sexta-feira, 3 de julho de 2009

40 Anos de Joe Cocker - De Woodstock ao Hamilton Place!

Saiu hoje, no The Spec, jornal canadense:

40 years of Joe Cocker From Woodstock to Hamilton Place

por Graham Rockingham The Hamilton Spectator (Jul 3, 2009)

Joe Cocker took the stage shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17, the third day of Woodstock, almost 40 years ago next month.
His backing group, The Grease Band, had already been jamming through two instrumental numbers to warm the half million or so people in attendance.
Cocker arrived by helicopter, it was the only way in. Traffic jams had kept the roads closed for days.
"It was quite an amazing sight as we grew closer and closer," Cocker says in an interview from his Mad Dog ranch in Colorado. "Only a year before, I was playing the pubs in England to like a hundred people. So it was a bit of an eclipse ...
"I never had a chance to get scared, though. I got off the helicopter and a guy who had managed me for years, Michael Lang, said 'Joe are you ready to go? The band is already warmed up.' And I just climbed up the stairs and there was that wall of people."
He tore through eight songs before reaching one of those iconic moments in rock 'n' roll history.
Less than a year earlier, Cocker had recorded a version of the Beatles' With A Little Help From My Friends. It was a Ringo novelty song off the Sergeant Pepper's album. Cocker rearranged it into a slower, gospel-style call-and-response anthem that had more to do with Ray Charles than the Beatles. It rose to a monster crescendo, punctuated with a lightning guitar riff from Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page. Little Help From My Friends had been a minor hit in Cocker's native England, but it had yet to make an impact in America.
Cocker chose the song to close his Woodstock set. It was literally a showstopper (an ensuing downpour closed the stage for several hours) that will be remembered as much for Cocker's body contortions as his amazing, bottom-of-the-gravel-pit, vocal delivery.
He was wearing a gaudy tie-dyed shirt, thrown to him by a couple of girls in the crowd. Sweat flew from his unkempt hair as he entered into his bizarre little dance, arms flying about trying to play air guitar, drums and keyboard all at once, his fingers searching for imaginary strings while his feet, wrapped in silver-starred boots, stomped out a pigeon-toed beat.
It was grotesquely beautiful.
After he ended the eight-minute performance to an enormous ovation, he went back stage and removed his shirt. The colours had bled through the tie-dye, mixing with his sweat, imprinting purple, red and orange stains on his torso.
"I was the only guy who wasn't on acid, you know," Cocker confides with a deep-throated chuckle. "The whole band had dropped LSD before they went on and if you look at me, I may appear a little bit labouring."
The performance, his last with The Grease Band, changed his career and made him a superstar.
Soon after, Cocker hooked up with Leon Russell -- a cultlike musician and songwriter from Oklahoma who had learned his craft playing guitar and piano in the early '60s with Phil Spector. Russell had wooed Cocker with a song called Delta Lady and promised to put together a special touring band for him. Cocker expected a five or six-piece combo, instead Russell delivered the 20-piece rock orchestra that became known as Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
"We were all into walking around with no clothes on," Cocker says about the rehearsals at Russell's house. "I don't have much recall but they were pretty crazy days."
The Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour played 48 cities in 56 days, with a film crew catching the antics both onstage and off for a big screen movie. It all started out fun, but ended up, as they used to say, "a drag." There were too many concerts, too many drugs and way too much booze.
After that Cocker continued to score occasional hits, but his career was never the same.
By the mid-'70s his alcohol consumption and onstage contortions were being parodied by John Belushi on Saturday Night Live. At one point during one of his Cocker skits, Belushi falls flat on the floor and pours a bottle of liquor over himself. It's funny, but sad.
Cocker recalls the first time he heard about Belushi's antics.
"I was in a bit of bad shape. After a couple of tours I wasn't doing great and I remember someone saying, 'Joe, there's this guy doing a terrible impersonation of you."
Then Cocker saw it: "I wasn't offended. I thought it was great. I could see the humour, pouring beer over his head. I thought he did a pretty good vocal impersonation."
Eventually, Cocker agreed to sing on the show with Belushi. "We did an SNL together. (Belushi) was always a bit in awe. He'd follow me around. He was very shy around me."
Ironically, it was Belushi who would succumb to his addictions -- dying of an overdose in 1982 -- and not Cocker.
At 65, Cocker now takes much better care of himself than he did in the '70s. He quit his two-pack-a-day cigarette habit 15 years ago and hasn't had a drink in more than eight. Although his voice may not have the range it once had, he can still belt out the hits on the road, five shows a week.
He tours with a full band -- somewhere in size between the Grease Band and Mad Dogs and Englishmen -- that includes two backup singers. He does all the hits -- Delta Lady, The Letter, She Came In Through the Bathroom Window, Cry Me a River, You Are So Beautiful, Leave Your Hat On and Up Where We Belong.
A Little Help From My Friends now runs up to 10 minutes in concert. And, yes, he still does that strange little dance with his hands, not quite so pronounced, but it's there.
"When I first started, I used to slap my ass and the girls didn't like that," Cocker says. "I had to think of something to do with my hands."
After the 1970 Woodstock movie focused attention on his stage moves, people started wondering if he actually suffered an affliction.
"Yeah, I know. They called it 'spastic,'" Cocker says. "They don't use that term anymore. When I first heard people talking about it that way -- that there's something wrong with me -- it affected the way I did it ... I tried to suppress it a little, but it's just there.
"I still do it now but not as pronounced. It's a way I conduct the band in my mind. I kind of just feel the beat and the guys know by the shapes I'm making if I'm happy or not."

Sent by Steve Liddycoat, my Leonlifer canadian friend!

Mais sobre Joe Cocker:
Joe Cocker has released 25 albums over his 40-year career, but it's really only his first three that deserve special attention. If you happen to have a passion for later hits like You Are So Beautiful, Leave Your Hat On or Up Where We Belong, go out and buy a greatest hits CD.
* With a Little Help From My Friends, May 1969. Joe Cocker's debut album with The Grease Band and a few ringers like Jimmy Page, Albert Lee and Stevie Winwood helping out. The title track is all the talk here, but there are other outstanding tracks as well, especially his covers of Traffic's Feelin' Alright and Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released (which he performed immediately before A Little Help From My Friends in his Woodstock set). While primarily known for covering other people's music, there are three fairly decent Cocker cowrites with Grease Band collaborator Chris Stainton -- Marjorine, Change in Louise and Sandpaper Cadillac.
* Joe Cocker!, November 1969. This marks the start of his work with Leon Russell, who gets a production credit on the album with Denny Cordell, as well as writing two of the album's 10 songs including the hit, Delta Lady. He rolls out two more Beatle's songs (three if you count Let It Be, a bonus track) -- Something and the still popular She Came In Through the Bathroom Window. Other standouts here are his very early cover of Leonard Cohen's Bird On the Wire and the Lovin' Spoonful's Darling Be Home Soon.
* Mad Dogs and Englishmen, September 1970. A double live album recorded during four shows at New York's Filmore East auditorium in March 1970. The band -- drawn largely from Delaney and Bonny's touring group -- is one of the greatest rock orchestras ever assembled. Key members later went on to work with Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominoes. Outstanding tracks here include Cry Me a River, Honky Tonk Women, The Letter and Girl From North Country (a duet with Leon Russell). Rita Coolidge's early rendering of Superstar, written by Bonnie Bramlett and Russell, is also worth noting.

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