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.