Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bob And Fred Armstrong - A James Gang Youth

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
John, 3:8, NRSV 

The Oracle of Ottawa has a led a full and interesting life. Sometimes too full and way too interesting. Even though the Oracle of Ottawa has only lived a little over half a century, his circle has become amazingly small in the last decade or two. It has been happening so fast that sometimes the Oracle of Ottawa is sure that he is suffering survivor anxiety. All of my circle that has departed didn't do half the insane shit that I have done and survived. The Oracle of Ottawa ponders this reality deep into many a night at present.

Lately, the Oracle of Ottawa has been haunted by a pair of brothers that were twins, but not identical twins, that he grew up with in the Arnprior area in the 1970's. Now imagine that you grew up with two thirds of the James Gang when you were growing up! Bob Armstrong looked an awful lot like Joe Walsh, why he even talked like Joe Walsh, and even better than that he could play guitar and sing like Joe Walsh! His brother Fred, looked an awful lot like the bass player from the original James Gang, right done to the mannerisms and the awesome sideburns.And Fred and Bob always had James Gang style motorcycles! Fred was the master mechanic. He is the only guy that The Oracle has ever met in his life that could rewire a complete Triumph motorcycle without a book! And friend, if you know anything about Lucas Electrics, you know that is a super human feat.

If that all wasn't eerie enough, the memories of them jamming out in the back wood shed at their mothers house in Braeside are some of the clearest memories of my youth. And let the Oracle of Ottawa assure that all those stories of excellent smoke and the purest chemicals of the 1970's are all perfectly true, and even through the high time haze, the memories are still clear as a bell. It would usually start with Bob announcing that he felt a jam coming on, by this time Fred already had the Fender precision bass plugged into a huge Hi-Vox(?) stack. Bob would amble into the shed like a rock star walking onto a stage, carrying a mint, pristine, 1960's Fender Stratocaster that even then was worth a fortune. He would flick on the vintage Fender amp, and tune up. Depending on how "lubricated" the night was, the concert had commenced!

The show would start with the excellent and accurate rendition of the Ventures "Walk Don't Run", and I swear to God, it sounded just like the album. Then a few more beers, and out would come some awesome Hendrix, complete with full guitar face! Then the other lads from the hood would amble in, sometimes even the parents would stand out in the street... Excuse me while I kiss the sky... At the end of the song the brothers would point out technical errors to each other, which was also really interesting.

Then it would all get serious, Bob would set up the mike, and the brothers would huddle in a whisper, then the highlight of the evening, the highlight of my life at the time, Turn to Stone! And Bob would just wail it over and over, just like Joe Walsh in the most out of it days! It made such a deep impression on the Oracle of Ottawa, that even after all these years, when he see's the video of the song he still experiences a full brain rush of all assorted endo-morphins and all the certain remaining chemical residuals...       

In memory of Bob and Fred Armstrong. Someday will be all together again, free from rack, ruin and all pain.

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