Warren Pash and Theresa Kereakes don’t remember meeting in 1978 in L.A., when the city was a riot of “scary bell-bottom music, people in big tall boots singing songs about the California sun, and people on Hollywood Boulevard with safety pins in their face who looked like they’d kill you,” says Pash—but they’re sure they did. Maybe they met at that party that Theresa, a photographer who had befriended Debbie Harry, Belinda Carlisle, Billy Idol and other soon-to-be stars, hosted at her apartment behind the Whisky a Go Go—the one that Kevin Costner came to. Or maybe it was through Kereakes’ neighbor Joan Jett or at an Elton John or Electric Light Orchestra concert they were both at.
Pash and Kereakes, now both East Nashvillians, have found a way to revisit their 1978 halcyon days—this time together— through an audio-visual record and oral history they’ve created called “(19)78 RPM: Memoirs from an Analog Life.” It debuted on a recent November night at The Family Wash, when the Music City super-group Sons of Zevon took to that tiny, festooned stage and plowed balls–tothe- walls through a trove of cover songs, all from the year 1978. Pash, who joins the band for its infrequent gigs, had suggested to Family Wash owner Jamie Rubin (also in Sons of Zevon) that they combine their 1978 efforts. Prior to the show, some of the black-and-white photos Kereakes took of her musician pals in the ’70s were hung on the Family Wash walls, and mid-show she and Pash answered questions about their respective experiences photographing, playing music and getting chummy with some of the biggest names in music.
Fresh from Canada, Pash was hanging out at a lot of Hollywood hotspots in 1978, sidling up to the likes of Mick Jagger at bars, while getting a foothold as an actor and a musician. He’d go on a few years later to write Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes,” among other career feats, but in 1978 Pash and Kereakes were barely out of their teens. The two would “officially” meet in Nashville 30 years later, at which point they delighted in discovering that they’d once attended a staggering number of the same concerts and parties and had many of the same boldfaced acquaintances. More importantly, they bonded over their retrospective elation to have witnessed the grimy, glitzy phenomenon that was the backstage environs of Hollywood Boulevard and the Sunset Strip in 1978.
“Everything that happened back then was a fugitive moment,” says Kereakes. “Nobody videotaped shows on their iPhone. The best you got was a still picture, and you just hoped to capture that money shot that said it all. In a way it kept the magic.”
The magic may be long gone, but Pash still looks for remnants of its existence.
“I started going to thrift stores and occasionally I’d find an album from the ’60s or ’70s that had never been opened,” says Pash. “When I got home I’d take my guitar pick and slice it open and snort the air because I wanted to get the air from those decades into my brain. It was all metaphorical, but I wanted to capture as much of that moment as I could. I don’t want to live in it, but I want to be informed by it. Because I know that you can’t get it again.”
Forthcoming “(19)78 RPM” presentations won’t include the Sons of Zevon, but that evening at Family Wash wasn’t too far from future iterations of what Pash and Kereakes envision as a years-long multimedia tour of universities, bars, and record stores that will include a “VH1 Storytellers”-style Q&A (Kereakes was an original producer of that show; this is but one of many remarkable points on her résumé), photos, and live music. Pash will cover the likes of Lou Reed, Tom Petty, Blondie—deep cuts, not the obvious hits—the stuff Kereakes and Pash heard live in 1978.
“Growing up, your parents are saying, ‘Oh, don’t waste your youth,’” says Kereakes. “My wasted youth was actually quite relevant when you look back on it. It was a real cultural turning point.”
Visit 1978rpm.blogspot.com for more on (19)78 RPM: Memoirs from an Analog Life.