Rick Livingstone on How He Came to Front Rock’s Shortest-Lived Supergroup

A few weeks ago, we published a Flashback post on the Best, a forgotten classic-rock supergroup that featured John Entwistle, Joe Walsh, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and Keith Emerson. They toured Japan and Hawaii in 1990 with a set that mixed hit songs from all their careers, but the whole thing ended after just five shows.

Fronting the band was Canadian singer Rick Livingstone, who we unfairly called the “weak link.” Upon further viewing of their September 26th, 1990, set at Yokohama Arena, it’s clear that he did as well as anyone could possibly expect from a complete unknown standing alongside rock icons. We phoned up Livingstone at his home in Florida to hear the entire saga of the Best, and he shared with us some never-before-seen photos from the tour. These are his words.

In 1985, my band Agent got picked by one of the managers that worked for Bryan Adams and Loverboy. He said, “Look, I think you guys can do some stuff.” He got us a worldwide recording deal. We had an album and it did really well on the Canadian charts, but Canada is like three percent of the world market. If you’re not happening in the States, you’re not happening.

But we got that recording contract from Virgin Records worldwide. They contracted [Jeff “Skunk”] Baxter to be our producer. And it got released and it did fairly well in Canada. But like I said, “Eh. So what?”

Anyway, I developed a great relationship with Baxter and he was heading back to Los Angeles. He said, “Look, I’ve been dying to start my own band at some point and I’d like you to be the singer.” I said, “OK. Sure.” So I eventually moved down to Los Angeles and spent two years on his couch. I got to know him pretty well, day in, day out.

Right about the time I moved down, the New York club China Club decided to open up a Los Angeles version. It was open for about 18 months before it collapsed, since management was taking profits and putting them somewhere else. But every Tuesday night was jam night and Baxter and I would dutifully drive down there. He was part of the jam-night band, and so was I. We’d play and then big stars would come in and jam with us.