Monday, December 22, 2014

JOE COCKER - A MEMORABLE NIGHT


In May of 1969, I went to the Filmore East to see Jeff Beck.

NRBQ opened the show. I was never much of a fan but, live and in color, they put us in the mood.

Then The Grease Band played their first couple of numbers. These guys were more like it, playing a version of blues-tinged rock and roll that I could really get into. And as you know, the guys went on to pretty fair careers after The Grease Band folded. You could look it up. After a couple of instrumentals, they brought out their lead singer. First night of his first American tour. Joe Cocker.

We had never seen anything like it. We had never heard anything like it. Initially, both the spastic-seeming gyrations and the sheer force of that wailing voice coming from that slender body behind a thatch of wild scalp and facial hair took the focus away from the music. But not for long. You couldn't ignore Joe's music for long.

I can't say that I remember the set list. I remember Delta Lady and Dear Landlord and She Came In Through the Bathroom Window. I think. He probably did a couple of the numbers that Chris Stainton wrote, maybe Sandpaper Cadillac. The point is, though, that by the time he finished With a Little Help from My Friends, the folks downstairs were dancing in the aisles and those of us upstairs were shaking the rafters. 3,000 people in Lower Manhattan had become total Cocker fans.

After we'd settled down, Jeff Beck came onstage. The man can play guitar. He whipped through a couple of numbers, then brought out Rod Stewart for vocals. Remember, these were the days before the glitzy Stewart, when Stewart was simply Beck's vocalist. They had just finished laying down Beck-Ola. It wouldn't be too long before Stewart would leave Beck to gig with Faces and, within a couple of years, record Reason to Believe and Maggie May as a solo act. Stewart was on his way to the big time but he wasn't there yet.

Well, Stewart barely made it through his first number. Laryngitis. Aw, shoot. But wait a minute. Out comes Cocker. And he does the whole set with Beck. Damn and double damn.

The rest is history. Woodstock. Mad Dogs. Leon Russell. The Letter. Wonderful stuff.

And now it's time for the great gig in the sky with Joe trading vocals with Janice, Jimi on guitar, Jack on bass, Bonzo on drums...

RIP

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