Georgia Satellites are owners of one fluke hit from their self-titled debut album – a Chuck Berry-ish throwback-for-the-80s radio. One song amidst their bucket of barroom rockers. Those songs don’t come around Top 40 too often anymore. The “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” or “Jealous Again” type of songs are outliers. So is “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”. It rocketed all the way to #2 on the top 40 singles chart in early 1987. Bon Jovi kept them out of the top spot with “Livin’ on a Prayer”.
And why do I still think about the band? They really weren’t anything new. But they did put together a flash of a career – though the band name lives on with guitarist Rick Richards – with some of the best dueling guitars of the 1980’s. Again, we go back to the bar band label. It was an easy label to paste on them – to call the band an 80’s version of the great 70s rockers, The Faces. Hell, they even covered “Every Picture Tells a Story”.
They played rock and roll that was a blast of scraping guitars, big drums and a vibe that bridged the decades before the Black Crowes would make a similar move around 1990. The Crowes ended up making a career last – off and on – for 25 years. For the Georgia Satellites? They opened on a couple big tours, played a whole lot of bars and then splintered right around 1990.
What is their legacy? Why a podcast about a retro band than was not around long enough to have a second big hit? That’s what we dive into. How the Georgia Satellites predated country radio rock that would come just a bit after their time, and end up as an influence for lots of bands – or at least make those bands believe there was a path to a crunching rock and roll career. Bands like Cross Canadian Ragweed. The Bottle Rockets. Blackberry Smoke. Singer Dan Baird went on to a solo career and formed a couple really good bands, including Dan Baird and Homemade Sin.
One of their best tours was a triple bill in 1987 with Del Fuegos and Tom Petty. They also opened for Bob Seger in 1986 on his American Storm Tour for their first time on arena stage. Dan Baird has said that Bob made sure they had full house lights, house sound, everything the headliner would get. He knew what an opener needed. He was one for years.
Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis talks about living in Atlanta in the early 1980s, “The Satellites were like the city’s house band.” They made it into America’s consciousness, at least for one song and a few years more for fans of the band. They brought it live. Loud. Righteous. I say worth remembering one more time.
They have a new – recorded in 1988 – live album out now that gives us a taste of what made them so good. Lightnin’ In A Bottle. Seems like a good time now to rewind and salute a band that was better than they ever got credit for. Of course, if you saw them live, you knew.
I did, and I do.
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