The summer of 1996 was a strange time in my life… I was about six months into my return to Chicagoland after a four-year stint living in Iowa, performing in a band that was now long-distance, working a not-great job, and just about 12 months away from my first date with the woman whom I married to today. You remember things by the soundtrack, an part of my soundtrack that year was HOT, the breakthrough album by the SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS. On the CD shelves in my office here at Rock Father HQ, I still have my original copy of that album, along with some that followed, including PERENNIAL FAVORITES and CHRISTMAS CARAVAN (a modern Xmas classic). The “20th Anniversary Reissue” is a phenomenon that always serves to make me feel a tad more vintage, and that’s what happened last night when the folks at Disney hit my inbox with news that HOT was getting the treatment, re-mastered with a bonus track called “The Puffer,” and back on 180-gram vinyl for the first time in a long time. My interest was piqued, particularly by the vinyl – though I have to say I’m not as keen on the touring news that was also included in the email.
While the current touring lineup includes band creator Jimbo Mathus on vocals/guitar and founding member Chris Phillips (recently covered here on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine for his performance with Kindie Rockers, THE SQUEEGEES) on drums, the band in the picture is not the band you remember. In fact, the voice (and songwriter) behind the band’s biggest hit was Tom Maxwell, and he’s long gone, as is Katharine Whalen (Mathus’ ex-wife) who provided the distinct female voice of the band during its most-known era. Over the years, the lineup has seen nearly two dozen members, and that’s something that’s common especially among long-running acts with an extended amount of members (eight or nine at a time here)… but doing an anniversary tour without some of the key players on the album – particularly the voices of the band – doesn’t sit well with me. There’s many bands I dig that have continued performing long after major lineup shakeups, but I take everything on a case-by-case basis, and this seems off to me – especially after checking out some footage on YouTube of SNZ from the 90s vs the last SNZ tour, which sounded like a cover band.
About the reissue and tour, Phillips remarks:
“It’s been a long road folks and the music lives on. We – all of us – thank all of you. This album and the success it found would not have been possible had it not been for the tireless and endlessly imaginative work of so many team members. This includes the folks at Mammoth Records, the many musicians who graced this album and the band, the amazing road crew, family and friends. Most of all, it would not have meant a thing without you, our loyal fans.”
See what the Squirrel Nut Zippers are up to at http://www.snzippers.com/