The Blasters

By Gary: In the year of 1984, I watched, with my children, a very average movie called “Streets of Fire”.  I am not a Michael Pare fan so I may be a little prejudiced.  The one item I really enjoyed was the movie’s soundtrack. The soundtrack was written by Ry Cooder, whom I really enjoy, so again I may have been prejudiced. 

The movie introduced me to the Alvin brothers, Phil and Dave and a group called “The Blasters” and I guess I have been a fan ever since.  I own the soundtrack and still enjoy playing it, although I do not remember a lot about the movie. 

So let’s take a look at a group that started in 1979 in Downey California and who are still rocking today.

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 The Blasters
Videos:
2014 / Dave and Phil Alvin (acoustic) / All by myself / Key to the Highway /
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1982 / Crazy Baby /
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1982 / TV Show with Carl Perkins /
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1982 / TV Show complete /
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1985 / Farm Aid / Marie Marie /
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1982 / So long Baby Goodbye /
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1985 / Farm Aid / American Music /
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1985/ Common Man / Farm Aid /
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Music:
1980 / From the Album “American Music” / Marie Marie /
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1984 / From the Album “American Music” / Crazy Baby /
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1981 / From the Album “The Blasters” / So Long Baby Goodbye /
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1984 / From the movie Streets of Fire / One Bad Stud /
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1985 / Album “Hard Line” / Used on Miami Vice / Dark Night

Band history

The Alvin brothers had an early interest in blues, and attended concerts by T-Bone WalkerBig Joe Turner and others, sometimes jamming and reminiscing with the musicians. Phil Alvin remembers that his mother would take him backstage to get harmonica lessons from Sonny Terry when Phil was still a boy. R&B saxophone legend Lee Allen joined the Blasters for two albums and toured with the original line-up until his death in 1994, and Gene Taylor joined as well, performing boogie woogie-style piano. Later on the band were joined by Steve Berlin (later of Los Lobos), who played baritone sax.

The Blasters’ energetic live performances gained a local following, and they became fixtures of the early 1980s Los Angeles punk rock scene, performing alongside XBlack Flag, The Gun Clubthe Screamers and others. In 1986, members of the Blasters appeared with Screamers front-man Tomata du Plenty in the punk rock musical Population: 1. Former Black Flag singer and current Rollins Band leader Henry Rollins wrote of the Blasters, “In my mind, they were a great band that not enough people found out about. Bill Bateman is one of the best drummers there is, and then of course, there are the Alvin brothers. A lot of talent for one band.” (Rollins, 36)

In 1980, the song “Marie, Marie”, from the album American Music, became a minor hit for Shakin’ Stevens, see This Ole HouseMatchbox also recorded the song for their 1980 album Midnite Dynamos.

The Blasters toured almost continuously for much of their existence. The notes for The Blasters Collection report that in one particular month, they toured with psychobilly pioneers the Cramps, with western swing revivalists Asleep at the Wheel and on a leg of Queen’s west coast tour. The Blasters gave boosts to both Los Lobos and Dwight Yoakam by inviting them on tour; Yoakam would later score a modest hit with his version of Dave Alvin’s “Long White Cadillac”.

Their song “Dark Night” was featured in a 1985 episode of Miami Vice, and they gained more exposure in the Walter Hill film Streets of Fire,(1984) performing two songs for the soundtrack as well as appearing as themselves in the film. In 1987 “Marie, Marie” was featured in the Ridley Scott film “Someone To Watch Over Me” starring Tom Berenger. In 1988 “So Long Baby, Goodbye” was featured in the film Bull Durham starting Kevin Costner and in 1996 they also appeared in the Quentin TarantinoRobert Rodriguez collaboration From Dusk Till Dawn. In 2001, the song “So Long Baby, Goodbye” was featured on the second episode of the HBO series Six Feet Under as the song chosen by the widow of the founder of a pyramid scheme for her late husband’s viewing. “So Long Baby, Goodbye” is also featured in the 2004 PlayStation 2 video game Gran Turismo 4.

Dave Alvin, the group’s primary songwriter, left the band in 1986 for a critically acclaimed solo career. He was initially replaced on guitar by Hollywood Fats (birth name: Michael L. Mann) who appeared with them at Farm Aid. Phil Alvin has led various incarnations of the Blasters intermittently since then, including a few reunion tours and live albums of the original line up. Dave Alvin has occasionally performed with the band, and recently replaced his brother due to an illness. Personnel as of 2011 is Phil Alvin together with John Bazz, Keith Wyatt, and Bill Bateman.

On July 3, 2012, the Blasters returned with a new studio album, “Fun On Saturday Night”. The album includes a duet with Exene Cervenka of X and the Knitters, track number 2 called “Jackson”.