'The Remains of Today'
IT is rare in this business to come across an undiscovered gem of a record. Just when you think you know everything from a time or a genre, sometimes, something comes along and you think ‘wow’ how come I have never heard that before now.
Well, I had a moment like that after listening to the re-issued and re-mastered ‘The Remains’ (Epic/Legacy). All ten songs from the original release are here along with another ten bonus cuts from the same era. This Boston band that supported The Beatles on their 1966 tour, and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, must be one of the greatest ‘lost’ American bands of all time!
Sounding like it was recorded yesterday instead of forty years ago; the album bristles with pop gems with a bluesy edge. Cross the Stones with the Yardbirds add a dash of the Rascals and you would come up with The Remains sound.
Lead singer with the band was Barry Tashian, and speaking with him at his Nashville home just recently, I first wondered if it felt strange to him that music he'd made over forty years ago had only just now been re-issued? "There have been a lot of re-issues of our music over the years. There was a vinyl album released in 1976, and in 1991 Sony re-issued the original ‘Barry and The Remains’ album on CD. There have been albums released in France and Spain as well as an album of out-takes. The music has been out and available over the years."
"However, it is wonderful that Legacy has re-issued this music in a re-mastered form because I think it sounds great and it’s encouraging that an old album extends the spirit of the band. It’s like a book, it puts it forward into time. It’s a whole another time and the music is now being made available to a whole new generation."
One of the things that surprised me about the album is how fresh it sounds "It was well produced at the time. It’s a combination of recordings from New York and Nashville. We recorded the New York cuts at Columbia’s ‘Studio A’ with Robin McBride producing. That’s the same large studio which is the American version of Abbey Road. Any big Columbia act would have recorded there. However, at the time we thought our recordings sounded too clean cut. So for a grittier sound we went down Nashville and recorded eight songs at Owen Bradley’s studio with legendary producer Billy Sherrill."
How did the good people of Nashville take to some long hairs from Boston in 1966? "[laughs] Everywhere we went people starred at us and we were so uncomfortable that we just stayed in the hotel room when we weren’t recording. Having said that we were really pleased with the sound we got and Billy Sherrill did a great job."
What were the origins of the band? "Well it came about when I was in London in 1964 for a summer vacation. A friend and I were staying in Earls Court and we used to go down to a small club called Café des Artistes. The house band there (I can’t remember their name) were so good and so together that I immediately wanted to start something similar when I got back to Boston."
"That band was quite different from any band I had seen up until then. They seemed to be having a musical ‘conversation’ with each other rather than just thrashing away on their instruments, and that was something that really appealed to me. So, back in Boston, when we started The Remains, we were very careful to really listen to what each other was playing and react to that."
How did you end up being asked to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show? "We were playing a club in Greenwich Village when Ed Sullivan and his coterie turned up and watched a set. Afterwards, he came backstage and said he wanted us to perform the next Sunday (26th December 1965). We were thrilled and it was a great experience. It was a rarity for him to having an act on his show that was not nationally known. (You can see The Remains on the Ed Sullivan Show on Youtube.)"
You reformed The Remains for a short tour last year that included some European gigs. How did you enjoy the show in London? "It went really well. It was a great tour; London was the final date after gigs in Berlin, Barcelona, Paris and Bordeaux. Sadly, we only stayed in London for the gig and overnight, but the show went down really well. We would like to come back but at the moment we don’t have any plans to tour Europe again."
You toured with The Beatles, and then your band broke up. What did you do next? "I went to Los Angeles and lived in Laurel Canyon. It was 67/68 and I played with Gram Parson in the original Flying Burrito Brothers for a year or so (but did not play on any of their recordings). I also played with Todd Rundgren on his first album (‘Runt’) along with Hunt and Tony Sales. But things didn’t turn out well for us in LA so we drove back east."
"It was there that I got a call from Gram to come back to Hollywood and help out on his first solo album (‘GP’). It was during these sessions that I met Emmylou Harris and I had the privilege of playing guitar in her band which at that time included most of Elvis’s house band; people like Glen D Hardin and James Burton. I permanently joined Emmylou’s Hot Band in 1980 and stayed with her for ten years, which is why I have made Nashville my home since 1982. There’s no place like Nashville if you are a musician."
Will there be any more new product from The Remains? "There’s a documentary on the band coming out soon. It’s called ‘They Were How You Told A Stranger About Rock And Roll’; it should be ready next year."
Last question. What happened to that gorgeous Guild guitar that you used with The Remains and features in lots of the photos from that time? Do you still have it? "Sadly not. It was leant up against an amplifier and it fell off, breaking the headstock, and I never managed to mend it successfully. I replaced it with an Epiphone."
Interviewed by Peter 'Tab' Walker
Find out more about Barry Tashian and The Remains at the following websites:
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