In this interview, we discuss Omnivore’s reissue of 1977’s All Hopped Up album, including the regional hit, “Ridin’ in My Car,” both sides of a single, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Skeeter Davis, Bonnie Raitt, Thelonious Monk, and Betty White.
By Warren Kurtz
Omnivore Recordings has released some wonderful reissues, and first issues of rarities, over the past few years. The Bangles’ 1982 debut EP was expanded to sixteen tracks including demos and live songs. What would have been the ‘80s ten song debut album for the trio of females named The Heaters, finally saw its release as the album American Dream. A live Raspberries reunion, in their hometown of Cleveland, was captured on two discs, with 28 songs, including a version of “It’s Cold Outside,” a No. 1 record in Cleveland in 1967 by The Choir which included future members of The Raspberries. Fastball’s breakthrough album, All the Pain Money Can Buy, featuring “The Way,” was given a 20th anniversary treatment with bonus tracks. Now, NRBQ’s 1977 All Hopped Up album has been released with four bonus tracks.
GOLDMINE: I spoke with Al Anderson recently about his pre-NRBQ regional hit “No Good to Cry” by The Wildweeds in 1967, from Windsor, Connecticut. Ironically, I learned that song from a Windsor, Ontario radio station with a version by the Canadian band The Poppy Family in 1971, with Susan Jacks on lead vocals. I had missed the spring of 1967 original on Cleveland radio. I also missed “Ridin’ in My Car” a decade later in 1977, which I understand was a local hit in Hartford. Now I have learned the song through this reissue. It is certainly catchy and reminds me of the first time I heard Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters on weekend radio with “Big Me” in 1996.
TERRY ADAMS: That was the first time we did one of Al’s songs. He had been in the band four years by then. We were looking for a guitar player to be both raw and sophisticated. In addition, he could sing and be a songwriter, too. He also wrote “Help Me, Somebody,” on the album. I think All Hopped Up is one of our best records.
GM:The opening acoustic guitar strumming on “Help Me, Somebody” reminds me of The Mamas & The Papas’ “Creeque Alley.” On page 85 of Tony Renzoni’s Connecticut Rock ‘n’ Roll book, there is a 1967 music survey from WDEE AM radio, with “Creeque Alley” at No. 1 and “No Good to Cry” at No. 7, on its rise to No. 1. Another song on All Hopped Up with an acoustic introduction that I enjoy is your composition “It Feels Good,” which reminds me of slower British Invasion numbers.
TA: I played a Japanese stringed instrument called a koto on it. Maybe the song was inspired by The Rolling Stones’ mid-‘60s Aftermath album.
GM:Ah, the album with their beautiful flip side “Lady Jane” included. You also deliver a fun, loose, Grateful Dead-like delivery on “Still in School,” with the warning about a girl, “She’s just too young.”
TA: That is a real good song, written by our bassist Joey Spampinato, who had been writing constantly since recording our Scraps album in 1971, which was released on Kama Sutra in 1972. We were so excited to be on the same label that brought us The Lovin’ Spoonful. Now we are on Omnivore and are very happy.
GM: Scraps opens with your composition “Howard Johnson’s Got His Ho-Jo Working.” At the same time, the Cleveland band Tiny Alice, also on Kama Sutra, released their self-titled album, which included “Oranges and Blues” about being traveling musicians, staying at Howard Johnson’s motels and being “Ho-Jo hobos.” Their saxophonist Norman Tischler told me, “NRBQ is one of my favorite groups, with amazing musicians. After Tiny Alice I was with a touring band called The Bopkats and we did a number of NRBQ tunes.” Let’s continue with the Kama Sutra years for a moment with a single that charted in early 1974. “Get That Gasoline Blues” was lively, reminding me a bit of your Kama Sutra labelmates Sha Na Na. Its flip side “Mona” featured an accordion and mandolin on a song with a Paul McCartney-like shuffle.
TA: I wrote the “Gasoline” song with my friend Charlie Craig, a Louisville drummer, back in 1966, about going out on the weekend. The people at Kama Sutra wanted to capitalize on the gas crisis with that song, so it finally became a 45. On the flip side, “Mona,” I played accordion and Joey played mandolin. Both songs were produced by Eddie Kramer, who had been with us early on for our Columbia album debut and our two Kama Sutra albums.
Flip side: Mona
A side: Get That Gasoline Blues
Top 100 debut: February 2, 1974
Peak position: 70
Kama Sutra 586
GM:Getting back to the new reissue of All Hopped Up, after the original album concludes with the thirteenth song, “That’s Alright,” another favorite of mine written by Joey, the four bonus tracks begin with “Chicken Hearted,” good old rock and roll, with a wonderful guitar solo from Al.
TA: I had the original 45 of it by Roy Orbison (Sun, 1957) and got the band to play it our way. We played it at the Roy Orbison tribute show.
GM:Your fun composition “Do the Bump” follows. I certainly remember this dance from the ‘70s. Our friend Joe worked at a gas station and always carried a pocket of keys from the station, even on the dance floor, where we thought he might injure his dance partners during his bump moves.
TA: We once played this for 28 minutes straight at a live show.
GM:Joey’s “She’s Got to Know” follows, anchored by his bass, and the bonus tracks and CD conclude with your “Start it Over,” an up-tempo, blues-rock song in line with Bob Seger’s “Get Out of Denver” and ZZ Top’s “Tubesnake Boogie.” What a fun way to end this entertaining variety filled album.
TA: Thank you. Only thirteen songs made the original album. Now listeners can hear some of the other songs that may have been considered. The band was hot.
GM:You mentioned Sun and Columbia earlier. Your second Columbia album featured a Sun star and was called Boppin’ the Blues by Carl Perkins and NRBQ. I learned that song in 1977, same year as All Hopped Up, by Robert Gordon with Link Wray on his first solo album, which featured “Red Hot.”
TA: I am a Sun records fan. We wanted to skip the songs more known by Carl Perkins like “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Honey Don’t” and he gladly obliged.
GM:Not only did you record an album with that rockabilly hero, you also recorded one with Skeeter Davis, who I wrote about last year when her 1964 album Let Me Get Close to You was reissued with bonus tracks.
TA: I was going through my dad’s 45s and I found The Davis Sisters. I didn’t know until later that Skeeter was part of the group. I met her in the ‘70s, showed her the 45s, and she cried tears of joy and said, “No one has ever done that before.” We became friends, with both of us being from Kentucky. I am very happy with the record, She Sings, They Play, and it includes a reworking of “Things to You,” which we debuted on All Hopped Up.
GM:That is another one that reminds me of a slower British Invasion song, and your version with Skeeter blends together with an Americana style. I especially enjoy the vocal harmonies in the bridge and at the end of the She Sings, They Play version. We interviewed Skeeter as our feature story in our January 1986 edition of Goldmine, she spoke about the album and also talked about singing “The End of the World” on stage with NRBQ. She mentioned The Carter Sisters in the article too, which leads me to the film Walk the Line. I was in a movie theater in Nevada in 2005 and I heard “Get Rhythm.” I immediately thought of NRBQ, which is how I learned the song. I had no idea that it was a Johnny Cash song until that moment.
TA: I found it on the flip side of my dad’s “Walk the Line” 45. The song was just sitting around and deserved to be heard. It is fun to play. We recorded my arrangement of it in late 1977 for our next album At Yankee Stadium on Mercury.
GM:At that time, after “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ended, there was the brief series, “The Betty White Show,” starring your friend.
TA: Years later, I co-wrote the theme song for the TV show “The Complete Savages” with Joe Interlande. Betty was in the cast. We learned that we both were animal lovers and became friends.
Betty White, Terry Adams, Betty White’s 83rd birthday, NYC, courtesy of Terry Adams
GM:Betty has certainly been an animal advocate for years too. She was honored at an awards ceremony by the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as a friend and lover of animals in 1982. That same year I was 45 shopping at the Prestonwood Town Center mall in Dallas and bought one that you wrote, Bonnie Raitt’s “Me and the Boys.” I love her version from a time when she and Linda Ronstadt were both dabbling a bit with a new wave sound.
TA: Our version of “Me and the Boys” can be heard on the 5 CD box set Ominvore has released called High Noon, with over 100 songs covering our decades.
GM:You have a couple of other things going on too in recent years. The NRQB single “April Showers,” with a fun, silent movie theater style piano break is included in the film Change in the Air, which you scored with Bill Frisell. You draw from Thelonious Monk jazz piano influences on the album Talk Thelonious. “Ruby, My Dear” is one of my favorites, with Jim Hoke on alto sax, flute and harmonica, reminding me of “Lonely (Amy’s Theme)” by The Lovin’ Spoonful from the film You’re a Big Boy Now. The orchestration by Keith Spring is soothing and it is good to hear Scott Ligon on guitar.
TA: Scott joined NRBQ eleven years ago. He is a great singer and musician. Casey McDonough harmonizes nicely with Scott, while playing bass. John Perrin, a young guy, is a great drummer. The four of us will be back in the studio in the spring, working on our next NRBQ album. In the meantime we are on tour in the Northeast through the end of the year. Thank you again. I appreciate it and I love Goldmine.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with giveaways, interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.