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Alan Gorrie Talks To The Sun Awb: Crisis At Cobo Hall

Alan Gorrie Talks To The Sun Awb: Crisis At Cobo Hall image Alan Gorrie Talks To The Sun Awb: Crisis At Cobo Hall image
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While one of the most publicized incidents of futile mass viole nee in the history of the city was happening at Cobo Hall last month, a young Scottish musical group called the A verage White Band was bravely playing away onstage in the midst of general confusión and.madness. Despite their youth and far-away roots, 'A WB has an unusual mastery of soul music that has made them wildly popular in this country- and has given them the experience necessary to get them out ofsituations like the one that went down at Cobo that steam ing August Sunday night. A WB hit only last year with a million-selling James Brown-flavored instrumental called "Piek Up the Pieces. " Since then outstanding tunes ("Persgn to Person, " "Cut the Cake, " the Isley Bros. ' "Work to Do;" and Quincy Jones' "ff I Ever Lose This Heaven ") and consistent touring have put the A verage White Band on the radio and hot in the minds of modern soul fans. Their current Atlantic Lp. is Soul Searching. Alan Gorrie, who plays bass and guitar and shares lead singing chores with rhythm guitarist Hamish Stewart, talked with Kulchur Editor Frank Bach just before leaving Detroit foryet another concert. GORRIE: Detroit's always been the high spot in the tours for us. With the kind of music we play and the kind of roots that we come from, t's obvious why Detroit's been good to us. I had no reason to think that last night was going to be any different. SUN: We've had kind of a rough summer- unemployment in some areas of the city is almost 60%. GORRIE:That's what I hear, you know. I didn't know what the ■ sons were before the concert last night. I tried to find out as much V as I could afterwards about what was going down and apparently, as you say, t's been a rough summer- there's been a loföf street fighting and all that with a lot of shit going down. It's only to be expected where you've got high unemployment. It happens everywhere- if unemployment goes up in Scotland, so does tighting. Just violence. The two thmgs always seem to go hand in hand. It was a great disappointment for us because we'd been looking forward to playing Detroit for weeks. SUN: That was a tremendous performance, considering the circumstances. GORRIE: We had to change quite a lot the show we were going to do. And we had to hurriedly leave out some numbers and put n other ones that were going to keep things moving. Because Rule 1 is that we musn't have a lull. If there's trouble in the audience, you can't do that. Because that's when it boils up even more. If they're . left without any distraction other than the (smacking noise of fleshon flesh), it just gets worse. It just boils up. This used to happen in Scotland years and years ago when we used to play Saturday night dances in places like Glasgow. It used to have the same effect. Street gangs -there's always been gangs, there's alsvays young kids- in those days they called themselves the Fleet and the Tones and these kind of things. Really, some of these guys can be, you know, quite evil. They try to be. Not going into the motives, the causes behind it, but some of these kids have got a real mean streak in them. I can't figure t out. SUN: Young kids. G0RR1E: Yeah. They're young kids, that's the surprising thing. Because the older ones aren't nto t. 90% or more of the black people that were there last night were not at all interested n that. They were nto the music, and were trying to concéntrate on the music and they didn't really have much chance to do anything about it. SUN: Do you find you have a predominantly black audience? GORRIE: That's quite normal for our gigs. In some places it's the other way around. I would say f you took all our tours and had an average done t's about 50-50 between black and white and t's neveccaused any trouble anywhere yet. Really, there's never been trouble inside any of the theatres or auditoriums that we've played. l'm sure it wouldn't happen again here. It was ust one occasion. SUN: Yeah, the right combination of wrong circumst anees. GORRIE: Right, I think this time of the year is always best for that kind of thing. When they can cruise around the streets smashing everything, because they always follow the same pattem- run down a few streets and smash the windows."That's an international form of rebellion. It shouldn't get too much blown ou-t of proportion here, 'cause it happens everywhere. It gets even worse in some countries. If this had been Italy, last night, there would have been pólice with hand grenades and tear gas and machine guns. And nobody would have been safe. Nobody at all, not even the group, the performers, they'd all have been diving for cover. Led Zeppelin almost got their asses shot off n Italy by the pólice. f SUN: Isthatright? At a concert? GORRIErYep. There was trouble- people trying to get n the gate. The pólice opened fire, threw hand grenades, the crowd panicked, the band had to run off stage through a side door and they opened fire on them. SUN: Did you see the local papers this morning? GORRIE: I saw the article about the trouble last night. They said somebody threw chairs off-stage or on-stage, but that wasn't true. It was in the English newspapers today, saying that we had to stop playing, we had to stop the show because of t. Now, that's not true. People just exaggerate. Complete lies- sensationalism. Things always get exaggerated. Anytime you've ever been there n the middle of anything, some shit goes down, the newspapers always add their little flowers and details and things. SUN: Can we talk for a minute about your music? Like your musical influences- how did you come to identify so strongly with Afro-American music? GORRIE: I grew up with jazz, Dixieland jazz, which my father played, and l've a big record collection with all kinds of 20's and 30's and 40's piano. James P. Johnson, Jimmy Yancey, Oh God, endless, you know. Fantastic players, all these guys. I love FatsWaller, I real I y do. There was a kind of lean period for a few years wben nothing was really catching my ears- a few things, there was Miles Davis, John Coltrane and that kind of thing. And then the next thing was soul music, and it happened- t seemed- all at once. It continued on page 1 7 AWB (continued f rom page 7) came straight out of Ray Charles, and on the heels of that was James Brown. It was only a matter of a few years after that that the Motown stuff was getting really big in this country, and we started getting all the imports. The first Motown single I ever got was "Can I Get a Witness," by Marvin Gaye. SUN: When was that? GORRIE: It was 1962. That was the first Motown single I ever bought. That was the first 45 RPM single I ever bought. That's why I remember it so well. When I first heard that, I thought it was Sam Cooke singing. I didn't know Marvin Gaye or anything about him. I thought t was Sam Cooke. The Motown thing grew very fast. Next the Miracles were out, the Impressions were out, the Supremes- they were the ones who sort of did most of the thing for Motown. They became very, very big in the crossover market- all over the world. MarvioGaye and TammiTerrell- Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston were good as well. SUN: I know the thing that distinguishes you from other "rock" groups is that you do black music so well- and so up-to-date, too. GORRIE: Soul music is like, for black people it came from the church, and its meaning was It's the professional form of church niusic, the logical progression for entertainers that were into gospel. With us, we had to learn it secondhand from them. You know, there's a definite language of soul music, and to sing and talk the language all you have to do is be faithful to it, believe in t, to get it over. Because black people won't accept it if it's fake. And t isn't in our case, because that's our genuine favorite thing. It's gone over well. SUN: Can you teil us about your future plans? GORRIE: We're going to come out on the road and do some dates in late October- I think on the West Coast - after our live album is released. l'd like to try and do a concert here, f we can, to make up for all the people who had to leave last night. We'd try to do a concert here if we can.