Brian Stanley may be the Zelig of rock ‘n’ roll. He’s been front and center at moments of rock ‘n’ roll history—such as the Stones’ 1969 Hyde Park concert. And he has been on stage, as a sideman, with a who’s who of rock fame, from Bryan Adams to Garland Jeffreys, and even had some odd but endearingly odd encounters with Brian Wilson. But his real moment of glory came when he played bass for the Kinks at an Earth Day concert at Foxboro Stadium. Many funny and productive encounters later, he shares his memories with JP Olsen and PKM.
Journeyman musician Brian Stanley has seen plenty in his decades-long career as a bass player operating out of London, Los Angeles, and – for more than three decades – New York City.
Sat on a couch with Bryan Ferry watching Paul McCartney doing overdubs? Check.
Recorded in Colin Blunstone’s house? Check.
Watched Marc Bolan and Jeff Lynne record an E.L.O. track together? Check.
Stood front of the stage during the Rolling Stone’s legendary Hyde Park show and then, a little more than a decade later, opened for the Stones as a sideman playing with Garland Jeffreys? Check.
He’s also had long-time creative relationships with numero uno recording engineer Bob Clearmountain and worked as a rhythm section and collaborator with deep-cut drummers such Steve Holley of Wings and Steve Goulding of The Rumour and The Mekons.
Check, check, and double-check.
Mr. Stanley, one could posit, is a rock ‘n’ roll Zelig. He is seemingly in too many places at one time for a single person for it to appear reasonable — or even doable in the first place. He spent part of his professional career playing with arena rock acts such as Bryan Adams and Tommy Shaw of Styx. He also spent time pounding out bass lines on grittier fare with bands such as The Pretenders. He supported singer-songwriters, including Loudon Wainwright III, The Waterboys’ Mike Scott, Jules Shear, Willie Nile, and Chris Stamey. He played sessions with Bernie Worrell, Bernard Purdie, and Anton Fier while also finding time to work with The Cars’ Elliot Easton and playing live sets with the Sales Brothers of Bowie and Iggy pedigree. And what of his odd but endearing encounters with Brian Wilson? Stanley’s tales are the stuff of a fantasy turned into reality.
Stanley was born in Los Angeles to music-obsessed parents. His mother was a ghost singer for Hollywood royalty – lest a star be revealed a bit shitty in the pipes department – and his father, meanwhile, hosted a popular jazz radio show.
Here’s the headline: Stanley, ever the raconteur, has been there, done that, done this, a little of that, and he’s done some other things too – like being a driving force behind the woefully underappreciated ‘80s pop combo Reckless Sleepers, who produced one shimmering album for I.R.S. Records with Scott Litt at the console.
Oh yeah – and he played in The Kinks for precisely one day.
He shares some of his memories with JP Olsen and PKM:
PKM: So, Brian, I know your mother was in the business. Can you tell me about her and her influence on you as a musician?
Brian Stanley: My mother, India Adams, grew up in Los Angeles. She liked to tell the story about how she would sing as loudly as she could in the shower with the window open, hoping somebody would come by and discover her. Eventually, she started singing in local clubs, and somebody asked her – I guess it was a talent scout – if she was interested in recording at an MGM studio. She was then hired to provide the singing voice for Joan Crawford in a musical called Torch Song. Joan Crawford wanted to do her own singing, but they deemed her voice not strong enough. There’s a scene where Joan Crawford is listening to supposedly old recordings of herself, which are actually my mother’s voice, and Joan Crawford is singing along with them.
My mother also sang for Cyd Charisse in the MGM musical, The Bandwagon. That’s her singing the Hollywood anthem, “That’s Entertainment,” along with Fred Astaire. But my mother never really had good management, which was certainly partially why she never became as well-known as she might have. Then there was my father’s influence. He was very into New Orleans jazz, and he had a jazz radio program while in college. I would say musically that he was as much of an influence on me as my mother. He was not only a tremendous music fan. He played music constantly in the house, but he also ended up introducing me to somebody in England who hired me for the first pro band I was ever in.
Danger Street (did live dates but never signed a record deal)…left to right…Brian Stanley; Steve Holley; Louis Merlino; Todd Kray; Ian McDonald
Reckless Sleepers 1987/88
PKM: What was an early and memorable gig for you?
Brian Stanley: My first gig that wasn’t just garage rock band kind of stuff was with a group called Armada. They were a missing link in the prog rock chain and were fronted by Sammy Rimington, who was, at the time, the best-known exponent of New Orleans jazz in England. That was the guy my father introduced me to. Sammy was and is a phenomenal clarinet player. He’s also a great sax player and played flute and guitar. He’s just one of these ridiculously talented people. So, for many years when the guys from Preservation Hall or just the best New Orleans musicians came to England, they would pick Sammy up. At that time in his life, this was the early ‘70s, I think partly because he wasn’t working as much as he had been, he started this prog band. We had a guitar, bass, drums, a lead vocalist who played flute, and multi-instrumentalist Sammy. Having two flutes occasionally was an interesting thing. That was my first experience of playing anything other than 4/4. Some pretty interesting people came through that band. Before me, the bass player was Rik Kenton, who left to join Roxy Music. The guitar player before I came in was named Kirby Gregory, and he went on to play with Curved Air. It was my first experience at a pro-level and my first real recording experience. We recorded songs at the Zombies’ singer Colin Blunstone’s house, a studio in his basement. I had never heard the recordings after we did them, but about ten years ago, Sammy contacted me to say that someone was putting this stuff out. So, the one Armada album, which was called Beyond the Morning, eventually came out over 35 years after it was recorded. It’s an interesting document. It reads, like I said, like a missing link in the prog rock chain that you probably would have never heard of, but you can see how it fits into that world. It was very much of its time.
PKM: You came up during an exciting time in music, can you tell me about that?
Brian Stanley: The thing that turned my head around were those first Beatles records. And I, along with many millions of others, had their heads explode hearing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” and those other Beatle records. I was still in the U.S. and nine years old when I saw the Ed Sullivan Show with the Beatles. I remember that very clearly. I mean, I can picture sitting in front of the TV watching it. Then my mother bought me their first US release. That had a dramatic impact. We moved to England soon after that, and so from the time we first lived in England, it was like being dropped into a vast pool of the most exciting, creative music. Music was everywhere. It was on the radio. It was on television. It was Top of The Pops, Ready, Steady, Go, and Thank Your Lucky Stars. There were all these English TV music programs that I was just glued to. Then after a year or two, my parents sent me away to boarding school, and I would go to bed every night with a little transistor radio with one of those little earplugs in my ear. There were all the pirate radio stations, Radio Caroline, Radio London, Radio Luxemburg, and John Peel. All these cool records were coming out, and the next ten years were the most fertile creative period in pop music history. Then I started going to shows, and that changed my life. My first experience with live music was being home during the summer holidays from boarding school. My window was open, and I heard music, and I poked my head out the window to realize it was coming from Hyde Park. This was the summer of 1968, so I was 14. I walked into the park, and there was a little stage set up and a crowd of maybe a couple of thousand people all listening to Traffic. That was the first live rock show I experienced. The following summer, The Stones played in Hyde Park. That was the summer of 1969. Brian Jones had just died. It was Mick Taylor’s first gig. There were 500,000, 600,000 people in the park. I worked my way through the audience as a 15-year-old with a blue Indian kaftan my Indian friend in boarding school had given me and got all the way up to the front of the stage. I remember it so clearly. It was such an extraordinary experience. Little did I know 12 years later, I would be in a band that would open for the Stones. When I met my wife, Lizza, when we started to get to know each other, she showed me this color supplement from a newspaper of that concert. And I said I bet you I can find myself in one of those photos because I remember where I was. Sure enough, I’m in those.
PKM: Oh, wow, that’s amazing. You’re the Zelig of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Brian Stanley: Yeah, for the next several years, it was a cornucopia of the most exciting live shows in London. I’ve stood in line overnight for tickets for shows twice in my life. One was to see Pink Floyd during the “The Dark Side of the Moon” tour. The other was the Who doing all of Quadrophenia at the Lyceum, both toward the end of ’73. Those were two of the most incredible shows you have ever seen, and they were both in 2,000-seat theaters. I saw Bowie on the first Ziggy tour in a university hall with 700 or 800 people. I saw Traffic with Jim Gordon on drums when they recorded Welcome to the Canteen, which was great. That was a little venue too. The people I was able to see in small places is incredible. I remember seeing these lunchtime shows that Charisma Records would put on for free. Genesis played one of those around Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot with Peter Gabriel doing his whole thing with costumes. And other bands, like Lindisfarne, played those shows. That wasn’t too long after I started playing.
PKM: So, how old were you when you started playing, and why the bass?
Brian Stanley: I didn’t start playing until I was 16. My mother claimed – and I never remembered this conversation – that for my 16th birthday, she offered to buy me a guitar or a bass and said that I said I wanted a bass because there were fewer good bass players than guitar players. Why I would even think in those terms, I have no idea. I mean, why would I care, because I didn’t know how to play! But even before playing, I related to the bass. And once I started playing, that is all I wanted to do. To play and to go to auditions.
PKM: I remember you telling me you knew somebody who had the keys to the studio where Roxy Music was recording. You’d go in there after they’d gone …
Brian Stanley: Yeah, one of my best friends from boarding school, who I’m still in touch with, is a guy named Sean Milligan. His father was Spike Milligan of the Goons. The Goons were a staple on British radio in the ‘50s into the 1960s. The most famous of the Goons was Peter Sellers, and George Martin was the producer for their comedy records. So, when it came time for Spike’s son and Peter Sellers’ son, Mike, to get jobs, George Martin hired them as assistant engineers at AIR Studios. I don’t think they had any business being there. They knew absolutely nothing. But Sean would call me up and say, ‘hey, Brian, it looks like it’s going to be a good one tonight. Why don’t you come by?’ So, I would be a fly on the wall for a Procol Harum session or John McLaughlin working with Michael Tilson Thomas on “Apocalypse.”I remember Marc Bolan and Jeff Lynne with guitars around their necks standing at opposite ends of a Neve console, grinning at each other like Cheshire cats as they overdubbed on an ELO song called “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle.”
And there was Roxy Music. I remember walking in, and Eddie Jobson, their violinist and keyboard player, was being auditioned by the band. I also remember going into the studio after Roxy had gone for the night. I started screwing around with Phil Manzanera’s guitar. In retrospect, he probably would have killed me if he knew anybody was doing that. One day, Sean invited me into the studio when Paul McCartney was doing overdubs for Band on The Run with Geoff Emerick. He had me sit on this sofa in the control room, and I just watched McCartney record. And then Bryan Ferry walked in – he was working on his record down the hallway – and Linda McCartney was there too. She invited him to sit next to me and got out a Polaroid and pointed the camera in our direction to take a shot. That was the last I thought of that until Band on The Run came out. Inside that record was this big poster with all these photos she had taken in different places they’d recorded, like Lagos, and there is a photo of Bryan. But she framed it, so I’m out of the picture! Anyway, between the time people left for the night and when Sean would lock up the studios, he would go into the tape vault and pull out fresh mixes. We would take headphones and trail them out onto the ledge of the building overlooking Oxford Circus and smoke joints and listen to the day’s mixes.
PKM: Tell me about working with Brian Wilson.
Brian Stanley: [I had left England and moved to Los Angeles] and was working the only straight job I’d ever had. I was a camp counselor, and I was in a park with the kids I was looking after when I see two characters jogging towards me. One was a little guy, and one was this enormous, bearded guy, and they sat down near me. I don’t know why I recognized him because, at the time, he was 350 pounds. But I said, ‘it’s Brian Wilson, isn’t it?’ And he said, ‘yeah, I’m Brian Wilson’. He introduces me to the guy with him and says, this is Eugene Landy. Soon after that, my boss whistles me back to work. I remember telling my boss I had just met Brian Wilson. One of this guy’s favorite expressions was, imagine how little I care. So, that was his response. Two days later, I’m in the same park, same time, same place, and the same two guys come jogging towards me. This time the boss is not around. So, I say, ‘hey, great to see you again.’ Then I said, ‘you know, I’m a bass player, new to Los Angeles, and finding it hard to connect with people, and I don’t have a gig’. He looked at me and said in a kind of forlorn way, ‘yeah, I know what it’s like to not have a gig’. I didn’t know the Beach Boys’ history at that point because he actually didn’t have a gig. He had been in his bedroom for three years, eating Twinkies and moving his toes around in a sandbox. So, I’m telling him how I would love to connect with people, and he takes out a piece of paper and writes down his home address and phone number, and says, ‘give me a ring. I may have something for you.’ I went home and told my wife Lizza, and I called every evening that week but could never get past the answering service. I started calling the next week again. I called Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Mr. Wilson’s not picking up. Mr. Wilson’s not available.
After I get home from work that Thursday evening, I hold up a scrap of paper to Lizza and tell her it’s the last time I will call. I call, and Brian picks up, and I say, ‘hi, it’s Brian Stanley, the bass-playing camp counselor.’ He says, ‘bring your bass to Brother Studios at 11 on Saturday morning. See you there. Bye’. Click. I didn’t know what Brother Studios was, but it didn’t take long to find out it was the Beach Boys studio in Santa Monica. I showed up at 11 with my bass. A receptionist directs me down a hallway to a small studio. Brian Wilson is at the piano, Dennis Wilson is on drums, and Carl Wilson has a guitar around his neck. And Mike Love is walking around, and they’re all like, ‘hey, great, come on in’. Brian is at this upright piano and biting his lip. There’s obviously something stressful going on in his mind. We start running through a song, “Hey Little Tomboy.” He looks at me, and he says, ‘you got it?’ It was the kind of “you got it?” where you don’t want to say no. Carl was standing next to me, and I think he sensed my trepidation and said to Brian, ‘give him a map, man…if I asked you where Pasadena was, I’d say, give me a map!’ Well, we run it through one more time and then record it, and at the end of the take, I played a note that I thought was wrong – I’d played a fifth as opposed to the root, so when we listened down, I pointed it out to Brian. And Brian – the king of substitutions on bass – says, ‘no, it’s a good note, man.’ That was the end of the session, and they invited me to stay there while they did vocals. So, I’m sitting five feet away from the four of them as they gather around this Neuman mic hanging from the ceiling, watching them doing layer after layer of the most beautiful vocals I could imagine.
Later, after moving to New York, I got a call that the Beach Boys were playing and did I want to go. I don’t remember what prevented me from going to the show, but I couldn’t go. But I said I’d love to say hi to the band. So, the person who called me gave me the hotel information. I go to Brian’s door, and there are these two enormous guys, one on each side of the doorway, literally looking down at me. I said, ‘I’m here to say hi to Brian’, and they say, ‘okay, sure, hang on’. They go around the corner, and when they did, I walked in a few feet thru the doorway, and Brian was sitting at a desk with nothing on it and just staring at the wall. He was literally staring at a wall two feet away from his face. It was very unsettling. But later, in the mid-1980s, the Beach Boys were playing at Nassau Coliseum, and a friend of mine was the front-of-house engineer, and he gave me a backstage pass to that show. As soon I walk through the curtains, I see Brian there, and I say, ‘hey, it’s Brian Stanley’, “Hey Little Tomboy?” He broke into this big smile and immediately asked me, ‘hey, what do you do with your hair?’ I said, ‘well, I just, you know, wash it, and I just let it dry in the air,’ and he says, ‘I’m going to have to try that!’ Then he says, ‘are you hungry?’ And before I can say anything, he grabs me by the arm and takes me to the food concession backstage and cuts a huge piece of lasagna for me and digs his fork into it and starts feeding me like I’m a child. Then he yells over to Carl, ‘hey, you remember Brian,’ and he’s like, ‘oh yeah, hey.’ Then in what felt like 30 seconds, they were on stage, and I was just melting as Carl was singing, “I may not always love you….”
The last time I saw Brian was after the film Love and Mercy came out and my daughter, Jasmin, called me up telling me that at the Apple Store, they’re doing a Q & A with him. So, I caught the Q & A, and afterward, I went around the side of the building where there was a walkway leading to people’s cars. So, I thought, I’ll stand here for a second, and Brian walked right past me into a car, and I say, hey, it’s Brian Stanley, “Hey Little Tomboy.” And he goes, ‘oh hey, nice to see you!’ And then the chauffeur comes along and slams the car door, and they drive off. That’s my Brian Wilson story.
PKM: Tell me about being a Kink for a day.
Brian Stanley: Well, I got a phone call from somebody at Konk Studios, the Kinks studio in London. And she says, Ray Davies and his brother Dave are coming over to do an Earth Day benefit at Foxboro Stadium – this was 1992 – and they have decided not to bring the rest of the band. They need a bass player, and you were recommended. The other people that got the call were Steve Holley, the drummer, and Danny Louis, the keyboard player, who now plays with Government Mule. We were sent the whole catalog of songs they would be playing, and we had to go to Boston to rehearse within a couple of days. Obviously, this was an extraordinary call to get, to get a chance to play with these people. But I knew how volatile the two of them could be when they were around each other. Steve Holley and I had opened for the Kinks for a month or more several years before this when we were playing with Tommy Shaw, and I had seen examples of them blowing up at each other. In fact, the first time we played with them was at this arena in New Orleans. Lizza and I were on the side of the stage. Dave plugs in his guitar and slams into this loud chord, and Ray comes over and pushes his chest into him and pushes him back into his amp and yells, ‘you’re too fucking loud!’ That was my introduction to the two of them. I also knew they didn’t travel together. When we were on tour with them, Ray would have one limo and Dave would have another, and the rest of the band would travel in a third limo. So, I knew it could be difficult between the two of them. But they were both gentlemen, you know, they were on their best behavior. When it came time for the performance, there was freezing, horizontal rain coming onto the stage. Still, I’m feeling no pain ’cause I’m playing “You Really Got Me” and “Lola” and “All Day and All of the Night” with Ray on one side of me and Dave on the other. I knew this was an amazing experience to get to touch these songs in this way. Anyway, Ray called Steve Holley and me up maybe five years later when he did his Storyteller tour. He was going around with just a guitar player, going through songs and telling anecdotes. He was considering adding bass and drums to that show. He had us come down to a theater in Princeton, and we spent a day running through different songs and screwing around with arrangements. Unfortunately, I guess he decided not to pursue that idea because we didn’t get to do that. But it was fun to get to spend another day with him and play through his songs. “Days” is one of the songs I remember that we did that I really loved. The next time I got to see him was years later when I did South by Southwest with Garland Jeffreys. On the way back from Austin, we had to fly through Atlanta, and the person checking me onto the plane would not let me take my guitar onboard. I was traveling with a 1963 Fender Jazz Bass in a soft gig bag, and there was no way I was going to check it. The keyboard player – for some miraculous reason – had a screwdriver that they hadn’t taken away from him at security. In an inspired moment, I decided to take the guitar apart. So, I unscrewed the neck and left the body in the gig bag and put the neck in my garment bag and was able to fly like that. Then I’m in Atlanta running for my connecting flight to New York with my flaccid gig bag flapping on my shoulder and holding my garment bag up in the air by the hangers and running through the airport thinking, I’m not going to make it. Then I spied a wheelchair, and I set the gig bag in the wheelchair, and I’m running and pushing it along while holding up my stiff garment bag with my bass neck in it. Who comes toward me, but Ray Davies. I’m thinking, I’m late for this plane, and he’s going to think I’m insane. But I’m also thinking … maybe he’s looking for a bass player? But I ran past him. That wasn’t the last time I saw him. The last time I saw him was several years later when I was visiting my father in hospital in London. I was standing around outside with my brother, and Ray walked past and stopped and talked with us for a bit and told us about how he was recording a record [with The Jayhawks.]
PKM: You’ve worked with Garland Jeffreys quite a bit. How did that come about?
Brian Stanley: Yeah. I had done G.E. Smith’s first solo record with Bob Clearmountain at Power Station in late 1980, early ’81. Mickey Curry, the drummer, and I did all the tracks with G.E. After that, Mickey and I got a call from Bob Clearmountain. He said, I’ve got this Canadian kid that I have to do a record with, and I’d like you both to play on it. That turned out to be Bryan Adams. This was his You Want It, You Got It album, his first New York record with a big rock sound. And then Clearmountain continued to work with Adams for most of his recording career.
After we did You Want It, You Got It, I got a call – I don’t remember if it was from Clearmountain or somebody who worked for Garland – anyway, after parting ways with Graham Parker, The Rumour were on tour backing Garland in Europe and Andrew, the bass player, was, shall we say, not being reliable. Garland had a big U.S. tour booked, so he called back to the States and said, ‘you have to get me another bass player’, so G.E. and Clearmountain both recommended me. I remember I had, like, four days to learn 35 songs. Which I did because that’s what I do. I remember I expected my audition to be with the Rumour because they backed him up. But when I got there, it was just Garland playing snippets of his songs on a cassette player, and I had to play along with it. After we got about four or five songs through, he said, ‘okay, you got the gig’. And that was it. In the meantime, Andrew was back in England dealing with his personal problems. Soon after that, the manager informs me Andrew is coming back, and I no longer have the gig. I said ‘you can’t do that! I’ve just turned down a world tour with Billy Squire to play with Garland’. The arrangement they came to was kind of bizarre. Andrew returned and played bass with the Rumour for the opening set, and then the Rumour came back out with Garland and me, minus Andrew. That was my first experience working with Steve Goulding, and we would become fast friends. Andrew and I are also good friends to this day. Garland’s material touches on so many different types of stuff – it’s rock, it’s soul, it’s reggae, it’s R&B. There’s a little jazz. There’s a little bit of folk. From a musical perspective, I have always loved playing Garland’s material. It has always kept my interest. I then didn’t play with him for, like, 20 years after that initial year and a half, two-year period in the early 80s. But then, in 2000, he called me up and asked if I was available, and I was with him until the end of his career, which was just before COVID.
PKM: What are some other artists you’ve worked with whom you also found interesting or have high regard as an artist?
Brian Stanley: There are a lot of people … I would say that my experience with G.E. Smith was interesting. We ended up doing a handful of live dates along with his album. I learned quite a bit from him. I think he’s a superb guitar player. He was married to Gilda Radner at the time, so there was never a dull moment when her old Saturday Night Live friends were around. I’ve always been really impressed with Bryan Adams in terms of his professionalism and his vision. You know, whether or not you like his stuff, from a very young age, he knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it. He’s always been extraordinarily clear-minded and focused and able to get to where he wants to get. I was very happy to work with him again. Six or seven years ago, I did a number of television programs with him. He had come to New York to do some TV stuff and didn’t bring his bass player at the time. It was fun to work with him and Mickey Curry, my old drummer friend. But I was happy that I did not stay with him when I could have. He offered me the chance to go on the road with him, and Mickey took him up on the offer and has been with him ever since. He’s basically spent his life on the road with Bryan. There’s no way that I could have had the family and the life I’ve had if I had done that. As much as I love playing live and I love touring, I was not someone who wanted to devote their entire life solely to that, which is what would have happened, I think, had I gone with him. Do you know who Hunt and Tony Sales are?
Brian Stanley: I met them after I’d been in Los Angeles for a couple of years, not too long after my Beach Boys experience. I don’t remember how I ended up hooking up with them. But they had a soul revue, and Hunt played drums. Tony played guitar, not bass like he did with Iggy during his “Lust For Life” period and David Bowie in Tin Machine. The other guy in that band was Scott Thurston. Scott ended up in Tom Petty’s band for the last 25 years of the Heartbreakers’ career. Anyway, we opened four nights in a row for Blondie at the Whiskey A-Go-Go. This would have been early 1977. This was when Blondie was blowing up, and it was the first time I had ever played in a venue with a packed crowd that was just going nuts. It’s so long ago, but I remember it so clearly. I toured with Willie Nile a while ago and played on a couple of his records, and I thoroughly enjoyed playing with him. He had a great touring band…Frank Vilardi is a terrific drummer, and Joy Askew was the keyboard player. Joy’s a super talent. She worked with Peter Gabriel and Joe Jackson. Stewart Lerman, he’s had a stellar career as a producer, and Steuart Smith, who’s been with the Eagles for the last 20 years, were the guitar players. I did a one-off with The Turtles. That was a lot of fun. Ian McDonald he’s an interesting guy. He’s a founding member of both King Crimson and Foreigner, which is something that’s hard to get your head around. But he’s all over In the Court of the Crimson King. He moved to the States and formed Foreigner with Mick Jones and did the first three records. I think he had some co-writing on each of them and was the co-producer on those, so he made his fortune on that. After Ian and Mick parted ways, he decided to put his own band together, so I got a call to do that. I ended up joining him, and when I did, he had a drummer who I didn’t think was up to the job, and I convinced him to look for another drummer, and that’s when Steve Holley walked into the room. That’s how Steve and I met. That was 1983. We rehearsed and wrote and tried to get something going for about a year, but it just never happened. We never had the right pieces or songs, and then Tommy Shaw came along and stole us away from Ian. That’s how I ended up joining Tommy Shaw’s band, which was another thing altogether. That was really…Tommy was coming out of Styx, and at that point, he had been in as successful a band as you could imagine. He was now – in his mind – slumming it, starting his own solo career at the bottom. Except the bottom was at a higher level than anything I’d ever experienced. You know, like the fact that we weren’t flying in our own private jet was slumming it to him. Steve Holley and I did that for about three years, which was a great experience. Apart from opening for the Kinks and touring a lot, we did a lot of TV shows and videos, and we went to Japan.
PKM: Was he big in Japan?
Brian Stanley: Oh God, yes. It was rock star stuff. If you’re working in Japan as a Western artist at any level at all, really, they tend to treat you well. But for Tommy, he was a big name. So, we did live television. We did a live national radio broadcast. We did a couple of nights in a big theater in Tokyo and played in Osaka and Nagoya and got taken out to all kinds of fancy meals. I was able to trade in my first-class ticket for two super savers, so I was able to take Lizza with me. The two of us decided to stay in Japan for another week to visit Kyoto. I think it was in Osaka when the tour was over. The band had to take a bullet train back to Tokyo to fly home and was on one platform. Lizza and I, who were heading in the opposite direction, were on another platform just across the way. All of a sudden – out of nowhere – all of these fans descended on the band with records to sign. There were all these screaming kids, and Lizza and I were laughing at what was going on. But then, right after the band gets on the train and go on their way, these fans look over and see me, and they all come running toward us. Somebody even had the Bryan Adams record from years before and some other records I’d played on. That’s the one, and only time Lizza had to sign autographs!
PKM: Did you have any sessions or live experience that totally sucked?
Brian Stanley: Chrissie Hynde was incredibly unpleasant, and I didn’t understand why. Bob Clearmountain had asked me to come up to Woodstock to do a Pretenders record. He and Jimmy Iovine. The two of them had produced a Simple Minds record in England, and at the time, Jim Kerr, the lead singer from Simple Minds, and Chrissie Hynde were an item. So, she hired them to do her record. But she didn’t really seem to have her shit together. I don’t know enough about her to know what was going on, but she didn’t seem to be in a great place. Bob and Lizza and I were all friends and had spent the night before with him at his place up there. When we went into the studio the next day, Chrissie came in, Clearmountain introduced me, and we shook hands. She immediately recoiled and said something like, ‘what are you trying to break my hand?’ I mean, I’m sure I didn’t exert any great energy into shaking her hand. But it set a crappy tone, and I ended up spending the next two days in the studio with Chrissie and the band, never feeling completely at ease. It should have been a great experience. I was excited to get that call because I could see myself being in that band. At that time, it was Robbie McIntosh on guitar. He had been there for a while. I think I remember hearing somewhere that he would be brought in as a second guitar player while their original guitarist James Honeyman-Scott was still alive, and when James died, McIntosh kept the gig. The drummer, Blair Cunningham, was an American who had moved to England and ended up in Haircut One Hundred. He was now in the Pretenders. So, it was him, Mackintosh, and Bernie Worrell from Funkadelic – who was a monster player – and I and Chrissie Hynde, and we’re all trying to make stuff happen. But it just wasn’t working. But one of the things that happened was that Lizza – who is the least obtrusive person you could imagine – was sitting at the back of the control room, not saying anything. Chrissie says, ‘get her out of the studio!’ So Clearmountain very uncomfortably had to ask her to leave. I remember one song we were working on, they had decided to change the time signature and try it as a 3/4 instead of 4/4. Doing that kind of major surgery seemed indicative to me that they didn’t have it together. That was as far as it went.
PKM: Any last words?
Brian Stanley: I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Reckless Sleepers. I had been hired to do demos for Jules Shear around, I guess,’ 87-’88. Jules called me up, and he said, ‘I want to put a group together, and I’d like you to play in the group, and who should play drums?’ I said, ‘Steve Holley!’ So, Steve and I got together with Jules and Elliot Easton from The Cars. Jules and Elliot had already been writing together. [Shear co-wrote Elliot Easton’s 1986 “Change No Change.”] Then Steve and I came in and started learning the music they had written. As we were getting further into it, I took Jules aside and said, ‘is Elliot still in The Cars?’ And Jules is like, ‘uh, I don’t know’… And I said, ‘don’t you think it would be a good idea to find out whether he’s committed to working with us?’ And so, we went to Elliot and asked, ‘are you still in The Cars?’ He said, ‘yeah, I am. I have a record and tour coming up,’ at which point I said, ‘Jules, this doesn’t make sense. It’s not going to work with Elliott’. And so, we started auditioning guitar players, and Jimmy Vivino is the guy we ended up hiring. Over the years, I had amassed a bunch of orphan bass parts and riffs and lines that I’d use as exercises or that I imagined could be part of a song. So, I would bring in these bass lines, and Steve would put some kind of wacky drum groove to it, and Jules would put melodies and lyrics over the top of it, and that was how we ended up writing a lot of the record. Jimmy also had a hand in writing some stuff. So, I was a co-writer in the band. That was a special thing to me. The record we put out was called Big Boss Sounds. I think it’s a great record.
But the problem was that by the time we got offers to tour, Jimmy had started taking other projects. He got hired for a Laura Nyro record…I think he ended up producing it. All of a sudden, he wasn’t available for this date or that date, and it didn’t take much for Steve Holley to go, ‘well, if he’s not available, then I’m going to take other work.’ And so, it didn’t take long for the record company to go, ‘well, if you aren’t available to tour, then we’re not interested.’ That’s as far as it went. And unfortunately, we had a whole other records’ worth of stuff demoed that would have been great that will never see the light of day. So, it was both the most satisfying and most painful musical experience I’ve had. It is the only group I’ve ever been in that, to me, represented complete satisfaction. It was musically challenging, and it was rewarding. It was great.
PKM: Last thing, it’s nice to see that your son, Hugo, continues the family tradition as a drummer with Palm.
Brian Stanley: Yes. He’s not only got another Palm record to look forward to that’s scheduled to come out this year, but he’s also playing with Lily Konigsberg. She’s got a buzz going on and has a couple solo records out. She also has another venture called My Idea. Hugo is playing in both situations…drums in one and guitar in the other. So, he’s got stuff coming up, and that will keep him busy for a while. And I hope Lily continues to have success.