Formed in 1974 amidst a fertile San Francisco Bay Area music scene, Y&T shared a manager with Journey and stages with some of rock’s biggest names.
“It was an exciting time — all kinds of possibilities were there,” recalled Dave Meniketti, the band’s guitarist, singer and chief songwriter. “We were just young kids starting out, and all of a sudden we are playing these prestigious places and gigs.”
Four decades later, the hard-rocking band is still at it. The world has changed, but Meniketti doesn’t long for the heady early days.
“It’s a double-edged sword thing … everything is better now,” he said. “The fact that we are not fighting to be the next big thing has taken all the onus off and allowed us to just get into performing — to really, truly enjoy playing every night.”
The struggles he alludes to were quite real. Y&T made its first two albums on the foundering London label, “literally folding its pop and rock divisions as we released our second record,” said Meniketti. They hit pay dirt after signing with A&M in 1981 and making Earthshaker — though it wasn’t clear until the band flew to England to record a follow-up.
Y&T’s first-ever performance outside the U.S., opening for ZZ Top at Holland’s Pink Pop Festival, provided the eye-opener. A crowd of 30,000 greeted them like headliners, waving banners with song titles and demanding an encore. Later, they learned that Earthshaker had been voted the No. 1 rock record of the year. A short UK club tour went clean, selling out every date. “The crowds were just so into it; that all was such an experience,” said Meniketti. “Then we finished the record, super inspired, which made it that much better.”
The band followed 1982’s Black Tiger with Mean Streak in 1983. Greater success came in 1984, with In Rock We Trust selling 450,000 copies. A year later, “Summertime Girls” became their highest charting single, the only studio song on the 1985 live disc Open Fire.
It’s as a live band that Y&T truly excels; for proof, check out the double CD Live at the Mystic. Recorded in 2012 before a hometown crowd, it captures the current vintage of the band in fine, rocking form. Summoning such joyous energy has kept Meniketti inspired for four decades.
Y&T did disband in the early 1990s, but it turned out to be merely a brief hiatus.
“It became apparent that this is what I wanted to keep doing; I was just not going to be happy unless I was out playing,” said Meniketti. “With so many years, good material and great fans, it didn’t make any sense to stop.”
With the death of bass player Phil Kennemore of lung cancer in 2011, Meniketti is now the last original member of the band.
Many musicians cite Y&T as seminal, influential. Meniketti used to be bemused about such praise, but he’s learned to take it in stride.
“I have come to a point where I just feel good about it overall,” he said. “Before, I wasn’t really quite sure because I thought all these people were just pulling our leg. Really? We influenced them?”
By now, Meniketti has heard it so many times he’s comfortable with his cult status among musicians.
“All kinds of people I’ve never met will come up and say, ‘I used to see you playing at the Starwood in L.A. in the ‘70s.’ It just keeps going and going and going; I feel proud of that. Obviously, we must have just been doing something right, maybe something differently at the time or just in a different way in our songs, in our musicianship and in our approach. It is a good source of pride for us.”
As seen in the April 3, 2014 issue of The Hippo.