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Provostian Moments Vol. VIII: Gene Clark

25 Apr

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.

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Gene Clark in the Ozarks

ene Clark had always been a hero of mine.  He was from many different places depending on which day you asked him. Gene was blessed with a god-given voice that landed him in the New Christy Minstrels, and after having been inspired by the Beatles, he became the primary songwriter for the very influential group the Byrds. A lot of praise has been bestowed on this band that I cherish, but the original five members had a dangerous friction, and Gene was their first defector.

When my long time musical sister, Carla Olson, asked me to play with her and Gene, I jumped at the chance. The duo had a new album that Rhino Records had just released. Their live shows would also feature acoustic versions of his Byrds catalog. The late Duane Jarvis was on mandolin and electric guitar.

I had first met Gene years earlier at Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood, where he drank me under the table as he sat next to me at the bar. I always appreciate someone who is more pathetic than myself. It was mostly congenial small talk at first, and he couldn’t believe my memories of his old Whisky a Go Go matinees; I had seen him with “Gene Clark and the Group” three times. But when the subject turned to the Byrds, he became belligerent. There was very little grey area with him, and he was often his own worst enemy.

A sober Gene Clark was a miracle to behold. Our living room rehearsals were relaxed, and Gene’s voice had aged with a rough patina that made his new songs like “Del Gato” sound like they were being sung by an old ranch hand. The four of us all held the same belief that less is more. Simple elegance was Gene’s strongest suite. The demos that we recorded in Gene’s house really should be released, since our Silhouetted In Light album was nowhere as good.

I didn’t always respect Gene’s opinions, but I sure as hell respected him as an artist. Anyone who can make a bass player cry during a song is alright in my book. “Set You Free This Time” was my favorite of Gene Clark’s songs.

The last time that I saw Gene he had been in a horrible car crash. He had always been an insane driver, but this accident happened on his way home from being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. He really did have an intense fear of flying. He was missing teeth, but he was happier than I’d ever seen him. Gene had patched things up with the Byrds, and he had even gotten a great big hug from David Crosby, which meant more to him then all the money in the world.

On May 24th 1991, I had just returned home from a European Droogs tour when a friend, who produced NBC news, called me to borrow a record. My childhood copy of the Byrds’ Turn Turn Turn was seen by millions in a segment on the passing of a boy from Tipton, Missouri. The very mortal Gene Clark.

– Dave Provost

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LA Hippie, Caught On Film

1 May

It is said that at any point in time here in London, you’re never more than 10 feet away from a rat. Now, if I’m gonna believe that one, then I’m also gonna believe that in LA, you’re never more than 10 feet from some rodent-like fella with a camera angling to get into the movie biz. These clips be proof, ca. ’67-’72:

CLEAR LIGHT – “She’s Ready to Be Free” 1967: Ah, to stumble across a dashing young rock band this idiosyncratic amongst the canyons of LA. Is this taken from The President’s Analyst? I don’t know jack about CLEAR LIGHT, other than they put out one LP on Electra in the wake of THE DOORS with future CSN&Y drummer Dallas Taylor. This psych fragment – with that manic gtr chickenscratchin’ – makes me wanna explore more.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART – “Electricity” 1968: I’m guessing this is a studio take overdubbed here, but WHO CARES! It’s a young Beefheart & band on the beach, for christ’s sake – looks like Santa Monica to me. And in mismatched hats no less! – ya just gotta admire em. LA freak was waaaay more at odds with SoCal’s idea of itself than hippie ever was in relation to SF’s identity (BLUE CHEER excluded). This created a cluster of LA outcast artists who were more tough/ornery, more individualistic, and ultimately more inspiring than their NoCal counterparts. Give me the Straight! Records crew any day of the week.

KALEIDOSCOPE – “Lie To Me” 1969: This live version beats the pants off the still-rankin’ studio version found on their Incredible! LP. Jimmy Page called these guys his favorite band, and I’m starting to believe he was on to something special here – what a talented group. And if only the flashing colors along Sunset Blvd. were still anywhere near this eye-popping . . .

THE BYRDS & EARL SCRUGGS – “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” 1971: You may have seen this already; I sure haven’t. Industry pressure kept these BYRD guys kinda tame in their early career, but man the times they did a-change and eventually they were free to fly with the best of em. Later BYRDS gtrist Clarence White has always been a string-bending favorite of mine, although here that young guy to the right of Earl (Earl’s son?) turns in a pretty dang talented solo, too.

MU – “Nobody Wants to Shine” 1972: Merrell Fankhauser’s MU chiseled out the absolute pinnacle of Westcoast hippie rock on their first self-titled LP in 1970, recorded during their LA period. There remains nothing like MU’s glorious MAGIC BAND meets GRATEFUL DEAD musical vibeology found anywhere on this still-beautiful planet (Lemuria included). This silent clip – filmed up near San Luis Obispo someplace, but so what – is the only film I’ve ever seen of em. Watch closely, and ya just might learn a thing or to about how to actualize one of those alternate psychedelic realities we all know exist, but seem at a big, big loss to find in 2008.