What did DAVIE ALLAN & THE ARROWS, THE DWIGHT TWILLEY BAND and THE DREAM SYNDICATE and all have in common? Bassist Dave Provost, that’s who. Who has played in musical aggregations with the likes of AL GREEN, SKY SAXON, and KATHY VALENTINE? Dave Provost has.
Dave is a kind of rock n roll Zelig, somehow popping up at all the crucial turns and twists in LA rock history during the past 4+ decades. Over the years his formidable musical & rhythmic chops got him seats next to some seriously world-class musicians, while his gregarious, outgoing nature had all the rest inviting him to their after-gig parties. And now, he’s now spilling the beans about it all, starting with this post.
This is really, really good news to those of us who appreciate just where this man’s walked and rocked in his lifetime. So please: do take a seat at the feet of Mr Dave Provost for a spell, and follow him in his search for lost rock n roll time.
hroughout the history of Los Angeles rock, there have been voids that were screaming to be filled. Usually the major labels catch wind of upcoming trends, and hire high dollar marketing firms; the Hair Metal scene is a particularly ugly but classic case study of this.
In the early 90s, there was a new breed of songwriters who had been through the major label mill, but had survived to see the afterlife. Many of these songwriters were just starting to perfect their craft after years of slugging it out on concert stages all over the world. Rather than going the time tested route, this new breed chose to keep things organic, and took up a one night a week residency at the same venue every week. Club Largo on Fairfax had one stable hosted by the incredible talent of Aimee Mann, and her partners in crime: Michael Penn, and my favorite contemporary film score composer Jon Brion.
The even more organic scene was in the deepest bowels of sleazy old Hollywood. Raji’s was the very definition of dive. The huge lobby at the front entrance was where the bar area was located, and it looked like a creepy convalescent home for shell shock victims. The black spray painted back room was where the artists would play on a bandstand that stood two feet tall. Raji’s was sometimes referred to as “The Hole With The Pole” because of the load bearing support pole that blocked the view of the stage for many in the audience. Who would believe that earthquake retrofitting could ever be so cool? The sound of the room was perfect, very much like New York’s CBGB had years earlier.
Three artists held court at Raji’s every Tuesday evening: The Continental Drifters, Steve Wynn, and Holly Beth Vincent. The shows also had a slot for special guests like Jonathan Richman, Chris Cacavas, Tom Waits, Syd Straw, country guitar legend John Jorgensen, and Freedy Johnson. Alice Bag’s lounge act the Swing Set were fun. Leonard Cohen’s duet partner Julie Christensen turned in the classiest appearance in Raji’s history. Susan Cowsill, and Vicki Peterson became a duo known as the Psycho Sisters, and they sang their lush harmonies behind the Continental Drifters and Holly and the Italians.
The Continental Drifters had been playing around town for some time. the group was originally made up of transplants from New Orleans. Drummer/vocalist Carlo Nuccio was also a member of the riveting punk/blues band know as Red River. When the Db’s leader Peter Holsapple took over as frontman, they became a contender for the throne once held by the Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, though the original lineup was more Meters inspired.
Steve Wynn stepped up to the plate, and hit it out of the park, with a tight new band that sounded nothing like the Dream Syndicate. Gone were the extended free form jams, and there was an optimistic ray of hope in his economic new lyrics. Saying more, with less words, is the highest achievement in songwriting. Steve was no longer tipping his hat to other artists. He had found his own voice, and when he would on occasion play a Syndicate tune, it would be almost unrecognizable. I really liked the adult version of this once cocky young man. His new band featured guitarist Robert Mache, bassist Mark Walton, pianist Robert Lloyd and drummer Kevin Jarvis.
Holly & the Italians utilized the Tuesday Raji’s scene to test run songs for our new LP America that was subsequently released on the Indigo Girl’s Daemon record label. At that same time Transvision Vamp were burning up the charts with a cover of Holly’s pop classic “Tell That Girl To Shut Up”, but Holly Beth Vincent wasn’t complacent to rest on her laurels as a punk diva. Her Ronnie Spector like vocals and relentless guitar attack challenged me to play with a new found fury, and Holy’s devastating lyrics made me melt. I’ve never enjoyed playing with anyone as much. We had a stellar line up that also featured guitarist Jimmy Ripp, and alternating drummers Nick Vincent and Jay Dee Daugherty.
There was something enigmatic about that dilapidated Hollywood watering hole that brought out uninhibited creativity, and a true sense of musical community. Don’t go looking for Raji’s, you won’t find it. Raji’s only really ever existed in the drunken stupor of us oddballs that called it home.
- Dave Provost