Moody Blues founding father and McCartney deputy Denny Laine’s in Asbury town on Friday, January 18, and Tim McLoone’s got ’em — PLUS he’ll be joined by international musical man of mystery Peter Asher for a salute to The Beatles’ ABBEY ROAD that’s also keyed to this weekend’s Light of Day lulu.
Neveryoumind for a moment that the record album it graces is merely one of the most monumental in pop music history — when it comes to Abbey Road, the cover image alone is the stuff of primal-brain racial memory, and of a trillion cell-phone-shutterbug tourist recreations. But who among us can truly presume to walk in the zebra-crossing footsteps of the Fabbest?
Denny Laine, that’s bloody who. The man who spent nearly an entire platinum-plated decade as Paul McCartney’s guitarist-vocalist-secret weapon soulmate in Wings was front and center for some of the most rollickingly ubiquitous AM/FM clock radio blockbusters of the 1970s, from the smoothie-sweet “My Love” to the naughty glam-rock boogie of “Hi Hi Hi,” the mind-boggling march of “Let ‘Em In,” the orchestral license-to-thrill of the Bond theme “Live and Let Die” and the entire music-mad panorama of creative zenith Band on the Run. That’s his guitar pyrotechnics on “Helen Wheels;” his songwriting skills on the UK standard “Mull of Kintyre;” his harmony (and occasional lead) vocals all over the grooves of LPs that spanned 1971’s throwaway Wild Life to 1979’s curtain-closer Back to the Egg. And that’s surely enough to coast upon for most.
Consider, though, that the veteran British rocker born Brian Hines was also present at the creation of another essential band of the firstwave Brit Invasion — The Moody Blues, for whom he sang the smash hit “Go Now” in those innocent days before all the mellotrons and musicians-union helpers. Inbetween-times saw him serving stints in Ginger Baker’s Air Force (and a band by the name of Balls), his own String Band and a long line of solo projects that include the McCartney-produced Holly Days and a seemingly inevitable CD salute to Wings. On Friday, January 18, the long and largely linear road brings the 68 year old Laine to the stage of Tim McLoone’s Supper Club for a special presentation entitled, with self-explanatory succinctitude, Abbey Road Memories.
The latest in the “Masters of Music” series (produced by Sammy Boyd and hosted by McLoone), the 8pm program finds the singer and storyteller recreating that final Beatles recording from lip to label — as well as other Fab Four faves, his own career milestones, and a merry mashup of hits (by The Hollies, The Zombies, Pink Floyd and more) that all happen to have been birthed in the booths of London’s iconic Abbey Road studios.
He’ll be backed for the occasion by the full faith and credit of the Abbey Road Band (drummer Steve Aho, bassist Bill Cinque, guitarist Brian Pothier, multi-instrumentalist Jeff Alan Ross) — and he’ll be welcoming a guest-star mini-set by none other than Brit-pop contemporary, eminent producer and legendary record man Peter Asher, making an encore appearance on the Supper Club stage (and all within eyeshot of Convention Hall, where his chart-topping duo act Peter and Gordon performed way back in the day). By the way, Laine and Asher will be among the stars (including Oscar-nommed Gary Busey!) who are slated to pay tribute to Buddy Holly at Iowa’s Surf Ballroom on February 2 — the same date (and the same venue) associated with the “Day the Music Died” deaths of Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper.
As if that’s not enough to digest, Friday’s suppertime-smorgasbord musical menu further features a compliments-of-the-chef guesting by Kate Taylor, accomplished singstress and sister of Asher discovery (and Apple Records signee) James Taylor. It’s all offered up as part of the 2013 Light of Day smorgasbord going on across Asbury Park (and its suburb, NYC) between tonight, January 16, to Sunday January 20. All proceeds benefit the Light of Day Foundation and its ongoing research/ awareness efforts in the fight against Parkinson’s Disease; looky here for a breakdown of events, including the Asbury Angels induction show, an exclusive Boss video presentation, a Fourth Avenue salute to the late lamented Fast Lane, and the centerpiece sold-out concert under the Paramount proscenium.
Take it here for our June 2012 interview with Peter Asher — and flip the record over for a trip down Memory Laine…
Clockwise from top left: Denny Laine with the Moody Blues lineup that recorded “Go Now;” a single singer with a double neck in the mid 70s; with version 1.0 of Paul McCartney’s Wings; the core of Wings in the hit-drenched years between 1972-1978.
upperWETside: First off, we need to convey greetings from somebody we spoke to an hour or two ago — Christopher Cross, who we understand worked with you on a salute to ABBEY ROAD in Atlantic City a couple of years ago…
DENNY LAINE: That was with Jack Bruce; Todd Rundgren as well. It’s great to be able to play with people like that. When you’re on tour a lot, you don’t always know some of these people, and a show like that is a great way to get together. Peter Asher I knew from when Paul was seeing his sister Jane…but I first met Peter and Gordon in New York, actually; we did a Murray the K show at the Brooklyn Fox.
Ah-Bey! So does this Abbey Road presentation represent the first time you’ve ever worked with Peter?
I had worked with Gordon (Waller) over the years…Peter and I both did a benefit for Mike Smith, from the Dave Clark Five several years ago. I said to him backstage that it sounded pretty good; we should do this again sometime — his response was ‘I’ve got a day job!’
To me it’s just amazing to contemplate the scenes that you’ve been involved with; the stuff you’ve been privy to — I’m aware that to you veterans of the British Invasion, Swinging London thing, it wasn’t so much a walk among the gods as just a bunch of mates and colleagues making it up as you went along. Still, is there a certain unspoken bond between members of your musical generation?
A lot of my friends from the early days are still around…it’s like we just met yesterday. We all went down to London at the same time, because that’s where the music business was. I was clubbing with the fashionable people of the day. We were strangers in town, but so were people like Dylan, The Byrds, The Lovin’ Spoonful…they came to England to be noticed, and to get famous.
A lot of blues artists came to Europe also, where they were more accepted. The Moody Blues, remember, started as a blues band from Birmingham, and we backed up people like Sonny Boy Williamson whenever they toured.
Things moved fast in those days — so many bands went from banging out blues covers to just completely opening up the album format within just a few years, with all these concept records, rock operas, grand experiments. You could name yourselves after a couple of old bluesmen like The Pink Floyd, and come out the next year with a psychedelic classic that didn’t have a trace element of blues…so then to what, other than whatever it was that Syd Barrett was into, to what do you attribute that mad rush of creativity?
The competition among bands was there, and the record companies were encouraging bands to write their own songs; they were giving you the freedom to create your own music. So the publishing, and the competition, were the main instigators of everyone becoming individuals.
So taking it back a few years before that, where does it all start for you personally? Was there a particular performer, a single recording, that sparked everything for you?
There wasn’t any going to movies or anything during the war; everyone had a piano in the house, and the kids made their own entertainment, to stay positive. And the harmonies came from families coming together to sing.
I was exposed to so many styles of music as a kid. Django Reinhardt was a big influence on me at an early age, and of course Elvis was a huge influence a few years later, but Buddy Holly was the first singer-songwriter who really clicked with me.
That love for Buddy Holly is something that you share with Asher, who was a producer of that all-star Buddy tribute show on PBS — and with McCartney, who produced and appeared on your own album of Holly covers. Not to mention buying up the rights to the Buddy Holly song catalogue! Did that bit of common ground play a role in how Wings came together; was it a vein of inspiration, a way of staying grounded in something that you held true and dear?
Paul wanted someone that he knew and that he was comfortable with, when he put together Wings. He knew that I was into all sorts of different styles, and we were always trying out new things; adding our own touch to it. We’d go to different countries, like with Band on the Run in Nigeria; we’d work in the influences of their music and we’d take it back to England to put the finishing touches on it. Same pattern with Venus and Mars, and the New Orleans musicians. It’s important to travel around, to expose yourself to different styles of music, different cultures…by traveling you become more open, and less racist.
You continue to write and record new original material to this day, and we know this because the aforementioned Mr. Chris Cross had some very positive things to say about your latest record…
What he’s probably referring to are some songs that I’ve shared from an album that hasn’t been released yet. It’s called Valley of Dreams, and I’m looking to put it out sometime this year. It’s an album done from an Englishman’s point of view, traveling from one end of America to the other…taking in the different musical styles. I finished it, and I shelved it, because I wanted to wait until I was free to give it my full attention.
When might that be?
Well, I’ll be doing a show in Vegas called Vinyl, with a singer named Domenick Allen, performing with him for an engagement as a guest artist. I live there…I’ve got a place in Vegas for a few years now, because I like to be in an entertainment town. But I’ve also spent a lot of time on the Jersey Shore; I’ve been staying for quite a while in Brick, and I keep a boat down in Bayville…
Really? Denny Laine lives in BRICK? Who knew?
Well, the place where I was staying in Brick flooded unfortunately from the storm…I’ve seen some of the places around there that were really hard hit; Point Pleasant and towns around there, and the devastation was epic. Would you happen to know, by the way, if Tim McLoone still has his place up in Sea Bright?
If you mean his old flagship Rum Runner restaurant, it took as severe a hit as you’d expect…but they’ve vowed to set sail again, and a lot of people are surely rooting for that to happen.
Which kind of leads into the question of your relationship with your fans. Apart from a handful of particularly grumpy artists out there, almost nobody exists in a vacuum where they don’t have at least some degree of direct give-and-take with people who follow their careers. Your own career really straddles two or three very distinct eras of the music business; how it presents an artist, how music is recorded and promoted and delivered. The immediacy of live performance is one thing, but what’s your take on the power that an individual fan can wield?
When you have fans, you realize that a lot of these people have been around a long time; pretty much as long as you’ve been doing what you do — and they have things to say that can’t be ignored. You don’t want to spend all your time online, after all, but whatever time that you can devote to connecting with your fans is always appreciated.
Tickets for the June 17 “Masters of Music” event are priced between $20 and $45 (show only; dinner menu also available) and can be reserved by calling (732)774-1155 or visiting http://www.timmcloonessupperclub.com.