My Life is Right: Alex Chilton in NYC

John Reinert.

Now, while this site’s focus is pretty well defined, I do tend to be a little less strict when it comes to covering stuff on this blog. Case-in-point, a few weeks ago I ran across a live tape given to me by the late John Reinert. John was one of those people that literally everyone who went to a live show in NYC knew. With his ever-present baseball cap, smile, and ubiquitous cassette deck he recorded many local shows from various important bands that would have otherwise never been documented. Not only that, John was always very generous and often carried a bag with copies of his tapes to subsequent shows. Spreading the cheer like a rock and roll Santa Claus.

The tape I found was of the unpredictable Alex Chilton playing at Maxwell’s, in Hoboken. For those who are not aware of Alex Chilton, I implore you to check out this wonderful article written by Lindsay Zoladz that covers his ups and downs much more eloquently than I ever could.

Listening to the tape reminded me of a post I created on an old blog eight years ago, after I first heard of Chilton’s death. As Bar None has recently released some long out of print Chilton material (From Memphis to New Orleans and Songs From Robin Hood Lane) I thought this would be as good a time as any to dig it out.

So, jumping on the Wayback machine, here is a post covering the saga of “Al” in NYC during the latter part of the 80s in NYC. Dedicated with much gratitude and fond memories of John.

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The news of Alex Chilton’s death this past Wednesday came as a huge surprise to many, arriving as swiftly as a sweltering summer thunderstorm and leaving in its wake a collective shock throughout the semi-geeky, underground music world. As many have stated over the past several days, the man that melded pathos with gorgeous harmonies will no doubt be missed. If not just for his legacy but for the tenuous hope that you can carve out a successful creative career and still be fiercely dedicated to carving out your own path. In fact, the most eloquent and touching eulogy of them all was written by his close friend Paul Westerberg in the NY Times Op-Ed section the Sunday following his passing.

Chilton was a faceless entity to me until 1984. At that time I was fervently involved in the sixties garage punk scene in NYC and hightailing it to many performances all over lower Manhattan. So, when one of the city’s seminal garage bands, The Vipers, were slated to play at Irving Plaza, there was no doubt in my mind I was going to find myself there. It was a big show for the band. Having honed their act at a tiny club by FIT called The Dive, they now found themselves headlining this immense venue.

Alex Chilton at Irving Plaza 1984.

Upon entering the main hall, I came upon the opening band just starting their set. The songs were unfamiliar and when I asked someone who it was, they mentioned that it was the guy who sang “The Letter”. Having that as a reference point I figured he was an oldies act, sort of appropriate for a night consisting of 60s themed music. Camera in hand, I took a few shaky photos of the lead singer and watched. The more I heard, the less I understood how he fit into the whole picture. It was definitely a confusing yet interesting experience. He did close with “The Letter” though.

Fast forward about three years and I’m seriously in the midst of my Paul Westerberg/Replacements worshipping period, having been baptized by a show at CBGBs in 1984, The Mats (as us überfans called ’em) summed up everything my young self had experienced up to that point in my life. Anger, sadness, despair, hope….all in a compact 3-minute song. So, by the time 1987’s “Pleased To Meet Me” came out, us die-hards were all chomping at the bit for some more sonic autobiography.

It was around this time my fellow Mats concert buddy Lisa convinced me to go see an Alex Chilton show. Since the Mats sang about him on “Pleased To Meet Me”…then he MUST be good, the logic went.

Flyer promoting Alex Chilton’s 1987 stint at The Knitting Factory. shakesomeaction.nyc archive.

So we headed to The Knitting Factory (on Houston St at that time) and bought tickets for the early set of Alex’s show. His release “High Priest” had just come out and Chilton was doing a 4-night stint to promote it, two sets each night. The opening band were The Gories, who I was later to find out were produced by Alex. Already fully familiar with the punkier aspects of garage music, The Gories proceeded to deliver a noisy, shambolic set that was itself to become what other groups would revere and strive for years later. This guy knows how to pick his openers I thought to myself.

Chilton, by comparison, was extremely laid back, but just as interesting. Fussing with the sound, turning down requests, he exuded this nervous energy that sort of kept me wondering what was going to happen next. I started to slowly understand why Westerberg and crew were fascinated by him. Here was a brilliant songwriter, basically screwed by the music business, seemingly turning his back to his sudden indie-cred. Very, uh, Replacements-like. Avoiding anything resembling his pop roots, his set consisted of old standards, R&B covers, jazzy covers and a very small handful of decent, if uninspired, originals. Yet, much like The Mats, flashes of brilliance would eek out in spite of himself. His guitar playing was second to none, and if he wanted to, esoteric jazz chords would fly out of his guitar with ease. We stayed for the second set.

Alex Chilton’s November 1987 NYC area gigs. shakesomeaction.nyc archive.

That was the start of a long and amazing journey following the man. After that day Lisa and I caught the next night, and the next. On Chilton’s second trip through the city that same year we returned as well. We ended up catching him at every gig in NYC and Hoboken for the next several years. Even his bass player at the time Ron Easley once mentioned “Oh, it’s these guys again” when he saw us at one show. But, unlike other fans, we never approached Chilton or asked for his autograph. We didn’t want to become his buddy…we just wanted to hear him play. If Lisa and I happened to catch a bad show, instead of lamenting it, we’d stick around for the next set. Sure enough, nine times out of ten it would be better.

Alex Chilton at the Leonard Street Knitting Factory.

Now one could argue that his lack of professionalism was deplorable. A slap in the face of people paying good money to see him. True, but knowing his background of record label letdowns, lost opportunities, and shattered expectations (all before his mid-twenties!) it wasn’t too difficult to see how this came about. Being “professional” not only didn’t work for him but was also a sure ticket to misery. Take him or leave him…your choice.

When you see someone perform over and over again you also tend to see nuances of their personality emerge. It’s very easy to write off Chilton as jaded, surly and difficult. Which I am sure he was. Regardless, small things stick out in my mind about him. Like how once at The Knitting Factory, a music collector friend/roadie, Joey Decurzio made Alex come to him for a light instead of the other way around. Hilariously, the people around me were aghast…but “Al”, as Joey called him, took it in stride…even thanked him. No doubt because Joe treated him like any other guy.

Official CD of the intimate candlelight concert.

Another time a solo show was in danger of being canceled because of a water break in the vicinity of The Knitting Factory (at that time in the Leonard St. location). When I walked into the club there were only candles lighting the interior since the power was out. I felt like I walked onto the set of “Interview with a Vampire”. As I stood around with a handful of hopeful fans, Alex came out and invited everyone into the candle-lit main room. He placed a stool in the middle of the floor and, acoustic in hand, asked for requests. Laughing when he could not remember certain “classic” Big Star songs, he did a short set of mostly covers and thanked the 30 or so of us for coming. Then, to my surprise, we had our admission refunded to us.

A plethora of tickets stubs from Chilton’s NYC gigs. Including the candlelight show. shakesomeaction.nyc archive.

In another instance, I arrived early for a show at Fez, located underneath the Time restaurant in the East Village. Having never been there I wandered around the upstairs eatery before someone took pity on me and informed me the performance space was downstairs. Since the doors weren’t open yet I was told to come back. As I was leaving I turned the corner and ran into Alex Chilton trying to open a locked side door, beat-up guitar case in hand. He sees me and asks me how to get in. I told him I had to figure it out as well and showed him the entrance. Then, taking a page from Joey, I said “Oh, Al, what time are you going on? They wouldn’t tell me”. He stopped, thought carefully about it, and told me he was sorry because he also was in the dark about it. I thanked him anyway and we went our separate ways.

Alex Chilton at Maxwells.

Personal interactions like that filled out my portrait of the person many were all too happy to write off for decades.

Musically, surprises also abounded. Like suddenly deciding to kick out a frantic version of Warren Smith’s rockabilly classic, “Ubangi Stomp”, another night, the Stones’ “Brown Sugar” (with an audience member on guitar), and then one particularly memorable guest spot.

Paul Westerberg and Alex Chilton performing Little GTO at Maxwells. Photo ©Ted Barron.

In November of 1987, a Replacements gig coincided with a Chilton show in Hoboken. Lisa and I naturally bought tickets for both. As soon as the Mats show ended at the Beacon theater we made a beeline for the tiny stage of Maxwells in Hoboken. I still remember Lisa coming up and saying excitedly “He’s here, he’s here” meaning Mr. Westerberg. Sure enough that night we were all treated to a fantastic version of “Little GTO” with Paul sitting in.

Near the tail end of Chilton’s solo tours I lost touch with Lisa for several years but still continued to attend the shows, running into other familiar faces from show to show. When his 60s soul/pop group The Box Tops announced a reunion, I was elated but also a little skeptical, having seen Chilton’s mercurial ways test the patience of even the most seasoned session musicians. I wondered how he would fare with his former bandmates. To my surprise, The Box Tops shows were among the most enjoyable gigs I ever saw. Chilton was smiling and genuinely happy to revisit this part of his past. If he had ghosts of that time haunting him from that period, they seemed to have been finally exorcised.

A flyer from the set of concerts held at the WTC. The Box Tops performed here. shakesomeaction,nyc archive.

Around the summer of 2001, the city sponsored a summer music festival downtown that offered lunchtime music for the financial crowd. To my surprise, The Box Tops were slated to play one afternoon. Having a full-time job uptown though sort of left me wondering how to finagle my way into seeing this show. Finally, the day before the show I told my boss I had an urgent “appointment” and might be gone for a couple of hours that afternoon. The ruse worked and the next day I found myself downtown — at the World Trade Center Plaza. The gig was fantastic and as I looked over the towers looming over the sun-drenched stage I could not help but feel this was a great, great, day. All that would change just a few weeks later.

My flyer from the first Big Star reunion show at Tramps.

By the time the Big Star gigs came around the idea of an intimate Chilton solo gig was less and less likely to happen. The tradeoff though was, we did get a chance to hear those classic old songs once again. Except for “In The Street”, and even less frequently, “September Gurls”, none of the other Big Star tunes were ever performed by him when I saw him solo…at least in NY.

The last time I saw Chilton was November 2009 when Big Star made an appearance in NYC. The price was a hefty $35. A far cry from the $10 sets at the old Knitting Factory 23 years ago. Once my friend Paul and I were inside the large, ornate, Masonic Temple in Fort Greene, we shimmied our way to a good viewing spot. The immense crowds made it difficult to get close, but again, the music was what we were here for.

Alex Chilton of Big Star at the Masonic Hall, Brooklyn NY. 2009.

As soon as the band started you could tell this was going to be a special night. It was a few years since Big Star last played in NY and the anticipation of the fans helped percolate a good atmosphere. As those old familiar tunes washed over me once again, it was as if I was hearing them for the first time. That small intangible thrill you get when something deeply personal resonates was still there. And from the looks of the crowd, I was not alone. Apparently, the band felt it, too, as a haunting, passionate “Daisy Glaze” delivered by former Posie Ken Stringfellow all but confirmed it. It actually earned him a Chilton smile of approval. Impressive.

The closing one song encore (Todd Rundgren’s “S-L-U-T”) was adequate but the lights quickly went up as soon it was over. Alex was done. As we made our way out we passed a sweaty Jody Stephens standing by the exit, personally thanking the audience for coming. No doubt feeling a little guilty. As a Chilton fan, I’d experienced this before, no surprises here. I was just happy to have been transported to pop nirvana for that short while. Besides, I figured they’d be back for another show soon anyway…

-March 2010

Presenting…Los Saicos

Left to right: Rolando “El Chino” Carpio, César “Papi” Castrillón, Erwin Flores and Francisco “Pancho” Guevara.

A 60s Peruvian garage band, on an NYC-themed blog? Yes, it does sound a bit odd, but allow me to explain. While the goal of this blog was to dig a bit further into the garage punk scene in NYC during a certain period of time. In a lot of ways, the posts are intrinsically linked to my own unique NYC experiences. And foremost among those is the odd combination of identifying as a native-born NYer, with 100% Peruvian parents. Each side seeming to contradict each other. Even more so when it came to music.

While the garage scene was a godsend for a kid looking to belong somewhere, it was also interesting to be in a situation where there were no other Hispanics…in NYC!! A situation mirrored by my good buddy Larry, who happened to be the only African-American at the time. While the scene was extremely welcoming, we could not help but be quietly wonder why we didn’t see others like us in that setting. It was only natural that the discovery of bands like Death and Los Saicos were really important cultural markers for us in those pre-internet days.

As I mentioned in a post two years ago, one of the highlights of a visit to my mom’s family home in Lima was a visit to the place Los Saicos used to hang out. Now marked by a small plaque. Which makes the following announcement all the more surreal, but just as meaningful.

On April 27, 2019, Bushwick’s Market Hotel, in conjunction with Rockass Online, and this website, will present César “Papi Saico” Castrillón performing with Los Sadicos. Tickets are on sale now and readers of this blog are encouraged to take advantage of the pre-sale, which ends this Friday, February 8th. Presale link HERE

The Man Who Started it All — Crypt’s Tim Warren

Tim Warren Berlin
Chatting in Berlin with the Crypt-keeper. Tim Warren. Roky, Tim’s faithful hound, lies beside him.

Life is pretty surprising. If you would have asked me a few years back if this site…or even this blog … would ever have gotten past year two I would have cut you a look similar to the one famed 70s TV sitcom in-law, Aunt Esther used to give to her equally infamous brother-in-law, Fred Sanford.  Dated TV references aside though, it truly is a joy to find people kindly giving their time to keep this blog going.

Tim Warren is one of those people. Founder and sole proprietor of Crypt Records, Tim is one of those rare collectors who has dedicated their entire lives to making sure that people around the world share the same excitement that still drives him day-after-day. Working on an almost fanatical level over 30 years ago, Tim single-handedly was responsible for tracking down long-forgotten singles that even original 60s band members had little use for. Crisscrossing the country by car for months at a time, when the only means of communication was a pay phone and a stamped envelope, Tim amassed a catalog of killer songs that truly exemplified the wildest side of mid-60s teen fervor.  The iconic Back From the Grave series of compilations were the fruits of his labor. Other comps followed that centered on exotica, greasy R&B, and assorted oddities but always with the Crypt level of quality. Even a stint of “modern” bands such as the New Bomb Turks, Nine-Pound Hammer, the Wylde Mammoths among others saw a home on Crypt Records as well.

Fast forward three decades later and I find myself sitting in Tim’s apartment in Berlin. Alongside us, Tim’s doggie Roky quietly relaxes while a Real Kids test pressing cranks in the background. Apologizing for the volume of the record, Tim quickly pulls the needle off and ushers me into his home studio where we hunker down and listen to some live Raunch Hands material at an equally loud volume. As the cuts whizz by, I can’t help but be drawn in by Tim’s enthusiasm. ‘Ya gotta listen to this…isn’t that CRAZY!” We have a few laughs at the sheer outrageousness of some the tracks and then settle down for a chat.

SSA: Tim, thanks again for giving me some of your time. It took a little work to find you. You know nowadays everyone seems to be on Facebook, which is great for tracking down people but is a bit of a double-edged sword.

Unnatural Ax
Boston’s Unnatural Ax, Photo Courtesy of the Music Museum of New England.

Tim: Everybody is on Facebook, but I’m not. Nevertheless, when I was doing the Real Kids research it became a necessary evil. One of it’s saving graces though was how it enabled me able to track down a guy who made live, reel-to-reel, tape recordings of many classic Boston bands at his loft. Stuff like DMZ, Real Kids, Unnatural Ax, all these bands, playing all the time at this guys loft. Amazing, right?

On Facebook I met this fellow who knew Real Kid Billy Borgioli’s widow. At first, I was a little hesitant of his connection, as many of these music-related friendships are very fleeting. To my surprise he turned out to be the nicest,most sincere fellow in the world. In fact, he had paid Billy’s widow thirty-five hundred for Billy’s old guitar that was only worth only about twenty-five hundred. Just a prince.

The original scrapbook list of the 1976 Real Kids loft recordings. Courtesy Tim Warren.

This fellow had rescued two big scrapbooks from the Borgioli’s (each band always has one guy with a scrapbook.) And within that scrapbook was where I first saw this list of songs.  June 21, 1976… June 22, 1976. Two 7 1/2″ reel-to-reels and one 4 3/4″ reel-to-reel. All these live songs on tape. It got me thinking, who had recorded this? That evening I mentioned it to John Felice and he tells me that he thinks the tapers names were Dale and Monica. Unfortunately, he could not recall their last names.

Two weeks later, I’m talking with Jim Felice, John’s brother on the phone. Twenty minutes into our conversation I ask him ‘who are these people?’ I had emailed everybody in Boston by this time. Dale and Monica, loft on High Street, parties there with bands playing. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Nothing. Then, near the very end of our call, Jim suddenly exclaims  “Gabriel! Dale Gabriel. His nickname was Gabe.” Dale Gabriel? Boom!

SSA: You found him.

Tim: I had found him and I immediately called him the next day

SSA: Wow

Tim: “Yup, that was me” Dale told me the next morning “I recorded all those bands on my reel-to-reel deck” blah, blah  blah… “a Studer reel-to-reel deck too…great quality.” And I’m eating this up like crazy. Suddenly his tone changes and he reveals that two months ago, he had to downsize from a house to a condo. And as part of his downsizing efforts, the tapes ended up on the curb as trash. 

At this point I’m thinking, I re-joined Facebook on April 9, 2017, specifically to reach out to people. Hating myself for doing it all along. And while I did send out requests for info on the mystery taper, I often got wrong information and ended up tracking down people months later that had nothing to do with those tapes. All I kept thinking was if only I had found him in April…

SSA: You would have…

The response to Tim’s reel-to-reel salvage mission. Courtesy Tim Warren.

Tim: I would have flown over to Boston and driven down to his home in Virginia Beach, VA and had Boston rock-and-roll history out-the-ass. I would have had, 20 albums let’s say, 20 albums of unreleased, live, bad-ass, rock-and-roll from Boston from ’76 to ’78. God. And to think that that shit was so casually discarded. I even emailed the waste transfer station with an image saying that this was what the reels would look like and that I was willing to pay a $5000 reward for them. Immediately they write me back saying that everything goes straight into the incinerator. You could have heard me scream in Germany. I just wanted to kill myself. Just fuckin’ kill myself. Cause, Christ, you know it’s history, that’s fucking history in a big way… crazy, crazy, crazy.

Bad Music Seminar
Program for the Bad Music Seminar at Shelter Studios, 1988. Art by Pete Ciccone.

SSA: Getting back to the New York scene, can you tell me a bit about The Bad Music Seminar?

Tim: Oh boy, what a disaster! Pete Ciccone (Rat Bastards, Vacant Lot) and I decided to put that one together. As we were both obsessive Milkshakes and Mighty Caesar‘s freaks, our idea was to bring over Billy Childish believing that people would just show up. Yup, (laughs) we lost 45 hundred on that. We flew in The Gravediggers from California as well as outsider artist Jack Starr from Texas. Jack had just had an album released on Norton Records so we had him backed by the A-Bones. Perfect, right? It sounded like the Velvet Underground.

Jack Starr
Jack Starr at the Bad Music Seminar, 1988.

SSA:  Hahaha.

Tim: I wish I had the live tape of that. We probably have the reel-to-reels somewhere. I remember Billy Childish yelling “Hey, Peter Frampton!” to our sound man. He kept calling him Peter Frampton because the poor guy sported long, golden locks like Frampton.

Anyway, we brought the Caesars in and the idea was to have them come in and record. At the same time, record The Rat Bastards, The Gravediggers Mike Markesich (who authored the TeenBeat Mayhem! book) and The Double Naught Spies. That was the plan, and then as a bonus have these bands play live.

SSA: Right.

Chris Such and the Savages
Chris Such and the Savages at the Bad Music Festival. Photo by Jillian Jonas.

Tim: Pete chose half the bands, and I chose half. And, then we tried to find a space that ended up being Shelter Studios on W37th St. I had seen this article about Shelter Studios that described it as some sort of large techno loft smack in the middle of the garment district.

NY Daily news article
NY Daily News article on the Bad Music Seminar 1988

Jeff: It was a pretty rough spot. Most of these music studio-type places in that area were not equipped to handle large groups of people. The elevators alone were only made for three or four people.

Tim: It was insane.

Jeff: I had heard a rumor about Thee Mighty Caesars getting ahold of your credit card and going to town with it at Peter Lugers. Any truth to that?

Tim: No, no, no, no, no. Here’s the here’s the real story. This is the funniest shit ever. We had the band recording in Coyote Studios in Brooklyn when two of them, the bass player and the drummer, had to leave a couple days before Childish. Williamsburg back then you know was a wasteland. There was like, one deli in, 10 square blocks.

So anyway, I’m getting ready to drive them out to JFK for their flight home and they come up to me “Ah Tim, you know we’d really like to get a great meal, at a steakhouse, or something …”

Peter Lugers
The Peter Lugers sign. Photo courtesy of http://endoedibles.com

I quickly recalled that every time I go to Coyote or went across the Williamsburg Bridge on my way to the pressing plant in Long Island City, I passed this steakhouse sign. It always made me wonder ‘whats this Peter Lugers?’ And as I’m not in that income level, the name meant nothing to me. So I mention this to the owners of Coyote, Albert and Mike Caiti, that these guys want to go to a steak place. They were like “Well, there is Peter Lugers, it’s really good.”

So, I drive them over to Peter Lugers. And I tell them that I have to head back to the studio and I’ll come back about an hour and a half to pick them up and then we’ll head to the airport.

An hour and a half later I come back, and I don’t see them. Great. Here I am, dressed like a bum, still wearing the same clothes for three days because of this frantic schedule, running around looking for these guys. I hesitantly walk into Peter Luger’s in a fuckin’ ripped shirt looking like something the cat dragged in.

Billy Childish of Thee Mighty Caesars, Bad Music Seminar, Shelter Studios, NYC 1988.

“Excuse me, um, I left three English gentlemen here at the restaurant about an hour and a half ago.” “Oh yes. Come with me.” The maitre’d led me in and there they are, sitting in front of a huge plate of bones with grins a mile wide. “Is, everything OK?” “Yeah! Relax, relax!” And, boom, there’s another hundred and fifty dollars down the drain. Another cash outlay, more bleeding. At first, I thought they were going to lead me into a back bathroom where I’d find them washing dishes or something.

SSA: Hahaha.

Tim: SoI laid out a hundred fifty for the meal.

SSA: And they got their steak.

Tim: Yup. So, it wasn’t them maxing out a credit card. It was only me looking like a bum, walking into Peter Lugers.

SSA: And just paying them.

Tim: And, paying the bill LATE. When I get back to Coyote they asked me where I took them. I said, “Oh, this place called Peter Lugers.” “WHAT!!!!! That place is really expensive!” It wasn’t that they recommended Lugers, but from my viewpoint, it didn’t seem like a big deal at first. That area was all prostitutes back then. You’d have the Hasidim getting blowjobs in their cars from the crack whores under the Williamsburg Bridge. I was thinking, it can’t be that posh you know, but it is! Hahaha. But I would not have known because I didn’t live on that income level where I could just go out and eat steak for 50 bucks. We were happy with a dollar slice, you know? But yeah that was the story with the Caesars and Peter Lugers.

SSA: Amazing.

Tim: But the Bad Music seminar thing, was chaos and a cluster fuck. I mean we tried to get some promotion. I did a mailing to all my mail order customers since you know, there wasn’t an Internet.

The infamous Might Caesars’ Sgt. Pepper rip.

In the end, nobody really cared. Nobody. Actually, when Childish got back to England, they recorded there. In reality, the Mighty Caesars had broken up long before the seminar. When I originally reached out to Childish I asked him, “Do you mind just coming over for a one-shot reunion show for two nights in New York?” “Sure.” I followed that up with, “Hey, you guys wanna record an album?” “Yeah, sure.” Boom. So after the gig they went back to England and recorded John Lennon’s Corpse Revisited. Pete Ciccone and I did the Sgt. Peppers dis for the cover with all the serial murders, and put that out

Come October 1988, the Raunch Hands recorded the Payday album. And when the album came out, nobody was buying in the States! Nobody. So I just figured, let’s try out Europe. Hahaha .. twenty thousand dollars later…

Tim and the van in Europe. Photo courtesy Steve Baise.

I lost a lot of money on that first tour because I bought a van in Holland. I also bought a dual back line, bass amp, two guitar amps, blah blah blah blah, drums, all that shit. And shipped it over to Europe.

SSA: Man, good luck!

Tim: But, hey, it gave the Raunch Hands a second life. They were dead on the fuckin’ vine you know. I was glad I was able to resuscitate their career. They weren’t getting anywhere since it was all grunge at that point. 1988 was the birth of all that Soundgarden and Led Zeppelin imitation stuff. And it was bad. I remember there was a deejay on college radio station WNYU, this English guy. We’re sitting there in the studio and I’m hearing this thing that sounds like Led Zeppelin to me. Awful stuff, but the DJ is falling over himself “Wow, did that sound just like Robert Plant?!” I’m thinking to myself, and…this is a good thing? What did punk rock do for the world? Hahaha. It’s all over! So yeah, that was the climate at the time.

Pt. 2  Coming in a future post!

 

Rosemarys and The What IV

The What IV at Rosemary’s Greenpoint Tavern, Brooklyn. New Years Eve 2004. Left to right: Jon Chalmers (Ex-Talismen), Greg Ginter, Chris Raymond, Pete Ciccone and Karl Meyers. At this gig, Jon was filling in for Mike Hoffman who was temporarily absent due to the birth of his son.

During the 90s while Manhattan was undergoing massive changes, many musicians and artists took refuge in the low-rent, decidedly sketchy areas by the Williamsburg Bridge. As expected, within a few years the area became a small breeding ground for various types of  cool music, Garage Punk being one of them.

Central among the watering holes favored by cash-strapped punks was Rosemary’s Greenpoint Tavern. An old-school joint where owner Rosemary Bleday held court and served locals for decades. Decked out with a supremely coiffed beehive, Rosemary was the stereotypical NYC tough lady with a heart of gold. A quality that endeared her to many. Most especially to the young musicians who had begun to call this area home.

Among those admirers were pop punks the Vacant Lot. Formed after the demise of legendary NYC garage rockers The Rat Bastards, the Lot took on a more melodic pop direction while the remaining ex-Bastards became the Devil Dogs. Delving deeper into the harder, in-your-face, garage sound.

This brings us to the What IV. An alias of the the Vacant Lot, the What IV was the defacto house band at Rosemary’s for several years. Existing between 1997 and 2005, the band consisted of Lot members Pete Ciccone, Mike Hoffman, Chris Raymond, and Greg Ginter. Rounding out the lineup was local pal, Karl Meyers (Main Drag Studios owner) on keys/sax.

As Pete relates “Rosemary asked us for years to play there, but the Vacant Lot was way too loud, so we created this band, which was all garage / beat / frat / eurobeat to play at a more barroom sound level. We played every holiday there for years, (Halloween, New Years, Valentines Day, etc.) along with a couple of other local bars and a few NYC dives like Siberia – avoiding clubs. We would do 5 or 6 sets and the start over once we ran out of songs or beer!” The project soldered on until all the members eventually moved out of Brooklyn.

These days Rosemary’s still stands. And from what I understand, still serves beer in styrofoam cups (for now). A perk many of the privileged folk who now live in that area probably find very “authentic”.

Bleecker Bob Plotnik 1942-2018

The record club gains another member. Word came today that venerable NYC icon and record store owner Bob Plotnik had sadly passed on. Bob’s store, Bleecker Bobs, was known worldwide for many decades for not just having an amazing selection but also for its legendary cantankerous owner. And while the tales spun by seasoned record buyers have centered on their treatment by Bob, surprisingly there are a small handful who did befriend him and dodged the majority of the wrath he inflicted on others.

My own experiences in his store were actually very limited as 1) his stuff was usually overpriced and 2) I was very aware of his rep. Still, it was kind of a kick to quickly pop in, scan his garage punk bins, realize I didn’t want to pay that much and scoot out before you got tagged.

In all honesty, my own interesting Bob moment came many, many years later and had nothing to do with his temperament. On April 15, 2001, Joey Ramone succumbed to lymphoma after a long widely-publicized 7-year battle. Having grown up listening to the Ramones, it was a sad moment for me. One that seriously marked the all-too-real passage of time.

The following evening while wandering downtown, I made a spur of the moment decision to walk by CBGBs. Purely as a gesture of respect. To my surprise, I was not the only one with that idea. Turns out a small group of punks had set up a small altar right in front of the club. I watched people singing, giving offerings and took a few photos for my own files.

Shortly after midnight, a private ceremony inside the club let out and guests began leaving the club. Spotting photographer Roberta Bailey, I quickly ran over and asked her if she minded me taking a photo of her in front of the club. Once that was accomplished I looked around to see if there was anyone else I could cajole into a shot. That was when I ran into friends Billy Miller and Miriam Linna. Having just left the service, they stopped and chatted with me for a short while.

All of a sudden Billy goes “Hey Bob!” and goes over to chat to a leather-jacketed Bob Plotnik quickly making his way through the throng of people in front of the club. Now, as anyone can tell you, Billy could charm the pants off of anyone. This moment was no different. Expecting a curt brush off, I was surprised to see Bob turn around, smile, and extend his hand. Billy being Billy, just grabbed Bob by the shoulder in a playful embrace.

Just at that moment someone to the left of me, also with a camera, pointed it at the two of them. Instantly recognizing a golden photo op, Billy swings Bob toward the camera all the while still embracing him. Within a half a second I also had my camera up and pointed it at this most unusual scene. Clicked the shutter, and wound up with this shot. A testament to the amazing Billy Miller, a man who could tame a cranky record store owner using just his smile. RIP Bob. RIP Billy. It’s getting to be a crazy party up there.

Billy Miller, Bob Plotnik
Norton Records’ Billy Miller and Bleecker Bob Plotnik in front of CBGBs April 16, 2001.

New Offerings from Crypt Records

As if there wasn’t enough merch on Boston’s Real Kids, Crypt Records label owner (and local boy made good) Tim Warren just released a couple of more deep digs into the Real Kids archives. See You on the Street Tonight and We Don’t Mind If You Dance deliver even more unreleased raw live material. And all this just mere weeks after the release of the super deluxe, Live at the Rat booklet/CD package. While the tapes on the two new CDs are sourced from early audience recordings, the sheer ferocity and passion of the performances are undeniable.

Manna from Heaven. The upcoming releases and Tim’s note.

Led by the master songwriting of John Felice, the Real Kids produced classic track after track throughout the mid to late 70s Boston punk scene to mostly local acclaim. Even though they did gain a cult following as the 80s wore on, they never really achieved the same level of recognition as other bands. This is something that the fine folks at Crypt and Norton have long sought to correct. While the Real Kids still occasionally perform (with Felice the lone remaining member), nothing really matches the intensity of their early years when the band burned with an unrestrained fury. Sadly, original members Alan “Alpo” Paulino and Billy Borgioli are no longer with us as both passed away from sudden medical issues within the past few years. That along with the ailing Felice’s tenacity makes the Real Kids musical journey all the more poignant.

Speaking to Tim a month ago, he emphasized how incredulous—and criminal—it was that the Real Kids never got their due. And as if to prove it, he blasted the test pressing of this release. “Isn’t this fuckin’ AMAZING!” I had to agree. So, to find these CDs in my mailbox a couple of days ago along with a nice note from Tim was a more than just a pleasant surprise.

For neophytes, I recommend checking out the classic first LP available as a remastered reissue from Norton Records. For the rest of us who already have a ton of Real Kids material, keep an eye out for this one. It should be hitting the Crypt mail order site soon.

Also coming soon to this blog, an exclusive interview with garage rock savior Tim Warren himself where he discusses all things Crypt as well as his NYC years. Stay tuned!

Musical Interlude – The Optic Nerve @ Neither/Nor 1986

While digitizing some old cassettes, I ran across this gem of a performance from NYC’s own Optic Nerve. Centering on more folk-rock stylings, the Nerve were unique among the plethora of harder sounding NYC bands. Bobby Belfiore, Tony Matura and Orin Portnoy formed the core of the band throughout its existence, supplemented on drums mainly by Ken Anderson, Greg Clark and Frank Max. This performance is taken from a show at Neither/Nor bookstore on 703 East 6th St.

Located in what was once the wastelands between Ave C and D, Neither/Nor was a launching point for much of the literary talent in lower Manhattan during the mid-80s. The bookstore occupied the ground floor of an old, dilapidated loft building, which amazingly survives to this day. No small feat considering that directly opposite the building in the 80s one would have found just open lots strewn with rubble.  Neither/Nor not only served as a artistic oasis for the community, it also nurtured future talents such as Joel Rose and Nuyorican poet and playwright Miguel Piñero.

The Optic Nerve went on to have one of their songs immortalized on the Children of Nuggets box set alongside the likes of The Cramps, Lyres, The Hoodoo Gurus and other equally important contemporaries. At Neither/Nor though, they were just another local garage group scraping by and playing their hearts out to a small, but passionate, fanbase.

California Dreamin’

It didn’t take much to push me. Especially after seeing images and reading about Burger Records‘ yearly festival Burger Boogaloo for several years.

When it comes to music festivals, pretty much everyone I know is unanimous in skipping the hassle of the big organized festivals. While my own tastes seemed to follow groups that have traditionally played in tiny clubs or smaller venues, it was only recently the phenomena known as the “reunion” shows has forced me to slightly reassess that preference. Normally, I doubt anyone can pass up seeing a favorite group one more time, but that dedication is sorely tested once you have to do it alongside 25,000 people.

The Fuzztones supporting The Damned in England. July 6, 1985 (courtesy Link2Wales.com)

Garage music in general has never really translated well to these settings. Not too much money to be made from 100-person festivals in 1985! However, that was just in the U.S. Not so oddly, our friends across the Atlantic thought differently. Bands like The Headless Horsemen and The Fuzztones, both of whom regularly played to crowds of 50–100 people in NYC, were invited to play huge European festivals. Even more impressively, on bills that drew tens of thousands of people.

And while the U.S. “alternative” festivals eventually caught on in the early 90s and attracted some amazing talent though the years, garage punk really wasn’t what brought the masses.

That all changed with the unlikeliest of people.

Poster for Little Steven’s Festival.

While the classic rock strains of Bruce Springsteen is enough to send the most seasoned punk fan running, not many would expect a person immersed in that world to champion garage punk. Little Steven Van Zandt, longtime guitarist for the Springsteen band, however, took on the thankless task of promoting the genre via his radio show. While I do tend to question some of the criteria which Steven uses to label music “garage,” there is no question that his heart was in the right place. More impressively, Van Zandt also put his money where his mouth is by helping organize a sponsored garage music festival in NYC in 2004. While he did succumb to having to book popular indy rockers The Strokes to bring people in, for the most part 90 percent of the acts were  groups from garage music’s past and present. Needless to say he lost a ton of money…

But, I digress. I’ll cover this event in further detail a future column. It truly deserves its own post. For now let me just say that, at that time, the idea of a “good” punk festival that did not put promoters in hock and did not fall into the trap of becoming this unstoppable merchandise-fueled juggernaut seemed difficult to impossible. Since then, thankfully, things have changed. Many other mavericks have organized smaller garage music festivals both here and overseas to much more success.

Burger Boogaloo Lineup 2018

Burger Boogaloo is one of those success stories. While I believe this is its ninth year, the festival has lost none of its original spirit. And just as important, it has managed to attract followers who are just as protective of this. Not only is the talent is top notch, but the environment is also oddly familial. With older and younger fans all pretty much congregating in this massive “be-in” for lack of a better word. The festival credo, “Gather all ye outliers, weirdos and rebels and celebrate the spirit of rock and roll,” pretty much sums up the whole ethos. Prices are on par with other festivals, but for that, you get not just great music but also a great day (or days) out. Much respect to the organizers, Total Trash Productions, for proving that such things are still possible. I mean, even The Damned’s Captain Sensible amusingly noted from the stage, “Hope to see you guys soon…What a nice festival!”

This year’s festival did not disappoint. Quite amazing considering that the previous years headliners were original punks, The Buzzcocks, Iggy Pop, X and Redd Kross. Mighty big Docs to fill if you ask me.

The location was, as it was in the previous year, Mosswood Park, one of the smaller city parks in Oakland. Many pointed out to me that the city has changed quite a bit, but still it runs into the same issues that many urban areas have to grapple with. Unfortunately, in this case, this meant moving some homeless encampments out of the park for the weekend. Something which caused a bit of a stir in the news. To sooth the critical attention, festival goers were encouraged to donate to the homeless organizations in attendance at the festival. Certainly a worthwhile endeavor.

The Pleasure Pier stage in the early AM.

The two main staging areas for the acts, The Toxic Paradise stage and the larger Pleasure Pier, were on opposite sides of the park. While in between you had your usual festival staples such as veg and non-veg food options, vendors and the ubiquitous porta potties. What it didn’t have was massive amounts of humanity. Food and drink were easily obtained and even the bathroom lines were pretty reasonable. People were generally in a good mood, and even seeing entire families in attendance made me think this was just a typical weekend outing—that happened to have live music.

Without going through the entire lineup, I’ll jut say that the experience was a fantastic one and every single person in the place, both onstage and off, seemed genuinely happy to be there. That was even obvious during the sets of the few harder punk bands. No scuffles, no one was hurt and once the group finished…you just saw smiling people leaving the area.

Band highlights? Where to begin. Personal favorites were of course The Mummies (who pretty much have never done a bad show in their existence) as well as garage trash punks Traditional Fools, Italian glam rockers Giuda, SF’s Flakes, and Japan’s pop punks Firestarter.

As far as the pros: Both DEVO and The Damned delivered tight sets, which was even more impressive when you consider that both acts have been around (in some manner) for a bit over four decades. Something The Damned especially had fun mocking. Captain Sensible: “Eh, not bad for a bunch of old farts…oh no, I mean you guys…not us.” Dave Vanian, after Sensible donned a banana suit and gave an unexpectedly long song intro: “I keep looking at him and all I see is an old fruit.”

As the last chords of Sensible’s guitar (on Jello Biafra no less) faded into the cold, humid Oakland night, it was hard not to feel a vicarious sense of accomplishment for everyone involved in the project. No bones about it, this was a difficult thing to do. And the fact that it appeared so easy on the surface just reinforced that hard fact.

Many thanks to David Greenfield, Greg Gutzbehal, Aya Cuzner, Jim DeLuca, Real Boss Hoss, Laurent and Sunny, Lisa and Suke and the myriad of folks and bands who made my time spent in California pretty damned Neat, Neat, Neat.

Oakland Happenings – The Burger Boogaloo Opening Party

Oakland, California is definitely one of those places that can get easily overlooked. Sure, it had Berkeley and a storied history of social activism, but it tends to get forgotten in favor of its flashier next door neighbor, San Francisco. However, for many years, it quietly served as the home base for the garage music scene in the Bay Area. All the things that brought the New York music and art scene to the farthest reaches of Brooklyn are at play here.

Of the many happenings in this fair city, Burger Records’ yearly fest, Burger Boogaloo, has been one of the highlights of not just the Bay Area but also the rock music community in general. This year’s line-up proved no less impressive an array of seasoned veterans and hungry up-and-comers. Devo, The Damned alongside, The Rip Offs, Japan’s Firestarter, Italy’s Guida, and on and on.

OctopusPoster
Poster for DJ Sid Presleys’ Opening NIght Party

Starting this year’s celebration, however, was DJ Sid Presley‘s opening night meet and greet at the Octopus Literary Lounge. Presley, the nom de plume of impresario David Greenfield, has been one of the leading forces of bringing talent to the city. A charming fellow, his optimism easily evident in even a small chat with him. Not only are his shows immaculately curated: He also has some of the best posters I have seen in quite a while.

The Octopus Literary Salon is quite an interesting venue. Smaller than I expected, it’s a small storefront in downtown Oakland. As Presley related, the promoters of Burger Boogaloo approached him and asked him to organize an opening party. However, once he secured the small space (which doubles as a cafe during the day), much to his surprise things started moving quicker than expected. Several of the bands he asked to perform asked him if it was OK to bring along friends. Some touring in the area from abroad. Before he knew it, he had secured an international line-up of talent.

Opening the show were The Teutonics, followed by SF’s own The Ogres, featuring a member of The Phantom Surfers. They were quickly followed by Spain’s Ramona and France’s Jon and the Vons. Closing up the night were Boston’s Muck and the Mires. The atmosphere was celebratory, and the vibe was one of good fun and camaraderie. A hallmark of the Oakland scene.

As if to prove my point, on my way out I noticed a member of The Teutonics talking to friends and fans. Walking over I enthusiastically mentioned how much I enjoyed their show and to look for pics on my blog. Before I knew it I was quickly handed a 45 and profusely thanked in a similar fashion. I’d be remiss not to give this fine band a plug. Although this single isn’t on Bandcamp yet, do drop by their page here and sample the other musical offerings.

Next post will wrap up the California coverage and its back to our usual NY fare.

The Peter Stuart Interview – The Tryfles Pt. 1

Several years back when the idea of creating something out of what I had accumulated crossed my mind, I agonized over how to go about presenting it. In fact, I agonized so much that it turned into the proverbial monkey on my back. Should I put up video? What about sound? How can I arrange the news clippings? The only thing that was fixed were what bands I felt were important to highlight. Through the years, that focus turned into who the members were that were in these bands. Figuring that they would be able to tell their story much better than I could. This idea morphed into the blog you are now reading.

When it came time to speak to former band members, Peter Stuart was at the top of my list. Not only for the fact that he was an astounding bass player but also for the fact that The Tryfles led to yet another beloved NYC garage-punk band, The Headless Horsemen. With Peter’s involvement in both, it’s not rocket science to guess who played a key role in driving both these well-loved bands.

With that in mind, I found myself at vintage guitar headquarters Retrofret on a recent weekday evening to have a chat with the maestro himself. This portion of the interview will center on the beginnings of the penultimate NY garage band, The Tryfles, and eventually work its way through the creation of The Headless Horsemen.

SSA: Peter! Let’s start at the very beginning.

The Tryfles first and only single with the original line-up. (Photography by Monica Dee, John Fay by Lisan Sieroty Lema)

Peter Stuart: Sounds good to me! I’ll start the whole Tryfles thing by saying that John Fay’s ambition for The Tryfles was that we make a record that’d be worth a lot of money someday. This was John’s stated mission. So, while I don’t know what The Tryfles 45 is worth nowadays, it’s certainly worth more than the $3 that it cost us when it was made!

SSA: Can you touch on how each of you guys met? I know you were friends with future Fuzztone and Headless Horseman Elan Portnoy since high school.

PS: John Fay and I were the basic nucleus of the group. Ellen O’Neill and Lesya Karpilov were both friends of mine that I sucked into the band afterward. As far as groups go, The Tryfles were very much a designed band. Much in the way the Byrds were. In fact, Roger McGuinn is my hero because he designed, or, I should say, he “picked” people. He didn’t intentionally select great musicians: He’d say, “Oh, that’s an interesting person,” or, “I just met this guy on the beach. He has a Beatles haircut, and he plays the bongos: He’s my drummer.” He’d put together a band of personalities, not a band of musicians. And The Tryfles were absolutely a band of personalities. It was intentionally set up that way.

Initially, I was friends with Ellen’s brother and sister who I had both met in the late 70s. Oddly enough, at a high school gig where one of my bands played. In fact, not only did they all go to school there, their mother even taught there! Through family connections, I met Ellen, and we began hanging out in the early 80s. She’d been kind of a teenage hanger-on throughout the late, late 70s rock scene. By the time I met her, she was attending college but still heavily into music. We would often end up going to gigs together. Not as boyfriend or girlfriend but more like good pals. We built our friendship on this.

John was going to high school at the time. I forgot where he went, but he went to one of those quirky private schools. He’d been in the early version of The Outta Place with Orin Portnoy, and I think Shari Mirojnik. He, Orin and Shari had a band called The Disturbed.

The Tryfles. January 1984. 1st promo photos taken in Ellen O’Neill’s apartment. Art by Lesya Karpilov. (Courtesy of Peter Stuart)

SSA: Was this around 1982?

PS: Yeah, around that time. Elan Portnoy was the one who first introduced me to John Fay. In fact, Jordan Tarlow, Elan and John all went to the same high school. As you noted, I had already been friends with Elan for years. In fact, we’d played in a couple of bands together. Once Elan introduced me to John, we hit it off right away.

SSA: The meeting of two like minds. What were you doing musically around that time?

PS: At the time I was playing in blues bands. It’s funny because while I’d get them to do some stuff that I like, I had to play endless Muddy Waters jams. Now, I love Muddy Waters, but I really don’t like white kids playing Muddy Waters songs unless they’re really good at it. And these people weren’t really good at it!

SSA: That’s pretty funny. So, while you were active musically, you still weren’t doing the music you liked. Why the inertia?

Peter Stuart onstage with the Tryfles. (Photo by Greg Gutbezahl)

PS: You know when you get into a lull in life? Well, that was where I was at that moment. I’d been in a band in 1979, 80 that looked like we were going to get signed. We had a publishing contract and everything. And, as the way it often does, the whole thing was torpedoed by our guitar player, my best friend, who just balked and quit.

So, instead of being in this signed band making records, I was working at a record store. I was in this miserable fat period of life, just buying bass guitars and feeling sorry for myself. And I couldn’t seem to meet anybody who wanted to do what I wanted to do, which was play 60s rock ‘n’ roll.

That was when Elan happened to bring John to my record store. He and I started to talk about records and how we both owned a Danelectro bass. We immediately bonded.

SSA: That was the connection.

PS: That was the connection. We start talking, and I found out he was into doing the same thing I wanted to do. And, god, I must have been 22 or 23, and he was around 17. John was actually going to graduate high school in the summer of 1984. His family was then planning to move to Seattle.

One day I convinced him to guest in a silly 60s frat rock band I was playing in called Life of Leisure. He came up, did a couple songs, and it was the best we ever sounded. So, after that show both of us had the same idea: “Screw these guys. Let’s start our own band.”

John Fay of The Tryfles onstage at The Dive. (Photo by Greg Gutbezahl)

Around the same time, John kind of got kicked out of The Outta Place. More accurately, they had reformed without him. You know, I love John like a brother, but he was not the easiest guy to get along with sometimes back then. I know Orin was also not the easiest guy to get along with either. My impression was that there was a bit of friction there.

[John Fay later elucidated a bit on this period: “Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of ‘street smarts’ and Orin and Sherri did, which I think was necessary. Additionally, I also had to deal with control freak parents that wouldn’t allow me to play out—it might have been the first gig but the band didn’t have Andrea Kusten or Mike Chandler yet . . . So that spelled the end of that. This is where I think the friction mainly lay.”]

As luck would have it, right when he and I start hanging out, The Outta Place started playing at the Dive. One day John tells me, “Hey, this band I used to play in is playing at the Dive. Ya wanna go?” While this sounded intriguing, my initial reply was “So, what’s the Dive?” This was how we first saw The Outta Place with, I believe, The Mad Violets on the same bill. That first visit to the Dive happened in October or November 1983. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact date. But, I do remember that, as soon as John and I walked in, we were immediately transfixed. Both of us thought, “This is kind of cool.”

SSA: Getting back to Ellen, how did she get involved?

The Trfyles first live gig. January 13, 1984, at the Dive supporting The Outta Place. (Courtesy of Peter Stuart)

PS: So, after John and I hooked up, I introduced him to Ellen. The three of us went to see a screening of The Monkees’ Head at her college. John and Ellen immediately hit it off. At that point, she was just getting into playing drums. In fact, I actually helped her buy a drum kit. I remember riding out to Queens on the subway with her on the day she bought a beautiful Rogers kit from this cranky old guy who lived in a basement full of drums. Unfortunately, she had no clue how to play it! But, I’ll give her this: She sat down, and within six or eight weeks, she could keep a beat enough to back a band.

By this time, John and I had already had our first rehearsal of what was to become The Tryfles with my drummer friend Richard Matthews. Now, Richard was a Keith Moon fanatic that thought there were only two drummers worth listening to in the world. Keith Moon and Elvin Jones. So, you have Richard, and then you have John, who is a really, really good, tight rhythm guitarist. Then you had me, stuck in the middle. Needless to say, it just didn’t work.

I told John that I had a friend who’s just starting to play drums and was really eager to be in a band. No frills, just basic stuff. The next time we went to the studio we invited Ellen. And lo and behold, it actually started to sound like something.

First page of a family tree outlining the first two years of the Tryfles. (Courtesy of Peter Stuart)

[At this point Peter hands me a few mimeographed sheets labeled “Tryfles Family Tree.”]

And here is The Tryfles Family Tree. It was made sometime in 1986 for a fanzine, whose name escapes me. It perfectly charts where we were at that time. Can’t ask for more than that, can ya?

We did only one rehearsal with Richard’s Keith Moon-style drumming. Which, if we were better, might have worked. However, Richard was also a difficult person as well. So, we ended up making the right decision. With three intense male personalities, the band would have been doomed from the get-go.

When Ellen sat down and started drumming—”Boom, bang, boom, bang, boom, bang”—she was perfect. Her strong desire to be in a band enabled her to succeed where technically better drummers couldn’t.

Nevertheless, we still sounded thin. That’s what made me think of Lesya Karpilov, who I worked with at the record store. Now Lesya is really, really brilliant, a bit wacky and the most intense personality that I had ever met. I totally fell for her the second I met her. My first impression was that this girl is a rock star. Her whole persona was just so spot on. Ironically, I ended up having to convince her to join.

Now, keep in mind that this is a high school girl of 16, who had already stopped attending high school and was working in a record store. There was nothing that could phase her. She already had this persona.

Lesya Karpilov and her Vox Phantom, played by NY Doll Johnny Thunders on the “Old Grey Whistle Test”. (Courtesy of Peter Stuart)

SSA: What was her persona? Tough girl?

PS: It was this whole cooler-than-anyone rock chick. Chrissie Hynde was her role model. The whole eye makeup and hair thing. At the store, both of us would sit behind the counter and sing along to records. I was pleasantly surprised to find out she really had a good voice!

Thinking about our band situation, I approached John and Ellen and told them about this girl who I work with who I think would really make this band. Immediately Ellen said, “I don’t want to be in a band with another girl,” and John said, “I don’t want to be in a band with another guitar player.” I basically told them that we’re were going to try this anyway.

So, Lesya comes in, and she and Ellen hate each other instantly, and she and John hate each other instantly. But in an odd way, they all realized that BANG! The Monkees. Two girls, two guys. The look was perfect, and it sounded like something as soon as we started playing. It was just one of those times when everything jelled. We were rough as shit…but it worked.

SSA: Thus, The Tryfles were born. Was this around the time of the Dive video that Anthony “Tony G” Gliozzo shot? I seem to remember you telling me this was the second live gig by the band.

A flyer from The Tryfles second gig immortalized by Anthony “Tony G” Gliozzo on YouTube. (Courtesy Peter Stuart)

PS: Yes, in fact, in that video you linked to on your site, you’ll notice that the sound is a bit strange. It’s almost like you can’t tell that it’s “He’s Waiting” by The Sonics. The reason for that is, between the time we rehearsed and the time we got onstage, we somehow were not in the same key! I’m playing in F, and the rest of the band is playing it in E.  It’s the most discordant thing musically possible.

In many ways, it’s apropos that The Tryfles are immortalized this way. If this isn’t a Tryfles moment, I don’t know what is. Four people up there playing their hearts out…in different keys.

Stay tuned for Part II! Extra special thanks to Peter Stuart for his time and ephemera and West Coast operative Greg Gutbezahl for his photos. Visit Greg’s photo site here!