Gary James' Interview With Ed Bloom Of
The Rolling Stones Tribute Band
They are Chicago's premier Rolling Stones Tribute Band. They are Hot Rocks. Portraying Mick Jagger in Hot Rocks is Ed Bloom. Ed talked to us about his band and what it's like to pay tribute to Mick Jagger.
Q - I take it Chicago has a lot of Stones fans?
A - Yeah, pretty much so. I wouldn't know how to count 'em, but we do have a following. People come out and they're really dyed-in-the-wool Stones fans. All ages too.
Q - So, how often does this band work?
A - I'd say on average about three times a month. In the Summer we can do eight shows in a month.
Q - So, you're not just playing clubs?
A - No. We do festivals, corporate...two times we've done weddings.
Q - Weddings?
A - (laughs) Weddings, birthday parties.
Q - That must be a riot.
A - Yeah, it is kind of funny. You think the people that hire us would be Stones fans, for a wedding, but usually a lot of people leave early and it's just something that the wedding couple likes. When we have die-hard Stones fans, it works good. They recognize the material. The other day somebody didn't even know who Mick Jagger was. (laughs) I couldn't believe it. Somebody I was talking to. It's like, where have you been? He's known all over the world.
Q - Are you the guy who put this group together?
A - No. The drummer put it together about fifteen years ago, in 1994.
Q - So, what were you doing before then?
A - I worked for the Chicago Park District at that time. And I was an iron worker.
Q - So, you weren't in a band?
A - I was in a band, a little Rhythm 'n' Blues band called Sky Blue.
Q - A club band?
A - Yeah, just small clubs.
Q - Did anyone come up to you and say "Ed, you sort of look like Mick Jagger"?
A - I got a story about that. What happened is, I did a gig on my 50th birthday at a bar called Gamblers, over here on Pulaski and Lawrence. After work, I went in there. My wife had a surprise birthday party for me. All my friends were there. I had no clue. I brought the equipment to play and the guy who's the drummer in my band, it was like a two room bar and he was sitting at the bar and he was thinking of putting a Stones band together. He heard me and said "This guy can do Mick Jagger." That's how it started. He called me up about a year later and said "C'mon down to my basement. We're gonna rehearse." I thought he was out of his mind. (laughs) That's how it happened.
Q - Did you know all the Stones songs?
A - No. I was a Stones fan in the '60s, but I didn't know one song complete. I didn't even know the words to "Satisfaction". I knew, just like everybody else does, the chorus and then you have to work at it to learn the lyrics, learn the material.
Q - How about the dancing?
A - I've watched Mick Jagger on videos and I've seen him live. Me and my wife always used to go dancing when we were younger to the ballrooms, the Rock ballrooms in Chicago, in the '60s, like The Embassy and The Vogue. We were always dancing on Fridays. I was always a dancer who liked Rock 'n' Roll.
Q - Mick is kind of a different type of dancer, isn't he?
A - Yeah. He has his own style, his own movements. I just do the best I can to mimic what he does. I don't know if you've ever noticed, he has an unusual way of walking. I don't know if he does it onstage or regular walk, but when he's onstage, most people walk heel first to the ground. Watch him sometime. He walks toe first. He scampers across the floor like that. Actually at one time he took ballet lessons. That's when his style really started out, in the early days he was very jerky. He jiggled around and jumped around. Now he looks slick.
Q - How many times have you seen The Stones in concert?
A - Oh, I don't know, six or seven times. I didn't go in the early days. First one I went to see was the Voodoo Lounge Tour in '95.
Q - Don't you wish you could've see 'em in '64?
A - I could've. My friend asked me. I could've seen 'em at the Arie Crown. I probably could've got in for $3.00. (laughs) I didn't go. I think he went there a couple of times to see 'em.
Q - Have you ever seen Mick Jagger up close?
A - Just from across the street, in Memphis. I went to see 'em in Memphis at The Pyramid. I met a guy who used to live with The Rolling Stones. His name was Jimmy Phelge. I started palling around with him. He lived with The Rolling Stones before they became famous. He wrote a book called Phelge's Stones. He was just a room mate with 'em. He wrote a pretty good book. I liked his book.
Q - Did everything click for this band from the get-go?
A - Well, we've been through musicians. We've had the hard times. We did a promotional video at a party and when our first gig was gonna happen, the lead guitarist quit 'cause he got married. Then we went through a bunch of musicians. They come and go. We finally got the core back together. At one point there was only two guys left, the keyboard player and me. Then two guys came back later on. This group has been together for eight years now. It's just like a good marriage now, but that's just the way bands go. Not everybody's gonna be compatible.
Q - Even The Stones knew that.
A - Oh, yeah. But it's good now. We're all friends.
Q - That's the way it should be!
A - It doesn't always work out that way, but that's what happened with us.
Q - Did it cost quite a bit of money to get the right equipment and costumes for your show?
A - Yeah, well, the costumes I made myself, second-hand stores. The most expensive costume I put together was like the Voodoo Lounge top hat and tails. I copied that. My wife sewed all the shells on it, decorated it. I copied the pictures I've seen of it. Just regular stuff. I got a wizard outfit that I found one time, and bought the hats when we do some of that "Satanic Majestics Request". And I bought some jackets, a velvet jacket. I got about six or eight costumes. Long coats. Short coats.
Q - How about the white jump suit?
A - No. That's not me. (laughs) The jumpsuits are out for me. I'm like old Mick. (laughs) I'm his age. I'm a month older than Mick.
Q - What was the appeal of Mick Jagger to you?
A - I always liked The Rolling Stones. I bought their first record in 1964. I was always a fan of the Blues and Rock 'n' Roll. I liked Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley And The Comets. I was like thirteen or fourteen years old when "Rock Around The Clock" came out. That beginning of the Rock era was really great, with Jerry Lee Lewis and Rock-a-billy, Rhythm And Blues and then they went to this period when they had all these Bobby Rydells and Fabian. I hated it. Then all of a sudden I was riding in my '56 Buick and I got the radio on. I heard this "Not Fade Away" by...I don't know who it was. An announcer said "This is a new Canadian band." He didn't even know they were from England. I went out the next day and bought "Not Fade Away" by The Rolling Stones and felt Rock 'n' Roll is back! I bought all The Stones' albums, all the way up to "Let It Bleed". I was a real Stones fan.
Q - I can tell.
A - Then, like what happened was, I didn't really think I could do this until this guy picked me out, the drummer in our band, Joe Wejman. He's basically the guy who put it all together when we started.
Q - Rate Mick Jagger as a singer for me.
A - He's fantastic. He's got a style. He's very soulful. It's not just his singing. It's his persona when he puts it on. He can get down and get real gritty and real soulful. The material they write is my generation, regular people. He has his finger on the pulse of what's happening all the time. Him and Keith, it's like a marriage made in Heaven, how they can write all this material. I've found that a lot of people, when they sing these songs, sometimes I articulate them well and they're not even Stones fans and when the music's going they don't catch it, they go "Man, I never really understood what they were singing. The lyrics are great!" And they are great. All these phases they went through from the '60s all the way up to now. Now maybe they're just doing regular Rock 'n' Roll, but back in the '60s they were making statements.
Q - Let's suppose that back in 1962, there was an American Idol. I know this is hard to answer, but what do you think would have happened if Mick Jagger had stepped in front of the judges and started singing?
A - He wouldn't make it. I even have people say The Beatles wouldn't make it. That's a whole different venue. The Stones are street level musicians, like a giant garage band. They write material and put material that the blue-collar worker can identify with. Keith is truly blue-collar. American Idol is more like glamour and glitz, kind of like a Frank Sinatra thing to me. It's all Hollywood and promotion. The Stones are guys that came up from the streets. That's why I can identify with them and a lot of people I run into can identify with that. They're like guys that play in the basement can make it and make great music and have things to say. I think all the other stuff is production, money behind it. I give The Stones a lot of credit 'cause they came up that way. That era was different. I try to explain this to people today. The media is so vast. We have the internet. Everybody's separated. We don't have those core. Back in those days, you had the Top 10. You had to be good to even get recorded back then. Anybody can have a computer. I even recorded myself on a computer. In those days you had to have a special quality even to be considered. I'm not saying there isn't' talent out there today. There's talent there. I explain it this way: When I was a kid, we used to sit on the front porch. I was maybe thirteen or fourteen years old. Got to be 8 o'clock, c'mon in. You gotta go in the house. I go in the house. I watch Jackie Gleason. We had three main stations, ABC, NBC and CBS. So you watch Jackie Gleason. Next day you come out, everybody is sitting there talking about Jackie Gleason. Those days are gone. Now, every kid's got his own computer, his own TV. We're fragmented. It's not the way it was. The Stones are still together because of that era we had. They created this vastness I still see today. There are people that are really gifted and they will make it because they are gifted. But they have to have the right vehicle behind them and the right people have to pick 'em up. It's magic, this business. Another thing is you gotta be free. All this stuff has to do with freedom. The greatest thing you can have is freedom. When I do this, I found out I'm a fairly free person. I enjoy that I can make people happy and make them free for a little while. I say the whole music industry is changed.
It's not the way it used to be.