Friday, September 28, 2012

BACKSTAGE BRIEFS (Pt. VI): TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS' STAN LYNCH


Stan Lynch (far right) with The Heartbreakers circa 1978.
This is Part VI of a new week-long series in which I will share various behind-the-scenes short stories from my dubious rock and roll past. Some of these tales will be excerpts from my books or my previous magazine articles, while others will be never-before-published accounts. Many of my backstage-type experiences have been either crazy, funny or unexpected. And some even have been heartbreaking. But I hope that you will find them all compelling. Today's installment is an excerpt from my 2012 book, C'MON! - My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation. It comes from Chapter Seven Life, Death and Butterscotch Pudding.
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I’d just been going through the motions with my band Dead Serios for the last several years. We were no longer the cutting edge young kids that we once were in our award-winning glory days. The young rockers coming up on the East Coast scene clearly had no connection to guys in their thirties and our once diehard teenage followers were primarily now all married or divorced – with kids of their own, mortgages and understandably, little interest in the local rock and roll scene. I hoped that our new guitarist could provide the spark needed to re-ignite the band and keep us moving forward. We loaded our gear into our van on New Year’s Day 1997 and traveled from Melbourne, Florida to producer Jim DeVito’s recording studio, ninety miles north in St. Augustine, to begin working on what ultimately would be our last record.

 During our first day at Jim’s studio we got a visit from a guy who lived nearby.

Around lunchtime this animated, hyperactive fellow came bopping through the studio doorway dressed as if he’d been playing tennis. He was none other than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers drummer, Stan Lynch.

Talking non-stop at about a million miles an hour, Stan is quite a character. Rattling off insider rock and roll stories at a rapid-fire pace, Stan rides a fine line between captivating and annoying. However, I for one, immediately liked the guy. And I think that he liked my band too. In fact, he came to the studio each day we were there that week. We had been recording an EP that was to include a White Zombie-like remake of the 1978 Village People disco hit, “Macho Man.” Stan thought that it was an inventive and hilarious concept and offered to produce the track. However, after noticing some of the rather tongue-in-cheek impromptu vocals, he backed away from the project because, as he put it, we had “gone overboard” with what he referred to as “fag-bashing.”

I could listen to Stan’s "war stories" all day. While taking a break from recording one evening, Stan got caught up in telling us about his experience during the 1970s as an opening act for Kiss during the first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tour.

“I had to play under that f-ing Kiss sign night after night while people booed us,” Stan passionately recalled. “But I just thought, hey, I’m up here and you’re down there!”
 
From memories of drug-crazed experiences while working with Stevie Nicks to studio dish on recording with John Mellencamp, Stan had a million outrageous tales to tell.

Stan Lynch with Jim DeVito.

Recalling his days with Tom Petty, he admitted that in the beginning they were great. However, according to Stan, while in the studio during his last days with the band, egos had gotten totally out of control. Stan claimed that by this point nobody was allowed to speak directly to Petty any longer. In fact, all communications with the legendary frontman while in the studio had to be done via handwritten notes.

One morning, Stan became a bit ramped up as he described to me his recent influx of band requests for him either to produce or manage them.

“I send them all back the same three word comment card... Sucks! Sucks! Sucks!” he passionately told me with his arms flailing about. “Nobody’s got any originality anymore and everyone’s afraid to be themselves,” he added. “If you’re an aging '80s hair metal guy, then hold your head up and be the best aging '80s hair metal guy that you can be!”

I found Stan’s stories to be fascinating and his words of advice to be quite inspirational. In fact, I would apply his “hold your head up,” “be the best you can be” philosophy to my future spiritual walk.

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith.
Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.
1 Corinthians 16:13 (NLT)

Although Dead Serios was not fortunate to move forward with Stan in any  long-term professional capacity, I appreciated his guidance, encouragement, spirited commentary and uniquely personal (and private) stories.

-Christopher Long
 

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