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Billie Joe Armstrong Revives Side Project Pinhead Gunpowder in L.A.

Billie Joe Armstrong
Roberto Serra/Getty Images
February 5, 2008 11:01 AM ET

Billie Joe Armstrong can still DIY when he wants to. His side project Pinhead Gunpowder hadn't played a gig since 2001, but the punk-pop quartet roared back to life this week in a quick tour of SoCal club dates. On Monday, the Green Day singer-guitarist was back to basics at the top of a three-band bill of melodic loudfastrules at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. Ticket price at the door: $7. With a beanie pulled over his bleached hair, Armstrong strolled onto the stage like one of the roadies, a Red Stripe in one hand and a guitar in the other. It was only the band's 19th show in seventeen years, but the room was packed with fans who sang and crowd-surfed to "At Your Funeral," the new "Westside Highway" and a cover of Diana Ross' "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)," shifting the lilting Seventies ballad into punk-rock overdrive. Armstrong pulled fans up to watch from the stage, but also told them to put away the digital cameras. "YouTube can't own everything," he said. "There's also something called memories."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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