Craig Allen’s Fun Facts: “Centerfold” by J. Geils Band
While the J. Geils Band formed in the 1960's, they didn't hit their "commercial" stride til the 1970's...and would find their biggest success in the 1980's!
Before the song-specific "Fun Facts," a few band facts:
The band began as an acoustic blues trio, with John Geils on vocals and guitar, Danny Klein on bass, and harmonica player Richard Salwitz.
The band formed under the name 'Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels' while Geils was studying at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
In 1967, the band started to emphasize electric guitar and bass, and recruited drummer Stephen Jo Bladd, and fast-talking former radio personality and singer Peter Wolf (born Peter Blankenfeld).
They became the J. Geils Blues Band...later dropping the word "Blues."
Soon, organist Seth Justman joined the up-and-coming J. Geils Band.
The group signed with the Atlantic Records label in 1970.
Although from Boston, the band had always considered Detroit their second home, due to their enormous popularity in the Motor City. Two of their three live albums were recorded in Detroit!
Their second live album, "Blow Your Face Out" (1976) was recorded in both Boston and Detroit!
The J. Geils Band began to get AM Radio (Top-40) airplay in the early 1970's!
"Must Of Got Lost" is my favorite example of the pre-1980's J. Geils Band! (#12/1975).
Throughout the 1970's, the J. Geils Band attracted special attention for its innovative use of the harmonica as a lead instrument.
Then came the "Decade Of Decadence," and with it more of a "New Wave" sound...and more "Hitradio" success for J. Geils!
"Love Stinks" and "Come Back" barely cracked the Top-40 in 1980.
But then came the "Freeze Frame" album in 1981...which brings us to our spotlight song!
"Freeze Frame" included the monster hit (and one of Jersey's Favorite Hits) "Centerfold" (#1/1982).
"Centerfold" stayed perched atop the Billboard charts for 6 weeks!
It also happened to be the band's only major hit single in England, where it reached #3 in February of 1982.
"Centerfold" was written by the band's keyboard player, Seth Justman.
As a matter of fact, Justman wrote (or co-wrote) all the songs on the "Freeze Frame" album!
The song tells the story of a man who's world is ROCKED!
He had a crush on a sweet and innocent girl in his homeroom in high school.
Years later, he's looking through a "girly magazine," and his crush is the centerfold.
She is no longer the innocent girl in the fuzzy sweater of his dreams (and memories).
He is...disappointed...as his "memory has been sold."
In earlier years, the J. Geils Band chose what songs would be released as singles.
This time, EMI Records insisted that "Centerfold" be the lead single.
The popularity "Centerfold" helped send the "Freeze Frame" album to #1 as well!
The video (above) was directed by Paul Justman, brother of Seth (who wrote the hit song).
The video, showing the guys in the band playing in a classroom full of girls in Catholic School uniforms, was played heavily on MTV.
As I alluded to earlier, "Centerfold" was a musical departure for the band...as they adopted more of a "new wave" sound, similar to that adopted by the "Cars" and "Police."
Seth Justman says there's a reason why we don't hear synthesizers on earlier J. Geils Band songs: They couldn't afford them! Justman says the band was "trapped" in the record company "debt cycle." Meaning, they owed money, despite their success!
More "Fun Facts:"
Besides going to #1...
"Centerfold" earned the J. Geils Band a turn on the road, touring with the Rolling Stones.
It also nabbed them the cover of "Rolling Stone Magazine!"
And, made it easier for future "hits" to find their audience!
For example, the album's title track, "Freeze Frame" landed at #4 on the Hot 100 in 1982.
What happened next? In brief:
The J. Geils Band called it quits in 1985.
But...as we have seen with other 80's bands...that was not really the END...
The J. Geils Band would come out of mothballs...reuniting with Peter Wolf in 1999 for a 13 date tour of the East Coast and upper Midwest.
They reunited for a charity show in 2005.
On May 22, 2006, all six original members had a surprise reunion at bassist Danny Klein's 60th birthday party in Boston.
On July 11, 2009, the J. Geils Band played at Borgata in Atlantic City, selling out Borgata's 2,000-seat Event Center! Were YOU there? Please "chime" in below!!
2010 brought several concert dates...and legal action...with J. Geils suing the individual band members over the use of the name "J. Geils," claiming that they "planned and conspired" to exclude Geils from a tour and (were) unlawfully using the group's trademarked name.
On their 2012 tour, guitarists Duke Levine and Kevin Barry replaced Geils, and the new drummer was Tom Arey.
On May 30, 2013 the J,. Geils Band performed 6 songs as part of the Boston Strong concert in Boston. The concert (as seen in the above video) was a benefit for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
2013 also saw the band as the opening act for Bon Jovi, at select concerts!
In the Fall of 2014, and the following spring (2015), the band was the opening act for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band North America tour!
J. Geils played a few solo shows at this time, as well!
Sadly, John Warren Geils died of natural causes, on April 11, 2017. He was 71.
Happily, the band he formed, lives on...somewhat...
Check out their official website, here!
Did you know that the J. Geils Band has been nominated for Induction in the Rock and Rock Hall Of Fame in 2005, 2006, 2011, 2017, and this year, 2018?
Lastly, "Centerfold" lives on in pop culture...appearing in the movies Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003), The Watch (2012), and Grown Ups 2 (2013). It also appears in episodes of The King of Queens (2000), The Office (2008), and Glee (2013).
And, of course, as one of "Jersey's Favorite Hits" on New Jersey 101.5 and nj1015.com!