Welcome to "The Rockologist," my new feature column for Blogcritics.
So who or what exactly is "The Rockologist" you may ask? The Rockologist is the latent music wonk I've nurtured deep within myself ever since about the time I first time saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Note I said "wonk" and not the more derogatory label of "nerd."
You see because a nerd is a guy who lives with his Mom and never gets laid. A wonk on the other hand is a guy who simply soaks up every bit of knowledge on his particular subject like a sponge. A wonk is the guy who can give you precise dates, places, and names within his area of expertise. Simply put, a wonk is a guy who "wonks the wonk" (or in this case "wonks the rock").
So with "The Rockologist" I am embracing my inner music wonk. Just don't call me Al Gore okay?
What we are going to do here is go into the deepest corridors of what I like to call "rockology." Now you may have noticed that I've written a lot about the reissued recordings of so-called "classic rock" artists this past year. So just to disspell any rumors that may get started, your resident Rockologist here and now denies that he quit listening to new music somewhere around the time Kurt Cobain died.
Quite the opposite. The Rockologist is happy to report that he will be attending a My Morning Jacket concert this Monday night and that the last CD he bought was the latest release by the Decemberists (based on something I read here on Blogcritics I might add).
However, there were an unusually great number of those "remastered" versions of albums by what you would call "classic rock" artists last year. And a significant number of them were really good (the ELO and Cure reissues spring immediately to mind here).
So here's the thing.
For those of us who grew up in the classic rock era, what is most frustrating is that the classic rock stations out there continue to feed us a steady diet of Zeppelin, Skynyrd, Floyd, Boston and Styx. All fine bands of course (well except maybe for Boston and Styx). But there are many equally great bands from that period who've largely become forgotten.
That's where "The Rockologist" comes in. Some of these bands have been resurrected through the efforts of those fine folks putting out all those "Critical Review" DVDs you may have seen at the record store (assuming you live in one of the few towns who still have actual record stores). You know the DVDs I'm talking about. The ones where a bunch of aging rock critics discuss the finer points of somebody like say, T. Rex, Mott The Hoople, or Uriah Heep.
There's nothing quite like "getting deep with the Heep" if you know what I mean. And that will be the subject of a future installment here.
But for now, we are going to talk about Black Oak Arkansas. And in particular, we are going to talk about one Jim Dandy Mangrum. To set this up, I kindly ask you direct your attention to this video:
Now I ask you, is this some amazing shit or what?
The first thing I've gotta point out is that were it not for Jim Dandy Mangrum could a guy like David Lee Roth ever even have existed? With his bare chest, waist length hair, and crotch hugging spandex, Jim Dandy practically created the prototype for Diamond Dave and the rest of the glam-rock bad boys that "taught us how to love" in the eighties.
The second noteworthy thing about BOA, however, is the freaking band. The three-pronged guitar attack fronting these guys is on the surface pretty much your classic southern rock sort of deal. What set BOA apart however was the rhythm section, and in particular Tommy "Dork" Aldridge's amazing double bass drumming.
Black Oak Arkansas basically had one hit single in the seventies in the blues rave-up "Jim Dandy." Which is a cool enough little tune, but hardly representative of what these guys were actually about. What BOA was actually about — and what made them the hottest concert act on the planet for about five minutes during the seventies — was their incredible live performances.
The first time I saw BOA was at Seattle's Paramount Theatre at the concert recorded for their amazing Raunch And Roll album. Unavailable for years, the CD was finally reissued a few years back (by BOA themselves). It sounds as great now as it did that night I sat in the twelfth row at the Paramount.
Even if the band wasn't so damned good (Aldridge in particular), BOA would be worth the price of admission just for Jim Dandy's hilariously sex-charged stage persona alone. Here you've got this okie-bred southern boy with a washboard of all things stuck between his legs. Better yet though, is the way he growls in a voice that sounds something like Tom Waits gargling on a mixture of Jack Daniels and crystal meth about how he's got a "Hot Rod."
Before the band reissued Raunch And Roll, I was honestly pissed when the only versions of these songs available was on the Atco/Rhino reissued Hot And Nasty: The Best Of Black Oak Arkansas album. The songs were there, but Dandy's hilariously croaked raps were all edited out.
I mean what good is a song like "Hot Rod" without the Jim Dandy setup of feeling good because "you've got a lot of motor under your wheels"? What good is a song like "Hot And Nasty" when all the great "Nasty" parts about having your "sweat running smooth under your skin" were left on the cutting floor?
When stuff like this is delivered by a sexually crazed okie boy like Jim Dandy it's simply priceless on levels too numerous to mention. And did I mention Tommy Aldridge's amazing double bass drumming?
As an eighteen year old teenager with my own chromosomes raging fairly hard, the combination was nothing short of intoxicating. I actually had one friend back then — a drummer — who to this day (as far as I know) buys a vinyl copy of Raunch And Roll whenever he can find one. The last time I went to his house — for a party about ten years ago — he had something like thirty copies of it in his record collection.
Black Oak Arkansas continue to play gigs today. Mostly at places like like the Buckhorn Tavern or the Indian Casino that books bands on the classic rock circuit in your neighborhood. They don't have Aldridge anymore. Ozzy Osbourne snatched him up pronto when the two bands shared a bill at the California Jam in 1973. I've no idea who he's playing with these days.
The last time I saw BOA was about three years ago at the classic rock festival they put on every year here in Darrington, Washington. Which is basically where a lot of old hippies and bikers get together on a field in one of our logging communities, drink a lot of beer, and generally raise hell.
BOA shared the bill that day with The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and Brewer and Shipley of "One Toke Over The Line" fame. For Brewer And Shipley, it was part of their "New Tokes For Old Folks" tour.
So Jim Dandy was no longer the "Hot And Nasty" stud he was back in the day. In fact, he's gained something like a thousand pounds, so the spandex is no longer really an option. But the band, with most of the original guitarists intact, sounded great.
For your own perusal of all things Black Oak Arkansas, I recommend you check out Raunch And Roll for starters. There is also a great live segment from England on the DVD Black Oak Arkansas: The First Thirty Years. Just steer away from that Best Of collection from Atco/Rhino. Black Oak were were never that great in the studio. It's all about the live stuff.