Friday, July 17, 2009

He's a Mess

Wreckless Eric - 07.16.09 - Asbury Park, NJ

My friends and I are kicking ourselves for letting Wreckless Eric's debut brown vinyl Stiff Records 10" slip through our hands a few years back when we came across a copy in a collection. Not that it is an obscure record by any means, nor are most copies of colored vinyl releases by any of Stiff's power pop/pre-new wave artists scarce in the least, but we are kicking ourselves on principal: Wreckless Eric was a solid pop artist for a good couple of years and tonight our faith in him was reaffirmed.

A lot of Eric's early work is where most people focus their attention and appreciation. The early stiff singles ("Reconnez Cherie", "Take The K.A.S.H.","Hit and Miss Judy", and "A Popsong" - to name a good few) are the songs that have stuck with most fans over the course of the past thirty-odd years. By the time Eric teamed up with new groups and released records on labels such as the French New Rose Records (home of Willie Alexander, Alex Chilton, Sky Saxon, and Roky Erickson), most people's attention had strayed. Eric Trudged on, toured and kept on writing, writing, writing.

At the end of the 1990's Eric was surprised to hear a very familiar song being covered by a female singer/guitarist in a low-key east coast club. It was his infamous 1977 single "(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World", but something was a little off. "You know there are only two chords to this song, don't you?" he asked the woman. Confused but interested, she turned to him for further advice, and he provided exactly that - showing her the chords she should be playing. He sang the song with her, and once he realized that she had no idea who he was, he remarked: "I wrote this you know." The woman was Amy Rigby, a veteran to the NYC punk movement/scene of the late seventies, and ex-wife of db's drummer Will Rigby. Four years would pass before the two would meet again, but when they finally reunited, they married and relocated in France.

Last night I purchased a few records from a friend. In those records was a copy of Eric's 1980 single "A Popsong". I played it last night, admiring not only the boasted A side, but I also discovered a new found appreciation for one of his earlier singles found on side B titled "Reconnez Cherie". This, along with a Wreckless Eric video that a friend e-mailed me today was enough to get me in the mood to catch a few live songs down at The Asbury Lanes.

For the past few years, Amy and Eric have been collaborating their efforts, writing songs individually and recently released them collaboratively. 2008's Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, includes five songs written by Amy, three songs written by Eric, and three tracks that they wrote together. The songs are heartfelt and real, capturing a nostalgia in a folky, psychy, powerful fashion by way of big acoustic strumming, vintage 60's pop vocals, and unforgettable melodies. It's easily the best works for both of them in some time.

Tonight the duo sound checked with "Red Rubber Ball" by The Cyrkle. It was a great way to capture the attention of my friends and I, and although their set ended up being particularly lengthy and did not include "Red Rubber Ball", I remained entertained until the last track. The songs were a mix of songs from their 2008 album including a brilliant cover of Johnny Cash's "I still Miss Someone", numerous Wreckless Eric singles, a Flamin' Groovies cover, and plenty of hilariously wacky banter between songs. Their stage presence and chemistry was phenomenal. Amy's voice complimented Eric's beautifully, as did her hard alt-rock/alt-country guitar shredding.

I was able to chat briefly with Eric after the show. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey man. You killed it up there. Great stuff.
Eric: HUh..wuh? oh. Hey.
Me: Yeah I just wanted to say "hey" and let you know I thought you guys were great.
Eric: (laughs) ummm. well thanks. you know it's... well... yeah.
Me: Cool if my pal here snaps a picture of us?
Eric: yeah...ummm. pictures are... well. (laughs)

I shook his hand and walked away... leaving him to blast back off to whatever planet he came down from momentarily to play music for us all.

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