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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.

_____________________________________________________

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

Provostian Moments Vol. III: The Textones

7 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.

_____________________________________________________

ever name your band after a city, or for that matter a drug. In 1976, I joined a band that was signed to ABC Dunhill. They had an album out, a lifetime supply of Lone Star beer, and I needed a road trip. They were from a small town near Houston called Navasota. Which was ironic, because their name was Navasota. It was as close to being in the Hells Angels as you can get. A Southern boogie band that could rock with the best of them, Navasota were a hugh regional draw. We played legendary rooms like the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin.              

Texas treats it’s musicians like royalty. Unlike the rest of the world, Texas parents would rather have their daughter marry a bass player then a doctor or lawyer (Waylon must be smiling).  Navasota had a hard and fast rule: women must be shared with the whole band. After a show in Austin, I met a charming young lady named Kathy Valentine. I was just enjoying hanging out with her, but my band had other ideas. Now, I do have some scruples. Sitting with her in a coffee shop, talking music all night, was alright with me. Navasota shipped me back to California the next day.                                                                                                                                                              
Three years later, I was playing with Kathy and her friend Carla Olson in The Textones out in Los Angeles. They had played together in an Austin band named The Violators, often considered the first late 70’s Texas punk band. Both had lived in England. Kathy had played with Girlschool, while Carla had worked with Nick Lowe.

LA was hopping again. Great indy labels sprang up: Dangerhouse, Slash, and later SST. The scene was a mix of music, art, and fashion. The better bands found their own unique niche: X, The Screamers, The Alley Cats, and The Weirdos were my favorites. I also liked pop groups like The Know and The Zippers.  My band The Textones were carpetbaggers, like our fellow Texans The Plugz. The notion of being an import weighs heavier in LA than in more sophisticated cities like New York.

As much as I hate to admit it, The Runaways had broken the novelty of being a female musician. Girls no longer felt compelled to overplay just to prove that they could hold their own with the boys. We befriended a lot of bands of various styles, and painted ourselves into a corner. We became The Official Opening Act of Los Angeles, opening for Teenage Jesus & The Jerks one night, and The Cowsills the next. Los Angelenos have always been Anglophiles, and our Southern drawl was no match to the British accents that were invading our town.

Ted Caroll of Chiswick records liked our “Texas beat”, and as The Violators had opened for The Damned in San Antonio, he signed us to a one off deal. An unreleased Tom Petty song on one side, and Kathy’s tune “Vacation” on the flip. This would be the last record ever recorded at Shelter studios. During playbacks we could hear loud popping sounds, which on closer inspection we discovered were just some hillbillies shooting at beer bottles on the roof. Those hillbillies were The Dwight Twilley Band, and it was the beginning of a long friendship.

Other LA bands signed with UK labels. The Go-Go’s went with Stiff, and Holly & The Italians signed with Oval and moved to London. We also cut a 7-inch for IRS that received the lowest score in the history of American Bandstand’s Rate A Record. This is because they had played the wrong side – a ballad about wife beating that the kids couldn’t dance to. But having a record out gave us the cache that we needed. We were no long playing at Chino Prison with The Plimsouls, we were opening tour dates for Gang Of Four and The Ramones, and were still able to play honkytonks in Austin with groups like The Big Boys, Joe King Carrasco, Double Trouble, and Doug Sahm.

When we appeared at a club called Zeros in Fort Worth, the taxidermist next door hadn’t payed his electric bill in over a week – the stench of rotting animals permeated the wall behind the stage. The cowboy that owned the club had no sense of smell due to cocaine abuse, and demanded that we play three sets to an empty house. Kathy Valentine quit The Textones the following night, only to join The Go-Go’s soon after.

Our drummer Markus Cuff and I stayed on with Carla as a trio. We no longer had Kathy’s insight or song catalog, however we were still well known enough to procure a 6-month weekend residency at The Whisky back in LA. Being the house band at the Whisky a Go Go had been a flossy gig at one time, first held by Johnny Rivers back in 1964. But our opening status put us more on the level of The Leaves.

Carla Olson had a vision of us being a country music crossover. No one liked this change, including our fans. After a disastrous gig with Echo & The Bunnymen, I left the group and joined Twilley alum Phil Seymour to promote his album on Boardwalk Records. Richard d’Andrea of The Know replaced me in the new Carla Olson and The Textones.

– Dave Provost

Provostian Moments Vol. II: Rodney’s English Disco

2 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.

_____________________________________________________

Rodney's English Disco

was a teenybopper when I had first met Kim Fowley, at an afternoon Doors show at Devonshire Downs on July 15, 1967. Kim was standing behind me, when he overheard me tell a friend that I’d ditched my paper route to be there. He grabbed me, and yelled: “That’s the spirit of Rock n Roll! Don’t ever lose that.” I never have.

The opposite reaction to the 70‘s singer/songwriter scene happening at the Troubadour was Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco on Sunset. A small room with a large dance floor, mirrored walls, jailbait, and quaaludes. Kids from the Valley spoke with fake British accents, and dressed like bisexual Disney characters. The music was great: Roxy, Bowie, Dolls, Quatro. My head’s about to explode just thinking about it.

Rodney would showcase live bands from time to time, including Zolar X and The Hollies. He really took a risk one night with former Seeds frontman Sky Saxon though. Kim Fowley had introduced me to a very overweight Iggy Pop earlier that evening. Iggy was my hero. He was more excited to see Sky than a kid waiting for Santa. He was also fucked up on drugs that they still don’t have names for today.

The thin white crowd didn’t know what to expect as a bevy of hippie girls walked in the room with their dogs and incense. Walking behind them was the most healthy suntanned version of Jesus I’d ever seen. Sky was at the top of his game; his backup band featured young guitarist Randy Rhoads. At one point Iggy grabbed the mike, screamed something about Hitler, sang “Pushin’ Too Hard” and then crawled under a table.  Sky’s response was “that’s really beautiful, man.”

A good time was had by all. Sky left with his seven wives, and Iggy left with two chubby lesbians.

– Dave Provost

Provostian Moments Vol. I: Remembrance Of Gigs Past

30 Mar

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. And who’s gonna take the reins of this blog for the next dozen or so serialised posts? That’s right, Dave Provost is.

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.

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.

_____________________________________________________

proclaiming "I'm four your older than rock n roll" never works as a pick-up line

he San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles was quite the destination in the early 1950s. Small ranch style houses, orange trees, movie stuntmen, and well stocked bomb shelters, all built by cold war paranoids. My parents moved there from Nashville in 1949.  My father had played piano with the Big Bands, and had written some hits. Session work was plentiful for my dad as Hollywood opened top flight recording studios.

A lot of great musicians would rehearse in our living room: Barney Kessel, Howard Roberts, Johnny Ray, Dorsey Burnette, and Art Pepper. There were songwriters Wayne Shanklin, Johnny Mercer, Cindy Walker, and comedians Milton Berle and Mort Saul. After I expressed interest in learning the guitar, my dad set me up with Carol Kaye, who loved to teach.  I would spend all of the money that I made from my paper route on records, lots of records. The first record I bought was “Raindrops” by Dee Clark, others were “Hippy Hippy Shake” by Chan Romero, and “Work With Me Annie” by Hank Ballard. We spoke rockabilly in our family, and we worshiped Phil Spector.

In the Valley every house had a garage, and after Hard Day’s Night every garage had a band. I was not a Beatles fan; I went for The Kinks, Yardbirds, and The Walker Bros. I would have played music even if The Beatles had never existed, but I’d be doing it in a different world.

(NOTE: I’m sick of the typical romanticism spewed by middle aged men about being in 60s bands. So let me set the record straight. The barometer of how good you were was not how many times the police asked you to keep it down. You didn’t run the whole band through one Vox amp. You couldn’t have been as big as The Turtles. You didn’t quit music to pursue a higher education, they sent your sorry ass to Vietnam. Your girlfriend never loved you, or your band. And the only reason that you have these glorious memories is that your folks owned a station wagon. Thanks, I needed that . . .)

My first gig was in the parking lot of a supermarket grand opening. We were doing great until the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile pulled up, and all the kids ran over to greet a “real” star: Little Oscar, the foul mouthed dwarf who drove the vehicle.  On the weekends, we played at a club called The Image in Van Nuys. We then moved to Gazzarri’s on the Strip. I had been going to clubs for years, however I was a babe in the woods when it came to the Strip. It was so far beyond anything depicted on film.

The Whisky A Go Go became the center of my universe. Most of the 60s clubs were all ages, but within days of the riot on Sunset, The Whisky changed it’s policy to 21 and over, and exclusively booked Motown acts.  What had been the primo venue for bands like The Byrds, Love, and The Doors was now driving the scene up north to San Francisco.

Overnight, garage punk bands starting switching to soul music, and added horn sections. Farfisas were replaced by Hammond organs. It was an easy transition for me to make. I had been recording radio jingles out at Gold Star Studios. My ability to read music made me a shoe in for the soul players to exploit for cheap labor; I had to learn “steps” that we would dance, as we read the sheet music that was placed on the floor. I was now playing with older black gentlemen who carried snakeskin sax cases and knives in their Italian shoes.  Al Green did a stint in that band. There were plenty of soul clubs and Key Parties to play. During that time Booker T & The MGs became my biggest influence, and still are today.
But after almost being grazed by a bullet while playing at the downtown RnB club called The Apartment, I decided it was easier to play with guys who picked on me in Jr High School.

——

In the early 70s, everyone wanted to be The Rolling Stones. I started a band that we unfortunately named TWANG, with lead singer David Leon, who later played the role of John Lennon in Broadway’s Beatlemania, and bassist Richard Grossman, later with Rick Springfield (circa “Jessie’s Girl”). The Sunset Strip was no longer a hot spot, it was now inhabited by tourists. The teen clubs were gone. The Whisky was now a major label showcase. So, we played the only game in town: Gazzarri’s.

Gazzarri’s was completely different now. Three stages with alternating sets. Pacific Ocean (w/ Edward James Olmos) and The Bantams were always on the bill, and sometimes Tony & The Tigers featuring Hunt and Tony Sales. Mammoth, who later became Van Halen, replaced us when we were fired for playing a ballad. Sparks became the brightest light to emerge from LA during this dark, dark period.

The so called Singer Songwriter epidemic reared it’s ugly head. Need I say more? I loved the Bleeker/McDougal Folk singers like Tim Hardin, Fred Neil, Dave Van Ronk, and Brits like Fairport and Pentangle. I also loved The Jefferson Airplane. But this new crop was painful. So I left Rock behind and joined the LA production of Jaques Brel Is Alive And Well.

– Dave Provost