Tag Archives: The Doobie Brothers

Rocks In The Attic #560: Guns N’ Roses – ‘Appetite For Destruction’ (1987)

RITA#560.jpgI saw something last night I thought I’d never see – Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan on the same stage together. It’s been a long time coming, but for a large part of the twenty five years since I first heard Appetite For Destruction, it seemed unlikely that a reunion would ever happen. Slash kept himself busy, playing in Velvet Revolver (with Duff) before going on to record several decent solo albums. Axl retained the Guns N’ Roses name, touring the band in the 21st century with a host of stand-in musicians and finally releasing the long-threatened Chinese Democracy album in 2008. The new Axl was a portly fellow, rumoured to have an addiction to fried chicken and was described by one audience member in London as ‘a gold lamé blob up on stage.’ A reunion seemed as unlikely as all four Beatles playing together on stage.

Then the unthinkable happened. In 2016 Axl, Slash and Duff patched up their differences and announced a reunion tour. Who needs differences anyway when you’ve got millions of dollars to earn touring the world as a nostalgia act? Plus, that fried chicken won’t buy itself…

The initial reaction was one of cynicism. Surely Axl would keep everybody waiting like he did in his prima donna days during the 1990s. Would it be worth buying a ticket if it meant waiting around for a few hours in the rain, waiting for Axl to finally take off his bathrobe and finish that last bucket of KFC? Of course it would!

Then the unthinkable part two happened. Axl landed the job as stand-in vocalist for AC/DC. It seems that Brian Johnson’s eardrums had enough of his own high-pitched screaming and put up a protest. He got a sick note from his doctor, ruling him out of that band due to the threat of permanent hearing loss. Step up, Mr. Rose.

It still hasn’t really sunk in that this actually happened – Axl Rose singing with AC/DC sounds like such an off-the-wall idea. Comparable to Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell singing in front of Rage Against The Machine. Oh wait, that actually happened too.

What a great pairing – Axl DC – can it get any better? Brian Johnson’s vocals have never really fit the band if I have to be honest – there’s only so much shrieking I can handle, and after 1980’s Back In Black, there was a pretty consistent dip in quality. Other than Steven Tyler, Axl is the best choice to front Angus and company – he has the range to hit Brian Johnson’s high notes, and the ballsy tone to handle Bon Scott’s earlier material.

So the rock world waited with bated breath, and the unthinkable part three happened. Axl turned up on time and did his duty. No diva behaviour whatsoever – and best of all, his inclusion prompted the long-standing – and frankly, now quite boring – AC/DC set-list to change. They started playing songs they had rarely, if ever, played with Brian Johnson. Songs such as Riff Raff and Rock And Roll Damnation from 1978’s Powerage, If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) from 1979’s Highway To Hell, and 1975’s Live Wire (from the Australian T.N.T. album, or the international version of High Voltage). It was so refreshing to see these songs performed once again.

Then, one show into the GNR reunion tour, the unthinkable part four happened. Axl broke his foot. It’s still unclear how he did this – so one can only speculate that a bottle of Hot Sauce fell on his foot as he opened the fridge for a midnight feast of fried chicken. He ended up fulfilling the rest of GNR’s U.S. tour, and the remaining AC/DC dates sat on a throne of guitars borrowed from Dave Grohl.

Last night my wife took a bullet and stayed home to put the kids to bed so that I could go down early to catch the support band, Wolfmother. When I got to the stadium I spoke to a lovely lady named Lucy, who had endured a 9-hour bus trip from Gisborne to see the show. Crikey! She sat next to me as she rolled a joint, out of sight of the security staff, and in minutes we had bonded over our mutual dislike of Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers.

I was really looking forward to seeing Wolfmother after I caught them supporting Aerosmith in Dunedin back in 2013. At that concert, the sight of the band bouncing on to the stage like exuberant puppies made me smile. Four years later and they’ve reduced their ranks significantly. What was once a boisterous four- or five-piece back in 2013 has now distilled into a tight trio. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but it meant one member was pulling more than his fair share of the weight – bassist Ian Peres also played keyboards, incredibly both at the same time during some songs.

Twenty minutes later and Guns N’ Fucking Roses emerged. My wife had made it with just minutes to spare, and thankfully she was there to see opener It’s So Easy. They followed this with Mr. Brownstone, and Western Springs went off like a firework.

Axl did that jaunty side-to-side dance with his microphone stand, looking like a menopausal Nicole Kidman, Slash took all his solos with his guitar propped up on one elevated thigh, and Duff kept up on the bass, sticking his neck out to sing backing vocals.

The set-list was really strong with songs from Appetite For Destruction, and while I like most of the singles from the Use Your Illusion records, the songs from the debut record are just in a different class. They’re truly magical, and the whole of that first record is like lightning in a bottle.

I could never really work out why I liked Appetite so much more than the Use Your Illusion albums, and it wasn’t until I read Slash’s autobiography that I figured it out. Drummer Steven Adler – the one missing component that didn’t survive into that second line-up of the band – really provides the groove of ­Appetite. His replacement Matt Sorum is a powerhouse drummer himself, but Adler had something else – a swing that you don’t get with most 4/4 rock drummers. I’d have loved to have seen a full reunion with Adler on board, alongside original rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, but I’m more than happy to have seen three out of the original five.

Covers were well-represented, not surprisingly for a band with only four albums of original material to their name. As well as the likely contenders – Live And Let Die and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – they also played the Misfit’s Attitude, the Who’s The Seeker, and in one really touching moment, a cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here afforded Slash and rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus the opportunity for a lovely bit of guitar work. November Rain was prefaced with Axl playing the piano outro from Derek & The Domino’s Layla, and Slash played snippets of the Godfather theme, Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) and Zeppelin’s Babe I’m Gonna Leave You before the night was through.

If I had one criticism, it was that the show could have easily been an hour shorter. After two hours when I told my wife that there was almost another hour left, she mimed shooting herself in the head (I noted that this was an odd thing to do in the presence of Duff McKagan, the last person to see Kurt Cobain alive; they found themselves sitting next to each other on a flight to Seattle where Cobain took his life a few days later).

At one point, the audience nearly chuckled themselves to death when Axl sang his big emotional number – This I Love, from the Chinese Democracy record. This was like bad wedding music; just awful and such a polar opposite to the youthful vibrance that is all over Appetite For Destruction.

Hit: Sweet Child O’Mine

Hidden Gem: Mr. Brownstone


Rocks In The Attic #502: The Doobie Brothers – ‘The Captain And Me’ (1973)

RITA#502This isn’t my favourite Doobs album – that would be Toulouse Street – but this is probably the most successful one, if you consider the strength of the individual songs on it. Both Long Train Runnin’ and China Grove were lifted off this record, and they’re amongst the best singles the band ever released.

In 1976, when the band’s first compilation, Best Of The Doobies, was being put together, as well as taking the two hit singles on The Captain And Me, they also took a couple of album tracks – Without You and South City Midnight Lady. As a result, these two songs now sound like hit singles. The end result for The Captain And Me is a record that feels like it’s full of hits.

Of course the thing that makes this a great Doobie Brothers album is the absence of Michael McDonald. He wasn’t tainting the band with his smooth AOR vocals just yet. I’ve criticised him enough in the past though, so I won’t elaborate further on this lest anyone think I have a personal vendetta against the man. <Aside> I do!

The record does mark the first occasion when fellow Steely Dan alumnus Jeff “Skunk” Baxter would appear on a Doobie Brothers album. He would also appear on the following year’s What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, before becoming a fully fledged ‘brother’ on 1975’s Stampede.

Hit: Long Train Runnin’

Hidden Gem: Busted Down Around O’Connelly Corners

Rocks In The Attic #446: The Doobie Brothers – ‘Best Of The Doobies Volume 2’ (1981)

RITA#446Much like the first Best Of The Doobies album, this reminds me of a road trip across America when I was ten years old. The double-cassette of both albums that my Dad bought at a gas station was on repeat on the car stereo throughout that journey, and so this music is hardwired into my soul – it’s as American as fast food, diners, open highways and the hot backseat of a hired Pontiac.

I don’t think we listened to Volume 2 as much as the first one though. There’s definitely a drop-off in quality. Out goes Tom Johnston and rock n’ roll, and in comes Michael McDonald and a weird hybrid of rock n’ soul. In fact, to call it a drop off in quality is disingenuous to Tom Johnston. It’s a crevasse of a drop-off – we’re talking the heights of Everest to the depths of the deepest ocean trench. In fact, if you didn’t know the Doobies and you were played excerpts of both line-ups, you’d have trouble believing they were the same band. Chalk and cheese. Apples and oranges. Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and the transatlantic Fleetwood Mac from 1975 onwards.

I’m still waiting for Volume 3

Hit: What A Fool Believes

Hidden Gem: Dependin’ On You

Rocks In The Attic #420: Alice Cooper – ‘Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits’ (1974)

RITA#420I stole this one out of my Dad’s small collection of vinyl when I was about fourteen. At that point, I only knew School’s Out and nothing else, but this whole record quickly became a firm favourite of mine. In fact, I’d say it’s one of my favourite rock compilations.

There’s something about the quality of the Alice Cooper band at this stage – when the band was called Alice Cooper, not the man – that Alice has never managed to recapture during his solo years. I saw him play live in Auckland a few years ago, and just like Ozzy he seems to take the approach that the heavier the band the better. So we got a lot of the songs from this album, but performed by a group of young guys in a band that was closer to metal than rock.

It’s such a shame because you lose a lot of the appeal of classic rock songs when you amp them up to metal. Imagine if Metallica did an album of Doobie Brothers covers – all the subtleties and nuances would fly out the door as soon as they plugged in. You can hear this in Metallica’s cover of Whiskey In The Jar, which just sounds like a metal-by-numbers imitation of the Thin Lizzy version.

I was stoked when Richard Linklater included two songs from Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits on the soundtrack to Dazed And Confused. Both songs used – School’s Out and No More Mr Nice Guy are used in the scenes with Wiley Wiggins’s character Mitch Kramer. School’s Out, not surprisingly, soundtracks the moment that school finishes; and No More Mr Nice Guy plays over the scene where Mitch gets captured – and paddled – by the seniors.

Years later, while watching Julien Temple’s fantastic Sex Pistols documentary The Filth And The Fury, I found out that John Lydon auditioned for the Pistols by singing Alice Cooper’s I’m Eighteen next to a jukebox.

Hit: School’s Out

Hidden Gem: Hello, Hurray

Rocks In The Attic #325: Tom Johnston – ‘Everything You’ve Heard Is True’ (1979)

RITA#325This is the first solo album by moustachioed head Doobie Brother Tom Johnston. I picked it up in the sales racks at Real Groovy in Auckland, and I’m glad I did. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut when buying records, and it paid off this time.

I guess it wasn’t too much of a risk – Johnston was the driving force behind the first classic run of Doobie Brothers albums, alongside Patrick Simmons – and so you’d expect a solo album to be more of the same, at the very least. Any risk comes from the question of whether Johnston could still cut it, five years after he made his last meaningful contribution to the Doobs. After Stampede in 1975, he effectively stood on the sidelines, only appearing on a few songs on Takin’ It To The Streets (1976) and Livin’ On The Fault Line (1977) before being replaced by beardy MOR pusher Michael McDonald. The reason – chronic stomach ulcers and “exhaustion”.

Thankfully, Everything You’ve Heard Is True is just like an early Doobs record. It’s even produced by Ted Templeman. The only noticeable change is that the songs are a little less rocky – so you don’t get anything approaching China Grove. There’s plenty of soul though – and a lot of the tracks are little funkier than your typical Doobie Brothers fare.

The cover shows Johnston sat on a stool in a bar, lighting a cigarette. Behind the bar, amongst the nuts and bottles, and usual debris and clutter you find behind a bar, there’s a great little pun. A printed sign reads ‘OUR CREDIT MANAGER IS HELEN WAITE. IF YOU WANT CREDIT GO TO HELEN WAITE.’

Hit: Savannah Nights

Hidden Gem: Down Along The River

Rocks In The Attic #297: The Doobie Brothers – ‘What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits’ (1974)

RITA#297I can remember a moment from when I was 10 or 11, and was spending a Saturday watching my Dad play cricket. I don’t like sport now and I didn’t like sport then, so getting dragged along to see my Dad play cricket in the middle of nowhere was always a chore.

I used to pass the time by reading comics until the boredom ended and we could catch the bus home. This time though, I was listening to music on my Walkman. We’d just been to America (recounted here) and so I was listening to my new favourite band, the Doobie Brothers.

I remember being sat outside the clubhouse, half-watching the game, and two guys sat near me asked who I was listening to. I told them it was the Doobie Brothers, and they cracked a joke. They said – and I can’t remember the names they used – something along the lines of “The Doobie Brothers? Who’s that? <Insert name> and <insert name>?”

I didn’t know either of the names they said, and so I can’t remember them now; but in hindsight, and to speculate on the joke a couple of decades later, they probably said the name of two high-profile sportsmen who were in trouble over drugs in some way or another.

Other than my Dad (who bought the tape of the Doobie Brothers that became the soundtrack to our American holiday), that was the first time I ever heard anybody else mention the band. Because I didn’t understand the joke, I simply thought they were taking the piss out of the band, and so one of my first memories of rock music will be forever linked with somebody making fun of what I was listening to.

Maybe that’s why I never felt the need to listen to the same bands as everybody else. I really didn’t care if people liked the bands I was listening to – I was listening, not them! – and so that left me open to listen to a lot of bands that other people often saw – sometimes with good reason – as a joke.

When all my peers were listening to Oasis in 1994 and 1995, I proudly held my head high and carried on listening to Aerosmith and the like. In the sixth form common room, I’d listen to everybody argue over what album was better – Definitely Maybe or (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?  I’d put my headphones back on and carry on thinking about a far more important question – which album was better – Highway To Hell or Back In Black?

What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits has to be my favourite album title by the Doobs. I really can’t work out why this particular incarnation of the band was playing with two drummers – as shown on the album cover – but the album is as solid as The Captain And Me and Stampede on either side of it; and it’s always good to hear the Memphis Horns outside of a Stax album.

The Doobie Brothers’ first #1 hit single Black Water appears on this album, and while the rest of the album doesn’t match the strength of that song, it’s not a weak album by any respect. The one thing that really annoys me is the fact that some idiot at Warner Bros. Records decided to list the songs on the back cover in alphabetical order – not their running order. Maybe they were smoking something in the office that day…

Hit: Black Water

Hidden Gem: Flying Cloud

Rocks In The Attic At 250

A bit of a misleading title, as though I’ve been writing this blog since the good year 1763…

Despite carting my 600+ strong vinyl collection to the other side of the world in 2008, I somehow felt the need at the time to sell my turntable for a bit of pre-move cash. About a year ago, after living in New Zealand for over 4 years, I still didn’t own a turntable. I was still buying records, but I didn’t have anything to play them on. It got so bad that I started buying duplicates of records that I already owned – simply because I had become a stranger to my own record collection. ‘Did I really own Tracy Chapman’s debut album?’ I would ask myself in a record shop. When I got home, I realised that yes, I did, and no, it’s not an album worthy of having two copies.

A friend at work pointed out the absurdity of my situation, so I made a point to invest in a turntable as soon as possible. My technical know-how isn’t the best, so I really didn’t know what to buy. I’ve hung around with enough DJs in the past to know that I needed a direct-drive turntable, as opposed to an unreliable belt-drive turntable, but apart from that, I didn’t know a thing. I found a Stanton turntable on Trade Me – sold by a Cash Convertors-style shop – so it was still in relatively good condition, probably pawned by somebody not long after buying it. Thanks to the surround sound system left at our house by my Brother-In-Law, and a little pre-amp unit from the local electronics store, I was back in business. All those hundreds of shiny black discs in the corner of my living room could be listened to again!

Armchair CroppedAround this time, I had started reading Blog On The Tracks – the counter-culture music blog on the stuff.co.nz news website written by Wellington journalist Simon Sweetman. What a surprise to find something like this in New Zealand – it’s a real shame but most New Zealanders only get culture from their yoghurt. Simon’s blog made me think twice about New Zealand – it isn’t quite the cultural backwater that I had become to regard it as in the four years I had been living in the country. Yes, it’s a small country, and the majority of the population prefer the dull, simple pleasures of rugby and fishing, but there are intelligent, artistic people here too. I just need to look for them.

Simon’s side-blog, offthe tracks.co.nz features a segment called The Vinyl Countdown where he gives brief reviews of records in his collection. I had been toying with the idea of starting a music blog, writing about my favourite records, but focusing more on the personal stories behind why I bought the album in the first place, or the memories that go along with each disc. I’ve always thought the standard way that most journalists review music – by actually describing the sound coming out of the speakers – is very boring to read; and I’ve always liked it when a reviewer has put their own unique, personal slant on the record.

Reading offthetracks.co.nz – and being able to listen to my record collection again – gave me the final inspiration to start writing. I already had the intention to start a blog so I “borrowed” the format of The Vinyl Countdown, which gave me a structure for what I wanted to do. I’ve since apologised to Simon a couple of times for the blatant theft, and he’s always took it in good grace. I’m pretty sure that type of format is relatively common on blogging sites anyway, but I think it’s important to always pay respect and name your sources.

Record Collection April 2013So I started my blog, originally on blogger.com, but first I needed a name. Quickly finding that every pun on the word vinyl had already been used for a blog title, I opted for something that was a bit more personal. Two of the strongest ‘70s albums from my all-time favourite band Aerosmith, Toys In The Attic and Rocks, had always been a cornerstone of my record collection, so combining these titles seemed to work. It was either Rocks In The Attic or Toys In The Cellar.

Looking back, a couple of things stand out as regrets. I started naming a ‘hit’ and a ‘hidden gem’ for each album at the end of each post, and although this sounds relatively simple, it’s bloody hard sometimes. There are a couple of records in my collection that have nothing close to anything you would regard as a ‘hit’ (or a ‘hidden gem’ for that matter); and conversely, there are dozens of records in my collection where every song is a hit. I tend to regard the most well known song as the ‘hit’ (and if this doesn’t work, then the highest-placed charting single or the opening track); and the better of the lesser known songs as the ‘hidden gem’.

Another regret is my initial choice of Blogger as the location for my blog. I had used Blogger before so I was familiar with how to use it, and despite protestations from good friend Moo, I stuck with it. The last straw with Blogger occurred when the site stopped operating with Internet Explorer, and only accepted Google Chrome. Time to decamp, I thought. I then spent a whole weekend transferring my blog, post by post, which by then was well over a hundred, onto WordPress. After I had spent a great deal of time doing this, Moo innocently asked why I didn’t just use the ‘import blog’ function in WordPress. Cue Basil Fawlty meltdown.

One thing I did lose when I transferred to WordPress was some reader comments. Most of them came across, but for a time I was operating in both Blogger and WordPress, so when I shut the Blogger one down I lost a couple, especially from one excited reader who made a few welcome comments about The Band’s eponymous album. I hope he doesn’t think I was ignoring his worthy contribution.

When I started the blog, I put together an Excel spreadsheet, to log all of the albums I was posting about. With the aid of a few pivot tables and some automated formulas, I can accurately measure a couple of statistics. For the first forty or so posts, I tried to keep the distribution of albums by decade relatively even, but I knew that I couldn’t keep that up for long – my taste is far too geared towards the ‘60s and ‘70s to give anything later a chance.

After 250 posts, I can accurately report that the ‘70s are the most prominent decade in my collection, with 82 posts (33%). This is closely followed by the ‘80s, with 62 entries (25%).  The ‘90s (39, 16%) narrowly beat the ‘60’s (38, 15%). Unsurprisingly the 1950s, 2000s and 2010s are far behind with 1 (0%), 25 (10%) and 3 (1%) respectively.

The 250 posts I have written cover 287 actual discs – accounting for double-LPs and bonus discs – and 189 hours, 8 minutes and 10 seconds of actual music.

The frequency of particular artists in my collection doesn’t really surprise me either. Aside from 12 albums attributed to Various Artists (explained by soundtracks and compilations), the most common artists are Aerosmith (with 11 entries), The Beatles (8), The Rolling Stones (7), The Doobie Brothers and Led Zeppelin (both with 5), and Bob Dylan, R.E.M. and AC/DC (4 each). I’ve covered 159 separate artists so far, although there’s some double counting in there, for example, with Paul McCartney listed separate to Paul & Linda McCartney.

Couch CroppedEvery year since 1958 is represented, except 1959, 1960, 1961, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013. I actually have records in my collection from some of those years – I just haven’t managed to get around to them just yet – but I’ll try and fill in some of those gaps for when I run this same tally at #500.

The year that appears the most is 1980 with 12 entries, which surprises me as I really thought it would be a year from the previous decade. 1972, 1976 and 1977 come second, with 11 each, and joint bronze goes to 1971 and 2000, with 10 apiece.

Rocks In The Attic was always supposed to be a retrospective blog. It was always intended as a walk through my record collection, which mainly consists of older albums, but towards the end of the year I found myself writing about new releases from 2012. I guess that adds a bit of variety, rather than endlessly talking about records that are older than myself.

One thing I’ve really appreciated since getting fully back into listening to vinyl is the annual Record Store Day releases (and its offshoots throughout the year such as Black Friday). I’ve picked up a few things in the last 12 months – a ten-disc box-set of 7” Stax singles from 1968 to 1974, and a 10” soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Releases like this really show that vinyl is very much alive and kicking.

So, Rocks In The Attic has reached 250 and I’m not even halfway through my still growing collection. There are dozens of classic albums left to write about – both critically acclaimed and important to me (with a few guilty pleasures thrown in for good measure). I don’t think I’ll be ending this blog anytime soon – I’m having too much fun.

Thanks for reading.

Johnny Andrews, April 2013.

Hit: The fact that I get so much enjoyment from sitting down every Saturday morning and writing about the records I’m listening to.

Hidden Gem: Having anybody read my blog, and best of all, leaving a comment.