Dave Arbus came about a hair's breadth from rock superstardom -- indeed, he'd have been rock's first star violinist -- with his performance on "Baba O'Reilly" from Who's Next. Instead, he's maintained the respect of his fellow musicians, and gotten the recognition from hardcore fans interested enough to look at the credits on the album, and gone on playing his mix of jazz, rock, and eastern music the way he likes it. Arbus is a virtuoso violinist and flautist who can also blow sax and trumpet. He hooked up with alto player Ron Caines during the mid-'60s, playing fusion jazz, and the two of them, along with guitarist-singer Geoff Nicholson, formed the core of East of Eden, perhaps the best of the progressive rock groups signed to Decca Records' Deram label during the late '60s. His fiery violin playing, Caines' sax, and Nicholson's hard-rocking guitar style made for a unique blend of sounds. East of Eden was popular in London and sold records well on the continent, but they were only a cult band in England. In 1971, that came as close to changing as it ever did -- and nearly put Arbus on the map in the United States as well -- when the violinist was engaged as a session player on the Who's album Who's Next. He contributed a killer display of violin pyrotechnics to the extended finale of "Baba O'Reilly," dominating the entire song, and proving that a there was at least one fiddle player who could successfully match instruments with Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. The song also happened to be the lead-off track of what proved to be the band's best-selling single LP release, and became a favorite on FM radio (and on movie soundtracks) for decades, ensuring that his performance would be heard millions of times. By the time Who's Next was in stores, however, Arbus had left East of Eden, and was working as a freelance musician. He subsequently appeared on Roger Daltrey's self-titled solo LP. After this, Arbus quit though he later reappeared on Roger Daltrey's solo album Daltrey, and worked with the Sinclair-Coxhill Band, with Richard Sinclair, Lol Coxhill, and Dave MacRae, during the mid-'70s. He has since worked with Keith Pearson, and returned for another gig with the Who on Who by Numbers. In addition to session work and live performances in various settings and with different bands, Arbus has also participated in reunions of East of Eden.
Dave Arbus Biography
by Bruce Eder