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NIGHT PEOPLE, Book 1 - Things We Lost in the Night: A Memoir of Love and Music in the 60s with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves (Volume 1) Paperback – June 10, 2015
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"Dunlap's sense of transcendence at a moment of achieved excellence is similar to the sensation Keith Richards describes in his memoir, 'Life,' "...you leave the planet for a while..." Reliving his rock and roll years in his wonderful memoir, NIGHT PEOPLE,' Larry Dunlap, must have left the planet for a while, too." I loved it, and highly recommend it. -- Kiana Davenport, The Spy Lover, Shark Dialogues
"Whether or not you remember the swift intoxicating music of that era or the seismic shift of mores that burst from the free-love movement, this memoir captures the beat of that misty time when the country suffered "a growing thirst for individual freedom, a desire to escape from an ever-darkening shadow of war, and a national hangover following the public murder of a young and popular president." -Steph Rodriguez, Manhattan Book Review
"Dunlap relates much of the story through conversations, and his California journey features a number of memorable characters. [Night People] ... is an enjoyable hangout book, a chance to spend time with witty characters at that point in their lives when success feels so close, but the path to get there isn't quite clear." - Foreword Review Catalog, 2015 Fall Issue, Memoir ForeSight Section
"Do you watch Dennis Leary's new FX show "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" about a crazy old time rock-in-roller? Larry Dunlap lived it. His memoir NIGHT PEOPLE is a frank, funny, frenzied chronicle of the 60's music scene." - Susan Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed memoirs Lighting Up, Only as Good as Your Word and Five Men Who Broke My Heart.
From the Author
There were two reasons why I felt like a clown after our eleven o'clock set at Gazzarri's. From one perspective, this felt like a sad little club where a bunch of loser bands played one right after another. The place was hypocritical and mean-spirited, taking advantage of struggling musicians and the doped-up high-school drop-outs who came to see them alike. Here we were, clothed in our suits and ties and Las Vegas attitude, as out of place as a swing band. We must have looked like insurance salesmen to these people in bandana headbands, torn jeans, and rainbow tee shirts. We were as out of place as Tony Bennett opening at a Rolling Stones concert. I was embarrassed for us, and didn't think we deserved to feel that way about ourselves.
On the other hand, someone there had called us a "cover band." Though I don't think the comment was meant to be derogatory, only descriptive, I was embarrassed. We didn't have any of our own songs to play, not even an original arrangement. We played the music we loved listening to, priding ourselves on sounding like the people who'd recorded the songs because we respected and honored them. For the first time, I considered the concept of us as cheaters, copying other artists' hits to make our own living, unwilling or unable to risk our own musical creations to an audience. For the tiniest of moments, I questioned our musical spirit.
These two dissonant viewpoints seemed to focus my attention on how far we'd drifted from the fabulous dreams the Reflections had gotten a taste of back in Indiana, an uneasiness that we were somehow losing our way. The perception stayed with me the next day like a bad stomachache.
When Dave and I got into the car to drive to Gazzarri's, the lights along Sunset tripped a rush of emotion in me. I made a sudden U-turn back to Highland and turned toward Hollywood Boulevard. I was surprised Dave hadn't said a thing. I pulled to the curb in front of a pizza place and idled the car. We sat in companionable, if somber, silence for a minute.
"Can't go in that place tonight, Dave." I stared at my hands on the steering wheel. "I just can't deal with it. I don't know if I can even explain why, but I can't go there tonight." I stuttered in my intensity.
"Yeah," he said, his voice plaintive. "I know. Do you want to get a pizza?"
"That's exactly what I want to do." We used some of the cash we'd gotten from Gazzarri's, where they paid us each night, five twenty-dollar bills we split six ways.
We took our pizza and soft drinks up to Mulholland Drive on the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, where a carpet of lights spread out over Hollywood and off to the ocean to the southwest. The muted rumble of the great engine driving this mammoth city, unnoticeable down below, reached us up here. By the time we'd parked, it was eight o'clock and we should have been on stage with our band brothers. We hadn't even warned them, but then we hadn't known we'd crack.
We shared pizza out of the box and drank our Cokes, watching the night deepen and the cloud cover roll in until the lights below were more like a blanket of stars fallen to earth. It was quiet, and I felt drained and empty. I pulled out a couple of tightly rolled joints, thanks again to Trish's generosity, and handed one to Dave.
We smoked until I'd distanced myself enough to try and sort out what was bugging me. I sighed. "What are we doing, man?"
"I'm eating pizza."
I tried to make sense of my confusion. I began talking in a stream of consciousness, not knowing what would come out.
"I feel like we're doing something wrong, but I don't know what. I feel like it should be obvious to me, but I still don't know what it is. It's like, well you know, the place behind your eyes, in back of you, the place you never see because whenever you turn your head, it's always behind you. Well, I think it's like that. I mean whatever's wrong is right here with us, but I can't see it, even when I turn to look for it. Figuratively speaking, of course."
"Uh-huh." Dave opened the pizza box and tilted out another pepperoni and sausage slice.
"What are we doing in Las Vegas, Dave? I mean, for real? We were so excited about recording in Indianapolis and . . . I don't know. I mean we're doing fantastic, of course, well not right at the moment, but I miss just singing. I miss singing our own vocal arrangements. Like when we played around with In the Still of the Night and came up with our own version. That was fun and exhilarating, Chuck Tunnah just riffing on a bass line, me and Perry playing with the harmony and then you throwing the melody on top . . . Even when we rushed to make In the Beginning sound like a Four Seasons song so we could get it released right away. I loved that.
"I just wish we were writing and singing our own music." I thought about that for a moment. "I hate that nightclub down there, you know, I despise the place, the whole cheesy pretend-artsy kind of atmosphere."
"I want so bad to tell you something but I'm so afraid you'll be angry or disappointed, even though there isn't any reason to be. I can't stand the idea of you being mad with me." She is so cute, I thought, but I could tell she was serious. I smiled. I had to admit to being glad she cared about what I thought.
"Kathy, I don't own you. I'm not going to be disappointed no matter what you tell me."
She got off the bed and turned partly away from me, smoothing out her dress. "I had to go out to meet a man tonight." She glanced over at me and my open mouth.
"I know him, and it wasn't to have sex or anything. Nothing like that. But he does give me money." I closed my open mouth and tried to give her a brave smile.
"Now stop it, Larry. You said you wouldn't be disappointed. I can tell you're not going to be angry, but you are also not allowed to look like a kicked dog. I would've much rather been here with you, but I'd given my word. Plus he gave me a thousand dollars." This time, I was unable to get my mouth closed.
"Not to get sidetracked. And, believe me, you don't have to answer if you don't want to, but I can't help but be curious. Why did the man give you all that money?"
She went to her purse and fanned out a bunch of one-hundred-dollar bills.
"He gives it to me for going out to dinner with him and his friends. He's an Arabian prince, and his religion doesn't let him have sex with infidels. That being me. Usually it's just dinner, but tonight he and his friends decided to go see Shecky Green at the Riv, and he wanted me to go. I could have come back here to you after dinner, I guess, but gee, I mean,a thousand dollars."
"Right, right." An Arabian prince. "Well, I'm glad you're an infidel. I've been considering infidelity myself. Just been waiting for the right opportunity."
"I didn't used to be an infidel, but there are these pills that can help." She nodded cheerfully. We were back on more comfortable ground.
"But you're not a hooker though, right? Because technically, if you don't have sex with people for money, I don't think that's a hooker. You're being sort of, I don't know what exactly? Maybe an escort?"
She thought about it. "Well, maybe," she said as a small frown line appeared just above and between her eyes. "But I think escorts tend to have sex for money, too, only I don't think you have to unless you're okay with it."
She sat on the side of the bed. "It could be that's what I am, an escort, I'm not sure. I came to Las Vegas looking for something and I haven't figured out what. I kinda sorta fell into this, and though I don't know where you apply for this exact position of dinner partner at a thousand bucks a night, if this keeps up, I'm likely to stick with it."
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He wends his way through the maze of temperamental singers and instrumentalists, conflicting musical styles, and greedy agents, managers and club owners, all the while trying to figure out his place in the world, and in 'the band.' His story is at times poignant, when he sadly tells about the breakup of his marriage, and frustrating, as he tells of the squabbles and back-biting of the group, and we cheer for him when finally wins his father's approval of his hard won progress.
As they reach dizzying heights of musical success, delivering high energy, pitch perfect performances to enthusiastic fans, Dunlap shares the problems and challenges of his new world. With brutal honesty, he depicts his life in the fast lane of the music world with women, booze and drugs, juxtaposed against his 'safe' life back in Indiana with his pretty wife, little blonde boys and scheming in-laws. He tells us his triumphs and foibles, as he navigates this exciting, but dangerous world, and the high cost of his decisions.
Dunlap's writing style is intimate and eminently readable. His themes are universal for everyone - coming of age, love, loss and the price of success. He does a masterful job of telling his story against the backdrop of a turbulent time in American history - the Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of a president, Civil rights, sexual freedom, and landing a man on the moon, to name a few.
This story will be fascinating for anyone interested in this time in America's history, the bumpy evolution of rock bands, the search for self, family struggles, or just for the enjoyment of a good read.
Larry Dunlap’s memoir, “Night People: A Memoir of Love and Music in the 60s with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves” does not disappoint. In fact, it’s one the best books of its kind I’ve ever read.
Who the hell are Stark Naked and the Car Thieves? Good question. I had no idea until I picked up the book and read it at a friend’s urging.
Stark Naked and the Car Thieves was a doo wop/rock/R&B outfit that came out of Indiana to the bright lights and big cities out west before the dawning of the Summer of Love. Dunlap, one of the group’s lead singers, vividly and poignantly recounts his band’s journey from a Midwestern cover band with rock and roll fantasies to playing big-name clubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas and all the attendant adventures along the way.
Dunlap’s book takes its time, which proves to be a good thing. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew Larry, Les, Mac, Dave and the assorted other Stark Naked alumni who floated in and out of the group. Dunlap’s powerful writing captures the highs and lows of a band on the move and inching its way to stardom.
He takes us into sweaty, smoky bars in the East Bay, where members of the band pop handfuls of pills to make it through grueling all-night performances; He takes us into the studio as Stark Naked’s famed four-part harmony gets buried in the mix by a big-time Hollywood producer; He shows us the physical and mental toll of constant touring, recording and plotting, including failed marriages, frayed relationships and passionate but short-lived liaisons with young beauties that end with bittersweet good-byes.
Yes, the book has loads of sex, drugs and rock and roll, just as you’d expect from any book about a 60s band. But Dunlap employs rock’s holy trinity only in the service of a good story. He’s not out to shock but rather to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, albeit tastefully. That’s not to say Dunlap holds much back. In fact, his love scenes positively sparkle. I think there might be a career for him in romance novels should he ever decide to change literary genres.
By the end of the book, the first of his two-part memoir, Dunlap believes the band is poised to break on through to the other side. He and his band mates feel, no, they know, that the future is theirs. Only it wasn’t.
I can’t wait to find out why.
I highly recommend “Night People: A Memoir of Love and Music in the 60s with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves” to anyone looking for a good read and a great story. I’d put it right next to Keith Richards’ “Life” on the shelf of rock memoirs for the ages.