by SP Clarke.
Part 2: The Early ‘80s
By the Fall of 1982, the most significant club of that golden era had already been open for a year and a half, acting as a creative conduit for the entire Portland music community. As Tony DeMicoli was opening Luis’ La Bamba Club in the Spring of ’81, the nascent Portland music scene was in dire need of a unifying entity: a club that went beyond stylistic boundaries to feature the best Portland bands from all genres. La Bamba filled that need in spades, offering a superb venue for music and the various theatrical performances that were soon to take place upon the club’s expansive stage.
Migrating from Long Goodbye to the new space, located inside what is now called the New Rose Theatre building on 2nd Avenue at Southwest Ankeny, Demicoli carried with him the artistic vision he was only partially able to realize in the considerably smaller former space. The new room probably once housed the “Old” Rose Theatre, back in the vaudeville days at the turn of the 20th Century. It was approximately the same size as the main room at Mt. Tabor Pub, although the ceilings weren’t quite as high.
Before La Bamba materialized, the space had been a restaurant, the Medieval Inn, a castle-like affair, where bawdy wenches would coquettishly serve patron lords and ladies legs o’ mutton and flagons of ale. In the basement below that main hall was a vast dungeonesque area- seemingly roughhewn from massive blocks of stone- where other patrons could sup in quiet seclusion, away from the wild, teeming masses scranneling upstairs. Surprising as it might seem today, Middle Ages-themed restaurants were not uncommon at that time. Still, a renaissance was yet close at hand!
DeMicoli hastily converted the basement into a Mexican restaurant, hence the name Luis’ La Bamba. In point of fact, there was no Luis. It was a caricature of Tony’s visage which graced advertisements and promotional materials for the club. The uninformed were even known to refer to Tony as “Luis.” The downstairs restaurant area also served as a performance spot for impromptu theatrical uprisings, and for solo music acts, the most notable of whom was the Incredible John Davis.
The Incredible John Davis was a one-man-band extraordinaire (as well as a former world champion hang glider). With his left foot he would maintain the beat on an elaborate drum set, while playing pedal bass with his right. Meanwhile John would sing, occasionally blowing a harmonica, while playing crazy, heavily effected electric guitar, in a faintly reggae syncopated manner. It was a style, a lifestyle and a philosophy that Davis created and incessantly propounded to anyone who would listen. It was called “Boom Chuck.” The primary tenet was the upstroke and having it down. Incredible John once staged a twelve-hour one-man-band marathon in the basement at La Bamba. He called Jim Bosley “an old bald guy” to his face on an a KATU-TV AM Northwest “Punk Music” special.
One impressionable acolyte who traversed within the sphere of Incredible John’s sway was a young singer/guitarist from the Stonesy, bad boy Glam Punk band the Malchicks. Billy Rancher and his brother Lenny fronted the band- the two of them, as well as Rod Bautista, banging away relentlessly on out-of-tune guitars. In the meantime, bassist Dave Stricker and drummer Pete Jorguson would hold down the rhythm section, sometimes under terribly adverse conditions- as Billy and Lenny were often prone to getting into intense physical fights, even while playing on stage.
Billy Rancher was already notorious in Portland rock circles for innumerable transgressions. Commonplace were the occasions when Billy would empty pitchers of beer from the stage upon swirling dancers below him, or become a human beer fountain, spraying the crowd with a fine, sticky mist. More legendary still was the night Billy tipped over a pinball machine at Sacks, for which he afterward displayed no contrition whatsoever.
Championing the concept of Boom Chuck, Billy soon found the means to express it. Increasing friction between he and Lenny, led to a parting of ways and an end to the Malchicks. Shortly thereafter, in the late Summer of 1981, Billy unveiled his new band: the Unreal Gods- which featured former Malchick Dave Stricker on bass, Billy Flaxel on drums and Alf Ryder on keys. It was rumored that Dan Ross, formerly of Sand, had been considered for the lead guitar position, but it ended up going to Jon Dufresne- who had been playing with Casey Nova.
For the next several years, Billy Rancher and the Unreal Gods, along with the dancers the Goddesses A Go Go, were a major force throughout the Northwest region; the loci in an explosive Portland scene. Ground zero was La Bamba, the site of countless enchanted evenings.
Magical nights with the bluesy folk/rock of Jeffrey Frederick and Les Clams, the manic folk/jazz of Billy Kennedy with Le Bon. Film At 11 drew widespread acclaim for their exciting early shows. Formative shows from frat boy ska disciples the Crazy 8s; the initial outings of Map Of France- one of guitarist Duane Jarvis’ many subsequent bands after leaving the Odds in 1981.
Les Clams could actually be either of two bands on any given night. On the night’s when former Fugs member Steve Weber was in town, or felt up to it, the band was called the Rounders, the West Coast version of the Holy Modal Rounders, minus East coasters Michael Hurley and Peter Stampfel. When Weber was indisposed, guitarist Frederick, along with backing vocalist Jill Gross, would take over the duties as singers and the band would be called Les Clams.
The ensemble included keyboardist Richard Tyler, bassist Davis Reisch and drummer Roger North, along with fiddler Robin Remailly. Eventually, Bruce Sweetman, late of Seafood Mama, replaced Remailly and lead guitarist Michael Shane was added when Tyler unexpectedly died in March of 1983. Any performance by the Rounders or Les Clams was ordained to be a tribal gathering of all local hippie tribes, at which merriment and unbridled joy were rampant. Needless to say, expectations were always, uh, high at Clams performances and the band rarely failed to meet them. Several were the clubs where the band was banned for one indiscretion or another- many of their gigs included large quantities of broken glass, casualties to the reckless abandon with which the band (and their fans) often performed.
Film At 11 were the brainchild of guitarist Arni May and saxman Dave Hite, who were already veterans of bands such as the Briefcases and the legendary new wave instrumental band, Pell Mell. Film at 11 featured stark angular vocals from keyboardist Ingrid Shulze. Jim Haskett was the band’s original bassist, before moving over to guitar, his primary instrument, when Matt Fine became the new bassist. Then original drummer Bob Blade was replaced by Jay Sciarra, whom eventually gave way to Wilton Merritt, who brought along with him bassist Michael Clardy. By that time Schulze had left the band. Shortly after that Haskett left to join Theatre Of Sheep. The band continued on for a couple more years but could never duplicate their initial success.
The boyish Odds, guitarist Duane Jarvis, brother Kevin Jarvis on drums, Jim Wallace on bass and lead vocalist Ben Davis, formed in 1980; playing poppy new wave music which depended on a tight rhythm section and Duane’s youthful exuberance on guitar. The Odds quickly developed a loyal following, first at the Long Goodbye and then at La Bamba.
As always, Tony Demicoli’s policy at Luis‘ La Bamba, the stage was regularly open to the best fledgling rock bands. In addition, Tony’s fondness for cabaret inspired him to present “La Bamba Laugh Nights,” featuring top local and touring comics, as well as other theatrically inspired events. The chief among these were the rare, but always momentous appearances of D’anse Combeau.
Brainchild of the brilliant Jon Newton, the absurd concept behind the band was essentially that: a large, amorphous ensemble of French lounge musicians (comprised in part of members of his band Wallpaper Music), headed by a tall, charismatic figure (reminiscent of David Bowie and Howdy Doody, with a heavy French accent), were somehow stranded in our country and were thus obliged by cruel circumstance to play their repertoire of arcane ’60s songs, performed in an inimitably twisted Franco/latin style, at any club that would have them- a sisyphusian tour of hell. Their madcap version of the protest song “Eve Of Destruction” stands out as a distinct highpoint of their show.
The character of the lead singer, D’anse, was portrayed by Jim Baldwin- a member of the erstwhile dada-esque performance/art terrorist group, the Tu Tu Band (another Newton entity); who also worked as a cook in the La Bamba restaurant. As D’anse, the shy and reticent Baldwin blossomed into an extroverted singer and master of ceremonies, leading the decadent festivities with flair and suave facility. A Federico Fellini film scored by Spike Jones.
Perhaps the most dazzling of all the splendidly rendered spectaculars was “Woodstock Goes Hawaiian.” With hula girls swaying gently to the inoffensive latin beat, members of the orchestra hoisted upon their shoulders a canoe, bearing D’anse- who paddled with the utmost beneficence, as the entire retinue merrily glided through the aisles, among the dumbfounded audience.
Billy Rancher’s first serious local competition came from the Confidentials, a snotty power trio fronted by the intense Darrell Strong, whose bony melisma emanated a fierce dynamism, while drummer Alec Burton (late of Sado Nation) and bassist Tim Clift (who replaced Ken E. Cooper) formed the foundation of the band. During the early months of 1982, the Confidentials were creating quite a stir among area music journalists, some of whom designated the band as the “next big thing.” With a tight brand of angular hard-hitting pop ska, Strong and his mates acted as some cosmically dark opposition to the Unreal Gods’ sometimes puerile brightness.
About the same time, the face of the Portland music scene began to change as well. Dogged by neighborhood noise and vandalism complaints, the Earth was forced to shut its doors. Sacks too was forced out of business by a greedy landlord. The Foghorn, earlier known as the Wreck Of The Hesperus, closed, leaving many up-and-coming pop rock bands such as Mr. Nice Guy and Jenny and the Jeans, without a viable Eastside venue in which to ply their craft.
Formed in the Spring of 1981, Mr. Nice Guy, led by bassist Burrell Palmer and guitarist/keyboardist (and former Sequel member) Ralph Friedrichsen, the band‘s chief songwriters; backed by lead guitarist Van Dusky and drummer Greg Oberst, knew the value of fun. Their lively stage shows were always highly entertaining. Their video of their original song “Mary’s Garage” was featured on the fledgling MTV’s “Basement Tapes” program.
In 1982 Tommy Thayer and Jaime St. James of Movie Star joined forces with Jef Warner and Patrick Young to form the “super group” Black ‘n’ Blue. The band quickly took Portland by storm. Soon, they moved to LA, signing with Geffen Records in 1983 and touring with Aerosmith for four months; while subsequently recording several major label albums. Guitarist Thayer later went on to replace Ace Frehley in Kiss.
It was in the fall of 1982 that Jenny and the Jeans suffered a setback from which they never really recovered. While opening for Sequel at the Oregon Museum in Salem, their set was violently interrupted, when a disgruntled patron brought a gun into the bar and started firing, wounding 26 people, killing several more. Though none of the band members was injured in the incident, Jenny DiFloro, the beautiful and talented lead singer, drifted from the scene when the band broke up shortly thereafter, and was not heard in Portland again.
But Rod Langdahl the guitarist and songwriter in Jenny and the Jeans, did continue on, forming Thinman with his brother, bass player Rick and drummer Bill Zagone. Beginning as a trio, keyboardist/ guitarist Jeff Siri was eventually added to the crew, helping fill out the sound. Rod’s well constructed pop songs quickly met with widespread critical acclaim as another band donned the slippery mantle of “Next Big Quarterflash.”
Thinman gigged often in La Bamba, as well as the Last Hurrah and the newly opened Fat Little Rooster located in the Southeast at 16th and Hawthorne. The Fat Little Rooster was a mid-sized room, with a great stage, that regularly presented shows from Portland’s better alternative bands: the Unreal Gods, Theatre Of Sheep, the Miracle Workers, Map Of France, Positive Waves, Walkie Talkie and (eccentric).
Positive Waves (who later became Restless Natives) were a fiery new wave rock band that played off of the impassioned vocals of Charlie Calder and the fervent leads of guitarist Kevin Congrove. The rhythm section, drummer Mike Beck and bassist Sid Jones and keyboardist Paul Eddy helped to embellish Charlie’s songs, which typically dealt with interpersonal relationships. “It Only Hurts When You Stop” was one of the better examples.
My band, Walkie Talkie, featured me on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Arthur Beardsley on bass and backup vocals, Marshall Snyder on drums and guitar whiz Allen Whipps on lead guitar. Walkie Talkie played an edgy new wave rock sound with an emphasis on my original material. Popular songs were “Letters To Jodie,” “Space Truck,” “Brave New World” and “Unemployment Solution.”
Out of the ashes of Modern Problems, (eccentric) (the choice for lower case and parentheses was theirs) was born. Without Modern Problems keyboardist Tom Crockwell on board, eccentric were a foursome that included Dwayne Thomas on bass and Bruce Shera on drums, Raymond Martin on rhythm guitar and Leif Rasmussen on lead vocals and guitar synthesizer. The instrument (which often crapped out on Rassmussen at the very worst of moments) was quite a novelty for its day and lent the band a cutting edge sound, at times similar in tone and texture to the Teardrop Explodes or Echo and the Bunneymen; or at other times like the Police- but with a decidedly more adventurous aspect to their (eccentric) sound. Fan favorites among their songs were “I Don’t Sleep,” “National Geographic” and the ska-flavored “My Beat.”
The Last Hurrah maintained its image as bastion of the mainstream, the diametric alternative to La Bamba, though the same clientele circulated between both bars, as did many of the performing acts. Club owners Michael and Peter Mott steered a tight course when booking their establishment, preferring not to experiment with any formula but that of the tried-and-true. Still, the best local rock and funk bands were always slated for the weekends. On any given Saturday night, one was sure to find the Distractions or Slowtrain, the Cray Band, Puzzle, Nimble Darts or Nu Shooz.
Nu Shooz, founded in 1980, was the funky soul vision of guitarist/songwriter John Smith. Ever-changing band personnel always included a horn section and latin percussion as well as a lead singer. The fortuitous addition of vocalist David Musser solidified an early incarnation- his Daryl Hall-looks a natural counter to Smith’s resemblance to John Oates- leading to a first round of success for the band. Smith’s dedicated tinkering with the chemistry of Nu Shooz eventually led to the definitive recipe.
Another band to experience various permutations was Nimble Darts, a sassy pop band masterminded by guitarist/songwriter Robert Brown, with drummer Brian Clarke, and bassist Joey Nicholas; fronted by the affable Lorri Calhoun (who later married Sequel‘s Greg Georgeson), daughter of ‘50s film and TV cowhand, bad-boy actor Rory Calhoun. Dan Reed briefly played guitar and keys with Nimble Darts before moving on to greater glory later in the decade.
Puzzle was originally comprised of the remnants of the original Johnny and the Distractions (and ex- Wasted Rangers): guitarist Bill Feldman, bassist Rick Edwards and pedal steel guitarist Ron Stephens with keyboardist Mark Bosnian and drummer Calvin Walker. Stephens and Edwards left to form Sleeper with members of Hurrman Burrman, while Feldman Bosnian and Walker briefly reformed the band.
Euphoria continued it’s reign as the Eastside’s dominant “A” Room, offering a selective mix of touring national acts and a variety of local bands, One of those local bands was the Untouchables. The Untouchables were Chris Newman’s brief, stunning new wave four-piece SWAT team, with Mark Nelson on rhythm guitar, Dave Koenig on bass and Chon Carter on drums. Unbelievably compact, concise songs such as “If Jesus Played Electric Guitar,” “My TV,” “Soylent Green,” “Fake ID” “Lake Of Fire,“ and “Walking On The Water,” and a majestically operatic vocal delivery instantly distinguished Newman as a cut above the competition. His fiery, lead guitar work was peerless, invoking Jimi Hendrix and Steve Cropper, sometimes within the context of the same song.
In the void left by the closure of Urban Noize in 1981, the Met, became host to the local punk/alternative contingent. Located at the corner of Southwest 3rd and Burnside, the Met was one of the earliest scenes of “slam dancing” (a precursor to moshing) to take place in Portland. The Untouchables became Napalm Beach at the Met.
The Wipers played several triumphant shows at the Met after returning from a long US tour in support of their first independent release, Is This Real. Before Sam Henry left the band- Sage was preparing material to record for what became the band’s monumental follow-up, Youth Of America.
Henry and Chris Newman founded Napalm Beach with bassist Dave Dillinger, a darker, heavier band than the Untouchables. The new group displayed volcanic intensity and served as the perfect launching pad for Newman’s pyrotechnic displays of sheer sonic majesty on the guitar.
The Met was also the location where Poison Idea broke onto the scene. The Rats briefly became the Torpedos and went back to being the Rats at the Met. The Torpedos were a ‘60s Punk cover-band side project, which featured Fred Cole on guitar and vocals, the Untouchables’ Mark Nelson and Sado Nation’s Dave Corboy on rhythm guitars, Mark Sten on bass and Louis Samora on drums. Together the band tore through such classic ‘60s hits as Love’s “My Little Red Book,” Them’s “Baby Please Don’t Go,” The Yard birds’ “Heart Full of Soul and the Music Machine’s “Talk Talk,” among many others.
Still, the Rats commanded the most attention for their vibrant, stripped-down form of rock. Their music was referred to as ‘grundge” in a local review of the day. They were not the only “grundge” band toiling in Portland a full decade before the Seattle Sound.
New, larger halls opened, to challenge Euphoria’s dominance in booking national touring acts. While Tony Demicoli had managed to contract some touring alternative acts into his club, La Bamba, with a capacity of only 250, was simply too small to accommodate the big crowds that punk and new wave music were beginning to attract.
Al Salazar was one of the first to respond, opening the Pine Street Theatre, at Southeast Pine and Sandy. Formerly housing a Church of Scientology franchise (as well as the 9th Street Exit), the building was a three-story honeycomb of small, run-down offices and larger meeting rooms, which encircled the expansive main hall. Salazar hung an extensive collection of antique swag lamps and crystal chandeliers from the high ceiling in the main room, scattering among them the outstretched skeletons of massive birds of prey. Upon the walls around the area, Salazar mounted an eerie array of animal skulls. All in all, it created quite a disjointedly appropriate atmosphere. When the Psychedelic Furs played a gig at the Pine Street on their first US tour, the volume and pressure of their sound was such that it set the lamps and chandeliers to swaying ominously above the audience.
One of the first local bands to exploit the Pine Street stage was Theatre Of Sheep. Led by mercurial vocalist Rozz Rezabeck-Wright, the Sheep were an imaginative, if sometimes sloppy quintet, which always made superb use of the talents of lead guitarist Jimi Haskett (late of Film At 11) and classically trained keyboardist Leslie Arbuthnott; along with the efforts of the rhythm section of drummer Brain Wassman and bassist John Clifford (later replaced by Jim Wallace of the Odds). They lent symphonic support to Rozz’ mostly extemporaneous songs and unpredictable antics, which might include his hiking a long, skinny leg over the mic stand- easily a height of six feet. Theatre Of Sheep rapidly rose to prominence within the alternative community, achieving especial success among underagers; such that their popularity rivaled that of even the Unreal Gods in that demographic.
Across town, Larry Hurwitz opened Starry Night on Northwest 6th at Burnside, With a capacity of 850, the club posed a serious challenge to Tony DeMicoli’s ability to book La Bamba. D’anse Combeau chose to enact their gala Christmas 1982 pageant at Starry Night instead of La Bamba (a show that was thwarted, mid-show, by an anonymous tip to the Fire Marshall concerning overcrowding). The Unreal Gods elected to follow suit for their New Year’s Eve celebration. Such upheaval certainly caused hard feelings. A feud erupted between Tony and Larry, whereupon a litany of pranks ensued. A call to the fire marshall here, a smashed toilet and plugged sewer line there. Veiled threats everywhere. It was an exciting time.
Following the lead of their predecessors Quarterflash and Johnny and the Distractions, the top bands of the day continued to release albums, singles and EPs, though they were expensive to make and the results were seldom very satisfying. But vinyl was the sonic currency of the day, and every band worth its chops was releasing something. Slowtrain, Paul DeLay, Nu Shooz and the Unreal Gods had popular releases in 1982. Boom Chuck Rock Now featured many of Billy Rancher’s best, most ingenuous songs, though the album failed to capture the monumental Elvis-like appeal he generated on the live stage, prancing around in his signature leopard print pajamas and cowboy boots.
Hair bands prospered in that era as well, with Sequel leading the charge from the outer Westside suburbs toward the Last Hurrah, Zack’s and to Tippers in the outer Eastside suburbs- followed closely by Movie Star, Kashmir, Fire Eye, the Storm and the Choir Boys, which were both comprised of members of the Checker Brothers, Legend and Rising Tide, oddly enough. poppier bands such as the Bachelors, No Ties, and Mr. Nice Guy also found refuge in those venues as well.
The blues contingency was anchored by Paul DeLay, Robert Cray and Terry Robb. Rockabilly revivalists the Rockin’ Razorbacks, featured Chris Miller on guitar and former Upepo bassist J. Michael Kearsey on bass. The White Eagle in North Portland stood as a blues stronghold, as it does to this day. But Last Hurrah and Beckman’s, which superseded the Faucet space in the Southwest, were amenable to the blues as well. So was Key Largo. Opened in 1978 by Hollywood pitch man Tom Nash, Key Largo, located at Northwest 2nd Avenue and Couch Streets, was to become a fixture in the local music scene.
Cyclic by nature, the Portland music scene swung toward a nadir in 1983. Bands broke up, reconfigured or simply hunkered down as clubs closed and public interest waned. Flames of disillusion consumed all but the most faithful. Or those that were poised to sign big contracts.
A victim of rampant urban renewal, Tony Demicoli was forced to close La Bamba, allowing the owners of the building to convert it into a quaint mini-mall on the edges of the permanent Saturday Market space under the Burnside Bridge. Euphoria closed and reopened as a sports bar. The Met folded. Tippers changed hands. The Fat Little Rooster became the Barley Mill Pub and replaced its stage with pool tables.
The remaining clubs catered to the fashions and trends which were being dictated by a new and powerful force in the music and consumer industries: MTV. Metal bands disappeared. Hair bands were as scarce as pandas. Blues bands played the White Eagle. New wave ruled the day. New wave bands were booked into every major rock club in town. Men at Work and a Flock of Seagulls were the role models.
Still, out of the ashes, new clubs sprung to life. The roots of some are still growing today. Others only came briefly to the fore, before dying off; but sustained less-fashionable musical styles. The 13th Precinct opened on Southwest 13th near Taylor, providing a space for punk and alternative bands such as Poison Idea and Final Warning or the Usual Suspects and the Van Goghs.
The Van Goghs, vocalist bassist Lee Oser, guitarist (and heir to a cheese fortune) Kevin Kraft on guitar and drummer Charlie Maurer, levied a sound somewhat akin to U2, without a vocalist like Bono.
The Usual Suspects, guitarists Haroon Tahir and Phil Royer, percussionist Tom Haythorn and bassist Michael Hornburg were a serious and arty band who often played the music for plays and even backed a dance troupe for a few performances. The Usual Suspects eventually moved to San Francisco- where Hornburg later penned the underground novel Bongwater.
Cafe Oasis attracted a more bohemian crowd, spearheaded by loyal followers of Ed and the Boats. The PC&S on Southwest Morrison at 10th, long a quiet Jazz bar, became a vehicle for Billy Kennedy’s trio Special K. The Rock Creek Tavern, way out in the western forty, welcomed Les Clams, the Beaver Trail Boys and the Rasco Brothers.
With the demise of Trigger’s Revenge, Hank Rasco formed a new band, the Rasco Brothers, with fellow former Revengers bassist Don “The Rock” Weiss and guitarist Al McLeod, along with drummer David “Lonnie Broadway” White. And once again the lone Wasted Ranger was back on the boards with his own band, revving out a mixture of rockabilly and old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
While Tony DeMicoli moved his operations to Chuck’s on Southwest Front, Key Largo began serving as a venue for many La Bamba orphans such as the Unreal Gods, the Results and Crazy 8s, as well as Nu Shooz. Eli’s opened on Southwest 4th, providing a downtown stable for Pacific Talent impresario Andy Gilbert, whose strangle-hold on the B clubs of the region ensured their reduction to the lowest common denominator. Gilbert’s gestapo-like technique was to groom bands toward homogenization into cheese- promoting the ultimate velveeta, packaged to sell. His sterile and myopic musical world view left an indelible mark on the local live music industry for many years to follow, permanently stunting its growth.
Despite these severe impediments, a few exciting bands were able to make their way from out of the fondue. The foremost among them was Cool’r. Descended from the legendary Pleasure, Cool’r was the greatest funk band ever to play the local circuit. Bassist Nate Phillips, drummer Bruce Carter and guitarist Doug Lewis logged ten years and seven albums with Marlon McLain and Pleasure, developing a superior level of expertise as musicians- an impeccable sense of timing and communication. The addition of keyboardist Jeff Alviani and lead singer Andy Stokes was the icing on the cake. Andy’s suave, sensual vocals matched the band’s silken smooth artistry, nuance for nuance.
The Results were an arty, high-intensity new wave band which featured lead vocalist Joseph Loren and guitarist Leonard Marcel, backed by keyboardist Glenn “G-Ray” Reuger (formerly of Upepo) along with drummer Charlie DeFrank and bassist Mike Criss. Loren’s gritty vocal presence often drew comparisons to Graham Parker, with a somewhat slicker delivery and a stage demeanor more akin to that of Jack Hues of Wang Chung.
Another interloper within the local picture, J. Isaac came to the game with a more stellar pedigree than Andy Gilbert. But his destructive predilection for retooling into precise molds the acts he represented, managed to ruin far more bands than it ever assisted. Isaac found immediate success grafting the husband and wife limbs of Seafood Mama onto the trunk of the rock band Pilot. He called it Quarterflash. Quarterflash flourished and prospered. And it was good.
Seeking to erect an empire, Isaac secured management contracts with two of Portland’s most promising young bands, the Odds and the Balloons. The Balloons were a popular party band, led by singer/keyboardist Mike Fingerut, whose energetic sense of humor and soulful vocal prowess secured for the group favored status. His bandmates, guitarist Gerry Larson (whose occasional physical limitations were playfully demonstrated in their popular song “Do The Nerd”), bassist Greg Davis and drummer Bob Shotola acted as the perfect foils for Fingerut’s animated antics.
Not long after signing with Isaac it was determined that the Odds should change their name- when it was discovered that there was a band called the Odds in nearly every state of the union. Inexplicably, the name Two Minutes Fifty (after a line about the perfect length pop single in a Who song) was selected replace the former appellation.
Shortly after that, drummer Kevin Jarvis accepted an offer to join Johnny and the Distractions. In a typically inbred move, Distractions drummer Kip Richardson took over the chair in 2:50. It wasn’t long before Isaac conceived of another superband, this time wedding Mike Fingerhut’s vocal skills with 2:50. And thus, Mystery Date was born, Ben Davis was the Odd man out. The Balloons were deflated.
Jim Wallace left Mystery Date to play with Theatre of Sheep and the band changed its name to Arts and Crafts. Duane Jarvis left Arts and Crafts to help found Map Of France. With Map Of France, Jarvis appropriated the Result’s rhythm section of drummer Charlie DeFrank and bassist Michael Chriss, as well as Result lead vocalist Joseph Loren. Leonard Marcel tried to continue the Results adding bassist John Mazzacco and drummer Scott Frost, but that project never really flew.
Eventually, Kevin Jarvis left the Distractions (replaced by Carlton Jackson) to rejoin his brother Duane in Map Of France, which displaced Charlie DeFrank. Mike Fingerhut’s band became Man In Motion. About the time Man In Motion broke up, so did Quarter Flash. At that point J. Isaac went to work for the Portland Trailblazers professional basketball team, where his propensity for experimentation was perhaps better suited all along. A regular soap opera.
Throughout the dark year of ’83, other bands metamorphosed as well, but more for artistic reasons than for product placement issues. Lead vocalist David Musser left Nu Shooz to become a chef. He was replaced by Mark Bosnian from Puzzle. Meanwhile Valerie Day was assuming the role of percussionist and background vocalist and tenor saxman Danny Schauffler was acquired from Crazy 8s.
The Crazy 8s remained an ever-changing set of players, revolving around the founders, alto saxman vocalist Todd Duncan and trombonist Tim Tubb. The original and most memorable members of the band included Shauffler, Duncan, Tubb, guitarist Mark Wanaka, keyboardist Casey Shaar, bassist Mike Regan, drummer Ric Washington and percussionist Carl Smith.
As the New Year of 1984 drew near, the rumor of major label signings filled the air. Black and Blue, with former members of Movie Star, signed with Geffen Records. The Unreal Gods signed with Arista.
Meredith Brooks and the Angels of Mercy made their debut. Dan Reed, lead guitarist for Nimble Darts when they broke up, debuted his Princely new band, the Dan Reed Network, at Last Hurrah. The first Mayor’s Ball was about to take place. The cycle which had swung so low in 1983 was about to take a decided upward turn.
SP Clarke © 2011 – All rights reserved