Barry & the Remains

1965  Bill Briggs, Chip Damiani, Barry Tashian, Vern Miller Photo: Ed FreemanBARRY & THE REMAINS

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

 by A.J. Wachtel

Editors note: This interview was conducted before the
death of drummer
Chip Damiani.

It’s hard to imagine, but in the blink of an eye 50 years have passed since The Remains first formed in Boston. It’s also been a half a century since The Beatles arrived in the United States, and almost as long as when Barry & The Remains were one of the groups that opened up for The Fab Four on their final national tour.

Peter Wolf: As far as the person that really influenced me a lot in the beginning, it was Barry Tashian from Barry & The Remains.

Noise.: He used to be your roommate.

Peter: Yes. He was the first guy to tell me that the thumping sound on the record was a bass guitar. You know, THAT was what they called a high hat… things like that. He was very patient with me.  (5/13/87 The Beatmagazine)

Noise: Barry, you played in Boston in 1964-’65 at The Rathskeller. It was written: “Fans lined up from Kenmore Sq. to Fenway Park to see them.” What was it like gigging in Boston’s scene back then, and was The Rat known for being dingy and dirty as it was later in the ’70s punk scene?

Barry Tashian: Owner Gene Bresniak opened up The Rathskeller due to demand. He’s still around. I hope he comes to Johnny D’s! The Remains started playing in the back room upstairs, but it became too crowded. To my knowledge, we were the first band to play downstairs. It became a very big night. They had picnic tables, a jukebox, a stage made of milk crates, and planks and pitchers of beer… and yes, it was a basement. The lighted Budweiser sign on the wall behind the stage ended up in my BU dorm room. Think that might bring something on eBay?

Noise: You wrote Ticket To Ride: The Extraordinary Diary Of The Beatles’ Last Tour, but for those who haven’t read it yet: Did you get pounded with jellybeans onstage, or was that privilege just reserved for The Fab Four?

Barry: My book is out of print, but I recently wrote a foreword for an excellent, new two-volume boxed set about The Beatles’ three US tours, titled Some Fun Tonight, by Chuck Gunderson. I believe it was just published and it’s a superb set. As for the jelly beans, I really don’t know. It must be in the book.  Check it out.

Noise: My older sister saw The Beatles at Forest Hills, NY, in 1966, but she doesn’t remember who the opening band was. She said she wouldn’t have been able to hear the group anyway because of the volume of the screaming. Providing you could hear them, what did you think of how The Beatles sounded live?

Barry: The Remains played at Shea Stadium in New York with The Beatles in August of 1966. That was the only New York show. Sid Bernstein produced it. The Beatles were a rocking, tight band. I had the privilege of hearing them about fifteen times on the tour. The screaming was not wall to wall. There were intervals when you could hear them quite well! Of course, any good sound was in part due to Medford’s Bill Hanley, the “Father of Festival Sound” (Woodstock ad-infinitum) who came along with The Remains to do The Beatles’ tour. Brian Epstein hired Bill to travel with the tour to try and improve the horrible stadium sound systems!

Noise: If someone told you back in the beginning that fans would still be listening to your music in 50 years, what would you have thought and said?

Barry: It’s a strange feeling. The number 50 is hard to believe. I feel pretty much the same as I did when we started out. But at the time I probably would’ve said “no way!” We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to play with all four original members this many years later! We’re having great time doing it!

Noise: All the members of your band are accomplished musicians and although your records have a hard-edge, they are all noticeably well-produced and arranged. Today, people call your sound “garage rock.” Is this an accurate and true description of your music, given your collective expertise and experience?

Barry:  I don’t know, A.J. We just play our music and try not to analyze it too much. It’s a simple plug and play kind of deal.

Noise: More than 25 years ago, Peter Wolf told me you were one of his biggest influences. Care to comment on Wolf and how you feel when people tell you how much your music means to them?

Barry: It’s very gratifying to hear that you’ve had a positive influence on someone, no matter what they do. Of course, I’m very honored that Peter would say that to you. I love Peter! There’s no one like him.

Noise: The Remains are called “America’s Lost Band” and your history “a fascinating re-telling of one of the great what might have been stories of American music in the ’60s.” Fact or fiction?

Barry: That description is from the documentary film that was made about The Remains in 2008. Frankly, I don’t ever bother thinking about “what might have been.” What’s the point? The members of The Remains all had good lives and are relatively healthy, happy, and comfortable today. So here we are, 50 years later playing together!  That’s amazing. If we were meant to have stayed together in the ’60s, we WOULD have. Everything happens the way it was meant to —I see no purpose in asking “what if?” It’s a fantasy.

Noise: Who was your favorite Beatle and why?

Barry: George, because he was my pal on the tour.

Noise: How should people remember The Remains and your contributions to music?

Barry: Again, I have to say I don’t know. We all have our own view of things. It’s like when somebody looks at a painting and asks the painter “what is it?” and the painter replies: “It’s whatever you see in it!” We had so much fun playing together and recording in New York and Nashville in the ’60s. We’re fortunate because we all count the same way. That’s an incredible asset to the band. It makes it more fun to play together when we mesh so well, rhythmically. I guess I’d like people to remember us as four guys who love each other like brothers and are tickled to play music together.

Noise: Any advice to young artists struggling to get their music heard in these tough times?

Barry: Don’t quit your day job! But if writing or playing is really a passion, keep at it. Maybe not full time, but there will always be opportunities to play music in your life. This is a gift. There are many things that life offers, but in my opinion, music is one of the greatest gifts! 

Comments

Barry & the Remains — 1 Comment

  1. Barry was my guitar teacher when I was a punk ass 8th grader, when I lived in CT for a year, and he inspired me for life!! My parents hooked me up with him somehow, and most of what I remember from that year or so was learning to play Chuck Berry riffs and everything else that he showed me. At the time I had no idea of his background, he was just the nice guy who got me really psyched about playing guitar, and took me to buy my first electric guitar at some shop in New Haven, a red hollow body Harmony with a Bigsby bar.