19 May 2009
"THE REMAINS - THE REMAINS" (60s GARAGE ROCK US 1966)
"The Remains" are "Barry Tashian" (lead and rhythm guitar), "Vern Miller" (bass guitar), "Billy Briggs" ("Wurlitzer Electric Piano"), and "Chip Damiani" (drums).
"Barry Tashian" already had a taste of success with a Connecticut band, "The Ramblers", beginning in the late 1950s; and they even managed to get some attention outside the region, including an appearance on "American Bandstand".
"Vern Miller" got his start playing that noble instrument, the tuba. Then when he was twelve, he earned money for an electric guitar by mowing the lawn in a cemetery.
One contemporary source described "Chip Damiani" as 'a gypsy of sorts'.
"Vern Miller" and "Barry Tashian" met and played a little music.
"Chip Damiani" joined them; and by the spring of 1964, this outfit was playing once a week in the back room of Gene Brezniak's Lounge Bar. "We'd work for twenty-five bucks apiece", said "Vern Miller", "and all the beer we could drink".
"It was just loud, raucous, savage, and fun"."Barry Tashian" spent that summer traveling in Europe. It was in London that they first heard the music of "The Rolling Stones" and "The Kinks".
These and other British-Invasion groups, such as "The Yardbirds", seem to have had a tremendous influence on "The Remains".
In the fall of 1964, "Billy Briggs" arrived at Boston University, evidently with an electric piano; and he joined Damiani, Miller, and Tashian.
Not much later, they went to a party to seek suggestions about what to call their band. A student named Barbara came up with the name, "The Remains".
By November, the "Lounge Bar"'s cellar was being called "The Rathskeller".
It had some tables and a jukebox, and it was now opened up to live music.
A regular weeknight became "Remains Night" at the little "Kenmore Square club".
Soon fans were standing in long lines, waiting to get in.
"The Remains" stood on a low stage built from planks and milk crates. Then they "turned up their amps", said "Vern Miller": "pounded the drums and played uncivilized Rock and Roll while the audience drank beer, danced, and perspired. It was dark, damp, noisy, smelly, and fun. No matter how wild the crowd got, the music never stopped".
Don Law, Jr., heard "The Remains" at "The Rat" and alerted recording industry executives. "The Remains" accepted an invitation from "Epic Records" for an audition in January, and the session went very well.
"Epic Records" signed them immediately.
The Remains: "You Got A Hard Time Coming" / "Say You're Sorry" / "Don't Look Back" / "Diddy Wah Diddi" (sic), Epic EP 9068, Spain 1966
Things were moving fast for "The Remains". They began playing on weekends at New England colleges.
In one early show at the "University of Massachusetts", they shared the stage with "Bo Diddley" and "The Shirelles" and performed before a crowd of 4,000.
One thing that was endearing about "The Remains" was a fascinating tension between two seemingly contradictory aspects of the group's nature.
On the one hand, "The Remains" was a very wild band, with its members jumping around on stage and playing at incredibly high volumes that never had been heard before.
On the other hand, this was an amazingly disciplined act--thoroughly rehearsed and with its earnings tied up in expensive performance equipment that band members really couldn't afford.
These are among the qualities that, in time, made "The Remains" the pivotal act in New England's Rock history.
The Remains shot promo © Carl Tashian
Things were not going quite as well, though, in the recording studio.
The band's sound, said "Vern Miller", was "loud and gutsy".
They set up in "Columbia Studios", and the first thing they were told was to turn down their amps. "Nobody knew how to deal with us. They had never recorded this kind of stuff before".
"Looking back, we might have done better with a Webcor in somebody's garage".
Still, their second single, "I Can't Get Away from You / "But I Ain't Got You" (Epic 5-9872, 1965), came out in the fall and did well in New England.
By 1966, they were rearranging old songs and trying out new material.
Every show had something different to give.
Their third release on "Epic Records" came out early in March 1966. "Diddy Wah Diddy" / "Once Before" (Epic 5-10001, 1966), produced by "Billy Sherrill", was a fine single.
It hit the stores, though, at about the same time as "Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band"'s recording of "Diddy Wah Diddy", which certainly didn't help sales. "The Remains" might have had better luck if the very strong "Once Before" had been the featured side.
Around this time or certainly not much later, "The Remains" moved to New York City and made their headquarters in a large Greenwich Village loft. "John Kurland" was managing them, and "General Artists Corporation of America" was doing their booking.
Although "The Remains" were "Epic Records" recording artists, it is interesting to note that they also had an audition with "Capitol Records".
"We were not happy with Epic Records at the time. Our manager wanted to check out the lay of the land, so to speak, with other labels. In Boston, "Capitol Records"' rep up there, "Al Coury", had initially expressed a great deal of interest in the band.
Our relationship with the head of A&R at "Epic Records", "Bob Morgan", left something to be desired. At "Epic Records", our unhappiness stemmed from the fact that, promotion-wise, we felt like we were the poor cousins to "Bobby Vinton", "Ed Ames", and "The Yardbirds", "Epic Records"' biggest selling artists at the time.
Our manager apparently just went ahead and set up this little audition with "Capitol Records". There was no offer forthcoming from "Capitol Records", so nothing changed for us at the time. Nothing happened, other than the fact that we have a nice 'live' tape".
They went into a recording studio and set up; and at 9 in the morning, dressed in sports jackets and ties, they recorded a demo tape for "Capitol Records".
Band members have long said that these are the only recordings that come close to reflecting the energy and excitement of their live shows.
The Remains live in Boston © Carl Tashian
"The Remains" were booked solid into Summer 1966, with many engagements in their New England stronghold along with appearances at a couple hot New York nightclubs. Somewhere in here--and late spring looks good--a new opportunity came their way. "John Kurland", their manager, asked, "Would you guys like to go on tour with The Beatles?"
The Remains live on Beatles Tour, 1966 © Carl Tashian
"Chip Damiani" decided not to go on "The Beatles" tour, and he left "The Remains". Published reports differ about why, though he had been reluctant to move away from Boston; and only a few months earlier, he told a reporter that he hoped to return to college.
Before "The Beatles" tour got under way, "Epic Records" released "The Remains"' best single, "Don't Look Back" / "Me Right Now" (Epic 5-10060, 1966).
The same day, a new Beatles album, "Revolver", came out.
The first two shows with Beatles in Chicago on Friday, August 12, 1966, must have been an incredible experience for "The Remains".
They played a short opening set--their very first concert performance with exciting new, seventeen-year-old drummer "Norman Dow Smart II"--and then backed up "Bobby Hebb" and "The Ronettes".
Only an hour and a half of rehearsal time had been available for them to work out accompaniments for these two acts. They were flying by the seats of their pants; but "The Remains" were up to the task, and their efforts did not go unnoticed.
The Remains live on Beatles Tour, 1966 © Carl Tashian
Concerts followed at Detroit, Cleveland, Washington, Philadelphia, and Toronto.
This trip took place amid controversy over "John Lennon"'s comment that "The Beatles" were more popular than Jesus. Demonstrations followed, including parties where the group's records were burned.
"The Beatles" tour continued through Cincinnati and St. Louis on the way to the much-anticipated concert at Shea Stadium in New York. A print-ad that was running at the time, for a Remains' appearance on "The Hullabaloo! Show", included a picture of the band members with half of their faces in light and half in shadow. This reference to an early photographic image of "The Beatles" would have been hard to miss.
For "Barry Tashian", the "Shea Stadium" appearance was a high point of the tour, as he felt incredible energy from the crowd just before he stepped out on stage.
After New York, "The Beatles" tour made concert stops at Seattle and Los Angeles. "The Remains" really liked to interact with their audience; but at many concerts on "The Beatles" tour--such as the "Dodger Stadium" show and especially the final concert at "Candlestick Park" in San Francisco--they were isolated from crowds that were a considerable distance away.
Candlestick Park, San Francisco - August 29, 1966: the last Beatles concert
Then shortly after "The Beatles" tour, "Barry Tashian" did something truly remarkable.
He disbanded the group!
In a much-quoted comment, he later told "Blitz Magazine", "I'm not even sure why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time".
To Remains fans, though, this decision was impossible to understand. This was the hottest band out of New England, had been heavily booked for many months, and had just received priceless publicity by traveling with "The Beatles".
The Remains shot for album, 1966 © Carl Tashian
Remains' eponymous album (Mono Epic LN 24214, and Stereo Epic BN 26214, 1966) came out in September, but they never toured to promote it.
Their final show took place at "Bowdoin College" in Maine, and that was the end of "The Remains".
A Remains' performance?
"Baby Please Don't Go" opens it.
The first verse is sung over a simple bass and drum figure; the second verse features the piano and guitar crashing in, opening up the whole sound.
The number is one of their best.
They'll do "Why Do I Cry" because their fans love it and will never understand why it wasn't a hit. (In case anyone wants to know why, there are two very good reasons:
1. The gentleman who produced the record had never produced a record before in his life.
2. "Epic Records" did nothing to promote the record. The demo that "Barry Tashian" himself produced of this song is far superior to the version that was released.)
They do the song unbelievably well live, complete with breaks, rhythm changes--the works.
Then they finish the number, almost, and before it's over, they break into "All Day and All of the Night", and by this time you just can't believe they're happening.
They do some old Rhythm and Blues and lots of Stones material, done without exception better than the originals. Finally, they'll close with "Mystic Eyes".
For this, all I can say is that you have to be strong. The sound becomes so total that people can actually become frightened. "Barry Tashian" always outdoes himself especially in his guitar work on this number, their version being almost the equal of Them's. Then they play their little theme music, dance around, and run off stage.
During the entire performance "The Remains" proceed as tightly and professionally as possible. They run on stage, waste no time between songs; visually, they're constantly moving, throughly engrossed in their music. They treat their audiences with respect.
Right now, "The Remains" are suffering from the problem: they aren't been able to find a way to get their incredible live sounds down on record.
It's very difficult for the wildness and spontaneity of both group like "The Remains" to penetrate the technique of multi-tracked recording.
Read also "Barry Tashian"' book: "Ticket to Ride: The Extraordinary Diary of the Beatles Last Tour"