Pinch me, pinch me, pinch me! Do you KNOW how momentous this photo is? Yes, people: it’s the Babe Ruth Band, reunited!
Or maybe I should say “kick me, kick me, kick me”–because I missed their reunion concert! It was in July 2010, in Ottowa. If I’d known, I would’ve dropped everything to get on a plane. So, I’m feeling kinda bittersweet.
See, I’ve been listening to their tune The Mexican since back in the ’70s, when my young nephew Kevin brought home the brand new First Base LP. Just like everyone else who heard the album, I was instantly attracted to The Mexican—except that while the kids were enjoying the deejayability of it, I was enjoying the STEREO of it. From the first notes, I was mesmerized not only by the guitars that went from seductively strumming to raunchily rocking, but by the way they bounced between the left and right speakers.
When Kevin moved across the country to California, he took the album with him, and it went out of print. In the mid-80’s, I did see it at a record store for over twenty bucks, but since that was not in my budget, all I could do was fondle it. Luckily, I found a Jellybean Benitez mix of The Mexican, with singer Jenny Haan on it. To have anything with her powerful, don’t-fuck-with-me voice that could cut through any screaming guitar out there, was consolation enough for not having First Base in my library.
Time passed. In 1995, First Base was reissued on CD, and I bought it. Now that I had a chance to listen to the whole thing, in addition to The Mexican my new faves were The Runaways, King Kong, and Black Dog.
Fast forward to one recent night. I was playing the CD and BAM! the thought came: wonder what happened to Babe Ruth? I opened the booklet and began to read the liner notes. Now mind you, I’ve had the CD for all these years, yet I felt like I was learning this information for the first time. It was news to me that the group was British! It was news to me that they’d broken up very shortly after First Base came out! Some fan I was… I should have known those basics. how could I have been so stupid? had I been so hypnotized by the music that I didn’t care?
The liner notes, written by Chris Welch, were highly informative; his biographical sketches of the band members were just what I needed to give me a deeper understanding of the personality of the music. When I read the personnel list again I realized that Alan Shacklock, being the guitarist and arranger, was behind a lot of the complex and almost orchestral arrangements that even I could detect.
Of course, the Internet was my next stop. Since I knew that the band had broken up, I didn’t even bother to search the band name; I searched their individual names, starting with Shacklock. and that’s when I found out that the band had performed just recently in Canada–I couldn’t believe my eyes! (Did you hear me squealing with delight?) It took a few days for me to calm down, especially after I found that they were on Facebook AND that they actively post on their band page, which has enough photos on it to satisfy any Babe Ruth fan.
But wait: there’s more. There’s a new Babe Ruth CD, Que Pasa, released in 2009. It only took one short audio clip of the title tune to earn my order, which arrived a few days later. I dropped it into the player–and listened to it for six hours straight while cleaning house. (What can I say—I was motivated!) To me, they sound just like they sounded in 1971, and Alan’s love for the sound of Spanish-inflected guitar permeates the album so much that I feel like I’m in a Western movie, back in time, sitting in a dusty Mexican plaza, surrounded by ladies in mantillas and guys named Chico Fernandez. I love how his passion for this style just oozes out through the music…
Several reviews I’ve read have complained that Que Pasa is not up to the standard of Babe Ruth’s other albums. Whatever. Since I’ve only ever heard First Base, I’m not qualified to judge. Other reviews whined that Jenny Haan’s voice is not like it used to be. Oh yeah? Well it’s thirty-six years later, dude. Jenny sounds damn good to me, she gets the song across, and her voice and Shacklock’s guitar were made for each other. That’s enough for me, so let the haters hate! Plus which, this is a happy story: a band has gotten back together to do what they did best. “Happy and thrilled” is so not sufficient verbiage to describe how happy and thrilled I am!
So party on, Babe Ruth Band!