Thirty years ago today--on November 10, 1987--the Beat Farmers played the 86 Street Music Hall.
Anybody remember the 86 Street Music Hall? Or the Beat Farmers?
I sure do. The BFs were a great rock 'n' roll band, all blood, sweat, and flying beer. They were one of the best things about going to Vancouver concerts in the late '80s, early '90s.
Here's the interview I did three decades back with drummer, emcee, and all-around troublemaker Country Dick Montana.
R.I.P. big guy.
Devoted fans of serious music should make a point of being as far away as possible from the 86 Street Music Hall this Tuesday (November 10). However, those with less cultivated tastes–and a penchant for rowdy, party-time country rock with a twist–will find San Diego’s Beat Farmers right up their alley.
The Beat Farmers are not a serious band, by any stretch of the imagination. While most bands’ bio sheets boast raving quotations from critics and even more raving raves from record company bio writers, these guys have their own six-page Beat Farmers Almanac. In the cover’s top right-hand corner it says “$1.50 Value”, and in the left, “Pay-Up Cheaters”. Inside are lists of Social Do’s and Don’ts, which include “Tips for Men” (“Remember to leave the toilet set in the ‘up’ position when you’re done peeing on it”) and “Tips for Women” (“Tell him that his air-guitar playing gets you ‘hot’ “).
These invaluable bits of advice are the handiwork of Country Dick Montana, the group’s deep-voiced, biker-sized drummer. He’s the one that puts a touch of Maclean & Maclean in the Beat Farmers’ totally decent country-rock sound. Miss Manners he ain’t, but where would rock be without a little rudeness?
“A born sleazeball”, as the Almanac says, Dick claims to have been raised in Memphis by his carny father and sideshow-attraction mother who, due to her extremely low voice, was billed as “The Amazing Frog Woman”. His father later became road manager for such acts as Gene Pitney, Marty Robbins, and Sugarloaf, and young Dick accompanied the elder Montana on the road, crisscrossing the country.
“It certainly taught me how to adapt to road life,” says Montana, on the line from San Diego. “It was a good experience…not necessarily healthy, though.”
In the early ’80s, Country Dick formed Country Dick and the Snuggle Bunnies, which also included Skid Roper (of Skid Roper & Mojo Nixon fame). That outfit was a “rowdy, roadhouse country & western free-for-all,” according to the Almanac, “that was allowed to roam the Southwest until an incident in Yuma resulted in Dick’s removal from circulation in early ’83.” And what incident was that, queried the curious rock reporter?
“Ummmm…broke a guy’s leg,” says Dick. “He was askin’ for it, though.”
When he got back into circulation, Montana hooked up with what would become the Beat Farmers: lead vocalist/lead guitarist Jerry Raney, bassist Rolle Love (a.k.a. Dexter), and guitarist Buddy Blue. The band released one of the strongest guitar-rock albums of 1986 with Van Go, which sported an endearing version of Neil Young’s 1979 gem “Powderfinger”.
Buddy Blue left the band before they recorded their latest LP, The Pursuit of Happiness. “He just started getting too heavy into black magic and occult stuff,” claims Country, at the risk of being cursed.
As well as Blue’s replacement Joey Harris, The Pursuit of Happiness features stellar pianist Nicky Hopkins (the Who, Stones, Kinks) on four tracks. “He was basically the inspiration for me to learn how to play piano in the first place,” says Dick. “So that was cool, having him on there.”
A devoted music fan with over 3,000 albums (“They take up most of my house”), Montana says he’s been listening to people like Tom Waits and Steve Earle lately. He’s also been working on his own EP, The Home of Country Dick Montana, which allows for the cruder material that doesn’t make it onto the Beat Farmers LPs.
“The stuff I write tends to learn toward the profane,” admits Dick with a chuckle. “And the record companies are not into it.”
The music on the EP–which Dick describes as “definitely uncalled for”–is hilarious, especially “The Definitive A Capella Led Zeppelin Medley” (which makes a shambles of “Black Dog”) and Dick’s version of Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon”, which the Beat Farmers sometimes try to pull off in their live shows.
“Our bassist hates it so much that he refuses to play,” laughs Montana.
“Karma Chameleon” or not, the Beat Farmers’ show this Tuesday should be a wild one. Country Dick Montana agrees. “If it’s anything like the last [Vancouver] gig, there’ll be some pretty over-the-top action there. The crowd was really great, and they’re very sloppy drinkers. I can appreciate that.”