Blow the Gates to Heaven
Welcome to RICHARD GILLIS and Blow The Gates To Heaven Toluca Lake, CA. is a tiny part of the San Fernando Valley, only a few miles from Hollywood Boulevard. It is to Musso & Frank Grill what the Moulin Rouge is to the Champs Elysse. They are almost within sight of each other, barely a quarter of an inch apart on their respective area maps. Most couples don't even dance this close anymore. An elevator ride to the top of the Sears Towers would take longer. Back in the late Sixties, Toluca Lake innocently welcomed a new restaurant named Jason's to it's tax roles. The bill of fare was mostly meat, but there was also a nifty salad bar, most likely designed for that element dead set on living forever. The space was adequate enough, with plenty of wood and brass. The idea here being that you were supposed to feel like you were in an Old World ship. Or was it a Swiss chalet? Anyway, what brought the people into Jason's was the music. Ah, the music! Which brings us to a gentleman by the name of Richard Gillis. To see him now, Richard Gillis still looks like he belongs in the backfield of a Big Ten football team, not in a some roadhouse, picking strings on a Martin guitar, singing original compositions. You wouldn't think he'd have any business near a recording studio, sound stage, or movie location. What next? Carnegie Hall? The London Symphony? A seat in the House of Commons? None of it made any sense. After all, the University of Denver assumed it had graduated a chemist. UCLA actually thought it had hired one. This wasn't in the game plan. Strangely enough, Gillis' daring transformation from scholar/athlete to musician/songwriter never really received the attention it deserved. The Japanese failed to name a camera after him, and the Italians passed up a chance to call a national strike in his honor. The heavens were even less complementary to Gillis during this courageous and unexpected metamorphosis. Meteor swarms and UFO sightings were down dramatically. Tornadoes were even sparing trailer parks, for God's sake. It wasn't long before Gillis would hit his stride, the lab coat and football jersey retired smothered in cobwebs somewhere. A guitar had replaced the bunson burner and round bottom beakers. With the aid of a small, worn piano at home, he was cooking up songs now, performing them at various clubs in the greater Los Angeles area. He also worked a few suspicious venues in Baja, but that's for another time. Gillis was doing well, and he had established a following. It was inevitable that he and Jason's would strike a bargain, albeit a fickle one. Gillis would headline there, off and on, for years. By this time, Jason's was thriving. It had become what seemed like a backdoor to the music business in Los Angeles. Juice Newton, for one, got her start there, and that was before she had a Silver Bullitt Band behind her. There were also those who passed through this turnstile that had already seen the top of the mountain, veterans like Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer of Buffalo Springfield. On a typical Sunday night at Jason's, you might find yourself sitting next to Ricky Nelson, or across from Stephen Bishop, listening to Bonnie Bramlet doing an impromptu number. And then there was the Hollywood coterie. Actors, directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, stuntmen and grips regularly used Jason's as their sandbox. Given the right evening, and there were a Panavision camera handy, you'd never have to leave the building to shoot a motion picture. So it didn't strike anyone as unusual that Richard Gillis and director Sam Peckinpah should cross paths. In fact, after seeing Gillis perform, Peckinpah signed the musician to a contract. The movie maker asked him to provide the music and vocals for an upcoming movie project, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, starring Jason Robards. After the dust had settled, the lion's share of critics considered Gillis' contributions the most noteworthy aspect of the film. He would later work for Peckinpah on the movie, Convoy, again in a musical capacity. Well, the glove certainly must have fit. Over the years, Gillis' imprint would show up on a number of film vehicles. He provided songs, music, lyrics and vocals for A Boy and His Dog, Never Look Back, and Free As The Wind. He was responsible for the entire scores of Experiment in Love, The Bees and Demonoid. There was also a bit of his thespian ability at work here. Gillis limped his way across screen as the crippled balladeer in 'A Boy and His Dog', was featured as the drifter in Convoy, and portrayed Officer Clancy in the John Landis production Schlock. It would be senseless to attach a label to Richard Gillis. The proper sobriquet doesn't exist. He's a round peg in a square world. Nouns and adjectives simply don't work here. Shakespeare would have better luck describing the color of wind. For our purposes today, suffice it to say Richard Gillis is an occasional genius, appropriately flawed, who just happens to be the best at what he does. One could argue that half of the cuts on this CD deal with the human spirit, while the remaining five tunes concern themselves with, well, the human spirit. It's not that Gillis is in a rut, this is just the stuff of his music. Gandhi had that peace thing going on. And Columbus had a travel bug. "Blow the Gates" sneaks up on you. It pundits a life spent following dreams, in a world without golden rules. Not recommended for prison exercise yards. "The Tourist" makes for an irresistible song fest. It should be Los Angeles' answer to 'New York, New York'. "The Magician" is a wonderful romp. You're going to think you're at a parade. But just who might "The Magician" be? "Border Town" is a sensitive ballad with a melodic hook. Be prepared to hum it for the next few years. "Outa Sight, Outa Mind" is a song with a smile, while "I Might Be The One You Ought To Know" is equally as fun, with an interesting take on pick-up lines. "Tomorrow Is The Song I Sing," from 'Cable Hogue,' is quite simply a beautiful musical experience. "Listen To My Mornin' Sing" is a gentile exploration of déjà vu, and "It's Here" says exactly what it means. Whether you're looking for the right relationship, or the right anything, often we miss what's right in front of us. This CD was produced by the remarkable Steve McCarthy. Leslie Page was the Executive Producer. Written By: Richard L. Breen, Jr.