J. Geils is gone. When I tell people that the J. Geils band was my favorite rock act of the '70s, they are somewhat puzzled. And every obit describes them as the band who did 'Centerfold,' indeed their biggest hit by a way. But by the time they got there, in the '80s, they were a pretty different act than 10 years before. I do think of that song as a novelty thing, and like a lot of what they did a lot better. When they started out, they were a great blues and basic rock/soul band.
I was already working on blues harp around when their first album came out ('70; I was 12), and Magic Dick blew me away, let's say. And also he was the featured instrumentalist an an arena-filling rock band. I remember I auditioned later for a band that was doing Kiss covers and suchlike, and Magic Dick was the only possible reason they could even conceive having a harmonica in a group like that. On the other hand, rock harp didn't get that far, and there is no harmonica on 'Centerfold.' This is insane:
They were kind of tasteless at many times - intentionally - in their stage personae and repertoire: Peter Wolf would wear that tux with a dollar sign, and roll through sort of Wolfman-Jack raps on stage which at times...weren't that great. 'First I Look at the Purse' became their theme song, more or less. They presented themselves as a crass American rock band. But I am telling you they could handle blues and soul-type styles as well as any white people ever, and pushed the boundaries of those forms a bit too.
Few bands have ever poured out more energy onstage. I did think of them as America's Rolling Stones. Every album after the first four (J. Geils Band, Morning After, Live: Full House, and Bloodshot) was a very mixed bag, but with really good moments. Dick continued to innovate: over and over he brought sounds out of the harmonica that had never been heard, playing with wah-wah pedals and phase shifters, among other things. They struggled financially through the whole decade, and I think made a conscious decision finally to see how many records they could sell. Can't really blame a band for that.