Live Report: The Meters

At Paul's Mall in Boston, Massachusetts on September 6th-12th, 1976

The Meters
Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
November 4, 1976

The Meters may well be the finest performing American band. Without resorting to such modern pop trappings as smoke bombs and gyrating pianos, the Meters offer a continually challenging and sophisticated blend of classic New Orleans styles and modern funk, infusing the music with a contagious vitality not unlike the best soul bands of the Sixties.

The band's foundation and driving force is drummer Joseph "Zig" Modeliste, who throws standard technique to the wind when he plays, punching out rollicking, second-line rhythms with a stiff-armed attack. The characteristic New Orleans syncopation of older Crescent City stickmen Earl Palmer and Smokey Johnson is colored by Modeliste's semimelodic accents and clipped meters – at times, the cacophony of his style recalls free drummers like Sunny Murray and Milford Graves. Indeed, it may be Zig's quirky beats that have kept the Meters from their rightful place beside funk giants like Parliament and Earth, Wind and Fire.

Vote for the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

The Meters represent the apex of the bar-band tradition. They play rough, nondisco dance music and funk without the luxury of a horn section. In the best American pop tradition, the group pays healthy respect to its roots – their songbook includes updated versions of New Orleans standards from "Junko Partner" and "Tell It like It Is" to "Big Chief." Like bar bands everywhere, the Meters also include a raft of cover songs, often surprising ones ("Honky Tonk Women," "Make It with You"), each stamped with indelible second-line accents and given crisp interpretations. Still, the original material is their best and the sets can include virtually any song they've ever recorded.

What's critical now for reggae is whether or not the music can go around the turn toward spiritual fulfillment. The New Orleans music of the Meters, the original inspiration of the Wailers, Maytals and others, is America's reggae. It's time we came home.

This story is from the November 4th, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

More Song Stories entries »