If I could be anyone in rock and roll history, a very strong case could be made for being Peter Wolf.
I admire the guy for many reasons: his work as a musician, his work as a DJ, his Dean status at the College of Musical Knowledge and the friends he keeps. If you don’t know his story, you really should read his bio on his website.
He has been there, done that and then some. I’ve always said that if there were any bands I could have played in they would be The Band and The J.Geil’s Band. They are my poles; anything from either end and in between is where I want would to be. Though I have no realconnection to him whatsoever, I do feel a bit of fan-kinship with “The Wolfa”.
He’s not Boston born and bred, but he spent a quite a bit of his life there and is synonymous with the Boston music scene. I grew up in NH and Boston was always my music-beacon. I read everything Steve Morseever wrote in the Boston Globe and dreamt of being at all the legendary clubs, dives and concert halls that I laid eyes on.
He started out as a the music and program director and late-night, deep-cuts, mile-a-minute DJ for Boston’s then renegade rock and roll radio station, WBCN. When I was growing up in Keene, N.H., my radio was always pegged to 104.1. Wolf had long since hung-up the headphones by the time I started listening, but for me ‘BCN was still the station. I wanted to be a part of everything they talked about; no internet then, so the only way to do this was to listen. I listened everyday. I was so affected that I remember when I first moved to Boston I was hell bent on living as close to the (my) two Boston icons that drew me there: Fenway Park and the ‘BCN studios. I lived in walking distance of both.
Wolf loves the blues and classic R&B and Soul music. That is my wheelhouse; my music collection is testament to that. Wolf has a huge rock and roll rolodex. In the Sweet-Spot Sixties, Wolf made friends with everyone that past through Boston’s music scene; his work as the ‘BCN DJ gave him much access to interview all of them. Apparently he was quite the host at home, too. He had an apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His apartment was a who’s who of guests, roommates and hangers-out. Shit, even Barry Tashian of the Remains lived at Wolf’s place (Please, please check out the Remains if you don’t know about them. A hugely influential and unheralded Boston band…they opened for the Beatles on their Fab Four’s last tour). The First Wolf…Howlin’ Wolf was a frequent visitor as were Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Not good enough for you? Van Morrison moved to Cambridge around the same time Wolf lived there. Legend has it that Van couch-surfed at Wolf’s place and penned the songs that would end up on Astral Weeks while doing so. Hot Damn. The Folks and the Lore of Rock and Roll all stayed at Wolf’s place…the stories are endless.
Most of Peter Wolf’s fame comes from the Geils days. I love that stuff. Love it. My true fave rave Wolf material comes from his solo albums, especially his last three: Fool’s Parade, Sleepless and Midnight Souvenirs. If I could make music, if I could write and play, if I could produce vibes…I would make music like these Peter Wolf solo albums. There is such integrity and feel in all of these albums. They are personal albums; they are party albums; they are proclamations and presentations of influence, admiration and skill…and you can dance them.
He puts all of his first hand experience, learned wisdom and tacit knowledge into these suckers. He create the feel and works in the music. Speaking of the music…it is time to unveil The Rock & Roll Three-Way I promised you.
Here are three songs from artists that spent time either sleeping on Peter Wolf’s couch or kicking back on it while listening to records and greeting the sunrise.
The Remains(with Barry Tashian) – “Don’t Look Back”, Glorious garage rock at its finest.
Howlin’ Wolf – How Many More Years. Take a few moments to hear Ol’ Wolf tell us what the blues really is and then rip into a classic live performance.
Van Morrison– “Astral Weeks”. You think Van wrote this one while couch-surfing?
So there you have it my friends, another Rock & Roll Three-Way: 1 >> Barry Tashian of the Boston garage band, the Remains used to be Peter Wolf’s Roommate 2 >> Howlin’ Wolf was a guest at Wolf’s place (as seen in the included picture) 3 >> Van Morrison couch-surfed at Wolf’s place and spent many a night there listening to music and penning classic tunes.
Oh yeah…one other Wolf connection: In the sixth grade there was this girl that loved the then popular J.Geils Band’s song, Centerfold. I was a fool for her. She used to love to roller skate it when it came out of the speakers on Friday nights at the YMCA (that’s when I learned to skate backwards). She always loved that song. I always longed to have her star in it.Do you have any fave rave Wolf songs or experiences?
Funny/sad story for you. Back in May I flew from London to Boston. I was there to meet an old friend and now, new business partner. I hadn’t seen him in a while…near 20 years. The night I flew in he suggested we meet. Cool…happy to…wanted to. We needed to, actually. We needed to talk shop at bit and we was being a damn good host. What I didn’t and couldn’t tell him was that I would have been happy to have him just meet me the next morning.
See, that night I had a ticket to see Peter Wolf at the Wilbur Theatre, a small and legendary Boston venue. Peter was playing a one-off to promo his latest release, Midnight Souvenirs. It was a dream gig for me: fly in from London, check in at hotel, kick around in Boston and soak in the scene and then see Peter Wolf play in his backyard.
I had obligations and didn’t want to blow off my buddy. I was hoping it would be a quick drink and then I could flash over to Cambridge to catch the gig. Nope. We ended up having dinner, drinks and lots of conversation; a very good catch-up. Was it the right decision? Yes, it was. We’re walking a long a winding trail right now and we needed to get off on the right foot. Plus, I had a great time.
A few nights later, one of the artists on our label was having an album release party at Boston’s House of Blues. None other than the afore mentioned Steve Morse showed up(!). That was cool. I got to say thanks for all the turn-ons from all his columns. That felt good. I was asking about the music scene and what he was seeing/hearing that was good. Yup, you guessed it…he said he was at the Peter Wolf gig a couple nights prior.
Yup, the same one I had a ticket for. He told me, “I’ve seen a lot of Wolf performances, but that one ranked as one of the best”. Ohh…gut-punch!