The Ballad of Bobby McStone
|Gregory Vaine was born Gregory John McIlvaine in Torrance California.
He grew up in Manhattan Beach, California. At the age of 16, he began
playing guitar seriously and by 17 he formed his first band with Steve
Coulter, Keith Brown, and Dan Kern. They were called several things,
including the P-Bombs and Black Voodoo. They evolved into The Hoods,
who played their high school lunchtime and many parties. Vaine describes
himself in this period as being "an angry young man," and his first
songs reflect this typical teen angst. Songs like "Mr. Postman", an
anti-vietnam war song about 15 years too late, and another entitled
"Ronald Regan Voodoo Doll" speaks for itself.
Vaine attended the University of California at Santa Barbara starting
in 1987, and eventually re-united with his original bandmates under
the moniker The Wonderfuls, a name they lifted from an interview with
Husker Du. The Wonderfuls were a three songwriter band, and Vaine
was mainly a guitarist, but he did contribute the instrumental "whatever"
and the Husker-ish love song, "Sometimes," with lyrics influenced
by Hesse's Siddartha, which he had just read. Though the Wonderfuls
were only together for a few months, though they played many cover-only
reunion gigs for over three years.
Vaine was then involved with an Isla Vista "supergroup" called The
Utopiates with Keith Brown, bassist Scott Bell, and drummer Jamie
Taylor. Bell and Taylor played with the widely influential and important,
seminal ahead of their time group the Shawn White Band. The Utopiates
were acid rock, with much improvisation and instrument switching.
A bootleg of one of their performances contains a blistering cover
of Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown" sung by Bell, "Jesus Christ Superstar"
sung by Brown, and the Vaine original, "Bodily Fluids."
Vaine went on to form a Glam-metal concept band called Mons Pubis
with Coulter on drums and Jeff Whalen on Bass and vocals. Vaine contributed
several soon to be classics including "Young Girls Smoking," "Viking
Son," "Rock and Roll Sex," and "Swashbuckler," as well as co-writing
"Backstage Girls" with Whalen. Most of their songs were about sex
and rock and roll.
With their after a year or so, Vaine went on to put together what
he thought would be a heavy blues cover band, but which turned into
sort of an r&b zappa circus, called Earl. Consisting of Vaine, Drummer
Paul Stinson, guitarist Ted Schram, Bassist Todd Kurtzman, and excellent
singer Danny Shirago, Earl was Vaine's most financially successful
band, once earning over $300 for playing a fraternity party. Like
any good frat band, Earl played mostly covers, and Vaine only stepped
up to the mic occasionall to handle vocals on Chuck Berry's "Carol."
Vaine has been quoted as saying, "I was proud of that band just 'cause
we did three songs from the Rolling Stones' first record."
After graduating from UCSB in late 1992 with a degree in Creative
Studies (Art), Vaine headed to Europe with a backpack to experience
western art masterpieces in person. He ended up in Prague, CZ, where
a bunch of recent UCSB graduates had started the famous english language
newspaper, the Prognosis. Vaine settled in Prague for the summer and
joined a group of these americans playing original pop songs with
acoustical guitars for tourists on the picaresque Charles Bridge.
These included guitarist and singer Matt Welch, Bass player Jeff Solomon,
singer Os Tyler, and percussionist Mike Lupro. They named themselves
Whalen, after aforementioned musician and songwriter Jeff Whalen,
who's compositions figured prominently in the groups repitoir. Vaine
contributed just a few originals to this group, including "Skateboard"
and a song written about the experience of playing for tourists called
Vaine left the idyllic Prauge at the end of the summer, lured back
by his acceptance into the graduate art program at Otis Parsons in
downtown LA. He settled in Atwater Village, and focused on art for
the next 2 and 1/2 years, with the exception of a short attempt to
get a band together with aforementioned Jeff Whalen.
Near the end of his time in LA, Vaine decided to focus on songwriting,
and he wrote the batch of songs that would make up the first Thee
Mystakes tape, "Wishful Thinking." Recruiting drummer Paul Stinson,
who was living in Santa Barbara, Vaine recorded all the other parts
himself in the basement of the Los Feliz house he was housesitting
until it was sold. Wishful Thinking gave the world such Vaine classics
as "Purple Circle," "Goodbye Girl," "LA's Lonely," " Mangla Dam,"
and "Dear Kim."
When the house sold, Vaine moved to San Francisco seeking more musical
climates and less traffic in 1995. Soon he formed a band with Bassist
Jeff Solomon, guitarist Rich Mahan, and a drummer named Rick. Vaine
contributed some new originals including "Truth" and "Best Laid Plans."
When that band fizzled, Vaine decided to work on the next Thee Mystakes
release. He again got Paul Stinson on drums, and this time enlisted
Jeff Solomon to play bass. Titled "Just What the Doctor Ordered,"
this tape received a wider release and introduced the public to such
gems as "April's Fool" and "Valencia Boulevard".
Soon after it's release, drummer Paul Stinson moved to San Francisco
and Thee Mystakes began a series of legendary local shows throughout
1996 and 1997. They released another demo containing new recordings
of old songs, as well as the new original "Play Guitar Now."
Thee Mystakes evolved into The Boldinis with blues drummer Elvis Johnson
replacing Stinson. After a few gigs, Vaine began writing in earnest
what he told his friends would be a new three act rock opera called
The Ballad of Bobby McStone. Indeed, a few months later he resurfaceed
with 23 new songs which he began recording, enlisting nearly everyone
he had ever been in a band with to help.
Vaine is currently living in Los Angeles, gigging with his band, Order