Great Rock Bible

Jay Ferguson

Moustacheo’d singer-songwriter JAY FERGUSON had completed nigh-on a decade of fronting stellar classic-rock outfits, SPIRIT (from 1966 to 1971) and JO JO GUNNE (from ’71 to ’75), before he opted for a solo career. Peaking on the former’s “Dr. Sardonicus” milestone in 1970 and the latter band’s eponymous set in ’72 (featuring his finest moment, `Run Run Run’), FERGUSON (born May 10, 1947, Burbank, California) looked to have all the right credentials to make it big in the burgeoning and expanding American contemporary soft-rock market.
Losing out for chart space to rival JOE WALSH (who’d also joined the mighty EAGLES), the singer and occasional keyboard player, Jay, got underway with his solo debut, ALL ALONE IN THE END ZONE (1976) {*6}. Working with JO JO GUNNE producer Bill Szymczyk and seasoned session players including guitarist Joey Murcia, bassist George “Chocolate” Perry and drummer Joe Vitale, there was also room in the studio for the aforementioned WALSH – there was also an uncanny sight-and-sound resemblance to the former JAMES GANG guitar guru; maybe it was just their well-groomed handlebar moustaches. Anyway, sunshine soft-rock was the order of the day here as Jay grooved his way through `Snakes On The Run’ (referring to his salad days with SPIRIT and JO JO GUNNE), a re-vamp of the latter acts `To The Island’ and a rendition of TRAFFIC’s `Medicated Goo’.
With WALSH again featuring as a guest, sophomore set THUNDER ROAD (1978) {*6} took him back into the Top 75, no doubt boosted by its Top 10 title track, unleashed toward the fall of the previous year. Amiable and sun-drenched Caribbean/West Coast-style, the song breezed alongside the likes of the STEELY DAN-esque `Losing Control’ and cod-reggae pieces `Cozumel’ and `Babylon’, the latter a former JO JO GUNNE nugget.
The disappointing but slick REAL LIFE AIN’T THIS WAY (1979) {*4} was only notable for a second Top 40 hit, `Shakedown Cruise’, an easy, laid-back affair highlighting the guitar work of Tony Battaglia. Musicians on board this time around included former JO JO GUNNE drummer Curly Smith and JAMES GANG guitarist Bob Webb, although the gloss and mascara via ROLLING STONES mash-up-medley `Let’s Spend The Night Together’ and `Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow’ was a tad ill-conceived.
Capitol Records subsequently signed the singer for two LPs, but both TERMS AND CONDITIONS (1980) {*4} – WALSH and Battaglia performed on `The Last Laugh’ – and WHITE NOISE (1982) {*4} – the title track featuring WALSH and old SPIRIT mucker RANDY CALIFORNIA – fell short of their expectations; the latter combined Jay with co-scribe JACKIE DeSHANNON on three cues, while there was two covers by way of The BEATLES’ `I’m Down’ and The EQUALS’/EDDY GRANT’s `Baby Come Back’.
Turning his hand to scoring movie soundtracks in and around Hollywood, the singer-cum-keyboard/MIDI player reinvented himself as film composer extraordinaire; with SPIRIT, Jay had dipped his toe into the genre in 1969 with the shelved Model Shop (finally released on CD in 2005). From 1985’s Deadly Passion movie to his most recent TV work on NCIS: Los Angeles series in 2012 (via Tales From The Crypt, The Office, Women’s Murder Club and many more latter-day TV series besides), FERGUSON was a man much in-demand in this field.
The second half of the 80s was taken up by numerous film commissions, most of them such as
Death Of An Angel (1986), The Patriot (1986), Best Seller (1987), Race For Glory (1987), Pulse (1988), Johnny Be Good (1988), License To Drive (1988) and Gleaming The Cube (1989) not thought inventive enough to command an OST release. But some that were worthy of marketing were the hard-to-get, QUIET COOL (1986) {*5}, the ambient-electro horrors BAD DREAMS (1988) {*5}, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989) {*6} and the half-various artists-shared DOUBLE DRAGON (1994) {*5}; Parker Kane (1990), Nervous Ticks (1993), Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1995) and the more in-tune Sweetwater: A True Rock Story (1999) kept up FERGUSON’s momentum in Hollywood and beyond. On a footnote to Jay’s exhaustive filmography, the singer re-formed the original JO JO GUNNE in 2005 for a handful of gigs and a comeback set, `Big Chain’.
© MCS Jul2012

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