Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Then there was this time, Part 3

I really screwed up when I posted part two. I forgot to tell you that in 1979, I actually JOINED Anthem! The drummer, Gene Pinkham, was the only original member left. He was never part of the problem I had with the singer and jackass guitarist who shouldn't have been anywhere near a guitar. Gene was a good guy.

This band ROCKED. I think it's the heaviest thing I've ever done. Rick Merrill was the other guitar player. He's still playing today (not in a band, but he keeps his chops up). He made it the most fun experience. Jimmy Oliver played bass. He once dragged me to Melrose High School to play with him and a drummer, and I was so horrified at how they sounded, I set my amp up way over to the left of the stage and played behind the curtain. I was not the best guitarist in the world at that point. I was 16, and just finished my sophomore year at Malden Catholic. The three of us SUCKED. I sucked the least so I thought I'd be a smart ass and set up outa sight. The drummer was Mike Cronin, he was such an awesome guy back then. But none of us had any business up there. The few kids that did show up only did so to hurl insults. After about 20 minutes of horror, I unplugged my stuff and went home.

I went back to playing bass then. I started a band with Tom Rossino, a guy a year ahead of me at MC. We needed a drummer. One day when Tom was in court, he met a guy from Stoneham who had hung out with him when he played in a band called Born Dead, which featured Mr. Bob Hiltz on drums. That was where I met both Brian and Bob H. Little did I know that over the course of the next 10 years, I would be in bands with both of them. Amazing how a circle will spread out. Like a ripple. It echoes all over the world.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Return of the REAL WBCN? I sure hope so...

A few weeks ago I noticed some friends of mine become fans of Free Form BCN on Facebook. My head perked right up when I saw that. Free Form BCN. The same people that did the original station are trying to get it back on the air the way it was before CBS bought them and pulled the corporate destruction act that took them off the air. They changed them from a "free form" station (which is a station that will play anything that you can think of, from every genre) to a station that played only modern rock, and that drove away all the music purists.

This is happening all the time and not just in radio. Corporate America wants to dumb everything down. They don't want you to use common sense, just do what they say and you'll be fine. Bullshit. America is already full of retards, why do we all have to made into drones like that? I will fight! Not me, Jack! Back off! It's the kids I feel bad for. They will never know the joys I knew in life because the corporate ass hats say what I experienced in radio won't make money. I don't think BCN had a problem making money. The only problem they had was being bought by a jack ass corporation like CBS. It killed them. Now the 104.1 signal is a shit station. They play shit. Pure, stinky, turgid shit. More commonly known as a "mix station".

Ya, they mix it. They mix shit and vomit and think we will like it. The little jack ass kids who don't know any better will like it. But what about my generation? We always get screwed because we aren't in that "demographic" they are trying to reach. They fuquetard who decided to pull the plug on BCN needs to be severely beaten before he is burned at the stake.

I moved to Vermont in 1986 when my son was 3 days old. The first most immediate thing I missed was WBCN. They were fun, smart, and educational. They were the starting point for Billy West, hwo now does what seems like every cartoon voice in Hollywood (Futurama and Ren and Stimpy are his most famous). Peter Wolf of the J. Geils band was a DJ there! I missed my station. I was aways glad to go back to Boston for a visit just to hear it again. I still miss it. Or I did until a few weeks ago.

WBCN, the one I knew and loved is back! They are on the internet now! They have live shows (meaning a real DJ is there to play actual vinyl records along with the CDs and other digital stuff,and give us cool info anout what we are listening to.) What moderately intelligent music fan wouldn't like a station like that? They play everything! And the best part of them being on the net is Facebook.

Facebook has replaced the old BCN listener line, and BCN is a very interactive station now! No longer do we dial them up and have to hang up over and over because we get a busy signal! No! You post your requests, you can interact with them and other fans who post, and it's been a blast!

But the numbers aren't where they should be. Only about 3000 people have become a fan, and they need a whole lot more if they are going to make the ultimate comeback, which is to return to the air as a full time station. If CBS gets the numbers they want, BCN is back!

The world needs BCN. I need it. You need it. We all need it! I am asking all my friends who read this and are on Facebook to check them out, the page is called Free Form BCN. There is a link there to the player, and awesome radio will stream into your computer or high definition radio, if you felt like plunking the 50 bucks down for one. Become a fan! Play it at work! It's always on, suing the automated format (who we call "Robby the Robot", and he sounds as good as it does when they are live 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. The only thing missing from Robby is live DJs, but the music is intact, and that's what it's all about.

I'm trying to get as many people as I can tuned in, and I need your help. Go to teh Facebook page and become a fan. If you remember how awesome WBCN was back in the day, youi owe it to yourself. Don't let corporations tell you what to listen to. That's all they do when they buy up stations and change them. You're way smarter than that, and BCN knows it. Let's get them back where they belong! You with me?

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.

Figuring Technology Out, Part 2

So the other day, I posted a few of my songs to Facebook. It worked like a charm! It turns out that some people actually like them too. That made me feel good. I don't want to come off as a shameless self promoter. But how do you get your tunes listened to?

I've done well with music, without putting a lot of effort into it. I got a bunch of songs on a local radio show here where I live. Dartmouth College owns it. They're a well known station, and it was quite common to be out and about doing my daily doings, and someone would see me and say "I heard you on the radio the other night! That was cool!" It was always a good feeling. I want people to enjoy the only thing in life I can do well.

So I posted 5 or 6 songs. Two covers, four originals. One cover and one original are both instrumentals. I had personal messages asking for more! And here I was in my last post thinking no one would care. I beat myself up a lot like that. I don't want to force my music on people, especially when it's really not the greatest stuff ever recorded. I know i have a few hits though, or they could be hits. Maybe not too. What the hell do I know?

So I had to hook up my old computer to get these songs, because I had downloaded them a long time ago. I was originally going to try to put everything I had ever recorded on there, but I figured I'd start with the good ones I remembered. It became a burden after three weeks so I stopped and made plans to finish later, and of course, I never did. I have about 115 master tapes, so remembering every song I recorded is, and has inevitably proved to be, impossible. Every now and then I'll pull out a cassette and throw it on and hear something I have absolutely no memory of doing. It was a little disturbing the first couple of times it happened, but it's no big deal now. In fact, I enjoy the hell out of it. "This is ME? Whoa!"

So based upon my initial success at entertaining my friends, I hooked "MacGuyver" back up to download a couple more. Yes, it's name is MacGuyver, and yes, it's held together with a paper clip, and earring stud, a band-aid, some silly putty and some chewing gum. But this time, something in there decided to dump some operating files. I saved the best for last too, so they won't be getting posted any time too soon. I'm so sad! It was also a way for me to get those songs on this computer I use now without losing any memory, because the songs are stored on some big database so everyone on Facebook can listen to them too. Now I'm back to square one. I'll have to buy an analog to digital conversion program and hook up the 4 track and start over. But at least they'll be new mixes. And I can play around too, leave stuff out or add stuff. It's not gonna be for a while though.

So figuring out how to fix it is on my mind too. And I will. I have some stuff with real drums that is great, and they are on there, and I'd like to get them off there and onto here. (Did that make sense?)

I'm still using a 4 track, that should speak volumes about my technological retardation. I hope I can get them up soon, I'll keep working on it. But it could take a while. Oh well, that's life. I'll guess I still have all those stories to tell.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Then there was this time.....

I sat down to think one day not too long ago. Have I led a storied life? It didn't take much thought because I already know I have. I have tons of stories I could tell. Most will involve music, and my rendition of it, but so much crazy stuff has happened to me aside from music. I wouldn't know where to start. I guess I'll just throw'em out there as they come to me.

So I led you here thinking you were gonna get a story. I will have to sit here for a while looking at empty space while I wait for one to come to mind. You see, when you have so many stories you can tell like I can, you want to take the time to think about which tale is best suited for the situation. In this case, there is no situation. I'm just sitting here typing while I try to think of a story I can tell you, and the words you read here are merely a diversion to keep you occupied while I ponder my options on the story telling front. I'm rather devoid of any ideas at this point, but you must really want a story, because you're still reading. You must be sitting there thinking "What's he gonna tell us for a story, and why is he telling us he's gonna give us a story when all he is doing is stalling?"

Aw c'mon. If I could think of a story, I'd tell you already. OK? All right then. And with that, I just thought of one, and here it is:

I once played in a band called Stone Rose. We were all decent musicians, each with an insatiable appetite for beer. We had a gig in Maynard, Mass., playing a bowling league dinner party or something like that. We met at our drummer, Bob Hiltz's house in Stoneham, where we rehearsed, to load up the van and make the one hour or so drive west to Maynard. We arrived about 4 in the afternoon expecting to play about 7:30, we wanted time to set up and get the sound system tweaked, etc (yeah, a sound check). When we arrived, we were told that dinner was first and we didn't play until 10:00 PM. WHAT????? ARE YOU KIDDING???? WHAT are we gonna do for six freaking hours? We couldn't go home and wait, no. Not with all our gear set up inside the country club where the function was being held. What to do, what to do? Then, the guitar player (that's me!) spoke up:

"Okay, everyone! Pony up some cash! Bobby, get in the van! WE'RE GOING TO THE PACKY!!"

And off they went. I didn't go myself, since I thought of it, and besides, I had the weed. I sat in my car and spun up a couple of bombers, those perfect joints that go well with a liquid hop-based refreshment. A short while later, Bobby pulls into the parking lot, and they have seven cases of Miller High Life. So we piled into the now mostly empty van, and began to imbibe. It's now 5PM and we started drinking to kill time.

Flash forward to 730PM. The seven cases of Miller are gone. Someone went on another run, because we still had 2.5 hours before we played. We got seven more cases, and now the girlfriends offered their wisdom. "We hope you guys don't get too shitfaced to play."

We were already shitfaced. But we assured them we would be in top notch form, not to worry! We're veterans at this!

Now it's finally 10, and we take the stage and start playing. We were darn good that night, but a few moments stick out.

I remember getting extremely hungry while we were playing "Purple Haze". So while I was playing the solo, I meandered my way in a very rock and roll fashion to the kitchen just to the left of me, and without missing a beat, I bent over the counter and picked up a large dinner roll with my teeth. I then exited the kitchen and continued my cool rock and roll swagger, only the roll was sticking out of my mouth. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't have to sing on that one. I did all this and the song sounded great all the while. For some reason, in our inebriated state we were playing one of the better shows we ever did.

Now we're playing "How Many More Times" by Zeppelin. The song is going flawlessly, we sounded inspired. I had my back to Rob Heselton, our vocalist extraordinaire, as he was singing:

"I got you in the sights of my........

"G-u-u-u-u-u--u-u-u-u-u-u-.........". All of a sudden I hear what can only be described as a record skipping. He dropped about an octave like the needle on the record got put back a few seconds, and he continues: "....U_U_U_U_UNNNN!" I turned around and Rob was sitting on the floor, legs spread like a hockey goalie, as he continued the note. The skip I heard when I had my back to him was him falling on his ass! The other guys were laughing their asses off, and I started laughing too. Still, we never missed a beat and other than Rob's "skip", the song was perfect!

After the gig, Rob and I are out on the porch where the caterers were working. I spied a huge plate of sliced roast beef, which I began to devour ravenously. Rob sees what I am doing and joins in. We stood there stuffing huge gobs of sliced beef into our mouths, when a waitress walked up to where we were with a tray of dinner plates. She puts the tray down on a stand she produced from nowhere, and then started to scrape all the plates on the tray ........right onto the pile of roast beef we had been gorging ourselves on.

I wish I could have filmed the next scene. We each looked at her scraping other peoples not-eaten-scraps onto our meal, and she tells us the meat we had been eating came from the same source. Then at the same time, we looked at each other and in unison we both go "EWWWWWWWWW!!!" We then ran to the rail of the porch and let loose. At the time, it was a very disturbing sequence of events, but within a half hour we were laughing about it anyway.

Now I'm on the way home. Route 2 east or was it 2A? Apparently, I didn't know, as about 90 minutes after I left Maynard, I found myself near MIT and the Longfellow Bridge. It was probably 4AM by now. I noticed as I drove over the bridge, construction crews who were nowhere to be seen ahd set out those red traffic cones down the middle of the road. Wouldn't those look cool if we had them to put around the band when we played? Hell yeah they would! So I slow down and grab one with my left hand as I drive by. I then thrust that over the top of the next in line. I got up to about 6 and they got too heavy for my non dominant arm to carry, so I reeled in my catch and tossed them into the back seat. I then started on a new set of 5. Got'em! I started on the last set of five and I could only get 4, the fifth was set back. It's 4AM, no traffic, so I stop the car and get out and run a few feet and grab it. As I tossed it into the back seat, I hear a voice from a ways off yelling in my direction "HEY! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!!!"

I got back in my car and left rubber. I got to the end of the bridge and the light was green, took my left onto Storrow Drive, drove past the "If you lived here you'd be home now" signs, traffic was very light, and the light was green there too! Now I was on 93, and the recent surge of adrenalin from my almost getting caught stealing red traffic cones had sobered me some. Lucky for me, we had put the last remaining, not-drank case in my front seat. I enjoyed a rather luke warm Miller as I drove to Bob's house to deposit what very little gear I had in my trunk.

Now because I got lost on the way back, they had arrived and everything was unloaded when I did arrive. They weren't too happy, until I broke out the last case of beer, and then all was forgotten.

I think of stuff like this and wonder what kind of lucky charm I had working back then. I was driving drunk and stealing government property. But I was a young, reckless, cocky dumb ass, then. It was also the 70s, and Mothers weren't Madd yet. I was lucky. Don't do this at home kids, it's a much harsher world than then now.

And that's my story for today. Not much of a story. I should have kept stalling you. But I hope you enjoyed it anyway.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Figuring technology out

So today I figured how to put my music on Facebook. I'm really dumb with computers. But I did it. And no one seems to care. But that's okay. No one ever cared. I'm not upset by this, it just means I suck. I knew that. I just don't suck as bad as everyone else.

I think it's the quality of the material. I'm using recordings from a 4 track, and it's quite obvious I don't have any connection to Abbey Road. I also use a drum machine. That's scary for some. For me, it's more like "What the hell do I care about drums? I'm a guitar player."

I have one of those emulator amplifiers where you flip a knob and you sound like you're playing through a Marshall stack, flip it again and now its a Fender Twin Reverb, etc, lots of sounds. Getting the sound onto tape has proven quite tricky. So I gave up and I use a guitar processor. I don't neccessarily use it right. I don't spell to well either, neccessarrily.

So I have my work cut out for me. I need to get tech savvy now! Gotta go!