ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, DEC. 5, 2002
By Steve Newton
Back in 1985, the Blasters were building a reputation as one of North America’s premier roots-rock acts. Then one cold November night in Montreal, the ongoing quarrels between guitarist Dave Alvin and his older brother, vocalist Phil, boiled over. After a particularly disastrous gig, the younger Alvin and pianist Gene Taylor suddenly quit the band, and while Phil kept the group going with different members, the siblings didn’t perform again as the Blasters until just last March. That’s when they hooked back up with Taylor, bassist John Bazz, and drummer Bill Bateman, recorded the live Trouble Bound CD, and embarked on a tour that hits the Commodore Ballroom on Monday (December 9).
Reached at his home in L.A., Dave Alvin confides that the reunion idea first came to him earlier this year when he was helping put together a two-disc Rhino Records reissue of the band’s Slash/Warner recordings. It wasn’t so much out of any burning desire to get back with Phil; actually, that idea draws loud chuckles from Dave. When his laughter subsides, he offers another reason for the original Blasters’ return to the stage.
“Well, you know, all five guys, we all grew up together, we’ve all known each other all of our lives. The bass player, Johnny, has known my brother Phil longer than I have. And a lot has changed since Phil and I broke the band up. Both of our parents are gone, and a lot of our friends from childhood are gone for one reason or another, and our hometown [of Downey, California] has changed so much—you’d never recognize it. So for any of us to go home, it really takes the five guys just to walk out on-stage. You know, that’s our family reunion.”
After the Blasters’ breakup, Alvin, the group’s primary songwriter, embarked on a successful solo career that peaked with the release of Public Domain: Songs From the Wild Land, which won a Grammy last year for best traditional folk album. But he’s still quick to voice his displeasure about Phil keeping the Blasters’ name going without him.
“I wish my brother called his band the Phil Alvin Band,” he told the Los Angeles Times last March. When asked about the possibility of the reunited Blasters recording any new, original material, his ongoing grudge asserts itself. “I’m not gonna sit down and write 10, 11 songs for my brother to sing,” Alvin stresses. “That’s not what I do anymore. So I have no interest on any level in doing that. If we were to do an album of cover songs, let’s say, that would be more interesting to me.”
In the meantime, it’s just the five original Blasters—with a small memorial at the side of the stage for the group’s mentor and sometime saxophonist Lee Allen—and those great old barnstorming rockers like “Marie Marie”, “Long White Cadillac”, and “American Music”. Anyone who bounced around on the Commodore’s sprung dance floor during the Blasters’ heyday should consider another visit to the historic Granville Mall haunt. Alvin’s definitely psyched for the band’s return.
“I have very fond memories of [the Commodore],” he relates. “In fact, I’m glad we’re goin’ back because I’m gonna go look for some brain cells that I lost there.”