Bell bottoms and sequined jackets

By Noah Lopez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 27, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat


Browsing various web pages while helping Mark research his look at the Diamond years of American history, I couldn't help but be aroused by a flashing link on my computer screen: "Thunder and Lightning: Neil Diamond Cover Band." Okay, so maybe it wasn't really flashing, and maybe I wasn't really aroused per se, but it did look interesting. Why would a cover band have its own web page?

Following the link, however, didn't exactly answer any questions, but I did learn something- Thunder and Lightning are not your average bar cover band. In fact, as Lightning would later tell me over the phone, it has "taken karaoke to a new level."

Thunder and Lightning might be America's only husband and wife karaoke team, and certainly the only ones to be named after abstract elements. "America's Singing Sweethearts" reads their motto, with Thunder lovingly embracing the work of Patsy Cline and ABBA, and Lightning lending his interpretations of Diamond to the fray. I had no choice but to make a call to the 1-800 number glaring up from the bottom of the screen.

What followed was nearly an hour of Lightning's discussion of the band's music ("We're not a band. We sing to recordings.") interspersed with various examples of the impersonator's craft. "Can you tell the difference?" Lightning would eagerly ask after a song off the duo's new CD had finished playing over the phone, or after one of his many impromptu lapses into character.

"You can do anything you want in music," Lightning says. "I used to be an Elvis impersonator. Then one day I thought, 'Go for it! You can do anything you want with your life.'"

It's Lightning's gung-ho attitude that eventually led to a coveted jewel in the duo's crown. Last July, the duo joined Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam on stage to perform "Forever in Bluejeans."

"You know who Pearl Jam is don't you?" Lightning asks.

After a little prodding, Lightning agreed to e-mail me the answers to a few questions that Mark and I had come up with. Like his music, Lightning's answers came short and sweet.

Q: What are the most requested Neil songs?
A: "America," "Forever in Bluejeans," "Cracklin' Rosie," "Sweet Caroline," "Brother Love's," (sic) "I am I said."

Q: How do you make the Neil magic come alive on stage?
A: Bell bottoms, sequined jackets and vests, hairstyling.

Q: What Neil song do you and Thunder consider your song?
A: Ironically, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" because of our presentation ... The Kiss.

Booking information ("We will come to Arizona if you pay for it," Lightning says) and ordering information for Thunder and Lightning's new CD Clean Songs Thru the School of Hard Knocks is on their homepage.