Chances are you know the name Michael Des Barres, but just exactly how most likely depends on your entry point. If you’ve read I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie, then you know him as the ex-husband of Miss Pamela, Pamela Des Barres. If you’re a devout fan of ’70s rock, then you know him as the frontman of cult-fave bands Silverhead and Detective. If you’re a TV aficionado, you know him as Murdoc from MacGyver — and maybe even as Dog, the nattily dressed lead singer of fictional punk band Scum of the Earth from an all-time classic October 1978 episode of WRKP in Cincinnati. And if you’re a dedicated listener of Little Steven’s Underground Garage, Channel 21 on SiriusXM satellite radio, then you’re probably quite riveted to the insights, encyclopedic rock & roll knowledge, and cheeky humor he provides between the tracks that spin during his always exhilarating weekday shift. While the man’s far-reaching C.V. is indeed impressive, Des Barres is a musician first and foremost, and all of his killer instincts have converged on The Key to the Universe (FOD Records), his strongest and most consistent record, well, ever. Notes Des Barres, “People go insane for these new songs. It’s so astounding to me, after having not really done anything on this scale in 25 years, that people are responding to them. I think I sound better on this record than I’ve ever sounded.” Recently, I rang up Des Barres, 67, to discuss the sonic philosophy behind The Key, how to avoid including any “twiddly bits,” and finding one’s own voice as an artist. MDB is a true rock & roll survivor who knows how best to overcome adversity and get it on.
And then there were… five? The above photo is no trick of the tale, for you’re indeed seeing the five key members of Genesis — from the top of the stairs down, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, Peter Gabriel, and Mike Rutherford — together again for the first time in many years. No, they’re not reforming, but rather have come together to celebrate the career-spanning documentary Genesis: Sum of the Parts airing on Showtime October 10 (and expected to see home release sometime in November), as well commemorate the September 30 release of R-KIVE (Rhino), a 37-track, three-CD box spanning 42 years of both band and solo material. “I know, who’d have thought there’d be all of this activity at my age?” laughs Mike Rutherford, a mainstay of the band through all of its incarnations. “But when you see all these songs side by side, like ‘Turn It on Again’ with [Collins’] ‘In the Air Tonight,’ [Gabriel’s] ‘Biko,’ and [Mike + The Mechanics’] ‘The Living Years’ — you go, ‘Wow, that’s a great body of songwriting.’ ” Full-bodied, you might even say. Recently, Rutherford, 63, and I talked about the band’s impetus for sound quality, why tracks like “Supper’s Ready” still endure, and what might come next. Play me my song, o musical box.
How do you make a perfect album even more perfect? In the case of Van Morrison’s seminal 1970 neo-rock Caledonian masterpiece Moondance, you compile a 70-track deluxe edition that includes three discs of sessions, outtakes, and alternate mixes, in addition to a separate Blu-ray Audio disc with a long-lost surround sound mix done by one of the album’s original engineers. Yes, as any good Van the Man fan knows, it’s too late to stop now.