Friday, May 18, 2007

The Nicest Guy In The Music Business-- and Not the Nicest

A few weeks ago, the singer for Boston, Brad Delp, passed away. The band put a nice tribute to him on their website saying that the nicest guy in the music business had died. I never met Brad Delp, but of the people I've met in the music business, the nicest I ever met was John Bazz, the bass player for The Blasters. (he's the guy to the far right in the picture).

In October of 2003, The Blasters, with their original line-up, played a series of reunion shows at Fitzgerald's, a club in Berwyn, Illinois. The Blasters were, IMHO, one of the great underappreciated groups of the eighties. Their first album, the eponymous "The Blasters," was a rockin' slice of good old rock and roll. They came out of the same L.A. scene as X, Los Lobos and Black Flag. Their third album, Hard Line, which came out in 1985, is one of my favorites-- it's a highly political album, critical of Reagan. All of the recordings that were released by Slash Records, including their first and third albums, were released as a set called "Testament." I highly recommend it.

The Blasters have struggled since 1986 in various forms-- Dave and Phil Alvin, the brothers who are at the core of the group, hate one another. And to make matters worse, Dave was the main songwriter, but can't sing nearly as well as brother Phil. Phil heads the various incarnations of The Blasters these days.

But in October of 2003, the Alvin brothers were together onstage, filling out the original line-up.

The show was great and the company was (mostly) good. The Elk, our late friend Mark and the evil roommate were with me. The Blasters were in great form, playing a nice range of their material.

As the show wound down, I had a mission: I had a favor to return. My friend Andreas had gotten me Joe Strummer's signature on a poster at a rock festival in Northern California (the Blasters had played there too) a few months before. The Blasters had been, along with the Clash, our favorite band since college.



I bought a t-shirt for Andreas, and took out the Sharpie marker I'd brought along. As the crowd thinned out, a couple of members of The Blasters stepped out to have a beer or a cigarette and chat with fans. I approached John Bazz, told him what a great show it had been, and how exciting it was to finally get to see them. I asked if he'd sign the t-shirt. He told me he'd be glad to, and asked if I'd like the rest of the band to sign it. I was bowled over. He took it backstage and got the rest of the band to sign it. I thanked him profusely.

A few minutes later, I saw one of the Alvin brothers--Phil, I thought-- standing near the stage door. I'd read, in an article, that Phil had gotten his PhD in Mathematics, and was now teaching at a college in California.

Now just to explain, I'd been up since 5:30 that morning (it was about 11:30 P.M at that point), had worked a full day teaching sixth grade (my first year doing that) and I'd had a couple of cocktails. I was exhausted, and a little tipsy.

So when I started asking him about getting his PhD in Math, he looked disgusted, threw down his cigarette, spat out "Wrong F*ckin' Alvin!" and stomped off.

It was Dave, not Phil.

I don't think I helped the Alvin brothers get along any better that night.

14 comments:

Tenacious S said...

I think history proves that brothers in bands are NOT a good idea:
Oasis
Black Crowes
Split Enz/Crowded House
My husband's old roomies who were in a band that never made it past the garage and constantly yelled "You're stupid!" "No, you're stupid!"

Erik Donald France said...

Whoah, too damned funny. And I loved that Cramps cover in yesterday's post. Viva the Blasters, even if the bro's are, as you pointed out before, as pugnacious toward each other as the Davies brothers.

deadspot said...

Well, at least he had a sense of humor about it.

Natalie said...

What a nice and not nice story. Speaking of odd musical stories, how do you feel about Elijah Wood playing Iggy Pop?

Splotchy said...

At least you didn't say you loved his previous work with the chipmunks.

I'll have to check out The Blasters. Haven't heard a lick by them.

The Elk said...

Elijah Wood Playing Iggy pop....Hmmmm Gotta think about that one.
They should just let the Ig play himself.
JY and I saw the Stooges a few weeks back at the Congress Theatre.
As JY put it, "F***ing God Head!"

Doc said...

I'm afraid Splotchy beat me to it. I could never keep the chipmunks straight either.

Great post!

Doc

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Hahaha I'll bet you just made his night!

Johnny Yen said...

TenS-
Yeah, doesn't seem to be a good idea, does it? Jeez, my brothers and I weren't even in a band together, and we used to beat the crap out of one another. Now we just don't talk to each other.

Erik-
That is one of the great album covers and album titles ever, isn't it?

I think I mentioned, Kim saw the Davies brothers get in a fight onstage at a Kinks show at Poplar Creek, a now-gone huge venue (Sears razed it when they moved their headquarters out of the Sears Tower and into the suburbs).

Deadspot-
Heh- he could have pretended he was Phil if he really wanted to mess with me.

Natalie-
Thanks! You know, if he had the right haircut, he'd look like a young Iggy, but less muscular, and less macho.

Splotchy-
If I'd been quick on my feet, I'd have comlimented him on the work he did with Dave Seville. Then he'd really have hated me.

You've probably heard some of their stuff. One of the songs from Hard Line, "Dark Night" was in the Tarantino/Rodriquez movie "From Dusk 'Til Dawn." And they unfortunately had a few songs and an appearance in a horrendous movie, Streets of Fire. They turned down 48 Hours (the Busboys ended up doing the soundtrack).

Elk-
The Ig can still kick out the jams, can't he?

Doc-
Thanks!

Anon. Blogger said...

You gotta love it. A celebrity that bites the hand that feeds it. Fools.

Elizabeth said...

Being in a band with siblings does work sometimes. I like the Finn brothers and they get along. The Wilson sisters are best buds and the Van Halen brothers get along because Alex goes along with whatever Eddie wants. I've never heard anything negative about the Everly brothers and look at the Gibbs, they get along, but they die young. The music business is a bitch, so in order for it to work, you have to be close in the first place.It can be done.

Elizabeth said...

It's a great story, by the way.

GETkristiLOVE said...

I can't imagine hating my brother, but Dave sounds like an asshole.

Johnny Yen said...

Anonymous Blogger-
Unfortunately, he's not the only one. Working in the service business you see and hear about a lot of incidents of it.

Elizabeth-
I think it's a mixed bag, for sure. I've actually heard that the Everly Brothers had a rough time of it, but I think, like you said, people that work that close together, whatever their relationship already, can bump heads.

Kristi-
I like his politics-- I think he's the more politically inclined of the two-- but his people skills leave a little to be desired for sure.