By Billy Davis
Once again the Blasters came to the east coast to do a go round of their favorite clubs in March 2010. In these tough economic times, even the world renowned Blasters are affected by the economy; they have to keep their road expenses down thus keeping concert ticket prices low for us. Phil said to the crowd each night: "Thanks for coming down and spending your money in a depression."
Flying in equipment can be expensive, so the Blasters decided to rent guitar amps, and I was able to lend them a drum set from a certain tribute band that I play in at New York city area clubs. The band I cover is similar to the Blasters in that they are both from Los Angeles and started in the early 1980's. Dave Alvin tells me both bands played on the same bill in about '83 or '84 in a benefit show for the Zero Zero club. But those similarities are where it ends. The band that I tribute is the thrash metal band Slayer and we're called 'Show No Mercy.'
So Bill Bateman was able to transform the drum set with new skins, hardware, and even a few swings of a hammer into a Blasters-sounding drum kit - amazing. My drummer now says he can't believe how good it sounds. As reported before in The Blasters Newsletter, Bill is a custom drum builder and designer of vintage-style high quality drums. The final touch was a Blasters logo on the kick drum, and it hit the road.
The first show was in New Haven, CT, at Café Nine. Then on to Albany, NY, at Valentine's, which Is where I joined up with them. They opened with the Bo Diddley song I LOVE YOU SO - a great high energy song from the Blasters classic "The Face" album. They played nearly a two-hour set every night on this tour - unusually long for the Blasters. I can only guess because they have added some new songs, Phil has lost count and just added songs without taking away. That's good for us fans.
In this show, Phil intros the song GLAD YOU'RE DEAD YOU RASCAL like this: "Did you ever wish someone dead? Well, if you close your eyes in this song, I'll try and make that happen. If it's me you want dead, at least let me finish the song (laughs)."
I was surprised that first night to hear a newly written song by Phil Alvin called BIPOLAR. The next day I interviewed Phil and reminded him it was the first song in about twenty years that he wrote all himself -- with 4-11-44 being the last in about 1989. Phil: "Yeah. You're right. I haven't felt the need to supplement the repertoire, but I know you're supposed to. Most of the time there is an existing song in culture that is about a certain theme or subject that you want to sing about. So I choose those and sing them. When there isn't one, then its time to write one - as I did with 4-11-44. That was about gambling. In the case of BIPOLAR, there were no songs about manic depressives - so I had to write one."
I said to Phil: "You can give me the short answer." He said: "Billy, I have no short answers (laughs)." So Phil continued: "It seems like everyone has some kind of mental disorder these days (laughs), so it was a song many could identify with."
Phil: "I had been involved with a couple of women who have varying degrees of this disorder. I found myself in predicaments, not exactly like, but not unlike, where the ethical question is raised: Is it ever all right to hit a woman (laughs)? What do I do? Do I smack you? Do I wrestle you to the ground? (laughs) You're gonna call the police on me anyway. The last line of the song says, 'Although I might be a cheater, does the law let me beat her, if she holds a knife to my throat.' Now being someone who is not a girl-hitter, I am not condoning the hitting of women. I'm just proposing the ethical problem of: what happens in a situation when someone just as intelligent as you are, but not physically as strong, but capable of putting equalizers in - like a gun - or a knife - what do you do?"
Phil explains how the writing of the song came about: "At a friend's house, we were passing the guitar around to play songs. I was examining the structure of Dave Carroll's country songs." Dave Carroll was the drummer in the Blasters in 93-94 and brought songs to the Blasters like George Jones WINDOW UP ABOVE and Johnny Paycheck's PRECIOUS MEMORIES. Phil says: "Dave Carroll listened to old country more than I did and brought those. Same with Jimmie Rodgers stuff. He always listened to that and sang these songs to me whenever we would pass the guitar around at jams. On this night, he sang a Hank Williams Jr.,