Tommy Keene has been playing guitar hero for more than a quarter-century, both on his power-pop solo albums (his latest is In The Late Bright, out this week) and as a sideman for Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg. Keene, apparently weary of all the critical acclaim, agreed to dole out some of his own praise. He’s guest editing magnetmagazine. com this week and compiled a mix tape for us with a free mp3.
Keene: I saw Deep Purple at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in 1973 on the Machine Head tour, right after their seminal live album Made In Japan. We didn’t know who the opening act was, but some British guy came out onstage and offered a rather pompous introduction: “Are you ready for a really great band with some really great vibes?” Out sprang an androgynous-looking singer; all glittered up, he proceeded to remark about the lovely chandeliers on the ceiling and how they were really gassed to play D.C. It was their first American show, in the city where, as he reminded us, the Beatles played their first U.S. gig. The band was Silverhead, a British boogie-glam outfit that would release two ignored records but would later be known as the group led by Michael Des Barres, future husband of supergroupie Pamela (who later wrote infamous tell-all I’m With The Band). The show was unremarkable, but I couldn’t resist picking up their self-titled debut LP the next day. To my surprise, it was a catchy, rocking affair with great guitars and hilariously over-the-top vocals and lyrics. It was like watching Waiting For Guffman; you’re mildly amused at first, but after repeated viewings/listens, it keeps getting better. Another album, 16 And Savaged, led to the ultimate Big In Japan status but never translated to Europe or the States.
Des Barres went on to fill in for Robert Palmer when he bailed on the Power Station tour, and he’s had a steady career in TV, notably as Heather Locklear’s boss on Melrose Place. (He also played the restaurant host who employed the valet with the bad B.O. on the classic Seinfeld episode.) Bassist Nigel Harrison handled the same duties in Blondie, starting with their breakout record, Parallel Lines.
Silverhead circa ’74 on YouTube after the jump.
One reply on “From The Desk Of Tommy Keene: Silverhead”
I, too had the 16 album (bought it in the cutout section). LOVE “Hello New York”.