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NRBQ: NO ROAD MAP REQUIRED : Here Comes Terry, Here Comes Tom, Here Comes Joey, Here Comes Al

December 27, 1990|MIKE BOEHM | TIMES STAFF WRITER; Mike Boehm covers pop music for The Times Orange County Edition.

Just a bunch of guys gettin' in the

car,

No matter who's drivin' or for how

far.

Feels so good, feels so alive .

No fancy drivers tell us how to

drive.

Me and the boys, just me and the

boys.

In a more just world, "Me and the Boys" would have been a big hit for NRBQ. For that matter, the band's just-released retrospective CD, "Peek-A-Boo," would have been subtitled "Greatest Hits, 1969-1989" instead of "The Best of NRBQ, 1969-1989."

But Joey Spampinato, the singer-bassist who has been in the band since its start in 1967, isn't about to let the wide gulf between a "hits" collection and a "best of" collection get him down. After all, hits or not, how many bands survive long enough to compile a double-decade retrospective?

"Every band wants to have a hit record. If they say they don't, they're lying," Spampinato said during a recent interview from his Nashville home. "You always shoot for that. But we've been around for how many years? And we're still going."

"Me and the Boys," which dates back to 1980, is one of several terrific songs about cars--and various things that people do in cars--that crop up on "Peek-A-Boo." Never a band given to deep Angst or weighty social statements, NRBQ is more inclined to capture simple emotional moments. "Me and the Boys" could be about the band's own freewheeling approach to rock 'n' roll: Few bands could trace the zigzagging stylistic road map that NRBQ traverses in a typical show.

"Peek-A-Boo" and last year's fetching "Wild Weekend" album showcase a band that can dig up rock's roots with the loose assurance of The Band, or dab charming, inventive colors on a pure-pop canvas in a way that recalls Brian Wilson's method with the Beach Boys. NRBQ also has a pronounced zany streak, both musically and in its stage presence.

The shaggy-haired, sweet-voiced Spampinato is probably the most solid and straightforward of the bunch (maybe that's why Keith Richards drafted him into the backing band for his Chuck Berry tribute film; in February, Spampinato will back Eric Clapton in a special series of blues shows in London). Drummer Tom Ardolino has been known to croon ditties to a miniature doll that's a spitting image of himself. Singer-guitarist Al Anderson cuts a huge but humorous figure with his grumpy scowls, and hyperactive keyboardist Terry Adams can spend hours on stage looking as blissfully in his own world as a tot in a sandbox.

"There's no set thing of what this band is supposed to be," Spampinato said. "We like to be multifaceted and encompass all the things we like."

In fact, Spampinato said, when NRBQ goes on stage it throws out the usual road map that most bands use: a pre-planned list of songs to play.

"It seems to work better to play a song at the spur of the moment, so we let Terry do that," Spampinato said. "He's most affected by what he would like to play at a given moment, so we give him the job."

Who

NRBQ.

When

Thursday, Dec. 27, at 8 p.m. and Friday, Dec. 28, at 9 p.m.

Where

The Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.

Whereabouts

Take Interstate 5 to the San Juan Creek Road exit. Left onto Camino Capistrano. The club is in the Esplanade Center.

Wherewithal

$16.50 at the Coach House; $15 at Bogart's.

Where to call

(714) 496-8930

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