American Joe Jammer was born Joe Wright but the nickname Jimmy Page had given him stuck on English soil and appeared on a lot of records, once the former roadie and guitar tech progressed to a musician in his own right. Joe played with Maggie Bell and was a part of PALADIN alongside Pete Solley, recorded with Jerry Lee Lewis and was a founding member of NOBODY'S BUSINESS, peformed with OLYMPIC RUNNERS and had a solo album, “Bad News,” a sort of cult classic. To be precise, Jammer laid down two solo LPs, yet the second one, “Headway,” has remained in the vaults for four decades – despite its truly stellar line-up – and will see the light of day on February 2nd.
My first album was released on EMI in 1973, it was called “Bad News,” and “Headway” was my second production as a solo artist, Joe Jammer, in 1974 or something like that, but my third album was never recorded because I had immigration problems with England at the time. I was working illegally there – nothing serious but I did not have a work permit – and I was being managed by Peter Grant, who was so busy with LED ZEPPELIN that he didn’t have time to get my papers together. They kept telling me to marry an English girl – “Marry an English girl!”, “Marry an English girl!” – but I didn’t want to just marry somebody, just for an English version of Green Card; I wanted to fall in love! But I live with my third wife now, and she is English! (Laughs.) So the album was due to be released in 1974, and I had Mitch Mitchell on drums, Jimi Hendrix’s drummer; I was living with Mitchell, in his house, for three or four years, and he gave me all of Hendrix’s guitars and his amp which he had there.
Mitch said to me, many times, that I was the most exciting guitarist he ever met after Jimi, and because I was so much fun – and I still am fun, I like to have fun and I want to project positivity: that’s very important, and I’m not a depressing musician with a negative attitude about life – this album, “Headway,” has a very positive music on it. Also it’s got Johnny Gustafson on bass, so there’s a beautiful rhythm section, and then I have Jean Roussel on keyboards – he used to be a piano player with Cat Stevens, Olivia Newton-John, Paul Simon and Wilson Pickett: he’s a world-class piano player. He’s black, and I had a black percussionist named Brother James Fitzroy. Mitch Mitchell was very, very, very soulful, and Johnny Gustafson was very, very soulful on the bass; so the record is very much like a Tamla Motown rock album. Now, my singer has a real super-magic, his name is Johnny Contardo and he’s one of the lead singers from SHA NA NA: the old band, from the ’60s-’70s who were in the “Woodstock” movie, with Jimi Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell, and everybody. Johnny Contardo became a very good friend of mine, because he came from Brookline, Massachusetts, and I lived with a girl named Elissa, and she was from Brookline, too; she lived with me for three years, and then she married Joe Perry from AEROSMITH.
I was supposed to be the guitar player with AEROSMITH around 1973, but I did not want to leave London. I was too happy – I was working with THE BEATLES, I was working with THE ROLLING STONES, I’m the former roadie for LED ZEPPELIN, the roadie for THE WHO, the roadie for Jimi Hendrix – so I didn’t want to move to Boston to be with AEROSMITH. So I stayed here, and I did that solo album, and Contardo came to London to record with me. And his vocals are beautiful! He’s Italian, with a pure tenor voice, and he sounds like Curtis Mayfield meets Marvin Gaye at Smokie Robinson’s house – and then Jimi Hendrix comes over to say ‘Hello.’ Johnny’s still alive, but I can’t find him, I can’t reach him – he has a website, he has a post office address, he has Facebook, but he’s not answering me. [My album] was the only creative thing he ever did, because SHA NA NA were like a cover band doing 1950s rock ‘n’ roll songs, and he did it very well, but it was always like a comedy act; he went on to become like a Las Vegas singer. And then, Mitchell on drums: this was the only creative thing he did after Jimi Hendrix – nobody ever heard this before! Gustafson was playing his magical bass parts – he was like James Jamerson from Tamla Motown, like John Paul Jones from LED ZEPPELIN: a beautiful, perfect bass player who could play the right part for every song. So my music is very soulful: there’s rock on the guitar, but it’s very funky and bluesy. It’s like R&B but, instead of rhythm-and-blues, it’s got rock-and-blues.
And it was done in Olympic Studios, the most famous studio in London after Abbey Road, because LED ZEPPELIN and THE ROLLING STONES recorded there. I did about fifty albums as a session guitarist in Olympic Studios; I even played on THE ROLLING STONES’ album “Sticky Fingers,” on the song “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” with Peter Green on guitar; and THE STONES used the jam that I did with Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Ian Stewart on piano at Olympic Studios, and they spliced it in to their album; so I was very, very focused on Olympic Studios. Now, next year is the fiftieth anniversary of Olympic, and they’re having a renovation, they have a big theater and a big restaurant and a new studio to be built in the basement, and they’re going to use this album as the long lost record of the last, the very last lost album from Olympic Studios: everything has been heard except this. So that’s why I like to say as a joke that this album is historical, if not hysterical. I love it very much, I’m very proud of it – forty years later. Great music never dies, only great musicians! And me, I’m still breathing. (Laughs.)
Read the review here. As for the the album’s songs, they run like this:
1. Broken Little Pieces
2. Can’t Yer Catch?
3. Alive Another Day
4. Afraid To Make A Friend
5. It Wasn’t Meant To be
7. One For The Road
8. Cool Breeze
9. Axe me Another (Don’t Lose Your Head)
10. The Watcher Laments
11. Not Tonight