Brian Setzer brings things back.
This is the larger truth I surmised from watching VH1’s “Behind the Music”—my only TV hang-up besides “The Simpsons.” I also learned that Brian Setzer used to be in a New Wave band called the Bloodless Pharaohs (man, that’s about the best band name ever!), and that they vied for the guitarist’s time and energy with another band he was in, a rockabilly outfit called the Tomcats. The Tomcats almost imploded when Setzer blew up at the drummer—his brother Gary—for playing a show with sticks he’d whittled from tree branches after leaving his proper sticks at home.
Instead of hanging it up, Setzer enlisted a pair of high school chums on traps and standup bass, and just two years later the renamed Stray Cats bet everything they had against three one-way tickets to England after a bartender acquaintance told them he thought they could make it big there. And they did make it big—for a while, until the notoriously mercurial British music press dressed them down after the release of their second album and the stripped-down (a term that seems to have entered music parlance expressly to describe them) Stray Cats finally had to make a go of it on their home shores.
Even if you didn’t see the episode, you can probably imagine the rest, the soothing flatulence of the voicer-over intoning, “When we come back: They had it all ... until the pressures of fame brought their world crumbling down around them,” etc. etc. You always get a dose of that redemption/rehabilitation passion play crap from “Behind the Music,” that eagerness to mythologize the career of even the most accidental superstar.
But, as mentioned, there’s always a greater truth or two to be found sandwiched between the sound bites: Brian Setzer brings things back. As if popularizing rockabilly for a whole new generation wasn’t enough, Setzer was also several years into his own big band swing revival with an 18-piece orchestra before all the gleaners appropriated the most facile elements of that style and cashed in on the very trend he ushered in just in the course of doing his natural thing.
And now Setzer’s back on the road again with a new trio, ’68 Comeback, and an inflammable new album, the suitably titled Ignition. When the flames finally die down, who knows what ghosts of style past, present and future will be clanking around again?
Brian Setzer and ’68 Comeback play the Wilma this Saturday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25, available at TIC-IT-EZ outlets, $26.50 by calling 243-4051.