Rock Around The World October 1977   25

by Dusti Rhodes

“It’s like Muhammed and the

mountain … it just seems insurmountable at times.”

Jackie Lomax is describing his frustration with the intricacies of rock and roll Big Business, particularly as it relates to the airplay/sales syndrome that is this industry’s Catch 22. Since the

release of his latest Capitol 1p, Did You Ever Have That Feeling?, Jackie has made it a point to personally call or visit a number of radio stations, seeking opinions, reactions and, above all, the airplay that is crucial to an album’s success. His forementioned frustration results from one of the more common rActions of radio programmers to any new album: “Well, we like it, but we need to see some sales/chart action before we can add it to the playlist.” So airplay depends on album sales- but isn’t it airplay which generates sales? It’s this “chicken and the egg” routine that is the bane of many an artist’s existence; even seasoned veterans like Jackie, whose 15-year career has been a road of ups and downs and in betweens, traveled in the company of heavies like the Beatles and Eric Clapton, among others.

It was during the musical explosion of the early Sixties that Jackie’s career_ began in clubs around Liverpool and London where he formed the Undertakers and began to develop his distinct funk/rock style. A gig with the Undertakers at the Star Club in Hamburg proved to be one of the most decisive moments of Jackie’s early days-it was there he met the Beatles, a chance meeting that would evolve into an ongoing personal and professional alliance with George Harrison.

“1 used to go to George’s house … we’d work out a few songs, ideas … he had a little four-track in his house, which I thought was amazing in those days … he gave me a little sort of lunch-box size tape recorder, with three-inch reels, cause I didn’t have anything to record on, to put the songs down, even with voice and guitar … so that was the first thing I ever did with my songs, the first sort of home demo-ing.”

Shortly thereafter, Jackie was the first artist to be signed to the Beatles’ Apple records. George Harrison produced and played on Jackie’s first album, Is This What You Want, which included the classics “The Eagle Laughs at You” and “Sour Milk Sea.”

“‘Sour Milk Sea’ developed out of George’s trip to India to the Maharishi . . . remember that time they all went–took their girlfriends an’ all … it was a funny period, cause I was sittin’ home in London waitin’ for George to get back, ’cause he’d talked about producing some stuff for Apple, and I thought he’d be a great producer … so he had this song when he came back-they’d talked about it in India-that the world was in sour milk sea, between two ages of spiritualism

.. we worked out the song at this house. It was the first thing we did together … he played guitar; I played guitar and a bass line. We both sang and played maracas and tambourine, and he mixed it.”

“Sour Milk” became sour grapes as the Beatles split, the Apple label disintegrated and Jackie was left to wonder just how successful the album had been having never received an accounting from the label.

Undaunted, Jackie assembled a group called Heavy Jelly, recorded one album and did some touring with the group. But he was growing weary of England and decided to move to America, where he made his home in the upstate New York town of Woodstock, a mountain resort that was just beginning to gain notoriety as an “artist’s community.” Under contract with Warner Brothers, he recorded two albums-the self-produced Home Is In My Head, and his third 1p, aptly titled Three. While neither of these was very successful in terms of sales, the Home album spawned a couple of “turntable hits”-“Helluva Woman” and the title track, which Jackie describes as his attempt at being clever:

“In every line of the song, there’s the name of a place in England … I thought I was being clever, using these names out of context … ‘I have dived into a black pool’ . well Blackpool is a place near Liverpool … but in America, nobody knew all these names-they thought it

was such a strange song, but they liked the beat!”

The beat was further emphasis on and refinement of Jackie’s r & b influences:

“I could pull off songs on that album which arc in the same kind of vein as what I’m still doin’ … maybe not as developed, but pointing that way-into the funkier thing, more than the heavy rock side … the next album I made (Three) had a lot of brass on it .   I had Bernard Purdy on drums … we mixed the rhythm section very low, but it still had a tendency to be funky, even though it leaned more to the rock side.”

In 1974, two years after Three, Jackie was recovering from a mystery illness and getting ready to drive across the country when he got a call from Dave Foster asking him to join a group called Badger, which would also feature keyboardist Tony Kaye, bassist Kim Gardner and drummer Roy Dyke–an alleged “supergroup”:

“I’d been quite ill with this weird disease that nobody could work out

spots all over me and a high fever … I was suffering real bad, and the doctor put the house in quarantine, which didn’t help … -I decided that as soon as I got better, we’d split and drive across the states … bought a bus, fitted it out and packed it in a week … the night before we were leaving, I get this call about Badger … I said, ‘Look,

I’m goin’ on this trip; you’ve gotta give me three weeks, then I’ll give you a dicision’ … so they called me again when I got to L.A. I told them I’d checked out some people here, and I was going to San Francisco to check out some more people there and to call me again in San Francisco

. but I kept getting the ‘later’ sign from all these people, so when Badger called me in San Francisco, they said, ‘You want it? There’s a ticket at the airport’ • . I left

Annie with the bus to drive back across the states while I went to check out this thing in England … it was a bit shaky at first, but then rehearsals started sounding good…”

Shakiness prevailed, however, and Badger disbanded after eight months, one album (produced by Allen Toussaint) and a few nightmarish gigs that would be the group’s ultimate demise, along with the divergent musical styles within the band-Tony Kaye’s classically oriented keyboards and Jackie’s funky r & b style played against each other, as well as confusing hell out of the drummer and resulting in a sound that is best described as, well, unusual.

Following the Badger episode, Jackie moved to L.A. to check out musicians and try to land a new recording contract, all the while writing new songs and making demos. He signed with Capitol in 1975, and his first solo album since Three was released in 1976.

Titled Livin’ for Lovin Jackie’s first Capitol 1p was an even more pominent display of the r & b influence that had underlined his earlier works:

“Ever since Three, I’ve been trying to develop this kind of sound that’s not really loud … it’s not lacking in balls, but it’s just not gonna cover you, and hurt your ears …”

Although Livin’ for Lovin’ amply displayed the advancement of Jackie’s “new” style, with some great material and good, strong players, it lacked somewhat in the raw insistence that separates slick from soul. Also, in spite of its potential. the album was lost in the shuffle of “everybody’s greatest hits” that appear just before Christmas, shortly after the album was released.

Now Jack’s back, with Did You Ever Have That Feeling?a collection of nine Lomax originals produced by Bob Monaco (Rufus) and characterizied by powerful arrangements that punctuate tunes ranging from ethereal (“Floating,” “Fine Lines”) to evocative (“Only Fools,” “Part of My Life”) and elated (“One of a Kind,” “Just-a-Little-Bit-o-Your-Love,” “Soul Light”). The punch and power that was so elusive on the Livin’ 1p is fully present here, lending itself well to the further evolution of Lomax’s rock ‘n’ soul style which is more than adequately interpreted by a stable of superior musicians contributing to the album.

By all musical indications, then, this should be the album that brings Jackie back to the forefront once again, as an artist with a style that is fiercely individual without being alien or pretentious.

But will the airplay/sales battle be won? Well, really, you decide ….


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Photo by Neal Zlozower/Mirage