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Before The Balancing Act

Jeff Davis (guitars, vocals) started his musical career performing with friend Ken Straus as The Art Students. The Art Students were a Simon and Garfunkel-type duo that played Jeff's songs in coffee houses around LA. The duo expanded when Jeff met Steve Wagner (bass, vocals, and guitars) in 1983, and then later Willie Aron (guitars, keyboards, melodica, percussion). Jeff borrowed a cocktail drum kit from a friend, and Ken was moved from Garfunkel to drums.

In 1984, the final lineup was established when Ken left the band and Robert Blackmon (drums, vocals) answered one of the "No Experience Preferred" flyers that the band plastered around LA. The boys promptly adopted Robert, and Robert promptly adopted the cocktail kit. The Balancing Act was born.

About The Balancing Act

Their music was a charming blend of catchy pop melodies, rich harmonies and gallop-walk-gallop-walk rhythms. They used acoustic guitars, a melodica, wood blocks, and a stand up drum kit with miniature hissing cymbals; a refreshing contrast to the hair-bands with double-kick drums, synths and Flying V guitars that were popular at the time.

The band released its mostly acoustic debut EP, New Campfire Songs, produced by Peter Case, in 1986. Most of the songs were penned by Davis with the exception of "A T.V. Guide In The Olduvai Gorge" and "The Neighborhood Phrenologist" which were Wagner's offerings. Captain Beefheart's "Zig Zag Wanderer" was the first of many straight covers of wacky songs recorded by the band.

In late September of 1987, the band released Three Squares and a Roof (Vic Abascal), which contains more songwriting from the other members and consequently a more diverse sound. Three Squares and a Roof (all we need are three square meals and a roof over our head...) was later re-released on CD with the songs from New Campfire Songs tacked on at the end.

The last album, the appropriately titled Curtains, was released in October of 1988. Like Three Squares, Curtains contained even more musical and lyrical contributions from all of the members. The album was produced by Gang of Four's Andy Gill and had a tighter, more electronic feel than the earlier recordings. This was due in part to Gill arranging the songs with a sequencer before recording. Gill was on the band's "Producer Wish List" which included XTC's Andy Partridge, Brian Eno and Elvis Costello. Partridge's comments about the band from The Little Express in the spring of 1988: "I keep getting production offers, people keep sending me records and cassettes and it amounts to 3 or 4 a week, but I've had some really interesting ones in the last few weeks. A really excellent American band called "Balancing Act" want me to produce them but unfortunately the timing conflicts with our own album. But I think you're going to be hearing more from "Balancing Act", two acoustic guitars, bass and drums, cause they have some good songs." Costello also had timing issues.

The band split up in 1989 after an exhausting tour in support of the album. The Balancing Act's unique recordings are now out of print and very hard to find, especially on CD. EMI currently owns the rights to the recorded material since they absorbed the IRS catalog. Until there is a "Best Of" package, expect to pay collectibles prices for The Balancing Act recordings.

After The Balancing Act

Jeff Davis and Willie Aron, who are both still musically active today, formed Almighty Hi-Fi which lasted from '90-'92. After Almighty Hi-Fi Davis did a lot of writing and soon formed a band called Radio Caroline with Morgan Neville. This band eventually evolved into Niagara in 1996. Davis fronts Niagara and is in the process of developing material for their 3rd album.

Steve Wagner fronted Squint and played bass in Walker Stories after The Balancing Act. He finally ended up in Bedshredders with Doug Freeman. Doug got Steve interested in home brewing and he eventually opened up the Stone Brewing Company with Greg Koch.

After Almighty Hi-Fi Willie Aron recorded and toured with Victoria Williams, Syd Straw and Michael Penn. In addition to co-writing and performing with many notable artists, Willie has also written music for soundtracks and websites. In 1994 he co-founded Spanish Kitchen.

Robert Blackmon performed with Box the Walls from '90-'92. One interesting footnote in Box the Walls history was a show that Robert coordinated that involved all of the post TBA groups including Gary Calamar's (TBA manager often referred to as the 5th member) band The Imaginary Friends. In 1993 Robert got out of the music biz and embarked on a successful art career making "enlarged photograms". His work is in galleries and collections around the US and in Europe. He also works as a graphic designer.

Album and Band Reviews

LA Weekly
Trouser Press
AMG All Music Guide

Discography

1985 - Radio Tokyo Tapes, Vol. III/PVC - Various LA Artists
Radio Tokyo Tapes Cover

Wild Side of Life - The Knitters
Red Umbrella - The Balancing Act
Love Is Not Gold - Kerry McBride
Where You Goin'? - Revolver
Damn, I wish I Was A Man - Cindy Lee Berry Hill
All Those Things - Divine Horsemen
Suzanne - Alisa
Ancient Art - Pop Art
Never Go Back - Sandy Bull
Al Jolson's Bedroom - Henry Rollins
He Is Here - The Beefsisters
Blank Verses - Carmaig de Forest
No Holds Barred - Linda Albertano
Time - The Minutemen
The Strange Death of Mary Hooley - Phranc
Jillionair's Blues - Drew Steele

1986 - New Campfire Songs/Primative Man - Balancing Act
Click for Lyrics

New Campfire Songs Cover

Wonderful World Tonight
Who Got The Pearls
A T.V. Guide In The Olduvai Gorge
A Girl, Her Sister and a Train
The Neighborhood Phrenologist
Zig Zag Wanderer

1987 - Just in Time for Christmas/IRS - Various Artists
Just In Time For Christmas Cover

All I Want for Christmas - Timbuk 3
Every Day WIll Be Like A Holiday - Reckless Sleeper
Christmas Time and You - Tirez Tirez
Home for the Holidays - The dB's
Shouldn't Have Given Him a Gun For Chrismas - Wall of Voodoo
Green Pants and Romance - The Balancing Act
Hark - Torch Song

1987 - Three Square and a Roof/IRS - Balancing Act
Click for Lyrics

3 Cards
This is Where It All Begins
Kicking Clouds Across the Sky
Whiskered Wife
Adventure
The Ballad of Art Snyder
Red Umbrella
The Governor of Pedro
Waiting for the Mail
Searching For This Thing
We're Not Lost

1988 - Three Squares and a Roof - New Campfire Songs/IRS - Balancing Act
Three Squares and a Roof - New Campfire Songs Cover

3 Cards
This is Where It All Begins
Kicking Clouds Across the Sky
Whiskered Wife
Adventure
The Ballad of Art Snyder
Red Umbrella
The Governor of Pedro
Waiting for the Mail
Searching For This Thing
We're Not Lost
Wonderful World Tonight
Who Got The Pearls
A T.V. Guide In The Olduvai Gorge
A Girl, Her Sister and a Train
The Neighborhood Phrenologist
Zig Zag Wanderer

1988 - Curtains/IRS - Balancing Act
Click for Lyrics
Curtains Cover

Generator
She Doesn't Work Here
Lost in The Mail
Red Pants And Romance
Can You Get To That
Understanding Furniture
Sleep On The Trusty Floor
Fishing In Your Eye
Between Two Oceans
Learning How To Cheat

1988 - I'm With The Band (Confessions of an IRS Groupie)- IRS Compilation
I'm With the Band Cover

Ranking Roger - So Excited
Reckless Sleepers - If We Never Meet Again
Hunters & Collectors - Back On The Breadline
Let's Active - Every Dog Has His Day
Two Men A Drum Machine And A Trumpet - Make It Funky
One Nation - My Commitment
Karel Fialka - Hey Matthew
Timbuk 3 - Welcome To The Human Race
The Balancing Act - Can You Get To That?
Seduce - Watchin'
Nuclear Assault - Brainwashed
Chrome Molly - Thanks For The Angst
Shok Paris - Away Too Long
Jimmy Z - I Know
Fareed Haque - Paco's Blues
Steve Coleman - First Sunrise 

1998 - Niagara 01/Bliss - Niagara
Click for Lyrics
Niagara 01 Cover

Spanish Motorcycle  
Alcatraz
Kill A Popstar! 
Hurricane Sabrina
Aphrodite 
Tragic Gypsy Ballad 04
Pussycat
Long Slide Down
Non-Entity
Sun Music 
Sugarbowl 

2000 - Niagara 02/Bliss - Niagara
Click for Lyrics
Niagara 02 Cover

Lost In The French Quarter
On This Side Of The River
Lady Macbeth
I Touch Myself
Cigarettesandrockandroll
Missing The Train
Reptile
Apple02
Poor Little Vampire
Since I Let The Spirit In
Insomniac

In progress. Untitled/(co-produced by Doug Fieger and Richard Bosworth) - Spanish Kitchen

Videos


Who Got the Pearls?
This Is Where It All Begins
3 Cards
Can You Get to That?
A TV Guide In The Olduvai Gorge - MTV's "The Cutting Edge"
A Girl, Her Sister, And A Train - MTV's "The Cutting Edge"
Generator (live) - Dick Clark's "Camp Midnight"


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