LINK WRAY

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's most glaring omission

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ASBURY PARK 2003
The Stone Pony

THE STONE PONY - MARCH 5

A bunch of years ago a fellow by the name of Bruce Springsteen released a debut album about his home stomping grounds entitled Greetings From Asbury Park and one of his very favorite stomping grounds was a small rock club called The Stone Pony.  Asbury Park looks a lot different today than it did three decades ago but one thing that has stood the tests of hurricanes, cultural and financial droughts, and government intrusions is The Stone Pony.  That turned out to be a real good thing for a small band of Link Wray fans and Stone Pony regulars who were treated to the mayhem of Link’s feedback laced guitar antics and superb entertainment skills this past Wednesday night.  

Traffic was on my side Wednesday evening and I arrived in Asbury Park shortly past eight pm, long before even the opening act at The Stone Pony was prepared to begin business.  It was too cold to check out the boardwalk or the amusement arcades that I loved so much as a child so I decided to go in early and enjoy the rare opportunity to stretch out on two or three stools at a time at the main bar.  Well, in the company of the King Of Beers time flies by fast and the next thing I knew it was past nine and the opening act, a band named “Jack”, was walking onstage and introducing themselves.  I’m not writing about Jack so suffice it to say that Jack was adequate as an opening act.  The bass guitarist was actually very, very good.  The other musicians were OK but I thought the song writing was weak.

 I believe less than half an hour passed before Link’s new best friends, The Jet City Fix, attacked the stage and in less than one minute most of my ideas about the west coast scene and, in particular, the “Seattle sound”, went down the toilet.  The JCF is not Pearl Jam or Nirvana or Soundgarden or Smashing Pumpkins or anything else you may think they are.  They are a loud, aggressive, punk influenced, well rehearsed music machine.  They are not Seattle grunge.  They are quite theatrical and synchronized on stage and some of Shane’s (lead vocalist) “scissors” jumps reminded me of Pete Townsend’s moves.  The two guitar attack of Ty and John (wielding Gibson SGs and 335s respectively) is quite devastating in conjunction with The Jet City Fix rhythm section of Dana on the skins and Justin, flat picking a Fender Jazz bass.  All members were dressed in dark, if not black, garb with Shane making the boldest visual statement regarding the band’s influences with his New York Dolls tee.  Toward the conclusion of their performance Shane expressed gratitude to everyone from the Stone Pony management and staff to the sound guys in the back to the members of the opening act, “Jack”.  I thought that was very professional and very cool.  

After the JCF segment concluded another twenty minutes or so passed before Link and Julie made their entrance and joined Dana and Justin on stage.  I was immediately pleased to see that Link looked well, actually healthier than he did last summer.  His hair was shorter than it’s been in a long time (though still long enough to be pulled back into a ponytail) but seemed thicker and more filled in than it did last July.  He looked slender, as he always does, but not too much so.  Apparently the winter’s workouts with Dana and Justin have been good for Link.  

It seems almost unnecessary to type the next statement, but the set began with Rumble.  The remainder of the set included : Rawhide, The Batman Theme, Branded, The Black Widow, Jack The Ripper, Ace Of Spades, Comanche, Run Chicken Run, Rumble On The Docks, Home Is Where The Heart Is, and some new jam that I haven’t heard Link do before.  Some of these songs, such as The Black Widow, have several variations and names these days, but let’s not get into that!  The new song is basically an Amaj-Gmaj-Emaj jam that goes on for some time and though Link kept it stripped down in Asbury Park, in some cities Link, and even Julie, have been hollering the names of Native American tribes during the song.  Link’s performances of Home Is Where The Heart Is was especially moving because Link sang it directly to a lovely couple that had traveled, i.e. flown, a great distance to get to Asbury Park and see Link this particular night.  They were an older couple and I took it that it was their wedding anniversary or some very special occasion.  I’ve heard Link do the song live before but never this good.  At the song’s conclusion the couple hugged and kissed and I have to admit it was hard not to be touched by the whole thing.  It was, and is, fascinating to me that Link, with little formal education or even musical training, for that matter, can communicate so clearly and deeply with so many types of people from so many backgrounds and of so many ages.  

At the conclusion of the show I attempted to return to my car to retrieve my beloved worn and weathered copy of “Beans And Fatback”, hoping for an autograph on my copy of one the most amazing things to ever come out of Accokeek’s Wray’s Shack Three Track, however hanging at the exit door was a gigantic sign indicating that once exited, patrons were not permitted back in.  Oh no!  This called for some very sensitive negotiations with a house bouncer and once we saw eye to eye on the importance of getting Beans And Fatback autographed I was permitted to leave the building temporarily and return once again.  Upon returning with Beans And Fatback held tight between my fingers, Julie, seeing me approaching before Link did, attempted to get Link’s attention and pointed at me and the mysterious album.  I handed Link the album and he had this look on his face like, “ Where the heck did you dredge this up!?!”.   I told Link that I thought it was a beautiful, simple album and I reminded him of who was on the album and every time I mentioned a name, “Doug, Billy Hodges, Mordicai Jones...”, his headed nodded in approval.  While we were on the subject of the wonderful early seventies Accokeek years I suggested Link stop saying, on tour anyway, that the Neville Brothers’ interpretation of Falling Rain is superior to the Wray Brothers’ original version on Link’s self-titled Polydor album because it’s just not true.  The Neville Bothers may have done a  more expensive, fancier production, but it’s not a more musical production.  Well, I couldn’t change Link’s mind.  God bless him.   

So that’s Asbury Park, winter 2003.  It’s never anything but good times when Link’s in the house.  I saw Link one more time before the tour ended, at the grand finale in New York City... tell you more ‘bout that next time.  

Howie Fishman
Link Wray - Asbury Park NJ 2003