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Makin Waves with Glen Burtnik: 'Lava Lamp Nirvana'


By Bob Makin

originally published: 09/25/2023

Makin Waves with Glen Burtnik:

Legendary Jersey rocker Glen Burtnik will bring his Summer of Love Concert to URSB Carteret Performing Arts & Events Center on Oct. 7. PHOTO COURTESY OF GLEN BURTNIK

Glen Burtnik’s Summer of Love isn’t just a concert, it’s a “happening,” an authentic rock festival on one stage celebrating the classic rock ‘n’ soul of the ’60s and ’70s, the music of the Woodstock Generation!

Sixteen dynamic performers comprised of featured vocalists, a horn section, strings, keyboards, background vocalists and an incredible rhythm section are enhanced by an exciting psychedelic lighting and video show. All faithfully recreate the songs and psychedelic spirit of an era that influenced daily life, fashion, attitudes and language in a way few other social movements have. You’ll hear your favorite songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Marvin Gaye, Joe Cocker, Santana, The Temptations, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band, Jefferson Airplane, Curtis Mayfield, The Association, The Turtles, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, Procol Harum, Melanie, Ike & Tina Turner, The Rascals, Chicago, Otis Redding, Sly & the Family Stone, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

The Summer of Love Concert was created by Glen Burtnik, a founding member of the popular Asbury Park band The Weeklings; touring bassist-vocalist with the current version of ELO, The Orchestra, as well as Max Weinberg’s Jukebox; an alumnus of Styx, the Broadway cast of “Beatlemania” (he played Paul), Slaves of New Brunswick, and the Stone Pony mainstays Cats on a Smooth Surface and LaBamba & the Hubcaps; music director of the New Jersey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies; a hit songwriter who penned smashes for Patty Smyth & Don Henley (“Sometimes Love Just Isn’t Enough”) and Randy Travis (“Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man”), and a former A&M solo recording artist.

The following chat with Glen shares the excitement of Summer of Love’s upcoming performance at 8 p.m. on Oct. 7 at URSB Carteret Performing Arts & Events Center. Tickets are $35-$59. For tickets and more info, visit carteretpac.com/events/glen-burtniks-summer-of-love/. For more about Summer of Love, visit summerofloveconcert.com/.



 
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Meanwhile, The Weeklings will perform Oct. 13, South Orange Performing Arts Center; Nov. 3, Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton, and Nov. 24, New Hope Winery. Visit https://weeklings.com/.

When did you form Summer of Love and why?

I am a child of the sixties. I grew up in the Baby Boomer Generation’s era of cultural explosion, which included not only The Beatles, Warhol and the psychedelic movements but also the turmoil of the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggle. The music, art and philosophy of those times were astounding and have stayed with me. I’ll be forever inspired by the optimism of the amazing music that came from the youth culture at that time of such turbulence and social upheaval. The real answer is, my inner, acne-faced goofball 13-year-old Glenny refuses to let go of the blacklight-postered/lava lamp nirvana in my head.

Makin Waves with Glen Burtnik:

Glen Burtnik’s Summer of Love Concert features a star-studded cast of local performers. PHOTO COURTESY OF GLEN BURTNIK

Who’s in the Summer of Love band with you, and what do you enjoy most about performing with each of them?

The large cast is incredibly talented. We have our own ‘Janis Joplin,’ Christine Martucci, who always brings the house down. Classy and commanding singer Freedom Bremner is a friend I look up to. Amazing powerhouse singer-dancer JaQuita May is a force of nature to behold. Drummer Joe Bellia kicks serious ass every single show. Lead guitarist & vocalist Joe LaFragola is solid as a rock and always musically exciting. Working with super showman Remember Jones is an education in itself. The extremely versatile Reagan Richards blows me away every single show. All in the entire cast adore our beautiful violinist-singer Taylor Hope.

The Summer of Love Horns -- John Martin, Tommy LaBella and Rick Brunermer -- are a delight to work with. Bassist-vocalist-music director Vinny Danielle is an old friend and the glue that holds the show together. And I’d be remiss to not note our manager Tony Pallagrosi, stage manager Bob Johnson, drum tech Frank Decker, video artist Mallory Massara, as well as out revolving cast of excellent keyboardists.



 
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It’s really a family of loving, supportive players, all respectful and always pulling for each other. I am blessed to work with each of these wonderful artists.

 

Have you ever played the URSB Carteret Performing Arts & Events Center before? If so, what do you think of it? If not, what are you looking forward to?

Yes! I’ve played with Max Weinberg and really enjoyed it. It’s a great new theater, a well-designed space with very good acoustics.

 

Besides the Carteret show, what’s coming up for Summer of Love into the New Year?

More shows, more psychedelia, more flower power, more celebration of the exciting pop music of the late sixties and more peace and love.

Makin Waves with Glen Burtnik:

Glen’s band, The Weeklings, are working on their fourth album. From left to right are John Merjave, Joe Bellian, Glen, and Bob Burger. PHOTO BY MUFF

Out of the thousands of New Jersey musicians I’ve written about during the past 43 years, you take the prize for having played in the most best bands: Beatlemania, Cats on a Smooth Surface, Christmas Extravaganza, Slaves of New Brunswick, Styx, The Weeklings, Summer of Love. Did I leave anything out?

Sheesh. Well, thank you for that prize! The list is long. My time in LaBamba & The Hubcaps was pretty integral for me. And I’ve been musical director for the New Jersey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies for a number of years. I play bass with Max Weinberg’s Jukebox, and I still write, record and perform my own music now and then. I recently appeared as keyboardist at Lenny Kayes’s “Nuggets” 50th Anniversary shows, but I’m happy to say my list goes on forever.



 
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I’d like to add how one of my many on stage thrills included one night at City Winery in NYC when I jumped up on stage to play piano behind Taj Mahal while Ricki Lee Jones joined Taj. It was a trio of my dreams.

 

How did each of those bands come together and/or you come to be a part of them?

Looking into my notes, it seems I auditioned for Beatlemania (1978), Patty Maloney introduced me to Cats on a Smooth Surface in 1982, I started my Xmas Extravaganza around 1987, Tony Shanahan and I started the Slaves of New Brunswick’ around 1985, Styx asked me to replace Tommy Shaw in 1990, The Weeklings began around 2013 just for fun -- and has adventured beyond expectation -- and 2014 seem to have been a creative year, as The Summer of Love concerts started then, my first Nuggets show was that year, and I became musical director for the NJ Hall of Fame then, all in 2014. Perhaps I should consult my mood rings, Ouija Board and my horoscope to see what was the hell was up with that year.

Throughout most of the time you’ve been in those bands, you’ve also had a solo career, releasing two albums on A&M and a couple of independent albums. Which do you enjoy more: being solo or in a band and why?

Bands are difficult, but there’s much to be said about sharing the responsibilities and whatever glory you might experience with a group of friends. Solo is great cuz you really just do your thing creatively without arguments, but it can be lonely, more work, more pressure and less fun. Each has its rewards, and each is somewhat a pain in the ass!

 

Throughout your career, you’ve paid homage to The Beatles in Beatlemania, The Weeklings and your solo career, my favorite expression of which has been performing the entire ‘Abbey Road Medley’ live, which even they didn’t do. Why are The Beatles important to you?

Again, I just come from that era. Don’t tell anybody, but to be fair, Stevie Wonder, Dylan, Hendrix, Sly & The Family Stones and The Beach Boys are equally important to me, as well as Laura Nyro, Ben Folds, Todd Rundgren, Aretha Franklin, Burt Bacharach, Yes, George Gershwin and so many others, but The Beatles seem to be the canon of rock/pop music for so many currently breathing humans.

Why and how have you been able to distinguish yourself from The Beatles as an inspired original artist and songwriter?

Well, I don’t know. I kinda think most artists pale in comparison to such giants. Someone once said, “Originality is the ability to conceal your sources,” which seems about right to me. But I just do what I do, try what I feel like trying and create what I create. I’m very fortunate. I’ve had a diverse career, and I’m still busy as ever. There was never much of a plan. I’m just thrilled to be answering questions from Bob Makin after a lifetime of making music for people.

 

Who’s in The Weeklings with you, when and how did you first come to play with each of them, and why and how is that band also inspired by Traveling Wilburys?

Well, the Wilburys were five rather varied cats coming from five separate careers. So I guess you might see a parallel with The Weeklings. Bob Burger (guitar and vocals) has his own thing going, but we’ve also been writing songs together for almost five decades now. I’ve known Joe Bellia (drums and vocals) for years but never really worked with him until the past eight years or so. I met John Merjave (guitar and vocals) playing together in the band Liverpool at the BeatleFest conventions. It began by us four just getting together to play Beatles songs for fun, but ended up getting a record deal and writing originals. Who knew?

The Weeklings record for Jem Records, a longtime indie that has had a big impact on the Jersey scene, as well as power pop worldwide. They have a tribute series that has saluted John Lennon, Brian Wilson, Pete Townsend and, most recently, Ray Davies of The Kinks. The Weeklings contributed tracks to all. Why is Jem Records important to The Weeklings, and how did solo Lennon, Wilson, Townsend and Davies influence the band?

Well, JEM is the label we’re signed to and these tribute compilations are the label president’s idea. I dunno if they make sense or not, but I’m pretty happy with our work on some these compilations of his. Our rearrangement of ‘The Word’ is very different and pretty cool and, to my knowledge, The Weeklings are the one and only act on the planet to have covered ‘What's the New Mary Jane?’ – a song recorded for the Beatles ‘White Album’ – which may have not taken place had label chief Marty Scott not asked The Weeklings to contribute to the Lennon disc. In any case, there is no denying the enormous contributions of Lennon, Wilson, Townsend and Davies. Monsters all.

 

What’s coming up for The Weeklings in regards to recordings, concerts, videos and anything else?

We’re working on our new album, which should be out in January ’24, and we have a couple of various styles of performances we’ll be doing: A) The Weeklings with orchestra B) just the four of us Weeklings focusing on Beatles music only C) The Weeklings doing our originals only. All fully dressed, of course.

 



 
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Any solo plans on the horizon?

I have been banging around a number of new songs. I did a solo session at Sun Studio in Memphis – standing in the spot Elvis stood on his initial recordings – but mostly I’m taking my time compiling new material in my home studio. It’s all pretty mature stuff, which will hopefully be out eventually – though I’m in no rush.

 

Any reunion plans on the horizon with any of those older bands we discussed?

Wow. What a question! I guess you never know!

Like some other Jersey artists, such as The Bouncing Souls and Franke Previte, you have a close association with both the Asbury Park and New Brunswick music scenes. How do you feel each of those scenes have evolved since you first were involved and why?

I’ve loved both towns. The New Brunswick of my boyhood was inspiring, and the Asbury Park of my adulthood has been something of a lifeline for me. It has so much going on – it’s a small urban environment by the ocean with tons of great musicians and bands. It’s a tremendous, creative atmosphere, and I’ve been enjoying this chapter of my life here very much.

Your son Beau was in a Makin Waves Band of the Year called Dibs, a great power trio in the spirit of Green Day and Nirvana. What’s Beau up to these days?

Beau is happily married with a beautiful 2-year-old daughter and working in the wine industry.

 

Are either of your daughters involved in music or the music business?

Darla has a new band named Darla And The Darlings, while she’s raising two amazing little girls. Sally is living in Manhattan, busy producing videos for Vice. I also have a teenage son in Kansas. It remains to be seen if he’s interested in creating music.

Personally, I wouldn’t suggest any young person start out on a career in music nowadays. The business ain’t what it once was. But you must always follow your heart. Just work hard and treat people with respect. I sound like a babbling, elderly, overly philosophical drunkard, don’t I?

Bob Makin has produced Makin Waves since 1988. Follow Makin Waves on Facebook and contact Bob at makinwaves64@yahoo.com


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