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Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Not fade away
Special to The Japan Times
If Jim Morrison were alive, he'd turn 60 in December. His band, The Doors, will be playing in August at Summer Sonic; or, actually, keyboardist Ray Manzarek (64) and guitarist Robbie Krieger (57) will. The other surviving member, drummer John Densmore, has sued the pair for using the name without his permission, though Manzarek claims Densmore was invited to play and declined. Then, ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland was hired and replaced, so he's suing too. And then there's the families of Jim Morrison and his wife, suing for "misappropriation" of Morrison's poetry, spoken and sung by The Cult's Ian Astbury.
The Doors 21st Century (the official name of the project) is more or less a cover band, but there are other artists from the '60s and '70s playing the festivals this summer who are more or less the real things.
The oldest is John Mayall, who will turn 70 later this year. Even in the '60s he was an elder, imparting wisdom about Chicago blues to the parade of musicians who received his tutelage and then gave birth to the instrumental sound of British rock -- Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, John McVie, etc. Mayall has kept his Bluesbreakers a viable touring band for four decades and will be playing two sets at Fuji Rock, where his sons Jason (who works for the promoter, Smash) and Gaz (leader of The Trojans and the festival's official bad boy) are annual fixtures.
At 56 years old, Iggy Pop comes in a distant second to Mayall. Headlining the White Stage at Fuji on July 26, the godfather of the current garage-rock revival hasn't lost his wild streak nor put on an inch of fat since wowing audiences in Detroit at age 19 with his primal punk rock.
Steve Winwood and Bob Weir follow close behind at 55. Winwood was once famous for being the youngest rock star in the world when, at the age of 16, he sang lead and played organ for the Spencer Davis Group. He later led Blind Faith and Traffic, but didn't become a solo superstar until 1980 when his second album, "Arc of a Diver," became an international best seller. He'll be on the Green Stage at Fuji July 27.
Bob Weir -- the July 25 headliner at Fuji's Field of Heaven -- had to play second banana to Jerry Garcia for the entire life of the Grateful Dead, and his side project, Ratdog, had only played its third concert when Garcia died in 1995. What had been an outlet for Weir's non-Dead material essentially became his main gig, and in the years since the singer-guitarist has incorporated a lot of Dead material into Ratdog's repertoire, including a number of songs that Garcia used to sing.
Nick Lowe and Rick Nielsen come in next at 54. Both musicians are known as pop ironists who fool around with the idea of Top 40. Lowe fronted the seminal pub-rock band Brinsley Schwarz in the early '70s before becoming the producer du jour for the British new wave and half the creative impetus behind Rockpile, the greatest roots-rock guitar band of all time. Lately, he's been touring solo as a kind of country music gentleman, but he plays his hits, too. He'll be at Field of Heaven on the afternoon of July 27.
Nielsen is the guitarist and creative force behind Cheap Trick, who almost single-handedly made power-pop commercially viable in the late '70s. Though the band hasn't released anything of consequence since 1979, count on them to play those old chestnuts with conviction and joy -- in Tokyo on Aug. 2 and in Osaka Aug. 3 for Summer Sonic.
At 48, Elvis Costello is comparatively a spring chicken (just ask his fiancee Diana Krall), and one hopes that he and Lowe, who sort of mentored Costello in the '70s, will do something together at Fuji since they'll be there the same day. Maybe a duet of Lowe's "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding," a Costello concert staple? In any case, Costello will have a band (boasting two members from his original Attractions), unlike the last time he played Fuji. He's always a powerful performer, so expect greatness on the Green Stage, July 27.
Other Fuji artists hovering around the big five-oh, individually or collectively: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band will carry on the tradition of New Orleans horn-oriented funk and R&B at the Orange Court on Friday and on the Green Stage on Saturday; Sheena and the Rokkets, Japan's answer to West Coast guitar-rock circa 1979, will do the White Stage on July 26; guitarist Steve Kimock, who played with almost every Grateful Dead offshoot before forming his own band in the early '90s, will headline Field of Heaven July 27; and the Sun Ra Arkestra, a seminal free-jazz group that has been around in one form or another since 1956, but have been without their charismatic founder, Sun Ra, since he died in 1993, will be at Orange Court July 27.