by Amy Harris
’70s/’80s rockers play Riverbend on Wednesday with Chicago
REO Speedwagon has been providing audiences hits since the ’70s. The band gained momentum after its release of High Fidelity in 1980 giving us “Keep on Loving You” and “Take it on the Run."
Since then they have accumulated enough hits to fill up
any set to keep crowds entertained. With them teaming up with Chicago
currently on tour, it brings a nostalgic rush of Rock live to audiences
across the country.
CityBeat caught up with founding member and
keyboard player Neal Doughty to get a feel of how life has changed over
the years in the music business. The band performs at Riverbend Music
Center Wednesday night. Find tickets/more info here.
CityBeat: I read in an interview that you
found the name REO Speedwagon in an engineering class when you were in
school in Illinois. I was curious if you ever finished your engineering
Neal Doughty: No. I did not finish the engineering
degree. I went to college for five years and never graduated because
when the band got started it was just a little dormitory, a couple guys
in the dorm, playing for fun playing on weekends. Then the band got
really, really popular and we started branching out to Ohio and Indiana
and the first thing we knew is we were too busy to go to class. And if
you are in engineering at the University of Illinois, you better go to
class because it is not easy. So myself and Alan, our original drummer,
neither one of us finished college. We stuck with the band. It was sink
or swim in the music business. It was interesting telling my parents
that I had dropped out of college after five years, but we were already
supporting ourselves with this band. We are already actually making a
living. My dad goes, “Hey I can’t argue with that. People go to five
years of college and never do get a job.” They handled that OK and I am
happy with how that turned out.
CB: I think you made the right choice. That is pretty hardcore to have a full-time band and finish school.
ND: Yeah, I have two nephews that are engineers and
it’s a good area because I haven’t heard of an engineer who couldn’t
find work. They were hired right out of college. I would have been happy
either way. I am still interested in scientific things. I would have
enjoyed it and been pretty good at it but this will do. It’s fine.
CB: You have been playing the hits for over 30 years. What is your favorite song to play live?
ND: I think my favorite song live, I love playing
“Can’t Fight This Feeling” because I get to showcase the piano a bit on
that intro. I also love playing “Back on the Road,” the song that Bruce
sings. It is somehow the perfect tempo and a crowd who hasn’t been on
their feet yet will always get up for that song.
Of course with all the changes and stories of our career,
there isn’t one song we play live that I don’t like, which is a great
luxury. A lot of bands don’t have that. We have been together so long
and have so many records out that we can pick our favorite songs to play
live and it usually turns out to be the favorites of the audience too.
Most bands, they probably play some songs that at least two guys hate
it, but we have been very lucky to have a lot of songs to choose from.
CB: What has been your greatest Rock star moment?
ND: My wife is in the room and she is laughing
because I think she had something to do with my greatest Rock star
moment. I don’t know if we should go into the details. We met at a show.
We had known each other for a long time and had never quite gotten
together. One night after the show, she pretty much attacked me in the
dressing room in front of the entire crew. There were no clothes that
came off. It was all very legal and everything. All I can say is within
three months, instead of living at the beach in California I was living
in Minnesota where it gets really cold. This was eight years ago and so
far it has been totally worth it. Yes, that was my greatest Rock star
moment … to have a woman that was so affectionate in front of so many
CB: That is the best story I have heard in a while.
ND: She is laughing her head off right now.
CB: There is nothing illegal about clothes coming off, by the way. It is fine.
ND: Everybody kept their clothes on. It was just
kind of a message that I like you, a really nice way of saying I like
you. In fact, I was supposed to leave town that night but the band got
me a hotel room and a plane ticket. It turned out to be fairly innocent,
but it was the start of a great relationship that is going eight years
later. You definitely meet some of the wrong women on the road, and this
is one of the rare instances where I met the right one.
CB: The internet and social media have
totally changed the way bands can make it and get on the radio and get
famous now. Do you think it is easier or harder for a band to make it
ND: It is a whole different thing. It used to be
very, very hard to get a record contract. We were together four years
just starting before we got somebody interested with us. We were lucky
to be with Epic Records for so many years. They let us do like 10
records that weren’t hits until we had High Fidelity in 1980 and 1981. There is no record label that would give a band that many chances to turn in a hit.
On the other hand, now you can make a record on your
telephone and upload it to the internet. If it goes viral, anything can
happen. I live in a small town in Minnesota, and one of the students
there, one of my wife’s English students, made a video on a broken
iPhone with an out of tune piano and it went viral. It has 10 million
views on YouTube and she now has a couple record companies fighting over
I don’t mind how it’s working today. If I were going to,
in my old age, try to make a song of my own, I think I would like the
fact I could make it at home, upload it to the Internet and see what
happens. I have nephews who are in a Rock band. They have become the
most popular band in the St Louis area just from all their sales online.
I think it is a great equalizer. You no longer need a lot of money
behind you to get a break and that’s good. Any kid in a basement has the
same chance as somebody with a million dollars to spend in a studio and
I think that’s truly great.
CB: Are there any new up and coming bands or current artists that you would want to collaborate with?
ND: I tend to like one song by an artist and just
buy that one song, which you can do now. I tend to have this really
crazy range of tastes in bands. I like Foster the People on one end and I
like Brad Paisley on the other end of the scale. Brad happens to be a
good friend of ours, so I may be biased.
My taste in music is so eclectic now, something that maybe
couldn’t have happened before the Internet. You hear a song on a TV
show in the music in the background and there was no way you would ever
find out what that song was. A lot of the new groups that get
discovered, that I like now, it started watching a TV show, with a great
song in the background. You just now have to aim your phone at the TV
and it will tell you who the band is. That is really the greatest
invention ever. There are songs I hear on the radio or in a movie or in
the background of a TV show and you could have searched for the rest of
your life and never found it. Now, being able to find anything you might
hear is my favorite thing that has happened to the music business. If
you look at the playlist on my phone, you would think this guy is all
over the map with the stuff he likes. I am very happy about that
CB: You have been on the road for many, many
years. Do you keep journals or photographs? How do you keep the history
of the touring and the memories?
ND: No, once again, the Internet has helped with
that. There were some lost photographs. We have had a million things
happen that were great. Recently one of our old crew members from 30
years ago found a picture of John Entwistle jamming with us on stage in
London, and Brian May for Queen hanging out with us in the dressing room
that night. These old black and white pictures so people will actually
believe that something that great happened to me. We found a picture of
literally the house 157 Riverside Ave., which we rented in Rockport,
Conn., where we did our first album. Now we found what it looks like
recently. Then we also found they tore the thing down. Granted, it was
not a national landmark, but seeing pictures of it a few years ago, we
could see why they tore it down. It was about to fall down and we
probably had something to do with that.
CB: You have had a few band members change over the years. How do you know you have a right fit?
ND: Well we have been kind of lucky we had only one
real change happen and it all happened at the same time. Our current
lineup has been together for 25 years, which is longer than the original
group was together.
Back in the late 80’s, our original drummer Alan who I
started the band with, and our original guitar player Gary both left
around the same time. Alan couldn’t handle the road anymore because he
was too attached to his family. He quit for the best of reasons, to be
with his kids and wife. He opened a restaurant and is doing well. Gary
started not handling the road well. The road brought out all of his
demons. There was a point when he just couldn’t do it anymore because
it’s too hard.
That really is when we got Brian, our drummer, and Dave,
our guitar player, and that all happened very fast. We did a major set
of auditions for drummers. I think we auditioned eight drummers in two
days. Brian was the first one and we knew right then he was the guy we
wanted. I asked Kevin if we had to listen to seven more drummers but he
wanted to be fair to them. But Brian easily passed that audition. Dave
Amato, our guitar player has a great background. He played with Ted
Nugent. He has been on Motley Crue albums. He was a known studio guy in
Los Angeles. He came over to Kevin’s house and we jammed for about half
an hour and then immediately asked him to join the band. It was a
perfect fit from the first note.
We were lucky to get Brian and Dave. They brought new
energy into the band. I am not sure if we would be together now if it
wasn’t for what those guys brought, which was new enthusiasm. We still
call them the new guys after 25 years and they are getting kind of sick
of it. That is the only real change we have made and it was 25 years
ago. I am happy we still have our original vocalist which not every band
is lucky enough to say that. We made one change and it has been great
CB: Do you have any regrets over the years?
ND: I have no personal regrets. I have done some
incredibly, stupid, horrible things but I don’t regret them because they
all led to where I am now and I am a very happy person right now.
CB: What can the fans expect when you come to Cincinnati this year?
ND: First of all, they can expect us to play a one
hour set of our favorite songs and they’ll know all of them except for
one surprise new song. I know the audience cringes when a band plays
that new song because they want to hear the familiar stuff. This song is
good, really good. We wouldn’t do it live otherwise. It’s got a hook
right from the beginning. It has gotten nice mentions in our reviews so
Then Chicago comes on and does all of their hits. Then the
lights go down and come back up three minutes later (with) both bands
on stage doing three individual hits by each band. Six songs, literally
the biggest hits of each band, played together, 14 individuals playing
at the same time. That took about a 12-hour rehearsal to put that
together and it is just amazing. The Phoenix newspaper called it one
jaw-dropping moment after another. I have to agree. I am way in the back
of the stage on that part and I love it because I can watch the whole
thing. These guys from both bands are just running around having the
best time of their life.
We have known some of the guys for Chicago for decades.
Robert Lamm, one of the lead singers and writers was a neighbor in
Beverly Hills back when I lived there 35 years ago and somehow we never
toured with them.
We didn’t know if (the onstage collaboration) would work.
They were a little more progressive, a little Jazz oriented, but they
are still Rock & Roll. We are more Country or Folk. We weren’t sure
the same audience would show up for both bands and it has worked
beautifully. The shows so far have been virtual sellouts. The thing has
blended so well.
Picture “Keep on Loving You” with that beautiful Chicago
horn section. It gives me chills and I have been playing it 40 years.
The crowd, the lights come up, and every camera comes out at the same
time. They can’t believe … that we have that many people on stage and
they are technically all playing together and we know what we are doing
is more amazing. It is something you won’t see very often. We haven’t
done anything like this. I am definitely having a really good time, we
call it the grand finale. I am sure it shows to the audience we are
having so much fun.
by Amy Harris
’70s rockers perform at Riverbend tomorrow with REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent
Classic Rock band Styx originated in the 1970’s and enjoyed hits like “Lady” and “Come Sail Away." Today, while they may not have the exact pieces of the original band from the late ’70s intact, Styx travels the globe annually to give a show similar that of its early days, though these days the group is fronted by J.Y. Young.CityBeat recently spoke with Styx keyboard player and vocalist Lawrence Gowan about his musical influences and what led him to the band 14 years ago. Styx performs at Riverbend Music Center tomorrow (Tuesday) night with fellow classic rockers REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent. CityBeat: First off, have you had any memorable Cincinnati experiences on the tour over the past few years?Lawrence Gowan: They are all incredibly memorable. The audience there has always been fantastic for us. One of the experiences I remember was the first time we played Cincinnati and I saw that classic fountain downtown. The last couple of times, we stayed on both sides of the river finally now so I have gotten to know a little bit more of the town just by walking around. The audience reaction in Cincinnati is always tremendous for Styx. We are really geared up and really looking forward to the 26th of June.CB: You were one of the later members to join the band in the ’90s. Were you a Styx fan growing up playing music?LG: I loved Classic Rock. I loved Progressive Rock particularly and Styx was the only really successful band outside of Britain to make a great mark in that style of music, so yeah I loved the whole genre of music they were playing and I loved the band. Funny enough, I had a long solo career with a number of albums in Canada that were never released in the States but I was always very aware of Styx. I did a couple of shows with them in 1997. There was something in the air that kind of felt like we were going to connect again in the future and I am entering my 14th year with the band now.CB: When you joined the band, was there any initiation or hazing they put you through?LG: Yes of course there was. You actually had to cross the river Styx which I don’t recommend for everyone.CB: You are a classically trained pianist.LG: Yes I am.CB: How do you think that better prepared you to be in a Rock band?LG: I always find that Classical music inspires or makes its way into a lot of the melodic content of some of the best Rock music. The moment I heard “Eleanor Rigby”, with the Classical string quartet playing through that song, I realized the profound connection between both styles. Both styles are not very afraid to be very grandiose when they need to be and cover a great emotional spectrum. It’s funny, I remember reading (that) Elton John and Rick Wakeman particularly had gone to the Royal Academy in London, and in Toronto they have the Royal Conservatory which is the same pattern, the same message of teaching so I wanted to go through that. I really love it and I still do. Before we go on stage every single night I am backstage playing some Classical piece just to get my chops together and get my head ready for the show.CB: You had mentioned and you were a pretty large solo artist before you joined the band. What was the biggest transition from being on your own and being in other bands to being in a band like Styx?LG: Learning to play with others. It’s a completely different dynamic when you are a solo artist and you have got the band behind you. You have a string of hit songs that you are responsible to play every single night and it all kind of falls on your shoulders. With Styx, I love this as well because it is a break from that entirely because I am on stage with five other frontmen who are all very capable of commanding the stage on their own. We trade off on who is up front in every single song, and even within a song there may be several sections where section after section the strongest dynamic on stage is being traded off. I love that and it is a completely different thing. I love just being the keyboard player at some points in the band. It’s great.CB: Have you ever been starstruck?LG: In my life? Well, let me see now — yeah, I guess a couple of times sure. When I made my second solo album, I got a chance to record at Ringo Starr’s home near London, England, in Ascot, England. It was the house where John Lennon had recorded “Imagine” and when I went to the door the first day with the producer — it was a home studio there he was letting us use — (and) he actually answered the door. I remember finding it difficult to bring words to my mouth which usually isn’t that hard of a thing for me to do. That was quite an experience. I remember it took me a few minutes to realize I wasn’t in a scene from A Hard Day’s Night but actually talking to a guy in his house.CB: There is a lot of debate now about Rock music in general and how it has changed so much. Other forms of music are coming to the forefront. Do you think Rock & Roll music is a dying art?LG: That is a tough one, isn’t it? I have heard that kicked around most of my life. I think we can agree now that Rock music was the big musical statement for the last half of the 20th century, the electrification of music and the fact that Rock makes such a gigantic sound and changed what people embraced as popular music. I don’t think it is going to ever go away now because we have history on our side. There has been 50 years of it or more so I think it is a style of music that is going to continue to evolve and to dig into different areas. I think you can trace a lot of the newer things you are talking about, trace it back to that gigantic statement that Rock was in the last half of the 20th century and I think it will be embraced and loved my millions for years to come because just like people still love Jazz or they love Country or they love Classical music or Ragtime; it is a style of music and a way of performing that I can’t see it entirely slipping off the planet any time soon.CB: Do you keep journals or any kind of history of the tours over the years, memorable things for you?LG: The best history I kept for a number a years was every night at the end of shows I took a Polaroid picture on stage or took three or four of them and tossed some of them out to the audience but I’d keep one for myself. My wardrobe case is stuffed with all these Polaroid pictures because we have played over 1500 shows together since I joined the band. That is a fantastic journal. You know what they say about pictures and words. They do tell a huge story over the course of time. It is funny, last night in Kansas City at the end of the show when I am reaching down and shaking people’s hands and somebody threw a picture up at me of the first year I was in the band and we had a great laugh backstage after because we realized there are old pictures of us now together. It was back when we did a little acoustic set in the middle of the show. My best documentation of the shows is that collection of Polaroids.CB: I am a music photographer so I have got years of histories of bands and it is, I think, the best way to tell a story.LG: It kind of is. I like putting my thoughts on paper very much but that usually morphs into becoming a song. I find that just what pictures evoke and the flood of memories you can get from them it can be astounding every time you look at them particularly when you are in a heightened state like being on stage in front of 10,000 people, the feeling of that moment is well captured. CB: Any regrets over the years?LG: I think like any human being there are things you are going to regret I suppose but it is a useless endeavor because they all kind of amount to where you are today and I like where I am today so I really can’t waste much time on that. I am sure one day on my death bed I will think, “You know, maybe I could have been a hockey player.”CB: You guys are playing over a 100 shows a year, huge amounts of time on the road. Are there any plans to slow down?LG: Not really. There is such an insatiable demand for Styx to play around the world and I have got my solo shows back up and doing a number of those in Canada every year. I think I enjoy it now more than I ever did and I am in a band of like-minded people. We have no plans to do that. We plan to keep pushing as hard as we can for as long as we can. Really, the only real question for us is how we find time to make another full album and we are kind of coming up with novel ways of being able to come up with that at present.CB: I know Ted Nugent is on tour with you guys this time and he has been very vocal all the time about political views and gotten in trouble the last few months. Do you have any election picks for us this year?LG: As the only Canadian that is involved in this whole thing, I think that is the easy way to duck out of the U.S. political debate and the hot question. I have a feeling that it is between Obama and Romney. That is my big prediction. CB: What can the fans expect from the show next week?LG: We are going to ram as many Styx classic hits at them as we can in the hour and 20 minutes we are playing. We will also throw in one or two of the album cuts from The Grand Illusion. We noticed there are songs on that record that were never singles that have become great favorites of a lot of the audience so we like to include one of the more unusual pieces in the show as well.CB: What do you do on your down time on the road?LG: Well I usually, myself, I like to do something to keep myself in shape so I am always doing a bit of yoga. Although I am the keyboard player, I am a huge guitar lover so I am usually practicing my chops in the hotel room. We also do all the social media things like Facebook and our website. They need to be looked at every few days just to see where things are and I love to go for walks around cities. That is one of the things I enjoy about Cincinnati. As I said, the last couple of times, walking across that bridge across the river is one of my favorite pastimes in that city. I am a walker.CB: It is amazing how much time you spend on Facebook and the internet that is lost doing those things.LG: It is a nice way, it is an easy way, depending on how you treat it, to feel like you can engage with people you really don’t have the opportunity to with the shows because we are too busy getting ourselves back to the tour bus afterwards. We can shake a few hands. It is a way to kind of feel a connection to people on a human level where we happen to be in a career that it is hard to do that just because of the demands of the day.CB: Are any current bands influencing you now or what are you listening to?LG: There are so many things I have listened to lately, I heard a fantastic band from England recently called Everything Everything. Todd, our drummer turned me onto them. I like Keane. I like them being keyboard players. I like My Chemical Romance, I kind of dig that band a bit. There is a Metal band I really like called Children of Bodom. That is the kind of stuff I have listened to lately.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Several months ago we told you about a new video game based on ’70s rockers REO Speedwagon. If you thought, “That has to be the weirdest, most random and unlikely band to have its own video game,” you were right. Until now.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Recently released documents show some of the complaints to the FCC over American Idol loser Adam Lambert's allegedly shocking performance on the American Music Awards broadcast last year, during which he made out with a bandmate (who was a dude!) and simulated oral sex with a dancer (who was also a dude!). Dude!