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Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson rediscovering his love for rock 'n' roll

Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Entertainment News

A: Oh, yeah… Looking back now, we kind of started our foray into music in the American hardcore punk scene and the indie rock scene of the late ’80s, so a band like X is really important to us. The Replacements. R.E.M., them being just up the road from us. Pete Buck is playing a Rickenbacker. They are new, they are part of today, but there’s little glimpses there of why I love the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield and the ’60s music that we love.

Coming from those roots, there was an us-vs.-them that was really worn on our sleeves, and in a way the ’70s rock ’n’ roll part of it was as punk as we could be because everybody thought it was horrible and they hated it. Everybody’s listening to Jane’s Addiction at the cool pizza place where we all hang out, and I come walking in with an AC/DC patch on my jean jacket and like two guys in another band wanted to fight.

We all came up in that world where no one watched MTV — maybe “120 Minutes” or “The Young Ones.” No one was into the popular rock music of the time. That would be the uncool thing. Then, you talk about Humble Pie and The Faces, people were like, “Whoa, whoa.”

Q: So, yeah, labels weren’t looking for that ...

A: George Drakoulias was our producer who saw us in New York one night. We sounded in a way more like The Gun Club or The Paisley Underground bands. That night we played a lot of our songs, but we also played “Down in the Street” by The Stooges and “No More, No More” by Aerosmith.

We didn’t even have long hair or anything, and George was the one who was like, “You guys did really cool versions of that.” My thing growing up in Atlanta, having my entire life inspired by the African American experience — not in close proximity but around that kind of energy and wisdom and strength and pain — was really influential in the music that I listened to.

 

My dad was a folk singer and early rock ’n’ roll singer, so we had a lot of blues and folk and country and bluegrass and jazz. That music didn't really play into the punk/indie vibes but the one thing I liked about when I got into the Stones deeply, it was “Exile on Main Street” because, oh wow, there's Gram Parsons’ idea of cosmic American music, boom, right there, where all those elements make something really dynamic. And so me finding my voice, it was all the Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament Funkadelic records and all the soul records, whether it’s Slave or the Ohio Players. Prince was huge in my early days — “Dirty Mind.” My mother wondering, “What are you listening to?” That's what kind of changed us. Getting into rock ’n’ roll was letting those things come into our vocabulary.

Q: Early on, I saw you open for Aerosmith at the venue where you are going to play. I have to hand it to Aerosmith because they weren't afraid to let a hot band play before them. What was that tour like coming early on in your career?

A: I remember the first show with Aerosmith, and we all have our laminates on. It's the first time we had a tour bus, and we were walking into the venue in Pennsylvania and a security guard let us in but they wouldn’t let Joe Perry in. He was standing there with no shirt on, in leather pants. It was like “[expletive] Joe Perry, dude!” They were like, “He doesn't have a laminate!” [expletive] Spinal Tap [stuff]. I was like “We get to walk in, but Joe Perry is standing out there, with no shirt and his leather pants? What a weird thing.” Also, they were like super sober, and we were WILD kids. They didn't really let us around them. I think they wanted to fire us a few times but they just couldn't.

Q: So, that first album blowing up, what were the ups and downs of that instant success?

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