Saturday, October 16, 2010
Roger Clyne - now THAT'S rock 'n roll!
Sometimes I wonder what makes a rock group or performer take off to become a superstar, platinum-selling sensation and what relegates others to mere mortal status.
Roger Clyne (that's him between my wife Roberta and I after Friday night's show in Charlotte) is talented enough to be part of the former but instead must be content with the latter.
For some 15 years, I have been watching Roger do his thing - first as front man for The Refreshments and, the last dozen or so years, as leader of Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.
Their sound is classic Americana - supercharged rock 'n roll with an occasional country-rock twang. It's reminiscent of Tom Petty, though Clyne arguably has a better voice and more vocal range. He comes from the same Phoenix music scene that spawned the Gin Blossoms, Jimmy Eat World and Meat Puppets, but Clyne has been far more enduring.
In the mid-90s, The Refreshments had a couple of mini-hits that received significant play on FM radio nationally. Not long before I was headed off to Phoenix for a spring training trip in 1996, I heard "Banditos" on the car radio in Chicago. When I got to Phoenix, the same song was playing on the radio there and when it was finished, the DJ said the Refreshments were playing that night at a local bar. I finished that day's work, went to the establishment, plunked down my 5 bucks and enjoyed a night of great music.
When I got home, I went out and bought "Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy," The Refreshments' debut album. Roberta and my kids, Katie and Ben, became huge fans, too. I took Roberta to see them when they came to Chicago on their promo tour and it was a great experience.
Over these last 15 years, I have introduced dozens of people to Roger's sound. Many of those people now make sure to go hear RCPM whenever the group comes to their area. Katie, now grown and living in Seattle, already has recruited a bunch of friends to join her when Roger & Co. play there next month.
Roberta and I went to see RCPM last night in Charlotte, along with two friends who never had seen Roger before. Two more converts! As usual, a wonderful time was had by all, as we reveled in the crowd's enthusiasm and Roger's talent, personality and showmanship. We paid $12 apiece - a fraction of the price of any big-arena show in which the sound is terrible and you have to watch the artists on big screens because you are sitting so far away from the stage.
While big-time commercial success has eluded Clyne, he did write the King of the Hill theme song, the title track for the 1997 film An American Werewolf in Paris and the Arizona Diamondbacks' anthem ("D-Backs Swing"). He and the Peacemakers have made waves on the Web; each time they debut an album, it ranks high in the most-downloaded category. Once when I saw him in Phoenix, he was introduced by Alice Cooper as the "embodiment of Arizona rock."
For newcomers, the CDs (or downloads) I'd recommend are "Americano," "Honky Tonk Union," "Bottle and Fresh Horses," and, of course, "Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy." Amazon has them, but you usually can find them pretty cheap on eBay.
Roger Clyne has so much talent, both as a writer and a performer, that I'm amazed more commercial success hasn't come his way - especially when you compare him to some hacks who, for whatever reason, have hit the big time.
I'm just grateful that he has soldiered on, touring tirelessly so fans like me and thousands of others can see true rock 'n roll in fantastic settings at bargain prices.