Musicians have all the time written songs on the street as inspiration hits them throughout their travels. However Lee Rocker has taken it to a different degree, and through a pandemic. The person finest identified for plunking the fats strings of a standup acoustic bass for the Stray Cats penned a lot of the materials for his new solo file Collect Spherical (Upright Data) throughout a six week street journey in 2020.
He and his spouse of 33 years, Deborah, jumped of their Airstream trailer and traveled from California to New York and again, a 6,000 mile journey that might take the couple by means of some 20 states. It was a means for the couple to considerably escape from political, social, and medical disasters and uncertainty, and it additionally present them time for introspection.
“We simply hopped in and took off after the [pandemic hit], and it was a tremendous journey throughout a horrible time. However wanting again in a humorous means, this file reveals what I did this previous 12 months!” Rocker says from his Southern California residence.
“And we needed to go about making it in a very completely different means. There’s the ‘Let it Rip’ means the place you and the band are all collectively and bounce concepts off one another, however I used to be within the studio alone. It was a meticulous course of, and a solitary one.”
When the Rockers returned to California, Lee wasted no time in reserving a studio, performed loads of devices himself, then collaborated together with his common band Buzz Campbell (guitar), Larry Mitchell (drums), and Matt Jordan (piano/organ), who despatched the boss their elements recorded in their very own houses or studios. It’s Lee Rocker’s first album of all unique music since 2007’s Black Cat Bone.
“The songs would simply come to me at factors, and when you get going, they arrive [more quickly],” Rocker says. “And with no concert events occurring like they’d be usually, every little thing simply obtained turned the wrong way up.” The truth is, he says the final time he and his three band members have been in the identical room on the similar time was again on the finish of February 2020 at their final stay gig, earlier than the entire world went topsy-turvy and solely science nerds knew the identify of Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Collect Spherical contains 9 originals, together with a canopy of The Band’s “Ophelia.” Stylistically and lyrically, there’s rockabilly rave up (“Collect Spherical”), slinky jazz (“All people Desires to Be a Cat”), shimmering love songs (“The Final Offline Lovers,” “Each Time I See You”), an instrumental (“A Soiled Martini”), and musical autobiography (“Canine Home Shuffle”). However two songs stand out with a little bit of a deeper which means—albeit with wildly completely different themes.
In “Pickin’ and Grinnin’” it’s not onerous to determine precisely what now Twitter-less chief Rocker had in thoughts in writing lyrics a couple of highly effective one that “turns a flame into a hearth.” One other stanza includes a name again to a signature marketing campaign promise as Rocker sings “I obtained to pose this query/’Cuz this ship is de facto sinking/I obtained to shout out loud/Are you sick of all this profitable?” It’s a track that’s taken on much more resonance because the occasions in Washington, D.C. final week.
“…I hardly ever get political with my music, however that’s a political track. This time, it’s completely different. And if I don’t elevate my voice as an artist as to what I imagine, then I’m a part of the issue,” Rocker presents. “I imagine we’re in a time now the place issues have obtained to vary. We’ve gone completely the incorrect means. My spouse and I have been on the journey and I’d learn the newspaper and simply get pissed off. After which learn extra, have some soiled martinis at every cease, and get extra pissed off.”
Lee Rocker onstage in 2019.
Photograph by Suzi Kaplan/Courtesy of SRO PR
On a lighter be aware, Rocker particulars his obsessive love of accumulating all kinds of Elvis Presley memorabilia (in addition to the fervent passions of different collectors) in “Graceland Public sale.” The track was impressed by a hefty catalog that Rocker had from a 2019 Graceland public sale of Elvis memorabilia.
Requested to call the favourite piece in his personal assortment, Rocker says it’s an emerald ring that the King had given to one among his minions. “To me, Elvis was like Superman, after which there was the music. I liked it, and this was the final track I wrote for the file.”
And was there one public sale merchandise that obtained away? Sure. And it concerned Scotty Moore, Elvis’ unique guitarist who Rocker not solely knew personally, however continuously recorded and performed with earlier than Moore’s 2016 loss of life on the age of 84.
“That they had Scotty’s gold Gibson guitar, and I actually tried to get it. Scotty was such an expensive pal,” Rocker says. He needed to placate himself by buying one among 80 Scotty Moore gold commemorative fashions issued by Gibson, every signed by Moore. Rocker is proud to be in possession of serial quantity 5. Which does not imply he gained’t attempt to monitor down #1.
As for his “different group” the Stray Cats, Rocker says they’re at the moment on a hiatus, having issued a reunion album (40) and launched into a tour in 2019, that itself commemorated with a stay album launched final 12 months known as Rocked This City, for which the Houston Press spoke with bandmate Slim Jim Phantom. Each data characteristic completely different variations of the Lee Rocker written and sung “When Nothing’s Going Proper.”
The Stray Cats have been shaped in 1979 by teenage associates from Lengthy Island, New York Rocker, Phantom (drums), and Brian Setzer (vocals/guitar). And whereas they discovered a regional following, the trio discovered preliminary vast success solely after relocating to England, whose audiences went nuts for his or her genuine retro rockabilly.
Returning to the USA, they scored Prime 10 hits with songs like “Stray Cat Strut,” “Rock This City,” and “She’s Horny + 17.” The trendy movies have been additionally a ubiquitous presence on early MTV. The Stray Cats separated within the mid-‘80s, with Setzer ultimately having probably the most profitable solo profession, and Rocker and Phantom forming one other group with guitarist Earl Slick (Rocker took over lead vocals). Over the following a long time, they’ve continued to reunite for excursions and new albums.
“We keep up a correspondence and we’re a novel band, and we by no means shut the door on something as a result of there’s no purpose to,” Rocker says. “It’s a dialog between the three of us. There’s not a script. I imply, we knew one another after we have been children earlier than we even considered a band.”
And whereas Rocker doesn’t have any specific standout recollections of taking part in in Houston, there was one particular date at one among Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnics. “We have been open air and in the midst of the present and I began listening to this different instrument. It sounded good, however I didn’t know the place it was coming from!” Rocker remembers. “Willie had simply walked out and stage and determined to play alongside. So I take that as an enormous praise!”
In 2021 although, Lee Rocker finds himself in a predicament confronted by scores of different musicians throughout all genres: there’s a brand new album to advertise, however no means to take action by taking part in reveals on the street. And by his personal admission, he’s not the kind to do digital or streaming performances.
“I’m going to attend it out, however I’m an optimist. I believe the vast majority of us will get by means of his, and I believe we’ll be doing reveals beginning in September,” he says. “I positive hope we will do it so long as the world retains spinning. And we get our vaccines!”
For extra on Lee Rocker and Collect Spherical, go to LeeRocker.com
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