When The Bearded Pigs landed in Memphis for the When Pigs Fly sessions last April, we were joined by a rather fascinating creature who called herself Dr. Gatha Snowmoss. She claimed to be a peripatetic photojournalist who'd been intrigued enough by the rumors that she'd heard to arrange to spend some time with us. Exotic she was, indeed, with enough contradictions in her backstory to raise several eyebrows, but she fit right in. SG has finally posted her report, and it's pretty accurate -- as far as I can remember.
It's a bit poignant for me to read, since I'm still in mourning a bit from SG's decision to formally retire from the band. I wasn't really surprised when the message came -- as he said in his note to us, he's been moving in other musical directions the last couple of years and that's where he wants to put his energy. While he played brilliantly in Chicago, I could sense that shift. I'm grateful that he made it a clean break -- it was a classy move.
As it happens, he sent his note to the band on the same day that VH1 ran their Rock Honors special for The Who. I watched it, thinking how appropriate it was to see these two old survivors, famous for their battles, still rocking as hard as the youngsters they shared the stage with, still being a part of something larger than themselves. It was the tension between Daltrey and Townshend that made The Who something more than the component parts, that makes it possible for the band to still be a band, even with half of the original members long gone.
I used to half-joke that if we all lived in the same town and played out a couple of times a month, the musical tensions within The Bearded Pigs would have broken it up long ago. SG and I were on opposite ends of the continuum -- I was happy with a big, sloppy, acoustic-based sound where the songs sounded different every time and were never the way anybody else played them. If there were mistakes or trainwrecks, I didn't really care, as long as there was a lot of energy. SG pulled us toward a crisp, much harder rocking sound, with clean lines and sharp tempos. If I was looking in the direction of The Band and Steve Earle and Dylan, he was channeling Cream and the Allman Brothers. The harder we tugged at each other, the more it became a band, and each of the other musicians was able to find their perfect and very individual spot within.
When I got the note from SG, my immediate thought was that we should pack it in. How could it be The Bearded Pigs without him? And yet, it actually is. In Scotland, with Ringer Ruthven playing bass, it was The Bearded Pigs. The North Carolina contingent has played a couple of gigs without me or Bruce or SG or TG and it's still the Pigs. When TomCat, Bruce, TG and I played in London last February -- it was The Bearded Pigs. SG wasn't with us in San Antonio, and it was still...
So on we go. But I'm not done playing music with SG. Somewhere, sometime, we're gonna play Landslide again..
But now I've got to find a new bass player for Hawaii, dammit!