Giants walk among us. And this week, two of the biggest giants in D.C. musical history sit down for the Pop Quiz. In the mid-'60s, when bands wore matching outfits and looked sharp in them, LAWRENCE AND THE ARABIANS looked sharper and played sharper than everybody else. In the world of teen clubs and firehall dances, they played to thousands of fans and influenced a generation of musicians. "Blue-eyed soul" can be a tricky term, but when singer/keyboardist LARRY KIDWELL and drummer MIKE ZACK lock into a groove, it is pure soul, Capital S, no questions. Back on the scene, like a funk machine, Mike and Larry have reunited and the new Lawrence and the Arabians can be heard each month tearing up the Yacht Club of Bethesda. That's where we found them, and that's where they tore up the Pop Quiz. Can we get a witness?
What equipment do you use and what's your favorite smoke?
LARRY: I don't know what to say, because I don't LOVE my equipment. I can't afford what I want.
MIKE: I don't LOVE my drums...
LARRY: Well, I know, but you can afford to buy what you want.
MIKE: Exactly. What equipment do you use. He didn't ask you if you LOVED it.
LARRY: I have a General Musics something. It's a synthesizer-slash-sampler. And I have an old DX-7 and a Roland module that I MIDI up with the DX-7. And my favorite smoke, I hate to say it, is Pall Malls.
MIKE: Marlboro mediums.
LARRY: I have five children. Actually two adults and three children. They're my pets.
MIKE: Favorite Bar: Highland House Hotel, Uniontown, Pa. Family-owned. Favorite car: Lotus Turbo Esprit, four-cylinder.
LARRY: What's your favorite D.C. hangout...?
MIKE: Oh, D.C. hangout. The Keg. And since it's not there, I just go and sit and look at where it used to be.
LARRY: I didn't know that these questions were going to be so HARD. These are tough questions. I haven't "hung out" in D.C. maybe ever. What's my favorite D.C. hangout? They'll think I'm a whore if I say here [the Yacht Club of Bethesda]. Actually, you know, I like to do the museums. The bar at the Smithsonian?
MIKE: You're making this heavy, man. It's supposed to be light and quick.
LARRY: I know, I know...
MIKE: When he's done with this, go down all my questions, and I'll let him finish later.
LARRY: The Paul Mall on M Street. And a '32 Ford three-window coup. It's a tie between that and a '55 Thunderbird.
MIKE: Worst place I crashed...wwooww. The Hotel Albert, Greenwich Village. It was real funky. Real funky. We're talking funk.
LARRY: The worst crash, we were doing a road job in Lansing, Michigan. The whole band were staying at this guy's place, and half the band were downstairs, like on the floor. And somebody poked a hole in his waterbed on the first floor, and the whole place got flooded.
And my worst haircut, I think I have it on now. An attempt to be an adult. This is it.
MIKE: Worst roommate? Tommy Lofgren. Be sure you print that. He'll love it. Best audience--OK, OK. I need a second to think about that.
LARRY: Worst roommate...may he rest in peace, Danny Conway.
[NOTE: Danny was the drummer for fabled '60s D.C. power trio Flavor, whose Columbia single "Sally Had a Party" is still a solid groove. Like too many of his contemporaries, Danny succumbed to the excesses of the era.--ED.]
Best audience is the one I'm facing at the moment when I'm facing them.
MIKE: Best audience...was the Fox Theater in Atlanta with J. Geils. I was playing with Nils [Lofgren] then, we were gigging with J. Geils. It was a great, great night.
MIKE: Most of the time blue jeans or dress pants. Usually white or black shirts. Lotta pasta.
LARRY: I like to wear dress pants and Hawaiian shirts. I try not to eat anything on the road, I eat off the plates. Actually, I try to eat a little more healthy on the road than at home. 'Cause I don't want to die when I'm out in some strange place. It'd be a hassle getting me back. I usually eat a lot of yogurt. I go out for a steak dinner or two, but try to be a little health conscious on the road.
MIKE: I can't tell you the favorite tour memory.
LARRY: X-X-X. Turn off the machine, I'd like to hear this myself.
MIKE: Wow...it got me thinking...wwwooowwww! WWOOOOWWWWW! You can all live three lives and not see this one. Worst band squabble--when I started to attack a former keyboard player because he wasn't paying attention. Someone who should know better but was just being stupid. Gabby [Guitarist David Gabaldon -- Ed.] came in between us, then Gabby was ready to punch me.
Favorite tour memory that I can tell...OK, playing in Cleveland at some club and the Doobie Brothers, Roy Buchanan, and us--which was Nils and band--were all staying at Jim Swingo's Celebrity Hotel in Cleveland all at the same time and all had the same day off. And I had two complete surf 'n' turf dinners that night in one sitting.
MIKE: Consumed it easily. Oh, easily. Paid the next day...
LARRY: Hmmm...I thought it was gonna be like, "What's your favorite color?" "Do you like shiny things?" Would it be too corny if I said all of [my tour memories are favorites]?
MIKE: That's real corny.
LARRY: I mean now that I'm older, they're all special. Even the one's that stunk are special.
MIKE: Not for me. The one's that stunk, stunk. I mean, there's stink and there's good.
LARRY: I never really had a squabble, but I did have an experience with this guy [indicating Mike]. We were playing at the Pall Mall, they used to stick 400 people in a little 125-size room. Saturday night, 12 o'clock, the peak set of the night, and this little girl comes in and says, "Oh, well they just took Mike away for smoking dope down at the bridge."
MIKE: [Laughing] Over the towpath.
LARRY: I mean, we didn't have a fight about it, but I was kinda stuck there with my pants down, with a house full of people saying, "Where's the band, man?" The star of the show was in the paddy wagon on his way downtown.
MIKE: They had a drummer there in a half hour, though. And when we got downtown, the head of the narco squad was a guy who was at my parent's house two weeks before having dinner with my cousin. We walked in, he said, "What are you guys doing?" And it was thrown out.
There's a lot of underlying stories that we can't tell about the Pall Mall scene.
LARRY: Yes, yes...sshhh...
[At the mention of worst equipment experience, the PA feeds back horrendously.]
MIKE: That was it. Any bad PA guys. Never had a major [problem] with drums. We're acoustic.
LARRY: I would always like to think that God is my main influence.
MIKE: But James Brown was before God.
LARRY: Then we'll go with Little Richard, and Elvis, James Brown, Otis Redding--basically anybody who sang from their heart and had an extended range.
Worst equipment experience is probably going to be tonight. No, I guess my worst experience is when all my stuff got ripped in 1973. They took my whole van, B-3, coliseum PA, and everything. But you know, equipment is just stuff, it comes and goes. People don't. And God doesn't.
MIKE: 1988 Chrysler Conquest. Three-hundred horsepower. Worst place I ever dropped trou? My grandfather's outhouse. He actually had an outhouse. Oh, worst place I ever dropped trou? Trying to do a No. 2 on a tour bus with Stella Parton, while we were moving. No. 2, wasn't that polite?
LARRY: That was very polite.
MIKE: I mean, we're talking an amazing experience here. HO-BOYYYY!! And then we hit a skunk. And it got up in the wheel-well. Had to pull over and evacuate the bus. That should have gone under tour experiences. You can figure all this out later.
LARRY: Transpo--a lovely '87 Plymouth Voyager. And it gets me where I need to go. And the worst place I ever dropped trou, I'd have to say the Keg, but I never had enough nerve to drop trou there.
MIKE: Didn't we both moon somebody on a bus one time? Or we mooned a bus on the way to a gig or something?
LARRY: Well, I'm sure we have...but this is a family show...
MIKE: I think Larry and I mooned some Catholic school bus on the way to a gig that they were actually going to. Right? True story.
LARRY: The whole band did. From three different cars.
MIKE: I remember that so much!
LARRY: There were nine of us at the time.
MIKE: Nine moons.
LARRY: Well there were 10 because the roadie had a helper.
MIKE: A band that I was in--I was gonna quit the band to join a band that had a hit record--and the lead singer, who was also the keyboard player, him and I got into a wrestling match on the dance floor down at the Rocket Room. It was Wild Honey. And I eventually did leave, anyway, three months later to join an even better group. And he was threatened not to touch me.
LARRY: I was in a group once and we had a front man, because at the time it was commercially viable. And he was getting ready to retire from the business. This was going to be his big swan song. We were down at Ocean City at the Paddock. The last set, we went up on stage and looked around and he wasn't there. We played the whole last set, we finished the night, last night of the week--this is his finale. We're tearing the stuff down, 15 minutes later he walks in, "Hey, man--when are we gonna go on?" He was out in the van--how should we say this?--exercising his manly...
LARRY: His manly whatever. Totally missed his big finale. True story.
True story? Totally missed? Grade the quiz.
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