Berlin’s Bands: Part II of V

After yesterday’s dramatic cliffhanger, we find out:

After the dissolution of Orchestra Luna, a new band was formed in 1976: Orchestra Luna II. It consisted of three original members: Berlin, Gallagher and Barrett. To the three were added five more: Steven Paul Perry on the guitar, Bob Brandon on piano, Chet Cahill on bass and Karla DeVito on vocals. The band chose Ace Holleran, as the fifth, to be their drummer, but only after rejecting a future star. “We actually auditioned the guy that went on to be the drummer for Saturday Night Live, that’s how stupid we were,” Berlin says, cracking up.

Barry Keating also stayed on as Orchestra Luna II’s choreographer. Billie Best — a close friend of DeVito’s — signed on as manager (She would eventually marry Cahill). The band moved into a 10-bedroom home in Newton Highlands. Though they still practiced in their basement, Rick says their rehearsals were tighter and more focused than Orchestra Luna’s. They were still a “happy band in white overalls,” Rick says, but they had lost some of the naiveté of the first band. DeVito remembers those days as being happy and carefree. Living together and playing gigs, DeVito says, “was like being in college.”

Like the original Orchestra Luna, Orchestra Luna II got to play CBGB’s. Their act inspired a performance in an Andy Warhol movie. Berlin described how when the band played their epic song, “Helen of Troy,” Gallagher would become Helen onstage, a woman who threw her baby out a window. Susan Blond — a publicist for Epic Records — was in a Warhol movie sometime after, and threw her baby out the window in a similar fashion. “No doubt, we were certainly the weirdest people playing CBGB’s,” says DeVito, adding, “We did some wild stuff.”

(Rick and Karla at CBGB’s)

In a fickle industry, Orchestra Luna II managed to score an offer in 1976 from Seymour Stein of Sire Records. He promised the band $100,000 (albeit no tour support). But, according to Berlin, the band turned it down because they didn’t think it was enough to support a tour with eight band members. “It was naïve really, because [Seymour] really got us,” says Berlin.

After the Seymour deal fizzled, Karen Berg of Elektra Records took interest in Orchestra Luna II, paying for them to record a demo at Long View Farm Studios – a famous rehearsal space that at one time played host to bands such as The Rolling Stones. Berg ultimately passed. She also gave Rick a piece of advice: “Rick, I think you’re a really fine songwriter, you need to be writing musicals, this is the wrong idiom for you.” He didn’t agree.

The band played on into 1977. They performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. as the band in Meatloaf producer Jim Steinman’s production of “Neverland.” Soon after the Kennedy gig, Orchestra Luna II played a label showcase at Alice Tully Hall in the Lincoln Center in New York. It was here, DeVito believes, where Orchestra Luna II was at the acme of performing. If they were ever going to get a record deal, it would have been at this showcase. “We were brilliant,” says Devito.

They did not get a deal.

With no bites from record companies, the band “had reached its expiration date,” says Berlin. Perry and DeVito were asked to join Meatloaf. “I threatened to kill myself if [Perry, Rick’s then-boyfriend] ditched the band,” says Rick. Perry stayed. DeVito left.

DeVito explained her decision to leave as both a feeling that the band needed to change, and that she needed to move on. “As much as I would’ve liked to stay in the band, I felt like the band needed to be about Rick and [Perry]. In a way, Orchestra Luna II was like a transition band for Rick,” said DeVito.

With DeVito gone, will Orchestra Luna II continue? Come back tomorrow to find out.

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About Melissa Tabeek

Melissa Tabeek is a freelance journalist based in Beirut, Lebanon. She reports on politics, culture and social issues in the Middle East. On her website, you can also find her blog, where she writes about her work and daily life in Lebanon. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Journalism from Northeastern University.
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