Foghat’s ‘Slow Ride’ continues 51 years later
The 1970s was the decade of the live album.
Many rock acts that toiled in relative anonymity finally found an audience when they left the recording studio and had a sound truck record their live show — Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive,” KISS “Alive,” Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band “Live Bullet,” Cheap Trick’s “Cheap Trick at Budokan” — even if in some cases those “live” recordings got a major polish in the recording studio.
“Foghat Live” in 1977 wasn’t quite as important to the British blues rockers as those other live albums were. The studio album “Fool for the City” was Foghat’s first million-selling release two years before “Live,” and its other studio albums, starting with its 1972 self-titled debut, sold at least 500,000 copies each.
But “Live,” released 45 years ago this month, remains Foghat’s best-selling album, and most — if not all — of the six songs on that single LP live release probably will be in the setlist when Foghat performs Friday at the Robins Theatre.
Drummer Roger Earl, the lone original member of Foghat, said the decision to make a live album wasn’t a calculated move to replicate the success of other bands. It was more borne out of necessity.
“Nick Jameson produced it. We recorded seven or eight shows, I think, maybe more. The album came from two shows, Syracurse and somewhere else in upstate New York.
“The band was rocking. There was a little too much — what’s the word? — youthful exuberance. It was a little too fast, but we managed to get a hold of it. I was really proud of it and really happy with the way it turned out … Everyone was playing at their peak, I think.”
His biggest complaint is Foghat was playing a 16-song set that ran about 90 minutes every night, and the single LP release only includes six songs and clocks in under 40 minutes. When asked if the album’s success might have been helped by the fact that it was cheaper than the double- and triple-LP live albums from other acts, Earl said, “I never thought of it that way. Interesting. It was our biggest selling album, and it still sells today.”
If he could add one more song to the album, though, it would be Foghat’s cover of Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline.”
“We were playing it hellaciously fast and the time, and my feet were working really well and the bass player had it down. And it featured Lonesome Dave (Peverett) on lead guitar. That definitely, and there were a few others as well.”
Those tapes still exist somewhere in the Warner Bros. archives. Earl tried to get someone from the label to let him go exploring for those original recordings a few years ago, but no one would let him. That’s not the only thing he’d like to find.
“Another thing we did in 1977 was a tribute to the blues in New York and Foghat was basically the house band for Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Winter, Paul Butterfield, Eddie “Bluesman” Kirkland, and it was a four-hour show. It was filmed as well as recorded.
“Our front-of-the-house engineer recorded it, and he put them on CD (a while back) because he was afraid the cassettes might deteriorate. And the sound was really good. But the same thing happened. ‘Well, no, you can’t go down there.’ Well, who’s going to find it? It’s classic — Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Foghat … What a bunch of idiots, but nevermind. Maybe 25 years from now when I’m long gone, maybe someone will go, ‘Hey, look what we found.'”
Earl is joined in the current incarnation of Foghat by Bryan Bassett, who’s played with Foghat since 1999 and previously was a member of Molly Hatchet, on lead guitar; Scott Holt, who spent 10 years in Buddy Guy’s band, on lead vocals and rhythm guitar; and Rodney O’Quinn, who previously played in Pat Travers Band, on bass.
While the pandemic wiped out most of its touring plans last year, Foghat released a live album, “8 Days on the Road,” last year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its debut, and there are plans for a new studio album in 2023.
“We have seven or eight tracks, basic song ideas we’ve written,” Earl said. “We probably won’t get started on that until January.”
If you go …
WHO: Foghat and Pat Travers Band
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Robins Theatre, 160 E. Market St., Warren
HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $30 to $50 and are available the Robins box office and online at robinstheatre.com.