[EDIT: And continuing further! After reading this, there’s part three!]
So yesterday’s post has already prompted a number of responses! Billy Ingram was kind enough to link over from the TVParty.com site, while via blog comments and mail I’ve found out more about not only Manakin but the other acts members belonged to, a little subhistory at work.
I should start this post by saying that all this talk prompted me to dig out a book I have but haven’t read in years, We Got the Neutron Bomb, an oral history of LA punk done in partial response to the New York-specific Please Kill Me. While comprehensive the book is not definitive — the coauthors mention as much in the introduction while I’ve heard from other folks who know many of the principals about their own particular concerns with the text, and perhaps that’s unavoidable. Still, knowing that the chance of a mention in the book of them was unlikely I decided to rescan through it anyway — and indeed, Manakin don’t figure anywhere.
What is interesting, though, is the commonly-stated theme that aside from the punks and a very select few progenitors — Zolar X, Sparks and to an extent the Sparks-worshipping Quick — the LA scene then as such apparently consisted of little more than the hangover of Laurel Canyon rock — the Eagles come for a rubbishing more than once — and maybe Van Halen. In terms of perception, doubtless true, but also limiting. In a spread-out, heavily populated area like LA and its neighbors, all sorts of things were going on on all levels — SOLAR Records were making a name for a number of home-grown funk acts, for instance, while the LA Free Music Society or LAFMS for short had already recorded a slew of odd things and were busy making Pasadena a home for all sorts of outre weirdness, and then there was Los Lobos, chugging along since 1973 and hardly the only band from their neck of the woods, and those are just three examples of many. Los Lobos do eventually feature in the book, certainly, but their approach and traditions were a demonstration that to say some small subset of something was ‘the scene’ is always fraught with peril.
So Manakin not being mentioned at all isn’t a surprise, neither is the fact that they were barely remembered. Bands form, struggle on, go away without leaving a permanent mark of their passing, something increasingly rare these days with groups always on the Net in some way or form, but otherwise this is just the common way of things. ‘Scenes’ are just as often retrospective — perhaps always retrospective — as they are snapshots of the here and now.
So where did Brent and compatriots fit in? Here’s some more detail shared with me — first, memories from a high school friend of his who I know through mutual Sparks fandom, Kari aka Ella:
he was one of my best friends in high school, and the older friend who drove us to the Santa Monica Civic in the early hours so that we could get Sparks tickets in 1975. In HS he was in a band called Second Phlight – they did glam covers (I have pics but they’re in LA!) and he also was a mime at Shakey’s. Honestly, he would perform while my friends Dan and Peter played Stones and Led Zep covers, and I would usually accompany them on the Shakey’s piano. That was my first job (I didn’t get the nightly rate that they did, but a share of the tips and free pizza!)
Now, I can’t tell you much about Manakin – I vaguely remember them but I don’t remember actually seeing them live. And until I read your blog I had completely forgotten they existed! The last time I saw Brent was on TV (we lost touch probably still in the 70s; I only found him here last month, or he found a mutual friend who told me), on MV3, when he was playing in Eddie and the Monsters. Remember them??!
Meanwhile, visiting from Peaceland Music, James Musser, who had commented on the original YouTube clip, kindly added these memories in comments on my first blog post, presented here in slightly edited form:
We only did one show that I remember on the Redondo Beach Pier, early 80s, at the venue that was located under the pier. Our band was called “Praises” at the time, which later changed to “Underwater Traffic”. Brent is on http://www.classmates.com, and that’s how I found the YouTube clip. Brent was a couple years older than us, but I was good friends with another mutual friend, Al Bowman of Los Angeles Music Awards. I believe Al was involved with Manakin at some point. I remember Manakin being a good band, the video seems to show them off rather well!!! I know Brent was involved in Castle Bravo, and Richard Larsen was the Keyboard player (another very good friend of mine), and Richard is currently involved in another rather successful project you could ask him about (e-mail edited for privacy!). He played with Berlin for a while.
I rememeber one time, Brent was selling his entire record collection. I bought it for $50, I believe. Great deal! Awesome albums! Jonesy and Kayak were among some of the more obscure bands, and you can actually buy the CDs of those now, but Kayak is pricey… ;-)
Brent always had a tremendous charisma about him and whatever project he was involved in. Definitely an inspiring go-getter. Love the theatrics.
I now have so much respect for people who have actually dedicated their lives to music. How many people do you know in their 40s, 50s, or 60s who are still devoted to making better music in the world?
And indeed, a good question to ask!
More later as I continue to find out more…