LOS ANGELES (AP) — It took 20 years but the group Bruce Springsteen once praised as being almost as good as a lousy garage band is finally calling it quits.
The Rock Bottom Remainders, a contingent that has made it clear with every performance that literary giants like Amy Tan, Stephen King and Scott Turow really did make the right decision when they set aside their musical ambitions to write books, is calling it a career after two Southern California shows later this month.
“We’ve gotten as good as we’re ever going to get,” says lead guitarist and best-selling humorist Dave Barry, explaining the band’s decision.
“You can’t get any better,” Barry continued. “Well, you actually can get a lot better. But we can’t get any better. We’re up to almost four chords now, and the Beatles quit at that point, I’m pretty sure.”
Truth be told, the Rock Bottom Remainders were always a lot better than they gave themselves credit for. Especially for a band whose members’ busy writing schedules prevented them from doing more than one or two gigs a year and who rarely had time to rehearse.
They’ve decided to wrap things up in part because of the death last month of the group’s founder, book publicist and lead singer Kathi Goldmark. It was she who persuaded each one of them to join as she drove them around on book tours over the years.
“We sort of felt this would be a good time to end it because it just isn’t going to be the same without Kathi,” said Barry during a rare moment of seriousness.
The group’s “Past Our Bedtime Tour” (because real musicians don’t get up early like writers do) will include a public performance June 22 at LA’s El Rey Theatre, followed by a private show the next day for the American Library Association’s Anaheim convention.
All profits will go to charity, as has been the case with every Remainders concert since the group formed for a booksellers convention 20 years ago. They have raised an estimated $2 million since then.
“We’re always stressing that we’re not getting any money,” said Barry, adding concert-goers would likely be very unhappy to learn they’d shelled out $40 a ticket if they thought the money was going to a band no better than one they could hear for free in their neighbor’s garage.
But despite their musical limitations, the Remainders, (who take their name from the industry term for books nobody wants) have managed to share stages with an impressive list of musicians over the years. Among them, Springsteen, Warren Zevon, Judy Collins, Ronnie Spector, Al Kooper and the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn.
It was Springsteen, Barry recalled, who after playing with the group told them they weren’t that bad, then offered this advice: “Don’t get any better or you’ll be just another lousy garage band.”
McGuinn, who will join them for this tour, met the band’s members through writer Carl Hiaasen a dozen years ago and has played with them off and on ever since.
His assessment of them is a bit kinder.
“Now Dave will tell you that they’re just a lousy band, but in fact they’re pretty good,” McGuinn said recently by phone as he traveled between gigs in Nashville and Tucson, Ariz.
Then he couched that, adding, “They’re not as bad as they claim to be.”
He has high praise for several members, including keyboardist Mitch Albom (“Tuesdays With Morrie”)” bass player Ridley Pearson (“Middle of Nowhere”) and guitarist Greg Iles. The latter was actually a touring musician before he wrote his first best-seller, “Spandau Phoeniz.”
Another member, James McBride, is a respected composer as well as a writer.
Tan, meanwhile, studied classical piano as a child, something that in no way seems to have prepared her for the sometimes-goth-dressing, bad-girl rock vixen that “The Joy Luck Club” author portrays onstage when she belts out the old Nancy Sinatra hit “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.”
The group’s specialty is ’60s rock ‘n roll with a few original tunes by band members thrown in.
Still, among the most entertaining segments of a Remainders performance, Barry says, is watching Roy Blount Jr. and “Simpson’s” creator Matt Groening clap out of time during an entire show while pretending to sing along with other band members. Neither, he said, will get close enough to a microphone to let the audience hear them.
“We’re fun. We’re not good but we’re fun,” Barry says, laughing. “And they do serve alcohol (at the show). This is key. For us as well as the audience.”
More Related Stories
- New Beyoncé single leaked
- The sweet, sure to be short-lived "The Goodwin Games"
- Damon Lindelof admits barely-clothed scene in "Star Trek" was "gratuitous"
- Justin Timberlake: I'm a mediocre folk singer!
- Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, dies at 74
- Beware of book blurbs
- Did a Salon excerpt ruin Penn Jillette's chance to win "Celebrity Apprentice"?
- Zach Galifianakis to take formerly homeless woman to "Hangover 3" premiere
- Seth MacFarlane will not host Oscars again
- "SNL's" uncomfortable Garner/Affleck moment
- "Celebrity Apprentice" finale ratings hit a new low
- Worst National Anthem fails
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- Stephen Colbert to UVA: "You must always make the path for yourself"
- "Game of Thrones," season 3, episode 8: A salon
- Bieber booed, Miguel falls on fan at Billboard Awards
- "Mad Men" recap: Love, acid and whores. Lots of whores
- Taylor Swift leads Billboard winners
- “Game of Thrones” recap: “We must do our duty”
- "The Unwinding": What's gone wrong with America
- Michael J. Fox wins: The best and worst of the new fall shows
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11