America rides in on 'horse with no name'
POSTED: Friday, August 07, 2009
Michael Jackson's recording of "A Place With No Name" is "still on ice," Dewey Bunnell said last weekend, but he and Gerry Beckley—known worldwide as America for almost 40 years—have other projects proceeding on schedule.
It was Friday afternoon for Hawaii, Saturday morning for Bunnell in Manila, where he and Beckley were wrapping up the Asian leg of their current tour before coming to Hawaii. America plays the Blaisdell Arena tonight and Maui tomorrow; a string of mainland dates stretches into October.
The public release of clips of Michael Jackson singing "A Place With No Name," his original adaptation of America's classic, "A Horse With No Name," kindled anticipation that Sony Music would soon release it as the first of what could become a lucrative series of judiciously timed posthumous MJ projects.
Bunnell is "very proud of the fact that (Jackson) recorded it. It's a good version and an interesting derivative of the original that I wrote," but added that he and Beckley are "definitely in the dark" regarding the future of the recordings.
In the meantime, America has a new album, "Live in Concert Wildwood Spring," that Bunnell described as "more of the same but actually a little different. I'm pretty proud of it. ... We put in a few other songs that you can't get in other places."
The duo is also gearing up for the 40th anniversary of "the beginning of the band." Bunnell, Beckley and Dan Peek formed America after they graduated from high school in 1969. Bunnell anticipates that Warner Bros., their first American record label, will release something special to commemorate the anniversary as well.
"We might even get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame," he said.
AMERICA WITH LOCAL OPENERS HAPA
» Where: Blaisdell Arena, 777 Ward Ave.
» When: 7:30 p.m. today
» Cost: $45
» Info: 591-2211 or www.ticketmaster.com
AFTER PEEK left the group in 1977, Bunnell and Beckley decided to continue as a duo. He and Beckley still do "upwards of 100 shows a year."
America rocked the Blaisdell for almost 90 minutes in November 2007 with a set that included all their Top 40 hits, including "Muskrat Love"—which was hugely popular here but stalled at No. 67 on the national charts. Bunnell said that song is one that "comes in and out of the set," but promised to "lobby for it, now that you have mentioned it."
Of course, Hawaii isn't the only place where certain songs are uniquely popular. Bunnell mentioned "two or three songs, particularly some big strong ballads (like) 'All My Life'" that are huge hits and must-do songs when America plays the Philippines.
Another song, "Survival," topped the charts in Italy but didn't chart at all here in the States.
And so, the set list starts with the mega-hits everybody knows—"A Horse With No Name," "I Need You," "Tin Man," "Lonely People" and "Sister Golden Hair," to name five—and selections from America's 2007 album, "Here & Now."
Beyond that, they try to make the right choices in terms of personal favorites and regional hits. In short, some songs fit. Others don't.
"The flow of any set really has a life of its own. That's the one thing we've learned, and you can only really learn that from being on the road for years," said Bunnell. "You start to feel the pulse of the show and our audience reaction. ... There are glaring songs that will just disrupt the flow of the set or change the whole vibe."
Over time they've spotted the songs, and the sequence of songs, that create problems—at least for the people who are there to take in the entire set. Bunnell said there are also people who "just want to scream (for the) entire show, 'Horse With No Name! Horse With No Name!' So be it."
As for the song about a nameless horse that started it all for America—a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Singles chart in 1972—Bunnell confirmed it first saw light with the working title "Desert Song." After Warner Bros. took an interest in the group, it was agreed that a more interesting title was needed.
The group's co-producer felt that the phrase "horse with no name" was the standout lyric—and the rest is history.