Back-up Vocal~ What’s an artist to do when they make a solo album that eclipses the success of their regular band? TOUR. That very course of action has frequently made sense, when management develops an eye for the cheddar at the other end of the line. In some cases, fortunes really do await. In others, the reach far exceeds the grasp. Either way, it’s not uncommon to find that a desired musician or two can’t join the road band, as their contracts won’t let them. I’ve run across a few stories of that nature in my years reading about music history. It happens. Sometimes “contractual obligations” and “creative differences” are exactly that. Other times, these may be polite dance moves around the uglier beast, known as “ego clash”. Yeah. THAT old chestnut.  Thus, if the road still beckons, alternate musicians must be found. If corporate sponsorship throws down the cash for the talent search? So be it! Now, it’s one thing to hire a different drummer or rhythm guitar player for live shows. But, it’s quite a different animal for the back-up band to replace their own leader. I was more surprised than anyone when Bo’s “Pago Pago Privateers” went renegade. The blasphemy of it all was far too scandalous to pass up. 

Some years back, Dream Theater held auditions when founding drummer, Mike Portnoy, felt it was time to explore new horizons. The band played their cards extremely close to the vest. Out of all the drummers who tried out for them, Dream Theater only shared a minuscule number of potential candidate names with the music press. Given Portnoy’s otherworldly talents, only a select few could even hope to stand up to the rigors of the job. Mike Mangini was a stellar choice. Such was the exact thought process swirling in my noggin, whilst crafting this Comic. Only a particular caliber of bass player would fit with the style of music I’ve always imagined our Bo writes. Even fewer still are possessed of the technique he deploys. The level of prowess needed informed the names I chose. First, let that very acknowledgment stand as my salute to them all. Second, let all parties concerned take it as the ultimate compliment to be listed alongside Pete Trewavas of Marillion. Manny is right. As this Comic was in the works, Marillion played their career-first ever series of dates in Japan. From every available account, their shows were spectacular and this incredible accomplishment absolutely warranted notation in my Panels. I want to get my hands on one of those t-shirts. 

Some may be wondering where I got Ric Fierabracci. I was in need of a highly regarded name from the bass kingdom and I wanted one I had never mentioned before. My perpetually scattered, ADHD brain took over and I was reminded of his bass solo from “Yanni Live At The Acropolis”. I recalled that his work was just astounding. Further exploration revealed that he has played with the best modern fusion musicians in the world, including the members of Planet X. With them thar credentials, he demanded a Shout-Out. It was a real challenge finding a way to include him in the mix. I spent several nights re-writing various portions of the script to connect all the pieces into something cohesive, respectful and funny. Further, I’ve read a ridiculous number of interviews with many a legendary guitar player, as they talked about their signature models. Of course, they discuss the specs, such as electronics, scale length and number of frets. But, the most intense consideration is devoted to the types of wood selected for the body. If you need to bribe an internationally acclaimed bass player to join your band, you could do worse than give them a one-of-a-kind instrument born of an elemental head-on collision. 

Finally, my favorite music magazines have always excelled at throwing down catchy, pithy titles for articles and photos. Those of us old who are old enough, may remember a Dire Straits tune called “Private Investigations” It’s one of their truly iconic tracks. Since the day it was written, no live show from them would have been complete without it. That’s why they included it on all of their Live albums. The underlying pun fit so well in Mannyacs context, that it had to be unleashed here, too.