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Live Unsung Heroes In Music : Carmine Appice
Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 8:19 am

The name of the band was The Pigeons. They had a show lined up with The Byrds and The Seeds. Then a female fan from another band approached the group. "You guys are like white soul... like vanilla fudge!", she exclaimed. Suddenly they had a new name for the band!


Suddenly they had a new name for the band! Vanilla Fudge had a formula for musical arrangements. Most of the songs they did were popular soul tunes. What they were drawn to were songs with what they called hurtin' lyrics. Then, they would slow the songs down, often cutting the time in half and adding the power of a dynamic rock and roll band. Mark Stein was on organ and lead vocals. Vince Martel played guitar. Tim Bogert played bass. Carmine Appice, and all other members sang backup harmony vocals. The songs were often begun in free time, and often free-form and fragmented, only hinting at the upcoming tune. Very quiet passages would be followed by loud crashes of often thick-textured chords on the keyboards and guitar, busy bass lines, and of course, Carmine's powerful drumming. And, most effectively the lead vocals and harmonies were sung in a bluesy soul style, getting to the core of the hurtin' in the words. Singing the words slower allowed each word, and in fact, each syllable to get extra emphasis.


Vanilla Fudge - You Keep Me Hanging On

As testament to the great talent, and polished performance of the band, in 1967, producer Shadow Morton recorded a one-take mono live demo recording of their intricate arrangement of "You Keep Me Hanging On". This was a truly unique take on the song which was a Motown hit for Diana Ross and the Supremes. Vanilla Fudge didn't yet have a recording contract, but they quickly had a hit single racing up the charts! Soon after, their self-titled debut album was arguably the greatest psychedelic rock album of the 60s, and certainly one of the best, and most-influential of rock albums in general. The band's extraordinary live performances were known to blow headlining acts like The Who off the stage in London! Soon, up-and-coming bands including Three Dog Night, Jethro Tull, and most notably, Led Zeppelin were opening up for them. Appice claims that he and Tim Bogert told Robert Plant early on that he shouldn't stand still on stage! Appice was able to get Ludwig to send a drum set like his (the biggest one) to John "Bonzo" Bonham. He told the representative (an understatement) that he thought Zeppelin were going to be huge! Appice was Bonham's hero, and claimed he had all their albums, and copped everything he could from Carmine.


While the extended solos were common in jazz, they started to become more common in rock due to the influence of Vanilla Fudge. And while early examples of free-form introductions pre-date Vanilla Fudge (notably "So What" by Miles Davis), their practice of cutting the time in half, and digging deep into the core soul of the lyrics were a unique innovation which influenced not only Zeppelin, but progressive bands like Deep Purple and Yes. Other fans of Vanilla Fudge that ended up opening for Carmine's next band, Cactus were Bruce Springsteen, Uriah Heep, and Black Sabbath.


Before Appice formed Cactus with Fudge bassist Tim Bogert, they were planning a group with their favorite guitarist, Jeff Beck. This was a dream rhythm section for Beck, but a car accident sidelined him for two years. By 1972, they finally formed the band Beck, Bogert & Appice, and though they couldn't bring on Rod Stewart (from the first Jeff Beck Group), the three of them ended up handling all the vocals. Their performances were highly-acclaimed, and though one live album was recorded, it has been out-of-print for years, making any used copies expensive collector's items.


Also in 1972, Carmine's book "The Realistic Rock Drum Method" was published. The book remains a popular method, and has been updated as "The Ultimate Realistic Rock Drum Method". At this time, he also began running drum clinics, as he learned from Joe Morello from the Dave Brubeck Quartet. He continues doing clinics and drum battles to this day. On May 23rd, 1981, Carmine Appice Day was declared by Mayor Tom Bradley in Los Angeles for his contributions to charity and music education. By this time he also had great success as a songwriter for Rod Stewart. In 1976 he joined the Rod Stewart Band. Rod put him in charge of backing vocals for the band, and they actually recorded "You Keep Me Hanging On" with the Vanilla Fudge arrangement, and Fudge's Max Stein actually singing background vocals. Rod was an early fan of the band and once watched humbly along with Ron Wood in the recording studio in 1968. Stewart said he had always wanted to have done the song originally, and was then encouraged by Appice to do it. Stewart applied the same Vanilla Fudge-like treatment to many soul standards.


In 1978, The Rolling Stones put out the album "Some Girls", of which the opening track "Miss You" was a Stones-style disco tune, the remainder of the album largely driving, rocking tunes, and a few lighter ballads. The same year, Rod Stewart and the Rod Stewart Band put out "Blondes Have More Fun". The opening track was "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?", a rocking disco tune co-written by Appice. This would be the largest selling single in Warner Bros. history. Though just as solid an album as "Some Girls", "Blondes Have More Fun" is an often overlooked gem of a rock and roll album. With the exception of three sweet, acoustic ballads with light percussion, Carmine's drums are out-front, driving the band along. The only cover tune, the Motown classic "Standing in the Shadows of Love" is given a heavy and edgy treatment. Appice puts together some great backing vocal arrangements as well throughout the album. The whole album is solid, and though the lyrics may have been a bit graphic at the time, they are tame by today's standards. Highlights include the country-tinged ballads "The Best Days of My Life" and album closer "Scarred and Scared". A mid-tempo ballad "Ain't Love a Bitch" was a hit and includes an apparent reference to "Maggie Mae". "Is That the Thanks I Get?" features playful backing vocals, and the big drum sound, as Carmine very subtly unleashes impressive bursts in the climactic ending. "Attractive Female Wanted" and the title track explore the same theme predominant on the album: being single and frustrated. The drums and backing vocals again, give great power and intensity to the songs.


In the early eighties, Carmine was still working with Rod a bit, though he was becoming more involved with the drum clinics that he had created a new market for. He also began his own solo projects, bringing the drums out front in the mix. On Rod Stewart's 1981 album "Tonight I'm Yours", he played only on the title track, and the biggest hit from the album "Young Turks", which he also co-wrote. On this tune, he collaborated with former Cactus partner Duane Hitchings, who played keyboards on both tracks that Appice played on.


Since then, and to this day, Carmine has been busy touring and recording with various artists, and continues drum clinics and battles ("Drum Wars"), along with his brother Vinny. He has continued to collaborate with Tim Bogert, including a brief Vanilla Fudge reunion, and a power trio DBA with guitarist Rick Derringer. In 2006, he formed a drum ensemble SLAMM featuring him and four young drummers. He has recently released three albums in a series called Carmine Appice's Guitar Zeus, featuring guitarists such as Jennifer Batten, Brian May, Ted Nugent, Richie Sambora and Yngwie Malmsteen. He also has again re-formed his band King Kobra, that has a new album due this year. Not one to enjoy taking time off to relax, Carmine Appice is constantly working.


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