The J. Geils Band is one of those bands I wanted to share with you when I started AM, Then FM.
Well, I’ve finally done that, but not here. Head over to the fine Jefitoblog to read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the J. Geils Band.
When Jefito mentioned last week that he was preparing that very thing, I e-mailed him and said I was bummed that he’d gotten to it first. So he graciously invited me to help write it. What you see — surprise, pleasant surprise — is my contribution in its entirety, with a few asides by Jefito and all the downloads graciously provided by Jefito.
It’s a fan’s post, not a scholar’s post.
Today, almost 25 years after it broke up, the J. Geils Band is remembered almost exclusively as an ’80s band, thanks largely to MTV, which showcased the latter-day hits “Love Stinks,” “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame” for a new, younger audience.
That’s unfortunate, because it slights a much stronger body of work from the ’70s, one fondly remembered by those of us who grew up in the ’70s and are older than dirt today.
The J. Geils Band blew out of the Boston club scene as the ’70s began. It was a scorching six-piece bar band that became America’s greatest show band. The band released 10 albums during that decade, including two of the hottest live albums ever recorded — “Live: Full House” and “Blow Your Face Out.” They’re instant party starters.
Influenced and inspired by the blues, R&B, doo-wop and soul of the ’50s and ’60s, the J. Geils Band — mostly lead singer Peter Wolf and keyboard player Seth Justman — wrote lots of great tunes in that spirit. Most of those 10 albums have revved-up covers of some of those early, sometimes forgotten classics.
What struck me as I listened to all 14 albums in their entirety (for the first time in a long time, I confess) was the band’s musicianship.
Every guy was solid, and they knew how to set up the arrangements to maximize their strengths and their sound. In addition to Wolf and Justman, you had J. Geils on guitar, Magic Dick Salwitz on harmonica and horns, Stephen Bladd on drums and the incomparable Danny Klein on bass, rarely soloing but always anchoring the whole thing. So even if the songwriting was weak — and it was inconsistent throughout the band’s run — the performance usually was strong.
So, be sure to check out The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the J. Geils Band to read more and to sample a little something from each of the 14 albums put out from 1970 to 1984.
Jefito can’t post ’em all, so here are two more J. Geils Band tunes for you.
“Dead Presidents” is a cover of a Willie Dixon tune. It was recorded in early 1972 and put out as the B side to “I Don’t Need You No More,” the lead cut from 1971’s “The Morning After” album. It never appeared on any album, but was included on a couple of Rhino compilations put together after the band broke up — the 2-CD “Anthology” and “Must Of Got Lost,” a special edition shown above, which I found as a used CD.
“I Do” is a cover of The Marvelows’ tune from 1965. This is the studio version from “Monkey Island,” the band’s terrific 1977 album. They also do it live on “Showtime,” which came out in 1982.