Jim Keller Live @ Lakeside Lounge (NYC)
Jim Keller and Alex Call wrote the hit single “867-5309/Jenny” which climbed all the way to number 4 at Billboard in 1982.
Funny how things go around. I had no idea that someone named Jim Keller had co-wrote that huge hit from the early eighties. I found out because I have this subscription to New Yorker magazine; and I only have that because they sent me an offer in the mail that was too good to refuse. So several weeks ago, I’m paging through the magazine and I see this cool looking caricature of a guy with the name Jim Keller underneath. He looked like a player to me. The article tells how after the success of Tommy Tutone or rather, once there were no more hit singles in view, Keller put the music aside for a while. After that while, having moved to New York, he talked himself into a job licensing music for the composer Phillip Glass. He did good too.
About four years ago he dug his guitar out of it’s case where it had been hibernating for a decade. If music be the food of life, then Keller had once again awakened his appetite. Next I did what any ‘normal’ person might do and googled the guy. I found his website. There he had listed his upcoming dates. Two dates this month at the Lakeside Lounge down on avenue B and tenth street and two more there next month. For all the times I had spent downtown, I had never ventured into Lakeside. I should have. No cover and only one band per evening.
When I spoke with Jim Keller after the show he mentioned that fact to me. Affable guy. He was smiling too. So was I. The set I had just listened to was fantastic. He was able to pack his five other players into the corner where the bands play and rip the place up. Actually, the sax and trumpet player did not fit into the corner, but stood close along the side. Sax and trumpet? Oh yeah, and they rocked right along with the guitars. Keyboards too but he was not visible to me from where I was sitting. I had found a seat, by the way, at the Ms. Pacman game table. The lights flickered all different colors reflecting off my bottle of beer during the set.
This band covers a lot of ground. Jim is a soulful singer and many of the tunes I heard reached right into that blue eyed soul bag. Especially with the added horns. When the horns layed out, Jim and his other guitarist scorched the straight ahead rock n roll. Sometimes they traded off leads which simply lifted those melodies into the higher skies. And it was really nice up there. The bass player besides his rock bottom parts also
contributed some wailing backing vocals. Jim mentioned that the bass player had co-wrote some of the new material they were playing. Sorry, I don’t have the other players names. At the website
he mentions several names of bass players, guitarists and drummers and I don’t know which is which; except for the horns which he calls, The Spring Biscuit Horns: Trumpet, Jeff Hermanson; Sax, Chris Griffin.
I was hearing John Hiatt, Van Morrison and one tune touched on the B52’s. The arrangements were tight and to the point. And a lot of fun.
I think the set lasted around ninety minutes. As it was wrapping up I was hearing some familiar chords that touched the area of the brain that instinctively knows HIT RECORD. Yep. Jim closed with the latest rendition of “867-5309/Jenny.” So good. This was the perfect example of when the two guitarists each took their lead and raised the hit into the heavens. The horns too. Jim even swung his vocal mic over to the sax player so his solo could also raise the roof. Jamming out on the formerly three minute single should be required etiquette by all rock bands worth their sweat. Jim Keller is worth it.
“867-5309/Jenny” reached #4 on the Billboard charts in 1982. A million seller. In this case I am glad that the music business is such an unforgiving roller coaster ride. Seeing this band in the confines of the intimate Lakeside Lounge was sheer inspiration. Had Tommy Tutone raged on through the years they might only have played huge venues and so I probably never would have gone to see them. Isn’t it great when you know that the choice you made to do something was exactly correct. I’m thinking I very well may make that choice again.