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Music

Watch Little Feat play 'Fat Man in the Bathtub' in 1975

@TylerGolsen

Building your reputation as a live act has always been one of the most effective ways to find success in the music industry. If you’re lucky enough to be the Grateful Dead, you can create an entire subculture separated from modern society thanks to your live shows. If you’re Led Zeppelin or The Who, you can see a massive windfall of album sales thanks to some exciting stadium shows. Even today, where physical album sales are at an all-time low, touring is one of the main revenue streams for almost all professional musicians.

Not every band can rise to the level of the Dead or the Stones, but if you do things right, your legacy can be secured thanks to one unmatchable live document. That’s what happened to Little Feat, the California roots rockers who found major success thanks to their 1978 live album Waiting for Columbus. Although the band’s original incarnation only lasted for one more year after its release, Waiting for Columbus remains the band’s highest-selling and best-loved LP.

Originally formed by Lowell George after receiving the boot from Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention (allegedly for writing the drug-infused classic ‘Willin’), Little Feat churned out a potent mix of rock, country, blues, jazz, funk, and boogie-woogie through a string of albums. Little Feat managed to grab a solid following, but their studio albums failed to properly harness the energy and spontaneity of their live shows. Songs like ‘Dixie Chicken’ and ‘Mercenary Territory’ came alive in their expanded stage arrangements, occasionally complemented by the Tower of Power horn section.

Waiting for Columbus isn’t technically a full live album: like most of their contemporaries, Little Feat overdubbed solos and tweaked vocals in the studio after the fact. But the palpable excitement from the live tapes can be felt in every note, making Waiting for Columbus an intoxicating listen over 40 years later. Little Feat wasn’t reliant on studio trickery to bring the heat live either, as evidenced by some of their unaltered live footage that survives today.

One of those performances was on the classic British programme The Old Grey Whistle Test. While promoting 1975’s The Last Record Album, Little Feat included the classic boogie-rocker ‘Fat Man in the Bathtub’ from 1973’s Dixie Chicken. ‘Fat Man in the Bathtub’ was a favourite to open shows with, and the blend between New Orleans second-line rhythms and soaring vocal interplay was enough to immediately get crowds into a frenzy.

Check out Little Feat burning through ‘Fat Man in the Bathtub’ on The Old Grey Whistle Test back in 1975 down below.