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When REM played in a Roller Skating rink on Long Island


2/17/13 17:16 Home


A couple of months ago my Dad brought over some boxes that contained some of my things when I lived at my parent’s house almost 30 years ago.  There are notebooks and sketch books, water colors and an endless stream of songs especially the lyrics.  When I was eighteen my dream was to make it in a band.  I got in the band and the box has the evidence from those years when I was sending the band’s tapes to IRS records, Warner Brothers and whoever else I thought may be interested in giving us a shot.  The name of the band was The Few.  It was a high school band.   We played the variety show in High School, in fact opening the show with U2’s I will Follow.  I still know the lyrics since we practiced the song a million times.  There is the evidence in the box as well of the original name of the band, GS/G9 which is/was a German military branch or that is how I remember the other singer telling me it stood for.  For a few months he was the singer of the band, but I persuaded the group the kid couldn’t sing and he was out.  We changed the name and played The Police, Driven to Tears, REM’s 1,000,000 and The Clash’s Brand New Cadillac, The Jam’s That’s Entertainment, Led Zeppelin, Joe Jackson.  More often we practiced original songs that Bob Miller wrote.  Not many people heard these songs expect for Scott’s parents where we practiced in his room, and the twenty or so at the audition for the variety show.  I should add we played two gigs. Gallagher’s in East Northport, August 9th 1984 and Sparks also that summer.  If you notice the picture attached, I included the Sparks flyer which we passed out.  The more kids that showed up with the flyer for your band, the chances were better - not a guarantee - the band would play there again.  Being underage was a big strike against us.  Gallagher’s was an empty restaurant and Sparks barely had what I would call a…crowd.  Sparks was the place to play in Huntington.  Vance from The Mosquitoes was there.  I was petrified; my nerves forced my voice to become hoarse by the second song.  I sounded like shit, tried to push through the set with constant squirts of Chloroseptic pain medicine behind the amp.   I can still remember the commercials for the throat relief medicine.  A heavy set actor with a distinct lisp had a sore throat, struggles to swallow.  He takes a couple of squirts, signs and says, ahh, Chloro…OH…sssseptic!”  The band eventually kicked me out.  It was my best friend who took the initiative.  Bob Miller thought it would propel me to go to college and stop dreaming of being a rock star.  Since those years I met a few wannabes like the kid who was pumping gas at the Hess who liked my Clash T-shirt.  He said he was going to sing in a band.  I told him I had the same dream.  But he looked at me; I was the kid who quit before making it and he said defiantly, “Yeah, but I am going to do it.”  Go for it, but give me five dollars of regular for the beast.  I drove a real beast - Chrysler Satellite station wagon.  Take a look at the other image, although Dad had the 8 cylinder animal - sporty with cool hot rod rims, but I felt like I was driving a whale.   Getting away from the band here…back to the music and the box of memories.  So I start pulling out pictures of me playing little league - The Dukes at Larkfield Little League.  I vaguely remember their names in the picture.  There was the kid who always had egg residue on the corners of his mouth, the other kid who had a thin moustache even at nine years-old and we all inspected the thin shadow with an odd mix of fear and trepidation.  Music.  I included pictures of a fanzine the Bob Cuomo published, Crisis.  His brother’s band The Service had a decent article.  I remember one of their songs, It couldn’t happen here….I saw them play in CB’s…the brother was cool and treated Bob and I very well.  I saw their drummer years later after a Joe Strummer concert, one of his last in Brooklyn and he couldn’t believe I recognized him.  What I wanted to write about was the night I interviewed REM when they played Good Skates or the Music Hall in Setauket as it states on REM’s postcard they sent to fans to promote their Little America tour.  This was when Reckoning was out and the hit, S. Central Rain or better known as…”I’m sorry.”   The band was making it.  Their video was on MTV.  If you don't know this song it begins with the lines, “Did you ever call?”  I wrote about The Smiths previously and this was the same time.  That summer – 1984 - I was invited to attend summer school since I failed English.  It was my rebellious time and I did not care about school.  One day I wore my REM t-shirt to summer school and one of the teachers made a comment to me like, “Hey, you know they are playing out in Setauket.”  No I didn’t.  “My wife and I are going and we can take you and a couple of your friends.”  Who was this guy?  July 17th…So, Bob Miller and my brother Dave catch a ride.  “There’s a six pack in the back,” we can split, he tells us and enjoy.  Don’t tell your parents or else I can get fired.  I wanted to meet REM.  This was my opportunity, so I made up a fake press card and brought a tape recorder.  I gave the kid my ticket to what was a roller skating rink? I asked where I can interview the band.  “Press?”  Yes, I said press.  Go out that back door there.  I walked out and bumped into Bill Berry who thought I was someone else since he was really happy to see me.    I interviewed the whole band and they signed that faint piece of paper on top in the picture, Stipe drew a snake since I asked him to sketch.  I thought I lost this and seeing this after all of these years brought back memories of that night.  It was the first night they played Hyena.  You see me and Michael Stipe there?  Can’t believe those faces are the tired and old men we are today.  After the interview with REM I interviewed Dream Syndicate and then went back out to the venue and saw Stipe and introduced my brother and Bob to him.   Dave took the picture. Turns out Stipe had a few tokes of nature before the pic was taken.   I found a lot Del Lords posters and set lists and articles from Newsday.  They had such promise; I’d like to see them make another attempt.  There is a flyer from a Secret Service show.  There will be more entries on the local scene at the time.   When I was removed from The Few and tried another attempt with a band The Dharma Bums, Bob played guitar and we had a different band that never played a gig.   There are some black and whites pictures, one in the frame of the DJ’s from WNPT radio which played the music in the commons in Northport High School.  Some of the kids from that picture are no longer alive like my partner on our show, The M&M show – Mike Abrahamson.  He passed a few years ago.   Then there is my best friend Bob Miller who went missing after fishing in San Diego on a clear calm day almost eighteen years ago, never to be seen again.  Our music remains in this box and stored in my distant recollections.
 
The past is ripe with possibilities and regret.

Thank you for reading this

That's Paul Wetserberg from the Mats who signed this for me back in 85

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