Come the summer of 1977, Little Feat’s future as a band looked uncertain. Over the previous few years, the contributions of founding member and creative powerhouse Lowell George had dropped off, due to a combination of poor health and fast living. On their 1977 album, Time Loves A Hero, other members – notably guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist and co-founder Bill Payne – had picked up some of the slack, but George’s diminished presence was notable. Looking to regroup between studio projects, the group decided to release their first ever live album, Waiting For Columbus, in early 1978 – a double set that’s now been expanded into an 8CD super-deluxe box set, with reams of extra recordings capturing Little Feat Mk I at their live best.
“We can’t abide by outside rules”
The situation was confirmed by Payne in Max Bell’s 1977 profile of the increasingly divided group, published in NME as Fear And Loathing In Little Feat. “I have to believe that there aren’t too many tensions in the band, no more than all bands go through,” Payne said. “Lowell has more of an image than we do — image is something we lack — but we can’t abide by outside rules.
“We make more decisions now,” the keyboardist continued. “Our lack of American success never hampered our music, but I want the band to reach a larger audience. Lowell was so bombarded with problems that he didn’t always come up with the right decisions. If we have different visions of the group, then he respects my direction and I respect his. With Paul [Barrere] being into R&B the combination makes us better than predictable bands.”
“We’ve let Lowell produce the live record”
With band relations faltering and George contributing little in the way of new material, the group decided to follow Time Loves A Hero with a compilation of live performances recorded during their summer 1977 tour of the UK and the US – a run of shows that saw them backed by the Tower Of Power horn section. The resulting double-album, Waiting For Columbus, featured material from seven performances – four at London’s Rainbow Theatre, held across 1 to 4 August 1977, and three at Lisner Auditorium, in Washington, DC, the following week (8 to 10 August).