From Boston, Massachusetts, the Remains were one of the great 1960s US rock groups. Although they never achieved the status they probably deserved, the Remains have become a cult band whose records have stood the test of time. Band leader Barry Tashian describes the ups and downs of this classic band.
The Remains were formed in 1964 and consisted of Barry Tashian (vocals, guitar), Vern Miller (bass), Bill Briggs (keys), and Chip Damiani (drums) (Damiani was later replaced by ND Smart). "We were in the same dormitory at Boston University," exclaims Tashian. Their exciting live performances gained them a quick and loyal following in the Boston region.
The Remains made enough of an impression in their region that they got a deal with Epic Records. Explains Tashian, "A Columbia staff producer named Robin McBride signed the group. Don Law was instrumental in getting McBride up to Boston to see us play. McBride later worked for Mercury in Chicago for many years and he is now in the stock and bond business, I believe."
Before the Epic album came out, Epic released four singles: "Why Do I Cry", "I Can't Get Away From You", "Diddy Wah Diddy" and "Don't Look Back". Although these sides did receive regional airplay in the New England area, they were not national hits. The first two releases were band originals, but "Diddy" was written by Willie Dixon and "Don't" was written by Billy Vera. Tashian states that the reason for the last two singles being covers was that "we were looking for a big national hit, and since we didn't seem to be connecting with the original songs we decided to put out some covers and see if maybe that would do the trick."
In early 1966, the Remains relocated to New York City. Says Tashian, "New York was the place to be if you wanted to be a star. We did. A guitarist by the name of Monte Dunne suggested it. We lived at the Gorham hotel, and in the East 80's and West 80's. Damiani did not want to leave Boston. Smart picked up the sticks at this point.
The Remains were managed by John Kurland (with assistance from Don Law in Boston). Recalls Tashian, "John Kurland came to Boston as a public relations man to do some work for us. He wanted to see us play. After he saw us he said, 'If you ever come to New York, let me know.' So we did. He was mostly a publicist in the fashion world, I believe, with some clients in the music business: Noel Harrison and Mama Cass. He passed away some years back. He also managed Bobby Fuller and was involved with Todd Rundgren, I think."
Although the Remains were Epic recording artists, it is interesting to note that they also had an audition with Capitol Records. Expounds Tashian, "we were signed to Epic and already had three singles out on that label. Our manager, John Kurland, set up the Capitol audition. It was in May of '66. We were not happy with Epic at the time. Our manager wanted to check out the lay of the land, so to speak, with other labels. In Boston, Capitol's rep up there, Al Coury, had initially expressed a great deal of interest in the band. Our relationship with the head of A&R at Epic, Bob Morgan, left something to be desired. At Epic, our unhappiness stemmed from the fact that, promotion-wise, we felt like we were the poor cousins to Bobby Vinton, Ed Ames, and the Yardbirds, Epic's biggest selling artists at the time. Our manager (Kurland) apparently just went ahead and set up this little audition with Capital. There was no offer forthcoming from Capital, so nothing changed for us at the time. Nothing happened, other than the fact that we have a nice 'live' tape." ("A Session with The Remains" CD on Sundazed).
Although their records did not set the work on fire, the Remains did rack up some worthy achievements. They performed on the national television shows Hullabaloo and the Ed Sullivan Show. In addition - and the feather in their cap - was scoring an opening slot on the Beatle's 1966 US tour (along with the Cyrcle, Ronettes, and Bobby Hebb). "The man who got The Remains on the Beatles tour was Bob Bonis, a friend of John Kurland's. He worked for GAC the agency that put the Beatles Tours together," remembers Tashian.
Although the Remains were enthusiastically received on the Beatle's tour, they broke up when it was over. According to Tashian, "it was right after the tour I decided to break the band up because I figured we were never going to be as big as the Beatles. At the time, I didn't realize success in the music business was accumulative - I expected everything to happen instantly. Our one album ('The Remains') came out on Epic in September of '66, after the Beatle's tour. Epic did not promote the album because the Remains were broken up by the time it was released," declares Tashian. Consequently, the Epic album was a flop. (It would be over a decade before producer Bruce Patch re-released some of the Remains tracks on his indie Spoonfed label which kept the spirit of the group alive, at least on vinyl. The Epic album is also available on CD on Epic/Legacy.)
After the Remains split up, Tashian relocated to Los Angeles. States Tashian, "it was 1967 and '68. I lived on Willow Glen Road in Laurel Canyon. Later I moved out to Topanga Canyon. There, Tashian began playing with talents such as Leon Russell. Says Tashian, "I met Leon through Bobby Keyes and Jr. Markham, two blues players we played with in a band called the Main Street Blues Band. We jammed with Leon a couple of times, and recorded a bit in his home studio. We didn't do many sessions really - a few demos. We played at Gazarri's, The Laurel Club, a couple of other places on the Strip, and the Topanga Corral. I helped Gram Parsons form the original Flying Burrito Brothers (but did not play on any of their recordings). I had met Gram through the Submarine Band member that was a friend of mine: John Nuese. This was in Cambridge. The year, I want to say, would have been 1965."
In 1969, Tashian moved again. During that era, explains Tashian, in California "the demand was for psychadelia. Since I wasn't into any of that, I decided to go back to the East Coast and see what was happening there."
Tashian hooked up with Todd Rundgren when he was recording his first solo album "Runt". According to Tashian, "I met Todd through my friend from high school, Mike Friedman, who worked for Albert Grossman and Bennett Glotzer. I went to Mike and said I wanted to be a record producer. He said he could sign me as a writer and let me hang out at some sessions to get the hang of what was going on. So I went to LA and - since Todd did not have a driver's license - I ended up driving Todd and Soupy Sales' kids (Tony and Hunt) to the sessions each day during the recording of "Runt". I did the hand clapping track on 'We Gotta Get You a Woman'; never got paid for it though!"
Next, continues Tashian, "In 1970 Gram Parson invited me to record on his first album for Warner Bros. There, I met Emmylou Harris. From my experience with Gram, I formed my own band with my wife, Holly, and played country music throughout the 1970s."
In 1980, Emmylou Harris invited me to join her Hot Band and I stayed there from July of 1980 to November of 1989."
Tashian currently plays bluegrass and country music with his wife Holly. They have recorded and released five albums for Rounder Records, the latest of which is called "Harmony".
Tashian's musical lineage continues in that his son Daniel reccently put out his first album called "Sweetie", produced by T-Bone Burnett.
As for the other members of the Remains, the bassist, Vern Miller has taught music in school for 22 years now; Bill Briggs sells Audis in the Boston area; Chip Damiani is in the construction business; and ND Smart is a landscape designer in Ohio. Interestingly, after all this time the Remains recently reunited for a surprise shows in Spain and New York City which were extremely well received.
Recently, Tashian penned a book about his personal experiences on the 1966 Beatle's Tour. It is called "Ticket To Tide", and can be ordered by contacting Tashian Music, POB 150921, Nashville, TN 37215.
[Special thanks to Beverly Paterson]Copyright 1998, Ben McLane
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