In Conversation With The Reverend Billy G – From The Coachmen and Moving Sidewalks to ZZ Top

The cover stars of Shindig! issue #85 are none other than those titans of Texan rock, ZZ Top. In London to celebrate the release of his latest solo album The Big Bad Blues, ZZ Top’s main man BILLY F. GIBBONS met up with our Contributing Editor THOMAS PATTERSON to chew the fat and share memories about the band’s early years. It’s a wild tale, one that’s recounted in full in the new issue (in UK stores November 1st).

A loquacious, erudite and fascinating interviewee, Billy’s a chap who can spin fantastic yarns about blues greats, psychedelic pioneers, famous studios and legendary LPs – so much so, it’s almost a shame we had to edit his thoughts down for the magazine. So, as an added treat, here’s the unedited transcript of Billy and Thomas’s conversation, full of byways and highways, digressions and laughs. Strap yourselves in and get ready to boogie…


Shindig!: Billy, thanks for sitting down with Shindig!, and congratulations on The Big Bad Blues. It’s such a fun album.
Billy Gibbons: Yes, I must say, it had its inauspicious beginnings in that we had booked some studio time and coincidentally the day we opened the door, our dear friend and drummer from days gone by, Greg Morrow, was passing through Texas. He was on tour with somebody and he had a three-day holiday. And I said, “Well come on in, come on in.” Joe Hardy, the engineer along with our other engineer GL ‘G-Mane’ Moon – it’s a long one – anyway, they got things organised and Joe picked up the bass, Mr Greg Morrow started tapping it out, and I said, “Well, you know, let’s warm up with some of the favourites, the usual Jimmy Reed, BB King, whatnot.” The third day, we wrapped up and Greg said, “You know, reluctantly I have to bow out to get back on the road.” Well Joe said, “Shall we listen to what we’ve been doing for three days?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Oh, I taped over the red light because the recording was on-going.” That is a bonus. We were just ploughing through it. Caution was to the wind. And that’s how the cover tunes were selected to appear on the record. Two Muddy Waters numbers, ‘Rollin’ And Tumblin’’, which goes back to the ’30s, and then two Bo Diddley numbers, ‘Bring It To Jerome’, a tribute to the maraca player Jerome Green and ‘Crackin’ Up’. ‘Crackin’ Up’ has an interesting background. The guitar figure that opens the song in the original Bo Diddley recording from 1957 is inside and out, upside down and backwards. I had talked about this particular track with Keith Richards. And he and I had joined the legions of curious listeners trying to figure out that opening figure. And he gave up. He said “Oh no, it’s only done once, it’s on the record.” It took days to try and figure it out. I came close. And I think if Bo Diddley were sitting here now he’d probably say, “Yeah, OK, close enough, now let’s do another one.” (Laughs) I’d say, “One’s too many and a hundred ain’t enough!”

SD! You came from a musical family, right? You picked up the guitar aged 13.
BG: Exactly. 13. Xmas day. I turned 13 December 16th and nine days later my dad reached behind the tree and I said, “Wow a guitar, yeah!” And then he pulled out a little table top Fender amp and I said, “Wow an electric guitar!” (laughs).

SD!But before that, is it true you studied percussion with Tito Puente?
BG: When I was 12, my sister and I, we spent a little over a year down in Mexico City with our next-door neighbours. The dad of that family was some big shot with Standard Oil, which was partners with the Mexican government, they’d nationalised their oil, P-Mex. And they had some problem down in Mexico. So my buddy who lived next door he said, “Oh yeah, we’ve got to go down to Mexico, there’s some problem, my Dad’s going to put that fire out, we’ll be back in a couple of weeks.” Well, a couple of months later he called up and said, “Dude, we’re never getting out of here! Can you come down?” And I said, “Well it’s summer, summer’s next week, we get out of school.” So my folks willingly sent us on our way. Read more In Conversation With The Reverend Billy G – From The Coachmen and Moving Sidewalks to ZZ Top


It’s My Pride: Canadian Nuggets

Garage, psych and acid-folk gems from the land of maple leaf… On the back of our Guess Who feature in issue #84 CAMILLA AISA picks her faves. Enjoy.


The Guess Who – Clock On The Wall

After a few heavily Anglophilic efforts, in the Summer of 1966 The Guess Who welcomed their third LP It’s Time and finally found their sound… as well as their iconic voice. Burton Cummings had joined the band a few months before and started sharing vocal duties with singer and founding member Chad Allan. One of the earliest Cummings-fronted gems, ‘Clock On The Wall’ was written by guitarist Randy Bachman and released in May as a single. “Burton had this wonderful voice where he could sing’Danny Boy’ and make you cry, but he could also sing ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ and scream like Eric Burdon”, Bachman tells Sean Egan in the latest issue of Shindig! ‘Clock On The Wall’ surely belongs to the latter category, permeated by the Animals-like fierceness that would ultimately make the former Chad Allan & The Reflections (often mistaken for another English band) The Guess Who, the Canadian icons the world would soon get to know and love. Canadian garage was finally ready to clang loudly and find its own voice, and this is exactly where our trip starts.

Jack London & The Sparrows – If You Don’t Want My Love

But let’s not forsake the British Invasion-influenced groups yet. The Sparrows were one of the first and most significant ones (complete with fake accents), their frontman Dave Marden having tellingly chosen the stage name Jack London. ‘If You Don’t Want My Love’ underscores the not-so-missing link between the more effervescent side of contemporary British rock and the roaring North American garage sounds. A year later the group would welcome new singer John Kay, change their name to The Sparrow and then again, after moving to California, to Steppenwolf. The rest, as they say, is history. Wild history.

The Ugly Ducklings – Just in Case You Wonder

The Ugly Ducklings had also fluttered their eyelashes at the British shores (at The Rolling Stones, in particular). But then came ‘Nothin’’, a hit in native Canada, and after that ‘Just in Case You Wonder’, an explosion of fuzz delight that would be featured in one of the Pebbles anthologies almost two decades later. Now – forget about the tragic album cover that you will be seeing (it’s an ’80s compilation of garage songs from an overlooked band, after all) and tune in. Is this the finest moment in Canadian garage? Well, what’s sure is that it couldn’t get more garage than this; composer/singer Dave Bynghamtakes us in the most alienated and noisy room of the house: “I’m in the basement yonder, counting all the rats”!

A Passing Fancy – I’m Losing Tonight Read more It’s My Pride: Canadian Nuggets


Shindig! Broadcast #55

JON ‘MOJO’ MILLS and THOMAS PATTERSON spin two hours worth of tunes, all featured in Shindig! #84

Sky Hawk ‘New Earth’  
Donovan ‘Sunny Goodge Street’
Donovan ‘Jersey Thursday’
Groovy Uncle ‘She’ll Never Be Mine’
The Heliocentrics ‘Capital Of Alone’
The Soundcarriers ‘Lose The Feel’
 The Anita Kerr Singers ‘Wine In The Wind’
Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes ‘Roc Alpin’
Guy Skornik ‘Des Arbres De Fer’
Lovey Dove ‘Bedazzled’
Wax Machine ‘This’
Goblin ’Suspira’
Paul Weller ‘Books’
Honeybus ‘Under The Silent Tree’
Roger James ‘High Into The Sky’
The Guess Who ‘No Time’
Mystic Braves ‘Shades Of Grey’
Mark Sultan ‘Coffin Nails’
The Creation Factory ‘I Don’t Know What To Do’
Rare Earth ‘I Know I’m Losing You’
Fever Tree ’99 And One Half’
The Bit O Sweet ‘Is It On Is It Off’
Matt Berry ‘World In Action’
Strange Majik ‘Tokoyo Timebomb’
Aretha Franklin ‘Niki Hoeky’
Dave Davies ‘Creeping Jean’
The Groundhogs ‘Mistreated’
Man ’Sudden Death’
The Roulettes ‘Junk’
Jacco Gardner ‘Volva’


David Crosby on Here If You Listen

Poet. Survivor. Living legend. The mighty DAVID CROSBY (Croz) talks to MARTIN RUDDOCK about his excellent new collaborative album Here If You Listen, mortality, singing along with yourself and that “asshole” in The White House…

Shindig!: Your latest album Here If You Listen is your second with The Lighthouse Band (Snarky Puppy’s Michael League, guitarist Becca Stevens, and keyboardist Michelle Willis). Its a collaborative effort.

David Crosby: Yes it is in fact… The first one went down so well. I was so knocked out with what great musicians, great singers, great writers they are. The first one was sort of a “me” album with Michael producing and the girls sang on it and contributed to it. It went so well that I went to all three of them and said “I want to make a group record, I don’t want to make a David Crosby record I want to make a Lighthouse record. I want you to sing lead too, I want us all to write the whole thing together.” And that’s what we did. We went into the studio in Brooklyn and we had two songs… we had Michelle’s ‘Janet’ and we had the one I wrote with (Snarky Puppy pianist) Bill Laurance, that I wrote to my son ‘Your Own Ride’. We wrote the entire rest of the record in eight days together, right there.



SD!: Throughout your career, you’ve always had a love of making music through jamming and collaboration. Is that how you prefer to work these days?

DC: I’ll work any kind of way. Anything that produces a good song, produces decent music that makes people feel something… I’ll go anywhere, any way. I’ll do it stark naked in the middle of a snowstorm. Anything that will make good art, I’m willing to go through to do.


SD!: You’re one of the great songwriters of the last century, but on Here If You Listen you’ve thrown open the writing process to the rest of the band.

DC: Well, they’re such talented people man. Michael League is one of the best writers I know, and Becca Stevens is the same, Michelle the same…

They are unbelievably good writers. The result is this record and the proof is in the pudding. The quality of the songs is really high.


SD!: The song ‘Your Own Ride’ is lovely, and features a very poignant lyric addressed to your son, Django.

DC: Yeah, I wrote it about my son and to my son about 10 years ago when he was like 12 years old. And I showed the words to Bill Laurance last year and he thought they were one of my best sets. He asked me if he could work with those words, and he gave me an unbelievably good song back. It’s funny you should ask about him, I’m meeting him here for lunch today in Boston.

SD!: You’ve been making music in so many different ways over the years, you’ve done the band format with The Byrds and CSNY where you’re trying to accommodate other people’s songs or find a space in there. Would it be fair to say you’re more like a jazz bandleader these days?

DC: There’s something in that…. I don’t really feel like a band leader so much. I guess I am in the Sky Trails band more probably than The Lighthouse Band. When I’m with them I tend to feel more like Michael is the leader. He’s a firm and natural bandleader, and he’s a much more knowledgeable musician than I am – so when we work in The Lighthouse Band generally I’m the lead singer but I’m not in charge (laughs). The two girls make damn sure I’m not in charge ‘cause they’re very strong women, both of them.


SD!: It seems a very harmonious set-up you’ve got there.

 DC: It is yeah, we’re very very good friends and we really do care about each other. We do respect each other’s work tremendously so there’s a really good work ethic there. If any one of the three of them says something to me man, I’m really listening.


 SD!: Two of the songs on the new album ‘1967’ and ‘1974’ have been worked up by you and the band from old demos, how did those come about?

DC: Yes. One of them (‘1967’) is a really magical thing because you can actually hear me writing the song. We actually had the tape machine going while I was thinking up the song. It’s the only time I know of that that exists. You can hear me find the melody, right there on the tape. And then what we did was Michael said “There’s no rules, we can be a time machine, and take them right up to now and complete them.” And I said “Jeez, could we? It would be fun, there’s no law saying we can’t.” Michael and the girls said “Aw c’mon, let us at it!” and the result is what you heard. We wrote words to one of them and we completed the other. I think it’s fantastic that there’s a tape of a thing all the way from the first moment that you think the melody up. And it’s all there, the whole thing on tape.

SD!: Were you still in The Byrds when you recorded that demo or was it just after?

DC: I think it was right after, yeah.

Read more David Crosby on Here If You Listen