Average White Band celebrates 40 years in the business
June 10, 2014
Alan Gorrie, founder, bassist and lead singer for the Average White Band, said he is looking forward to returning to Park City.
The six-man band last performed here during the fall of 2012, and this year, it will play Thursday and Friday.
"I would like to think we will get two nice days in Park City, because the town is absolutely beautiful this time of the year," Gorrie said to The Park Record during a phone call from his home in New England. "As fellow highlander, myself from Scotland, I look forward to it greatly."
Gorrie promised the band would perform its hits, which include "Pick Up the Pieces," "Cut the Cake" and "School Boy Crush," and also some new arrangements of other songs in their hit catalog.
"Nowadays, and this is hard to believe, there are clauses in many of our contracts that say the artist will not preview new material," Gorrie said, laughing. "That is essentially saying they have booked us to just play the hits. That’s cropping up in corporate contracts in big venues that are booked by conglomerates such as Live Nation and AEG Live.
"It’s insane," he said. "Nonetheless, we can squeeze in new arrangements of old songs that people dig."
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Gorrie, who along with rhythm guitarist Onnie McIntyre are the two original members, knows that after 40 years since the band’s first album, "Show Your Hand," was released, the Average White Band is mainly in the nostalgia business.
That hasn’t stopped the band from playing each show like it’s new for the audience.
"The main core of our fans wants to hear every tune we recorded and they want to hear it the way they remember it," he said. "We do try to do that within the time constraints possible, but we are always throwing in new arrangements and new curves into the mix that won’t breach any promoter’s contract."
The approach draws in the younger members of the audience.
"They don’t have that nostalgia weight to deal with and that way they can see that we don’t play like old guys," Gorrie said with another laugh. "Every night’s a new game and we go at it full tilt as if our lives depend on it."
It also helps that newer artists such as Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys and Ice Cube have all said they’ve been inspired by the Average White Band.
"It’s always great when say Questlove and other many good acts mention us in their list of influences," Gorrie said. "I have a wall of cassettes of artists who have sampled our work in their music and I still haven’t got all of them."
Even with that popularity, Gorrie said he is amazed the band has turned 40.
"Who would have thought it would have lasted this long and grown a new head of steam with the younger and more eclectic audiences than we ever had during the first instance," he said. "The people have just stayed with us and brought their children to see us, thus bringing another generation into the fold. That has been very encouraging to us and endorses the legitimacy of what we are doing."
The Average White Band, formed in Scotland in the early 1970s.
"We were in the United Kingdom, and there was a niche market for soul music," Gorrie remembered. "We were determined to be the best out of any of the groups doing that."
After the band attained that goal, its members realized the band’s career would be cut short if it stayed in the U.K.
"We new the big audience was all for rock ‘n’ roll," Gorrie said. "We were not playing what the general consensus was craving. We were a little more exotic and unknown to their taste."
So the Average White Band set its sights on the United States.
"We were playing an amalgam of jazz, Rhythm and Blues and soul and felt there was a great receptive market in the U.S. and I think we pretty much got it right," Gorrie said.
The success had to do with a combination of the band’s talent along with engineers Gene Paul (Les Paul’s son), Tom Dowd and Bobby Warner and producers Arif Mardin, and Jerry Wexler, the man who signed the band to Atlantic Records.
"It was an all-star list of people who surrounded us to get the album properly recorded," Gorrie said. "We had the idea wanted to be on Atlantic Records.
"It took a couple of tries, but we got signed to them, and from then on, they polished our sound," he said. "They took what we had and gave it a spin and showed us exactly how about going to perfect it."
The band performed throughout the 70s, and took a break in the 1980s.
"The music scene changed then," Gorrie explained. "It went to synthesizers and it was a time when they really didn’t need us, but some of us bounced back and that’s what we did."
In the early 1990s, the Average White Band restarted its engines and hasn’t slowed since.
"This past decade has been extremely busy," Gorrie said. "In fact, we’ve been more busy than we were in our heyday."
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the Average White Band will release a 16-CD set in July.
"It will be released on Demon Records, a label that was started by Elvis Costello," Gorrie said. "The box will be released on Bastille Day, July 14, and on that day, we’ll all speak French."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main Street, will welcome the Average White Band on Thursday, June 12, and Friday, June 13, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $43 to $75 and are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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