The Commodores: Live in Santiago

The words to The Commodores’ dance hit are not “She dropped a brick, owwwwwww”, but I didn’t discover that until I was 20. The other week during a telephone interview, I had the chance to tell Walter “Clyde” Orange, the original drummer of this Grammy-winning funk and soul group, my version of their song “Brickhouse.”

itemId=15053 Photo courtesy The Commodores

Once he stopped laughing, we were able to talk about the group and their upcoming show in Santiago’s Teatro Caupolitan on 31 October 2009.

“We’re all really excited about coming to Chile,” said Orange. “It’s going to be a good show, a good time for everyone. We’re getting a new album started. I don’t know if we’ll play them in Santiago, but we’ve got three or four new tracks recorded.”

itemId=15054 Photo courtesy The Commodores

Orange spoke from his Florida home about creating new music in today’s industry. “It’s been kind of a struggle for us, because just in the last five years the industry has changed dramatically. Of course the music is gonna change. Every different time has a different sound.”

“I joined The Commodores as a teenager in 1969. Now it’s 2009. That’s 40 years,” said Orange. With an original lineup that included Thomas McClary, Milan Williams, William “Wak” King, Ronald Le Pread, Lionel Richie and Sheldon Reynolds later of Earth, Wind and Fire.

“When we began we were doing takeoffs on the Temptations, the Four Tops and the Dramatics, but they were only singing and had a backup band and dancers. But we came in doing something different, doing everything ourselves — dancing, singing and playing. The closest thing to what we did was the Beatles.”

“We studied the Beatles hard, ‘Three Dog Night’ ” especially. We were like them. We weren’t just another R&B band. We were a cross-over group going into pop. We really studied the Beatles. What they were doing. How they were doing it. You have to study to learn. Benny [Ashburn, Commodores manager] taught us that.”

Orange commented that Ashburn steered the band towards obtaining publishing rights from Motown, and made them write songs. “Record companies are going out of business today, because people aren’t letting them take their publishing rights anymore,” Orange said.

Asburn also had them drive up to New York for an audition that landed them the spot as the opening band for the Jackson 5, at a time when their opening acts were getting eggs thrown at them. “The audiences weren’t there for the opening groups. They wanted the Jackson 5 and no one else,” said Orange.

itemId=15055 Photo courtesy The Commodores

Orange admits that as a group they were lucky to have good managerial guidance, a band no-drug policy and were able to watch and learn from the examples of bands that preceded them. “We agreed if we got married, ‘cause we were all single guys at the time, we’d keep the females out of the business, as we saw it as the downfall of many groups at the time. This is a business. You have to treat it like a business.”

But Orange admits that without the passion for the music and the dedication to it, the business side would never exist. “Before we eat, we want to play. Before we sleep, we want to play, before we… do anything, we want to play. This comes first. This is our life. This is my life. I thank God He put a group like the Commodores together, because this is our life.”

He says it takes that kind of passion to make it in music. If someone asked him about becoming a musician, he would say “NO. DON’T DO IT! No. no. I’m joking, but if you’re not serious about it and can’t treat it like a business, really don’t.”

Orange said he is looking forward to the show in Santiago. “We only see each other when we play, as we are all in different cities. JD is in Las Vegas, William King is in Atlanta, and I’m in Coral Springs.”

“Our music has changed again. We’ve tried to twist again to keep it interesting. If we’re not getting a big bang out of it, we’re not playing it at the show.”

The Commodores: Fiesta Halloween
31 October 2009, 9pm
CP$12,000 to CP$25,000
Teatro Caupolicán
San Diego 850 (between Coquimbo and Copiapo)
Metro Universidad de Chile (9 blocks from metro)
Phone: 699-1556
http://www.commodoreslive.com
Tickets available via Ticketmaster and Cinehoyts locations

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