Monday, April 12, 2010

Then there was this time, Part 2

So it's 1973. I played in a power trio called Elof Nogg. The name came from the bass player, David Johnson, and the original drummer, Joe Giordano, kicking an egg nog carton down the street while trying to think of a band name that had the same amount of syllables as Jethro Tull. That's what they came up with, and the extra "g" on "nog" was thrown in as a tribute to Ian Anderson and his band mates. At the time, I was the bass player and Dave was the guitar player. Joe never had time to rehearse, so Dave and I would end up at my house after school, practicing songs all afternoon. We did this every day, and eventually it was just the two of us playing guitars. Then out of the blue one day in 1974, I got a call from Brian Cardinal, who played drums in another power trio with me the summer before I met Dave and joined Elof Nogg. He was looking to play again, and we had him over. A friend of ours lived two houses up from me, and we arranged to play there during our school February vacation. Dave had been picking up my bass a lot more, and he really liked it, so he offered to play bass since we had a drummer coming.

We set up, and we started talking about what we should play. Dave asked Brian if he knew "I'm Eighteen" by Alice Cooper, and Brian looked at me with this wicked grin, and I just counted out "1.2.3.FOUR" and we launched into it.

They say when Led Zeppelin played together for the first time, the room shook. In our case, the world shook.

We started rehearsing as much as we could, over Dave's house, over my house, in Brian's garage, wherever we could get away with it because we were LOUD. Brian ended up joining the navy about 10 months later. Now we needed a new drummer. We found a kid we went to school with, Steve Wolpe. He was good, very technically proficient, even if he lacked Brian's rock and roll swagger and savage approach. And that brings us to 1975, and Brian is in boot camp. A kid in school who played in a Malden band, Anthem, asked me one day if we could open for them at the Irish American in Malden one night. I informed him we had no PA system, therefore we couldn't. He said "you can use ours", so I told Dave between classes about it and he agreed to do it. Elof Nogg was always a democracy, so it meant Steve was playing too, but he was up for it. We knew it was no pay, but it was a chance to play in front of people, which we rarely got in the early days of the band.

So we show up at the Irish American, and the kid who asked us to come had never said anything to the rest of his band. I'm not one to screw around, so I said "Fine, we're outa here" and they said Wait! They said we could play! Okay, I'll play. We get everything out of three cars we came in, and set up. I asked for a microphone.

"We said you could play, we didn't say you could use our PA!" These Anthem guys were the biggest flock of arrogant assholes to ever roll down the pike. I said fine and yelled out to the crowd "We can't sing for ya because the other band is a bunch of dickheads and won't share the PA like bands do at concerts, but we'll play if ya want!, It will just be instrumental!" They heard every word and let us know they would like to hear us. So I launched into "Heartbreaker", the current Rolling Stones hit of the day. We were possesed. We were SOOOO pissed off at the other band, and we had 45 minutes, and we made the best of them. The last song was "Johnny B. Goode" and I threw all I had in me into it! People were sitting there with a look of happy amazement on their faces. I was doing things on my guitar that you werent supposed to do, banging it on the floor throwing it up in the air and catching it, and never missing a beat. I'm 18 years old and cocky as all hell. When we finished, the place went NUTS for us! I put my guitar in its' case, and as I walked past the singer of Anthem, I pulled a Jimi Hendrix-to-Pete Townshend-at-Monterey: "Follow THAT, asshole!" I said as I walked by him. He just looked at me. We had dazzled the bejeezus out of them, too, and we knew it.

So we break down our gear, and we fit as much as we can into my car. I then informed the rest of our gang (we had all out Stoneham friends come with us to "spike" the audience), that I was going out drinking with another guy who had come along, I didn't want to see Anthem because they had treated us so shitty. So off I go, and Dave and Steve and the rest stayed to see Anthem.

These turd burglars thought they were the Beatles. Now it's okay to be confident, I know I was confident, but it's always good to have the talent to back up your confidence. The Anthem guys had a guitar player who decided learning to play would be a bother, so he just tuned his guitar to an E chord. Then all he did was play bar chords. The drummer played a cymbal solo isntead of a drum solo. At least that's what I heard the next day. Now, you have to remember that I was gone. Elvis had left the building, and I went with him. Anthem sucked so bad that, about half way through the show, the crowd started throwing cookies at them! They ahd to end the show, I guess some real trouble started because of it. And who did they blame?


I was not even there, but somehow it was my fault.

Monday morning I went to school and cornered the guitar player from Anthem. he started giving me shit for throwing cookies. "What cookies? I left as soon as i finished playing!" It took about 8 people to convince him I was telling the truth. But I had him by the scruff of the neck, ready to punch his lights out. I was stopped, it was discussed, and he apologized. We never gave Anthem another thought till the same kid comes up to me and asks if we are interested in playing a four or five band show at the Melrose Armory. I said "After the way you treated us in Malden? Are you nuts?" But he gave me a number to call the promoters, who invited us to the armory that Saturday so they could explain what they were doing and how they were doing. I discussed it with Dave and Brian (who was back now) and we decided to check it out.

We get there, and Anthem started right in on us. One of the promoters grabs me and the singer from anthem and pulls us aside. "We need to talk" he says. "We hear from Anthem that you guys are not nice guys!" "How so?" I asked, The sunger then told the promoter how I had started a riot by throwing cookies at them at the Irish American. I then told the promoter how I left as soon as I finished, and had quite a few people wh ocould back that up, and how Anthem had treated us that night. "My band is the best band in town. This is my home town you're playing in. If you have Anthem headline, people will kill you! Listen to them! They suck! Listen to us! We don't suck! It's your call, but if these guys play, I won't. "

I walked away from that encounter as the guitar player in the headlining act, and Anthem got booted from the bill. they begged for another chance, things could be straightened out, and I said okay, only if they play first and leave. They agreed. It was a victory for me, We were the ONLY Melrose band on the bill with a Malden band and two Medford bands. About a week later, the promoter called me and the show had been cancelled. But I won!

That summer, I was asked to play a backyard party, and the whole town showed up. It was so much fun, and the rest of the summer and fall we played a lot for people. And we were a bargain! Three packs of cigarettes and a case of Michelob was all we charged our friends. The only paying gig Elof Nogg ever had was a dance in a church on Cape Cod. We made $100. Split three ways. I kept the extra buck because I got the gig. (Part of our rules, because we decided to be in it for the music, not the money.) We once tried to get Areosmith to play at Malden Catholic High School, when I was a sophomore, around the time of Get Your Wings, but they were asking way too much! They wanted $1500, and we couldn't pay that. From that experience, we decided to be a people's band, and play for cheap.

Elof Nogg lasted till the fall of 1975 when Brian quit for personal reasons. Dave and I weren't ready to throw in the towel yet, though.......and that's another story for another time. I miss playing 3 piece sometimes. And to this day, I can't watch a band in a place like the Irish American without looking for cookies on the tables.

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