David and David, a Couple of Musical Moralists Who Look at L.A. from Down the Up Staircase
It’s a Tuesday evening at L.A.’s Roxy nightclub, and the aura of hipness is so thick you could style it with mousse. A quick scan of the room (capacity: 500) reveals Dennis Hopper, assorted Bangles and Sean Penn. They have come to see a couple of guys called David and David, who not so long ago were making demo tapes in their living rooms. Now the pair has a hit single, Welcome to the Boomtown, a successful LP, Boomtown, and reviews that only a mother or a genuinely enthusiastic critic could write. “One of the year’s most impressive debuts,” wrote Rolling Stone. The Los Angeles Times, after the Roxy show, declared that David and David had a firm hold on an L.A. musical tradition “passed through the hands of the Doors, the Eagles and X.”
Pleasant though such encomiums may be, they still seem a little unreal to David Ricketts, 33, and David Baerwald, 26, who haven’t yet gotten used to the most basic trappings of rock success. They just finished their first U.S. tour (“It’s a surreal trip out there,” says Baerwald), are stunned when they hear anyone singing Welcome to the Boomtown (“It’s very cool to hear people singing a song that we doubted would ever get on the radio”) and are hard put to describe their songs. “Everybody has their own idea of what we do and rarely is it like my idea of what we do,” says Ricketts of their music, a sort of hard-edged electro-folk whose lyrics often explore the seamy side of L.A. life. “We cross so many musical lines that it’s hard to fit it all into one sentence.” He adds, with mock sincerity, “I’d just call us an explosive musical collaboration.”
The collaboration started when the Philadelphia-born Ricketts, who moved to L.A. seven years ago, and Baerwald, a native Southern Californian, met at a club 2½ years ago. “We just vibed each other out of the room,” says Baerwald. Since then, he says, they’ve been “writing songs, hanging out and getting suntans playing the guitar.” To pay the bills, Ricketts worked as a painter, Baerwald as a messenger and doughnut-shop clerk. They were signed to a record contract in the fall of 1985 after a friend, whose sister was temping at A&M Records, persuaded a staffer to listen to their demo tape.
David and David aren’t just writing L.A. music, they’re living the L.A. New Age fairy tale. Quite happily. Says Baerwald: “The music business is a temple of opportunity that should never be disregarded.”