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Provostian Moments Vol. XIII: The Sloths

19 May

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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The Sloths at Pandora’s Box, 1966

he mile, and a half stretch of West Hollywood known as the Sunset Strip has been romanticized in books, and films for over seventy years. The ritzy 1940s nightclubs that were controlled by mobsters Micky Cohen and Johnny Stompanato provided the backdrop for movie star trysts, tabloid murders, and show biz failure. In the mid 1960s these same clubs came alive with teenage empowerment. There was no age limit, just a well enforced curfew. Thousands of shaggy haired hipsters lined the Strip every night of the week. The sound was deafening. Not just from the rock bands at the Go Go clubs, but from the ocean of cars and motorcycles that cruised the Strip looking for kicks.

The Sloths were just one of the many teenage bands playing at Strip hotspots like the Sea Witch, the Hullabaloo, the Stratford, and the Trip. They were from Beverly Hills High School and had a sizable local following. Their lone 45, “Makin’ Love” was getting some radio airplay, and the Sloths were in the top cut to play the fictitious band the Monkees on the new TV show. The boys procured opening slots for the Doors, Love, the Seeds, and the Animals.

After a change of lead singers, the Sloths took on a new moniker, and were now known as the May Wines. Frank Zappa became their mentor, and would occasionally sit in on guitar. As the May Wines the group played at Pandora’s Box on the night of the famous riot on the Sunset Strip, and opened for Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd at the Cheetah.

In 1968, the May Wines called it quits. Lead guitarist Jeff Briskin went off to college, bassist Mike Rummens joined the Yellow Payges, Singer Tommy McLoughlin moved to Paris and joined Marcel Marceau’s mime troupe, guitarist Don Silverman went on to join Doug Yule’s Velvet Underground, and the early Sloths singer Hank Daniels sadly joined the Choir Invisible.

Four decades later in the fall of 2011, Mike Stax of Ugly Things Magazine got the Sloths back together for an interview. The men were not aware of the cult mystique that had been generated by the inclusion of their song “Makin’ Love” on a Back From the Grave compilation, or that Chicago’s stellar garage punk band the Gories had recorded it. The Sloths were also oblivious to the fact that original copies of their 45 with the photo sleeves, that they had made on a high school mimeograph machine, were now fetching over six thousand dollars each.

One of the fellows had an empty garage, so it made perfect sense to put it to good use.

I had been playing guitar in Portland’s Punk Rock Collective just before moving back to Los Angeles, and I was excited about playing 60s punk in the newly reunited Sloths. I was surprised by how much they still looked like a band. They still sounded like the 16 year old kids that I’d heard years earlier, but they were concerned about being older, and how they might be received by the young audience they sought. I reminded them about how much we looked up to the somewhat older blues legends back in the 60s, and by using the newly back-in-action Sonics as a template, it was full speed ahead for the Sloths.

When Mike Stax reissued the “Makin’ Love” 45 on his UT label, the calls from garage punk show promoters started pouring in. Some things had changed over the years. The Sloths quickly learned about mosh pits, and stage monitors. We befriended a lot of younger bands, and our friends the Shag Rats recommended a drummer Jose Rendon who worked out swimmingly. The new Freakbeat scene is largely based in East LA, the part of town that introduced the world to the Premiers, Cannibal & the Headhunters, and Thee Midniters.

The Sunset Strip is currently not the happening place that it once was, but it’s mythology and spirit lives on in the hearts of the young scenesters who would sell their souls to be standing outside of Pandora’s Box on a summer night in 1966.

– Dave Provost

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Provostian Moments Vol. XII: Raji’s

16 May

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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Raji’s on Hollywood Blvd.

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 Beth Vincent

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

Provostian Moments Vol. XI: The Denver Mexicans

7 May

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.

_____________________________________________________

The Denver Mexicans

eep Portland Weird. Its the official city slogan of Portland, Oregon, and I had seen the same bumper sticker slogan pertaining to Austin, Texas when I lived there. But that’s not how we roll in my hometown of Los Angeles. Los Angelenos would be standing naked in the street trying to convince their neighbors that they are normal. Even Charles Manson maintained that he was not weird, just normal like the rest of us.

You can recognize a true LA rocker by how conservative an image they try to convey when they’re not on stage. Even The Cramps’ Lux and Ivy often dressed like parents at a PTA meeting off stage. Many wannabe rock stars flock to the City of Angels from middle America every year, just to be disappointed.

Between 1986 and 1988 I hosted a weekly jam night at what was perhaps the the most decadent club in Hollywood, known as the Soundcheck. The Soundcheck was located at the corner of Sunset and Vine. The other employees were Pleasant Gehman and Laura Bennett from the Screamin’ Sirens, Texacala Jones of the Horseheads, and our doorman was El Duce from The Mentors. With fine upstanding citizens like these running the joint, it’s probably not very believable when I tell you that we were girl scouts compared to our clientele.

The club’s manager Baba was a slightly less cartoonish version of Mae West. No inventory was ever kept of our booze so the drinks were often free and when I questioned this practice, Baba told me not to stand in the way of progress, and that the club was a money laundering front for the mob. I would often have to mop club regulars like Courtney Love off the floor, and my friend Top Jimmy was surprised to find that I’d driven him home over a dozen times.

Every Sunday night the club was packed with losers in leather and stained Motley Crue T-shirts; I feel that the ultimate fashion faux pas is wearing clothing that says Harley Davidson on public transportation. The free admission was certainly an attraction, and the TV evangelist that claimed that AIDS started in our club, only helped to boost attendance.

Every band in town came to jam at the Soundcheck. A typical Sunday night would start with me doing fifteen minutes of stand up comedy, followed by a gaggle of whiny housewives singing bad folk music, and then local bands like the Vandals or the Fuzztones would play a showcase set. The evening would conclude with the best jam in town. Since the club provided drums and amps, many outstanding musicians would come from near and far. The club had one problem though: it needed a house band to back singers who could not accompany themselves.

Guitarist Aaron Price and I were playing with the Hollywood Hillbillies. When Fur Dixon left the Hillbillies to join the Cramps, we drafted the Hillbilly’s drummer Steve Bidrowski, and changed the band’s name to the Denver Mexicans.  Steve had previously been a member of Sire Records’ seminal psychobilly band The Unknowns, and the trio was now the Soundcheck’s house band. The Denver Mexicans’ name was based on characters from Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road.

Aaron is what we call a musician’s musician. His dazzling yet emotional skills garnered the respect of a legion of Pro players, including Rockpile’s Billy Bremner who produced our first album. We were musical acrobats, and we saw no borderline between Ernest Tubb and Ornette Coleman. Aaron would sing a little bit too. His voice sounds like a country version of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen.

During my two years with the Denver Mexicans we backed our club’s guest vocalists, including Peter Case, Charlie Sexton, Rosie Flores, and Lucinda Williams. An old homeless looking gent asked to sit in one night, and after he shredded the PA with his voice, we realized that he was Bob Seger.

El Duce was one of those LA people who thought he was normal, and after Aaron joked that the Mexicans wanted to play our farm-jazz on a bill with the Mentors, El Duce bit the bait. The joint was jumpin’ as the Denver Mexicans opened for the Mentors, but meanwhile El Duce’s joint was also jumping as he exposed himself to Baba’s 12 year old daughter. Upon hearing the news, Baba lured El Duce into the club’s kitchen where she repeatedly beat him over his saved head with a cast iron skillet. Just before our lovable sociopath fell to the floor, he muttered the words: “Baba, pretty soon I’m not going to enjoy this anymore.” The crowd was not upset with the Mentors sudden cancelation. They were happy just to lead a parade procession through the kitchen, to see El Duce collapsed on the bloody concrete floor.

I left the band when the Health Department closed down the Soundcheck. The group continued with jazz bassist Marco Fox as my replacement, and released a second album on the French label New Rose. Aaron now plays pedal steel guitar in Portland, and is still a good friend. Steve latter joined my band the Droogs, and played on two European tours. Steve is now happily married to Baba, but he still hides the skillet. El Duce was sentenced to eternal damnation, and is serving his time in Heaven.

– Dave Provost

Provostian Moments Vol. X: The Ringling Sisters

3 May

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.

_____________________________________________________

The Ringling Sisters

he Ringling Sisters were a performance art troupe started by a flock of tiara wearing Hollywood rock starlings. Most of the ladies had been residents of the infamous landmark known as Disgraceland, the most fabled party house in LA punk history. Many books have featured tales of the institution’s sin and hilarity. The troupe was made up of singers, circus freaks, aging drag queens, and spoken word artists.

The ringleader was famed Hollywood luminary Pleasant Gehman. Plez is a hybrid of Dolly Parton and Salvador Dali, and I adore this former singer of the Screamin’ Sirens. Other band mainstays were Annette Zilinskas, formerly of Blood on the Saddle, and the lovely author Iris Berry. Texacala Jones was also an early member. These coquettes had hearts of gold, and decided to help out an even older institution the Hollygrove Orphanage. The Ringling Sisters’ annual Christmas Fun Raiser drew huge crowds year after year to the Hollywood Palace, and saved the struggling orphanage.

With the addition of the Devil Squares’ Debbie Dexter and a male backup band, the group was signed to A&M Records. Legendary producer Lou Adler worked his magic, and made an album 60 Watt Reality that represents the underbelly of Hollywood life better than Jim Morrison could had ever dreamed. It’s a hauntingly beautiful recording.

I joined the band when bassist/backup band leader Gary Eaton switched to guitar. Over time I became the co-pilot with Pleasant. We later recorded a vinyl EP and the soundtrack for Orion Picture’s Bar Girls. Some of the other revolving members were Dave Catching from Tex and the Horseheads, Billy Bizeau formerly with The Quick, Davie Allan from the Arrows, and Abby Travis sideman for Elastica and Beck.

It was a prerequisite to have a wicked sense of humor in the Ringling Sisters. When critics called the group painfully politically correct because of our involvement with Rock the Vote, Amnesty International, and Queer Nation, we reacted by starting a spinoff joke band called Honk if Yer Horny. A pornographic country version of Gwar – replete with toothless banjo players, topless hay bale wrestling, audience masturbation contests, and songs like “Everybody’s Fucking My Baby.” We would flip a coin to decide on which band we were going to appear as, the morning of the show.

The worst thing about being a bass player is that people trust you. They assume that the hours that you’ve spent in a zen-like trance – playing repetitious parts while others dance around playing wanker solos! – is a sign of stability. This is also why us bassists always get stuck with the chores that our bandmates avoid.

My Christmas show assignment was easy enough: pick up a goat, a bale of hay, a 6’3″ transvestite, and the show’s MC, the infamous Blackspoitation star Rudy Ray Moore. The goat quickly made herself at home in the backseat of my Chevy Corvair, as did Rudy. But the bale of hay posed a problem. It had been dropped off in the lobby of a Hollywood apartment building, and it’s proximity to a Christmas tree meant children had build a nativity scene on it. The kids looked on in horror as Rudy and I spirited the hay bale out from under their shrine.

The goat chewed on Rudy’s neck when I pulled over to pick up the transvestite on Hollywood boulevard. Evidently, this action and/or the contents of my car had looked suspicious to the LAPD officers that handcuffed us and tied up the goat (police and art lover are not synonymous). My explanation fell on deaf ears, but it was even more embarrassing when my former high school girlfriend and her husband walked by the crime scene.

I wish that I could say that this wasn’t a typical day in the life of a Ringling Sister, but this was small potatoes in comparison.

– Dave Provost

Provostian Moments Vol. IX: Davie Allan & The Arrows

29 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.

_____________________________________________________

Davie Allan & The Arrows

n 1965, I wanted to be James Bond as much as every other acned adolescent boy. In the darkness of the Van Nuys Fox Theater, I watched the short skateboarding film Skaterdater that was used as the intro to Thunderball. The music score was terrifying. The massive theater was filled with the fuzz drenched guitar sound of Davie Allan & the Arrows.

Davie Allan, also known as King Fuzz, provided the soundtracks for over 40 of the coolest cult films of all time. With close ties to director Roger Corman and the production of Mike Curb, The Arrows became the best selling instrumental band of 1967. Their hit single “Blues Theme” from The Wild Angels would be responsible for the formation of countless garage bands for the next four decades, including Van Halen, who worked the song up as their first number. The iconic photo of the 6’5″ Davie Allan holding a double neck Mosrite guitar is forever etched in the minds of cave-teens worldwide.

I couldn’t watch a teen dance show on TV without seeing the Arrows. They were ringers for other Tower recording artists, including Max Frost & the Troopers, the Hands of Time, and the Chocolate Watchband. The Arrows appeared on TV’s Get Smart, and in Corman’s film The Hard Ride. Davie is also the uncredited vocalist on the theme song of Corman’s Glory Stompers. Needless to say, I became Davie Allan’s biggest fan.

My friend Chris Ashford is the man who first released the Germs on his indy label What? Records. In 1993 Chris was producing Davie Allan’s new album, and he asked me to play bass. Original Arrow Drew Bennet was also in the band. For the first two years we played LA shows with bands like X and Agent Orange, and became Hollywood’s cool party band. When the film Pulp Fiction was released in 1995 the Instro scene exploded. Even though the Arrows weren’t on the soundtrack, we were rediscovered by a new generation of fans. Rhythm guitarist Drew Bennet did not want to tour, and was replaced by the lovely miss Carman Hillebrew, formerly with the Dayglo Abortions. Together we played on bills with Link Wray, Dick Dale, and the Lively Ones. We also toured Europe, and sold out a show at the Garage in London. Davie and I happily continued to write and record songs for Roger Corman soundtracks too.

When we played on the starting line of LA’s gigantic annual motorcycle rally/charity fund raiser, the Love Ride, there were ten thousand Harley Davidsons revving up their engines as we launched into “Blues Theme”. But the real chaos was yet to come.

Jerry Lewis, the event’s host waited in his dressing room trailer as celebrities like Peter Fonda and Pamela Anderson mingled with the crowd. The radio DJ Doctor Demento was our MC. Ten kids in wheelchairs had been rolled on stage, and were placed right in front of our powerful amps. The kids had Muscular Dystrophy, and were to be interviewed by Mr Lewis. Our drummer had very specific instructions to play a long snare drum roll, as a cue to bring Mr Lewis to the stage, but first there was to be an unveiling of the original oil painting of the new Love Ride poster.

Over the years many of the world’s greatest living artists such as David Hockney and Peter Max had donated their talents to the charitable cause, and this year’s poster art was painted by my hero Stanley Mouse. Even if you don’t know the name, you’ve seen his work. His 1960’s psychedelic posters for San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom are American treasures, and the originals fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars. Stanley Mouse looked like a real hippy as he stood in the crowd next to Anna Nicole Smith who was asking for his autograph.

During the unveiling, our stupid ass drummer played the long snare roll too early, and Jerry Lewis came bounding to the stage. Jerry Lewis quickly realized that this was a miscue, and defaulted into his famous slapstick mode. He grabbed the painting like it was a 10 cent vaudeville prop, and proceeded to stretch it over his head. The fat biker security guards tackled Stanley Mouse to the ground as he ran to the stage to rescue his valuable masterpiece.

Mr Lewis then stood on Stanley Mouse as he taunted him with a “Hey Biker Biker” in his best Nutty Professor voice. To add insult to injury Jerry Lewis successfully ripped his head through the painting, and danced like a striper as he wore it like a beauty contest sash. Dr Demento turned to me and said “Looks like the King of Comedy is a little out of control this morning. Why don’t you play a song?” But we couldn’t without blowing out the eardrums of some unfortunate children.

Later that same day, The Arrows played behind a transsexual fashion show in Silverlake, but it was like a midwest ice cream social in comparison. Davie and I are still good pals, and I’m sure we’ll play more crazy shows together.

– Dave Provost

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.

_____________________________________________________

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

Provostian Moments Vol. VII: The Dream Syndicate

21 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.

_____________________________________________________

The Dream Syndicate - Medicine Show

would love to see the early Dream Syndicate band leaders Steve Wynn and Karl Precoda get back together. Their oil and water polarization was a caustic explosion of tension and release. Karl’s feedback drenched guitar bombast was the ultimate foil for Steve’s world weary voice. Steve played the guitar like someone was holding a Mack 10 to his head. And when you add the man-machine force of Dennis Duck’s drumming into the mix . . . Holy Cow!!!

I was the luckiest guy on my block when I got the gig in that band. Kendra Smith’s shoes were hard to fill – the shouts of “where’s Kendra?” didn’t go unnoticed. But having played in rock bands for fifteen years prior to joining the group made me both journeyman and sturdy foundation for the musical drama. My minimalist rhythm n blues bass parts helped to map out the new direction that the Dream Syndicate were to navigate. We’d played the new songs live, and had everything in place to make the under-budget Medicine Show LP in less than a week, but that wasn’t in the cards.

I do accept some of the responsibility for the flack that we took from the upset Days of Wine and Roses fans, but I wasn’t working alone. I was in love with that album too. The tours that we did to promote Wine and Roses were the best days of my life; opening the U2 War tour was also an incredible experience.

Sometimes the ends do justify the means. Until recently, I had never listened to the Medicine Show album. Steve mailed me a reissue after we reconnected at his Baseball Project show in Portland, and I literally trembled as I played it. I was overtaken by the memory of the six month long recording session, and by the undeniable masterpiece that the Dream Syndicate had created. Steve Wynn’s American Gothic vision had held up superbly, and had taken on even more relevance. “Burn” is still my favorite song of the collection.

Sandy Pearlman, the record’s producer, is a textbook definition of eccentric, but he certainly has made some great records with artists such as the Clash, the Dictators, and the Blue Oyster Cult. And yes, Sandy did ask for “more cowbell” once.

Steve is the only person that’s really qualified to fully chronicle the making of that album, and knowing what I know, it’ll be one hell of a book. The only thing that I request of music historians is that Medicine Show be represented as a San Francisco album. It could not have been recorded anywhere else in the world.

—–

I like to remember the lighter moments, and there was no shortage of them. Karl Precoda was a mere twenty one years old when I first started rooming with him at the Iroquois Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The hotel was our extended stay base-of-operation on the East Coast. We shared the room that James Dean had once lived in. Karl and I became pals right from the start. His maturity, and my lack of it, was a good match.

Precoda had an obsession with fishing. He always maintained that the only thing that he got from touring was the opportunity to fish the rivers and lakes of our great nation. I had spent a good chunk of my childhood fishing with my Southern relatives, and Karl and I would spend many a night out on the water. Just the two of us in the moonlight, with Judas Priest blasting from a boombox. More often than not we would go back to the hotel empty handed. It might have been the bait, or maybe fish don’t like Judas Priest.

I stayed behind when Karl went to visit his friend Bebe. It was a long train ride for him, but she lived on a lake. That’s the kind of guy he is. If I was hanging with one of the world’s most beautiful women, I wouldn’t show up dressed like a lumber jack, carrying a years supply of bait, and beef jerky.

I was hungover from a night on the town when Karl walked in with the biggest fresh water fish I’d ever seen. Our rockstar was proud, and after I retrieved the Polaroid camera from under my bed he posed with his catch. Steve, on the other hand, was not as impressed by Karl’s magnificent fete, and when he came to our room three days later to fetch us for an afternoon photo shoot, the fish had grown very ripe in the kitchen sink. Steve simply opened our 8th floor window, and tossed the big guy out to the street below.

When the band met up in the lobby, a New York City construction worker was complaining to the hotel manager about being struck to the ground. He was wearing a hard hat, an orange vest, and holding a very large fish.

– Dave Provost