Winter 1996 Concert Dates
Van Go Gan...Nonstop Listening!
Reno Concert Review
Photo of the Month
***** American History...Discovering America (1/15/72)
The following article was published in the British magazine, "Melody Maker" 24 years ago. I thought it was very interesting, so I'll include almost all of it for you to read too!!
"Discovering America" by Chris Charlesworth
Dirt Pit Manor is all that you would expect from a place formerly used as a cowman's house on the edge of a farm. There are the usual four walls, made of wood, the odd window, a room or two and a loo that doesn't flush unless you climb on to the toilet seat and depress the mechanism manually from above.
It's situated in a very rural spot in the Watford direction and rather difficult to find unless you have a good map or a guide. It's a bit smelly, very cold when the weather is unkind, and not really the kind of property classy estate agents are keen to deal with.
It's also the home of America--the group that is--who prefer this rather frugal existence to the hazards of town living in London.
The three musicians who comprise America also happen to know the neighbourhood very well, having been educated nearby and lived around Watford for years.
America are the aspiring hope of Jeff Dexter, the zany disc-jockey who always dresses for the occasion. He wasn't kidding when we were driving to Dirt Pit Manor and he told me it wasn't much bigger than the car Kinney had provided for us.
Jeff is their manager and, like all good managers, he is always bestowing lavish praise on his boys. The link between Dexter and America has done wonders for the band--from their initial gigs at the Roundhouse (where Dexter's influence is strong) to more lucrative engagements up and down this country and in Holland...
America are stirring when we arrive at Dirt Pit Manor. Dewey (Bunnell) is the last to get up so he makes the tea. The rest smoke my cigarettes. Jeff hands over a carved wooden horse--a present from a fan--which no doubt has no name.
America's music is quiet acoustic material. The three part harmonies, guitar backing and three stools they use have inevitably brought comparisons with the CSN&Y stable, and they are getting gradually fed up with the people who dub them imitators.
America were born one year and three months ago. All three--the other two are Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek--were living in Britain long before the group was formed. They all went to an American school in this country, near Watford, and had parents attached to the American services stationed in this country.
"We had known each other for a long time but our paths weren't crossing as far as work was concerned. Dewey and Dan were dishwashing and I was in another group," said Gerry. "I was making some contacts and we had all written songs so we decided to play together. We went around playing to anybody who would listen, and we played at a party where Jeff was. He put us on at the Roundhouse Christmas Party with the Who and Elton John last year, and that was our first big gig. We had to use borrowed guitars as well."
Their manager made them do the rounds of different record companies with demo tapes. Kinney appeared interested, but the manager said no. The group would have said yes, so when the manager left shortly afterwards, the first stop was Kinney. The result was an initial album titled simply "America" which sold well for a first timer, and which is picking up more sales now that their single is in the charts.
"We were satisfied with the album but not happy about it," said Gerry. "You reach a certain point where you say this is good enough. I don't think anybody is really genuinely pleased with an album, or everything on it."
"When I hear it now, I think it is better than when we made it," said Dan. "You just get so sick of it during the time you are recording it."
The album used a rhythm section, but the group don't have a drummer on live gigs. Did they miss the percussion?
"It would be something to experiment with, but most of today's drummers are far too heavy. When we play on stage there is no real volume. It all comes from the PA," said Gerry. "If we had a drummer bashing away we would be drowned out completely."
The current single was written by Dewey and was originally intended to be a track on their next album. "We had demoed four new songs and we couldn't decide which one to release as a single," said Dewey.
"We left it to the record company to decide. Originally the song was called 'Desert Song' but we weren't allowed to use tht name because of the old musical with the same name. But it's good to have a title which is repeated during the song. We more or less forgot about it for a while, and when it started to sell it was a big surprise. We went to Holland and came back to discover it was in the charts."
The group were anxious to rebuff the CSN&Y copy tag. "They are a direct copy of us!" said Gerry. "No, but it's true our first recordings were like them, but it wasn't intentional to sound like them. Acoustic guitar backing with American voices singing three part harmony is bound to sound like them. Marvin Welch and Farrar sound more like CSN&Y than we do, in fact, they sound more like CSN&Y than CSN&Y do themselves. I think they are better anyway."
"We figure music is music, and so many groups sound like other groups much more so than we do," said Dewey. "I'll admit that during the first six months of our career we sounded like them, but now we don't."
Their next album will attempt to get away from the basic 11 songs idea. Production will be more advanced than the simple production of the first album, and the songs may well be linked together throughout the record.
But before they start work on the album, America are to visit their home country for a six week tour of clubs on both coasts. Already there has been some reaction to the group following the import of copies of the album. In Washington the album stopped the local radio station charts for some time.
"We're feeling quite paranoid about going there because for us it will be a big change in social attitudes, because we are used to English attitudes. No doubt we'll have to go through the CSN&Y imitation tag all over again. England has been good to us. We have had a few bad reviews but as far as the public is concerned, most places have been great. We have a feeling we may have overplayed London, and exhausted our material on the people down here. We did the family tour and up in Scotland it was amazing!"
***** Winter 1996 Concert Dates
January 26 The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA
January 27 Sycuan Casino, El Cajon, CA (sold out?)
Late Jan./Early Feb. Japan
Feb. 14 Fairbanks, Alaska
Feb. 16 Anchorage, Alaksa
Feb. 17 Kenai, Alaska
I had a great response about the "Harbor" songbook request in the last issue, and a few more people have expressed an interest in obtaining some America items. If you're looking for something America-related, please send me the information and I'll post it in the next newsletter.
"America Complete" Songbook (1977): If you have a copy of this publication or know where it can be obtained, please let me know. Include the price and condition with your message.
"Middle Age Crazy": Do you have the soundtrack of this movie (which starred Ann-Margret) and includes a song sung by Gerry Beckley?
Here's a request from Tony. Please send your replies to this notice directly to Tony:
Disappointed with that America song book you just spent $20 on? Surprised that (according to the song book) every America song appears to be only Amaj7 and Dmaj7? Did you spend hours working out all 15 chrods for an America song off the record and when you finally bought the songbook it says it's Amaj7 all the way through? Don't despair! Perhaps others have worked out accurate TAB or transcriptions to America favorites that you couldn't get your ear (or fingers) around. Send email to: email@example.com if you have a song to swap or share and I will try to start to build up a library. Note that ftp.nevada.edu has a good transcription of Riverside, but that's about it!
***** Van Go Gan....Nonstop Listening!
The following "Van Go Gan" comments are from Steve Lowry, and to add a different perspective, I'll add a few comments of my own....we're no "Siskel and Ebert" but "Steve and Sue" will have to do!
I've been listening to VGG almost non-stop since I got it and I'm having a very difficult time coming up with a favorite song. I think the entire album is great. Last night I put on the headphones and cranked up the volume, determined to come up with a favorite. However, it didn't do me any good. There are things that I like about each song:
"Emma" A great song to begin the album. A real catchy tune that leads into the rest of the album. (Sue: This is one of my favorites!)
"Van Go Gan" Very soothing and relaxing to listen to. (Sue: My kids just love this one!)
"House of Cards" This song reminds me of Neil Young on his Harvest album. Great harmony.
"Sunrise Sunset" A great blend of easy listening music with some snappy rock and roll. I really like the use of the trumpet and cornet. (Sue: Another one of my favorites....I like the way the title and lyrics go so well with the music...)
"Goodbye Highway" Great lyrics combined with Gerry's flawless guitar playing. (Sue: I'm always humming this one!)
"One Day's Duning" A thoughtful song that makes me reflect on the past. Reminds me of some of the early America songs. (Sue: I wondered what "duning" was until Barb B. told me it meant being out in the sand dunes....)
"Only A Kid At Heart" This song gets a vote as one of my favor- ites. I like the lyrics, the harmony, and little touch of country that's mixed in with the catchy tune. (Sue: Another one to hum! Very catchy, and one of my favorites!)
"Playing God" I liked this song the first time I heard it. I'm guessing that Gerry had fun doing it and that some money-seeking evangelist must have sparked something in his mind. I can't listen to this song too much. (Sue: I just love this one, even though it isn't as easy to sing along with as the others....I think it's one of the most creative ones on the cd!)
"International" I'm glad that Gerry included this one song that was written by someone else. It's one of those ballads that's destined to be a classic. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. (Sue: Steve and I disagree here.....I like Gerry's compositions much better!!)
"What Happened" A refreshing instrumental, but it's too short. just when I'm getting in to it, it ends. (Sue: I like intstrumentals for a change of pace... but sure would love to know WHY Gerry picked the titles he did for the ones on this album!)
"I Need You" A unique version of Gerry's classic. The saxophone and additional background singing really adds to it. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. (Sue: I never thought you could improve on "I Need You," and only Gerry could have been the one to do it!!)
"Now Sue" This song would have to get a vote as one of my favorites. I like the guitars, the harmony, and the tune. It reminds me of the songs on the early America albums, especially Homecoming. (Sue: This one is one of my favorites....I just love the title (of course!) )
"Kiss of Life" After the Park City concert Gerry told us that this was his favorite song on VGG. I would have to agree that it's one of my favorites. Singing with Robert Lamm and Carl Wilson provides some excellent background harmony. A great song! (Sue: My vote for the BEST one on the cd....)
"Hard to Sleep" This instrumental is a fitting end to a great album. It's very soothing and relaxing, however, it ends rather abruptly.
I'm sorry I can't pick out a favorite now, but they're all too good! (Sue: I agree!!!!!! And, by the way, I was listening to VGG the whole time I typed in the newsletter, so if it's better than usual, that's probably why!!)
***** America Tidbits The following comments were from Byron Stewart in Missouri:
I saw the boys in Columbia, MO in October 1974 where they debuted a song, which turned out to be "Woman Tonight"...which still, in my book, has one of the strangest beats...do't know how Willie Leacox does it!
I became a big fan in 1972...HORSE, of course, was THE song that most inspired me...and I bought all the albums through HARBOR...I particularly liked the following songs:
1) AMERICA: Riverside, 3 Roses, Horse, I Need You...learned Riverside on the piano and still bang it out today whenever I sit down to play! What a great album...still my favorite album...the interplay of the three guys was just marvelous!
2) HOMECOMING...Ventura Highway (another piano song I picked out!) and Head & Heart...overall, I thought this album didn't measure up to the first one.
3) HAT TRICK...one of my favorite albums!! Especially like Hat Trick, Muskrat Love, Green Monkey, and the ending, Good bye!
4) HOLIDAY...a "classy" album, with George Martin's touch quite evident! Loved Tin Man, Old Man Took, and Baby It's Up to You especially.
5) HEARTS...hard to beat Daisy Jane, Sister Golden Hair (another piano song!) and Woman Tonight.
6) HIDEAWAY...another album favorite! Always liked Watership Down, Amber Cascades, Jet Boy Blue, and Today's the Day (learned that on piano also...in memory of a special girl!)
7) HARBOR...a disappointing effort, I always thought...still, God of the Sun was nice, and Sarah is breath-taking in its vulnerability!
8) SILENT LETTER...liked this!! especially 1960, And Forever, and the luscious All My Life...
9) VIEW FROM THE GROUND...great album! Especially, You Can Do Magic, Inspector Mills, Right Before your Eyes, Jody, and sometimes Lovers...I still feel Jody would have been a better song than Right Before Your Eyes to have ben released after You Can Do Magic, which was a great song and had re-invigorated the public toward AMERICA...the Rudolph Valentino song is fine, but wasn't "pop" enought to make it as much as I think Jody would have...strictly my opinion!
***** Reno Concert Review
This review was submitted by Rick Wahlgren (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We all had an absolutely FABULOUS time in Reno, and Rick captured the event perfectly!!
When I saw America would be playing in Reno for three consecutive nights at the Flamingo Hilton, including New Year's, I couldn't pass it up! But the best part was discovering that many of the other on-line fans would also be there for a truly memorable weekend.
Most appropriately, I flew Alaska Airlines down to Reno from up here in the North Pole...smiling all the way down...thinking how great it would be. As it turned out, it was even better than I could ever anticipate...
The excitement grew when I checked into the Eldorado and looked across the street at the huge pink Flamingo at the Hilton, and saw the flashing marquee sign blinking "AMERICA." But the concerts didn't begin until the next night.
Then, I read through three "What's Happening in Reno" type magazines, and found several articles praising America, and especially the enormous accomplishments of Gerry and Dewey over the past 25 years. This publicity helped set the stage for large and appreciative audiences for all three nights.
With some spare time on my hands, I went over to the Flamingo Hilton, and checked it out...and also lost the first of countless quarters to the insatiable one-armed bandits....as long as I still had my concert tickets and airline ticket home, all was okay!
Friday afternoon, I went back over to the Hilton and watched America's professional crew set up for the concert which is an impressive sight. With as many as 160 concerts per year, the crew knew exactly what they were doing, and had all the equipment ready to perform at peak levels. No wonder America's concerts are of the highest standards, and the crew deserves much acclaim.
That evening, the online gang met outside the door...creating enough excitement to entertain everyone attending the concert. Now the fun was about to begin! Juice Newton opened for America, performing an all-acoustic concert, singing several of her great hits which the audience really enjoyed. Throughout her performance, she praised America by saying what an honor it was to open for such a legendary supergroup, and how "America is gonna knock your socks off!!!"
Then...it finally came....the twelve favorite words of every America fan..."Ladies and gentlemen, would you please give a warm welcome to AMERICA!!!!!" The Flamingo Hilton ROCKED with cheering and wild applause...
There they were...Gerry, with his trademark white tennis shoes and radiant smile...and Dewey, with his special charm and class...both strumming the chords to Riverside in the spotlight. And...there was Woodz...absolutely beaming, wearing a colorful vest, ready to play some serious lead guitar...and Brad, with the lights glittering in rainbow colors from his white bass guitar...
But...who was the guy in the WHITE SHIRT and TIE...(a musical tie, Sue adds!)...hidden behind the drums with the classiest logo of all, "AMERICA"? He had red hair all right, was fabulous...no...it couldn't be Willy!! But of course it was, starting yet another fashion trend!!
As all America concerts go, the band built more and more momentum throughout the night, playing a vast number of oldies, combined with two very special songs from "Hourglass," "Young Moon," and "Hope."
At this time, Gerry made a very special announcement...that the inspirational "Hope" was chosen for the theme song of the T.J. Martell Foundation fighting cancer...and that it was going to be recorded and pefromed by country stars Garth Brooks, Randy Travis (or was that Travis Tritt?) and a host of others. We will get the exact info. from Gerry and Dewey....
The song that brought down the house...as everyone raved about all last summer, was the elegant version of the "Last Unicorn." The audience was stunned by its beauty...and meaning...and there were wet eyes everywhere.
As always, to lighten things up, Dewey mentioned that with the name "AMERICA", he thought maybe the band could be classified as non-essential employees...and maybe shouldn't even be working!!! (Leave it to the government to legislate the fun right out of everything!!)
Throughout the concert, fans yelled out many requests...and of course, they were all on the song list...hit after hit after hit...and finally ending with America's trademark song, "Horse With No Name."
After meeting the guys backstage, with Gerry and Dewey and their families being ever so gracious...night one was over...But the good news was there were two nights to go!!
The second day began at the crack of dawn, which is exactly 10 am Reno time, with breakfast at the hotel with the online gang. We decided to check out the sites in Reno such as the Silver Legacy and Circus Circus. Later that afternoon, we went back to the Flamingo for the sound check, which was a special treat.
While Brad and Woodz jammed to a little surfin music, Gerry and Dewey tried to resolve two "major problems"...nobody knew all the words to Auld Lang Syne (along with 99.9% of the rest of the world) and how would the guys know when it was exactly midnight? They practiced several versions of Auld Lang Syne...slow, up tempo, and finally a rock and roll version that everyone agreed was perfect. And...it was finally decided that the lyrics wouldn't matter anyway, because the crowd would handle that end of it, and a clock of some kind must be included on stage! No problems here!
That evening, Juic Newton gave another excellent performance...and was feeling a little peppier after recovering from a cold.
America was once again warmly recieved, but there was something a little different about this concert than the night before...this talented crowd not only came to listen...they came to "sing" along with Dew and Ger as well...helping them throughout the entire performance...loving every minute. No need for Dew and Ger to worry about skipping a lyric here and there, because the crowd had them all down pat...even adding a few more!
Throughout the night, the crowd showed its strong affection and appreciation for America...cheering, standing ovations, and yes, more singing! Perhaps the most shocking event was that it was NOT Brad's birthday...which the online crew was eager to celebrate once again. (Nevertheless, there was quite a celebration afterwards...birthday or not!)
And...Willie set another fashion trend, wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt that Ger couldn't resist commenting on...wondering aloud what it had to do with Reno. Willie was ready, replying that it fit into the "festive occasion" (it was red and green, after all!)
The night was a huge success for America, and enjoyed immensely by the crowd...or maybe I should say choir. Day two was over...now it was time for the big New Year's bash!
The concerts began later Sunday evening about 10:30 because of the New Year's celebration, with Juice Newton once again warming up the crowd, and promising that America would really stir things up!!
Now this crowd was pumped by the time the curtain opened for America!! Horns honked, confetti flew, and more than a few drinks were spilled in all the excitment when America opened with Riverside. The guys looked spiffy in their tuxes...and all of you will be surprised to hear that Ger did not wear his white tennis shoes with his tux!
The guys played such songs as Lonely People, Three Roses, and Ventura Highway, and then Dewey showed off the most important piece of equipment on stage...a large clock that looked like it came right out of a schoolhouse...ticking away toward the magic hour.
When midnight approached, as the guys finished a blazing rendition of Sandman, Dewey and Gerry led the countdown...with Dewey showing everyone the clock...and then suddenly the guys began playing America's special version of Auld Lang Syne as the Flamingo Hilton exploded...hundreds of balloons fell simultaneously along with a shower of confetti, horns honked, and everyone was on their feet cheering...not just for the New Year, but especially for this incredible performance they were lucky to be a part of.
Now it was time to rock and roll...For the next half hour, America put on one of the best shows I've seen...and the crowd responded accordingly. Everyone was on their feet, hugging, singing along, cheering, dancing...it was one wild scene...and the guys rsponded with hit after hit after hit...at a frenzied pace...including Everyone I Meet Is From California and You Can Do Magic.
Meanwhile, one person's New Year's Resolution apparently was to be the first person anywhere in 1996 to show her bare buns off to an entire concert crowd, while a friend showered her with confetti...all directly in the spotlight of the Flamingo Hilton. Who ever said that New Year's Resolutions can't come true????
The show's encore was Sister Golden Hair and Horse with No Name...and then it was over...a memorable night with America that will be cherished by all those in attendance forever.
It was very special to go backstage with the guys again, and wish them and their wonderful families a special Happy New Year...and later celebrate downstairs at the Flamingo well into the New Year.
The hardest part was saying goodbye to the guys and the online gang...but we all agreed that this was just he beginning of an incredible 1996 with America...now in their 26th year, with more great things bound to happen!!!
*PLAYLIST* (right off the stage!)
Riverside...Tin Man...Daisy Jane...I Need You...Lonely People...Three Roses...Ventura Highway...Last Unicorn...Young Moon...Hope...Woman Tonight...Only in Your Heart...Everyone I Meet is From California...Don't Cross the River...You can do Magic...Sandman...Sister Golden Hair...Horse with No Name.
***** PHOTO OF THE MONTH
This month's photo is from the New Year's Eve show at the Flamingo Hilton in Reno, Nevada. If you read the previous review of the show, you'll get a kick out of this one which shows Dewey with the "offical" clock!! (More Reno photos to come!!)
P.S. Lots of info. left that I could have printed this month, including an update on Dan Peek's current interests for those of you who have been asking...I'll try to do another issue soon...school starts next week, so I'll do my best! Sue
Last Revised: 6 January 1998