Punky Meadows Sets the Record Straight

There was a time when Punky Meadows, and his glamorous band Angel, seemed poised to be the “next big thing.”
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There was a time when Punky Meadows, and his glamorous band Angel, seemed poised to be the “next big thing.” They were on the same label as Kiss, and they had big riffs and big hair, but no big hits. Despite pockets of regional success, they ultimately didn’t take over the world. Meadows was out of the music biz for many years, making cameos with Frank Zappa (he’s the Punky in “Punky’s Whips”) and being impersonated by Paul Gilbert in Ampeg ads. But now, he’s back with his first-ever solo album, Fallen Angel [Main Man].

Why release a solo record now?

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I never stopped playing guitar. It’s in my blood. I’ll play while I’m watching TV. I come up with ideas for songs, record them real quick, and then keep playing. I more or less woodshed all the time.

How did you approach your guitar solos on the album?

Well, when I hear other players take a solo, my attitude is: “Don’t impress me. Inspire me.” It’s all about soul, heart, and tone. That’s what I was going for on “Leavin’ Tonight,” which is a ballad with a soulful and melodic guitar solo at the end. When I write a song, I’ll typically write a different chord progression for the solo, so it can kind of become a song within the song.

You grew up around the Washington, D.C. area. Were you aware of players like Danny Gatton?

Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan were friends of mine. They used to come to my house, and they’d sit in at my gigs. As players, those guys were from another planet. Growing up with them made me really want to be a good guitar player. They also got me interested in different types of music, because they both could play any type of music better than the best. So I dabble in all that stuff—blues, rockabilly, country, classical, and R&B.

So did Angel really try to release its version of “You Really Got Me” before Van Halen’s? Eddie said so in his GP cover story, and there’s still info on the web that alleges Van Halen had to rush production of their debut album because Eddie “mistakenly” let Angel drummer Barry Brandt hear the tune.

No. That never happened. That’s a bullsh*t lie, and I want to set that straight. I don’t know why Eddie Van Halen said that. I never heard Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” until everybody else heard it—on the radio. I have integrity. I would never try to steal someone else’s song idea.

Even though you’ve been away from the music business for a while, a lot of people still remember you.

That makes me feel good. Angel never got any radio play, but we had a lot of great fans. When I got on Facebook, I saw all these people saying, “I saw your band and you guys were amazing. You’re the reason I play guitar today.” So I thought, “Wow, maybe we didn’t make any money, but we inspired a lot of people and a lot of people really dug us. That’s really cool.” Now, I have a new record out that I feel great about, and I feel I’m playing better than ever, so things are good.