By Matt Clizbe
It is our sad duty to report that John Warren Geils Jr. passed away on Tuesday. Groton police conducted a preliminary investigation, which concluded that he died of natural causes. He was 71 years old.
“At approximately 4 p.m., Groton Police responded to a home on Graniteville Road for a well-being check,” Groton Police said in a statement. “Upon arrival to the house, police located a man who was unresponsive. He was declared dead at the scene … The Groton Police Department is investigating the death, as is standard procedure in all unattended deaths, however foul play is not suspected at this time.”
The J. Geils Band released 13 studio albums to millions of fans between 1970 and 1984. Under his leadership, Geils, and bandmates, Richard “Dick Magic” Salwiz, Stephen Bladd , Seth Justman, Danny Klein, and Peter Wolf rose to fame through hits like “Love Stinks,” “Come Back”and “Freeze-Frame,” but their journey was far from an overnight success. That is why this week’s TBT honors the life of J Geils by celebrating the biggest song from the J. Geils Band called “Centerfold.”
J. Geils’ peak success of “Centerfold” grew out of nearly two decades of development after first forming in Worchester Massachusetts in 1968. Before becoming Rock and new wave radio mainstays, J. Geils Band got their start performing 1970’s R&B alongside a diverse selection of acts acts like BB King Johnny Winter, The Allman Brothers, and The Byrds, while also recording genre specific covers like “First I Look For The Purse” by The Concords, and The Valentinos’ “Lookin’ For Love.”
Covers didn’t initially present commercial success, but it did get them a tenure at Atlantic Records, where their career stabilized through 7 years of mid charters and a top ten breakthrough with the 1973 album Bloodshot. However, it was when when they moved to EMI that Geiles and crew were able to take that breakthrough to career defining levels. Following a slow start with EMI, the J. Geiles Band found new beginnings with the new label, thanks in part to changing trends in music, the medium of cable, and MTV.
Making videos for their singles in the 80’s made them part of a hot trend that lead to a second and very crucial breakthrough with the memorable and catchy “Love Stinks,” which cracked the top 40, and more importantly, made fans want more. After years of hard work, their talent was reaching audiences like never before, and it created the unique opportunity for their peak explosion of success that was the Freeze Frame album.
Serving as their twelfth release, the years of practice may have resulted in the commercial perfection of their success. What became Freeze Frame was the result of an experienced band knowing what worked for them. Album credits indicate, the members of J. Geiles Band got increasingly more involved with their creative direction after leaving Atlantic Records. This resulted in changing their approach from working as a collaborative collective, to individual band members taking different leadership roles that would focus and sharpen their sound. One of the ways this was done best was when Keyboard player Seth Justman got on board as the band’s producer. After writing and producing “Love Stinks”which was their first platinum record, Justman took the lead as the sole producer on the Freeze Frame album, writing or co-writing all of their singles. To this day, the biggest hit to his name, which he wrote and produced on his own, was J Geiles Band’s biggest hit called “Centerfold.”
Described as the story of a man who discovers his past love has become the alluring centerfold of a men’s magazine, “Centerfold” resonated with audiences like nothing else the band had done before. It propelled Freeze Frame to the top of the Billboard 200 for four weeks, and sold 3 million copies. It would be their last album as a complete unit because lead vocalist Peter Wolf decided to pursue a solo career, and the remaining members released 1984’s You’re Gettin’Even While I’m Gettin’ Odd without him before disbanding.
After parting ways with the band, John “J” Geiles went on to do several reunion tours, and even released original music as a Jazz guitarist between 2005 and 2009. Now that he has also parted ways with this earth, we wanted to take this moment to honor his many years of hard work by celebrating his biggest success, “Centerfold.” Enjoy!
J. Geils Band
From: Freeze Frame