review of edgar winter's after dark lp

     by patti smith

[from "Edgar Winter: After Dark", Creem, March 1973]

Rock n roll is dream soup. whats your brand? mine has turned over. mine is almost at the bottom of the bowl. early arthur lee, smokey robinson. blonde on blonde. its gone. the formula is changed. theres new recipes. new ear drums. rock n roll is being reinvented. just like truth. its not for me but its there. its fresh fruit.
its dream soup.

Now spooning it in was edgar winter. but the formula was a little thin. he got solid taste and he's out to win. he tried it solo. but you know. for rock n roll today you got to have mass. you got to have fat live. you got to have an audience. so he gathered White Trash. energy plus. and it was big it was brass it was heavy. but it wasn't rock n roll. no go joe not yet. you got to have tight. predestined precision. some motown. some magic accidents. some commercial flash.
some clean dirt.

Then you got the soup. Well move over campbells. Edgars got it. he got it for real. slurp slurp. he realized the dream
in his own old song:

well way back in my mind
I could hear the people say
keep playing that rock 'n' roll

Oh Edgar Winter. So different than brother John. save the natural locks. two perfect blondes. in one family! what other mother is so lucky? did Marilyn Monroe have a pin up sister? Well Johnny I love. He's a pistol. He's a white crow. He's got magic tack. And he's got a brilliant young brother.

Now you think back on edgar a little. he was the obsessed idealist. bruised by every bad note. perfection man. driven by vision. but you know every vision got a demon double. and edgars evil genius has always been rock n roll. he's gripped like ice. He's tried to shake it but he can't. Lusty opposites attract. so to balance it all out he teamed up tiwh a few guys who seem to stand for everything he's spat on.

Ronnie Montrose is the true demon. In the group that is. None of the boys are first class sinners. But Ronnie's dark enough to merit the title rock star. you know. lead guitar. A boy that plays lead whats legend. ronnie wants. but not thru perfection. he don't bring the studio with him onstage. oh no. he knows people don't come to concerts to be techniqued. but to be jolted. to be amplified. they want live.

He was a bad ass kid you see. street kid. and like joe cocker said. bad with conscience dont make murderer.boyes gotta channel their energy. Ronnie was looking for an outlet. he found it. in a black les paul. he got guitar scars. he got the handle. he played day and night in the basement maggie. but he wanted out. he was busting to play live. he wanted it so bad. he's a worker. he's a mover. he's from denver.

Pure energy with chords. looking to play healthy solid music. physical. male. athletic and valid. but not too clean. not computer. the kids got constructive ego. and he's still building. maybe he'll go out on his own. he's out to be a star see but not a parody of a star. realization not imagination. he's been in a slew of rock n roll bands. Down at the bottom and headline. holed in studios pumping out roller derby songs. been with Boz Scaggs. smoking out. insane. been with Van Morrison. got guitar on Tupelo Honey.

And he keeps moving. Cause playing with new musicians is like dating. you know. until you find your steady. His relationship with edgar onstage is the same as love. enough hate to keep them growing. together. you got to see them live. they trade off see. they got guide points and a destination. but the way they get there is pure improvisation. on the movement. its so gratifying. edgar voodoo vocal and ronnie getting down on the ole les paul. they woo... they claw... they scat... they fight... they really fight... they love they climax. they like it live. they live to eat energy.

And Ronnies got some appetite. He'll play forever. The kid is no da vinci. he's no jack of all trades. he's complete GUITAR. and like he says:

When they want me. Ronnie Montrose. When they know who I am I get down. I get down on my knees. Sacrifice anything for fire. play my ass off. play all night. the les paul gleaming like a tigers eye...

I seen him do it. And it was pure jewel. I'm a girl see and my eye zeroes in on boy beauty. Thats a cool thing about this band. They're a good looking group. Take the drummer. He's a dream boy. He's also intent on raw energy.

Chuck Ruff was born in Reno but he don't gamble. Except on stage. He plays almost anything man. He plays like shit. He ain't a great drummer and he knows it. He don't care. He's energy man. The band feeds off him. The kid is raw meat. He's a pretty blond animal.

He was raised in two blocks of solid neon lights. But papa didn't give him a roulette wheel. His papa was a dixie land drummer. He gave Chuck a cool set of drums on his eleventh birthday. The next day Chuck had his first gig. The drumsticks were as foreign as chopsticks. But he didn't care. The kid had nerve gas. He played maniac drums in a battle of the bands contest. He won. He been playing maniac ever since. His hair got long he moved animal. A good bad boy. The town outcast. Bad in everyone elses eyes. They called him "the zoo specimen of Radcliffe Drive." But can a guy who performs in converse all-stars be all bad? A guy with sneakers. A guy who still makes model cars. Who had the fastest slot car in the west. A sky blue victorian ford. With power brakes...

He been in a million bands. Slept in stairwells with his drumsticks. And thats no turkey. He played with Ronnie and man name Mojo. Played in Sawback. And finally one night he got the call. He had been trapped in a ring of sweat pounding lightning at teh Burley Bull Club. Play with Edgar Winter? he hung the phone up. He thought twice. He hadn't his breath or style or feel worked out. The way he played was straight survival. The way he played was gut meat. But remembering the sucess of his first gig he came east. Held his breath and blew out like gas. He pumped pure energy in the new Edgar Winter band.

OK. So they got fire energy and vision. They need a Motown miracle. They got him. Dan Hartman plays bass. He also plays producer, engineer, songwriter and top ten IBM. He's the arrow and he's out to pierce the heart of commercial rock n roll. He came to New York with a plan. To communicate. To raise the standards of the radio. To bring FM quality to AM hits. Make them clean as a jewel. And as faceted. Dan is as quick and intricate as a TV guide crossword puzzle.

He was media boy. Back home in Harrisburg Pennyslyvania he had this group The Legends. Then one day he split and holed himself in a cabin for two weeks. Completely cut off from skin and blood. Chained to the radio, a tape machine and a room full of instruments. he got to the heart of every top 40 hit and redid it. expanded it. made a package of Hartman hits. All pretty true to their original chemistry. Only it was him in disguise. Real clever. A rock n roll cannibal.

So with this very dubious merit under his belt he merged with Edgar. With a brand new plan. To shuck all he had done. a naked ear of corn. To utilize these eclectic skills in a brand new way. he had to find his own voice. Find himself. Without the aid of college. It was tough but the kid is tougher. The results are coming in like sure shots. He's learning to create from inspiration as well as imagination. He's working on a string of singles that are top 40 but KOOL. He's the one that oozed the kool juice in the new album. The latin motown. The extended chords. The themes that move and carry like a sleigh ride. The cruising car music. The cool but common denominator beat. The beat we all know to move to. That finely chiseled rock n roll.

The records fine. No ego move. The guys did it together. Its like Rubber Soul. Personally I'd like to see it dirtier. Less homogenized. But then I'm of the old school. I still droll drool for Billy Lee Riley. Original James Brown. Hot buttered soul. But things are different now. More than 4 track. More than a microphone. You know. Big slick production. Rick Derringer produced this one. And well you know Rick. He's a high prince of second generation rock. He knows just how to deal with high whiterock. Its tight. Its quadro. Its bigger than stereo. Its dance-a-rama. Its perfect.

And live. You gotta see them live. Its good as the record. No. its better. Looser. more showman. Sometimes sacrificing technical perfection. but always on top of the moment. so flashy. so exciting. Edgar like evil saint. white on white. they climax over and over. so glitter. seeing them live is like making love all night. over and over.

And Edgar Winter. He's the backbone see. This is how he wants it. He's part of a group now. In the future he'll be spouting poetry, movie tracks, new inventions, concepts and more solo go. But now he's in solid rock n roll. Interchanging personalities with Ronnie, Chuck and Dan. Energy powerhouse. They got Thomas Edison energy to spare. and they're stealing. they vampire like brothers. They're in it together. And it feels real good to them. To steal. Cause the results are so spiralling. They're adding. growing. Victims of a sweet rock alchemy. A liquid to spoon in and spit out to the crowd. A liquid that is pure dream soup.

Copyright © Patti Smith 1973

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