In 1986, when the Georgia Satellites’ biggest hit, “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” soared to Number 2 on the Billboard Top 100 Chart (kept out of Number 1 by Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”), they were not prepared for the reaction they got. They had had little attention from the American press up to that point, although they had enjoyed the elusive acclaim of the British press.
“It didn’t garner much attention from the public,” recalls Rick Richards, who handles guitar and vocals for the band. “But the British press can be pretty brutal, so when we got a good review from them, we knew we were doing something right.”
Soon after, they found representation in Nashville and cut their first, eponymous album stateside.
Since then, the Georgia Satellites have had several different incarnations and have played on and off. Their second album, Open All Night, was released in 1988 and Richards considers it to be in the same vein as the first.
“It has the same feel,” he says, “the same general mood. We’re a bar band with a little finesse, we’re willing to take chances with other people’s material, and we have a great songwriter that helps us form our own identity.”
The third record, Land of Salvation (1989), was a departure from the first two. It draws on other influences, including acoustic sounds, New Orleans flavor, and ballads.
“We were really starting to test the waters,” Richards says.
The band split up for a while, but in 1997 they reunited to cut their fourth album, Shaken Not Stirred. They came together in Denmark for the occasion.
“It was a brutal Denmark winter,” recalls Richards, “and we were stuck in a studio in the middle of nowhere. We were trapped on a farm together, and it was great.” Even though the record is difficult to find these days, Richards is very proud of what resulted.
Richards considers live performance and studio recordings to be as different as apples and oranges.
“Recording in the studio is more of a creative process,” he says. “It’s more laborious, and you pick things apart and dissect parts of the songs and lyrics. It’s more calculated than a live show.”
“A live show is like taking a firecracker and lighting the fuse,” he says. “You make a mistake, and you keep rolling, you keep going. Plus you get the electricity of a crowd to bounce off of. It’s a total transfer of energy.”
Even when the crowd is quieter, Richards finds a way to draw the energy out.
“You just remember why you got into this in the first place,” he says. “You do this to have a good time and enjoy playing your instruments.”
A Georgia Satellites show is a real ode to rock and roll. It’s supposed to be fun, and that’s what the band is always going for.
“It’s across the board rock and roll,” says Richards. “Our fans may be a bit older than they were, but they’re still as enthusiastic as they were when we first started. And we get young people coming to the shows too. If you like rock and roll, it doesn’t really matter how long you’ve been going to shows.”
Fans will certainly find their old favorites in the lineup, but the band is also interested in bringing out new material and keeping things fresh.
“We go back pretty deep into our catalogue,” says Richards, “and we do songs we’ve never done live before that people ask about. It’s a rock and roll show. It’s loud and it’s boisterous and it’s a lot of fun.”
The Georgia Satellites will be playing at the Suffolk Theater on Main Street in Riverhead on Friday, June 13 at 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $25. Go to suffolktheater.com for tickets or more information.