Wake Up and Smell the Pomade | Letters | Chicago Reader

Wake Up and Smell the Pomade 

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To the editors:

Perhaps Bill Wyman was correct in his August 27 prereview of the Chris Isaak show at the Chicago Theatre. Maybe Chris Isaak is "a real dumb man's Elvis . . . waiting expectantly for the multiplatinum seller. . ." And he has definitely pursued that hit record in the most ass-backwards manner. After all, a smart musician looking for a hit in 1993 would have given up the Roy Orbison song stylings in favor of something more Eddie Vedderesque. A smart musician would have ditched the sleek design of pompadour and sharkskin suits for the more proper and with-it overalls and dreadlocks of Arrested Development. But not dumb old Chris. He's still wearing the same damn clothes, playing the same damn Gretsch guitar, and writing and singing the same kind of songs that made his debut disc, Silvertone, such a moody killer back in 1985!!!

"Wicked Game" became a hit single almost by accident. A disc jockey in Florida (I believe) heard the instrumental version in the film Wild at Heart and dug up the vocal track from Chris's album "Heart Shaped World" (an album that was nearly 18 months old at the time and albeit forgotten by Chris, his people, and Warner Records). Yeah, the Chris Isaak camp was really fighting for that hit record.

As for the charge that Chris used to have a "steamy, hardworking club band"--with the exceptions of the replacement of guitarist and cowriter James Calvin Wilsey and the addition of sax maniac Johnny Reno for live shows, Chris Isaak has had the exact same band since Silvertone was released.

Admittedly, Chris Isaak is no guitar-bashing, sociopolitical prophet of disaffected youth. I don't think he ever set out to be one. He's just a fairly good-looking guy who manages to shave and comb his hair off his face before the picture is taken. Being the pleasant and humorous interview subject that he is just might be the necessary grease for the publicity machines too.

Wake up and smell the pomade, Bill. He's just an entertainer who happens to be very entertaining. I have never attended a Chris Isaak show that didn't leave people smiling and dancing (but wait, perhaps that's a bad thing to happen at a rock show in this decade of doom). The fact that it took him seven years of doing that Chris Isaak-Rick Nelson-Jack Webb-Commissioner Gordon thing before the rest of us caught on only proves to me (a really, really dumb man's Elvis in my own right) that he is tapped into that eternal pipeline of Cool.

PS: I can hardly wait for those five-CD, boxed-set retrospectives of Naughty by Nature and Radiohead that I just KNOW I'll be seeing in the year 2013.

Ken Mottet

W. Belle Plaine

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