Yeah, sometimes, in between pseudonyms, I just make music as Joel
I’m figuring this shot at around 18 years old, sitting in my folks bedroom, playing Dad’s Martin D-18, a guitar that’s hangs on my bedroom wall today.
I guess I always figured celebrities should have stage names, and surely Joel Abramson didn’t sound much like a rock star 🙂 The Barlow Sample Band, Baby! took its name from a character I’d created, a mini-alter ego, and even though it was not our intention for the band to be named after me, a lot of folks had already taken to calling me Barlow, so when we formed the band, Barlow kind of stuck. It was actually a little awkward, being largely Hank’s band, and we even tried calling him Sample for awhile, but he was quite clearly Hank. Anyway, from around 1977 to early 1980, my stage name was J.A. Barlow.
Leaving the BSBB, and NYC, in early 1980, I decided I was done trying to make it in music. It was no way to make a living and I was already 23, which I thought was really old to be breaking in to the scene. I mean, George Harrison was 20 when the Beatles took off, Phil Spector had his first #1 at 18, Rick Derringer recorded Hang On Sloopy at 17… Heck, by 17, Richie Valens was already dead. I was obviously over the hill. Of course, that didn’t make me stop loving to play and sing and write and, with the great new technology, to record music.
Around 1983, those home recordings helped lead to the formation of IC3 (that’s a whole other great story), I was sitting at my kitchen table in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, “entertaining” the guy who had just successfully signed me up for bottled water delivery service. Filling out my paperwork, he saw a Guitar Center flyer on the table and copied the name Roman,Cliff from the mailing label (didn’t know anyone by that name in my building; it was in the lobby, addressed to me, aka “or occupant”). Rather than correct him, I thought that Roman Cliff was a pretty cool name, so I adopted it and used it for the next three years, first as Roman Cliff, then Roman “JA” Cliff and finally, when I got really sick of people calling me Roman (or Romaine!), I just went for Cliff. Ironically, I was clueless to two things at the time. Well, two things relating to the name, anyway. There were plenty of other things I was clueless about, but they are far too many too list here, and, to this day, that list continues to grow. Oh, where was I? Oh yes, the two things. First, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that there was a French literary phrase, “roman a clef”, which means, (stolen from Wikipedia) “…novel with a key, is a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction. The fictitious names in the novel represent real people, and the “key” is the relationship between the nonfiction and the fiction”. Awesome! Literary folks folks must have thought I was very intellectual to come up with such a clever stage name. The other thing I did not discover for twenty years. I was visiting the Experience Music Project in Seattle, and there was an exhibit about the history of punk music, In it was section about the “seminal LA punk group” the Weirdos, featuring a gent by the name of Cliff Roman. No way! (fway). I had never heard of the Weirdos, and apparently, neither had anyone familiar with IC3 and Roman Cliff.
IC3 split up in 1986 and it would be 15 years before I took on the alter ego Bob White, later bobwhite (again, a whole other story).
So, from 1980-1983, and from 1986 – 2001, I was just “stuck” being Joel. This section of the site, is dedicated to those years, when I made “Joel music”.
Killed By A Camera ©1997