For every “legend” and “icon” of the ‘60s and ‘70s, there are buckets full of bands that were there, they rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, but they didn’t quite break. Sometimes, it’s because they weren’t very good. But oftentimes, there’s gold to be found by digging into the obscure. The Hollywood Stars were assembled by Kim Fowley, with a sound taking juicy bits from Bowie, Sweet and Cockney Rebel, with a bit of Mott the Hoople thrown in for good measure. They shared stages with the likes of the New York Dolls, and then they were gone. Last year, they got back together for a show at the Bootleg, and now they’re back again at the Whisky. We spoke to original member Scott Phares about it all…
L.A. WEEKLY: For a bit of background, when did the band form, and what was the mission back then?
SCOTT PHARES: The band originally formed in November 1973 with Terry Rae, Ruben De Fuentes, and myself, all of whom appear in the current lineup. We also had Gary Van Dyke, and the late Mark Anthony. It’s often been said that Kim wanted Hollywood’s answer to the New York Dolls, but it went beyond that. He wanted a group of heart throbs with genuine Hollywood street cred. The songs were to be catchy — no blues, no jams, no long solos.
Tell us about working with Kim Fowley…
Kim was very charismatic. He had us rehearse and rehearse until the songs were perfect. He led the way on our repertoire, which comprised songs that he wrote with us and songs from his friends like Mars Bonfire and Danny Hutton.
He kept girls away from the band when we were doing business like rehearsing. He hyped the hell out of us and made us the live draw we were. When John Lennon came to see us at the Whisky, Kim gave me a line to say and told us which song to play to get Lennon’s attention. “Here’s a song you might’ve heard in the Star Club a few years ago,” I said as an introduction, and we launched into “High School Confidential.” I recently learned that it was Kim’s favorite song, and, of course, it was one of the many songs The Beatles used to perform in Hamburg.
What do you consider the band’s biggest achievement back then?
Getting a record deal with Columbia and headlining the Whisky over some great groups like Journey and The Tubes. The incredible reception we got from our fans everywhere we played was amazing. I didn’t appreciate it as much back then, but to have a line outside The Whisky and to have girls screaming for us was fabulous.
Why, and when, did the band split? And why reform?
The original incarnation of the band split up almost exactly one year after we formed. We formed in November 1973 and played our last show at The Whisky in November 1974. The record label had inexplicably dropped us after we’d nearly finished the album. Even weirder, not one label stepped up to take us on. Just 10 months before, every label in town was after us. We’d had great reviews and articles published all over the US, UK, and Europe. We were still selling out local venues. Shortly after the record deal ended, Mark quit the band and management quit us, too — no money and no record deal in the offing.
Reforming was a long process. Musician/producer Robin Wills (The Barracudas, Fortunate Sons) reached out to Terry who reached out to Ruben who reached out to me. The result was the release on vinyl of the Shine Like A Radio LP. We talked it over and decided to do a music video for “King of the Night Time World,” which my son wrote and directed. We started talking about playing live, but logistics were a challenge — I live on the East Coast, which made rehearsing a challenge.
So, little happened beyond talk until last summer. I met with Terry, Ruben, and Michael Rummans at the Rainbow to talk. We discussed how we’d do it and came up with a plan. Rehearsals started soon after and we played a six-song set at the Bootleg Theater with 10 or 12 other local bands from the ‘70s for Radio Free Hollywood in November 2018.
What can we expect from this set?
The band will be tight and the show will be high on energy. This is a huge deal for us returning to, essentially, our birth place. We will be playing songs from Shine Like A Radio and our upcoming 1976 album Sound City, which Burger Records is issuing for the first time ever next month. It will be mostly an uptempo show with one ballad. It should be a great party.
The Hollywood Stars play with Hammered Satin and Velvet Tinmine at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 18 at the Whisky A Go Go.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.