I saw them on a dark summer night at an arena now long torn down. They were the warm up band for Robin Trower, the former Procol Harum guitarist who broke off to play Jimi Hendrix. I didn’t even know their name, for it was torn off the ticket when we entered. All I remember was that this band unlooked-for blew me and my buddies away.
The lead guitar player looked a bit like a younger Elton John – but not in a bad way. He wasn’t pudgy either. He had a guitar with a cleft cut into the back and two sharp diagonal shark fins bracketing the cleft. Every song he and the boys played broke into a jam midway through and revved away to a wordless climax : the lead guitar player bent at the knees, hunched over his axe, rocking back and forth in point and counterpoint with his band mates, who faced off against him the same way, synced with the music, synced with the beat, their bodies organically part of the song, like a demented chamber orchestra, relentlessly riffing with each other until they all arrived together at the climax like an electric wave crashing on the arena beach.
You had to be there I suppose, and perhaps heavily stoned as well, to appreciate the moment. They were a mid card rock band with great chops, so-so lyrics and weak vocals. I didn’t know who they were but I liked them better than Robin Trower.
When I went away to college I came across an album cover – Argus, by Wishbone Ash. I realized this was the boogie band I hearted a few years ago, and Andy Powell was the guitarist with the bad look and weird guitar. I spent many happy hours listening to their jams. Then I got Mary pregnant, and man that was all she wrote, and for my 30th birthday I – sold my record collection and gave the proceeds to Mary. No good deed ever goes unpunished, and Mary turned into a banshee, a development that had nothing to do with my musical tastes. But the proceeds turned into a bushel of children, who now visit their Rockin’ Daddy several times a week or more.
This week Daddy found Andy Powell and the boys on a music download site. It was a sweet reunion, especially listening (again and again) to Wishbone Ash’s signature song, “Blowin’ Free“, an anthem with a masculine guitar riff in the middle and a rising storm of electric guitars to end the song.
Gosh its been a long time boys. You sound good as ever. Thanks for the music, the great band name, and the night to remember at the arena long since torn down.