Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs & Englishmen

Mad Dogs Front Cover
Mad Dogs Front Cover – suitably ’70s

Last time I alluded to a period around 2008 or so when I was stuck in a very tough situation, feeling nostalgic for the 70s, and open to some new experiences — somehow that combination led me to a viewing of the movie “Mad Dogs & Englishmen,” which documented the fantastic excess of the late rock era in the form of a big band tour by Joe Cocker and maybe 19 or 20 of his favorite musicians.

That actually set me to thinking about time. As you get older, time gets weirder, and weirder. When I got into Eddie Cochran, the subject of my last few entries, it was just about 20 years after his peak and untimely death. And yet, it seemed like music from another time — a lot changed between 1960 and 1980, in the world and in my life. As much as I was an aficionado of the ‘60s music, someone who had lived a life and died before I was even born just seemed terrifically distant.

Joe Cocker, on the other hand, was having hit songs when I was a teenager . . . and yet, it took me about 40 years from his peak to get into his music. In my mind, those 40 years don’t seem as distant as Eddie’s 20. (I send Joe my posthumous apologies, by the way.)

So . . . going through a ’70s thing, but trying to find some things I hadn’t paid any attention to the first time through. I honestly don’t know when I got this album, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” in which Joe decided to see just how many people he could fit on one stage, attempting the same song. Big singing, big sound, and the kind of thing that just isn’t done anymore. Memory would have said it was after I got the DVD, but looking back at a blog from 2008, I find that it was listening to the record that caused me to order the concert, and that led to what I then called my Joe Cocker Phase

Mad Dogs back cover
Mad Dogs back cover

That’s when I introduced my long-suffering children to the excesses of Joe Cocker, who in many ways represented the beginning of the end, the more and more and more of rock and roll that ultimately led to the quite-justified Ramones Reaction, to the need to get rid of the backup singers, the double-necked guitars, the insanely large touring bands of the middle ’70s. But Joe was, as I said, only the beginning of the end, and his excesses were born of marrying rock to the rhythm and blues revue, and, of course, to being Joe Cocker. His excesses were still musical and highly entertaining, and by god did his band groove. Joe was also, famously, incoherent. That he became primarily known for his covers may have been something of a blessing, for if we hadn’t known the songs he was singing, we’d have had no idea what he was going on about, and another great talent would have passed by unnoticed. Because when Joe made a song his own, it was his own, and the original lyrics were just serving suggestions.

My younger kid would swear I had the movie on 300 times that summer. I think it was three. The truth may be somewhere in the middle, but the album was certainly playing at most times, so I can’t blame them for the trauma. They would come downstairs, hear it playing, and just head right back upstairs. Twelve years later, I’m not certain that’s not still the case.

I will admit, I’m super-confused about my history with this piece of vinyl. I don’t really have a memory of it from the ’80s, of owning it or playing it. I was thinking that I actually bought it after I bought the DVD in 2008, but now I’ve got evidence that wasn’t the case. (And where I would have bought it then would have been another mystery.) Did I just pick this thing up for $4, stick in the stacks, and never play it? (The packaging alone is worth $4, by the way.) Apparently so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *