From the Stacks

From The Stacks: Barooga Bandit, ‘Come Softly’

 

If you’re going to be a footnote in music history, go out swinging with a cheesecake album cover.

Barooga Bandit was a Detroit band that came up in the same scene that produced Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. We can assume that the two bands were friendly. Most bands in a local scene are, after all, and besides: Silver Bullet members Drew Abbott, Charlie Martin, and Alto Reed make appearances on Come Softly. In fact, saxophonist Reed co-produced the album with Punch Andrews, who produced several Bob Seger albums.

The connections don’t end there. Bob Seger fan site The Seger File claims that the original sleeve for Seger’s 1976 album Night Moves featured a color photo of a young model’s ass poking out of a pair of a Levi’s cutoffs, a ribbon tied around her finger presumably to remind her to cut them a bit longer next time. For whatever reason, the band or the label (or both) chose a rather staid portrait of Seger for the final album cover. If not for that last minute change, photographer Thomas Weschler’s cheeky portrait would have sold six million copies.

Night Moves was released by Capitol Records, as was Come Softly, so maybe the label’s in-house art department pitched Weschler’s outtakes to the Baroogas. More likely, though, is that the band knew the photographer, as Weschler had been active in the Detroit music scene since the late ’60s not only as a photographer but as a roadie for Seger. Regardless, it’s clear that the two photos are from the same shoot. The photo on the back cover of Come Softly was taken by Tom Bert, who snapped all of the pictures for Night Moves including the aforementioned final cover.

As for the music; well, it’s okay. The playing is competent and the production is fine, but the songs themselves are uneventful album-oriented rock circa 1979. Imagine the rock band on an episode of Quincy or Barnaby Jones and you’ve imagined Barooga Bandit. Here’s a taste:

These days Come Softly may be no more than an album for Seger completists and fans of cheesecake covers, but there’s even more to Barooga Bandit’s “footnote to musical history” story. On December 13, 1980, the band was booked to headline a gig at Boston’s Paradise Theater. Their opening band that night had only been in the U.S. for a week, having played their first ever American show at the Ritz in New York City on December 6. The guitarist from that band later wrote:

Our show in Boston was a real surprise for us because we opened for a band called Barooga Bandit in a cramped little club and noticed we were getting a particularly good reaction. We left the stage feeling incredible because the audience was so enthusiastic. Then we went back down to check out Barooga Bandit, only to find that everyone had left. It was then we realized they had come to see us.

That’s how the Edge remembers that night in the book U2 by U2.  Keeping in mind that Barooga Bandit played Seger-like FM rock, it’s no wonder that the U2 crowd split as soon as the lads were through. They came for fresh, new, Irish post-punk, not Midwestern flared jeans jamming.

Barooga Bandit: The band that U2 blew off the stage; the guys who were buds with the Bob Seger camp. If you’re going to be a rock and roll footnote, you could do a lot worse.

You can buy your own copy of Come Softly for 3-5 bucks, which isn’t much considering the cool story you’ll get to tell while you’re spinning it. Happy hunting.

 

Categories: From the Stacks, Music

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