Day 180: NRBQ – At Yankee Stadium

27 Aug

Shake, Rattle & Roll

I like weird music.  I think I’ve made that fairly clear over the course of this project.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I don’t like music just because it’s weird.  I like good music, and if it happens to be something that I consider weird, it gets some brownie points for that extra creativity.

Okay, I’ve obviously confused myself a bit…slow down Jacob, small words…simple thoughts.

Anyway, the off-the-beaten-pathiness that is NRBQ (New Rhythm and Blues Quartet’s) At Yankee Stadium is the inspiration for that rambling introduction.  It’s not weird like what I normally mean by weird, though (oh man, here we go again).  Bear with me for a second.  When I describe music as weird, I usually just mean something of the indie variety that doesn’t conform to the standard rock band setup.  tUnE-yArDs—weird, Panda Bear—weird.  NRBQ—shouldn’t be weird.  It’s 4 guys playing conventional instruments.

They’re weird, though.  On At Yankee Stadium, NRBQ drags you through about every genre in music, and you’ll love every minute of it.  Heartfelt ballad? Check.  Standard rock?  Yup.  Johnny Cash cover?  Indubitably. A little jazz? Fo shizzle.  Hell, even some rhythm and blues gets thrown in, believe it or not.

It’s this strangeness that’s so appealing, though.  You never have any idea where this band is going to go next, which really adds to the intrigue of the record.  I know that I’ve hated on bands that can’t stick with a single sound, but that’s because I’ve never heard a band pull it off.  NRBQ is the exception.


3 Responses to “Day 180: NRBQ – At Yankee Stadium”

  1. Yuanny Dollar August 28, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    You are an unpredictable young man, but I’m glad you like the legendary Nerbick. I would have bet against it. Mr. Chops can provide tons more background, but this band really was a hipness litmus test back in the 70s-80s. When people were loving bands like Kansas and Rush, knowing and liking NRBQ (not really pronounced Nerbick) demonstrated you were cool. If you liked Blackflag or Stiff Little Fingers or The Cramps too, it was all over. You won the Hiplympics.

    • David Chops August 28, 2011 at 10:09 am #

      J$, I have got to tell you that in my experience NRBQ fandom has been about the farrest thing imagineable from a hipness litmus test -though I think I know how you might see it differently. There may have been a hipster-led pocket of NRBQ fans in Chicago in the early 1980s. In fact, it was on some college station in Chicago that I heard “Ridin’ In My Car” for the first time and caught the bug. It was also the last time that I ever heard the Q on the radio if I was not the DJ playing them.

      The band members themselves are and were entirely oblivious to image or fashion. Look at them! I think their handlers had to get them to wash their faces for the album photo shoot. NRBQ fans tend to be devoted music nerds. But not hipsters. But this is all beside the point.

      Why do I love NRBQ so much? That is the issue that I would like to address. Because these guys play SO well and never make a show of it. Because they always respected the intelligence of the audience enough to go out every night and play everything a bit different from the day before, fall on their asses a few times but play from the heart. Because Terry Adams tries to channel Thelonius Monk and Sun Ra through a Jerry Lee Lewis filter without pretence or guile. Because Joey Spampinato has written some of the best three minute pop gems that never made it on the radio or MTV . Because their version of Get Rythm rocked so hard that Johnny Cash heard it and immediately started to play it that way. Because Joey Spampinato turned down the bass chair in the Stones when Bill Wyman quit because it would have been work to him. Because they tarred and feathered a cabbage patch doll on the Hill of Three Oaks when they played Carleton Spring Fest in 1986. Because they stuck it out for more than 30 years for the love of the music and the fans and for no money.

      In about 1996, Big Al Anderson had had enough of the road and the lack of commercial success and decided he could make more money and live better as a songwriting gun for hire in Nashville. He was right, too. Ouch. A body-blow to the band but they soldiered on. Johnny Spampinato was an adequate replacement for Big Al.

      SE, if you are interested enough, read this It depresses me. After all the years, Joey Spampinato decided to play bars on Cape Cod with his brother rather than to continue NRBQ, leaving Terry Adams to somehow soldier on while fighting throat cancer (what do you think are the odds that Terry had health insurance?).

      You could take the best songs off of the last (current version) NRBQ and add the best ones from the Spampinato Brothers album and Al Anderson’s last solo try and have a pretty great NRBQ album. It is a shame that is not what happened.

      • Dave Chops January 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

        More downer NRBQ news: the band’s great (and underrated drummer) Tom Ardolino passed away last week at only 56 years old. Here is a nice tribute to him:

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