Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Garageland Revisited

Long time readers may recall me carrying on about an unpublished Rolling Stone piece I wrote in 1989 about non-musical celebrities with rock bands in their closets. The short version is that I interviewed a bunch of interesting people for the story, including the late Republican strategist/devil incarnate Lee Atwater and writer Fredric Barthelme, but the piece ultimately never ran because Jann Wenner decided at the last minute that the premise was somehow insulting. I got paid five grand up front, though, so I didn't really care what Wenner thought, and I was later able to recycle several sections of the piece -- for more money -- to Entertainment Weekly; the Tipper Gore interview actually got picked up by the NY Times, who mentioned me by name. So the whole thing ended up being both quite wonderfully lucrative and marginally rep enhancing.

Anyway, some of the people I talked to actually made (mostly obscure) records of one kind of another, and the other day I chanced across perhaps my favorite one. From 1966, it's Dale Gregory and the Shouters' Number One Hit -- in the greater Sioux Falls, South Dakota area -- "Did Ya Need to Know?"

Featuring keyboard flourishes by Shouter Pat O'Brien (not in the picture -- he would have been on the riser out of frame on the left). The very same Pat O'Brien who when I wrote the piece was familiar to TV sports fans as the host of The NFL Today on CBS.

That's one of the most wonderfully demented garage rockers ever, I think; I love the way it manages to combine the de rigeur Paul Revere and the Raiders "Just Like Me" vibe with what sounds like a nod to "Stranded in the Jungle." And those guitar solos sound like they were played on rubber bands by Jerry Lewis. Just great.

As for O'Brien, he got more famous in the current decade for hosting the Entertainment Tonight spin-off The Insider as well as for some other less pleasant stuff that we needn't rehash here. When I talked to him in 1989, however, he struck me as a very gracious and funny guy, and he looked back on his rock band past with a great deal of bemusement. As you can see from the poster up top, the Shouters actually headlined with The Hollies in '66; O'Brien told me he had just run into Graham Nash at a Lakers game, and that Nash remembered the gig and hanging out with the Shouters at their bass player's dad's pool afterwards.