CULTURE

‘Has-been’ rock acts are having it good on the revival front

The «has-been» acts have it good, or at least that’s the message being conveyed by the numerous veteran rock band reunions and ensuing tours on the seemingly growing revivalist circuit. It could be that rock ‘n’ roll – innovative rock ‘n’ roll, that is – is nearing, or has reached, the end of its creative cycle and that subsequently, too many young acts are mostly rehashing the ways of their mentors, aging or dead. Or maybe the mentors still physically capable of touring and performing are in need of some extra cash as the royalty coffers dry up. Perhaps, like your retired and bored sailor, too much domesticity could be making these previously wayfaring veterans of rock restless and hungry again for the road. Then again, the reasons behind an upswing in the revivalist circuit could be a combination of all these factors. Admittedly, some veterans never needed to come back as they never stopped writing; they’ve just grown along with their music. People like Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, John Cale, and the recently deceased country legend Johnny Cash, for example, have worked perpetually, and, in most cases, admirably, since arriving decades earlier. Others have vanished and are highly unlikely to return. The influential and eccentric Captain Beefheart, for example, one of rock music’s mystery stories, distanced himself from music – and the world – in the early 1980s, heading for the American desert, it is believed. Some acts, however, completely disappeared and are now reappearing in numbers. For instance, Vanilla Fudge, the psychedelic, hard-rock forerunners, are now touring again. The band, which made initial impact with a 1967 debut album of the same name before eventually fading away in the early 1970s, has included a date in Athens at the Gagarin 205 club (205 Liosion St, tel 210.854.7600-2) this Friday night. «People are entitled to keep playing their music. I don’t see anything suspicious in that. Think of the older bluesmen. Nobody seems to think age matters there,» remarked film director, rock promoter and music buff Nikos Triandafyllidis, the head of Astra, the firm behind Vanilla Fudge’s upcoming Greek show. «I don’t consider the veteran rock circuit to be ‘retro.’ It is true, though, that some of the older acts have stood the test of time better than others. Some actually remain fresher than your newcomers and are enjoying evolving careers. Others, perhaps, have merely regrouped. Most of these people don’t need the money,» he added. Besides Vanilla Fudge, other veteran acts now back to clocking the miles and lined up for imminent shows in Greece include Blondie, The Yardbirds, Nazareth and Uriah Heep. Triandafyllidis, whose work as a concert promoter in recent years has brought a wide range of interesting acts, mostly peripheral, including Screamin’ Jay Hawkins for his final show ever – the raucous bluesman died about a month after performing here early in 2000 – said that the crowds drawn to shows by veteran acts varied in age. «You get a mixture of young and old in the audience, which is natural, I believe. The younger ones turn up out of curiosity, and older ones for nostalgic reasons,» remarked Triandafyllidis. «As for Vanilla Fudge, I think they’re a mighty good band,» he added. Vanilla Fudge was one of the few American bands that fell between psychedelia and what soon became heavy metal. Despite recording plenty of original material, the New York act was best known for its loud, heavy, and slowed-down arrangements of contemporary pop songs, blown into trippy, distorted and epic proportions. After a lengthy absence, the band reunited for a poorly received comeback album of new material in 1984, «Mystery.» The act has since reunited occasionally for tours only, which have relied on its golden-era material from the late 1960s.