1982 was a big year for the J. Geils Band â€“ after 13 albums, hundreds and hundreds of live shows and a few scattered Top 40 hits, they became overnight sensations with â€œCenterfoldâ€ spending six weeks at Number One and â€œFreeze Frameâ€ following in the Top Ten.
The â€œFreeze Frameâ€ album is a certified 80s classic, no doubt, showcasing a band honed by years on the road firing on all cylinders. Front to back, thereâ€™s not a dud in the bunch â€“ even â€œFlamethrowerâ€, an album track consigned to the b-side of the â€œFreeze Frameâ€ single caught fire (heh) on the Black Singles chart, and itâ€™s easy to see why. â€œFlamethrowerâ€ is arguably the hottest (heh) song on the album, a scorching (Iâ€™ll stop now) funk number that should have been single number three, not just a b-side. Iâ€™ll say that â€œFlamethrowerâ€ best represented all sides of the J. Geils Band â€“ the Stones-ish blues swagger, the chunky funk, the accessible pop sensibility, all wrapped up in five glorious minutes.
Then it all went to hell.
A power struggle between chief songwriters Peter Wolf and Seth Justman fractured the group the next year. Wolf took his voice and embarked on a solo career, while Justman kept the band and the powerful brand name. 1984 promised a showdown between the two projects.
Peter Wolf struck first with â€œLights Outâ€ and its title track single. â€œLights Outâ€ was a fair success, making the Top 40, but while the voice was unmistakable, there was something bland and studio musician-ish about the whole affair. The spark was missing. I preferred the follow-up, â€œI Need You Tonightâ€, because it seemed quite contemporary, glossy production and all, and itâ€™s just a better song, really. It scraped the Top 40 as well. Now it was the J. Geils Bandâ€™s turn.
Many people donâ€™t want to remember â€œYouâ€™re Gettinâ€™ Even While Iâ€™m Gettinâ€™ Oddâ€, including presumably the band itself, since itâ€™s mentioned nowhere on their official website. I am here today to say itâ€™s not that horrible. Really. The problem is just that you listen and think, â€œGee this isnâ€™t too bad, but if Peter Wolf was singing it, itâ€™d be so much better.â€ That thought only occurs about twice per song, though. Once you get past that itâ€™s a hooky, kooky little affair that seems a bit â€œFreeze Frame 2: Electric Boogalooâ€. In fact lead-off single â€œConcealed Weaponsâ€ is almost an exact Xerox of â€œFreeze Frameâ€, with a guitar lick stolen from either â€œDay Tripperâ€ or Killing Jokeâ€™s â€œEightiesâ€ (take your pick â€“ Nirvana would later steal it yet again for â€œCome As You Areâ€), another lick lifted from the â€œPeter Gunn Themeâ€, and a melody line so familiar you almost want to sing â€œI could see it was a rough-cut Tuesday, Slow motion weekdays stare me downâ€¦â€
The album and single tanked. I remember seeing the album in cut-out bins everywhere soon after its release, where of course I picked it up and kind of enjoyed it. Peter Wolf went on to have a few more hits and sell some more albums while the J. Geils Band went on to record the theme for â€œFright Nightâ€ (AWFUL), then call it a day. The band reunited in 1999 for a tour, but when tickets didnâ€™t move, they split again.
Weâ€™ll always have â€œFlamethrowerâ€, though.
â€œFlamethrowerâ€ peaked at #25 on the Billboard Black Singles Chart and at #30 on the Mainstream Rock Chart in 1982.
â€œI Need You Tonightâ€ peaked at #36 on the Billboard Hot 10 and at #22 on the Mainstream Rock Chart in 1984.
â€œConcealed Weaponsâ€ peaked at #63 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #26 on the Mainstream Rock Chart in 1984.