Where were we in Houston when the poster for Foghat appeared, outside the Astrodome? I don't remember but I do remember Raoul and I were on our way to see the Stones. Once I saw the poster, I pitched a fit. "Fuck the Stones! I wanna see Foghat!" I can still see Raoul wincing at the wheel.
I was joking, of course. "Wild Horses" couldn't have gotten me away from my beloved Stones, not with backstage passes waiting for us. But somewhere in the back of my mind, the guitar crunch of "Slow Ride," with its corny oompah-oompah bass, began to compete with the strains of "Satisfaction." What do you do when you're a band whose hit-making years are at least a couple of decades behind you?
Bryan Bassett wasn't an original member of Foghat but he was a founder of Wild Cherry, whose "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" was a massive hit in 1976. Bassett played for Lonesome Dave's Foghat 1989-93 and rejoined them in 1999 as a permanent member. "Hired gun," he joked about his early status with the English band spun off from Savoy Brown and who produced a string of heavy blues-rock hits in the Seventies including "Fool for the City," "Slow Ride," and "I Just Wanna Make Love to You." More recently, Bassett stepped up as producer of Foghat's recent recordings and DVD.
Despite being a double-platinum band with more than respectable history, Foghat turned into a punchline by the Eighties. Almost overnight, they became a relic of the arena-rock era that fell out of fashion with the arrival of punk. Yet the songs remained powerful and memorable, anthems of youthful immortality and eternal fearlessness that outlived most of those Eighties challengers.
"Having that rootsy, bluesy base to your music makes it timeless," Bassett theorized. "Rock 'til you drop, that was our motto."
Foghat is headlining at the Republic of Texas Biker Rally Thursday, May 31, along with stalwarts Grand Funk Railroad and the Guess Who Saturday, June 2. "We do a lot of biker events like Biketoberfest and Sturgis," Bassett says. "That's our core audience and age group though it's fascinating to see younger kids who've discovered us through their parents' record collections. Whether you sell a million records or a thousand, the joy of playing never goes away."
The Foghat poster flapped on the telephone pole as we drove away from the Astrodome. "We could probably still make the encore," I wheedled. Raoul scowled and gunned the engine.
I slouched in the seat and pictured the end of Dazed and Confused, when Mitch the freshmen gets caught sneaking in late and seeks refuge in his bedroom. As he flops on the bed and dons headphones the size of Princess Leia's hair rolls, Foghat's "Slow Ride" cranks up on the soundtrack. The scene cuts to the film's principals, driving toward Houston for concert tickets amid a cloud of pot smoke. Raoul and I rolled down the highway out of Houston into the black night.
Slow ride. Take it easy.
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