Sunday, February 17, 2013

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

Sunday, February 10, 2013

When 30 inches of snow strikes Long Island we discover we are human after all


Yesterday, I dug out of the ton of snow.  We have a chicken in our neighborhood and I found it on top of one of the stone white lions that sit on the sides of our front steps.  It nervously looked at me before flying off into the tree, well aware it couldn’t escape by running away.   The night before the kids asked me if I could get it and bring it inside.  “It will rip your eyes out if it had the chance.”  This is no ordinary chicken; this was a street wise punk who picks up scraps when the opportunity strikes.  He struts like he owns the block.  He may be tough but he is a survivor living through this storm as well as Sandy.   The estimate is 30 inches of snow fell in our area.  It was the hardest hit on Long Island.  There was the stifled silence which I felt when I sneaked under the snow laden limb to toss bird seed onto the snow.  Yes, I feed the birds. The silence reminded me of building a snow fort when I was 9, eating my dinner inside the hollow chamber with a flickering candle.  I was separated from the outside world, it was warm in that fort, my brother or sisters could not penetrate the thick walls; until the sun melted away the privacy and space into the spring soil.  This weekend has been a change.  On Thursday night I picked Amanda up at JFK, we stopped in Huntington and ate a late dinner at Mundey’s and picked up a book at Book Revue.  We made it home by 9ish.  Bella wrote a Welcome Home sign for her.  Friday morning the storm was coming.  Even in the snow we prepared and dropped off the kids at their schools.  I worked from home since the predictions called for more than two feet in the area.  The kids were let out from school early.  Joe’s performance at the high school, Sound of Music was called off on Friday and Saturday.  The snow and winds came.  I spent hours shoveling out a path to the driveway and then the whole driveway and then the cars.  The show was piled to the top of the trunk.  Eventually my muscles waved white flags, cease and desist.  I thought of my parents on Bellecrest Avenue and felt relieved to know my Brother-In-Law was there to shovel them out. I heard of cars abandoned on the expressway and Route 83 and 347.  People were stranded in their cars.  For the first time in the twelve years we have lived on this block, our road was not plowed.  Even now a full twenty four hours after the snow and thunder, the road is still treacherous.  No church this morning.  The cable and phone and internet are out.  The cord snapped off the pole.  I pulled the thick plastic cord off the road and wrapped it around a fence post.  We are left to DVD’s and games and talking to each other.  It’s a weekend you’d imagine you’d like.  As the years passed - we have been busy with distractions and events.  I felt that emotional tug; I’d like a day when I had nothing to do.  There is hardly a day for that - nothing to do - especially when you’re home.  I found myself organizing the file cabinet, finding old bills and old pictures.   I may bring them in since I told Beth there was a picture of me and Shane from The Pogues…it’s Sunday…and there is nothing to do or so I thought till I wanted to jot down some thoughts.  

Thank you for reading this.