“You just had to see her play once, and you’d never forget her”:One of the best damn rock drummers ever. Above: brother Dex Romweber with Sara. Scroll down to check out some video and audio.
By Fred Mills
The full details have not been disclosed yet, but what we do know is that Sara Romweber, the kit-crushing drummer for North Carolina’s Snatches of Pink, Let’s Active, and Dex Romweber Duo, has passed away at the age of 55, reportedly from cancer. As I write this the tributes from fans, friends, and fellow music critics are pouring forth on Facebook, testimony to how much she was respected in the music community – and loved in general.
I first met Sara in the early ‘80s when she was the diesel engine helping power Let’s Active (pictured above, with Mitch Easter and the late Faye Hunter), and she was both hilarious and deliberately weird, full of offbeat jokes and muttered nonsequiturs. Sometime later, after leaving the band, she got together with Michael Rank, Jack Wenberg, and Andy McMillan in Chapel Hill to form garage/trash/twang renegades Snatches of Pink, a true rock ‘n’ roll antihero outfit whose uncompromising style and attitude had a way of creating a loyal fanbase even while club owners would sometimes be aghast at the group’s “unprofessional” behavior. Yours truly, writing in a 2015 essay titled “Why Snatches of Pink Was the Greatest North Carolina Band of the Late ‘80s and Early ‘90s,” observed, “Booze clearly fueled this band, which had slimmed down to a trio, McMillan having assumed the bass position (and sharing vocals with Rank) for 1989’s Dead Men. This LP, along with next year’s 4-song mini album Deader Than You’ll Ever Be, which was cut live at CBGB as a promotional radio release, is what solidified their image as a hard-drinkin’, unrepentantly badass group who clearly did not give a shit what folks—and, significantly, club owners and bookers—thought about the band as long as they came out to the show.” (Below: Snatches of Pink.)
I have more than a few memories of hanging with Sara, Mike, and Andy before and after shows, and Sara was just as hilarious as ever, yet in getting to know her a little better, I was struck by her intensity when it came to talking about favorite films and, especially, books. (One has plenty of time to read books when one is in a touring band.) In between tossing back shots we had a number of discussions about great – and even not-so-great – authors.
Later, during the late ‘00s and well into the current decade, Sara joined brother Dexter as the Dex Romweber Duo (above). I’ll never forget working at Schoolkids Records in Raleigh, NC, during the 2012 Record Store Day blowout: the Duo was scheduled to play a set that afternoon, and when Dex and Sara finally rolled up I went over to greet them. “Fred!” Sara shrieked, and gave me a huge hug – due to my moving around quite a bit, it had probably been 20 years since we’d seen each other, and it was a wonderful feeling to know that even after all that time she instantly recognized me and remembered some of the, uh, misadventures I had shared with the Snatches gang.
My deepest condolences to the Romweber family and to everyone who knew and loved Sara. May she rest in peace. Below are a few remembrances that have just been posted online that I feel are well worth sharing.
Stephen Judge, Schoolkids Records: “All of us at Schoolkids at devastated to hear this news today of the passing of a good friend, Sara Romweber. Sara was an amazing drummer and an even better person. Always lit up the room with her smile and charm. She loved coming to the shops on Record Store Day and she and her brother Dexter played our shops many times over the years. She was an inspiration to us all.”
Michael Toland, Austin Chronicle/Blurt: “One of the best rock & roll drummers to ever beat the skins. I saw SOP (when they were going by the name Clarissa) at the Electric Lounge one night and she was astonishing – precise, grooving and, above all, powerful. One of the unsung rock drumming greats.”
Michael Plumides, former owner of Charlotte’s 4808 Club: “The last show was performed by Snatches of Pink two nights later. No one showed up because the entire city thought we were out of business. They had revoked our ABC permit that day. That afternoon, Sara Romweber brought me a little hand-painted black bat on a string that she said she made for me. I adored Snatches of Pink but Sara especially and frankly, I was one of the few people in town who would book them.”
Words escape me. When I finally got to see him perform live in Austin, about a decade ago at SXSW (Antone’s, if anyone is interested), I was absolutely flattened. To shake the hand of a hero of mine since the ’60s, well… he had no idea what a fanboy he was looking at through those thick black sunglasses of his.
Gifted Aussie keyboardist had a long, illustrious tenure with the Bad Seeds since the early ’90s. He’s pictured above, second from right. Below, watch a pair of videos and listen to a unique vocal performance with the Bad Seeds.
By Fred Mills
Having been fortunate enough to see Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds twice in recent years, it hits hard to learn of their veteran keyboardist Conway Savage’s passing yesterday (Sept. 2) from a brain tumor. He was only 58. Savage had been diagnosed in 2017 with the illness, and it prevented him from performing with the band for much of the Skeleton Key tour.
At the NickCave.com site, the following announcement was posted:
Our beloved Conway passed away on Sunday evening. A member of Bad Seeds for nearly thirty years, Conway was the anarchic thread that ran through the band’s live performances. He was much loved by everyone, band members and fans alike. Irascible, funny, terrifying, sentimental, warm-hearted, gentle, acerbic, honest, genuine – he was all of these things and quite literally “had the gift of a golden voice,” high and sweet and drenched in soul. On a drunken night, at four in the morning, in a hotel bar in Cologne, Conway sat at the piano and sang Streets of Laredo to us, in his sweet, melancholy style and stopped the world for a moment. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Goodbye Conway, there isn’t a dry eye in the house. Love, Nick and the Bad Seeds.
An extensive biography for Savage, that also details his numerous solo albums and other bands over the years, can be found here. Meanwhile, check out a few choice video moments, below – note that the third clip, a Bad Seeds montage, is for “The Willow Garden,” originally the B-side for “Where The Wild Roses Grow,” which was sung by none other than Savage himself. R.I.P., good sir.
Indie rock maven was noted for his music, his collaborations, his production work, and his dips into the film industry.
By Blurt Staff
Multi-instrumentalist, producer, and all-around Renaissance dude of the indie world Richard Swift has passed away, tragically, at the age of 41. According to Pitchfork, the cause of death has not yet been announced; his “life-threatening condition” had him hospitalized of late at a Tacoma, Wash., medical facility.
Read about Swift’s productive life HERE, and meanwhile, check out some choice music he left behind for the rest of us. Our condolences to his family and friends – and his many fans, including the BLURT community Oh, and by the way – the top photo comes from the gent’s always lively Facebook page. We are confident he would have approved.
Ace bassist/guitarist justifiably considered an American punk legend.
By Barbi Martinez
In an era when we increasingly – and sadly, but respectfully – take note of the passing of musical elders from all genres, it still remains a shock when we lose someone from the punk era, since those ranks are, for the most part, not even remotely considered old and infirm. But word arrived today that the 54-year-old Steve Soto died yesterday, June 27. The cause of death remains unclear as of this writing.
Soto was a ground zero West Coast punk, having been an original member of both Agent Orange and the Adolescents, as well as Manic Hispanic, Joyride, 22 Jacks, the Twisted Hearts, and more. Most recently he had been touring with the Adolescents that wrapped last weekend in New York. Tributes have subsequently poured forth on social media from scores of contemporaries and fellow punk musicians.
On Twitter, the Adolescents posted, “with heavy heart i share the passing of steve soto, my friend and bandmate since 1979. i dont know what to do. or to say. goodbye my brother.” And on Facebook, is friend Greg Antista initially announced Soto’s passing, writing, “I’m sorry to break such bad news in such an impersonal way but the family of Steve Soto would like everyone to know that he passed peacefully in his sleep today. I’m sure this is a terrible blow to all of you. He will be missed. We will be posting details on a memorial as plans are finalized.”
The former Fleetwood Mac guitarist, and veteran of 5 key albums, passed away on June 8 at the age of 68.
By Uncle Blurt
The music world was caught offguard this past weekend with news of Danny Kirwan’s passing – speaking as someone who got to see him perform in the Bob Welch/Christine McVie-era incarnation of the band, I am particularly saddened. Not many details have been released as of this writing, although it’s known that he had numerous chemical and alcohol issues over the years.
He was a helluva guitarist, though, and the good folks at Big O zine have posted a sharp soundboard recording of Fleetwood Mac performing in ’72:
It’s an even mix of Kirwan/Peter Green-period classics and more then-recent fare from the Welch/McVie era (Future Games, etc.). The tracklist is below – enjoy. You can listen to it online or download it for free, along with downloadable artwork.
The indie music world received very sad news this week: Tony Kinman, a pioneering West Coast ground-zero punk in the late ‘70s with The Dils, and a pioneering alternative country twanger in the ‘80s with Rank And File, passed away at the age of 63. The cause of death was listed as cancer, his brother and bandmate Chip Kinman announcing the news on Facebook on May 4. Writing at his Facebook page a day prior, Chip explained, “Tony is home with his family. He is no longer receiving treatment and is comfortable and at peace. I have read him everything that people are posting and he is very moved. I will let everyone know when it is done. I love you all. Thank you, Chip.” (According to the LA Times, Kinman “was diagnosed with cancer in March, and had begun what had been expected to be a six-month program of chemotherapy, according to the CaringBridge page Chip’s wife, Lisa Kinman, created to keep fans informed. But the cancer turned out to be extremely aggressive.”)
The news of Tony Kinman’s death was particularly hard on the Americana community, for the Kinmans were more than just “pioneering” with Rank And File—they were a key influence upon and godfathers to the burgeoning alt-country movement that would commence picking up steam in the late ‘80s, by which time the band had broken up following three albums and several U.S. tours.
Yours truly was fortunate enough to see R&F on their first cross-country trek supporting 1983 debut Sundown—I still have my LP signed by the band—and I still have fond memories of hanging out and sharing drinks with the members during soundcheck and after the show. I hadn’t really kept close tab on the Kinmans following the band’s demise, although I did enjoy their post-R&F activities, including Blackbird and Cowboy Nation. More recently, Tony had worked with brother Chip on Chip’s latest band, Ford Madox Ford. There was a genuine lifelong bond between the two brothers as profound as any you’d care to cite.
Then in 2003 word arrived that Rhino Handmade was reissuing their two albums, along with bonus tracks, as a remastered CD, so I jumped at the opportunity to write about them for my column that appeared regularly in Harp magazine, “Indelibles,” in which I zeroed in on classic or influential albums that were finally seeing reissue in the digital era. So I consider myself even more fortunate to have been able to renew my acquaintance with Tony Kinman, if only for an hour or so over the phone. What follows below, then, by way of a remembrance of Kinman now, is an expanded version of the “Indelibles” profile. I found him to be more than affable, and quite willing to reflect on his old band’s fortunes—the good times as well as the less-than-good ones. He was rightfully proud of the music he and his brother and the other members (one of whom was Alejandro Escovedo—you may have heard of him) made together, stating simply, “I know what Rank and File was and I know what we did in terms of pioneering.”
A lot of us out here also know what you did, Tony, and we’re all immensely proud of you. Rest in peace, sir.
From Harp magazine, 2003: Nowadays, spotting lapsed punks hooked on twang is commonplace (just ask Ryan Adams or Jesse Malin). But back in the early ‘80s, when two alumni of West Coast punks The Dils – aka “the American Clash” – turned up sporting wide-brimmed Stetsons, singing about trains, sundowns and border crossings and emitting a hard-edged but distinctively country rock sound, the sight was alien, to say the least. Some clever critic dubbed Rank And File “cowpunk”; the label stuck, subsequently being applied to the likes of Jason & the Scorchers, Green On Red, Lone Justice, etc.
Looking for an escape from punk’s “faster/louder” orthodoxy, brothers Tony and Chip Kinman (bass and guitar, respectively) had formed the band with another ex-punk, guitarist Alejandro Escovedo (late of San Fran’s Nuns), and after migrating to Austin and picking up a drummer, Slim Evans, began rehearsing and songwriting with a military-like dedication.
“You know how badly it can sound when people are just going, ‘Hey, even I can do a country song!’’ recalls Tony Kinman. “We didn’t want that. Plus, if you’re gonna say you play country music, you’re gonna come up against guys who can play and sing the pants off you. So you better be able to play. And we wanted to bring some life, skill and imagination into it.”
The diligence paid off; after a tour opening for The Blasters, Rank And File landed a deal with Slash, and recording sessions (with producer David Kahne) for Sundown quickly commenced. Upon its release in late ’82, critics wet themselves, as much for the record’s unique-for-its-time sound as for its obvious musical merits – visceral, twangy rock choogle fueled by some of the sleekest fretwork since the cosmic cowboy duels of Roger McGuinn and Clarence White, not to mention harmony vocals that conjured everyone from the Beatles and Eagles to the Brothers Everly and Righteous.
Muses Kinman, “I thought it was a good record. None of us had any experience in recording, and we were on such a low budget that the only way David could afford to bring it in under budget was to have us come in [to the studio] late at night after everyone else was done! But reviewers weren’t really ready for how good the material was – ‘Wow, this is pretty strong!’ – and that was gratifying.”
Rank And File promoted its album heavily, even landing a choice TV appearance on Austin City Limits. The schedule took its toll, however, and after the tour was over Escovedo took his leave, eventually embarking on a notable solo career. For a brief unrecorded spell, future guit-steel virtuoso Junior Brown was Escovedo’s replacement. (Kinman says Brown “was phenomenal even back then and he knocked ‘em dead, but wasn’t challenged enough” in the band.) Drummer Evans left too, so it was a two-man Rank And File that went into the studio in January of ’84 to work on a sophomore album, sessions that Kinman now admits were “definitely strange. It wasn’t the ‘all-for-one’ thing like the first one. Al was gone, Slim had gotten married and left the band as well, so it was just Chip and I. But we got it done.”
Rank And File may have been unstable personnel-wise, but musically speaking, Long Gone Dead is every bit as strong as its predecessor. Somewhat slicker in feel due to the presence of session players (including Tom Petty drummer Stan Lynch) and with additional country flavorings (prominently featured were pedal steel, fiddle, banjo and slide guitar), it still sounds fresh today, more “cow” than “punk.” As Kinman quips, “We almost invented the modern country sound of today, what gets on the radio. Country-sounding, but with a drive to it, like our version of [Lefty Frizzell’s] ‘I’m An Old, Old Man.’”
Reviews once again were terrific. Except, ironically, the one that appeared in Slash’s hometown paper, the L.A. Times, which Kinman says sparked an odd bit of tension between band and label. In fact, once the Long Gone Dead national tour (guitarist Jeff Ross and drummer Bob Kahr were now in the band) was over and it was time to begin work on the third Rank And File album, Slash waffled over everything from studio scheduling to producer choices – at one point Van Dyke Parks was on board – for nearly two years.
In 1987 Rank And File was recorded and released, but the delays had taken the wind out of the band’s sails and it was a substandard effort. Says Kinman, “Basically everything went to hell, and my attitude, Chip’s attitude, everyone’s attitude was getting more and more like, ‘Aw, screw it.’ And that’s basically why that third album sounds like it does. It’s a record that has some good songs on it, but the whole idea behind it was just wrong, like, heavy metal and hard rock or something, and by the time we got in to make it we just didn’t care anymore.”
Following a final tour, Rank And File called it a day. The Kinmans went on to the duo-plus-drum-machine Blackbird, subsequently picked up acclaim for yet another Stetsons-and-twang project, Cowboy Nation. Now, with the Rhino Handmade expanded/remastered reissue of the first two Rank And File albums on one CD as The Slash Years (see sidebar, below, for details), Kinman hopes his former band’s precedent-busting efforts in the pre-No Depression/alt-country era will finally get their due.
Admits Kinman, “For awhile it used to bother me that it was almost like we’d never existed — like, the only Rank And File ever got mentioned at all was in an Alejandro Escovedo article A lot of younger people playing now simply never had the chance to hear us. They make the jump from, say, Gram Parsons to the Knitters – or Uncle Tupelo. And there’s this whole void there, and I think it’s simply because our stuff was not around.”
“But,” he adds, with undisguised pride, “I know what Rank and File was and I know what we did in terms of pioneering.”
Rank And File: The Slash Years (Rhino/Handmade RHM27816; 2003). Personnel: Chip Kinman, Tony Kinman, Alejandro Escovedo, Slim Evans
1982 saw Rank And File debut with the David Kahne-produced Sundown (Slash SR114); appearing in 1984 was Long Gone Dead (Slash/Warner Bros. 25087), produced by Jeff Eyrich. Plans were made years ago, then delayed several times, to reissue both LPs on CD. Finally, with the Slash label’s back catalog controlled by Warner Strategic Marketing, under which Rhino now operates, Rhino Senior V.P Gary Stewart – a huge R&F fan, not so coincidentally – got involved, shifted the project to Rhino’s Internet-only collectors’ imprint Handmade, and co-produced the CD along with the Kinman brothers. The Slash Years is a numbered/limited edition of 2500 copies (www.rhinohandmade.com ).
In addition to remastered sound, a 16-page booklet with incisive liner notes penned by veteran journalist Jimmy Guterman and a separate mini-booklet of lyrics and gig poster repros, The Slash Years includes four non-album bonus tracks. Three of them hail from the Sundown recording sessions: edgy anti-racism screed “Klansman,” an early staple of the band’s live sets; a cover of old-school country standard “Wabash Cannonball”; and twangy gem “Post Office,” which previously appeared on the cassette of Sundown and a Warners rarities compilation, Revenge Of The Killer B’s. The final bonus cut is a spirited (if slightly muddy-sounding) live recording from ’87, “White Lightnin,” a J.P. Richardson (Big Bopper) penned drinkin’ ‘n’ stinkin’ recorded over the years by everyone from Waylon Jennings and George Jones to the Fall and the Waco Brothers.
The Slash Years, as noted, was a limited edition. It quickly sold out, and is considered relatively rare nowadays; at the time of this writing, the lone copy listed at Discogs was going for $99. In 2005 the Collectors’ Choice label reissued all three R&F albums on CD, minus any bonus tracks; this marked the first time 1987’s Rank And File was available on CD. And here in 2018, The Slash Years is available for streaming at Spotify.
’80s band was a key influence on the soon-to-arrive alt-country scene.
By Blurt Staff
The Blurt staff is saddened to learn of the death of Tony Kinman (Rank And File, Blackbird, Cowboy Nation) at the age of 63. He passed away Friday, May 4, from cancer. According to the L.A. Times:
“On Thursday, Chip Kinman’s Facebook page alerted fans of his brother’s condition: ‘Tony is home with his family. He is no longer receiving treatment and is comfortable and at peace. I have read him everything that people are posting and he is very moved. I will let everyone know when it is done. I love you all. Thank you, Chip.’
“He was diagnosed with cancer in March, and had begun what had been expected to be a six-month program of chemotherapy, according to the CaringBridge page Chip’s wife, Lisa Kinman, created to keep fans informed. But the cancer turned out to be extremely aggressive.”
We have posted a tribute to Kinman, an expanded version of a 2003 interview that Blurt editor Fred Mills conducted with the musician, along with some great audio/video clips. Our deepest condolences to Chip Kinman and the rest of the Kinman family, as well as Tony’s many friends and fans.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by JOHN ROGERS/REX/Shutterstock (91734d) MOTORHEAD Motorhead – 1982
Seminal heavy metal axeman was 67.
By Blurt Staff
The rock world has unexpectedly lost another icon: ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, at the age of 67, after entering a British hospital for pneumonia, according to the BBC. The Motorhead guitarist served up the speed riffs from 1976-82 over the course of the iconic band’s first six albums, and later went on to co-found Fastway.
We are devastated to pass on the news we only just heard ourselves earlier tonight…Edward Allan Clarke – or as we all know and love him Fast Eddie Clarke – passed away peacefully yesterday. Ted Carroll (who formed Chiswick Records) made the sad announcement via his FB page, having heard from Doug Smith that Fast Eddie passed peacefully in hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia…
Phil Campbell said, “JUST HEARD THE SAD NEWS THAT FAST EDDIE CLARKE HAS PASSED AWAY. SUCH A SHOCK, HE WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR HIS ICONIC RIFFS AND WAS A TRUE ROCK N ROLLER. RIP EDDIE.”
Mikkey Dee said, ““OH MY FUCKING GOD, THIS IS TERRIBLE NEWS, THE LAST OF THE THREE AMIGOS. I SAW EDDIE NOT TOO LONG AGO AND HE WAS IN GREAT SHAPE. SO THIS IS A COMPLETE SHOCK. ME AND EDDIE ALWAYS HIT IT OFF GREAT. I WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING HIM IN THE UK THIS SUMMER WHEN WE COME AROUND WITH THE SCORPS…NOW LEM AND PHILTHY CAN JAM WITH EDDIE AGAIN, AND IF YOU LISTEN CAREFULLY I’M SURE YOU’LL HEAR THEM, SO WATCH OUT!!! MY THOUGHTS GO OUT TO EDDIE’S FAMILY AND CLOSE ONES.”
Fast Eddie…keep roaring, rockin’ and rollin’ up there as goddamit man, your Motörfamily would expect nothing less!!!
RIP FAST EDDIE CLARKE 5th October 1950 – 10th January 2018
This brings the surviving membership of original Motorhead members to zero; bassist Lemmy
Frontman for a long-tenured New Jersey band beloved for its alternative rock take on traditional rock ‘n’ roll.
By Fred Mills
In a year that couldn’t possibly get shittier, news arrived today that does just that: Pat DiNizio, guitarist/vocalist for New Jersey’s Smithereens, passed away yesterday (Dec. 12) at the age of 62. The cause of death has not been announced yet, but it’s known he’d had health issues in the recent past, including severe nerve damage resulting from a fall. The band announced the sad news at their Facebook page:
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Pat DiNizio, lead singer and songwriter of the influential New Jersey rock band, The Smithereens – America’s Band.
“Pat was looking forward to getting back on the road and seeing his many fans and friends. Please keep Pat in your thoughts and prayers.”
Another post read thusly:
“Today we mourn the loss of our friend, brother and bandmate Pat DiNizio.
“Pat had the magic touch. He channeled the essence of joy and heartbreak into hook-laden three minute pop songs, infused with a lifelong passion for rock & roll.
“Our journey with Pat was long, storied and a hell of a lot of fun. We grew up together. Little did we know that we wouldn’t grow old together.
“Goodbye Pat. Seems like yesterday.
“Jimmy, Mike, Dennis”
The Smithereens emerged on the US college rock scene in the early ’80s, issuing their debut LP Especially For You in ’88, winning over audiences with their immaculately crafted – but edgy, and hi-nrg – rock, that bore distinct overtones of classic British Invasion like the Beatles, Kinks, and Who, while still remaining distinctively contemporary. Memorable tunes by the band include “A Girl Like You,” “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” “Only a Memory” and “Blood and Roses.”
DiNizio also released a number of well-regarded solo albums, and even found time to run the U.S. Senate (under the Reform Party banner) in 2000 as well as hosting an XM radio station and an ESPN show.
He will be greatly missed.
A Blurt Boot Exclusive: Psychedelic Furs "Only You and I" (Live Costa Mesa CA 7-19-18
Tribute: Tony Kinman (R.I.P.) and Rank And File - Video from "Long Gone Dead"
Blurt Audio Exclusive: Thin White Rope "The Fish Song" (from 2018 remaster of The Ruby Sea