AVERAGE WHITE BAND is rubbish!!! – they should be called Extraordinary White Band.
Simply because these six, white, dedicated musicians have something unique – the ability to play black soul music that not only sounds right, dammit, but FEELS right, too!
They’ve spent the past two years with only one aim in mind – to play the kind of music that will get Marvin Gaye swinging from his Grapevine, Stevie Wonder consulting his Talking Book, Ike and Tina Turner crossing that River Deep and Mountain High and James Brown looking for a Brand New Bag.
Catch them at a gig, or listen to their current album, Show Your Hand and you’ll be bound to agree that they have succeeded.
Talking to bass-player Alan Gorrie, we’re told that there are other bands comparable to the Average Whites on the club circuit, in which case we may have a whole new music trend on our hands – if so, then AWB are undoubtedly setting that trend at the moment.
They’re also living proof of the rumour that’s been going around for some time now – that Scotland is producing some of the finest contemporary musicians this country has ever seen.
What with yer Slades, Geordies, Stealers Wheels, Nazareths, Junior Campbells, and Average Whites, it would all appear to be ‘appening up North (of Barnet, that is!).
“We all come from Scotland,” said Alan, “and have known each other from art school days when some of us ran a jazz club in Dundee.”
“The present line-up of the band came together in London, however. We were all doing various jobs with various bands and found that we all had a weekend free at the same time.”
“We decided to use it to put down some tracks in a studio and the sessions were so pleasing to us that we decided to get together.
“The name of the band started out as an ‘in’ saying among us, you know, we’d be listening to a track and say ‘not bad for an average white band’. I guess it just stuck from there.”
And just why should an ‘average’ white band from Scotland succeed so well in capturing the soul feel? At the risk of being branded as a sassy Sassanach, I suggested to Alan that the slums of America’s big cities produced their finest soul music.
Was there a parallel to be drawn between the ghettoes or, say, Harlem and Watts, and the Gorbals in Glasgow? I asked.
“Yes,” replied Alan, “I think you’ve got a good point. The slums of Dundee aren’t pretty places to be either. They produce tough people who demand tough music. The same is true of the American ghettoes.”
“People up there relate very easily to soul music,” added Robbie MacIntosh, “and as far as I’m concerned that’s the only direction I ever want to follow.”
Though soul may be the common direction for AWB, there’s lots that can be done with the basic formula. Pianist Roger Ball and saxophonist Malcolm Duncan, for example, have very strong jazz leanings and a lot of these find a springboard from the funky rhythms of guitarist Onnie McIntyre, drummer Robbie and bass player Alan.
The band have just written a new instrumental, named after one of their favourite things – McEwan’s Export. It features some stunning harmony and unison work between Hamish’s Fender Telecaster and Malcolm’s tenor sax.
“I hope people will allow us to grow musically,” commented Alan, “because we don’t want to be playing exactly the same things in a year’s time as we are playing now.”
“It gives us a great feeling to do a gig now and hear the audience shouting for tracks off our album. We’re out to make sure that they allow us to develop, however.”
“We’re not out to be superstars, just to be a good, working band,” added Robbie. “In fact the biggest compliment you could pay us is to say that our sound is in the same bag as James Brown or the Temptations, etc.”
© uncredited writer, Beat Instrumental, August 1973