CD review: ‘Beat Farmers Live in Bremen, Germany, 1988’

Country Dick Montana Heading North

Country Dick Montana was the singular showman with the Beat Farmers.

In a newly live album, Country Dick Montana repeatedly tells the audience that he and his band the Beat Farmers are very far from home. Indeed, the concert was in Germany, but feels like it came from heaven.

Twenty one years after Country Dick Montana died onstage, MIG-Music has brought back to life one of the band’s remarkable performances, “Beat Farmers Heading North 53 N 8 E— Live in Bremen, Germany, 1988.”

Country Dick’s bandmates Jerry Raney, Joey Harris and Rolle Love are still very much alive. They play in their respective bands in small venues in hometown San Diego, where Beat Farmers lore endures. The Beat Farmers’ music was called cowpunk, but categorizing it with other bands is nonsense. There’s never been another group like it. To devout followers, it was the greatest band in the world, and in 1988, the Beat Farmers was in its prime.

George Bush (the first) had just assumed the presidency, and the Beat Famers had replaced the mercurial Buddy Blue with the kinder, gentler Joey Harris. The band released its third album, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” which featured three distinct styles of music: rockabilly tunes from Raney, country rock from Harris and humor from the baritone singer Country Dick. The formula did not equate to record sales, but it was the perfect combination for the live shows, and “Beat Farmers Heading North” captures it beautifully.

“The music takes me back to my own past when I was young and feeling mean,” Raney sings on the opening track, “Bigger Stones,” one of four written by San Diego cohort Paul Kamanski. “… singing someday we’ll be stars.”

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus spends eternity rolling a giant boulder up a mountain only to have it roll back down, a metaphor for life’s daily grind.

“It seems like we rolled bigger stones back then,” the chorus goes.

The Beat Farmers displays its power on “Big Big Man,” with driving rhythm from bassist Love and drummer Country Dick and back-and-forth lead guitars from Raney and Harris.

Next comes “Lucille,” Country Dick’s brilliantly hilarious take on a Kenny Rogers ballad, followed by the goofy “Happy Boy,” in which Harris rips a kazoo solo and Montana belches in perfect pitch, the same octive as his singing voice.

Poignantly, “Happy Boy,” a novelty song, was the Beat Farmers’ greatest radio hit. But “Beat Farmers Heading North” features outstanding songs such as, “God is Here Tonight,” “Hollywood Hills,” Blue Chevrolet” and “Riverside.”

As with every Beat Farmers show, there was more rock ‘n’ roll, hijinks and good times from the May 29, 1988, performance in Modernes, Bremen, Germany. Listen to it and your stones will roll bigger.

-Tim Parsons

Related stories:
Beat Farmers Tom Ames back on the road.
LINK
Beat Farmers reunion show and Joey Harris’ recurring dream:
LINK

Tahoe Onstage

“Beat Farmers Heading North” will be released on Dec. 16.
Album cover art provided by Made In Germany Music

  •  ‘Beat Farmers Heading North 53 N 8 E— Live in Bremen, Germany, 1988’
    Radio Bremen – concert at Modernes, Bremen, May 29, 1988:
    Release: Dec. 16, 2016
    Made in Germany Music
    Purchase: LINK

    1.) Bigger Stones (Paul Kamanski)………………………………….2.30
    2.) Big Big Man (Jerry Raney/Steve Marshall)……………………..4.07
    3.) Lucille (Kenny Rogers)…………………………………………….5.00
    4.) Happy Boy (Dane Conover)………………………………………1.35
    5.) Rosie (Tom Waits)………………………………………………….3.00
    6.) Dark Light (Jerry Raney/Steve Marshall)……………………….5.05
    7.) Texas (Joey Harris)…………………………………………………3.08
    8.) Blue Chevrolet (Paul Kamanski)………………………………….2.52
    9.) Beat Generation (Rod McKuen)…………………………………..2.12
    10.) I Want You Too (Joey Harris)……………………………………1.37
    11.) Hollywood Hills (Paul Kamanski)………………………………..4.10
    12.) Never Goin’ Back (John Stewart)……………………………….3.44
    13.) God Is Here Tonight (Joey Harris)………………………………3.35
    14.) Riverside ( Jerry Harris/Steve Marshall)……………………….3.37
    Encores
    15.) Deceiver (Ken Noble)…………………………………………….2.38
    16.) Key To The World (Jerry Raney/Steve Marshall)……………3.12
    17.) California Kid (Paul Kamanski)………………………………….2.46
    18.) Led Zeppelin Medley (Led Zeppelin)……………………………1.02
    19.) You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover (Ellas McDaniel, aka Bo Diddley) …8.11
  • Lineup: Joey Harris (vocals, electric guitar, kazoo), Jerry Raney (vocals, electric guitar, harmonica),
    Dan McLain – aka Country Dick Montana – (vocals, drums, accordion), Rolle Love (electric bass).
    Sound man: Tom Ames

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

2 comments

  1. Thanks for the review, Tim. I can hardly wait for mine to arrive!

  2. Mid ’80s, Biddy Mulligan’s: BFers, 1st Chicago appearance. JD and I arrive early without tickets, not sure how large a crowd to expect. The bar is absolutely empty. We sit down, order a couple MGDs, and who should join us but Country Dick! “Damn record companies, how ’bout them Padres, Cubbie pukes?” (JD & I toast, Sox fans both). Several rounds later, he excuses himself to prep for the best show I’ve ever seen in a bar/venue.
    A few years later we saw them at the Cubby Bear: campfire songs, riotus crowd/band interaction. By this time I’d learned to bring a change of clothes, since those worn to the show would be drenched in beer.

Leave a Reply to Michael Duey Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*