In 2017 a group of ambitious and crazy musos decided to pull together a tribute gig, performing Joe Cocker’s seminal live album Mad Dogs and Englishmen, in its entirety.
Gov owners Brian and Viv Tonkin declared this gig to be their favourite of all the shows that have ever played at their venue.
That’s some high praise indeed, and gives you some sense of why the show is being reprised in two gigs this coming weekend.
Stalwart of the Adelaide blues scene, Steve Brown, is front-and-centre. Brown’s gritty, passionate, vocals and guitar work have seen him head up such legendary outfits as The Boogiemen and Steve Brown Band. And he is no stranger to Cocker tributes, having done a couple of them a few years back, to acclaim and cries for more.
But sitting on the lawns out front of the Immanuel College music rooms, Brown tells Glam that this show is something much more than just another Cocker tribute. On stage will be ten musicians and a choir of nine, stretching the Gov stage to the limit.
The drive behind this almost Wagnerian ambition is local producer, journo and musician, David Sly.
I got a call from David, who’s an incredibly energetic guy. He had always dreamed of doing Mad Dogs and Englishmen. I was interested but I didn’t want to do a corny version: if we can do it really authentic then I’m in. Dave said there were only two guys in Adelaide who could pull this off and the other one’s dead..so I got the gig!
For Brown this album tribute is quite personal, representing as it does, a water-shed moment in his own musical education.
I was twelve when this album came out. Watching those music shows on a Saturday afternoon, I sat through the John Farnhams of this world, lip syncing their new single, because every now and again they’d show a film clip of the Rolling Stones or the Santana band. One day, all of a sudden, Cry Me River came on, and it blew my mind. I’d heard lots of music, but that really turned me around. ..for me this album has been in my head my whole life.
Despite his life-long relationship with Mad Dogs, Brown admits that revisiting it for this show, he realised he didn’t know it as well as he thought he did, allowing him to discover elements he’d previously missed, and enriching the experience for him.
But what is it about this album that makes it stand out amongst the greats? Brown has his theories.
The tour was thrown together in a couple of weeks. It was a brand new band of great players that took a little bit of time to get it together. It made people’s careers: Rita Coolidge; Bobby Keys who went on to play with the Stones; Jimmy Gordon (Derek and the Dominoes); Carl Radle; and Jim Keltner. These guys went on to become some of the greatest session players around. And they were virtually unknown at the time. But it destroyed Joe Cocker. He came out penniless, [having done] too many drugs, and with wrecked health, and I don’t believe he ever sang the same again. He built up his career again, but there is something about those six weeks…
So the Gov gig will see the entire album performed, in order, plus two extra songs, which Brown himself has requested: Something (In the Way She Moves) and Little Help From My Friends, both of which were performed on the tour, but didn’t make the final album cut.
The last time this gig was performed it sold out, and is set to do the same this time around.
Grab a ticket now for either Saturday or Sunday night, and get a chance to hear one of the keystones of contemporary rock music, performed by some of the best talent, young and old, that Adelaide’s rich music scene has to offer.
Mad Dogs-The Full Cocker, plays The Gov Saturday March 17th and Sunday March 18th.
Doors open at 7.30. Shows starts at 8.30.
Tickets available here.