Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Safe travels to all, and I hope to see you soon in 2015.
December 31, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

John Fry Memorial Piece About Alex Chilton That He Sent Me In 2010

An unexpected and unwanted event occurred on March 17, 2010. At about  
7 pm, I received a call from Jody Stephens, who had gone to Austin  
that day to participate in SXSW. He quickly said that he had received  
a call from Laura, Alex Chilton’s wife. He had suffered symptoms at  
home and been taken to a hospital where he had died in the emergency  
room. There initially was nothing more to say beyond “What, say that  
again, are you sure?”

Then we said to one another, I guess we better cancel everything. I  
was about to hang up when it occurred to me to say “It’s your  
decision, but you guys should talk about it among yourselves. Maybe  
you want to go ahead with everything as a tribute to Alex.” They  
called back in a couple of hours and said they were going to perform  
with guest artists. I think it was the right decision.

There was a tremendous outpouring of love and support from the artist  
community at SXSW. The media were courteous and respectful in s far as  
I have seen. We all are grateful.

The band has also decided to go ahead with the already scheduled show  
at The Levitt Shell in Memphis on May 15. It will be similar to the  
SXSW show, essentially a Big Star gig with guest performers, honoring  
Alex’s memory, but playing only the Big Star repertoire, rather than  
trying to cover ever era of Alex’s long and varied career.

The first time I met Alex was during Box Tops overdub and mixing  
sessions at Ardent in 1967. For all the years hence, we had been  
friends and colleagues. He was a brilliant, widely read man, with a  
vast knowledge of music from many genres, art, literature, politics,  
and history. Big Star played in London in 2008 and 2009. For some  
reason, I felt almost compelled to go and see both shows. I am glad  
that I did. The shows were great. Alex and his wife Laura were so  
happy together. I ask myself “why now?”, and of course, there is no  

One week ago, I picked up the Big Star boxed set, looked at the cover  
photo with their smiling faces, and reflected on the fact that there  
are now two of these four people about whom I have received shocking  
sudden death phone calls, one in 1978 and another in 2010.

Alex and Chris are sorely missed, much loved, and deeply respected.
-John Fry
spring, 2010

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Peace On Earth, and good will toward men.

Wouldn't it be nice?

(with help from Charles Schultz, and Brian Wilson)
December 25, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

RIP John Fry

"People have asked me when I am going to write my memoirs, like I needed to leave behind some sort of legacy. If you put the Big Star boxset together with Chris’ I Am The Cosmos reissue, that could be my legacy. Those two came closest to my heart." -John Fry, said to me, 2010.

Safe travels, John,
December 18, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Hello All-

While I'm getting ready for Saturday's book signing in Boone, NC this Saturday, and one radio appearance next week (more soon on this), I wanted to remind you that Christmas is a great time to get a Therapiggy. They're cute, cuddly, and quite affordable. Check out their website, and read up on the adventures of Blinker, who also happens to be my Therapiggy.

December 17, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Signing This Saturday (December 20th) in Boone, NC

Hello All-

Happy holidays. I'll be back at the Mast General Store in Boone, NC this Saturday, December 20th, selling and signing copies of my North Carolina Musicians book from 11am to 4pm. Please come out and say hello, and I hope to see you there.

Safe travels,
December 15, 2014

The Last Christmas Dinner

I never see you
in my dreams,
in my memories.
And in a moment,
as the first sight
of snow 
begins to fall, 
I can still see you, 
all those years
in the past.

We all arrived
that night 
for our Christmas dinner
in that nice restaurant,
before they tore
it all into
something else,
and turned it into
something you
wouldn’t recognize.
The flocks of tour buses
that line their gates
now stumble
through the doors
in their praise,
you and I know
what they 
really missed.

You sat
near the window,
backlit by the holiday,
where you can us
looking back 
at you
with love
and guarded
You believed
in the doctors
as much as
you believed 
in us.
Did they fail you? 
Did we fail you
for not trying
to change your 
Or had the 
eventual truth
already had its
and we were 

for the impact
of what
to come?

When I 
and close
my eyes,
I can still see
and feel
it all, 
in slightly yellowed,
yet beautiful

Was it their lighting,
or am I remembering
what I want
to remember,
just as I 
can still feel
out to you,
wishing you a Merry Chrtistmas,
one more time.

I never see you
in my dreams
in my
that change and gray
with every
passing year,
no matter
how hard I try
to hold on
to them.

And wherever
you are,
I wish 
to remind me
of where I am, 
who I was
when you knew me,
and how much
I loved 
Then, and in
the snows
to come.

-Daniel Coston
December 5, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ghost In A Quiet Tirade

I see you
to make me
notice you,
while you act
like I’m 
not here.
You move 
through the faces
with poisoned arms,
glancing off
the flecks
of orange light,
running in
your circles
Lips move,
but no one
close to you
will dare say 
the truth.

We know 
you did,
and yet 
that is somehow 
my fault.
all of the distant actors
are the ones
that were really 
to blame,
then why 
are you the one
that acts
the guilty role,
as you retreat
to places
where no one
will tell
what has happened,
or what is
to come?

is acquirement, 
and stepping
from the person
who have been, 
to the person
you can still 
Until that time,
you are a ghost
walking in the spaces
that you 
trip over,
you still believe
is moving forward.

I see you
but don’t believe you,
just as much
as you claim
that you don’t

-Daniel Coston
December 11, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Trampled By Turtles photo

Trampled By Turtles
Neighborhood Theater
Charlotte, NC
December 9, 2014
photo copyright 2014 Daniel Coston

A Few Stories About Ian McLagan, And Me

Hello All-

Just a few stories about my experiences with Ian McLagan.

-I met Ian in 2003, hanging outside a bar in Austin, TX during SXSW, where Joe Ely & Jimmie Dale Gilmore were playing. I took posed photos of all three within minutes of each other. It was just magical, hanging out with him, and all of these musicians that I considered legends.

-I ran into Ian a year later, again at SXSW. He had been very complimentary of my photos from the previous year. He also knew that I'd done photos with Alejandro Escovedo. "Was that your photo of Al that was in today's paper?" He asked. "It was really good, and I figured that you took it." I hadn't taken it, but the compliment took my breath away.

-Ian came and played Raleigh, NC in 2005. We talked a good while after the show, and at one point he leaned in close to me and asked, "Do you know where to find some pot?" I demurred a bit, as I don't smoke, anything (severe allergies). I explained that I didn't live in Raleigh, so I didn't know the key people in that regard. "That's right, I forgot that you live in Charlotte," he answered. "You seemed like a cool person, and might know about those things." I did recommend that he ask a couple of locals that I thought might know the answer that Mac was looking for. Ian winked and said, "Thanks, mate."

-I got to see Ian play with Pete Townshend of the Who at SXSW in 2007, at a tribute for Ronnie Lane. Wow, it was awesome. Ian saw me afterwards and hugged me. "Daniel! I was hoping that you'd be here! Did you get some photos?"

Yes, Ian, I did. Thanks, mate,
December 10, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dirty Guv'Nahs photos, Charlotte, NC, December 5, 2014

Featured here-

December 7, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday Milah

Happy 2nd birthday to my niece Milah, whom I don't see often enough, and who always reminds me how good that life can be. Have fun this weekend with mommy and daddy (aka Karen Coston Parks and David Parks), and I look forward to many more birthdays with you. In the words of George King, "Happy birthday, ol' kid."
December 5, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

RIP Nick Talbot, aka Gravenhurst

"The Prize", one of my favorite songs from the past couple of years. Enjoy.
November 4, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ian McLagan/Pete Townshend SXSW photos, March 2007

Ian McLagan & Pete Townshend
Ronnie Lane tribute
Austin Music Awards
March 2007
all photos copyright 2007 Daniel Coston

My 2005 Interview with Ian McLagan

Ian McLagan interview, 2005

Ian McLagan: From Hero To Sixty
Interview and introduction by Daniel Coston
originally published in the Big Takeover Magazine, summer 2006 issue

Legendary musician, and an all-around great bloke. For forty years, Ian “Mac” McLagan has played keyboards on more great records that you or your momma ever dreamed of, and is still going strong at the age of sixty. Joining the Small Faces in 1965, Mac and guitarist/vocalist Steve Marriott, bassist Ronnie Lane and drummer Kenney Jones produced some of the greatest songs of the 1960s, and helped to influence the 1970s punk scene, ‘80s mod revival, and the current garage rock movement.

After Marriott’s departure in 1969, the remaining bandmembers hooked up with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood [now of the Rolling Stones] to form the Faces, a band whose 2004 boxset “Five Guys Walk Into A Bar” brought new appreciation for their fun, bluesy sound. After the Faces’ run ended in 1975, Mac has played with everyone from the Rolling Stones to Billy Bragg, and currently resides in Austin, Texas with his own Bump Band. 

Why interview Mac? Because I could, and it gave me an excuse to talk to him for an hour. ‘Nuff said. Let’s begin......

BT: You just had your 60th birthday party. Tell me about it.

McLagan: It was unbelievable. We’d already planned to have a party, but my wife and my son surprised me with a tractor. My son, and my wife’s brother flew in from England unannounced. And Lynne, the person that handles my website [, and], surprised me with a birthday scrapbook that a lot of people contributed to. She gave it to me, and I cried like a little girl. It was a great party. 

BT: Last night, I saw a Japanese band [Elekibass] that was very inspired by the English scene of the mid 1960s, and their guitarist was dressed exactly like Steve Marriott circa 1967, right down to the suspenders and scarf. 

McLagan: (laughing) It’s amazing how much people care now about the Small Faces. Just the other day, someone emailed me and asked, “When you all were living in the same house in 1968, which one tended to wake up and shower first?”

BT: Now there’s a question I hadn’t planned on asking you.

McLagan: Thank you! I should’ve written him back and said, “We’re English. We never shower.” (laughs)

I [recently] went back to England to play with Billy Bragg for a benefit. And after the show, Kenney Jones came around and we had a few drinks after a show. So we were getting ready to leave, and we saw a bunch of people waiting for us, and I thought, “Oh, this is gonna be trouble.” It was a bunch of 15 year-old kids. They’d heard that we were around, and they wanted to meet us. 

It’s the younger fans that amaze me. One time, I was at a festival walking around backstage, and these teenage girls came up and said, “You were in the Small Faces, weren’t you?” And I said, “Yes, how’d you know?” They said, “Oh, we’ve got the videos. You guys sounded great. Bands today, they get onstage and just fake it, and don’t sound good.” I couldn’t believe it. They got it. They understood what we doing.

BT: Do you keep in touch with Kenney on a regular basis?

McLagan: I just talked to him yesterday, actually. That instinct, that timing is still there with me and Kenney. It’s very easy to play with him.

BT: Have you ever heard that timing with many other musicians?

McLagan: The guys in the Bump Band have that. [Guitarist] Scrappy Jud Newcomb, [bassist] Mark Andes, who was also in Spirit, Firefall, Jo Jo Gunne, and [drummer] Don Harvey. It’s an absolute pleasure to play with them.

The thing I like to say is that you’re in the Bump Band for life. Even [producer/musician] Gurf Morlix still sits in with us from time to time. You can never get too far away for us. (Laughs)

BT: There’s a photo on your website, circa 1964, of you in a car with [blues legend] Howlin’ Wolf. What’s the story behind the photo?

McLagan: Howlin’ and Hubert Sumlin [Wolf’s longtime guitarist] came over to Europe. Back then, a lot of American blues artists came over to play Europe. Sonny Boy Williamson II had come over the year before, and the Yardbirds backed him up. And when Howlin’ came over, Eric Clapton had just left the Yardbirds, so they were hung up at the time, and my band at the time belonged to the same booking agency as the Yardbirds, so we ended up playing three gigs with Howlin’ and Hubert.

Howlin’ actually gave me a hundred bucks when we were in the London Airport, and sent me to buy him some bourbon and Jack Daniel’s. Unfortunately, the airport didn’t have any alcohol. They didn’t have any airport bars, like they do now. There was no way I could get it. So I had to give him his hundred dollars back.

I got to see Hubert again last year, and told me, “Man, Howlin’ loved you! He wanted to take you back to Chicago.” 

I actually was doing my usual Thursday gig down here last night, and there’s this guy who has been telling me, “One night, I’m gonna bring James Cotton down here.” James was the harmonica player on the first record I ever bought, Muddy Waters Live At Newport (1960). So I always said, “Yeah, sure.” So last night, he shows up before the break, and says, “Hey, I’ve got James with me tonight.” I couldn’t believe it. We went and found a harmonica for him, since he didn’t have one on him, and he got up and played a couple of numbers. I loved it.

Muddy At Newport was a big record for me. And that was the first record that Steve Marriott ever bought, and those songs were some of the first things that we ever played together. And in fact, when the Faces got together later, Rod [Stewart] and Woody [Ron Wood] also knew that album really well, and that helped to bring us together. I talked to James after the show about doing some recording at my studio. I’ve love for that to happen.

BT: Are you working on a new Bump Band record?

McLagan: Yes. We have no label to worry about, which is just the way I like it. We can do whatever we damn well please. (laughs)

I’m also currently working on a Ronnie Lane two CD best-of. A collection of his solo recordings, and an extended version of Rough Mix (1976), that record he did with Pete Townshend.

BT: I really like Rough Mix.

McLagan: I hadn’t heard it when it came out. I’d had a row with Ronnie at the time. It’s a good record.

For me, Ronnie was the real leader of the Faces. I didn’t really realize that until I was working on the [Faces] boxset. He was the most prolific writer, and when he left, the band ended. He lived here in Austin for a long time, and no one has any bad words to say about him.  He was also one of the funniest people that I ever met in my life. An absolutely sweetheart, and brilliant guy.

BT: I saw that [the Small Faces’] Playmates and 78 In The Shade [1976 and 1978, respectively] got re-issued on CD. What are your feelings about that?

McLagan: I don’t know where they got the tapes to master them from. I’ve got the masters here, actually. The CDs have horrible sound, and the volume drops dramatically on one song. 

BT: What was it like to do those records? That time in the band’s history is not often looked at.

McLagan: It was fun, but different than how we’d worked before. I would get together with Steve [Marriott], and show what him I’d been working on, and he’d say, yeah, that’s great. And then I’d meet up with Ronnie, and do the same. Steve and Ronnie had previously written together, and they still had a beef going on.

And then, on the second day of recording, Ronnie got very grumpy and walked out. But to be fair, Ronnie told me that he found out later that this was the beginning of his MS [multiple sclerosis]. Ronnie really was not much of a drinker. He never drank that much, even after shows. But all of a sudden, if Ronnie drank, he would get very grmupy, and his legs would start to give way. And that turned out to be the MS.

BT: What would you like people to know about Steve Marriott?

McLagan: He was a great guy, very funny. A lot of people don’t know that he was the first choice to join the Rolling Stones, after Brian Jones left. But he couldn’t agree with Mick about having a voice in the band.

BT: Did the Faces boxset help to set the record straight about how good the band really was?

McLagan: I think it did. Hearing all of those BBC recordings, many of which I’d never heard before, and all the live tracks was just great. I think our reputation did proceed us, after a while, and somehow it got ‘round that we were a sloppy band. We always had a good time, but we cared a lot about how we sounded. And I think that the live recordings show that.

[Paul Westerberg] sent a letter, which we printed in the boxset, saying “I saw the Faces a hundred times, and not once were they ever sloppy.” He testified for me! (laughs)

And another thing was that [the Faces] were a band. A real five-piece band. We all had a part in it. Someone sent me a link to a website for a movie recently, and they said, “They’re using ‘Stay With Me’ in the movie. And I go to the website, and they had it listed as a Rod Stewart track! Those f--kers. That wasn’t a Rod Stewart track, bless his soul.

BT: So what keeps you going after all these years?

McLagan: Lack of funds, really. But the fact is that I love music, and this is something I love to do. Once, I was having a bad day, and my wife [Kim] says, “When you get down to it, what do you really like to do? And I said, “Play the blues very loud.” 

I still love playing live. I think I’ve always preferred playing live over playing in the studio. We’ve got our own Bump Band gig every Thursday night here in Austin at the Lucky Lounge, and when I come home afterwards, and Kim asks, “How was it?” Rarely do I ever not say, “It was absolutely fantastic.” I really love it.

I’m an enjoyer of life, Daniel. I love music, and I’m a very lucky guy for having the right woman in my life. She keeps me sane, or relatively insane, which is what we all need. 

RIP Ian McLagan

I first met Ian McLagan in 2003, at SXSW. From the first time I met him to the last, Mac was one of the nicest, and coolest people I have ever met in my life. I was thrilled every time that I saw him, and hugely saddened every time I missed the chance to see him (which includes a show in Raleigh just six weeks ago). I interviewed him, I hung out with him, he posted my photos on his website, and gave me some of the nicest compliments I've ever gotten. The fact that I will not have the chance to cross paths with him again, at least in this earthly place, is something that I, like many others, may never get used to. And yet, so much music, and so many laughs. And that will always stay with me. Safe travels, friend, and always remember how much you were loved down here.
December 3, 2014

Photo 2003 Daniel Coston, that wonderful day I first met Mac.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Passing Thought On My Birthday

So much to say.
So glad to still be here, and be where I am.
So thankful for all the good that's happened in the last few years.
Still so much to do,
and I hope to get to them soon.
Here's to another year,
another birthday,
and all that is to come.

November 30, 2014 (my birthday)

Backsliders Photo

Double Door Inn
Charlotte, NC
November 28, 2014
photo copyright 2014 Daniel Coston

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Steve Boone/Lovin' Spoonful interview

Steve Boone: A Spoonful Of Match Heads
Interview by Daniel Coston
Originally published on the Big Takeover Magazine website

For many, the Lovin' Spoonful remain one of the best and most inventive bands of the 1960s. Yet while many know their numerous hit songs, the story of the band’s brief yet colorful career has been largely undocumented. Band bassist and founding member Steve Boone had been looking to fill that void for some time.

"Even in the 1970s, I thought that there was a good story about the Lovin' Spoonful,” says Boone. "Because nobody had told the story, and there were a lot of stories and innuendo out there that wasn’t there. But I felt like that it should also include my time with Blue Seas, my recording studio near Baltimore. In 2009, Tony Moss interviewed me for Baltimore Magazine about Blue Seas Studios. And that came out so well, because Tony really cared about the story."

Working from different cities, Boone and Moss took turns working on the writing for Hotter Than A Match Head, which was released this summer through ECW Press. "It took us three full years. I’d write a chapter, and then we’ve go through what I’d written. It was a great process, but I took a lot longer than I thought it would."

When asked what he learned about himself through writing the book, Boone says, "I have been my own worst critic throughout my whole life. And what I found was that I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. In some situations, I think I set myself back by being too critical of myself, and that was a good release for me.

"One of the things that the band labored under was that it was 'John Sebastian and three sidemen comprised the Lovin' Spoonful'. I’m not diminishing John one iota, but the songs that I contributed to (“Summer In The City”, “Butchie’s Tune”, “Forever”) were far more successful than just being album cuts. I’ve had people come up and say, 'Wow Steve, I didn’t even know that you wrote.' Some of that was the fault of our management, and the record label."

What emerges through Hotter Than A Match Head is the relationships between all four members of the group. "Zally (Vanovsky, guitar) was the onstage firecracker in the band. John (Sebastian, guitar, vocals and primary songwriter) was very introspective, thinking about his music. He was good, he just wasn’t outgoing like Zal. Zally was all over the stage. If he hadn’t been restricted, he would’ve been playing on 13, not even 11. Joe (Butler, drummer) was very much the performer’s performer. He had been doing this since he was six. He sang a few leads, but not of many as he should’ve had. I had huge stage fright. When Zal left, we took on a different dimension. Jerry (Yester, guitar and keyboards) brought to it a bigger dimension for vocals, and more complex arrangements, and made it seem like John, Joe and Jerry were the lead singers. It wasn't just exclusively John."

The Spoonful formed in New York in 1964, just as the British Invasion was sweeping the United States. :All of the record labels turned us down all said, 'This music is great, it’s fabulous. We just wish they had an English accent.' That sounds odd now, but record companies do the same thing now. They run scared, they don’t take chances.

"When we started out, we were looking for electrify jug band music. We wanted to bring bass and drums, and guitars and amplifiers around that good time music that we were centering our music around. So John’s songs at the time were being written for a four-piece group. As John went on, he wrote more songs that were in a singer-songwriter mode, and the rest of the band was not writing enough to stop that direction. There’s no finger of blame here, but the Lovin' Spoonful as I knew it existed for one year in its first incarnation.” 

During that year, the band signed with Elektra Records, only to sign with Kama Sutra Records a short time later. “Kama Sutra had connections with radio stations, and we knew that we had to get our singles on the radio.” The band also dove headlong into a busy touring schedule. “We were working on the road all the time. We had to record the entire Daydream album in three days. That’s just the way it was."

In the book, Boone recalls the band’s first trip to England as one of the band’s high points. "Daydream had gone to number one in England, but that was the extent of our airplay at that point,” recalls Boone. "The first two gigs went okay, but then we played the Marquee in London. George Harrison, John Lennon. Eric Clapton was playing a gig that night with John Mayall, and he told John, 'You’ll have to find someone to replace me. I’m going to London to see the Spoonful.' Eric was a huge Zally fan. At the end of our set, we played this song called “Fishin’ Blues”. On the last verse, our amps blew out, and we just kept playing and singing. And the crowd went nuts. We then got hired to play the 21st birthday party for Tara Browne, at the family mansion. It was a weekend party like you haven’t seen. Everybody that arrived was handed a 3 ounce block of hashish. Keith Richards, Mick Jagger was there. Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green played before us. Tara couldn’t have been a nicer guy. It was chock full of European bluebloods. The word of mouth really got around about us. So when we stepped off the plane from England, we were riding pretty high. And we had "Summer In The City" coming out, which we all felt was going to be a big hit. And a month later, the bust happened."

That bust saw Yanovsky and Boone arrested for marijuana possession is San Francisco. Because Vanovsky was from Canada, the bust eventually led to his return to that country, and his ouster from the band. "When the bust happened, the air started leaking out. In my own opinion, it was just a devastating blow. When you’re not feeling good about yourself, a number one record doesn’t matter. We had a meteoric rise to success, and almost as quickly a fall,” recalls Boone.

The hits continued for Boone and the band, but by 1968, “The album was becoming the thing. And Kama Sutra didn’t know how to promote an album. We were kind of handicapped by our success. But we wouldn’t have had the success we had without being on a singles label. But when it became time to make Huns Of The Lovin Spoonful more of a conceptual type album, the label just wan’t there. Everything Playing was the first album that had recorded by a Rock band on a 16 track machine. The producer quit, and the engineer gave up. If Jerry Yester hadnt gotten involved with the production, I’m not sure that the album would’ve been finished. I wish we could go back and remix the album. The Lovin Spoonful broke a lot of ground, and Everything Playing should have been our album statement. It had the songs."

The book also documents Boone’s life after the breakup of the band. Increasingly frustrated by the band and those around them, Boone began looking for a way out. "I’d read these National Geographic articles about living on a sailboat in the Caribbean, and I was intrigued by that. I tried to record an album after we suspended touring, and it was cut off without explanation. I felt like I was punished for the drug bust. Once I’d finished my obligations, I picked out a boat, and made plans to go sailing."

Boone proceeded to sail in the Caribbean, and elsewhere for the next three years. "When you’re on a sailboat, there’s no time outs. There’s no port of call. You’ve got to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at you. I didn’t have a fear of bad things happening, and it built up my resiliency."

In 1973, Boone stopped into a recording studio in Baltimore to visit a friend. The owner of the studio asked Boone if he would like to get involved, and Boone called the Spoonful’s old manager if he knew of any possible clients. "My manager asked, “Have you heard of Little Feat?” I said, "No, I’ve been in the Caribbean for three and a half years.” I decided to get involved with the studio, and made the deal happen to get the band to record in the studio.

After Little Feat recorded Feats Don’t Fail Me Now at the studio, Boone got more involved with its day-to-day operations, renaming it Blue Seas Studios in the process. In early 1976, Boone was forced to move the studio. "We didn’t know where we were going to move. We just knew that we had to be out of that building,” remembers Boone. "I went to Baltimore’s inner harbor, which was still pretty derelict at the time. In the middle of all of this, there was a beautiful houseboat with a For Rent sign on it”.

Boone moved the entire studio into the houseboat. Over the next two years, numerous national and local acts recorded on the floating studio. "It actually did pretty well”, remembers Boone, "until December, 1977, when it sank. It was actually Christmas Day, and I was visiting my family out on Long Island, and I got a phone call. They had salvaged a good deal of the gear, but we lost the tape library, and that was devastating. That was the end of Blue Seas Studios."

Having reformed the Lovin' Spoonful with Butler and Yester since 1991, Boone and his bandmates have kept up a healthy touring schedule, though nowhere as hectic as it used to be. "It’s a lot more fun now. The only fun that’s not there is the excitement of teenage girls screaming for you. You can’t replace that as a thrill, as a guy,” says Boone about the band, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2000. "But nowadays, the technical end of the show, everything about the gig now is first class. We’re not doing 30,000 seat places. So we’re not making the big bucks, but the shows are a whole lot of fun. I think it compares very favorably to the original Spoonful show. When we started in this business, you considered the age of 30 to be the end of your career. Nowadays, you’re just getting started at 30."

As the Spoonful prepares for their 50th anniversary, Boone has a lot to look forward to in the coming year. "I don’t have any desire to think of myself as somebody with nothing to do. I’m just not that kind of personality. I like to work. I do to things. Whatever I can squeeze out of more to come of a life in music, I plan on doing it."

James Lowe/Electric Prunes interview

Electric Prunes: As It Was, And Is Again
Interview and introduction by Daniel Coston
originally published in the winter 2014 print edition of the Big Takeover Magazine

Of all the Garage Rock/Psychedelic bands of the 1960s that pushed the sonic envelope, few traveled more terrain than the Electric Prunes. Founded in California in 1965, their 1966 smash “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” was a call to arms of the new sonic wave to come. When the storied Garage/Psychedelic compilation Nuggets was released in 1972, “Too Much To Dream” opened the album, confirming its importance amongst fans and record collectors. 

In 2010, Electric Prunes founding members James Lowe (vocals) and Mark Tulin (bass) began work on one more Electric Prunes album, simply entitled WaS. This collection of live and studio tracks was nearly derailed in 2011 when Tulin died while assisting in the Avalon Underwater Clean-Up in his native California. However, time and inspiration gave Lowe the chance to finish up WaS, and prepare himself and the Prunes for whatever comes next. 

My thanks to James for this interview, which was done via email.

Daniel Coston: Let's go back to the start. What got you into playing music?

James Lowe: A friend played blues and folk music in Hawaii. I found it fascinating that you could move people with a guitar or banjo. I became hooked playing a few little clubs with him before the idea of a band ever came up.  

Coston: How did the Prunes originally come together?

Lowe: I was looking to form a band and got Mark and Ken Williams right in high school. We rehearsed for a year on our own stuff and tried to get a record deal.

Coston: What were your happiest days with the band?

Lowe: When the single "I Had Too Much To Dream" came out and there was all this buzzzz. And you heard it in the radio. That was cool.

Coston: The Prunes' records sounded like a band that was pushing the envelope. How did you translate those sounds into a live setting?

Lowe: We knew we wanted to sound different. We tried overpowering with a lot of amps but came around to trying to get the sound with smaller stuff and pedals (that had started coming out at that time). Wah Wah.

Coston: What would you say are the definitive documents of what the Prunes sounded like?

Lowe: A garage band, I would say?  We spent a lot of time in the garage. I think the style and sensibility has stayed he same across all our albums. Even this one. “Lost Dream”, “Too Much To Dream”, “Morphine Drip”, “Frozen Winter”, “Circus Freak”, “Tidal Wave”.

Coston: You often played an autoharp on the albums, and on stage. How did pick up the autoharp, and did you have trouble having the autoharp heard onstage?

Lowe: We used the autoharp on the records for shimmer, and I was given a Summit stereo autoharp by that company that plugged into the amps. So I was able to use effects on it, as well. The guitars were usually very loud so I didn't make a blazing impression with it, but it did sound dreamy at times, and it looked kinda cool. I was originally a guitar player in the band, but the management thought it was better to use the autoharp. They must have heard me play the guitar!

Coston: What kind of effects pedals, or amps did the Prunes use onstage back then?

Lowe: Homemade things, in some cases, but we did manage to get the first Wa Wa and Fuzztone units to try. We also used a VOX organ guitar on a few things. We leaned on the vibrato and tremolo mostl,y since we wanted it to sound spacy and a bit time delayed. Mmost of the amps had different versions of these same effects. The Magnatone amp had a watery tremolo, where the Fenders were a little more sawtooth sounding. I would sing into the drum of a Leslie cabinet from time to time. I like that sound a lot. We also had some watery sounding foot pedals Ken's dad made us.

Coston: Talk about some of the bands you toured with, and your favorites to tour with?

Lowe: We played with Cream, Who, Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield, Steppenwolf, Turtles, Question Mark, Soft Machine, Kula Shakur, Sunshine Company, Box Tops, Seeds, Beach Boys, Left Banke, Lovin' Spoonfull, Chocolate Watchband, Strawberry Alarm Clock, LOVE, Blues Magoos, Arthur Brown, Pierre Ubu, Damned. People think because you play with someone you become friends, actually many times you don't even speak or get to hear their set. You are preparing for your set as they play and the same holds for them. We have found most of the acts we have shared the stage with have been nice guys. I think the American bands have less attitude than the Euro's but that's just part of their charm. Everyone is in the same boat with you, so any attitudes fade in time. 

Coston: Talk a little bit about touring with the Beach Boys. 

Lowe: We liked touring with them. They were about the business more than most. Quick set ups and tear downs. It was funny to watch the thing tighten up when the wives showed up at a gig. Throw on the brakes! We just played and slept on that one. We wanted to avoid the party if we could. The other band's were cool, all trying to make a mark. Question Mark, Keith, Left Banke. It was a good time.

Coston: How did the Prunes write songs back then? On the road? At home? Do you write songs any differently now?

Lowe: You never had much time in LA to write, so you were forced to lay down ideas on the road, and then try to remember what you meant when you got home to record. We usually took a few days between Mark and I to order and reorder our new things just before we came home. Some things had no lyrics or titles until we put down the basic tracks.
Today we would do the same on the road in a van, but the computer is the way we send ideas back and forth in LA. Mark would add a line, I would add a line, or we would suggest an idea of what the song was about if it had been musically realized first. This led to "what 's this going to be about?" many times. Sometimes we would have a title and a few lines or a very strong idea, like "African Bees" "they peer in your windows and pee in your trees" and then we would come up with some music after the poem was written.

Coston: The Stockholm 1967 recording is a remarkable document of the Prunes at that time. What do you remember from that show, and that tour?

Lowe: We didn't know about the recording for years. They (Swedish Broadcast Network) had asked before the show if they could record it and I said NO. Somehow they pushed the button and red light went on? I found out about it from my son, years later. Simon Edwards championed the record on his Heartbeat label around 2000. The Nice were with us on the bill. Nice guys! It was a beautiful formal venue with red seats and good sound. This was the last night we played in Europe. I remember we didn't have an encore because we NEVER had an encore. We didn't do them. You can hear the audience clapping but we went home.  On the WaS album the live cut of "Bullet Thru The Backseat" from 2001 is the first encore we ever did. When we came back from the dead we decided to play them because everyone else was. This would be no excuse for my mom. If they jumped off a bridge, would you?

Coston: During the Stockholm show, you apologized for what the US government was doing in Vietnam. Was it strange to be an American overseas during that time, while being against what was going on in the US?

Lowe: We ran into a very hostile audience in Amsterdam before this so we were a bit prepared. They stole our fuzztone unit (a cool guy got ahold of me in 2001 and admitted his friend had done it). I flipped them off because they were actin' so crazy and we walked off. We were never a political band and didn't even pay attention to those things to be honest. We were not sure of what was even going on but there was no doubt we were not for war. I felt after Amsterdam I should at least address it. I remember wondering if I would get a visit from the MAN after saying that. I never did.

Coston: Was there a point in working with Dave Hassinger that you realized that he was taking over the band? [Hassinger used session musicians on Mass In F Minor and Release Of An Oath]. 

Lowe: Dave did the first album. If you notice we did the arrangements which in some cases WAS the production. He was distracted with Grateful Dead and we did Underground on our own, though he got producer credit. The Mass was David Axelrod's composition, so the arrangements were the key issue there again. Dave never owned the name, and never took over our sound. We had the ideas and I always ask why he couldn't do it with another group after us if he was that on?  

Coston: Post-Prunes, you did a lot of studio engineering. What did you learn about music from those experiences?

Lowe: Yes. I did albums with Nazz, Todd Rundgren, Sparks, Amanda Shankar, James Cotton, Grapefruit, Limelighters. I learned I loved music from the studio perspective. It was construction and that is always fun. I learned also that the music can be splitting your ears and no one in the band can hear their instruments. Can you bring up the guitar??? Ha ha.

Coston: The Nuggets compilation put "Too Much To Dream" as song number one of the collection, and introduced a lot of people to the Prunes. When did you first hear the Nuggets collection, and what did you think of it?

Lowe: Years after it was out. My son, again. I never told people I was in the band after we split so no one knew to tell me, I guess? When friends found out they told me about Nuggets, but I dismissed it as probably not true. I was happy when I actually heard it, and got to thank Lenny Kaye in person in NY.

Coston: At what point did you say, "I want to be in the Electric Prunes again?"

Lowe: Mark and I mixed the Lost Dreams collection for David Katznelson and we liked the sound of the old tapes. I had a studio in my guesthouse so we decided to play a little again. That was 1999. We got kind of hung up. Ha.

Coston: I saw and photographed you at Garagefest at Randall's Island, NY in 2004. You guys only got to play two songs, but you were amazing. Bruce Springsteen cut in front of me to say hello to you! What do you remember about that show?

Lowe: Bruce Springsteen coming up to me afterward. I remember looking at his goetee and wondering who the hell he was? My wife was with me and clued me in. Mark was so pissed that he was not with me after the show, as he was a big Springsteen fan. PS, this guy stopped everything so Pamela could take a few pictures of us. First class person! I wished we could have played more that day. We WaS ready.

Coston: How did this new record come together?

Lowe: Mark Tulin and I were working on collecting some things out of the past recordings, and finishing up things we had started for what WaS to be our last studio effort. His untimely death stopped me in my tracks on this project. I thought it might never be finished up. Then [the Prunes] went to play in Japan and I got inspired to [finish the album] since I knew I would be in LA for a month or so. I went through all the correspondence between Mark and I and found the interesting cuts to finish up. In some cases I left Mark's voice on the demos, I usually replaced him once we had decided on the lyrics. I thought it was more interesting to sing along in some cases and let him have the solo spot. We liked hearing our voices together on cuts so this seemed a natural extension. The order was the hardest part and a lot of early morning walks with the iPod and shuffling the order took place. Mark and I had done two songs Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins had written for us, but I could not get ahold of him in time to include them here. They are good cuts but I like what I ended up with. Steve Kara, our lead guitar player offered to help get this thing in the barn and he was invaluable with his studio and musical talent. Also Ken Eros, a cool engineer/guitarist would lend the special spice to master, play some e-bow and mix the last bit of this with me. Friends make life easier! 

Coston: How much did Mark Tulin's death affect the overall sound, and feel of this record?

Lowe: Mark would let me do most of the decision work on the records, so it was not that different, except if you can't ask your partner how it is going you have to have the guts to push down the accelerator. I knew the cuts he liked and I stuck to the lyrics we had come up with for the demos. Sometimes he would get testy when I changed a favorite word or something, so I left it pretty much as we practiced and started the basic tracks. The hardest was selecting the things we both liked and having to leave some behind. It is always that way.

Coston: Talk about the partnership between you and Mark?

Lowe: We could finish each other's sentences, actually after all these years. Mark was the only other member that wanted to write songs so it was pretty easy to stay tight. Sometimes the song would start with me, sometimes mark. Sometimes just a title would spark it. Then we would get together a few weeks later and combine our ideas. I might say African Bees, then call him up and say, "they peer in your windows and pee in your trees". Mark would laugh and a few day later a line would come back at me. A cool way to work.

Mark had been playing with Billy Corgan and he wrote us a couple of songs that we recorded. I asked Billy if we could include them here but he never got back to me as I assembled the CD so they didn't make it on there. Too bad cuz they are cool songs. 

Coston: What were the inspirations (lyrical, and musically) for this new album?

Lowe: We always are aware of what our sound issues are so it is natural to play it as we always have musically. The band has always tried to take a side track to this stuff and we like it if you know it is us by the sound. The stories are as they have been, little pictures of things. If you don't get an image listening we have not done something right. I think we have some nice cuts on here.

Coston: What's next for you and the band?

Lowe: Probably playing some of this live would be in order if anyone will have us.

Coston: What are the differences between touring now, and in the 1960s?

Lowe: Nothing. You STILL get screwed out of the money. I would have thought this would have ended but it is still the norm. 

Coston: Is it unfair to categorize the garage rock and psychedelic era of Rock & Roll? Looking back, it was a brief, yet fertile and diverse era of music. Did you even think of it as a genre?

Lowe: No. I thought we were playing Rock and Roll. It was what we grew up on and thought it was the music of freedom and you could say or play it any way you wanted. People were trying to hang a name on it to make it seem fresh but it was just Rock to us. Maybe we were wrong?

Coston: There are now multiple generations of Prunes fans. What is that like?

Lowe: Nothing is cooler than a dad bringing his son to a concert, or a letter from a young kid playing the guitar who wants to know about it all. Or getting input from people on the social media networks. I never expected anyone to even remember this stuff, so it has been my wonderful surprise from the past. We got a shot, that is what counts. I am happy I was in the band. Some good, some bad, like LIFE. Lemons or lemonade, what you make of it!

Coston: Looking back, what is the legacy of the band?

Lowe: Noise is OK. That's it! Come on by and give the new WaS CD a listen. You might be surprised at how little things have changed. 

North Carolina Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Kannapolis, NC, October 16, 2014

North Carolina Music Hall Of Fame
induction ceremony
Gem Theater
Kannapolis, NC
October 16, 2014
all photos copyright 2014 Daniel Coston