Jun 212011

I’m far from a Pat Travers fan, but I really dig his live version of “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights).” It’s from Live! Go for What You Know. Real catchy title, right? It’s an average blues boogie that 1,000 other bands probably play, or there are 1,000 similar songs you could play instead. Their version is kind of sludgy and proggy, so there isn’t a lot going for it yet. Regardless, when this live version came out in 1979, I found it a huge FM radio treat. I really enjoy how well the audience holds up their end. I love how each time Pat hits the payoff line Boom Boom, he guides the crowd with a “right here,” “what is it?” and  the audience hits it mark perfectly with a clear and clean “Out go the lights!” Maybe they all got together beforehand to practice. I asked the audience if they had room for another member, but they never got back to me.

What other songs come to mind where the live version is far superior to the studio version? Any others where the crowd energy or participation gets a big part of the credit?


  85 Responses to “Rock and Roll Travers-ty”

  1. I like both versions — but The Who’s live version of Won’t Get Fooled Again on The Kids Are Alright soundtrack and film just rocks. I was a teenager when it came out and this album was introduction to all things Who.


  2. chickenfrank, in all the years we’ve talked, played…sweated music is it possible we’ve never shared our love for this Pat Travers live treat? Like you, I was excited beyond reason to hear this song on the radio. I could hear Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘n Roll” any day. In Philadelphia in the ’70s, “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)” was special, up there with J. Geils Band’s “Just One Last Kiss” (I think that was the title) and other near deep cutz that were once part of FM programming. Anyhow, considering all the semi-ridiculous songs we’ve threatened to or actually covered, I’m surprised this one’s never come up. Can we quickly rebuild our audience and get them over for a few practices?

  3. As for your question, the Rock ‘n Roll Animal version of “Sweet Jane,” while not necessarily “better” than the original VU version (the vinyl version, without the restored middle eight), is at least as iconic. In the right circumstances it can even be preferable. I’m sure I’m not the only dude to have grown up learning that version well before the studio version.

    The first crowd participation song that comes to mind is Little Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips.” Doesn’t the crowd even manage to laugh on cue for the benefit of the song?

  4. tonyola

    The studio version of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me’ is a fun little power-pop song. The version on Cheap Trick at Budokan has real drive and fire to it, plus there’s the cute way that the band gets “cry…cry…cry” from the Japanese audience.

  5. bostonhistorian

    The almost nine minute live version of the VU’s “What Goes On” from 1969: Velvet Underground Live Volume 1 kills the studio version. It shouldn’t: the drums (drum?) sound like an aluminum screen door being beaten with a wooden spoon, the organ line belongs at a roller rink for meth addicts, but the guitar is some of the most inspired playing I’ve ever heard and fills out everything the studio version hints at.

    Mr. Mod: you’re in Paris?

  6. mockcarr

    The Who are pretty good for this, almost every live version of A Quick One out there is better than the studio one.

  7. Almost everything by the Band sound better on their live albums.

  8. tonyola

    It depends. If you mean Rock of Ages, unquestionably. The Last Waltz? I’m not so sure about that.

  9. I agree — Pat faded quickly, but I think it was just a treat to hear something different on FM rock stations in the late 70s, early 80s. I have a similar feeling about George Thorogood’s “Move It On Over.” Both are covers that are just different than a lot of classic rock.

  10. I’m a pretty big Wilco fan, but always disliked “A Ghost Is Born” The live versions of these songs on “Kicking Television” are some of my favorite.

    “Rock And Roll All Night” the live version is superior

    “Coming Up” the live / band version is better than the one-man-band studio version, same with “Maybe I’m Amazed”

    I always pick the “Live 75-85” version of Born In The USA over the studio verison. It’s a huge recording. the stadium sounds big (the broooce’s are echoey), the drums are huge, the speakers shake, even at normal volume and they go into some trippy noise jam in the middle

  11. Not yet, bostonhistorian – my wife and I leave tomorrow afternoon. I know what you’re thinking: I’m pretty sure my wife’s not going to want to visit Morrison’s grave, but for humorous purposes I may need to make a solo visit.

  12. I’m a pretty big Wilco fan, but always disliked “A Ghost Is Born” The live versions of these songs on “Kicking Television” are some of my favorite.

    We reach!

    “Coming Up” the live / band version is better than the one-man-band studio version

    No, no, no!!

  13. bostonhistorian

    Have you been there before? I have a few recommendations.

  14. I’m not a fan of live recordings. I own many, but the truth of the matter is that I never listen to any of them -with one exception -James Brown Live at the Apollo Vol.I. His version of “I’ll Go Crazy” on Vol. 1 is far superior than the studio recording, which is fairly mundane.

    E. Pluribus

  15. I think The Last Waltz performances are pretty great too. The second Band album is one of my Top 3 favorite albums – few live performances top those dry studio versions, if you ask me, but I agree that many of their other studio recordings are topped on various live albums. For instance, nothing beats the version of “The Weight” with The Staples Singers, even if it’s not exactly live (it was recorded at a rehearsal for the gig).

  16. I always liked the version of “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” on the “Live Stiffs” album over the studio version. It was the closer on that Stiff package tour, and everyone on the tour plays on it, not just Ian & The Blockheads. I wish there was a better quality print of the Stiff Tour Film around, but this will give you the general idea: http://youtu.be/6TLac5S3evs

    Sloppy, sweaty, drunken fun! (Of course EC was still milking his “angry young man” persona, which is apparent in the clip.)

  17. misterioso

    First, the whole notion of Pat Travers’ version of this cracks me up for some reason. I certainly remember it well from heavy play on WCOZ (“Kick-Ass Rock and Roll!”) in Boston in the late 70s/early 80s. I don’t remember it with affection, but no matter. It epitomizes a certain something…anyway. I was just thinking about this the other day because I heard the Little Walter version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XagQ3owbBEM

    But am I remembering wrong or isn’t there a much longer live version in which Travers basically walks the crowd through what they’re supposed to do (“when I go ‘boom boom’ you say ‘out go the lights'”) for what seems like 15 minutes?

    Mod or someone mentioned J. Geils, a big part of my Boston-area radio listening back in the day, and most Geils songs are better in their live versions, Must of Got Lost being one obvious example, complete with Peter Wolf rap at the beginning.

  18. I could look it up, but it’s more fun to speculate: Where the hell did Pat Travers come from? To me it seemed he debuted with his live album. How did he even have a crowd ready to play along with his song? I’m pretty sure he wasn’t in Spooky Tooth and I’m pretty sure he’s not actually the well-respected guitarist from Procol Harum who has a similar name…what is that guy’s name? Did Travers establish his “rep” in some poor man’s version of Mahagony Rush?

  19. “‘Coming Up’ the live / band version is better than the one-man-band studio version, same with ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’”

    Ewww, no. Both live songs have ragged, hoarse singing as if Paul was having trouble with the high notes. Not only that, “Coming Up” is rushed – listen to the horn players struggling with the fill lines. “Maybe I’m Amazed” has a hokey tacked-on ending.

  20. I listen to very few live recordings these days. The whole “live” album thing seem to be pretty much over . . . or maybe it’s just because I’m older, but it seems that nobody really cares about the release of a live album — unless it’s archived stuff (i.e. Neil Young’s new live album).

    I remember when Clapton’s Just One Night came out — there was a special full-album “midnight” playing on our local rock stations and I taped it — thinking I was saving the $9.99 or whatever it was. I always thought he did a searing version of After Midnight on that album.


  21. It also got lots of airplay on Orlando’s Zeta7 FM station around 1978 or so. There was a longer instructional version but it was rarely played. I always thought of “Boom Boom” as being a dumb and rote crowd-pleaser song. Hearing some 40-year old-engineer shouting “Boom boom out go the lights” around our office absolutely ruined any minimal appeal that the song had for this impressionable kid.

  22. After the live album came out, I bought his older “Puttin It Straight” album and buddy bought his next album Crash and Burn — then I think I started listening to only New Wave.

    Check the cover of Puttin It Straight

    I think he was a bigger star in his native Canada?

  23. Travers and his band got an initial boost by opening for Rush on their tours. After “Boom Boom” he had a couple more minor singles like “Snortin’ Whiskey and Drinkin’ Cocaine” and “Crash and Burn”. That was pretty much it for Travers. Robin Trower was the Procol guitarist.

  24. misterioso

    Exactly, I always figured he was in….one of those bands who I think all sound alike but in fact don’t. But maybe he wasn’t.

  25. misterioso

    Right, Snortin’ Whiskey and Drinkin’ Cocaine. I think about that one every once in a while. That seems to me almost as stupid as rock is capable of being.

  26. ladymisskirroyale

    We have quite a few live albums that are enjoyable to listen to: Portishead at Roseland, Spirtualized at Albert Hall, Hendrix at Woodstock, “Dumb” by Nirvana, Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Two Tribes” (ha ha). But in general, the live recordings seem to have less than desirable sound quality. All those records are great, but are they better than the studio versions? In general, if at all possible, I would prefer to see the musicians live rather than hear live recordings – Yo La Tengo is a band that I love to see live because they have great stage presence and energy, and sound so much better than on the records.

    Mr. Royale just checked the library and chimed in that Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover” is one heck of a great live song, and that all those screaming women added a lot to the fever of his music.

  27. Pissing away good money on a “Live” record never made sense to me. When I open my wallet, I want quality, i.e. the very best that an artist can give, regardless of how many overdubs it takes to achieve that. Artifice doesn’t affect my judgement in the least.

    I buy and sell a lot of records. I’m always amazed at the massive sales of “Get Yer Ya Yas Out” by the Stones. It’s frightening to think about the type of animal, vegetable, or mineral who actually prefers the workouts on that LP to the studio tracks. Those people are indeed out there. Most of them live in Norheast Philadelphia where post Arthur Kinks and post Sell Out Who still reign supreme.

  28. I tried that once – BAD idea!

    Yes, Trower is the guitarist I frequently confuse with Travers.

  29. trigmogigmo

    Yes! There are several songs on that live album that work better than the studio versions. The studio just stripped a little of the raw energy out of “Need Your Love”, for example.

    Interesting trivia: that DVD is from the first night at Budokan, and the album is from the second night. That’s why there are all sorts of little differences in the two versions of the songs. In the case of IWYTWM, the spoken intro and the final guitar lick are most obvious.

  30. I can handle Ya-Ya’s but I remember being horrified as a kid by Love You Live. I wondered how they could put that out.

  31. trigmogigmo

    PS – Coincidentally – I don’t know much about Pat Travers, but I believe I saw him open for Cheap Trick on two tours back in that time frame.

  32. 2000man, another RTHer, I believe, is a a fan of that as well as “Still Life” and the other 432 live Stones LPs/CDs that have been released since “Tattoo You” their last gasp that didn’t smell like a cesspool. I’d like to get his take on “Love You Live”. He’s somehow able to defend anything that comes out of the band’s collective hiny. Maybe he’s too busy these days writing his “History oof Rock and Roll Through a Rolling Stones’ Fan’s Lens”. I have yet to see a single page of the thing, but its supposedly in the works. Let me know if you hear anything about the opus. I haven’t been on the site for some time.

    E. Pluribus

  33. Plurbs, I agree it’s not often that a live version is better than the studio one. That’s why I find live versions that are better a rare treat. JB was always good live because the band could never afford to have an off night.

    Won’t get Fooled, Quick One – yup, agree.

    Sweet Jane – It’s hard to do a bad version of that great a song, so it’s hard to judge which is better. It’s always good.

    What Goes On – Yes! That version from Max’s is transcendent.

    Stiffs – Yes. Also, I Knew the Bride. I think that song ONLY works well live.

    J Geils – Yes! Blanking on the title, but that instrumental one with Magic Dick blowing like a maniac is really good live.

    I Want You to Want me is the other one where the crowd gets a big piece of the credit. That’s always intrigued me because I don’t think that “cry” response is even on the studio version. Am I wrong? It’s like the crowd just made it up.

  34. misterioso

    Whammer Jammer. Or, as they say in these parts, Whamma Jamma. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WwB4bLwbWE

  35. Almost all J. Geils, for that matter.

  36. BigSteve

    That reminds me, the version of Larry Wallis’ Police Car on Live Stiffs is a hundred times better than the studio version.

  37. I’m heading to Paris and northern France in August so recommendations (and directions to graves) are welcome

  38. BigSteve

    I despised this kind of mindless boogie music when it was popular, and listening to the posted clip does not change my mind one bit. Dreadful, especially the drumming. The Little Walter version is genius. The Travers version is indeed a travesty.

  39. mockcarr

    I think the excuse rock has in regards to this is similar to jazz groups, if you have a song that opens up a bit to ideas later on, or you feel like was produced improperly for some reason, a live version can easily be better.

  40. Excluding things where you only hear the live version (Frampton, Cheap Trick) I would say the 2 live songs on U2’s Wide Awake in America are superior to their studio counterparts. The definitive versions of quite a few Grateful Dead songs like “Jack Straw”, “Brown Eyed Women”, etc are found on Europe ’72.

    Good call on “A Quick One” and Nirvana Unplugged ..

  41. mockcarr

    I only know that “live” version of MC5’s Kick Out The Jams – I suspect it HAS to be better than the studio one.

  42. misterioso

    The U2 observation is excellent: both Bad and A Sort of Homecoming, especially the latter, are far, far superior to the album versions.

  43. tonyola

    What’s funny is that Rolling Stone magazine praised Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out to the skies. Oh wait, Lester Bangs wrote that review. That automatically makes the opinion suspect, but then there are people those who think that anything Lester recommended must be absolutely terrific.

    If you want truly appalling live Stones, may I suggest Got Live If You Want It?

  44. hrrundivbakshi

    Sorry I can’t join in the Gergley reach-around on this one. Who on Earth would find the studio version of “Midnight Rambler” better than the one on “Ya-Yas”? I have also long thought that the Ya-Ya versions of “Live With Me” and “Stray Cat Blues” were better. That is not a sucky album!

  45. But this isn’t JUST mindless boogie music, it’s that rare Canadian Texas boogie: Boom Boom OUWT Go the Lights.

  46. trigmogigmo

    I always thought that Zevon’s live version of “Mohammed’s Radio” on Stand in the Fire was superior to the one on his debut eponymous album. There’s also something great about the solo acoustic version of “The Indifference of Heaven” on the live Learning to Flinch that I prefer to the one on Mutineer, though that may be because I heard the live version first.

  47. Love You Live is pretty bad. I like Ya-Ya’s it’s so damn ragged. That Midnight Rambler is way better than the studio version.

  48. BigSteve

    I liked the El Mocambo side of Love You Live, especially that version of Bo Diddley’s Cracking Up.

  49. Speaking of El Mocambo, how about all those live versions of My Aim is True you can get. Many of those songs kick major ass with the Attractions getting their turn.

  50. ladymisskirroyale

    Where are we with Peel Sessions? Are they considered live enough? There are plenty of Peel Sessions that I love and contain better songs than the studio versions. Case in point – Pixies, PJ Harvey.

  51. Hey Hrundi,

    Just for the record, “Midnight Rambler” is, was, and always will be a turd. Album filler at best. Using it as an example of a superior live recording is absurd. Why not suggest that Three Dog Night’s “Freedom for the Stallion” is more moving live as well.

    “Live with Me” and “Stray Cat Blues” are better on Ya Ya’s? Please.

    Nothing much has changed. It is clearly apparent that your beloved values from your holy trinity of rock (Prince, Elo, and ZZ Top) continue to color your godawful taste in popstuffs.

    E. Pluribus

  52. The Peel Sessions is a good question. Those are live, but recorded in a studio, right? No chance for the audience to contribute to the excitement unless John is giving a lot of “Go, man, Go!’s. Lots of good versions come out of those sessions though.

    And, The Last Waltz by The Band is NOT a real live album. I’ve laughed at this many times. If so inclined, watch this clip of Further on Up the Road and keep your eyes on Danko. Check out 1:55ish and 2:40 to 2:50. If what I hear coming out of the speakers is what he’s playing on stage, I’ll eat Ronnie Hawkins’ hat.


  53. Big deal, so they overdubbed a few parts. Name a live album that didn’t do that. Most importantly not a single FACE was overdubbed!

  54. Man, 3:50 to 4:00. I rest my case. He gets one hell of a walking bass line out of one note on the bass.

  55. True! I like Robbie’s first solo where he looks like a dog after you feed him peanut butter.

    Bon Voyage, Mnsr. Mod. Enjoy all that great French rock and roll.
    Oh, right. Sorry.

  56. tonyola

    The Last Waltz is by any standard a fine live album where everyone is trying hard to give one big professional sendoff to a semi-legendary group. And that’s the problem with it. Everyone involved is so smooth, respectful, and filled with brotherly love that it’s no longer much fun. If I want to hear live Band, I’ll put on Rock of Ages. That one has some real spunk to it.

  57. The single note bass line must have sounded too dull for a 3 chord song. you would think they would try to avoid shots of the bass playing totally diferent notes though. Plenty of live records contain many overdubs. Kiss and Cheap Trick have both basically admitted that their live albums are not very live at all. When Live 75-85 came out, the Springsteen bootleg collectors all cried foul when songs had new guitar solos or ran shorter than the version on the bootlegs. I think the Backstreets they used was from a radio broadcast and had “Drive All Night” in an early form as the bridge. It’s just plain edited out.

  58. Hey Chickenfrank,

    I thought of another instance in which live is much better than the studio fare. The Who appeared on an early Ready, Steady, Go episode and ripped through “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”. I think the clip is also featured in “The Kids are Alright”. Qualitywise, It’s right up there with James Brown’s reworked live Apollo “I’ll Go Crazy”.

    As far as “The Last Waltz” is concerned, much ado about nothing, which is readily apparent during the intereview segments with the band. Simply put, they’re not interesting people. And there’s also an unearned arrogance about Robertson that’s eerily similar to Ray Manzarek. They’re both unbearable as soon as they open their mouths to monologue.

  59. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, Plurbie — as usual, I’m going to ignore your attempts to set my ball hair on fire. I will say, in a complete non-sequitur, that I have been skunked — SKUNKED — for months in the thrift-store/junkyard/flea market vinyl department. It’s like the vinyl gods are taunting me. The other day I ran into a huge stack of dead mint 60s pop obscurities — picture sleeves, everything — in a Goodwill. Seemed obvious a collector died and they dumped his collection there. I thought I had stumbled onto the motherlode, and bought a big pile of it to take home and investigate. All of this stuff was both worthless *and* godawful. The only pieces I remember were singles by a godawful group called the Honeycombers and multiple copies of “My Name Is Jack” by the Manfred Mann Band. Anyway, it was dogshit. It’s been *months* since I ran into anything amazing. You bug me sometimes, but you’re still my vinyl guru, and I thought you should know.

  60. BigSteve

    Speaking of The Band, there is a studio take of Don’t Do It. It must have been a single. It wasn’t on any of their canonical albums, but it’s come out on reissues etc. The live version that opens Rock of Ages is a million times better and is probably the best example of the group really letting loose and rocking out. For years I bought into the myth that they opened up that set with it, just came out and blew everybody’s hair back. Later it was revealed that that song was played somewhere in the middle of the set, but they thought it would make a great opening track for the album. Damn.

  61. Steve,

    God bless your doglike digestive system. Mine can only find 3 nutrients in their entire catalog: “The Weight”, “Up on Cripple Creek” and “Dixie”. Everything else makes its way right into the large intestine where it is eventually dumped into the crapper.

    E. Pluribus

  62. misterioso

    Golly, this is a real “wind beneath my wings” moment…

    Now, let’s cue up that kick-ass Herman’s Hermit’s live album and rock out, guys! High five!

  63. misterioso

    A thousand apologies for the extra apostrophe: Herman’s Hermits not Hermit’s.

  64. As you know, I feel your near-complete dismissal of The Band’s second album is your greatest flaw as a human being. I loves ya, brother, but this will weigh on my mind as our plane flies over the Atlantic tonight. Godspeed.

  65. The French make my stomach turn. Their only real contribution to anything worthwhile is the space they provided for the Stones for tax evasion, drug consumption, and the recording of “Exile” which is the ultimate statement of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.”

    I defy anyone to name one other thing they’ve ever done that induces real tears or goosebumps.

    I am waiting. . . .I am waiting,

    E. Pluribus

  66. BigSteve

    They colonized Canada, which eventually led to the birth of The Band.

  67. mockcarr

    They produced Brigitte Bardot, who doubtless provided onanistic material for the Beatles.

  68. hrrundivbakshi

    Some good movies in the 60s. Rock contributions? There’s one French band I like, Tahiti 80 — but since they emerged after 1982, you’d doubtless hate them and all they stand for.

  69. Acceptable contributions so far:

    1) Provided location for the Stones for tax evasion, drug consumption, and the recording of “Exile” which is the ultimate statement of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll”

    2) Brigitte Bardot

    God bless, Mock Carr. You always manage to remind me of buried treasures.

    E. Pluribus

  70. Good cheese and women shaving their armpits.

  71. hrrundivbakshi

    How about the fact that the French have always been good audiences for worthy artists who both do — Beatles, Kinks, Stones, etc. — and don’t — innumerable black jazz cats, forgotten soul artists, rockabilly dudes, etc. — get respect from American audiences.

  72. Acceptable contributions so far:

    1) Provided location for the Stones for tax evasion, drug consumption, and the recording of “Exile” which is the ultimate statement of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll”

    2) Brigitte Bardot

    3) Good cheese

    4) Respect for great American music not appreciated at home.

  73. tonyola

    They are partly responsible for Gong, whose Radio Gnome trilogy (Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg, and You) stands as some of the greatest prog rock ever created.

  74. 2000 Man

    Ya Ya’s is hardly live, and may be the most overdubbed record this side of a Steely Dan album, but it’s a great record. It just is.

    Gergs, I can defend some of the Stones live albums, and Love You Live has the wonderful side 3 from the El Mocambo Club on it. anyone that says they don’t wish they were there that night is either full of shit or a Celine Dion fan.

    Live Stones bootlegs are a whole ‘nother beasty. The 72-73 tours are great, coked up, wild shows. The Street Fighting Man from Wembley 73 is probably the point where every other band could have just gave up and said, “Well, that’s what we wanted to say with these guitars, but it’s already been said.” i’m glad they didn’t, but I would have understood.

    That Shine a Light concert and the one before it suck pretty hard. I can’t really defend those. i could try, but no one would believe me.

  75. 2000 Man

    Oh, rock can get a whole lot more stupid, but is that supposed to be a bad thing?

  76. 2000 Man

    I like that Sadies live one from a few years back, where the second disk has all their friends, like The Last Waltz. I lsiten to that a lot.

  77. 2000 Man

    Dude, get your face outta the bong.

  78. 2000 Man

    I like their toast, with maple syrup.

  79. Jerry Lee Lewis – “Live at The Star Club” – Best versions of those songs, best live Rock & Roll album, and one of the best Rock & Roll albums, period. Pretty sure there was no overdubbing involved, either.

    Also, if you can listen to this version of “Midnight Rambler” from The Stones ’73 tour and tell me it’s a turd, I will tell you that you are an idiot: http://youtu.be/qwmlwtXWfFQ

  80. BigSteve

    Btw I noticed an ad today for Pat Travers playing here in KC in a couple of weeks, so the guy’s still out there doing it. I wonder if he still sounds the same.

  81. Hey Bobby,

    Correct if I’m wrong, but isn’t the Star Club in Germany? What’s the French Conncection?

    Hope to hear from you soon,
    E. Pluribus

  82. misterioso

    How could he not? I’ll bet you a gazillion dollars he does “Boom Boom, Out Go the Lights.”

  83. I was just posting another comment in response to the main topic, not the Franco-defending sidebar.

    I do think Metal Urbain was a pretty good punk rock band, though.

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