“Who the fuck are the New Barbarians?” asked Faces (and New Barbarians) keyboard player Ian MacLagan's custom t-shirt. “They offer nothing more than ear-to-ear violence” answered — promised? — an official New Barbarians t-shirt. Of those that remember the legendary pick-up band, most associate it with Keith Richards. And while it’s true that the band’s first two gigs (opening for the Stones) were benefits for the blind in Oshawa, Canada as Keith’s “get out of jail free card” for his Canadian heroin bust, this supergroup was all Faces guitarist Ron Wood’s doing.
With the Stones not touring in ‘79, Wood “rang around and deliberately put together some risky pairings, with musicians who a never played together before.” Thus, the band featuring Woody, Keith, Mac, jazz virtuoso Stanley Clarke on bass, and New Orleans’ own Ziggy Modeliste from the Meters on drums, was born. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to play with the band including Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Other names, such as Jagger, Dylan, Rod Stewart and even Bowie (!), were floated by Wood and his manager. They were, of course, were duly repeated and reported by the press. Although none would ever show up to play, the rumors of “guests” would both haunt and hurt the band throughout the tour and cause several riots by dissatisfied fans.
So what did the New Barbarians deliver? Blues, R&B and reggae covers, Wood’s solo material and the occasional Stones cover. For between nine and twelve bucks a ticket. Count me in. And, no doubt, some after gig parties to rival them all to boot. If the photos in the book are a fair sampling, Jack Daniels would be the MVP of the band.
If you are a Stones or Faces fan — hell, any kind of rock ‘n’ roll fan — you should embrace the glorious mess that was the New Barbarians. The book is a breezy, chronological read of a legendary story whose telling is long overdue. Chapman’s book is chock full of live and backstage photographs, memorabilia and stories for the ages, and the accompanying CD is an essential document not only for the band and its’ legend, but for the whole notion of what rock'n'roll should be, what it had become at the time, and, perhaps what it as become today. Most of us missed this legendary band the first and only time around — don’t miss it again.
My sole complaint is the lack of information on the CD — not even a track listing? — which is listed simply as “from 1979 rehearsals and live shows.” Perhaps no one can actually remember where these are from — judging from the substances that abounded, that’s certainly possible, — but it would have been nice to have more info on the tracks. It’s a small gripe, I know, and it’s only rock n roll but I like it……
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