It's been a while since I had a Music Moment! Today's topic is The J. Geils Band.
This band is far from unknown, but there's a little more to them than their Top 40 days in the '80's.
Guitarist John Geils formed the band--originally called Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels--as an acoustic blues trio in the mid-60's in Massachusetts with Danny Klein (bass) and Magic Dick (harmonica). It wasn't until the late '60's and the addition of electric guitar and bass, drummer Stephen Bladd, and manic front man and former D.J. Peter Wolf that things started popping for them. A name change made them the J. Geils Blues Band, and they later dropped the "Blues" moniker, if not the style. A year later, organist Seth Justman joined the band, and the best-known lineup of the band was complete.
They became known as the ultimate party band in Boston, and while their home base remained in that city, they also had a huge fan base in Detroit, where all 3 of their live albums were recorded. Their live performances are legendary for their energy and bluesy rock. Some of my personal favorites from that era are "Musta Got Lost," "Southside Shuffle," "Give it to Me," "(Ain't Nothin' but a) House Party," "Detroit Breakdown," and "Whammer Jammer." Every one of these songs holds up today if you love kicked-up-a-notch blues, and a few made for some decent chart numbers at the time.
With the early '80's came the release of "Love Stinks" and a change to a more pop-oriented sound. They scored Top 40 hits with the title track and "Come Back," and minor hits with "Just Can't Wait" and "Night Time." College students everywhere (myself and my buddies included) learned the words to the bizarre "No Anchovies Please." ("That's not a bowling ball...that's my WIFE!")
The release of "Freeze Frame" in 1981 brought the band their greatest commercial success, with the title track, "Angel in Blue," "Flamethrower," and live release of "I Do," all reaching the Top 40 ("Flamethrower" was on the AOR charts). Their biggest hit, "Centerfold," spent 6 weeks at #1 on the U.S. charts and reached #3 on the U.K. charts. Peter Wolf made the cover of Rolling Stone.
Peter Wolf subsequently left the band, and neither the remainder of the band nor Peter as a solo artist reached the success they shared together. I bought the post-Wolf CD, but Peter's presence was severely missed. I also bought a couple of Peter's solo CD's, and I thought they were fairly solid. His blues sense remains intact.
The 6 original members had a reunion in Boston in 2006 for Danny Klein's 60th birthday bash. Magic Dick continues to play, and Peter Wolf is currently on tour with Kid Rock.
I remember my sister having some of their earlier albums, so I liked them even in the early '70's, but both "Love Stinks" and "Freeze Frame" are part of the landscape of my college career. A party wasn't complete until J. Geils hit the turntable. (And yes, I mean turntable. CD's were not yet readily available when I was in college.) I regret to say that of all the bands I've been able to see live, I never got to see J. Geils. A bunch of my college guy friends went to see them in Indianapolis, but it was boys' night out, and I only got to hear about it afterwards. (Sometimes you just know when the girls aren't invited.)
I maintain that The J. Geils Band is one of the great American blues-rock bands, and while not yet members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, their time will come. Their sexy, bluesy sound is obviously heavily influenced by the same performers that influenced all rock and roll greats, from the Beatles to the Stones to Clapton. They're every bit as much fun to listen to as they were 30+ years ago.
I include 2 videos for your listening and viewing pleasure. First up is "Come Back" from "Love Stinks," with the band in all their early '80's glory. After that, listen to Magic Dick wailin' on "Whammer Jammer." Good stuff, man!