Sunday, August 01, 2010



If The Detroit Breakdown could be considered a battle of the bands between two groups that rocked my world back when I was in junior high – back in the mid '60s when there used to be actual battles of the bands – there was a clear winner Saturday night.

? & The Mysterians kicked major rump on Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.

Of course it wasn't a “battle.” Music is the expression of the soul, which touches the spirit and lifts the soul in harmony with the world and shouldn't be perceived as a childish competition.

Screw that. ? & The Mysterians kicked ass! No disrespect to Mitch. Like I say, I've loved his music for nearly 45 years. In a year of flower-power excess, Mitch got back to the gritty rock 'n' roll basics .
The Detroit Breakdown is what sparked my impulse vacation to New York City. The event, sponsored by The Ponderosa Stomp Foundation, was held at The Lincoln Center. The evening portion of the show not only included these '60s acts, but more recent Detroit groups including the wonderful Gories and Death. (More on these two bands later.)

The Mysterians got a little outside help. Soul singer Louise Murray of the Jaynetts dueted with ? on “Sally Go Round the Roses. She sang on the original recording of this cool tune.

But more impressively, the one and only Ronnie Spector joined the group on their big hit “96 Tears.”

Allow me to repeat that: Ronnie Spector sang “96 Tears” with ? & The Mysterians!
But even without this added star power, The Mysterians would have ruled the night. From the moment he bounced onto the stage wearing a cowboy and a pink-and-purple jacket with Buffalo Bill fringes, ? was a psychedelic sprite belting out his rock 'n' soul.

Here's the main differences between them and Mitch Ryder. First of all, The Mysterians included all their original members. In other words, five Chicano guys who grew up hanging out and playing music with each other. They're tight and yet have an easy way with each other. They've done all these songs a jillion times, but they still look like they're having the time of their lives playing them.

Ryder on the other hand had a bunch of new players who looked young enough to be Mitch's grandkids. These Wheels weren't even hubcaps when Ryder was tearing up the charts with “Devil in a Blue Dress” and “Jenny Takes a Ride.” All proficient musicians, but lacking that warrior's bond.

But the main difference between the two is that ? and crew have retained their garage-band spirit while Ryder's band had a classic-rock edge. There was even a big production number that started out with tinkly-winkly piano versions of Rolling Stones songs like “Ruby Tuesday” and “You Can't Always Get What You Want” leading up with epic guitar crescendos to an overwrought version of “Gimme Shelter.” (Full disclosure: I left during the drum solo. I just couldn't take it.)

On the other hand, The Mysterians did a version of The Stones' “Satisfaction.” But there was nothing grandiose about it. They played the song as I imagine they did in 1965.
Besides ?, my favorite band of the day was The Gories. This was Mick Collins' group before The Dirtbombs. Collins along with fellow guitarist Dan Kroha and drummer Peggy O'Neill started out in Detroit in 1986 and lasted until the early '90s. They got back together last year for a reunion tour with The Oblivions.

True confession: I've dug The Dirtbombs for years, but I'm a relative newcomer to the pleasures of The Gories. Both are amazing bands.

And they still sound fresh and crazy. Starting out with their unofficial theme song, “Hey Hey, We're The Gories,” they bashed their way through a high-energy set that included Gories favorites like “Thunderbird E.S.Q.” and “Nitroglycerine,” as well as covers of John Lee Hooker's “Boggie Chillun,” Eddie Holland's “Leaving Here” and the R&B classic “Early in the Morning.” They even went No-Wave for a minute and did a cover of a Suicide song.
Also a lot of fun was Death, a Detroit hard-rock trio who back in the early '70s combined the soul and R&B they'd grown up with the Detroit rock of the day.

At one point Death singer/bassist Bobby Hackney gave shout-outs to some of their influences: Alice Cooper. Iggy & The Stooges. And Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.

Check my snapshots of The Detroit Breakdown HERE

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