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Lucky Pierre: Steadily Gaining Recognition
Scene Magazine, July 3-9, 1980
By Mark Holan
Transcribed by Robert Ferent
Lucky Pierre has been on the Cleveland club circuit for four years now. In that time, they have wrestled a toe hold for themselves amongst the area's most original bands but still remain a cult band opening for more popular local bands like The Wild Giraffes. Part of the reason for Lucky Pierre's lack of recognition can be placed on the shoulders of the band's founder and leader, guitarist/songwriter Kevin McMahon.
McMahon's unwillingness to deal with the business of promoting the band has left that job solely up to the bassist Tom Lash who, having spent four years as WCSB's music director, knows who to contact and what to say. It was Tom Lash whom I first approached in regards to doing a story on the band, and he was only too anxious to “set something up” with me. A lunch/interview date was agreed upon.
The morning of the scheduled meeting I got a phone call from McMahon saying that he and Lash had decided that it would be better if only he talked with me. We agreed to meet that afternoon.
The Rathskeller in downtown Cleveland is, in retrospect, a terrible place to conduct an interview. My main reason for going there was to meet McMahon on neutral ground. I had heard Kevin didn't like to bother with this end of the business, so the prospect of interviewing him made me as anxious as being “interviewed” probably made him. A couple of frosted mugs of draft beer for both of us alleviated any tension that either of us had felt before.
Kevin McMahon carries himself with more than a twinkle of the Emerald Isle in his eyes. Initially hesitant to meet with me, he soon warmed to the task of being interviewed, and as we talked (and the been kept coming), I think he actually enjoyed it.
The original Lucky Pierre lineup four years ago was Brian Dempsey on drums, John Guciardo on lead guitar, Denis DeVito on bass and McMahon on rhythm guitar. Later on, keyboardist Tom Miller was added to the group. Dempsey was soon replaced on drums by Gary Shay, and Miller and Guciardo left. DeVito moved to lead guitar, and Tom Lash joined the band on bass. A single, “Fans & Cameras” b/w “Idlewood,” was recorded with that lineup.
The current Lucky Pierre lineup of Tom Lash on bass, David Zima on Drums, Denis DeVito on lead guitar and McMahon on rhythm guitar has evolved into a compact vehicle for the songwriting talents of McMahon.
“I form their outline,” McMahon explained. “I arrange the stuff, and then they add to it. Like, for instance, I'll show the drummer the beat. I can play drums and bass, too, so I'll show them what to do. From that, when they're comfortable with the way the song does, they play off of each other and more into whatever they want to do. But the initial image is mine.”
“Fans & Cameras,” a straightforward pop rocker, was written by McMahon back in 1970, while the single's “B” side, “idlewood,” written in 1978, shows McMahon's growth as a social commentator and lyricist:
idlewoodarians are glad to comply
to all conditions
as long as their morals adapt to the
time and have clear
the sensation syndrome
is a step in quicksand
it's so easy
to be enveloped in
to be enveloped in
to be enveloped in...
“The lyrics are usually the dominating factor in the song,” McMahon stated. “Whatever style the lyrics are in, that's what I'll do the music to go with. If I'm trying to get across something that's understood and identifiable to everyone, like the first day of Spring, I'll use a typical 'Spring progression' like D, A, F, G, a real Beach Boys progression. Cars and girls, wooo-eee-hoooo!
“Most of my songs I write while I'm out walking,” McMahon continued. “I'm a walker. Walking's great.”
Although Kevin McMahon comes across as a basically non-aggressive type, the band take son a decidedly different character in a club setting. Denis DeVito's lead guitar style goes from melodic to “bashing” within the context of the same song, and bassist Tom lash and drummer David Zima punch out a variety of beats and rhythms as they're needed. It's not the kind of music that is immediately accessible to the uninitiated, but in a few listenings, you're right there with them and their music.
“It's hard for an audience to get 'into' what we're doing,” Kevin admitted. “I hate to use the words 'demonic' or 'eerie' to describe a song, and then the next song we do might be an uptempo Calypso-style number. It's hard for an audience to believe that, so I think that it's twice as hard for the band to get into it. They have to experience the same sensation in order for them to change their character that readily. I think that's worked against us in terms of popularity.”
Talk switched to the band's name which, I told Kevin, seemed more of a character with a distinct personality than a plural name for the group of individuals.
“I saw a movie, and somebody said it in the movie,” Kevin related.
I mentioned that it could have been the film adaptation of Victor Hugo's LES MISERABLES, the epic tale of a Frenchman sentenced to life imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family in 19th century Paris.
“Great clothes,” Kevin enthused. “That's how we're gonna dress as soon as we get the money.
“I'd rather have a character name than a name like The Beer Bottles,” Kevin remarked staring at the six empty one son the table in front of us. “And I'd rather it be an optimistic one, too, instead of all these names like The Negatives or The Sewer Rats.
“I think 'New Wave' music is getting to be real close produced music,” Kevin continued. “Songwriters don't seem to be as concerned about what they're writing as how it's going to be produced. They're discovering sounds more than songs. That's why a lot of New Wave bands are doing so many copy tunes, because it's easier to discover new sounds with old songs than to write new songs.”
Ina couple of weeks, Lucky Pierre will be going into a Cincinnati, Ohio recording studio with veteran producer Bill Halverson to record their second single. For Kevin McMahon, it's just another step in the band's ongoing growth.
“When you accept growth,” Kevin waxed philosophically, “you accept the possibility that you're not finished. Which is fine with me.”