New Yorker Jon Bard presents his weekly 'Soul Kitchen' radio show on KRFc-FM, 88.9, Fort Collins, Co. Dedicated to the sounds of Philly, Memphis, Mowtown and all soulful points beyond, the Soul Kitchen, and his soulriot.com website have rapidly developed an international following. For those outside Fort Collins' immediate environs, The 'Soul Kitchen' is streamed online on Wednesdays from 12-2 PST on the stations' website www.krfcfm.org.
There wasn't a lot going on in Rockland County, where Jon Bard lived as kid, although he points out that Lou Reed grew up there too. Jon's musical education began with college radio stations like WNYU and WFMU, "In the late 70's," he says, "radio was a little better than it is now, but I still depended on trips into the record stores of Greenwich Village to supply new sounds. The only really mainstream stuff I listened to back then was the Stones. I was a major Stones freak for just about all their stuff through Some Girls. Still am. Just don't wanna discuss what's happened since! Otherwise, once I heard the first Clash record and Johnny Thunders I never looked back. Hearing "Never Mind the Bollocks", the Buzzcocks and XTC sealed the deal once and for all."
At the time, Jon became a regular at Max's Kansas City and CBGB's, "I was a goofy, punky kid with bad clothes. They wouldn't let us above 14th street." He laughs. An amazing time for new music in New York, he agrees, "The wonderful part about hanging out in the East Village was seeing all these guys on the street. It was real common to see folks like Joey Ramone or David Byrne wandering around. There was such a buzz to the place back then. I hear things have gotten a bit corporate and yuppified nowadays, so I'm loathe to return for a visit. However, when my son is a bit older, I may have to take him back to give him a taste of how the old man spent his youth. "
There were so many great shows back then, when Jon starts it seems like he saw them all! "Boys Night Out" from 1979." Stands out as a favorite "It was at the Ritz on 13th Street. Five bands - and it didn't start 'til 11:30. I stood front and center for the whole thing, and I remember the lineup clearly: The Rockats, The Senders (a fantastic r&b-rock band), the Lenny Kaye Band, Wayne Kramer's Gang War and, to top it off, Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers. We walked outta there at 5:30 in the morning with our ears ringing! Other memorable nights include my one and only time seeing The Jam, seeing Husker Du (and being told by one of their stage crew to stick around for 20 minutes after the show - - I did, along with about 30 other folks, and was treated to an entire acoustic set by the band), seeing U2 (supported by Teardrop Explodes) at a small theatre right after Boy came out. There's lots more, of course, but that's what comes to mind right now. "
"Thunders. He's pretty much my personal rock and roll icon, even if his offstage choices, let's say, left something to be desired. As for the Clash, they are the greatest rock and roll band to have ever walked the earth. I cannot possibly stress how wonderful they were. I didn't see the Bonds shows - - it just seemed like too much of a hassle at the time - but I caught them various other times and, most importantly, at their peak, at a show many Clashophiles consider to be perhaps their finest American show - Capitol Theatre, Passaic New Jersey in March, 1980. Holy crap, what a night."
So, if he only had a little space left on his iPod which Clash songs would fit, we wondered? "Oh man, that's a hard call, there are so many. maybe "White Man in Hammersmith Palais", maybe "Safe European Home", maybe "Stay Free" - - I always get choked up listening to that one. The thing about the Clash - - even their "minor" stuff is greater than anyone gives it credit for. Example - - I recently came across a marvelous cover version of "Gates of the West" performed by a British singer named Adam Masterson. He slows it way down and gives it the vibe of an early Springsteen ballad. Taken that way, the sheer beauty of the lyrics really shines through - - "I should be jumpin' shoutin' that I made it all this way / From Camden town station to 44th and 8th / Not many make it this far and many say we're great / But just like them we walk on an' we can't escape our fate" And that was on a "throwaway" b-side!
I asked whether thinking back to the punk days, coming from New York, it could ever be conceded that the Ramones are somehow, overcompensated(!) given too much credit at the aegis of punk rock. To me, they were a rock band that popularized leather jackets and jeans. For me, there are the antecedents, but there's nothing without the sex pistols. I don't think the Pistols with Rotten would've ever recorded Pet Cemetary? "Heh. Of course, the Pistols with Rotten lasted about 2 years, so who knows what they'd have done to pay their bills had they stuck together? I love the Ramones, but I can see your point. Back then, I was pretty much ignorant about bands like the MC5 and Rocket from the Tombs. Even the Stooges didn't mean a whole lot to me. I was a kid, and - apart from the New York Dolls - - I couldn't care less about "old" bands. In that vacuum, the Ramones were earthshatteringly original. Now that I've seen the error of the ways, I can place them in a historical context and they do lose just a bit of luster. Regardless, those first three records still hold up as fantastic, fun rock and roll, and they'll always have a special place in my heart. As for the Pistols, I honor them as much as anybody. But, without the New York Dolls, no way in hell is there a Sex Pistols. And without the Stooges, none of it happens at all. (Of course, you can take this track all the way back to Robert Johnson, I suppose!)"
Jon is less enamored with the current New York scene than many critics, enjoying the first Strokes album, and the unheralded Kowalksi's but that's about all he'll namecheck. How then did he get from New York, CBGB's, Johnny Thunders and the Clash to O.V. Wright, Motown Mephis and Philly? "I've always loved soul, he says, "but r&r still came first. When I got the chance to get a radio show on a new public radio station here in Colorado, I developed a program called "Left of the Dial", which was built around themes (all Australian rock one week, a tribute to Detroit the next, British Invasion the next, and so on.) Periodically, I did an all-soul show, and the phones would light up. The theme thing from Left of the Dial got pretty limiting, and the station manager suggested that I think about creating a soul show and, if I did, I could get a daytime slot (which has a far greater listenership). I jumped at the chance and The Soul Kitchen was born. These days, I get the best of both musical worlds - - I play soul on the radio and I'm in a band that plays MC5, Stooges, Thunders and Pistols stuff, so all my addictions are being satisfied! On the Soul Kitchen, basically, I play what I want, and it ranges from real obscure "Northern Soul" from the 60's to "classic soul" to funk to current neo-soul. I try to resist my natural impulse to make it 100% obscure stuff, because I have a broad listenership. It ain't just soul geeks who trawl around eBay for old soul 45s. It's a lot of folks who come to the show knowing little more than Curtis Mayfield or Al Green. So I balance the famous artists with the obscure and try to turn people on to stuff they've never heard before. The good thing, of course, is that - - unlike rock - - famous soul performers are almost always famous based on merit. You can't deny the genius of Otis Redding, James Brown or Aretha Franklin, so why fight it? I just don't play "Dock of the Bay" or "Respect". I'll dig deep into their catalogue."
Although classic soul remains as it ever was, somewhat underground and out of the view of the mainstream, Jon sees healthy signs of renewed interest..."Yeah, I do see some signs of a classic soul revival, with people like Ricky Fante, Van Hunt and Joss Stone making really good records. Lots of young folks are digging out their parents' Donny Hathaway and Al Green records and getting turned on, and they're making music that incorporates the vibe and feel of that earlier stuff. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I fully expect a real explosion of creativity in the r&b field. The history of black music in America tells us that it's always been the vanguard of creativity on our cultural scene. Sooner or later, things have to get back on track."
Check in on Friday when we reveal Jon's Five Great Soul Records You've Most Likely Never Heard Of, but he guarantees you will love!
When Jon's not playing soul records ont he radio, he's listening to Johnny Thunders, watching baseball, eating thai food. He loves The Clash, Curtis Mayfield, Newcastle Brown Ale, Jim Thompson novels, The Riverboat Gamblers and his family, not necessarily in that order.