Chip Damiani wasn’t a household name and neither was his band, The Remains. But if you are a Boston rock ‘n’ roller you owe Damiani and his band a huge debt. Before garage rock was garage, before punk, before indie, before all the musical genres that have defined this city to the outside world, there were The Remains. For a brief but glorious run during the mid-60s The Remains made some of the most vicious, infectious, and accomplished rock ‘n’ roll on the planet, leaving a legacy that endures well into the 21st century. Their rise was fast–from the Rathskeller to Ed Sullivan and the opening slot on the Beatles farewell tour in a few short years–and their fall was even faster. But they are an integral part of this city’s musical development.
What makes The Remains stand out from the rest of their LBJ-era peers is in large part Damiani’s drumming. Powerful and emotive, taught and precise, Damiani’s presence behind the kit was a perfect counterpoint to the pop genius of Remains’ songwriter and leader Barry Tashian, a punch in the gut to accompany Tashian’s smooth caress.
Damiani’s energy and sense of groove elevated the band beyond the frat-rock party crashers, beyond the hoards of kids hacking their way through the hits of the day. And while Damiani never really pursued professional percussion after the Remains break-up in 1966–his bandmates would go on to careers backing up folks like Gram Parsons, Emmy Lou Harris and Asleep at the Wheel–Damiani’s drum skills never faltered.
For those of us lucky enough to catch a rare Remains reunion show, we were able to witness a drummer whose youthful style never matured and band that sounded like they had never aged a day. Even in his 60s, Damiani played with a fervor that could only be described as pure, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll. Heck, we’d put retirement-age Remains against any of the whippersnappers bashing it out in Allston these days and the Remains would still come out on top. So on the occasion of Damiani’s passing this past Saturday (reportedly from stroke-related complications, though confirmation was unavailable at press time) we’re strapping on our Beatle boots, cranking up the Remains classic “Why Do I Cry” and remembering a man that put the beat in the Bosstown Sound.
UPDATE: After we went to press, we received a statement from Remains frontman Barry Tashian on his longtime friend and bandmate Chip Damiani.
“We skate along in life assuming something like this will never happen. When it does we’re left in a state of shock that’s very hard to reconcile. It’s so unexpected and devastating.Chip was our much-loved band mate of fifty years! We were just planning our 50th Anniversary tour.I’m sure I speak for Bill and Vern when I say that we’re very grateful for the time we shared with Chip and the fun we had together.”