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Barry & The Remains
Barry & The Remains

History of Boston Rock
     History of Boston Rock & Roll - Chapter 11 - Barry & The Remains

1965 was the year that rock merged with folk. At the Newport Festival, Dylan was booed off the stage for playing with an electric band. Mel Lyman made an appearance there that year as well. The Beatles were monopolizing the charts, and bands began popping up all over the place with Beatle doo's and suits. The British Invasion had riled up enough enthusiasm to give Boston the birth of a coherent scene.

  • WBZ had gone to an all rock formula the previous year and now reigned as the biggest rock station in Boston. Along with WMEX there finally rose support for local bands.

  • Where It's At, located on Commonwealth Avenue, opened its doors under the careful guidance of Ruth Clemens the previous year.

  • Bands like the Animals, Mitch Ryder and Jerry Lee Lewis provided audiences for local exposure.

  • Bands like The Vikings from Taunton rose to popularity on the gimmick of their Exciting English Sound. Tom Salem's (of Continental Recording in Framingham) guidance didn't help. Their versions of Hitchhike and Blue Feeling appear on Dave Pierce's Bay State Rock - Volume One - The Sixties Series on Star Rhythm Records. Legend has it that this band was on the brink of a Decca Record deal when two members were drafted into the Vietnam War, which caused the band's break up.

  • The Orphans, The Mods, The Reveleers, and The Argonauts all were big stuff on the South Shore (The Argonauts weren't allowed to appear in Dedham because they attracted too big a crowd for police to handle). But they wallowed in the shadows of The Remains' and The Rockin' Ramrods' success.

  • Mel Lyman of The Jim Kweskin Band was playing every Wednesday night at Frank Borsa's The Orleans Coffeeshop at 13 Charles Street, beginning what was to become his authoritarian rule in the near future.

  • Charlie McKenzie (of Boston fame - he discovered the band) was running band hops at the YMCA on Huntington Avenue. Regulars included The Improper Bostonians.

  • The biggest success stories of the year, however, were those of two prototype garage punk bands, Barry and The Remains and Moulty and The Barbarians.

  • This is also the year James Taylor holed up in McLean's Institution in Belmont where he began writing songs.

    Don't Look Back (no relation to the Dylan movie!)

    Barry and The Remains were a Boston University based quartet who started rolling a bit before the Beatles boom. In early 1964, The Frog became The Rathskellar which began booking oompah bands and serving German Bier. On Monday nights, The Remains took over as house band, being the only rock act to perform there. Since BU was only a bit down the street, they started packing the place and picked up a solid reputation in Boston.

    The Law of Gravity

    Two Remains, Barry Tashian (lead guitar and vocals) and William Briggs (piano, organ) were raised in the prestigious town of Westport, Connecticut which also produced Don Law, Jr., son of famed record producer, Don Law, Sr. In 1965, Don Law, Jr. was booking The Remains out of H&T Productions, an agency which also starred agents John Stukus and Fred Taylor (the latter went on to booking the Jazz Workshop). It was at this time that Barry and The Remains' were signed to Epic Records, a company for which they would release six singles and one album before their demise.

    The remaining Remains were Vern Miller, Jr. of Livingston, New Jersey, who mastered many instruments (his primary one was the bass but he also dabbled in tuba, trumpet, french horn and some guitar) and self taught drummer Chip Damiani of Waterbury, Connecticut.

    Why Do I Cry? was the first release from the band. It broke the Top 20 on both WMEX and WBZ and received major airplay in various spots around the country. Two garage classics followed: Diddy Wah Diddy and Don't Look Back. Either song can still be heard on WBCN occasionally and the latter marked the departure of Chip Damiani. Damiani was replaced by circus acrobat N. (Norman) D. Smart II.

    In 1966, the band reached mass national attention. Their booking agency changed hands from H&T Productions to General Artists under the guidance of Trudy Hellers. Hellers had been coordinating the 1966 Beatles Tour. The Remains picked up a slot on the bill. 28 states in 30 days. (The Ronettes and Bobby (Sunny) Hebb were the other opening acts.)

    Their first album and an Ed Sullivan Show appearance coincided with the tour.

    "The song we did on The Ed Sullivan Show was a one time number. We never played it again. It was just something to show off the band members," remembers Billy Briggs.

    The tour featured the last Beatles performance in the Boston area with the August 18, 1966 concert at Suffolk Downs. When no hit records came through by 1967, the band was through. Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia called it internal strife and a difficulty in expressing themselves in the studio. Gram Parsons had been a friend of the band's when he lived in the Bronx and was now staying in California. He invited Barry Tashian and Billy Briggs out to the West Coast and they went. It is here where history is legend.

    Along with Leon Russell's bassist, the four started up an R&B unit which called themselves The Flying Burrito Brothers, when Tashian and Briggs decided to split back East Parsons kept the name and formed the group as we know them today. (Hillman, Parsons, Sneaky Pete, etc.) It's common folklore that Tashian was one of these Burrito Brothers.

    Tashian and Smart later made album appearances (1973, 1974, respectively) with Parsons where Tashian began a lifelong friendship with Emmylou Harris. (Tashian along with Eric Lillequist of Orphan are presently Harris' male singers).

    In 1967, a local label man, Bruce Patch, bought all the Remains' studio tapes (singles and album) and released an album's worth of prime cuts on Spoonfed Records. As the company went under and Patch headed west, he sold the tapes to a European label known as EVA Records. They took the tapes and dubbed an audience between the cuts, releasing a bootleg live album.

    In 1975 Barry and the Remains regrouped for 6 reunion gigs in N.Y.C. Recordings from the shows are now being mixed down by local producer Rick Harte for an Ace of Hearts release. (Maybe we'll see Barry and The Remains one more time, live?)

    All of The Remains went on to successful musical existences:

  • N.D. Smart, II participated in many acclaimed rock bands. In 1968, he performed and recorded with Kangaroo which featured John Hall. He appeared at Woodstock with Leslie West's Mountain and played on their 1970 Windfall release. Next it was off with Jesse Winchester, Todd Rundgren and, of course, Gram Parsons' 1974 Reprise release, Grievous Angel. He's since been a successful studio session musician.

  • Vern Miller formed Swallow with local bluesman George Leh. They released Out of the Nest in 1972 on Warner Bros. Vernon teaches music in New Jersey today.

  • Billy Briggs formed the R&B band, Funky Potatoes, that released a few singles locally. He also still writes music and sells cars on the North Shore.

  • Barry Tashian is still regarded in some circles as one of the foremost rock musicians of the 1960's decade. He resides in Nashville today.

    Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?

    Moulty On October 29, 1964, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, amidst the chaos of The Stones refusing to go on before James Brown, Chuck Berry refusing to go on until he had been paid in full in cash, and a very nervous Diana Ross who'd never played to so many people, was Moulty and The Barbarians.

    The T.A.M.I. Show was a Phil Spector financed rock documentary considered by some to be the finest ever made. It shed light on Boston's beloved Victor Moulton.

    The film was released in 1965 as Moulty & The Barbarians released their one album on Laurie Records, The Barbarians The album was produced by Doug Morris who went on to become President of A&M Records. He co-wrote the hit which raised the question of the decade, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl? (#55 in Billboard in 1965).

    Moutly was a drummer with one hand that was replaced by a hook. There are many rumors of how this occurred, the most popular being that he lost it making a pipebomb to blow up his high school in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

    In 1966, Moulty, the autobiographical song sung by Moulty about his handicap was released. The band disbanded shortly thereafter. Three members including Jerry Causi and Jeff Morris went on to form Black Pearl in California with resident freak, Bernie "BB" Fieldings.

    Today, Moulty teaches self-defense on the South Shore.

    This article originally appeared in The Beat in 1985
    (c) Charles William White III

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