Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Joanna Spock Dean and Alejandro Escovedo
Nashville, TN, 2008
Yesterday was my roommate's birthday. Spock is my roommate. That's her in the photo above with Alejandro Escovedo. Both of them, in their own way, are an essential part of the glue that held together punk rock back in the mid 70s.
Spock was a member of the all-girl punk rock / glam group Backstage Pass. They had a short-lived career but their highlights were amazing... they opened for Elvis Costello at the Whisky A Go Go, which was his Los Angeles debut... and they were the people behind the scenes that enabled Brendan Mullen to open the Masque. When The Damned were unceremoniously kicked off Television's tour in April 1977, Backstage Pass got them a gig, but even more helpful, lodged them all across the couches, floors and spare rooms of the girls in the band and their friends. If Almost Famous called such die-hard and helpful girl fans "Band Aids," then the ladies of Backstage Pass wrote the book on how to help an English band in need. These items are by far not the sum total of the self-less helpful actions of Backstage Pass, but just some that may have an impact on your memory.
Spock went on to a long career in the music biz, managing bands and doing A&R. In the mid-90s, we were reunited as co-workers at VH1! A music biz management gig brought Spock to Nashville in 2005. I didn't know she was living in Nashville until she showed up as a welcome surprise attendee of my photo exhibit at Grimeys.
Alejandro Escovedo comes from a well-respected musical family, and has defined and helped to create some genres we take for granted today. Al was a punk rock pioneer in his San Francisco days with the Nuns. The Nuns were one of the local bands who opened for the Sex Pistols at Winterland, in that famous final stop on the band's ill-fated 1978 tour... the one where Johnny Rotten asked the crowd if they felt they had been cheated.
Alt.country is the label given after-the-fact to the kind of music Alejandro was playing when he moved back to Texas and played with fellow San Francisco-to-Texas travelers, the punk rock Brothers Kinman, Tony and Chip of The Dils. The guys brought Dils drummer Slim along for the ride and they called themselves Rank and File.
Alejandro's former bandmates, Chip & Tony Kinman (The Dils) and The Nuns (Jennifer Miro pictured)
After Rank and File, Alejandro and his brother Javier formed the True Believers. A series of acclaimed solo albums by Al followed, including one produced by the legendary John Cale, entitled The Boxing Mirror. It is a song cycle that traces Alejandro's journey from sickness (from Hepatitis C) to the brink of death. Thankfully, these days Al is disease-free and continuing to forge ahead making the music we love. Real Animal, his latest album was released a week ago. It was produced by Tony Visconti (producer of David Bowie, TRex, Thin Lizzy, Sparks, Morrissey and others).
Yesterday, June 30, Al did an in-store performance at Grimeys in Nashville, which is where Spock and I saw him... both of us, for the first in time in years. He packed the house and sang new songs hearkening back to our old punk rock days and some departed friends, like Jeffrey Lee Pierce...
Its all a reminder to appreciate those who are with us while they are here... because you never know when the rock n roll life style will catch up with you. Al got a lot of love and financial assistance from friends and fans alike... his thank yous can be heard through his music.