You'd think a band that's been around for 40 years might just be going through the motions at this point. But for Dave Meniketti and Y&T, that's hardly the case.
The band's current lineup — Dave Meniketti (guitar/vocals), John Nymann (guitar), Brad Lang (bass) and Mike Vanderhule (drums) — continues to bring its own unique blend of hard rock to legions of fans around the world.
Since finalizing their first lineup in 1974, Y&T have performed more than 3,000 shows, released 18 albums and three greatest-hits packages — and they've sold more than 4 million units. Many of the biggest acts to come out of the Eighties became popular by opening for Y&T, including Metallica and Mötley Crüe.
Add years near-continuous touring and songs like "Mean Streak" and "Summertime Girls," and it's no wonder fans say that Y&T sound better than ever.
With another steady year of touring ahead and talk of more new music, Meniketti and company show no signs of slowing down in 2014. I recently spoke with him about his playing, the band's anniversary and a few surprises they have in store to celebrate the occasion.
What comes to mind when you think about Y&T's 40th anniversary?
It's an odd feeling when you say it or stick it on a piece of paper. Throughout our career, we never looked past a year in advance wondering what we were going to do. So it's a little weird thinking I've had this gig for 40 years. But it still feels great to be in this band and play songs for crowds who are always so cool to us. Why would I ever want to stop doing that?
Is the band working on new projects?
We'll be so busy touring for our 40th anniversary that the next CD of all new material probably won't be until sometime in 2015. In the meantime, though, we're focusing on a few other projects we hope to have out later this year. I really wanted to signify our anniversary and thought it would be cool to put out an album of our current band performing some of the great songs from every record the band has ever recorded. But we’re not going back and re-doing the hits.
These are our own personal choices of songs that we did, but new versions of them. It would be a new 40th-anniversary compilation. We're also working on plans for another DVD. Our last one came out in 2006 and was done in Holland. This time we thought we'd get our home crowd involved.
How did Y&T come together?
It was really all about local guys hearing about other local guys. So it was inevitable that the four of us were going to end up jamming together. For the first year or so we did nothing but cover tunes. Then in January 1974 we said enough of that. Let's get on and do the real thing. That’s when we finalized the lineup and started doing our own thing.
Was there ever a time when someone tried to steal you away from Y&T?
There were a few. Once was when we on one of our first big tours overseas. I remember Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne came out on the last night of the tour and were waiting for me backstage. Ozzy asked me to be in the band, but at that point I wasn't even thinking about it. We had just finished doing Black Tiger and a big tour with AC/DC. I kindly refused his offer, and life went on.
Was there ever an offer you might have considered?
Looking back, there was one I wish I would have tried. Back when Y&T went on hiatus in the early '90s, I was asked about doing a group with Peter Frampton. It would have been two guitarists coming from different styles of rock. They even had a deal waiting. But it was right after we had broken up and I wasn't sure of what I wanted to do. After being in the band for 17 years, it seemed too fast, too soon. So I kindly turned that one down too. Many years later, I went to see Peter play and we talked about it and he was very cool. I've always admired his playing. He's such a great guitarist.
What's the origin of the song "Summertime Girls"?
We used to go to a rehearsal studio every day and pretty much just hang out for eight or nine hours. For us, rehearsal studio was like a party [laughs]. One day, Joey Alves [original Y&T guitarist] and I came in and strapped on our guitars. We didn't really talk to each other, we just started doodling. I remember I started playing the chords to what would become the "Summertime Girls" chorus.
When he asked me "What's that?" I told him I didn't know and was just screwing around. Then he said, "Keep playing it." That's when he started playing a riff that became the melody to the chorus. Soon the rest of the guys showed up, and within two hours we came up with all the parts, wrote the lyrics and were done.
What inspired you to want to play guitar?
I always used to have my head next to the radio day in and day out. I really loved the new stuff that was coming out at the time. Back then, it was mostly just straight-ahead guitar playing, and there were no fast guitar-playing monsters. Then Hendrix just came out of nowhere and it really inspired me to want to play. I remember that as soon as I got home from school, the guitar was in my hand and would stay there until I went to sleep. It was non-stop.
Over the course of your career, is there a single moment that stands out as most special?
I couldn't say there was just one. We've done so many tours and have played with so many people that there were a lot of incredible moments. I remember one of them was when we went to Europe for the first time. We started out on a headlining tour that ended with us getting on a European tour with AC/DC; it was on their For Those About to Rock tour.
That was huge for us. We were young and starting out and got to see the cannons go up in the air for the last song at the end of every night. That was special.