The Blasters rocked their way onto the California scene with a stunning lineup that consisted of: Bill Bateman on drums, John Bazz on bass, Dave Alvin on lead guitar, and Phil Alvin on rhythm and vocals.
Starting in the late 70s, they played with bands like Black Flag, The Cramps, and Queen before going on their own solo tours. In Walter’s Hill’s rock fable, Streets of Fire, they performed “One Bad Stud” and “Blue Shadows”. Tarantino and Rodriguez followed Michael Mann’s Miami Vice lead and used “Dark Night” for their first collaboration, From Dusk Till Dawn. And Dwight Yoakam scored a hit with their tune “Long White Cadillac”.
But for some reason, The Blasters have always been one less album sale and one more review away from being reduced to hipster favorite. We all know that talent and fame aren’t anywhere close to being synonymous, but The Blasters prove the two are so fucking distant that, assuming you could bribe them into a date, talent and fame could marry and reproduce without fear of six-fingered and one-eyed offspring.
I’ve never understood it. Even if he weren’t one of the most underrated songwriters of the 20th century, Dave Alvin would still be one of the best guitarists around. And Phil Alvin’s vocals are pure powerhouse. Maybe it is just the bad luck that seems to haunt the most talented of musicians. Through the years The Blasters lineup has shuffled and changed, brought on by arguments only brothers can have, time off for a variety of solo projects, and several tragic deaths.
I’ve heard their music described a number of different ways. I believe they always referred to their mixture of blues, rockabilly, and country with a dash of punk as “American Music”. If I were pressed to offer a genre label, I’d probably stick with rockabilly, but mostly I’d just call them badass.
Just listen to“Marie Marie” with its driving rockabilly riffs, smoky juke joint undertones, and the anxious, pleading, vocal croon. Man, oh, man, if that doesn’t convince you and you happened to live in California, go see them live.