Tag Archives: rock ‘n’ roll


By day they perform biopsies and colonoscopies.  At night they rock the house.

Dr. Robert Altbaum

Dr. Robert Altbaum

They’re DNR, the area’s only physician-assisted classic rock band.  Four of the 8 members are doctors, and they’re as adept with an ax as they are with a knife.  In fact, Bob Altbaum — a Westport internist and the band’s keyboardist/vocalist — has just been named a “Top Doc” by Connecticut Magazine.

That’s no small honor.  The publication asked 2,000 doctors who they’d recommend to a loved one.  This is Altbaum’s 5th consecutive appearance on the list.

Two other DNR members — Norwalk’s Andrew Parker (ear, nose and throat specialist/lead singer) and Fairfield’s Richard Frank (cancer specialist/saxophonist) — were also named “Top Docs.”  

Also in the band:  Westport’s Fred Ury.  He’s a bass guitarist/lawyer.  Go figure.

DNR is a long-time Levitt Pavilion, charity affair and private party favorite. 

Their name — medicalese for “Do Not Resuscitate” — is an inside joke.  I hope.

All That Remains

Marilyn Chambers’ untimely death earlier this week shined a spotlight on Westport, where she grew up.  But Marilyn was not the only famous member of her family.

Long before Marilyn opened the green door, her brother Billy Briggs was on his own way to stardom.  As keyboardist for the legendary Remains, Billy appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Hullabaloo.”  He toured with the Beatles — and, with fellow Westporter Barry Tashian and 2 bandmates, camethisclose to being the greatest American rock ‘n’ roll group ever.

The Remains never made it to the top.  In the midst of that 1966 Beatles tour, they were already breaking up.

But they remain cult heroes.  Jon Landau‘s praise — “They were how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll” — is as true today as it was 42 years ago.

Now, when many people their age are retiring, the Remains are finally getting their due.  On the big screen.

The Remains - Barry Tashian (2nd from left); Billy Briggs (far right)

The Remains - Barry Tashian (2nd from left); Billy Briggs (far right)

Westport native Fred Cantor — a few years younger than the Remains, but (like me) a long time ardent admirer — is the producer and driving force behind “America’s Lost Band.” That new documentary — narrated by the J. Geils Band’s Peter Wolf, another early fan — weaves rare archival footage and flashbacks with the Remains’ current lives.  Believe it or not, they’re still playing kick-ass music — including at film festivals across the country, where fans old and new  gather to worship at their altar.

“America’s Lost Band” premiered at the Boston Film Festival, to great reviews.  Screenings in Chicago and Providence played to wildly enthusiastic audiences.  Next week it’s in Nashville and Portland, Oregon; on April 28 it’s one of only 4 films picked for the “Celluloid  Heroes:  Rock ‘n’ Roll on Film” series at New Orleans’ Ponderosa Stomp Music Festival.

How good were the Remains?

Rock journalist Mark Kemp said if they had stayed together, “we might today be calling them — and not the Stones — the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.”

Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, Little Steven Van Zandt, called the Remains “living history, and one of our most valued American treasures.”

And Rolling Stone magazine described them as “a religious totem of all that was manic and marvelous about mid-’60s pop.”

Billy Briggs and Barry Tashian have not forgotten their Westport roots.  They rehearse here often, in their friends Terry and Gail Coen’s basement studio.  Their many Westport friends never forgot them either.

Now — thanks to another Westporter’s passion and movie-making skills — the entire country is rediscovering them.

And now for a treat:  To hear the Remains, click here. My recommendations (from the scroll-down list that appears on the right side of the linked page):  Start with “Hang on Sloopy” and “I’m a Man,” followed by a 3rd live song: “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”  Next, 2 album cuts: “Diddy Wah Diddy” and “Why Do I Cry.”  But whatever you listen to: CRANK IT UP!

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

I heard “She Loves You” yesterday.  It was only the squintillionth time I’ve heard the Beatlemania-defining tune, which long ago receded into whatever part of my brain is reserved for songs I will still sing along to at 96, during my final days in a nursing home.

But this time was different.  Instead of bobbing almost unheard in the background, as familiar tunes often do, this time I heard it with almost cosmic clarity.  The joyful guitar licks, Ringo’s thumping drumming, the giddily optimistic lyrics — all came rushing back, as if hearing it for the first time ever.

In fact, I first heard “She Loves You” in the early spring of 1964.  I was not yet a teenager, but back in those pre-helicopter-parent days I enjoyed freedom today’s students only dream about.  I rode my bike wherever I wanted; my bazillion High Point Road friends and I played outside all afternoon, with no adults in sight, and when we were hungry we wandered into someone’s house and found food.

Everywhere I went, I carried my transistor radio.  It was laughably large compared to today’s teeny iPods, but as fifth graders who had just discovered rock ‘n’ roll, our lives demanded a soundtrack.  The Beatles, and so many other wannabe bands, provided it.

I thought of all this yesterday because the weather reminded me so much of the first time I heard “She Loves You.”  Winter was almost gone, but spring had not yet settled in.  Both times the afternoon was chilly, the wind gusting, but the world was also filled with something fresh, something cleansing, something to look forward to.

Back in 1964, the Beatles provided that breath of fresh air.  Now, 45 years later, half the band is dead.  We’re all a bit jaded; some of us are worried, a few even terrified.  But for 2 minutes yesterday, music and weather combined to take me back to a moment when anything — all things — seemed possible.

And you know that can’t be bad.