June 28, 2012

Concerts #447, 457 - Barry McGuire at Coffee Gallery Backstage (August 7, 2007 & December 30, 2007)

When I first heard Barry McGuire's voice in 1965, my young jaw dropped to the floor and it stayed there for months and years, while I was waiting for a follow-up to his brilliant "Eve Of Destruction". Well, the follow-up never came and to make things worse, Barry disappeared without a trace. It was two decades later when I learned about his becoming a new-born Christian and, at that time, I did not even dream about ever having the chance to see him perform live, let alone meet him and talk with him. Over the years, I kept listening to his long out-of-print early recordings, which I managed to find at swap meets and garage sales, but otherwise, as far as I was concerned, Barry McGuire was gone for good.

Fast forward to 2005. I'm sitting in front of my TV, watching one of those typical PBS pledge-drive nostalgia concerts that specialize in unearthing old musicians who have long gone from the public eye, and to my huge surprise, who do I see? Well, well, it's the New Christy Minstrels, with Barry McGuire in the line-up, singing "Green Green" and "Eve Of Destruction" and sounding unbelievably good, exactly forty years after my introduction to him. I could not have been more thrilled! What followed was a Google search and, a day later, I was in direct touch with Barry, via email. True story.

In August 2007, I went with my friend Hans to the intimate Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena to see Barry perform at the tender age of seventy two, alongside his friend and musical collaborator Terry Talbot of Mason Proffit fame. The show, titled "Trippin' The Sixties", featured some of the greatest American songs of the sixties, many of them with some direct connection to Barry.  His stories about Bob Dylan, Mama Cass and others were fun to listen to.

Sadly, the show was marred by a sound problem that persisted throughout the evening and the main culprit was the speaker that was supposed to carry primarily Barry's voice. Still, I loved  the songs and enjoyed watching Barry, whose vitality and "joie de vivre" are hard to forget. 

Barry McGuire at the Coffee Gallery Backstage
Yes, the sound was disappointing, but on the plus side, I got to meet Bary after the show. We shook hands and had a brief conversation. I mentioned to him that there was an opportunity for someone to write a Christian-themed song that uses a word-play on the title of his best known secular song. "What do you mean?", Barry asked. I said "The Destruction Of Eve would be a good title for a Christian song, wouldn't it?". Barry had a good laugh and said "I've never thought of that". What an unforgettable moment!

Partial set list
Green Green
Greenback Dollar
Eve Of Destruction
Reason To Believe
If I Were A Carpenter
Creeque Alley
California Dreamin'
Mr. Tambourine Man
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
Do You Believe In Magic 
Times They Are A Changing

Quite often during the show, Terry Talbot's overzealous singing and loud strumming overpowered Barry's voice, something I did not appreciate, as I was there to hear Barry and no one else. In addition to backing up Barry, Terry also soloed on "Two Hangmen", from his days with Mason Proffit.

Barry McGuire (left) and Terry Talbot at the end of their set

While looking his age, Barry did not sound his age at all. I was impressed by the way he told his stories, without ever stumbling or halting. His singing voice was "trademark Barry McGuire", easy to recognize even after the passing of so many decades.

A few months later, in December 2007, I went back to the Coffee Gallery to catch Barry once again. This time the sound was perfect and I had a blast. The set list remained pretty much unchanged, not necessarily a bad thing. In addition to his repertoire of songs from the sixties, Barry also sang his own Christian song, "Cosmic Cowboy", which sounded quite good. Just like the first time, Barry was accompanied by Terry Talbot and just like the first time, I would have preferred him to be a lower-key partner, not because he is not a good musician in his own right, but simply because I wanted more Barry.

Here's a YouTube video of "Eve Of Destruction" with Barry McGuire and Terry Talbot:

The Coffee Hallery is a small venue, without green rooms and secret chambers, so once again I got to talk with Barry, both before and after the show. This time, our conversation went on for fifteen minutes or so.

My close encounters with Barry McGuire will forever remain a highlight of my concert-going life.

Barry McGuire (center), with My Better Half and Yours Truly
Barry McGuire (left), with Terry Talbot
Barry McGuire promo DVD, given to me by Barry himself
Barry McGuire card

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