than a few in their collective quiver — not surprising, really, given that Foghat have never been a band for doing what anybody else does, anyway.

In order to celebrate the pure joy of the holiday season in the proper FoghatWay, I recently Zoomed it up on multiple occasions with founding drummer Roger Earl and the band’s ace lead and slide guitarist Bryan Bassett to discuss the origins of Foghat’s perennial holiday cheer and why their renditions of all these wonderful holiday songs endure, and then asked them to share their personal holiday wishes to all Foghat fans across the globe. Do join us here beside the holiday fire, won’t you?

One of Foghat’s earliest Christmas celebrations on record came with their raucous cover of Chuck Berry’s beloved 1958 holiday chestnut “Run, Run, Rudolph” (a song also known by its alternate title, “Run Rudolph Run”), which initially appeared on a Bearsville Records promotional 45 single in 1978, and has since appeared in the Rarities portion of Disc 2 on the 2012 Edsel Records 2CD compilation that also includes all of Girls to Chat & Boys to Bounce, In the Mood for Something Rude, and Zig-Zag Walk as well. (As is the case with most of the Foghat holiday songs we’ll be discussing here, “RRR” can also be found on a number of holiday-related compilation discs and digital holiday playlists alike.)

“We did do a version of that song — but it’s not me playing drums on it,” Roger reveals of this roof-burnin’ track that features the indelible Lonesome Dave Peverett on lead vocals, ax maestro Rod Price on slide guitar, and Craig MacGregor on bass. Why wasn’t Roger on it, you ask? One very good (and/or very bad!) reason. “What happened was, I was whisked off to the hospital because I had appendicitis! I was feeling really, really ill at home at the time, and I just couldn’t get out of bed. It wasn’t a lot of fun. When I finally got to the hospital, they took one look at me and said, ‘Oh, we’re opening you up right away!’ Lucky for me, it was literally caught in the nick of time. So, yeah, that’s why I wasn’t playing drums on that one — our manager did.” (Not to worry, fellow FoghatFans — Roger did ultimately get to play “Run, Run, Rudolph” onstage with his ’mates back in the day.)

When I suggest the Foghat of 2021 could easily recut their own version of the song now and call it “Re-Run Rudolph” instead, Roger agrees with a hearty laugh. “You know what? Both Charlie [Huhn, lead vocalist/guitarist] Rodney [O’Quinn, bass] and Bryan would be up for that!” Bryan grins his approval while Roger pauses briefly, then sings one of the song’s most familiar lines, “Run, Run, Rudolph, Santa’s gotta make it to town!” — before adding, “Yeah, maybe we could do that as some kind of single for next year.”

Next up is “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” another promotional Bearsville Records 45 single, this time coming from the December 1981 incarnation of Foghat that featured Lonesome Dave on lead vocals and guitar, Erik Cartwright on lead guitar, Craig MacGregor on bass, and Roger Earl on shakers, and was produced by longtime Foghat compatriot and one of the band’s former bassists himself, Nick Jameson. “All I Want” also makes its appearance on CD as the last track on Rhino’s 1992 offering, The Best of Foghat, Volume 2, as well as at the very end of CD2 in 2006’s double-disc Rhino set, The Definitive Rock Collection.

“All I Want” is pure, classic Lonesome Dave, who wrote the song and made sure to give it a good ol’ skinny-tie-era rockabilly spin. Also take note of the track’s boogie-woogie piano lines and totally wailing saxophone solo in the back half, complete with Dave’s reverb-drenched play-by-play vocal encouragement. “What’s that from, the Girls to Chat & Boys to Bounce era?” ruminates Roger. (In a word: Yes!) “I mean, I must have done it, but I don’t recall playing it! And that’s unusual for me, but there you go. It’s a really fun holiday song, though!”

Following “All I Want” a few years later came the two-sided December 1986 single, “Goin’ Home for Christmas” backed with “Santa Claus Is Back in Town.” This self-released 45 featured E.J. Burgeson on lead vocals and guitar, Erik Cartwright on lead guitar and vocals, Craig MacGregor on bass and vocals, and our man Roger on drums and “libations.” A promotional video made for “Goin’ Home” — which is easily accessible on YouTube if you’ve never seen it, or want to revisit it, STAT — shows the band in full holiday reverie as they first emerge from their tour bus on the side of a highway, attempt a few tentative dance steps right next to it, perform in a packed club, and share a few backstage hijinks and hotel banquet hall dinner follies, plus they’re seen playing the song in the snow with a pair of formidable Marshall amp stacks in tow. (Incidentally, a certain repeat lyrical reference to “a long Slow Ride” is no mistake either, just in case you were wondering.)

“We recorded that one around Thanksgiving at a studio down in Tallahassee when we had only a few days off,” Roger confirms, “but we shot some of the video where it was snowing and cold. It even got some airplay on MTV at the time.” When I ask Roger about the, er, “nice try” of the four guys trying to perform their dance moves in sync near the side of the bus, he immediately confesses, “Craig was the choreographer that day, but I think he lifted it off a ZZ Top number! Craig said, ‘Let’s do this,” and I said, ‘Alright’ — but then I f—ed it up, so never mind! It was all in good fun for the holidays, right? But I do want you all to know I was quite the dancer in my youth, and I could cut a rug with the best of them!” 

 “Going Home for Christmas:”     https://youtu.be/E_rVKHH9L5A

Side B is quite notable for the starring role Roger takes on Leiber/Stoller’s “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” as the song’s ostensible narrator, a role he continues to relish to this very day with various recurrent filmed readings of holiday favorites that continue to pop up online here, there, and everywhere. This particular version, however, includes a quite delicious aside when Roger goes, “He sees you when you’re sleeping? I don’t think so!” Of the song itself, our favorite narrating drummer lad notes, “It was fantastic fun doing that one! The kids really like it — and we like it too! Actually,” Roger muses, “We’ve been thinking about re-recording that one.” (Well, who knows — a new Earl of the Holiday reading of sorts just might show up online any day now if you’ve been nicer more than you’ve been naughty, so keep your eyes and ears peeled accordingly!)

Finally, we come to Foghat’s galvanizing instrumental version of “Winter Wonderland” that was released digitally in 2013 and has since shown up on various compilations and playlists. “Winter Wonderland” features some of Bryan’s textbook, tasty-af slidework on the song’s instantly recognizable melody lines, surrounded by a vibrant holiday-party-in-progress atmosphere and some perfectly placed sleigh bells to boot — not to mention a mid-song break where Roger makes a, shall we say, positive festivity-reinforcement exclamation all his own. “We were down here in Deland, Florida,” Roger recalls, “and we were talking about writing a new Christmas song, or maybe even doing another version of ‘Run, Run, Rudolph.’ We were going through a bunch of different things, and I think Bryan came up with the idea of doing an instrumental — and, of course, his playing on it is absolutely brilliant! It was a different take for us, but it was fun.”

Adds Bryan, “We really did just do it for fun, like Roger says. We were talking about songs that would fit our style, and we wanted to figure out something I could play on slide. I mean, most Christmas songs are in major keys and are pretty easy to play on slide guitar — but I just love that song, you know? From a guitar standpoint, I started noodling around with different positions until I found the second chord, and that’s what fit the song.”   

“Winter Wonderland”: https://youtu.be/Mri1iohBkqQ 

Before we leave you with visions of sugarplums and/or Foghat videos dancing in your collective heads, I asked both FoghatMen to share why Christmas songs and other holidays tunes seem to touch folks so deeply, and what the holiday season means for all of us.

Bryan first: “My favorite holiday song, of course, is ‘Let It Snow!’ — the original version. Everybody loves hearing Christmas songs, whether you play them around the tree, the campfire, or wherever. The Christmas songs we choose to play in Foghat just fit in with our overall feeling about how we want our music to affect people.”

Roger gets the final word: “Well, the holidays are important because it’s all about being with your family, putting up trees, buying presents, drinking wine, and dancing with your best friend. We hope everyone enjoys the holidays, wherever you are, and we’ll see you all very soon!”

And with that, from all of us here at foghat.com, we say to you . . .

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good FoghatNight!!!

 

Next month, in FoghatStory: Join us in this space in early January 2022 as we celebrate the 48th anniversary of Foghat’s third studio album, Energized, which was released by Bearsville Records on January 6, 1974. See you all then, fellow FoghatFans!!!

 

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 Night Shift Turns 45!

Episode #1   by Mike Mettler, official FoghatStorian  11-23-21

 

 

Night Shift, Foghat’s sixth studio album, was released 45 years ago by Bearsville Records on November 18, 1976. Produced by Dan Hartman — the acclaimed bassist for Edgar Winter Group and the solo artist behind the 1984 Top 10 single “I Can Dream About You” — Night Shift reached No. 36 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and has since been certified as Gold by the RIAA, signifying over 500,000 copies sold. (It’s high time for an updated sales recertification, we say!) The hard-charging opening track “Drivin’ Wheel” reached No. 34 on the U.S. Hot 100 singles chart, while the heartfelt, strings-drenched album-closing ballad, “I’ll Be Standing By,” made it to No. 67.

The band’s eagerly anticipated follow up to September 1975’s uber-successful million-selling Fool for the City, Night Shift continued to creatively expand upon the special four-man groove that made Foghat a household name. In addition to the aforementioned album-bookend tracks “Drivin’ Wheel” and “I’ll Be Standing By,” the gritty gear-shifting movements of “Don’t Run Me Down,” the keep pushin’ on thrust of “Burnin’ the Midnight Oil” (which also happens to be the album’s most played track on Spotify), the signature sizzle of “Night Shift,” the good-time jammin’ of “Hot Shot Love,” and the funkified recasting of “Take Me to the River” all serve to reinforce the in-studio mind meld between lead vocalist/guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett, slide guitar maestro Rod Price, then-newly appointed bassist Craig MacGregor, and drummer/percussionist extraordinaire Roger Earl. (Eagle-eyed fans will also note the acoustic-driven “New Place to Call Home,” an unfinished song unearthed from the original sessions that appears as a bonus track on the currently out-of-print 2006 Wounded Bird Records Night Shift CD reissue, among other places.)

Why does Night Shift continue to hold such sway with Foghat fans both new and old alike, 45 years after its release? It’s really quite simple, according to Foghat’s founding drummer, Roger Earl: “This is a working man’s band, and the album has a working man’s title,” he observes. “Whether you’re sitting behind your desk or you’re on the line putting wheels onto cars, that title is what grabbed people right away — and the music delivers on it.”

Special note must be given to the band’s uplifting, funky cover of “Take Me to the River,” a version of Reverend Al Green’s 1974 soul classic so original and so musically compelling that it remains in the band’s setlist to this day. “The idea for covering that song came from Lonesome Dave — of course,” confirms Roger. “Lonesome Dave had knowledge of all things music, whether it be blues, jazz, country, rock & roll, or any other genre. That song was particularly tricky to get the groove and tempo on, but Craig and I sat down together and worked it out. Dave changed some of the lyrics, the phrasing, and the melody. Dave was always somewhat of a reluctant hero, but he was one of the best. When he wasn’t singing, he was very quiet. But when Dave was performing — whether he was singing or playing his guitar — he lit up like a downtown Christmas tree.” (Lonesome Dave passed away at age 56 in 2000.)

As the Night Shift rehearsals commenced in the British band’s adopted homebase of Long Island, New York — first in the backroom of a local pork store before moving to friendlier recording confines — Jimmy Iovine, a Bearsville favorite who at that point had engineered albums from John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen, was initially slotted as the album’s producer. However, things just didn’t work out, as evidenced by the band and their newly minted producer butting heads about three songs into the process. “The truth is, Rod and Dave were struggling with writing the songs this time around,” Roger admits. “We didn’t really have any of the songs ready to go when we went in there with Jimmy. To the best of my recollection, Jimmy was a really cool guy — and, honestly, it wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t my fault, because I was ready to play. Rod and Dave were just struggling to have the material put together before we went in and recorded the songs.”

As a result of all this initial in-studio tension, Iovine was ultimately fired from the Night Shift project. Iovine — who went on to produce and/or co-produce blockbuster albums from the likes of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Stevie Nicks, and U2, to name but a few — actually appreciated the band’s honesty. His observation about what happened appeared in hindsight in the 2017 documentary he shared with rap mogul Dr. Dre titled The Defiant Ones: “I was an idiot. I got fired . . . [but I was] able to be numb enough to keep going.”

Luckily, the Foghat team behind the scenes had Dan Hartman waiting in the wings as their suggestion to take over as Night Shift’s producer. Once all parties agreed to the production change, the band shuffled off to Hartman’s 16-room colonial-home studio in Connecticut alternately known as the Schoolhouse, where everything finally began coming together. Hartman, who sadly passed away at age 43 in 1994, told Circus magazine in 1976, “These songs really have a lot of color. The band’s writing is showing more professionalism. The songs are more commercial in a sense that more people will enjoy listening to them…They’re just doing things people like.”

It was a good match to begin with, seeing how Foghat already knew Hartman personally from having spent time with him on tour when he was a member of Edgar Winter Group, and they warmed to his taking over the producer’s chair almost immediately. “Dan was also a bass player, and he was a huge help,” agrees Roger. “When we first went to his house and were setting up, he gave Dave the additional time he needed to come up with the right material. This was also the first time I had worked with click tracks. We used the click because we didn’t have all the arrangements down yet, and it helped us concentrate on what we were doing. It basically gave us a solid base for learning the construction of the songs.” Not only that, but the large-room vibe of the Schoolhouse recording space helped lend Night Shift its “big” overall sound.

Night Shift was also the first Foghat album graced by the marvelously supportive bass tones of Craig MacGregor, who stepped into the fold after bassist Nick Jameson ended his first stint with the band earlier in 1976. MacGregor immediately made his mark by bonding with his drummer. “As far as our connection goes, Craig MacGregor was my brother,” Roger confirms. “There was this one line he came up with about what we do. He said, ‘the bass and the drums lay out a road for the rest of the band to drive on.’ I always thought that was the perfect description of it. I miss everyone to some degree, but I think I miss Mac most of all. Mac and I were tight.” (MacGregor passed away at age 68 in 2018.) Indeed, just listen to the 40-plus minutes of good “road” the MacGregor/Earl Rhythm Section Axis laid down for all seven of Night Shift’s songs to hear exactly how the pair nailed that thought to a T.

For his part, Rod Price — who unfortunately passed away at age 57 in 2005, and would have literally just celebrated his 74th birthday on November 22 — also talked with Circus in 1976 about the inherent merits of Night Shift. “Foghat has always evolved [with] each album, but it’s still within the rock & roll framework we’ve maintained,” Price outlined. “There’s regular Foghat-type songs, but also a couple of types we’ve never attempted. There’s a real slow ballad [i.e., “I’ll Be Standing By”], but it’s still very much Foghat.”

Of Price’s perpetually acclaimed guitar prowess, Roger notes, “There are a number of special moments of Rod’s playing on Night Shift. He could play beautiful and delicate, and he could also wail — even with the slide, which requires some deft fingering. Rod was a huge part of that album and a huge part of this band, even to this day.”

Upon completion, Foghat felt Night Shift was a keeper, and their audience responded in kind. In fact, the ensuing tour to support Night Shift became the basis for the band’s blockbuster August 1977 live album, simply titled Live. “I knew right after we finished Night Shift at least three songs from the album would be in our live set, which at the time would sometimes run as long as an hour and 45 minutes,” Roger concludes, identifying “Drivin’ Wheel,” “Take Me to the River,” and “Night Shift” as the three golden tracks that continue to endure in their onstage incarnations.

Fact is, whenever you’ve got music that embodies powerful love and has a steady roll that moves your body and rocks your soul, there’s no further proof needed to bolster the idea that Night Shift is a truly classic Foghat album for the ages.

Keep an eye on this space for many more in-depth FoghatStories to come —

all of which are the precursors for the officially authorized Foghat biography by author Mike Mettler, that we currently have in the works! Stay tuned!!