My first decision is to make this an expanded band...too much talent around to make this a five-man gig and besides; it is my dream...vocalist seems like a logical starting point so I will obviously skip past the microphone and move to the back of the stage...right to the drums and percussion. There are so many options here that I almost don't know where to begin...so I thumb through my vinyl collection for a little inspiration. Of course, I stumble across many albums that list Bill Bruford in the credits--and I have made my first draft pick.
Bill Bruford is to drumming what foie gras is to pate; the standard-bearer. I played "Close to the Edge" so many times as a kid I think my mother had it memorized...and Bill quickly moved from that drum stool to record "Red" with King Crimson...an impressive resume on its own; but he didn't stop there. Mr. Bruford has released extensive solo work, played all the drums on Chris Squire's "Fish Out of Water," served a brief stint with Genesis, and formed his own band, simply called "Bruford." Moving into the jazz arena, Bill played with Earthworks, owns two record labels, still plays with Yes and KC (no, not the sunshine band smart-ass) in an on-again/off-again way, and released his autobiography in 2009.
To fill this section of the stage, I bring on board Steve Scales first. I always admired his ability to bring albums to life. His addition to Talking Heads was a tour I still play over in my head, having been fortunate enough to catch a few stops. What he was able to do with the "Remain in Light" album live was nothing short of astounding. Steve also played on solo projects by Heads members Jerry Harrison and David Byrne as well as the side band Tom Tom Club. Steve also added his playing style to the Psychedelic Furs, Violent Femmes, and performed with Yoko Ono and Bryan Ferry among others.
Every band (at least the ones I design) need more than one drummer. To help Bruford round out the drumming I add Levon Helm. In reality (if this was reality), I would be adding everything here to Levon Helm's band. To do this in reverse is almost sacrilegious...Levon Helm is a rock 'n' roll drummer in the truest sense of the word. He left everything he had on the stage at the end of the gig. The Band put together classic album after classic album and Levon was at the forefront of the group with Robbie Robertson--not many drummers carried the clout in their band that Levon did in his. He was not only the drummer, he was multi-talented; playing keyboards, harmonica, even singing lead vocals. Levon also tried his hand at acting, but that is a story for another blog...
Moving to the right of the drummer, I see a few bass guitar players...Jaco Pastorius and Chris Squire come to mind immediately, but I need to expand in my blogging...these artists and masters of their trade were mentioned in an earlier post. So lining up along side these two I would like to see Alan Spenner, but as is the case in this business, Mr. Spenner has moved to that great gig in the sky. Playing with everyone from Joe Cocker at Woodstock (he was a member of Joe's original backing band The Grease Band), Roxy Music, and Kokomo, Alan brought a bluesy soul to the bass that made focusing on the bass guitar a necessary part of the music listening ritual. Another bass player I have always enjoyed listening to is Roger Waters...both during and after his Pink Floyd days. I always try to steer clear of why bands go through the messy break-ups they do--too many fragile egos involved and all I want to do is enjoy the sound. I would also have to include Boz Burrell...another member of the rock 'n' roll died-of-a-heart-attack too young club. Boz played with King Crimson and Bad Company and had a great blues voice. He performed in the late 60's with Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice, and Jon Lord...remember deep Purple?
OK...so the drum kits are manned and the bass line is keeping the discipline. Let's move to the keyboards and save the lead/rhythm guitar debate for later. I don't believe any band is complete without Sly Stone and Billy Preston pushing each other to the most extreme limits on keys...I can still see Preston leaping up and dancing at George Harrison's Benefit Concert for Bangladesh...the producers had to be wondering where the hell he went when the keyboards were unmanned and the crowd was going nuts...this being decades before technology placed a camera every 15 feet along the stage so social media can get instant feeds. I would be selling the band short, however, if I stopped there. At the risk of requiring 300 feet of stage triple-tiered to accommodate all the equipment, I would also give Keith Emerson, Jordan Rudess, and Garth Hudson stage space. Emerson, I am sure, is well known from his Atomic Rooster and ELP days, and Jordan has been building quite a resume for himself with Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment...of course gaining entry into Julliard at the ripe old age of nine is an impressive stat as well. Garth is a master of all things piano and can play almost any instrument put before him. He was classically trained in his youth and was a pillar of The Band. Of course Brian Eno must get stage presence as well...I could ramble on for days as to why...but if you don't know his music spend a few days on YouTube catching up....
To avoid having this particular blog entry ramble on forever--it has been in the making now for about two weeks--I will take a few liberties and combine all horns, brass, and accompanying instruments into one category. Starting with harmonica, I would have Norton Buffalo front and center. Norton played for almost everyone it seems and was a member of the Steve Miller band for over 30 years. He toured and recorded with Bonnie Raitt, Elvin Bishop, The Doobie Brother, and Commander Cody among others. Buffalo also released a few solo albums during his time...No horn section could be complete without Chris Wood, co-founder (along with Steve Winwood) of Traffic. Chris played flute and saxophone in his day, and performed with Hendrix, Christine McVie, Carl Palmer, and Ginger Baker among others. Andy Mackay is another horn player I would enlist just for the pleasure of having an oboe in the band. A founding member of Roxy Music, Mackay also played with a who's who in the 70's and is one of the few people on the planet that wore a mullet in any respectable fashion. And for more fun on the edges of the stage, I need Eddie Jobson playing violin--although he could very aptly sit at the keyboard as well.
So now we are in need of guitar players and vocalists, and the stage is already pretty crowded. Just because I don't want to argue and this post is getting a lot longer than I intended (maybe I should have split it into Part I and Part II?), I will list in no particular order the axes I would choose along with their masters...so here goes: Les Paul (who made this entire post possible), Brian May, Paul Weller, Steve Cropper, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Bill Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Robbie Robertson, David Byrne, David Gilmour, Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King. But why stop there?! Since the stage is already crowded, let's add Jon Anderson, Laurie Anderson, Andy Summers, Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Phil Manzanera, and Paul Rodgers...who was born to sing in a rock 'n' roll band...
So there you have it, the band I would build if I could build a band...it is big, flashy, proficient, loud, precise, crazy, bluesy, rockin', obscure, and most importantly of all--mine. I know I will never see all this talent on one stage--at least not in this universe--but it sure is fun to imagine the nine-day concert it would take to get all the music in.
No doubt I missed several, dozens, even several dozen of other very talented musicians...but to truly build a band like this is a thing of subjectivity...and subjectivity by definition leaves itself open to bashing, disagreement, and arguing...which is (of course) the other reason for posting this.
So break out your vinyl if you have any (I have a strange, obsessive, sentimental attachment to mine), cassette tapes, CD's, or reel-to-reels and get a black light, a Bic lighter, and a frisbee. Sit up on the back of an old sofa that is light years past comfortable with the cold beverage of your choice, and spend a weekend reminiscing...and don't be afraid to holler a little and demand an encore. The video I added here is the only one I could find with any kind of "entourage" that seemed fitting. Enjoy!