Friday, August 27, 2010

What I Did This Summer…Well, in Music (Part One)

It’s back-to-school time, so what better way to get in the mood than to give that dreaded first-week-of-English-class report: “What I Did This Summer.”

This summer has been a real up-and-downer in the Wright household. Of course, there was the flood, as almost none of you may have heard in the national news…and there have been the other things that life seems to throw at you when you least expect it. But musically, it’s been a summer like I’ve never known.

The weird thing is, none of the coolness of this incredibly musical summer has had to do with playing music. And that’s strange for me. And difficult. This is the first year I haven’t been in some kind of band in a decade. And yeah, I miss that. Badly. I miss Skelter practice in the Ross basement and pre-practice drinks with The Lightning Catchers at the Tempest on Eighth Ave. I miss rocking out with great musicians…and good friends.

But other things have opened up in their stead. As most of you know, my current job is at Gibson Guitar, where I’m the editorial director. So, I oversee the content of the company website…and I write quite a bit, as well. This has opened the doors for me to interview some pretty interesting people. I’ve had the opportunity to chat with everyone from Slash to Carlos Cavazo to Alex Lifeson to Steve Miller to the guy who played guitar on “Rapper’s Delight” (whose anecdotes about his guitar being continually held hostage by ex-girlfriends is one of the great B-reel laughs I’ve had all year). It really runs the gamut. But this summer, I’ve been particularly fortunate to be able to speak with two artists who really affected my musical make-up — like, that D.N.A.-level music, dating all the way back to my bedroom on Harding Road in Springfield, Ohio in the mid-’70s.

Now, I’d had the opportunity previously, when I worked in comics, to talk with some creative types whom I had admired for years and ask all the questions I’d always wanted to ask. Hell, I even got to work for Batman legend Denny O’Neil for a year. This was reminiscent of those years, though the scale seemed so much larger, I guess, because as much as I loved (and love) comics, music is my bedrock. If you cut me, I bleed music (and blood, so don’t try!). So, this was an amazing opportunity to gain a new insight on the music and players who have meant so much to me.

A couple of months ago, I contacted Denny Laine and arranged an interview for our site. Laine, for those who don’t know, was one of the original members of The Moody Blues and, later, was the one non-McCartney constant in Wings. It was his Wings music that resonated with me both as a kid and, really, to this day as an adult. Wings are a convenient punchline (cue the Alan Partridge reel), but they were an amazing band. Paul McCartney is, admittedly, my favorite musician — and one of my favorite people — on the planet, but the band were pretty amazing, as well. I particularly liked that middle-years line-up, with Jimmy McCulloch on lead guitar and Joe English on drums. Wings over America was a big part of the soundtrack of my household when I was growing up, and it still remains one of my all-time faves. It was great picking Laine’s brains and getting some insight on those guys and those years — and it was somewhat satisfying to learn that someone who was actually in the band also lamented how soft they went toward the end. It was also great to be able to get the scoop from the horse’s mouth on one of those great rock and roll legends, involving Jimmy McCulloch, a loaded gun and two sleeping McCartneys.

(To be continued…)