Doing The Radiators’ Last Watusi with Dave Malone & Reggie Scanlan
In The Moment
As The Last Watusi moves from the unplugged first to the definitely plugged-in second and third (Disc 2 leads off with the well-loved Dave Malone-penned instrumental “Metric Man”) you can feel the emotions building within the four walls of Tipitina’s. Whatever each of the Rads’ personal feelings were about reaching the end of the road, they were definitely flying in formation as a band for those final shows – and the proof is The Last Watusi. Reggie and Dave provided some insight as to what they were thinking up on stage.
Dave Malone: As I said, with the energy from the crowds, there were times when it was almost too frenetic. I prefer melodic stuff, but the excitement of the moment became the gist of the three nights.
There was no calculated anything at that point, man – it was just a matter of keeping my emotions in check. I was on the verge of bursting into tears every five minutes.
Imagine this: I’m at the end of this thing I’ve done with four of my brothers for 33-1/3 years, okay? And I’m playing a song – knowing that we’re not repeating any songs over the course of three nights – and my Virgo brain keeps saying: “I will never play this song again with these guys.”
But it was a very emotional three nights man, I’ll tell you that. I had a hard time keeping my shit together. I had trouble singing; you’ll hear my voice break on a number of the songs. It was hard.
Reggie Scanlan: You know, I really wasn’t thinking too much during the shows themselves – I was just making sure I didn’t fuck up. (laughs)
Out of the 35 songs in total captured on The Last Watusi’s three discs, there are too many high points to even begin to select some to discuss. Dave Malone refers to the recording as “warts and all” – the truth is, it’s an amazing document of some pretty intense emotions fueling some very intense musicianship. “Like Dreamers Do” is the final cut on The Last Watusi – and it’s a perfect ending. Fish Heads who were there and those that have studied the final night’s setlist will tell you that “Dreamers” was not the last song of the evening – the band returned for an encore – but both Malone and Scanlan agreed that it was the ideal song to conclude the historic album with … eight minutes of classic Rads.
“Like Dreamers Do” begins with Ed Volker’s signature piano riff. On The Last Watusi, Volker’s intro is extended; Dave Malone admits that it was hard getting those first words out: “I’ve been waitin’ for ya …” wasn’t easy. But after the first few lines, Camile Baudoin does a crazy little zipper-rip up the neck of his Les Paul, Reggie Scanlan begins a big-bottomed Latin-flavored rumble, and Frank Bua’s drums come rolling and tumbling from somewhere deep in a rainforest jungle. Listening to the version on The Last Watusi, you get the impression that Dave Malone’s bandmates are gathering him up in their music and I asked him about that.
Dave Malone: Oh, yeah – that’s exactly what happens, cause I felt pretty naked up there when it started. It was tough, man …
Reggie Scanlan: “Dreamers” is a good example of the challenges I liked about playing with Ed – and the freedom he gave us to contribute to his songs. When Ed brought “Dreamers” in, I was listening to a lot of Latin music at the time and I thought, “This would be a cool direction to go with this song.” It’s really a bastardized version of a Latin idea I had. (laughs) You can go back on a lot of Ed’s songs and tell what I was listening to at the time – maybe a lot of reggae; blues; whatever – and it was great way to try ideas.
That’s one of the things that made the Rads’ sound, I think: I might take a Latin approach to a song, but Frank might not – so it’s not going to sound Latin … it’s going to sound different. It’s going to sound like The Radiators. And “Dreamers” was the ideal song to end the album with.
Dave Malone: By the time we’re into the solo section at the end, I’m thinking, “Oh, shit … this is the last time.” I can’t even talk about it now, man.
Reggie Scanlan: Dave and Camile would spend a lot of time working these pieces out. They always had a feel for what each other was going to do, which they developed over the years.
Dave Malone: On the album, you hear Camile letting loose at the very end and we’re building up the rhythms behind him. He and I kind of have a telekinesis – sometimes it’s a very slight nod or something and I’m the one looking for it and then I signal the other guys.
Camile said what he had to say on his guitar and then he nodded to me – and then I got everyone else’s attention and called the ending.
“Dreamers” was not the last song we ever played together, but it was decided to be the last song on this disc. I can’t even remember what we played as the actual last song
I was a wreck by then, man.