By Jimmy “Hambone” Hamilton
Oh, the best laid plans. I had three stops to make on a recent Saturday night. Unfortunately for all involved, Mother Nature reared her ugly head and blasted us with artic temperatures and everybody’s favorite, freezing rain. I actually fired up the old “Bone-mobile” and scraped the windshield clean to make an attempt, but before I went even a dozen blocks, the clear spot had reduced to a football size hole and I gave up the ghost and turned around.
I made it back to the shack all scrunched over, peering through a tiny opening down near the dash. I went in and put my feet next to the space heater, but not before putting some classic vinyl on the old turn-table. I resorted to an old game I sometimes play where I blindly pull an album from the shelf without looking, and mentally agree to sit and listen to it no matter what it is. This is almost always a pleasant surprise, as my collection is pretty extensive. I have been burned a time or two, due to the unfortunate addition of Mrs. Hambone’s sorry LP’s. (I remember an evening a couple years ago, when I was forced to sit through Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, and another where I contemplated suicide during Yanni’s Live From the Acropolis. I’ve got to get around to sneaking that crap to the attic).
This night was a much more enjoyable experience. First out of the shoot was Heart’s “Dreamboat Annie”, much played when it first released, but not out of the sleeve for at least a decade now. I remember I first saw the fabulous Wilson sisters at Arrowhead for one of the big Summer Jam shows back in the 70’s, when they blew me away with an all-Zepplin encore.
I caught them again a couple of years ago at the Ameristar Casino in KC, in a much more intimate setting with only about 500 people in the room. Sister Nancy still ripped it up on guitar, while Sister Anne left no doubt that she still had the pipes if not the svelte figure from Dreamboat Days. I told my buddy who saw the show with me that maybe spandex pants aren’t the best choice at that size. But then again, who am I to criticize the abdominally challenged.
Listening to this album tonight is like a time machine. It takes me back to the late 70’s when I had it on 8-track in the 72 Dodge Window Van with the Cherry Bomb pipes and the green shag carpeting.
After that trip down memory lane, I thought I’d tempt fate and try again. This time the choice was serendipitous as hell if I do say so, as I put on REO Speedwagon’s “Riding the Storm Out” from 1973.
I know, I know, some of you are cringing at the mention of the candy-ass band that gave us sappy pop drivel like “You Can Tune a Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish”. But it’s important to keep in mind that before they sold out, these guys were rockers. This album is a perfect case in point. So there I am toasty warm with the lights out, watching the sleet and freezing rain hit the big skylight overhead as REO belts out “Riding the Storm Out”. What perfect timing, that’s just what I was doing. I bet I remember that setting the rest of my life, whenever I hear that song.
I was starting to fade a little at this point, but there was still a little scotch in my glass, so I figured I had time for one more selection. I turned my head as I reached for another album, and was please when I grabbed Steely Dan’s “Katy Lied”. For those who know it, this is the one with the close up of the giant Katy-did face. Or maybe it’s a praying mantis, what do I know?
This is another band that takes some shots for being too commercial, though not by me. Donald Fagan and Walter Becker assembled some of the greatest studio talent ever for their extensive catalogue, and while this album has some of my personal favorites like “Bad Sneakers” and “Dr. Wu”, it didn’t have any real breakout hits, and never got much radio play.
By the time the last track finished and the tone-arm made it’s way back to the cradle, my drink was nothing but melted cubes and it was time to hit the hay with a modest buzz and a smile on my face.
The next time you find yourself with a stormy evening keeping you in, try this little game of mine and see what pops out of your record collection. You just might be pleasantly surprised yourself.