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MaryJanes2ndLastDance

Were the '81 and '91/'92 tours the best they played with Stan?

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My 2 cents on all of this, is that  I agree with those who say TP put the spotlight on Ben, Stan, and Howie after the FMF album, in order to show that they were important - despite being ignored or minimized by the FMF album itself.  That started with the FMF tour itself in 1989, with the instrumental "Ben's Boogie" (under various names) and Stan singing a song (an Elvis cover on the FMF tour, and on the ITGWO tour Psychotic Reaction).   I think he knew that they were unhappy or worried after FMF was done largely without them, and yet it also was a significant success.  TP wanted to show he was still a "band" guy.   

I also agree with those who feel that Stan looks happy on the Take The Highway video.  Sure TP has said he thought Stan was unhappy in the whole post FMF period, but on stage he looks very happy, so I think the unhappiness surrounded making records and other things, not the concerts.  I think Stan looks especially happy as the concert opens, with King's Highway (great opener for the concert, BTW).   

I respect MJ2LD's thoughts on 1981 having fairly long shows, and 1991 having the dragon, etc. (I'm kind of ambivalent about that, but it was unique for the band, and it did lead to some funny comments at the Essen show - TP makes a comment about some bit of material that was apparently accidently hanging down from the dragon, and it sends Stan into hysterics).  But in terms of the music, those tours don't stand out more to me than the others with Stan.  Actually I see a distinction between the 1991 and 1992 tours, even though they were both in support of ITGWO and both include many of the same songs.  I like the 1991 leg more, although I do like it that they played some of their own classic songs on the 1992 leg, such as "The Damage You've Done" and "It'll All Work Out".  But generally I don't like the vibe of the 1992 tour for some reason, and I don't like the cover songs and the new Petty songs, for the most part.  I preferred the stuff that was dropped from 1991 such as "Makin' Some Noise".       

The Gainesville 1993 show I enjoy through the early part - though it's not markedly better than a typical 1991 show early on - until they get to too many covers (such as JJ Cale, Dylan, Easy Rider, Thunderclap Newman, etc) and the unreleased Petty songs, which I simply don't think are that great.  The highlight is probably the first public performance of MJLD, so that's something.  Plus it's Stan's last real concert (other than the short, acoustic Bridge shows), so there's sentimental value there.

 If I had to pick a "peak tour" period it would be 1982-83.  I liked the song selection, I like the way the band sounded, I liked the way Howie's bass fit in so well.  This could be another topic, but I think Howie's peak bass with the band happened during his early years with the band, the early/mid 1980's.  After that his playing wasn't as good, IMO.  Maybe they asked him to change, or maybe drugs were already becoming a factor.  His singing still generally sounded good, he still could play quite well (as seen in the Bridge School show, I think 1988), but the bass was becoming inconsistent to say the least.  To the point where, when I first heard the Take the Highway video, I thought - wow, Howie's bass sounds good again.  Then I realized it was Scott Thurston on bass for that song, Howie had been relegated to acoustic guitar and backing vocals for that song.  Why?  To focus on his singing?  I don't know.  Bottom line for me - I greatly enjoyed the entire run of Stan-backed concerts, 1976-1993. 

 

   

 

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1 hour ago, TheSameOldDrew said:

..when I first heard the Take the Highway video, I thought - wow, Howie's bass sounds good again.  Then I realized it was Scott Thurston on bass for that song, Howie had been relegated to acoustic guitar and backing vocals for that song.

Just to be clear, I meant the song "King's Highway" which opens that concert.  That's where Scott Thurston is playing bass.  For other parts of that concert, Howie does play some bass, as does Scott at times.

Also to be clear, I thought Ron was terrific on bass 1976-81.  Not just pretty good, but terrific.  But to me Howie's bass sounded even a little better in 1982-83 than Ron had sounded, somehow more musical, really a perfect fit with the band.  So that's another thing that helped make 1982-83 a "peak period" for me.  But only by a small amount, compared with the rest of the Stan years. 

As to Ron on bass when he returned to the band, he sounded good but didn't stand out to me as great the way he did in the early days.  Possibly because he was playing off Steve, and I think Steve's on-beat drumming and emphasis on the bass drum crowded out some of Ron's bass playing.  Though to get technical, there is a YouTube interview with Ron, from a couple years ago, where Ron talks about playing off of Steve trying to find a place to fit in the bass line, not exactly on the beat and not exactly in line with the guitars.  It's also kind of frustrating to hear him say that he played "American Girl" with an interesting bass part that he doesn't use live (why not Ron?).  Also interesting to hear him end the interview by playing part of a familiar song - hint, it's music written by Mike Campbell. 

      

 

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I always found it interesting how any song Tom or Mike plays bass on that the mix is louder and more prominent than when Ron or Howie played. Just listen to the Mudcrutch albums or any song from the early days that Tom or Mike subbed in on bass. The mix is always more pronounce so you can hear and feel the bass line instead of being buried in the sound.

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2 hours ago, martin03345 said:

I always found it interesting how any song Tom or Mike plays bass on that the mix is louder and more prominent than when Ron or Howie played. Just listen to the Mudcrutch albums or any song from the early days that Tom or Mike subbed in on bass. The mix is always more pronounce so you can hear and feel the bass line instead of being buried in the sound.

I hadn't really noticed that, but you are probably right.  I did notice that at the July 4, 1986 show with Bob Dylan, TP's bass playing on Rainy Day Women 12 & 35 (aka "everyone must get stoned") is quite prominent, more so than when Howie had been playing during the TPATH set just prior to it.  But I figured that was just the way they did that song. 

It's interesting that TP was a bass player for quite some time, though he also played guitar (including at times I think in the original run of Mudcrutch).  The first two singles, "Breakdown" and "American Girl" both rely heavily on the bass, especially Breakdown.  I've always wondered if that was because TP as a songwriter was still thinking a lot about the bass part, or if it just turned out that way due to Ron's contribution on bass. 

BTW if anyone listened to that interview with Ron, at the end he's playing Mike's "Boys of Summer".  Which is interesting since that was never played by TPATH as a band, and it was written after Ron had left the band.  We'll always wonder what TP might have done with that music, though certainly Don Henley did it justice. 

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4 hours ago, martin03345 said:

I always found it interesting how any song Tom or Mike plays bass on that the mix is louder and more prominent than when Ron or Howie played. Just listen to the Mudcrutch albums or any song from the early days that Tom or Mike subbed in on bass. The mix is always more pronounce so you can hear and feel the bass line instead of being buried in the sound.

I'll have to do this sometime but if true...man, that's just...surprisingly sad! That clip Drew posted is phenomenal, Ron's quite the player.

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Ron Blair: "To which I say, don't fix it, folks, leave it the way it is." 😉

Yes, agree, for TP to grow up playing in the rhythm section of bands, as opposed to being lead guitarist, is highly likely to hzve shaped him. I wonder how much guitar he played before Heartbreakers? Or in other words, how much guitar versus how much bass.

Anyway, kapow, when TP & MC write together, you get rhythm section AND lead. And when they ALL collaborate (as I'm sure they all did a lot) we get best of all worlds. 

Plus, when they were in LA with Shelter Records, they were meeting people including Duck Dunn and Jim Keltner.  TP later continues to mention (in interviews) things they learnt from Duck Dunn, you know, casual advice from the masters! 

Baby's A Rock and Roller: "My baby's gone on the rhythm sensation / that's all she ever wants to be. "

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On 9/20/2019 at 12:14 AM, TheSameOldDrew said:

he played "American Girl" with an interesting bass part that he doesn't use live (why not Ron?).

Right. I think perhaps you answer this yourself. Or Ron does at least hint towards an answer. 

On 9/20/2019 at 12:14 AM, TheSameOldDrew said:

Ron talks about playing off of Steve trying to find a place

That.

To expand just a little on this, I think Tom's change in drum sound preference - or rather the way the drums function within the music (as discussed elsewhere, both recently and in a more distance past) - may be key here. The world premiere of this new ideal of the drums as more of a backdrop/canvas for the other instruments to play off (a sofisticated click track shall we say?), rather than being more of an integral, equal and organic part among others, could be said to have been You Don't Know How It Feels. I would say that this is the one technical aspect where your previous "theory" of the mid 90s being this fork in the road gains most of its credit. This was indeed a change that affected most output from thereon out. And a change that must have effected the bass player's role quite a bit as well. A few times perhaps for the "better", a few times also for the "worse". In short, it must have been very different playing bass - in essence co-laying the very rhytm foundation of the band - with someone like Stan from doing it with someone like Steve. As I understand it, this is what Ron ever so charming and politely is giving some clues and testimony about in that clip. Given his instrument, it was a rather different reality to him the second time around. (But I am known to hear voices that are not there, so... caution.)

From there I see two different ways to proceed with this post.

One. Howie. And this probably deserves a whole new topic. But just to scratch the service of something extremely interesting, here. Given what you observed about Howie's slighly altered role starting with Scott entering the picture (if somewhat secretly) during the 89-92 tours, and what I just said about the bass-drums connection, I think it's fair to ask, not if Stan looked happy or miserable during the Wide Open tour (Stan's a pro and would not, despite his "difficult" personality, sit there and sulk), but rather, how did Howie's roll, both as one of the worlds leading harmony vocalist (IMO) and as a badass bass player (like described by yourself in the above) develop during the latter part of the 90s? I won't answer that, but I think you see where I'm going....  Let's just say, Ron was before and after, Howie was in the midst of it.

Two. Tom. I share Martin's take. It really seems that when Tom or Mike took over bass duties, either they thought a song needed their special touch, or they find their own execution to be fantastic enough in hindsight to be granted a higher leverage in the mix, than normally would be the case. Because that seems to be what happened a lot of the time. This is not to an annoying degree though, I think. But it is noticeble and it is interesting. Now correct me if I'm wrong but there always been these discussions about FMF's and WF's status as a solo albums. (In the case of HC, I suppose there is no discussion for good reasons). And for good reasons too. I mean, just ponder an album like HE, an alleged band album to the core - where is Ben? Why - again - is the most prominent bass work (that is highly integral to the splendour aspects of the album) done by Tom? Isn't HE again and album that largely is a Tom and Mike product? Ok rhethorical...  Either way. None of this is really a problem to me, musically, since - and this is key here - I personally LOVE how Tom handles the bass. I am very grateful that he never seemed to have forgotten his bass past, that he took it up again fully in Mudcrutch. I think he had a certain swagger with his bass lines, a very special sort of swing that I will always cherish. I don't mind him stepping in and ripping it on U Get Me High, ("turn the lever to 11, Ryan!") or whatever. His bass is one of the core qualities and charms with the whole Mudcrutch project as I hear it.

To tie this back to the Ron and Howie discussion though, I to think that the way Stan/Ron/Tom worked the rhytm in the early days was fantastic! I also think it got even better in the early days of Howie. And that, to me, is simply because Howie had some similar characteristic qualities to his playing that did Tom, kinda like he did vocal wise too. He was the perfect sideman to Tom that way, IMO. Then again, what he could and was asked to do in those fields may have changed some during the 90s for various reasons. Ron upon coming back (to the day almost, that he once said he would!) was entering a whole other stage. In the contect of the 2010s decade TPAT, I think he found his place pretty nicely - did a great job moving with the band towards a grittier and heavier live sound over some of the last few tours - but, like more or less stated clearly in the above - Stan was no longer there, and to me Ron was always at his musical peak with Stan in the room. Ironically, some parts Tom covered himself on bass during the 2000s-10s, are also the parts where I would think Ron would have had the best chance to flex his 70s vibes again. But, either he'd long since lost those skills (unlikely), or Tom just loved the stuff enough to steal the show from him. (Which could perhaps suggest that TP still had some heart in the old days of a wilder, looser rhytm section to the end, which wouldn't be that suprising to me). Anyway, the general bulk of what Ron played since his return to the band is of less interest than the general bulk of his 70-81 work, I think. But again.. Stan was gone. 

Hope there is something in this that make sense. Something you can work with. 

 

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8 hours ago, Shelter said:

(In the case of HC, I suppose there is no discussion for good reasons).

Haha.

8 hours ago, Shelter said:

Hope there is something in this that make sense. Something you can work with. 

That is a lot of good points  up there and an interesting take on the situation, maybe you opened up some more lines of communication here on the 'Farm with your commentary. Regardless, a good solid take on the situation.

cheers

 

 

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15 hours ago, MaryJanes2ndLastDance said:

Haha.

Glad you see it like that. Although, the "good reasons" for HC's solo status not being discussed, as I hope you realize, is that it's such an obvious solo album compared to everything else Tom ever did, as I see it. As I understand it, the project/sessions was extremely close to heart, basically all tracks/instruments handled by Tom and Jeff between themselves. Mike of course. But even he seems to have been involved slightly less than usual. So, not much to discuss in that sense. Certainly nothing with bearing on what I discuss above with regards to bass players and drummers.

 

15 hours ago, MaryJanes2ndLastDance said:

Regardless, a good solid take on the situation.

Thank you. If not overly solid, at least it's my scattered thinking on some of the aspects of the Ron/Howie vs Stan/Steve situation previously touched upon. If it killed the topic, so be it. Haha! Wouldn't be a first...  

 

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The 1991 tour was special for me. Until that point I had seen the band play exactly one song live—I attended a taping of the Late Night with David Letterman 8th Anniversary special, during which they played "A Face in the Crowd." So, when they announced the Great Wide Open Tour, I made sure to really absorb the live experience and say four concerts in November 1991. The first was at Irvine Meadows, and they played an extra long show with "Straight Into Darkness" and "Mystery Man" in the setlist. The next week I saw them at the LA Forum and San Diego Sports Arena, then on November 24 I got to see them on my birthday at the Oakland Arena (one of the two shows filmed for Take The Highway). These were thrilling shows.

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Shelter, regarding the bass and drums, seems like we agree there.  Ron was terrific with Stan, and then Howie may have been even better in the early/mid 80's.  Howie's bass playing on the 82-83 tour (such as the Us Festival in Devore CA) and 1985 (I'm especially thinking of the first Farm Aid concert where they played "Don't Bring Me Down" and other songs) was so incredibly musical.  And then Scott brought a good sound to the bass at times, somewhat secretly as you point out (when he plays the bass on "King's Highway" for the "Take The Highway" video you can barely see Scott in the back, while Howie is prominently out front).

Stan to me was the band's best drummer, not only for his creativity and feel, but because his style gave more room for the other instruments, especially the bass.  You may be right that Ron is gently tweaking Steve when he talks about how the bass and drums need to fit together in a musical way.  For me, Steve's "on the beat" drumming, which also used a lot of bass drum, tended to drown out the bass guitar, so that Ron's bass playing doesn't stand out very well on his second stint with the band, not like it did in his first stint anyway. 

I recall reading somewhere, I think it was the Playback booklet, how Benmont said he would often try to play something off of Ron's bass.  As if Ron were setting the pace rather than Stan, and Stan was punctuating things rather than being a timekeeper.  Which seemed to work very well, and may be somewhat like The Who, where Keith Moon was not a timekeeper, but John Entwistle's steady bass playing set the pace.  Yet Ron in that interview said he was trying to play off of Steve, thus the roles had clearly shifted to where Steve was now the timekeeper.  Or something like that.  Not that it all lines up that neatly in the Ron/Stan/Steve/Howie/Scott situation, but there was clearly a change, in my opinion it was not a good change, though I can see why some people might have liked it or preferred it.

I recall another interview where Ron said he missed Stan's drumming.  Which was nothing personal, Ron and Steve seemed to be friends and hung out together, but it was an acknowledgement that Stan had a different style and different way of interacting with the bass. 

 

 

 

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13 hours ago, TheSameOldDrew said:

Benmont said he would often try to play something off of Ron's bass.  As if Ron were setting the pace rather than Stan, and Stan was punctuating things rather than being a timekeeper.  Which seemed to work very well, and may be somewhat like The Who, where Keith Moon was not a timekeeper, but John Entwistle's steady bass playing set the pace.  Yet Ron in that interview said he was trying to play off of Steve, thus the roles had clearly shifted to where Steve was now the timekeeper

Yes, this is pretty well exactly in line with my thinking and what I've been saying about it. Stan's drums as one instrument among others in the band vs Steve's drums as a carpet for them all to ride on and all that. (Ain't that a mental image!)

Again - even if Ron is the one you focus on here - I think that we need to bring Howie into this logic. Howie's role with regards to all this is perhaps even more interesting. Since he was also really working wonders in sync with Stan AND he had  to live through - perhaps more urgently so than anyone - the changes that Tom's orientation in the drums department underwent, starting with some of Jeff's ideas (I would very much suggest) and being finalized with Stan leaving and Steve laying out the boom-smacks of You Don't Know How It Feels.* To simplify things just a little. Howie was there, swining his bass straight through it all (on and off), is my point.

On tour both Howie's bass and his backing vocals already became "challenged" at times (for no good or actual reason that I can think of), when TPATH broadened their live ambitions by bringing in Scott.** But in the studio the old Howie-Stan magic was as good and groovy as it ever was, by the time Stan finally went. Something In The Air marks, to my mind ,a fantastic achievement of Howie's. Great sound, great swing and great vocals! (His only fully shared lead vocals too, if I'm not mistaken.) From there it seems he adopted well and quickly enough to where TPATH were heading next. I don't recall here and now exactly what Howie did on Wildflowers - some two or three songs right - but right in line with "Ron's two realities" discussed above, I guess coming out on the other side of the Wildflowers experience and hitting the road - with Steve now behind the TPATH kit and Scott too, slowly taking on the roll of an official Hearbreaker***, certainly must have had an enormous effect on Howie during the rest of the 90s. His niche effectively shrinking, some of his "room", his most musical playing, being slighly pushed away under what you call the "time keeping" carpet. 

If anything, this seems to be a rather forgotten and undiscussed aspect of the band's history. So it's interesting to be able to voice it here, if as a bit of a sidenote. That all said, I'm really glad, though, that the later remasters/editions of Echo seem to highlight some of Howie's harmony vocals a lot better than did the original overly compressed CD edition (talked about elsewhere.) At least that help a little in fighting a feeling that Howie kinda faded away musically, as much as he did personally. IMO he also did some great bass work towards the end of his life, perhaps especially on the 99 tour.

 

 

 -----

*Howie didn't actually play on YDKHIF.. I just use the song as an symbolic kick drum of the new rhytm era.. I mean kick start.. ehm..

**In order to better recreate the studio shenanigans on the Lynne albums, I suppose. But how Scott came to take some of Howie's core duties, instead of just adding whatever extras they wanted added, is less clear.

***Neither Scott nor Steve were fully official and licenced Heartbreakers until the LDJ era though, but still.

 

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On ‎9‎/‎25‎/‎2019 at 7:01 AM, Shelter said:

***Neither Scott nor Steve were fully official and licenced Heartbreakers until the LDJ era though, but still.

Yes it's interesting to have seen who was "official" and who wasn't, over the years.  I don't thnk Phil Jones was ever an official member, but he was obviously an important part of the band in the early 80's as well as on FMF.  I recall a "band" photo from the early 80's that showed a 6 member line-up, including Phil Jones.   

Steve wasn't available for much of the "She's The One" album, so various other drummers were used, mainly Curt Bisquera.  Despite it being technically an "and The Heartbreakers" album, Bisquera was never considered to be a member of the band. 

Scott was an unofficial member well before Steve, brought in by Stan (by all the accounts I've read).  I think the cover of the Echo album was supposed to show the 4 "official" members: TP, Mike, Ben, and Howie - but Howie was unreliable (possibly ill) and didn't make the photo shoot.  So they had Scott appear (though not Steve, despite being the only drummer on the album), and the photo was blurred to the point where a viewer might believe that was Howie in the background, thus "representing" the 4 official members only.  Or at least that's my understanding of it. 

By Mojo of course, Scott and Steve were official enough to appear on the album cover.  Really the only time that all the prime members (official or unofficial) involved were shown on a cover since "You're Gonna Get It". 

   

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2 hours ago, TheSameOldDrew said:

I don't thnk Phil Jones was ever an official member, but he was obviously an important part of the band in the early 80's as well as on FMF.  I recall a "band" photo from the early 80's that showed a 6 member line-up, including Phil Jones.

I love Phil Jones drumming on FMF! From the tasty fills on the Apartment Song, those drumrolls in Full Moon Fever, the energy of Runnin Down A Dream, the whole album or whatever tracks he played on are fabulous! I don't know why his drumming on a Jeff Lynne produced album is so good and yet, there are criticisms of what Lynne did to Stan's drumming on ITGWO. I think FMF has some of the wildest and inspired drumming on any of his records; no snub to Stan, but Phil's drumming is an essential part of FMF and he seems to have had some latitude; that's how it comes across anyway. Maybe it's because of the record's off-the-cuff origin.

cheers

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On ‎9‎/‎26‎/‎2019 at 10:49 PM, MaryJanes2ndLastDance said:

I love Phil Jones drumming on FMF! From the tasty fills on the Apartment Song, those drumrolls in Full Moon Fever, the energy of Runnin Down A Dream, the whole album or whatever tracks he played on are fabulous!

I agree, Phil Jones was terrific on FMF.  Frankly I don't know why he wasn't invited to replace Stan, when Stan and TPATH parted ways.  Maybe it would have been awkward, since he was brought into the band by Stan (I think, Stan said Phil had been his roadie, so I assume Stan brought him in as percussionist). 

Phil Jones on percussion is one reason I like 1982-83 as a great tour.  Though PJ was also on the 1981 tour, and at least part of the 1980 tour (he's definitely at the Oxford "Rock Goes to College" show). 

 

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