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The Power (Last prototype band) July - September 1976

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Dave Harbison - bass, vocals
Vic Pizzaro - drums

Dave had played in my last high school band, and was available. I needed some sort of lineup to try out my new punk rock ethos, so I took an offer to join a band in Santa Monica, brought Dave in, and kicked everybody else out of the band except the drummer.
This is the band that played the Flame Pit in Torrance.

The Last #1 October - December 1976

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Dave Harbison - bass, vocals
Mike Clarke - drums
Mike Nolte - vocals

Sean Doherty - keyboards (1st practice only)
Vitus Mataré - occasional flute
David Nolte - occasional percussion

Sean Doherty was a friend of a friend who showed up at our first practice. That was enough for him. Vitus had no desire to join a new band, but wanted to hone his recording chops, and so generously offered to record all our stuff. I knew I would get him in the band eventually, and got him to play occasional flute during some of these recordings.
Brother David would always hang out (we did all our practices & recordings in my Mom's garage at 517 2nd Street in Hermosa), and would frequently join in on tambourine, or, for "I Wanna Be Your Dog", the obligatory jingle bells.

After old drummer Vic had stopped answering his door we realized The Power was a done deal. Bassist Dave Harbison started jamming with other bands, where he found Mike (no relation to the Byrds guy) Clarke.

This lineup played live once, at the sixteenth birthday party for Debbie Keaton (Buster Keaton's granddaughter) in November '76. We also recorded our first demo tape at this time.

The Last #2 January - May 1977

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Dave Harbison - bass, vocals
Mike Clarke - drums
Mike Nolte - vocals
Danny Winter - guitar

Vitus Mataré - still occasional flutes

Vitus' status remained the same, recording us and occasionally deigning to play flute, and still having no desire to be in a band. He thought punk rock was a whim I was going through, but was willing to humor me. We got thrown out of Mom's garage at the end of '76 by the Hermosa Beach P.D., and now did all our playing and recording up at Vitus' pad in Brentwood.

Danny Winter was an old friend of brother Mike's, had seen The Power at a party, hated it, but was now getting into this new Punk Rock thing. He also was the only one we knew with a car, and thus made it possible for us to continue.

This lineup recorded "Go Away Girl", which we were gonna put out independently as our first single. Unfortunately, Dave Harbison and Mike Clarke quit at the same time, as I had suggested we drink slightly less and practice a bit more diligently.

As it turned out, drinking heavily was the one thing that had made these sessions endurable for them.

 

The Last #3 June 1977 - January 1978

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Dave Harbison - bass, vocals
Jack Reynolds - drums
Mike Nolte - vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards

So Dave Harbison goes and jams with yet more bands, and finds yet another drummer: Jack Reynolds, he who Bill Stevenson refers to as "Ringo" as well as citing as one of his three greatest inspirations.

You'll notice brother David doesn't appear in the 1977 lineups. This is because he was busy creating the Descendents with Frank Navetta.

You'll also notice Vitus finally appears as an official band member. I finally persuaded him to join, partly by finding a rehearsal spot (in the Valley) that had a piano.

This lineup cut the first single ("She Don't Know Why I'm Here" / "Bombing of London"), and played the Masque January 7, 1978.

At the end of that set, Dave Harbison's girlfriend made him quit.

 

The Last #4 January 1978 - November 1979

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Mike Nolte - vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards, flute
David Nolte - bass, vocals
Jack Reynolds - drums

So brother David immediately joined, and played with us a week & a half later at the Whiskey.

This is the definitive lineup - the lineup that recorded the next 2 singles as well as the now-classic-for-some-ungodly-reason "L. A. Explosion" album. We played anywhere we could throughout '78, recorded the album during the first half of '79, and at about the time I moved into the Church mysteriously went from everybody's opening band to one of the top draws in L.A. in about a month. It was, let us say, a fun time.

In November Jack quit, and I, idiot that I was, let him.

The rest is immaterial, I think The Last as a real band ceased to exist at that time. However I will give you the rest just for completeness' sake.

The Last #5 December 1979 - November 1980

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Mike Nolte - vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards, flute
David Nolte - bass, vocals
John Frank - drums

 

Now, I have nothing against John Frank. He was a nice guy, and a friend, as well as far more proficient on drums than Jack. What I didn't realize at the time was that Jack's limitations were his (and our) greatest asset. With Jack we were at once a punk band you could hum along to, and/or a pop band you could slam to.
With John, we became just another oh-so-earnest pop band trying to be overwhelming in our intensity, as if by sweating harder we could make up for the lack of that strange, surreal, psychedelic chaotic anarchic noise that so effortlessly defines Punk.

It was the beginning of the end, and by fall '80 brother Mike had become so disillusioned that he'd stopped attending practices. Needing a scapegoat, as our following was dwindling, we fired him. As band leader, I got to do it. We were roommates at the time.

As I've since told Mike many times, firing him was a good decision. The only mistake I made was in not joining him in leaving.

 

 

The Last #6 November 1980 - May 1981

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards
David Nolte - bass, vocals
John Frank - drums

Steve Wynn - guitar, vocals - 1 practice only - not hired, so formed Dream Syndicate
Dave Roback - guitar, vocals - 1 practice only - not hired, so formed Rain Parade
Susanna Hoffs - guitar, vocals - not allowed to audition 'cause she was a girl, formed Bangles instead

Did a show or two after Mike, auditioned the above & others trying to find a Mike clone who could play guitar as well. Naturally, no one sounded like Mike, until . . .

The Last #7 May 1981 - July 1981

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards
Tony Rugulo - guitar, vocals
David Nolte - bass, vocals
John Frank - drums

Tony's dad was the legendary Pete Rugulo, arranger for Stan Kenton, composer of many cult TV themes, and producer of all those "Brass in Stereo" etc. albums in the late '50's.

He could sing with me & play, so we got him in, did some shows, then he quit to form the Question.

The Last #8 July 1981 - September 1981

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards
Tom Underhill - guitar, vocals
David Nolte - bass, vocals
John Frank - drums

Tom played in another South Bay band called the Earwigs, and we effectively broke that band up by stealing him for ours. Things didn't quite come together, and two months later he was gone.

The Last #9 October 1981 - November 1981

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards
David Nolte - bass, vocals
John Frank - drums

Back as a four piece - I'm not sure we did anything constructive during this period. Finally brother David quit to join Tom Underhill in a new band called the Clockwatchers.

The Last #10 November 1981 - July 1982

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards
John Rosewall - bass, vocals
John Frank - drums

Rosewall had tried out as a guitarist for us back in early '81, and Vitus had liked him and he was available so we got him now.

The Last #10 July 1982 - April 1983

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards
Steve Andrews - guitar
John Rosewall - bass, vocals
John Frank - drums

Steve Andrews worked with me and got me drunk one evening and persuaded me to let him in the band. Poor guy. He got to participate as things went from bad to worse.

The Last #11 May 1983 - April 1984

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards
John Rosewall - bass, vocals
Hunter Crowley - drums

John Frank and I had increasingly been at odds with each other - he thought I was writing increasingly insipid songs, and I blamed him for creating a musical atmosphere which gave me no other choice than to write insipid songs. Anyway we fired him, did one acoustic show at the Music Machine, and there I met Hunter. Officially the band ceased to exist at the end of April '83, and we left Steve Andrews out of the loop when we reformed with Hunter. It was messy enough.

The Last #12 May 1984 - May 1985

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Vitus Mataré - keyboards
Mike Nolte - vocals
David Nolte - bass, vocals
Hunter Crowley - drums

Chuck Dukowski - bass (1 session only)
Dennis Duck - drums (a few sessions late Spring '85)

It gets convoluted. Rosewall had to leave, so Chuck tried out - it didn't work. He was free forming and we were so staid by that point that it was hard to remember we all used to jam effortlessly back in the glory days. After that, I got brothers Mike & Dave to rejoin, a last ditch effort to save this increasingly useless aggregation. Hunter left in the late Spring, possibly to join the Leaving Trains, and we did a bit of recording with Dennis Duck (Human Hands, etc). Vitus and I were barely talking to each other anymore - we'd gone in completely different directions, the band was crumbling, it was a classic divorce scenario.

 

The Last #13 June - November 1985

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Mike Nolte - vocals
David Nolte - bass, vocals
Hunter Crowley - occasional drums

I put together a package of new material, having finally decided it was time to reclaim creative control. This, among other things, caused Vitus to simply disappear. We did a few acoustic shows as the Nolte Brothers, and a few electric things with Hunter, but Hunter didn't dig it without Vitus, and in November both brothers quit. End of story.

The Last #14 March 1987 - August 1994

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Mike Nolte - keyboards, vocals
Luke Lohnes - guitar, vocals
Larry Manke - bass, vocals
Dave Nazworthy - drums

David Nolte - studio guitar & vocals
Vitus Mataré - studio flute
Bill Stevenson - studio vocals
Kristi Callan - studio vocals

So I spent the first part of '86 planning a solo album. Brett was getting his Epitaph label rolling and was gonna record it. At this time Bill Stevenson called me and said "NO! It would be a mistake!" I thought about it, decided he was right, so no album.
Spent the rest of the year contemplating many things & coming up with nothing. Mostly, I have to admit, it was somewhat enjoyable not being stuck in a band for the first time in many years.

Went to a Mardi Gras party in early '87 at a house I'd spent much of my high school years at. It was a look at old faces, and an awakening. I was coming back not as a musician, but as just another idiot. Didn't like it.

That night, started writing again & called brother Mike, informing him we were starting a new band. He insisted it should be called The Last.

This actually seemed fitting. We'd fired Mike, and he alone would be involved in this new project. Poetic justice.

Luke had worked with brother David, who hooked him up with us, and Larry was a friend of Luke's. Dave Nazworthy was already getting his Chemical People thing going but was a fan and had a practice space. A former girlfriend (Gwynne Kahn) steered me to him.

Got Bill to sing on the first SST album, brought in David and Vitus on the next, and David and wife Kristi sang on the third and final SST album. (Actually, I took a year off from electric stuff in 1990, and Mike & I teamed up with David & Kristi for a couple of shows.)

We did three SST albums, played with good bands, from Nip Drivers to Soundgarden, and actually toured a couple of times. I went to college during this time, as well.

By mid '94 I'd sort of woken up, a process that had begun in '87 but not fully realized itself till now. I informed the band I intended to actually play live and behave like a real band. Larry, unfortunately, worked nights. Therefore . . .

The Last #15 August 1994 - December 1995

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Mike Nolte - keyboards, vocals
Luke Lohnes - guitar, vocals
Ed Urlik - bass
Dave Nazworthy - drums

With Ed replacing Larry we now had the Chemical People rhythm section. It was the closest we'd gotten to hardcore since late '79, and damned refreshing. We played with everyone from the Circle Jerks to Skull Control to the Wondermints, and by late '95 I was about to start booking our own Roxy shows.

Then some shit went down which led to Nazworthy & then Ed leaving, and sent me spiraling into a little tomb of my own making from which I am writing these words. I have yet to fully recover, but am damn close, especially as all you motherfuckers seem to keep pestering me, reminding me that I used to be a musician.

Bastards.

The Last #16 January 1996 (one show only)

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Mike Nolte - keyboards, vocals
Luke Lohnes - guitar, vocals
Ed Urlik - bass
Robbie Rist - drums

Nazworthy split, but Ed tried to stay, and we got the incomparably great Robbie Rist on drums. Best drummer since Jack, he was in about 15 bands but was game to help out. It sounded real good. Played the Roxy for Poptopia in January '96. Then Ed realized he was stuck with Nazworthy, and bailed.

 

The Last #17 February 1996 - ?

Joe Nolte - guitar, vocals
Mike Nolte - keyboards, vocals
Luke Lohnes - guitar, vocals
Missy Buettner - bass
Robbie Rist - drums

David Nolte - producer, various studio instruments
Hunter Crowley - drums, 1 party

Missy replaced Ed, becoming the first chick to be allowed into our hallowed ranks. This band played sporadically at best throughout the late '90's, and never officially broke up. Robbie, however, has been busy doing his own stuff, and Missy is apparently busy with school these days, while I stay hidden from the world.

It was quite interesting when, in '96 I believe, Hunter showed up at a party and sat in with Missy and I. It was a vibe not dissimilar to that impromptu thing Jack, David & I had done in Pedro back in January '79. At the very least, it was an interesting mix of past and present.

Tomorrow I go to record with brother David. We are doing a new album, which may or may not have that "Last" name attached to it.

My three year old niece, Anastasia (Dave's kid), has just added keyboards to it. Be afraid.

So The Last may officially be history, or not.

There are some cats in Wisconsin who once called themselves the "L.A. Explosions" (in homage to our first album) and, as Trolley, have just cut a song called "What's the matter, Joe?"

They have promised to become an ersatz Last if I get out there to sing.

Who the hell knows . . .

Vitus, after doing his Trotsky Icepick thing, has been an architect these past ten years. We're planning to get together soon, though he claims to not drink to the extent he used to.

I wonder what Jack Reynolds is doing . . .