True West: Billy Miller and The A-Bones hit the PNW

While January 1st is a time for renewal, for a bunch of us old-timers it also brings back memories of what was a traditional event in these parts. Without fail, no matter what show happened the evening before, there was always a gathering the following day at Norton Records HQ in Brooklyn to celebrate Billy Millers’ birthday. And, while those parties themselves can easily fill another post, I thought it would be nice to this year revisit someone else’s memories of our esteemed host.

GirlTrouble is a Pacific Northwest legend. Approaching 40 years of existence, the band has soldiered on. Drummer Bon Von Wheelie, guitarist Kahuna, singer K.P. Kendall, and bassist Dale Phillips still dutifully continue to play both small clubs and larger venues to an ever-faithful group of fans. When I saw the band they not only made me a fan, but I oddly felt that I had somehow stumbled into an A-Bones show. While the female drummer was one component, what really sold me was their choice of material, humor, and willingness to play music they love and have fun. No matter what. So, it was not too surprising to find out later that the bands did know each other. Not only that, GT had often met the Millers on their later PNW excursions. When I learned of this I had to ask Bon Von Wheelie for details. What follows is a wonderful recollection from Bon about her time with Billy that I am sure will charm you as much as we were charmed by them. Take it away Bon! —SSA

Girl Trouble fanzine, Wig Out!
Girl Trouble fanzine, Wig Out! Design, Bon Von Wheelie.

Probably like most everybody I first knew Billy Miller through the pages of Kicks. Since I was making a little magazine of my own for my band Girl Trouble somebody sent me one of the first issues and said “Check this out if you want to see how it’s done!” I was a fan of Billy and Miriam before I actually met them.  

Just like I expected they were both the coolest people ever and nobody could match Billy’s one-liners. They were both so “East Coast” that to us it was like meeting beings from another planet, way hipper than we were. When Billy and Miriam came to the Hoboken stop on our first US tour at Maxwell’s, we felt like some kind of royalty showed up. That was the start of our friendship with Billy. 

1992 Garage Shock poster
1992 Garage Shock poster. Design Dave Crider.

The first time Billy and Miriam showed up in the Pacific Northwest was when the A-Bones made their way West to play the Garage Shock festival in Bellingham. We’d already done a split single with them on the Cruddy label (Take Up the Slack, Daddy-o / Sister Mary Motorcycle) so it was natural that we play extra shows with them. These were gigs to support the official Garage Shock weekend, one in Tacoma and one in Seattle at the Crocodile Cafe. The A-Bones were a lot of fun.  

In between those two nights, Girl Trouble got invited to a competition barbeque/party with the Seattle band, The Crows (which included John Bigley and Charlie Ryan who had been members of the legendary U-Men). We knew absolutely nothing about barbequing but that didn’t stop us from trying. Those damn Crows were experts with their pre-marinated meats and specialty beers! All of the A-Bones showed up and luckily when one of the judges had to bail, the organizers quickly picked Miriam as an alternate. We knew she wouldn’t scoff like the other judges did at our third choice of barbequed meat…Spam. And she didn’t. We didn’t win but that was fine with us. At one point some non-invited wise guys squirted water into the party. In amazement, we watched as Miriam jumped over a big wooden fence and disappeared hoping to find the culprits. We could hear the rustling of the bushes and when we asked Billy where she’d gone he just replied, “Oh she’ll be back” like this was normal, and it probably was. 

Barbeque of the Bands flyer
Barbeque of the Bands flyer. Courtesy Bon Von Wheelie.

After the A-Bones tours, Billy and Miriam came here on their own to find material that might be good for Norton compilations. It impressed us that more than anything else they were huge fans first. Excited about everything, they even visited with Kearny Barton who’d recorded many of the old 60s bands at his house/studio. Our friend, PNW historian, and owner of Golden Oldies Records in Tacoma, Jeff Miller (and no relation to Billy) was there to help them connect with all those old band guys who were still floating around the area. Jeff was famous for his jam-session parties and he hosted a big one for Billy and Miriam. We arrived at Jeff’s house to see Jim Valley (Don & the Goodtimes, Paul Revere and the Raiders) come out the door and his brother Steve (Tom Thumb and the Casuals) fall into the hedge off the porch! Oh, this was going to be good!  

Some of our favorite old band members like Larry Parypa from the Sonics and Dave Day from the Monks were in and out of the party through the evening. A bunch of old band guys were already in full swing when Billy and Miriam met us. They frantically asked us for ideas of old songs these guys could play from back in the day. The problem was that these musicians were starting to jam to newer songs and we all knew that wasn’t going to be good. We thought of a few they might know but eventually marathon jamming took hold. At one point they were on a long drawn-out version of “Miss You” by the Rolling Stones. While we were in the record room talking Billy poked his head in and said in that New York accent “Yeah, I bet the Puerto Rican girls are just DYING to meet these guys!” We just about peed our pants. Billy’s timing was always perfect.  

Portrait of Bon Von Wheelie and Billy Miller.
Portrait of Bon Von Wheelie and Billy Miller. Courtesy Bon Von Wheelie.

Another time that they came out for some PNW mojo at the same time there was a big 60s bands reunion at the Swiss Bar in Tacoma. This show had everybody. The Wailers were there, the Ventures played a few songs with Nokie Edwards (who wasn’t fully in the band at that time), Gail Harris sang “I Idolize You” with the Wailers, Merrilee Rush sang a few songs. It was the first time I’d met Gerry Roslie since he was just about at hermit status before he decided to help re-form the original Sonics for shows and tours.  

Billy and I had probably one of our best in-depth conversations that night concerning what it took to work with some of the guest legends we’d hooked up with. My band was working with Granny Go-Go, the 82-year-old local go-go dancer, and Billy was working with Hasil Adkins. We discovered that the challenges of wrangling these stars were very similar; hilarious, difficult, and frustrating at the same time. It was absolutely amazing to see how many situations were the same with both of them.

Legendary KJR deejay Pat O'Day
Legendary KJR deejay Pat O’Day

As we talked we both noticed legendary KJR deejay Pat O’Day, who had been the MC for the night, standing right in front of us. Pat O’Day was instrumental in everything that happened during the 60s including promoting hundreds of teen dances and events. Billy noted what a perfect head of hair Pat had, all white and beautifully styled from top to bottom. It was truly impressive! Billy quietly said, “Bon, we need to think up a name for that hairdo!” Since I couldn’t come up with anything he said thoughtfully “I think we’ll call it The Tacoma”.  I couldn’t have agreed more. 

Over the years we talked on the phone occasionally and probably wrote letters, because that’s what we did back in those days, but our fondest memories of Billy will always be the times he and Miriam came to hang out in the Pacific Northwest.   — Bon Von Wheelie

Thank you Bon! And I encourage all readers of this blog to check out GirlTrouble’s website and give them some love on their social channels. They deserve it. And of course thank you Billy and Miriam for the love and fun you spread. Now back to our regular programming…

Night of the Phantom: The Fuzztones at The Dive

This past month has proved very surprising in the world of 60s bands. The Beatles released a track that eerily blended the living and dead fabs in a way that was both impressive and slightly disturbing. And then, just as surprising, their scruffier contemporaries also released an album’s worth of new material featuring their own departed band member. Showing that even in the afterlife, Charlie was sure as hell determined not to be not to be outdone by John and George.

While we here in NYC thankfully did not have any AI-enhanced posthumous releases, we did get something from a long-forgotten lineup of a classic NYC garage band, The Fuzztones. The story of The Fuzztones is a long one, what many often speak about are the band’s formative years in New York. Recorded in decidedly lo-fi fashion, the recording nonetheless shows the band firing on all cylinders and powerfully blasting through several (now) well-known songs to an appreciative audience of probably less than 100 people. All crammed into what was the garage punk equivalent of the Cavern Club in Midtown Manhattan, The Dive. And while the tiny club closed its doors in 1986, it’s still spoken about on the same level as its more famous brethren The Mudd Club and Club 57.

Eager to find out more about the era the recording was made in I reached out to Rudi Protrudi and Elan Portnoy, former singer and guitarist of the NYC Fuzztones lineup:

ShakeSomeAction: The recording is pretty amazing in that it documents a part of the Fuzztones legacy that sometimes gets short shrift. The NY years. Who recorded it?

Rudi Protrudi: Good question. I found it on the net – someone had posted it. I downloaded it, thought it sounded pretty good, and saw that the set we played that night contained three songs that we had never played before or since.

Elan Portnoy: I’m not sure. I do remember my brother Orin recorded some shows back in the day — could be him. It would have had to be an “air” recording since there was no board to do a “board” recording from!

SSA: Why release the recording now?

RP: Mainly because of those covers. “Numbers” by Terry knight & The Pack, “Run Better Run” by the Cheepskates, and “Help You Ann” by the Lyres. We also did “She Told Me lies” by the Chesterfield Kings that night, which we did do one or two times before or after that. On top of that, we played “Me Tarzan You Jane,” “It Came In TheMail” and “One Girl Man,” which most Fuzztones fanes never heard us do until the L.A. line-up recorded them, so I thought I should release the tracks as an album. I took it into a studio and beefed it up. I don’t remember if it was stereo or mono, but if it was mono I made it stereo – something you can do now with modern technology! In fact Radiation Records out of Italy will be re-releasing Leave Your Mind At Home soon, and I remastered that too, as well as making it stereo!

SSA: The Fuzztones’ love for covers was always evident. This recording contains some that were rarely if ever heard afterward. How did you guys pick them?

EP: The older stuff was found mostly in our record collections or on recommendation from Bruce and Scott of Venus Records who turned me on to lots of great garage punk comps. Also, we thought it’d be fun to do covers of contemporary bands, (i.e., Cramps, Lyres, Cheepskates, etc.) with whom we were often on the same bill. Kind of a nod to our buddies.

SSA: Do other live recordings from this time exist? I remember Midnight released Leave Your Mind at Home and the Screamin’ Jay excerpt from a NY show.

RP: I have so many live tapes from that time it’d make your head spin. I have live tapes and videos from every line-up of The Fuzztones from 1982 up to now. I also have quite a few videos of other bands from the so-called Garage Revival as well – many of which I took myself. Some of the 60s bands that got back together too: The Chocolate Watchband, the Monks, Electric Prunes, Pretty Things, ? and the Mysterians, Standells, Wailers, Trashmen. Screamin’ Jay as well….

EP: I have excellent quality recordings from FuzzFest ’84, which will be released fairly soon on either Misty Lane Records or Teen Sound Records in Italy, along with Tryfles, Mosquitos, Cheepskates, Vipers, and Outta Place. All killer, no Phyllis Diller.

SSA: When was the first time the Fuzztones played the Dive and how did that come about?

EP: In the summer of 1983, Dave from the Cheepskates told us about a cool little club on W29th St. So, we jumped at the chance to join them on an upcoming night. The vibe at The Dive was amazingly electric and the audience went wild. We returned to our favorite spot many times and always had a blast.

RP: My recollection is much more fuzzy. Michael Jay says it was his wife who tipped us off as she was a waitress there for a short while. But, to be honest, I don’t really remember.

SSA: The band was always a tight unit, how often and where did you practice?

Inside the Music Building.

EP: There used to be an old commercial building on 584 8th Ave., at about 39th or 40th St., referred to as The Music Building. The management rented rooms to many of the groups in NYC. We had a room on the 8th floor, formerly occupied by Madonna. When we moved in, we found the walls were still decorated with her silky, faded, multi-colored material. No air-conditioning and sketchy heat in winter, plus the bathrooms always smelled like a combination of dead fish and vintage kitty litter. Yet, it was affordable as long as we shared the space with The Outta Place and The Mad Violets. We practiced three times a week which got us tight pretty quick. A cool thing about the building was its proximity to The Dive; we would walk over after rehearsing on many nights. Sometimes, a bunch of us would split from The Dive and have casual jams at three or four in the morning back at the rehearsal room. Lots of records were recorded in that room such as Bad News/Brand New Man, The Bohemian Bedrocks LP, The Twisted 45, the Outta Place’s first EP and lots of demos.

Complimentary pass for The Fuzztones at The Peppermint Lounge Dec 1, 1984.
Complimentary pass for The Fuzztones at The Peppermint Lounge Dec 1, 1984.

SSA: As a sound person, playing at the Dive certainly must have had its challenges. I mean, it wasn’t decked out like, say, The Peppermint Lounge or Irving Plaza, sound-wise. What’s your recollection of that?

EP: Since it was such a small place, the sound system didn’t need to be too large to get the job done. A couple of vocal mics were pretty much the extent of it. I don’t think there was anything in the way of onstage monitors, at least not at first, but it didn’t matter. With crowds of people jammed into a little place like that mixed with cheap drinks at the bar (the drinking age was 18 but lots of younger kids were regulars), it was always a super-swinging party. Nothing like it since, really.

SSA: Oh and I’m sure people would love to hear what the “dressing room” was like. Not nearly as famously shabby as CB’s. But, even they had more room!

EP: The Dive’s “dressing room” was the abandoned kitchen behind the stage. And yes, it was pretty cozy back there. Sometimes, the place was so crowded, it was nearly impossible to get between the kitchen and the stage!

Bruce Planty at The Southern Funk.

SSA: Recently record collector Bruce Planty passed away. Bruce used to DJ at The Dive occasionally and was one of the first people who introduced many to these amazing records. His taste was exceptional. Do you have memories of Bruce at The Dive?

EP: Absolutely! Bruce was a great Dive DJ, that’s why we hired him to DJ at FuzzFest ’84. He worked at Venus Records downtown and always had something great to turn me on to. From the compilations he recommended, I found lots of potential covers for The Fuzztones to do. He was an important part of the whole thing, at least for me. RIP Bruce.

RP: Bruce had a cool record shop that we often frequented and turned us on to a few good tunes. We were already together and doing what we did before Venus Records was even in existence though. He DID offer to release our first single, “Bad News Travels Fast,” and we DID give it to him, but he sat on it for months. Meanwhile all the other NYC Garage bands started releasing records, so after about 6 months we gave up on Bruce and let Midnight Records release it. It was the best move at the time.

SSA: To close this out, there’s something I’ve always wanted to ask. On the “Brand New Man, Brand New Car” single, I always got a kick out of the screaming and yelling on that cut. It sure made you feel like it was some big party you were missing out on. Who was the peanut gallery?

Bad News Travels Fast/Brand New Man, Brand New Car MIdnight records single.
Bad News Travels Fast/Brand New Man, Brand New Car. Midnight Records 45.

EP: I had the privilege of producing that record and remember it well. We had a party in our rehearsal room at The Music Building with the intention of recording backing tracks for the Midnight Records 45 after everyone got completely trashed. I used a reel-to-reel tape deck borrowed from work and a couple of mics hanging from the ceiling. In attendance, I recall Gena Brower, whose plentiful, piercing screams can be heard on the record, Shari Mirojnick, brother Orin, Michael Chandler, Wendy Wild, Dino Sorbello, Jill Brown, Alicia Giambrone, Rene Laigo and probably more. It didn’t take much to fill that room. I added bottle-smashing sound effects and mixed the tracks with the needles pinned on the tape deck. I was shooting for a wild party/explosion sort of thing. One of my all-time favorites.

SSA: That was a Michael Chandler song. Did The NYC Fuzztones hang out with him often? He was a pretty great person. I’m sure you have a funny story about him.

EP: I have lots of funny stories about Chandler! He was a brilliant and kindhearted character with The Midas Touch when it came to writing lyrics. He had a great sense of humor and was always very friendly. The Outta Place and Fuzztones members were very close and frequently hung out together. My girl Shari and brother Orin were in The Outta Place and Deb was going out with Chandler at the time, so we all ended up in the same place on most occasions.

The Twisted 45 Cover
The Twisted 45 Cover

In 1984, my brother Orin and I were asked to make a 45 for Midnight Records as The Twisted. The A-side was Sheez Wycked and the B-side was The Thing, composed by Orin, myself, and Chandler one magic night in my parent’s living room. We had drums (played with chopsticks) guitars and a small organ. It was getting late and with a few cocktails in us, we couldn’t stand up. While the three of us lay on the floor, completely crocked, Chandler came up with the cool guitar riff while poking the little organ. I managed to roll over toward the tape machine and pushed record while Chandler kept repeating the riff. The next thing I remember, we regained consciousness with the sun shining brightly through the living room window, It felt as if someone had clocked me on the back of the head with an anvil. Ah, the good old days…

Thanks, Rudi and Elan for your thoughts concerning not just the release, but the atmosphere surrounding the recordings all those years ago. If you want to pick up “The Fuzztones at The Dive ’85” please head to Bandcamp

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That Was Then, This is Now: The Legacy of The Mosquitos

As a city kid, I always found Long Island a tough sell. If Queens was the struggling, scrappy, working-class melting pot to Manhattan’s gritty elite, then Long Island was an even farther outpost where families settled who wanted a bit more peace and quiet. A lawn, nice schools, clean communities. All the trappings of the American Dream. But for a kid with a chip on his shoulder looking more toward the wilder side of NYC, it seemed like the complete opposite of all I thought NYC was.

But age brings a different perspective. Especially toward the musicians who followed their 60s muse during a time when all you found were new-wave dance clubs and classic rock cover bands. Now THAT’S dedication. As the years went on it became more apparent that all over the US you’d find pockets of 60s fans swinging to their own beat in the most remote of places. And you can’t be any more remote and still call yourself NYC than Long Island.

Ad for The Mosquitos residency at Dream St in Huntington, LI. June 1986.
Ad for The Mosquitos residency at Dream St. in Huntington, LI. June 1986.

Just as New Jersey birthed the most amazing mod groups, Long Island had its own group of 60s-influenced pop and garage bands. And of all of the ones that existed in the mid-80s, none was spoken about in the most revered tones as The Mosquitos. Iain Morrison, Tony Millions, Steven Prisco, Vance Brescia, Pat Bishow, and Mitch Towse. Their original songwriting, harmonies, and live performances slowly accomplished what many of the other 60s-influenced bands couldn’t get….crossover appeal. 

With a strong pop sensibility more akin to British Invasion bands such as The Dave Clark Five, their catchy originals seemed familiar, yet fresh. Showcases and performances in Manhattan and Long Island just strengthened their fan base and made many wonder if this was the band that would finally break out of NYC’s nascent garage rock scene.

April 1984 Irving Plaza ad for a Friday night triple bill of the Vipers, Mosquitos and Tryfles.
April 1984 Irving Plaza ad for a Friday night triple bill of the Vipers, Mosquitos and Tryfles.

Alas, while the release of an eagerly awaited EP in 1985 didn’t really showcase the band’s potential, it did oddly provide a song for the then reuniting Monkees to cover. That Was Then This is Now was released as a new Monkees single in 1986 to top 20 sales. But things were already starting to crumble internally in Mosquitos-land. In classic VH1 Behind the Music fashion, various other factors soon led to the ultimate dissolution of the group. Some stayed active in music, while others did not. Most notably, lead singer and songwriter Vance Brescia became the musical director of the Herman’s Hermits live tours.

However, around 1997 promoter (and former Viper) Jon Weiss began organizing Cavestomp. A NYC-based garage music festival that not only showcased bands from the heyday of the 80s but also newer bands along with a select handful of original 60s groups still performing. And while that in itself is the makings of another post, interest in The Mosquitos along with groups from that time period began to grow once again around this time.

Well, it took another 26 years….but now the whole world can hear what only a few select people in NYC witnessed and experienced at the time. But, more significantly, it captures just how talented this band of kids was and how despite the passage of time, none of their original songs have lost their power. Songs that any garage band would give their left arm to have written.

The early Mosquitos with Patrick Bishow on drums.
The early Mosquitos: Steven Prisco, Iain Morrison, Patrick Bishow, Tony Millions, and Vance Brescia. Photo by Danielle Phillips. 

This Then Are…The Mosquitos is a labor of love from pals Blair Buscareno and Bill Jones who have been fans and supporters of this group for ages. I spoke to Bill recently about the new release:

SSA: Thanks Bill for taking the time to chat.

Bill Jones: No problem! Always happy to talk Mosquitos.

SSA: Ok I went over a very rough background of the band but my main question is how this idea come about.

A copy of a Mosquitos live compilation that made the rounds among hardcore fans.

Bill: Well, I can’t really talk about the idea of a compilation without first describing my friendship with Blair. We met at one of the many shows The Mosquitos played at Sparks in Huntington, and we soon started meeting up to see bands there, as well as in the city and in Hoboken. We also spent many Wednesday evenings seeing Vance play solo gigs at Gunther’s in Northport. To say we were fans of The Mosquitos would be a major understatement. We saw them play whenever we could and shared any recordings we could get our hands on. These were typically tapes of live shows, but we also acquired some unreleased studio material. When their EP came out in ‘85, we both felt it didn’t capture the band’s energy, and we’d talk about songs we’d choose if we could release our own Mosquitos album or single.

The 1985 Valhalla EP.
The Feb 21, 1992 issue of Blair Buscareno's Teen Scene.
Feb. 21, 1992 issue of Blair Buscareno’s Teen Scene.

For years after the band broke up, The Mosquitos remained our favorite topic of conversation, and we’d talk about how disappointed we were that so much of their great music would never be heard by the public. The five songs on their record were very good, but they had so many more that we felt should be heard. Blair started publishing his fanzine, The Teen Scene, which focused on the music he loves and bands he was out seeing a couple of nights per week, and he would sometimes write about The Mosquitos. A few years later, when I joined the power pop-oriented Audities email list, I’d occasionally mention The Mosquitos and share some of their songs in tape swaps. The idea of a Mosquitos retrospective actually began to seem like a possibility worth pursuing in the late 90s, and for me that was tied in part to my compiling an anthology CD for my friends, The Secret Service. In 1997, I wrote Vance and asked whether he’d be open to letting Blair and I put together a compilation of The Mosquitos’ music at some point, and he gave us a thumbs up without hesitation. This didn’t lead to any immediate action, but we gradually began connecting with Steve, Iain, and Tony, who were willing to look for and share recordings they still had laying around, though we really weren’t sure whether this was headed anywhere. 

SSA: I remember both of you often bringing up the band. Those live tapes were a great topic of conversation as they showed the band firing on all cylinders. So, this puts us in the early 2000s. Where did it go from there?

Bill: Well in 2003, Steve put together his own compilation for fun called “Sha-Doobie! The Rest of The Mosquitos” and sent me a copy of the CD.  The sound on it was great, and it included odds and ends like studio demos, recordings from live shows, alternate mixes of EP tracks, and radio promos. A pretty slick production. The comp really made me happy, and it got me thinking more about which songs would be included in a comprehensive collection. In fact, I recently came across an email I sent Blair on 3/4/2005, in which I wrote:

Let me be candid - one of my hopes is that someday, someway, a Mosquitos compilation CD will be released.  I may be beating my head against a wall, but with each day that I listen to a decent quality recording of the band, I'm reminded of what a special group they were.  But I also realize that view is highly influenced by the "time" we were in, and what we were experiencing as 18 and 19 year olds, having the time of our lives...  I don't mean to sound too big-headed, but I don't foresee anyone having a better chance of making this come to fruition than the two of us...As for album titles, here's one that I've considered for years:
"The Mosquitos - This Then Are Mosquitos!"

SSA: That’s pretty amazing Bill.

Bill: Blair and I knew that if more Mosquitos music was ever going to be released, it would involve a lot of effort, and the two of us hoped we’d be up for it if the opportunity arose. Over the next decade or so, there were occasional emails between us and the band members where the idea of a compilation would arise, and there would be some discussion of tapes or photos that had been located, but then the idea would be tabled. There was just no obvious path to finding a label that might want to release something, and we also weren’t sure how much work would be required.

SSA: So the wheels were greased….it just wasn’t moving quite at that moment. But you never gave up hope.

Bill: In early 2017, I proposed a Facebook page dedicated to The Mosquitos, and Blair came up with the name, The Mosquitos Appreciation Society. So that was another way we chose to keep alive the memory of this band that had broken up 30 years earlier. Over the next few years, we’d occasionally post songs from tapes and have fun with the FB page. We got a bunch of old friends to join us, but we didn’t spend much time focusing on it.

Facebook’s Mosquitos Appreciation Society page.

SSA: It’s funny how it seemed like you were always on the verge of putting something together but didn’t quite get there for some reason or another. When did the current CD start finally come together?

Bill: In August of 2020, the year the pandemic began, Paul Martin from The Vipers posted a random comment on our Facebook group: “The Mosquitos need to have an album.” While this had been a long-time dream for me and Blair, this comment by a peer of The Mosquitos from the 80s NYC garage scene kinda served as a spark that got the compilation project rolling, and it eventually became a reality.

The effort kicked off in the fall of 2020, and the initial participants from The Mosquitos were Steve, Iain, and Tony, along with the two fans (ie: Bill & Blair). We once again searched and shared with each other the band’s recorded material, including various studio sessions, different mixes, lots of live tapes, etc., but this time we planned to see it through to the end as Blair happily found interest from a few labels. The project took a few twists and turns, and then Blair, Tony and I spent quite a bit of time over the past couple of years discussing and debating all aspects of it.

The Mosquitos’ double CD on Kool Kat Music. Art and Photo by Greg Gutbezahl.

We got very lucky when Blair connected with Ray Gianchetti of Kool Kat Musik, who proposed releasing a double CD, which blew our minds. We had to significantly increase our efforts at that point, as we realized we’d now be able to include ALL of the band’s original songs, something that until then hadn’t been anywhere near a possibility. We also had to figure out how to fund this expanded project, and our friend Jeff Shore really stepped up to the plate as our benefactor. Most of the band’s originals had not been recorded in a studio but rather had to be taken from live tapes, and fortunately, some were well preserved. Mike Fornatale cleaned up the chosen recordings so there was a consistent sound for the listener, and Greg Gutbezahl did a great job understanding what we were seeking with artwork and offered suggestions to help bring it all home.

SSA: Thanks for the information, Bill. It makes me really happy that you guys were able to give this band its due. To say they deserve it is just putting it mildly. Are there any other things we can look forward to in the future?

An uncirculated flyer with art by Steven Prisco. Originally the hero was supposed to be manager Scott Savitt!
An uncirculated flyer with art by Steven Prisco. Originally the hero was supposed to be manager Scott Savitt!

Bill: We are looking at a record release for later this year, and fortunately most of the work is already behind us! 

My thanks once again to Bill Jones (and by extension Blair Buscareno) for making this available to the world. If you’d like to order a copy please head to Kool Kat Musik or Bandcamp. And of course, all are welcome to The Mosquitos Appreciation Society on Facebook. You can thank me later.

Hilton Valentine and the NYC Garage Scene

While the news of Hilton Valentine‘s passing a few weeks ago was a somber reminder that no matter how timeless The Animals‘ songs were, the clock is always running. On the less somber side, it also reminded me of what an honest, kind, and gentle person Valentine was to both fans and other musicians. Having weathered the London scene of the mid-60s, Valentine was no stranger to unfettered adulation and its assorted trappings at an early age. However, to his credit, once fame faded away, he continued performing original music and even formed a skiffle group in his later years to delve back into the music that inspired him all those years ago. Relocating to Wallingford, Connecticut, in 1997, he even graciously found time to talk and even perform songs from his Animals days with admiring fans.

Hilton cutting loose onstage with The Animals. Courtesy and © 2001.

The Animals were always held in high esteem by garage punk fans everywhere. While the nostalgia circuit bands were content to churn out “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” the edgier young bands in the garage scene picked “I’m Cryin” or “Boom Boom Boom” as a gritty homage to their heroes.

New York’s Secret Service performing The Animals’ I’m Cryin’ in 1986.

Even as the 80s moved into the 90s, it was not uncommon to hear a band take on a song from The Animals’ vast catalog. In some way, it was almost a rite of passage. One of those bands was The Lynchpins. A clever portmanteau of leader Michael Lynch’s unique name.

The Anything People 2010 CD Anythology.

While Michael is probably not as well known outside of the NY/NJ area, his uncanny musical ability (and talent) are well known among garage music fans in this area. Among Micheal’s many amazing achievements is writing for Ugly Things magazine, performing at various International Pop Overthrow events, fronting The Anything People and The Lynchpins, and even playing sideman to literally hundreds of other musicians such as Palmyra Delran. So it was only natural to find yourself seeing a Michael project at some point.

One particular evening at a performance space under the Acme Restaurant on Great Jones Street (titled appropriately enough UnderAcme), The Lynchpins found themselves on yet another bill. After they performed a bunch of originals to a group of very appreciative (if slightly tipsy) friends, they suddenly introduced a guest performer. To everyone’s surprise, that person turned out to be Hilton Valentine. And, while it was certainly shocking to see a 60s icon standing right in front of you, to hear those songs come out of his guitar was beyond description.

Hilton Valentine & Doug Mayer performing
Hilton Valentine and Doug Mayer of the Lynchpins at UnderAcme, NYC. June 15, 2002.

I asked Michael’s bandmate in both The Lynchpins and The Anything People, Doug Mayer, recently his thoughts about Valentine and how that whole performance came about.

A poster for Bompstomp June 15, 2002. The night Hilton Valentine played with the Lynchpins. Poster courtesy of Doug Mayer.

“I’m not 100% sure if it was Michael or Lynchpins drummer Elliott Goldberg who contacted Hilton who was living in Connecticut at the time (June 2002). Since Michael was planning a 1960s music fest at Acme Underground, I’m pretty sure he was the main impetus behind asking Hilton to participate.  Philadelphia’s Mondo Topless was on that bill, but the rest of the acts were not as well known. While Michael designed the poster, the main illustration of The Rolling Stones is actually taken from a mid-1960s teen magazine. One name notably absent from the gig poster is Hilton Valentine himself. I suppose we were not entirely sure if he would be able to make it, and so we did not update the poster in time. We did write down ‘Special Guests?’ just in case.

“Much to our delight, he did accept, and we went full speed ahead with preparations. Prior to the gig, Michael, Hilton, and I (as a power trio!) rehearsed once at a Long Island rehearsal studio and went over the three songs Hilton agreed to do with us: ‘I’m Crying,’ ‘Baby Let Me Take You Home’ (which Hilton introduced at UnderAcme as a Dylan song The Animals modified), and ‘Outside Looking In.’ For the show, Hilton requested a large Vox amplifier to use on stage. Michael rented this for Hilton and returned it the same night to the gear rental place.

“Hilton was very friendly with us before the show and unassumingly sat in the back of Acme Underground with his wife, eating a sandwich he brought to the gig. We were respectful with our guest and didn’t bother him with too many questions or recollections about his old Animals days. He was so down to earth that seeing him hanging out in person seemed very familiar in a funny way.

Hilton Valentine and Doug Meyer at UnderAcme, NYC June 15, 2002.

“After the show, Elliott drove him back to the train. Hilton actually complimented us on our playing as a group, and that felt really nice to hear! A year or two later, I noticed he had started his own website for his music projects, and he posted a bunch of the photos that you had taken of the gig. It felt cool to know that he seemed happy to have done the gig. 

“Overall, my big impression of Hilton that night we played on the same stage was his professionalism, experience, and showmanship. He told each of us exactly where would be a good place to stand on the stage while he played with us. But, he didn’t say it in a bossy or condescending manner. More like an older brother who knew what would be best for us. I was lucky to be standing the closest to him and playing the only other stringed instrument on stage (a bass guitar). There definitely were moments where I felt both of us were communicating visually and emotionally on stage.

“The other big impression I had is related to Hilton’s guitar playing style and tone. There was something about his level of experience from the rock and roll past that gave him a monster tone and feel on the electric guitar. I was listening to some early Animals albums recently and was thinking again how his playing is just as good as anything Keith Richards did back then, and how it was a shame that Hilton did not get more recognition overall. He could still produce that sound live.”

Hilton Valentine, Doug Mayer, Eliott Goldberg (hidden), and Michael Lynch at UnderAcme, NYC. Note the makeshift stand under Eliott’s snare drum. Photo:

Doug’s bandmate Michael had an even more amusing anecdote about the show. Especially when I asked if that really was a stool standing in for a snare drum stand in some of my photos. “HAHA! Yes, that was Elliot! He forgot to bring his snare stand, and no one else was around to ask—or willing to offer one. So, he just grabbed the nearest barstool and asked the soundman to boost the highs on the snare.”

Hilton Valentine 30th Ann
Hilton Valentine at The Headless Horsemen’s 30th Anniversary show, November 5, 2017, at Brooklyn Bowl, NYC.

While that was a welcome surprise, little did any of us realize that Valentine would reappear not once but several times in the following years performing Animals hits with NYC garage veterans The Headless Horsemen. I asked Elan Portnoy for his thoughts on the passing of Hilton as well as how he came into their orbit.

“It’s never easy when you lose a friend. Although sadness threatens to overshadow the magic they contributed to your life, you take solace in the memories made while they were still here. In that way, they live eternally in our hearts and minds. My friendship with Hilton shines brightly in my treasure chest of musical and personal memories and will surely maintain its glimmer for the remainder of my life.

The Moving Sidewalks’ Cavestomp! show where Elan met Hilton Valentine.

“I met Hilton backstage at B.B. King’s in NYC when The Headless Horsemen shared the bill with The Moving Sidewalks in 2013. Amid the thick dressing room chaos, I could immediately sense Hilton was an extra-cool cat; meeting him was momentous for me. When he later called and invited The Headless Horsemen to play his 70th birthday celebration, I was thrilled and honored. Hilton’s wife, Germaine, put together an amazing party. At the shindig, Hilton jumped onstage for a bunch of tunes with us, and I flashed back to when I was about nine, playing House of the Rising Sun with my first band. Hilton was much more than a guitar idol to me; he was also gigantic in his coolness and kindness, always optimistic and a true English gentleman at all times.

Headless Horsemen and Hilton Valentine
Hilton Valentine, David Ari, Peter Stuart, and Elan Portnoy performing at Cavestomp, November 23, 2013, The Bowery Electric, NYC.

“Hilton joined The Headless Horsemen onstage once again at The Bowery Electric where we played a whole set of Animals’ numbers together. As we played, he and I glanced at each other and smiled while the magic flowed through our hands and into our guitars; it was one of those perfect moments that will replay in my head, in slow-motion, forever. Several weeks before Hilton left this world, my band The Overdrive Five had the honor of collaborating with him. Hilton played ‘Apache’ in his first band and with us. Our version will be released as soon as the final touches have been touched. ‘Am, C, D, F’ should be on his stone. Hilton passed away on the exact day my dad would have turned 100. Tough day for me.”

Gone too soon: Roy Loney and Hilton Valentine at The Headless Horsemen’s 30th Anniversary show, November 5, 2017, at Brooklyn Bowl, NYC.

So, while the media world will eulogize Hilton for his well-deserved reputation as one of the architects of the 60s London R&B scene, the majority of us here in NYC who met him will remember him as that very kind person who was only too happy to make our dreams come true. Thanks again, Hilton.

Things Are Perfect Now: The Unlikely Resurgence of The Outta Place

The Outta Place
The Outta Place at 240 West. June 30, 1984. Photo courtesy Tom Bessoir.

When it comes to the things you never expected for 2021, getting a new record from NYC’s Outta Place was certainly tops among the list. Even more so after the passing of venerable frontman Michael Chandler a few years back. The fact that there was even a Cavestomp reunion in 2007 was in itself a bit of a miracle.

The Outta Place at their only full reunion at Jon Weiss’ 2007 Cavestomp. Courtesy Cavestomp.

Still, when Cheepskates member and unofficial Cryptkeeper of all things Dive, David John Herrera, mentioned he had received a copy of the Outta Place’s new record in the mail on social media, it piqued my curiosity. I asked David if he would mind writing a few things about the release for our followers.

“Man it sounds so good. Totally primitive man! I have to get the record. I have all their other records. Tomorrow I can plug my phone into my car and blast it! Thank you for sending it.” Ognir – 80s NYC garage/psych scenester

In referring to a Master he had studied, Pablo Picasso once stated, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

When the Outta Place began to take shape in 1982, their ages were 15, 16, 18, 19, and 20. And unlike most of the “Garage scene” groups of the time, the core of the band only knew of songs they spun on 60s compilation LPs titled “Boulders,” “Nuggets,” and “Pebbles” as well as other records by lesser-known bands of that era. They had no knowledge of 70s hard rock nor did they care to. Hence the music was being produced from the heart. They weren’t trying to sound like the 60s, they were (musically) living it.

The Outta Place promo shot.

In the early spring of 1983, they arrived at an NYC rehearsal studio I was working in. Though their sound was still rounding out, it was unmistakable that they were all on the same wavelength. The rhythm of the drums, bass, and organ was just throbbing, and the razor-like guitar was cutting through every lead. Vocally the singer approached every song with wild abandon, and it was very apparent that “these kids were onto something.”

I had just moved to New York four or five months earlier, and all of us quickly became friends, friendships which last to this day. So when SHAKE SOME ACTION! found out I had received a copy of Outta’ Place’s new LP titled “Prehistoric Recordings,” they asked if I would write a review. On first listen the music and sound practically transported me to another time. Not the 60s but the 80s. We all used to play at a wild club (around the corner from the same rehearsal studio) called The Dive. The drinking age in NYC had just gone up from 18 to 19, and so the age of the patrons was all over the map (not to mention the fake IDs). And when the Outta Place played a show there, along with the garage/psych crowd, which had come to call the club
home, much younger friends of the band were everywhere.

The Outta Place’s 2020 release, Prehistoric Recordings. Art by Bastian Tröger.

This new batch of recordings is a real treat. The first six tracks were selected from over 100 hours of reel-to-reel rehearsal tapes, and the second track “What ‘cha’ talking” is the only original composition to which the entire band contributed. The remainder of the tracks were recorded “Live at The Dive.” All are covers, but I always felt the song “Dirty Old Man” resonated because of their general age. “We’re Outta’ Place” is a rewrite of a song originally titled “We’re Pretty Quick” and a “bonus track” is a rework of the “Batman Theme.” For me, the song “Blonds” stands out because of its clean sound and late singer Michael Chandler’s harmonica solo (uncredited), but generally the entire LP just rocks.

Back in the day, there was a scenester named Ognir who, during a radio promo for a six-band garage/psych NYC show, was referred to as “Your caveman host.” He is the one credited with dubbing the Outta Place New York’s “Caveteens” and is quoted at the beginning of this review. Below is one more of his reactions to the new LP:

NYC’s own caveman, Ognir. Photo by Orin Portnoy.

“Hey man just played the Outta’ Place in my car. All I can say man is wow, it’s still primitive after all them years! Love it. Brings back all them cool years at The Dive. Tell Orin thanks again. Just made my day.”

You can pick up a limited-edition vinyl version of the new record at Italy’s Area Pirata Bandcamp page HERE. For more things Dive-related, please visit David’s webpage filled with some neat photos and recollections from those days. If you’re looking for more vinyl, you might also want to visit Orin Portnoy’s Discogs page which features records from The Outta Place, The Bohemian Bedrocks, and The Lone Wolves.

Surprise, Surprise: NYC’s Vipers Refuse to Fade Away

NYC’s Vipers saga can easily fill an entire book. Caught in the tumult of the early 80s garage scene, the band forged a solid reputation of delivering incredible live performances matched with stellar songwriting. A talent that not surprisingly brought them to the very brink of national recognition. However, in a moment that could have been lifted straight out of an episode of Behind the Music, the sudden passing of their manager set off a chain reaction that slowly ate away at the band. The Vipers limped along for a few more years, but disagreements, dissatisfaction, and a hard-living 80s lifestyle took a predictable toll. Eventually, the members all went their separate ways.

While The Vipers catalog has always been available in some form or another, it was only in recent years that guitarist Paul Martin took it upon himself to remix and remaster much of the original material so that it better represented the band. Among one of his first projects was to properly release material from the sloppily mixed, cassette-only Cryptic Vaults/Not So Pretty, Not So New.

The original self-release of The Vipers demos as Cryptic Vaults. Rereleased in 1988 on Midnight Records as Not So Pretty, Not So New.

Teaming up with label owner (and former vocalist of 80s Long Island surf-punk band Immortal Primitives) Bob Cantillo, this year saw the release of the first 45 of “new” Vipers material in over 30 years. “Pretty Lies” (as well as the flip, “Find Another”) is a classic example of a hungry garage band at the height of their powers. Sounding closer to their rough live sound than the full-length platters, the single is an astounding reminder of the talent of the early band and makes an essential addition to The Vipers discography.

Curious to hear more about the time period that the demos spanned, I asked Paul Martin to shed some light on the journey.

ShakeSomeAction: Thanks Paul for taking a while to talk about the release. I’m actually amazed that these tapes survived and sound as amazing as they do. Kudos on a great job.

Paul Martin: Well, thank you!

SSA: So, how did this project begin?

P.M.: In retrospect, it was quite a stroke of luck that, in late 2019, I suddenly decided that I wanted to work on these tapes. One day I just packed a suitcase full of reel-to-reel tapes, jumped on a plane, and carried them with me back to New York City (making sure to tell security to not pass it through the metal detectors!). Upon arriving, I left them with my friend, Paul Antonell in Rhinebeck, NY, who owns an amazing studio. Then, much to everyone’s surprise, the pandemic hit. While it made life incredibly difficult for many, in a weird way it allowed Paul the time to bake the tapes, transfer them from plastic to metal reels and then digitize them. After all was said and done, we had a great starting point to do a lot of stuff.

Redacted master demo tracklist. With first and second singles marked. Courtesy Paul Martin.

I then passed the digitized files over to Vipers guitarist David Mann, who now lives in Sweden but has a ton of recording equipment he’s collected through the years. He ended up doing all the technical work. I would listen to his work, review it and then just get back to him with my commentary of what else needs to be done. It was a funny process of him saying, “Oh, I can’t do that,” and me following up with, “Well, then try doing this.” The whole idea being to try to get the sound as good as possible. Together, we were able to overcome a lot of limitations and find workarounds that pleased both of us.

I don’t know how many people know this, but a lot of the stuff that we officially released was recorded in our rehearsal studio, The Nest. Our room just had the basics: a simple mixing board, microphones, and a reverb unit. That was about it! So while it was useful for making cassettes to review, we couldn’t really listen to the playback critically there. So, that’s kind of what we’re doing now: taking the original 4-track demos but working on them in a proper studio.

SSA: How did you arrive at the idea of starting these releases with “Pretty Lies” and “Find Another”?

PM: Actually, no particular reason other than they’re both originals and were never properly released anywhere. We did start off with four completed songs. The previously mentioned two plus “In Our Own Time” and “Gonna Laugh Right In Your Face.” What I told Bob Cantillo was to just pick the two you like the best for the 45. So, out of those four, “Pretty Lies” and “Find Another” were the two he liked the best! He also liked “Gonna Laugh Right In Your Face,” but I suggested it’d be better if we didn’t do two tracks with guitar solos. It’d be nice to have one that has a harmonica and organ and the other one a guitar solo for variety’s sake.

The Vipers’ 2021 release of “Pretty Lies” b/w “Find Another.” Design by Greg Gutbezahl.

We’re working on a second one now. “Rules of Love” was always a favorite at our shows and something we just never got around to doing in a way that was satisfying. The version on our second album is a very different kind of arrangement than the demo version we’re releasing.

SSA: Any plan for a collection of these demos on an EP or album?

PM: Bob likes just doing 45s, so I’m fine with that. However, Italy’s Misty Lane Records, owned by a fellow named Massimo del Pozzo, is re-releasing Out of the Nest with four extra songs on it. I just sent him everything that I had for the extra songs along with some photographs and things. I don’t know if he’s going to use the original artwork or the artwork that I did for my reissue. I just said, you know, “Here, just go for it!” The one thing that we had a difference of opinion on was where to add the extra songs. He preferred adding them at the very end of the B side and splitting the tracks differently. My preference was to have the A-side play through and then have two tracks after 30 seconds of dead air. So that if you just want to listen to the album, you can play the first six songs and flip it over and play the other six songs. Conversely, you can just put the needle down on a visible separation and play it as a two-sided, four-song EP.

SSA: That sounds the best.

PM: It’s like having an EP within an LP! But to be fair, it’s also his project too, and I didn’t want to give him any resistance in him wanting to do his own thing. Besides, I’ve got plenty of other things to deal with.

SSA: What are some of the other things in the works?

PM: We’re also looking to put out other Viper stuff. I had a live album and a completely remixed second album in the can. And then we have 50 or so demos, plus I’ve got at least another 15 tunes that I know of that I haven’t digitized yet. So that’s basically three LPs worth—or a double CD.

SSA: Do you want to put everything out?

PM: I’d like to see all that stuff come out—if it’s worthy. I mean, there are some things I absolutely just don’t like, but this list of 50 songs is all pretty good. Demo versions of Out of the Nest and the How About Some More albums, many of them with different lyrics and completely different arrangements. The performances themselves are better than what we did in the actual studios because we did them right when the songs were hot. We’d write them, rehearse them, and then when they were at the peak of energy, record it.

99th Floor Flexi with the demo version of “We’re Outta Here.”

The first Midnight records 45 that we did, “Never Alone,” was also recorded in our rehearsal studio, as well as “Who Dat.”Also, a version of “We’re Outta Here,” released on a Flexi along with Ron Rimsite’s 99th Floor fanzine, was recorded at The Nest. So, it’d be nice to get that stuff out.

SSA: I always found it interesting that the demos came out during a period where things seemed to be at a standstill with the band.

PM: We were working on a second album at the time that was supposed to be called Forbidden Fruit when our manager, Bob Chich, died. That stopped us completely in our tracks and put a damper on the whole project. As we just kind of wanted to move past it, we just kept writing songs and playing shows and stuff like that. We wound up getting another manager named Ray Wilson, who was a nice enough guy, but he didn’t understand the dynamics of the group.

So, it was during that weird time that the demos were released. Our original idea was to make a list of our four tracks, and Cryptic Vaults came from that. It then ended up at Midnight Records who released it as Not So Pretty, Not So New. As their version was essentially a copy of a copy, the sound really wasn’t that great. This is really saying something as the original release was pretty rough to begin with!

So, I wanted to have an opportunity to make it sound good. And, it sounds fantastic! Way better than Out of the Nest. So, I’m excited about those tracks coming out sometime in the future.

SSA: Just out of curiosity, what was the first demo The Vipers ever did as band?

David Mann of The Vipers onstage at Irving Plaza. Photo Courtesy Jillian Jonas.

PM: Oh, that was “A Hundred Times A Day,” which came out on Cryptic Vaults along with “When Our Turn Comes.” It was me, Jon, and Graham May, along with a guy named John Flynn, who went by the pseudonym Johnny Decal, on drums. At that time we were sharing a rehearsal space with The Fleshtones in the Music Building. This is incidentally how we met David Mann. He was in Richard Lloyd’s band and was seriously not happy having to cover the rent for Richard who was in a really bad stage in his life at that time. David joined us and The Nest was born.

And, David’s definitely good. I mean, with Richard, he was playing bass, but he’s skilled in many instruments. The first thing we had David play on was the song “Dark is my Day.” That’s him playing bass on that song with Graham and me on guitars. And since David could play keyboards and guitars as well, we were able to switch instruments around depending on who came up with the best line for whatever instrument on any given song. It gave us more variety in how things sounded. With David moving between guitar and organ and Jon playing tenor sax, we were able to do everything from surf music to The Sonics and even Paul Revere and the Raiders live.

SSA: Do you have any good anecdotes about that time?

P.M: The live gigs were really the highlights for us. Do you remember The Cynics out of Pittsburgh? Well, whenever they were in New York, we’d do shows with them. And in return, they would have us come up to Pittsburgh and do shows with them over there. There was a really cool club there called the Electric Banana that was always a blast to play in. Also, in the summertime, Pittsburgh would also have these party boats that navigated the Three Rivers. We played these party boats in which you’d have a Beatles cover band decked out with mop tops in one part of the ship and us playing in a totally different part of the ship! It was so much fun doing those kinds of shows as we got to hang out and meet lots of fun people.

We did some really cool shows. One I remember was in Washington D.C. with Chris Stamey and Alex Chilton. I really liked his pre-dBs 45 that they did together on Ork Records, “Summer Sun.” So hanging out and doing shows with them was really amazing. I really dug that.

We also did this university tour opening up for The Ramones. And (laughs) Joey says to me, “Look, Johnny doesn’t like you guys. He thinks you’re too good. So, you know, he wants to throw you off the tour.” My reaction was, “Whatever (laughs), it’s OK Joey.” He was so relieved: “I’m so glad I can talk to you about it.” So, we wind up doing one show with The Ramones (laughs). And while it was regrettable, it wasn’t our tour, so you sort of had to play by their rules.

Out of all of the Ramones, Tommy was my favorite. And, and he was actually an amazing recording engineer too. But, he wasn’t playing by that time. I think they had already switched to Mark Bell. But, he was there that day we opened. I forget where it was, maybe New Haven? When I went backstage to say hi, Johnny was, like, shooting daggers at me, with a “What the fuck are you doing here?” expression. And then Tommy would come out and go, “Oh, yeah, he’s in a mood.” (laughs) Johnny really hated me for some reason, I’ll never know why. But, my fondest memories are going out to Curry Mahal on Second Avenue to have dinner with Joey. During those earlier CBs gigs, I also got to know Tommy pretty well too. Dee Dee was always out to lunch—but, Joey and Tommy were always really thoughtful.

I was hoping it would work out playing with The Ramones, but it was still a lot of fun. We worked up the crowd and got them to a good place for when The Ramones got onstage. Overall, everybody said it was a real success. So, you take what you can get, you know? But those were the fun parts of that particular time.

SSA: It really seems that Bob’s death really threw things into a tailspin. How did you meet him?

Bob Chich on a West Coast tour with The Vipers, July 1985. Courtesy Paul Martin.

PM: Bob was a manager at the Rocks In Your Head record store on Prince Street, around the corner from West Broadway. That’s how we got to know him. He was a big early proponent of The Vipers. He was coming down to the shows and telling others how great we were. We even started meeting all his friends! One day he just said, “Well, you know, I might as well just manage you fuckers.” (laughs) But, despite the haphazard way we brought him on, it actually worked out for us. Having a manager that really liked the band and got along with all the guys was really indispensable after a certain point. Before Chich came along, Graham’s girlfriend, Debbon Ayer, was our manager. Although she was more interested in being an actress and working on Broadway, the whole publicity and playing clubs and getting-gigs hustle was sort of up her alley as well. My thinking at the time was that her experience in the theater world was a plus. Hey, that’s what Brian Epstein did, right? And like Epstein, she was a proponent of having a “look” when you go on stage. No jeans and T-shirts kind of thing, just have good boots and good suits. So, while she got us in a good place, it quickly became more than she could handle. To her credit, The Vipers by this point were cruising along. So much so that it was easy to transfer the management to Chich. The mailing list, contacts, everything. And she was very happy to do that.

Yeah, so that was pretty seamless. And then Bob just took it to another level. I mean, had he survived, he probably would have had a major record contract for us. Even right up to the end he kept saying, “Man, you know, Sire wants you, and Warner Brothers wants you, and Epic Records wants you. I’m just trying to play them off each other to get a better deal.” I said, “OK, but don’t wait too long.” So he’s trying to work out a deal for us, and then boom, he’s gone. And it wasn’t the kind of thing we could carry on with since he hadn’t really discussed it in detail with us. He just gave us an overview of how things were going, and we just trusted him enough to know that he would do the best he can. And then all of a sudden the bottom dropped out, and we were left with this big hole in our lives. That was pretty much the beginning of the end. But as we were still on an upward trajectory in our careers, we decided to play it out. Especially since we were still young enough to take that kind of risk.

SSA: It’s an incredible story, Paul. Thanks for taking some time to give us a bit of background on the atmosphere surrounding the initial release of the demos.

The Pretty Lies b/w Find Another 7″ is available NOW from Bob Cantillo at Mono-Bone Records. Contact him here for more info:

Catch Us If You Can: The Mosquitos Make a Film

As part of the burgeoning 80’s LI music scene, Long Island’s Mosquitos were something of an anomaly. At a time when bar owners knew the easiest way to attract paying customers was by booking bands that performed classic rock tribute shows, The Mosquitos persevered by playing outstanding originals in a style more reminiscent of The Dave Clark Five. Not an easy feat considering their main stomping ground was a NYC suburb a good hour and a half away from Manhattan.

The band however did have a unique approach. As other Manhattan and NJ groups mined more esoteric mid-60s bands for inspiration, the Mosquitos were alone in championing four-part harmonies and catchy hooks served up with a solid 60s beat. Something that a younger generation of music fans had never really seen played live. This was not MTV fare by any means. And with YouTube a good twenty(!) years away, your best bet seeing an old performance was via fuzzy fourth-generation VHS tapes collected by the video enthusiast community.

To experience the Mosquitos live was therefore a revelatory experience for many. It was all but impossible to say you enjoy this genre of music and not be immediately won over by them. Even some of my punk friends into the hardcore movement walked away from their gigs astounded at their conviction.

So, when I recently had a chance to speak to original member Steve Prisco, I jumped at the chance.

Steve had recently premiered the digital version of a fantastic film about the group on social media. Made in 1983, the short shows a quasi-autobiographical day in the life of the band. Walking in the neighborhood, hanging out with friends, and just making do with small day jobs, waiting for the next gig.

While it’s only 17 minutes long, the film does an amazing job of succinctly showing the friendships, dreams, and aspirations of a local band. Except that this local band happens to be a 60’s beat group playing originals in the middle of suburban Long Island!

Shake Some Action: Steve, can you give me a very brief timeline of how the band originally started. Who was friends with whom and then brought the others in? As you guys were practically teenagers I imagine it was HS?

Steve Prisco: Well some of us were teenagers! Iain and I had been friends since high school but were in our late twenties when Iain met Vance who frequented the Sam Goody store where he worked. Vance was “only 17” as the song goes. Iain and I had been in bands together since our teens and had most recently been in The Fabians. Vance had been playing with Tony and Pat. So those two parties got together, with the idea of it just being a one-off show!

SSA: For some reason, the Northport/Huntington area seemed to be ground zero for the start of many 60s influenced bands and musicians. When I think back to how many talented music people came out of this area it boggles the mind. Any theories?

Vance Brecsia on stage. Photo courtesy Steve Prisco

S.P.: It was a pretty special time in Huntington in the 1980s. I think it was a combination of having a bunch of bars who just wanted to fill up the rooms, along with a scene that was accepting of all kinds of original music. While there were 60’s influenced bands like us, there was all kinds of stuff happening, ska, rockabilly, and some really experimental artists.

SSA: The film is amazing in that it captures a perfect slice of life in the area at the time. I don’t know many outside of NY know how relatively quiet and suburban the area is.

S.P.: Well I don’t know about that! Things could get pretty wild every now and then.

SSA: Haha. How did the idea of making a film come about? And who financed it?

S.P.:It was a student film. I believe the brother of one of the filmmakers was a fan and pitched the idea.

SSA: Were the band members uniformly all for it or did it take a while for all to get everyone on board?

Tony “Millions” LoGuercio. Courtesy of Steve Prisco.

S.P.: We had the good fortune to get out of the gate pretty quickly as far as establishing an audience. Vance and Pat had a lot of friends and that, along with the active local scene, quickly built up a nice vibe for the band. Somebody wants to make a movie? Sure! I don’t recall anyone having any issues.

SSA: What town as the opening scene shot. The one where you and this young woman are walking down the street.

S.P.: That’s Huntington, pretty much at the crossroads of Main Street and 25A. And the young woman’s name is Roberta.

SSA: It’s pretty funny how everyone is shown in their natural habitat. Pat, Tony…What record store is featured? Did Vance actually work there?

S.P.: Yes, he did. The record store was One Way Records, owned and operated by the legendary Dave Laru. Dave was a big part of the music scene and put on these shows at a local club. Our first gig was at one of Dave’s shows.

SSA: Along those same lines, was that actually Vance’s room where you guys practice in the film? It looks like a temple to the 60s.

S.P.: Yep. It was pretty wild, but a comfortable space. He had all kinds of stuff, everywhere you looked. He was a real student of the music of that era.

Iain Morrison. Courtesy of Steve Prisco.

SSA: The closing concert scene is amazing in that you get to hear the patter from your manager Scott Savitt. For me, that was always one of the highlights of your live shows. Just how over-the-top and entertaining he was!

S.P.: Unfortunately, various non-disclosure agreements prevent me from talking about Scotto! Only kidding, somewhat. Scott was endlessly entertaining and we loved to egg him on. He took care of us on the road and always fired up the crowd.

SSA: It’s telling that the film features Pat Bishow on drums. At what time did Mitch Towse join the band and why did Pat leave?

S.P.: I believe the switch was somewhere towards the end of 1983. Pat is an amazing guy, a talented filmmaker, and drop-dead funny. However, I always thought he might actually drop dead towards the end of one of our shows – it took a lot of energy and he needed to take a break. I remember it as being an amicable split. Pat was hugely instrumental in creating our sound.

SSA: Where there any plans to show this in any particular place? It’s actually very long for a commercial video. It reminds me of the sort of long-form videos they would show on the short-lived UHF music video channel U68 in 1985. A full two years after this film.

Steve Prisco. Courtesy of Steve Prisco.

S.P.: Funny you mention U68. They played our second video quite a bit. I don’t know if this was intended to have any other purpose than a grade, being a student film. I am just glad that it exists, for the memories.

SSA: I heard you are starting a site dedicated to the band. That’s amazing and long overdue. I’m looking forward to all the great things you might upload to it.

S.P.: There is a Facebook page, The Mosquitos Appreciation Society. I’ve been posting some updated videos and things there. I am going to set up a YouTube page as you can post higher quality videos there than on Facebook.

SSA: Thanks for the chat, Steve. I just want to express how much fun it was to see your band back in the day and I hope that through your site more garage rock fans will be exposed to how incredibly talented you guys were. Feel free to let us know about any upcoming band news. We’re 110% pro-Mosquitos here.

S.P.: Thanks. I’ve just done a remix of “You Don’t Give A Hang About Me” from the original master tapes. We’ve got a few things in the pipeline. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop!

My thanks to Steve Prisco (as well as his bandmates Tony LoGuercio, Vance Brescia, Pat Bishop, Mitch Towse, and Iain Morrison) for sharing this wonderful piece of history with us prior to the site launch. Stay tuned for the Mosquitos’ very own website coming soon.

Past…Forward: Mick Hale, and the Mod Fun Legacy

Two peas in a pod. That’s pretty much how I’d describe the relationship between the somewhat competing underground music scenes in the 80s. While there is no denying there was friction, for the most part, the 60s mod and garage followers’ overlapping interests enabled them to find some common ground. A perfect example of this is the group Mod Fun.

Birthed in NJ, and nurtured by the NJ mod scene, the group often crossed the river and played in Manhattan. Eventually they expanded their fanbase to include decidedly non-modernist garage punk fans on both sides of the river.

So when Mick “London” Hale recently posted news about an upcoming big Mod Fun announcement, I was intrigued. Enough to fire off a quick message. A short while later, I received a reply from Mick:

Mod Fun 90 Wardour St and then some
90 Wardour Street…and Then Sum (2020). The new reissued and remastered first Mod Fun LP with 17 additional bonus tracks.

“We are reissuing BOTH 80s albums (remastered in full) digitally on all platforms (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, Napster, etc.) for the first time! In fact, the Midnight record has never had any of its original tracks released since the butchered vinyl edition in the 80s. So, this is a BIG one for us. It will also include the remastered ‘Hangin’ Round EP’ along with a bunch of demos and live tracks from that period, 25 tracks in all.

Dorothy's Expanded Dream
Dorothy’s Expanded Dream (2020). The new reissued and remastered second Mod Fun LP now with 15 additional bonus tracks.

“Additionally, the remastered ‘Dorothy’s Dream’ album will be expanded to 25 tracks as well for its digital debut! Included in this release will be more live tracks and demos from back in the day.”

Say no more.

I reconnected with Mick and asked him if we could do a short Q&A concerning the release of the tracks. Mick, as much the gentleman now as he was then, wholeheartedly agreed.

SSA: Just for the people not familiar with Mod Fun, can you give me a quick summary of how you guys originally met and how the idea for a 60s inspired band came about?

A bunch of young upstarts. Photo Courtesy and © Mod Fun.

MH: Well, actually I knew Bob Strete (Edit: the bass player) practically from birth since our Mums were friends and neighbors early on. We did move to different towns by the time we were teenagers but still kept in touch. I eventually ended moving back to Lodi where we had both originally met. Around 1979 or ’80—with both of us deep in our KISS(!) phase—we decided to buy some guitars. However, by the time we met Chris Collins (Edit: the drummer) we were getting into bands like The Police, the Sex Pistols and a whole bunch of British new wave and punk sounds. Naturally, we also loved the Beatles as deeply as any music-obsessed teen would. As far as our band though, the deeper dive into ’60s sounds came after about a year as “Mod Fun.” It was then after diving into Motown, Stax and other Paul Weller “influences” that we started to go down a more “retro” rabbit hole.

Mod Fun gig flyer Courtesy Waterloo Station Fanzine. Publishers Melanie Rock and Louis Zuluaga.

SSA: Being in New Jersey, it must have been very odd being a 60s fanatic. Not many know how those years were filled with endless cover bands and classic rock. Coming from Queens I can empathize. How did you find early gigs?

MH: At first we’d see all these totally new wave bands listed in the Aquarian (the NJ alternative weekly) playing at places like Bloomfield’s Dirt Club and Jetty or the Showplace in Dover. We’d naively contact them for gigs and, to our surprise (especially in the beginning) we’d get on bills with these bands in their 20s and 30s who had records out. We were just kids in our senior year of HS! At that time we were very Jam-ish but doing all the same soul covers like “Midnight Hour” and “Heatwave.” I also recall we did “Time for Action” by Secret Affair. We even had a two-piece horn section back in the very beginning! 

SSA: After the band was formed did you gravitate to the NJ scene? Or was it the NY scene and bands that you heard about first?

Mod Fun onstage at CBGBs. Photo Courtesy and ©Mod Fun.

MH: We actually straddled both scenes. We grew up in Bergen County only about 17 minutes away from the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, so we were always gigging in NJ and crossing over into Manhattan. I’d say, for every two gigs we did in NJ, there was at least one in NYC in a typical month. Back then (before “experiencing” the Dive) we played a LOT at this place on the corner of Bleeker and Broadway called R.T. Firefly, sometimes two times a month. also at CB’s, Dr. B, S.N.A.F.U., Kenny’s Castaways, some others I’m probably forgetting.

SSA: I love asking people what they felt like when they entered the Dive for the first time. Everyone has a different take.

Dive Ad July 12 – July 16, 1985 with Mod Fun.

MH: Yes, the Dive was a total trip to go at first. We must have gotten into that scene after it had only been going for a few months, too. In fact, the first time we played there was before they built up the stage into a proper, decent-sized square one. I have an early pic of us there when there were mirrors behind the “stage” that was only about 4 inches up off the floor and an awful triangular shape which made it hard to fit on. I don’t think our first gig there was a Cavestomp, but we did play with another 60s-ish band…maybe the Creeping Pumpkins and (the not 60s-ish) Bill Pop/Tapes. But after we did a weekend with the Cheepskates, we started to get booked with all the other 60s-styled bands at every gig, so we sort of grew with the venue as it turned more and more retro band friendly. I seem to recall there were even plays or other “arty” (less musical) performances going on there in the early days too. By then we had also met Ron Rimsite who is really heavily responsible for us growing into a much more U.K. Psyche/Freakbeat-inspired style. He gave me so many cassettes of great obscure trippy English and R&B influenced stuff.

Mod Fun at The Dive
Mod Fun on the Dive’s new larger stage! Courtesy Mod Fun. Photo ©Andy Peters

SSA: Why did Mod Fun eventually stop? Life responsibilities?

Village Voice, Dec 24, 1985

MH: That’s a strange story. We split up as Mod Fun but regrouped as Paintbox and played a bunch of local shows. Then to our surprise, we were offered a two-week European tour by some guys who owned a record shop in Berlin. Their idea was to promote a “US garage” package tour in Europe. It sounded great! So, we met with these two guys in Hoboken and explained to them how we were interested, but we’d like to be billed as “Paintbox *(formerly Mod Fun).” They were all like “Yah, yah, that’s great!!” We then arrive in Europe and every single poster had the artwork for “90 Wardour Street” and has us billed as “MOD FUN.” This might have not been a big deal if it was just the three of us, but since Chris was dating the keyboard player from Paintbox, it put her in a sticky situation. We had to revamp the whole set to all Mod Fun and no Paintbox songs. It caused a division right down the middle of the band. We barely even made it through that tour. Upon our return to the States, Bob and I started Crocodile Shop with the drummer from Lord John and didn’t talk to Chris for a couple of years. Eventually, we did work through this awkward phase though. Chris even started engineering some of our recording sessions and doing live sound for Crocodile Shop at a few gigs (Maxwells, Limelight).

SSA: I’m sure the idea of reissuing your albums and other tracks has occurred to you over the years. What was different this time around?

MH: Yes, definitely! We did actually have the label Get Hip! out of Pittsburgh issue a “best of” CD in the years when Mod Fun wasn’t active at all. Since Dave Amels from Cryptovision was working with Get Hip, he had the “Dorothy’s Dream” master tapes and some other tracks we did with him back then for Mod compilations. While we did not have access to the Midnight Records material, we did the best we could. That was the “Past…Forward” CD issued in…maybe 1995? It was repressed in 2004 when we actually got Mod Fun back together for a reunion show in Asbury Park. However, to answer your question, this time I found myself with a bunch of downtime after losing a lot of my DJ gigs here in Asbury Park. I knew I wanted to do something musical during this “social isolation” period, so I started digging through old tapes. I ran them through some outboard EQ into my Mac and remastered the stuff. Not only did it keep me busy, but I was way happier with the sound than the original vinyl mastering jobs, which we had little control over.

Mod Fun Dorothy's Dream 1986
Promoting 1986’s “Dorothy’s Dream” LP. Left to right: Chris Collins, producer Dave Amels, Mick London and Bob Strete. Photo Courtesy and ©Mod Fun.

SSA: Bill Luther did a great job with the reissue of your first single a short while back. That must have felt special since you guys knew each other for ages.

The re-issued Mod Fun 45.

MH: Yup, Bill is great, one of our best mates and super supportive over the years. The color cover sleeve and his blurb on the back were superb. It was an honor for us to be his debut release on his label. 

SSA: Were the tapes all in one spot or scattered about in different places? Any require tracking down? Did you find tapes in an unusual place?

MH: Let’s just say it took a lot of digging. I’ve moved maybe five or six times since the ’80s so some stuff was packed away super deep. Tapes were all mixed up in milkcrates, storage totes, boxes, cassette cases…you name it. It was all under one roof, but I still felt like an archeologist at times, stumbling onto great material on an unlabeled tape and all.

SSA: From my own experiences going through archival stuff, I know not everything you find is gold. Sometimes it’s amusing to try to remember why I held onto one thing and not another. Any stories of discoveries like this?

MH: Oh gosh, yes. I found strange “side projects” we did back then. Really crazy stuff.

SSA: There are happy surprises though. Can you recall any of those?

MH: Yes! A four-track demo of eight covers we did after “Dorothy’s Dream” that I literally had been searching for about a decade! It was on the B-side of a live tape. I think five of the tracks are appearing on the new reissues.

SSA: This might sound odd considering we’re all getting on in years, but any short tours planned after all this COVID mess clears up? Even just a final NYC gig would be ideal.

Current Mod Fun
Mod Fun nowadays. Photo courtesy and ©Mod Fun.

MH: Yes! We were actually just about to do a big reunion show in D.C. the Sunday all the COVID19 mess hit the fan. We were able to do a local Asbury Park warm-up show, but right after that, the band in D.C. canceled the gig down there. It was super disappointing too, considering all the logistical hoops we had to jump thru to get Bob back out here from Kentucky for the gig. But, looking ahead, he’s trying to move back out here so we can “get the band back together, maaaan.”

SSA: Any plans for live material coming out from the early years? The band used to put on a powerhouse live show back in the day, I recall. You gave LI’s Secret Service a run for their money.

Mod Fun at The Dive. Photo (& graphic) Courtesy Stranger Than Fiction Fanzine. ©Scott “Rudie” Rosinski.

MH: Actually, there are a whole bunch of live tracks included (from back then) on these collections, some recorded at Berkeley Square, a Radiothon we did in Trenton and some even at the Dive(!) 

SSA: Thanks again, Mick, for sharing this wonderful news on our site. And for taking a moment to share some background on the release. Hope to see you guys live…soon!

MH: Thank You, Jeff! 

The revamped first and second Mod Fun records are available now on all digital platforms. The first single reissue is still available on vinyl from Bill Luther’s Pennytown Records. Link here!

Safe European Home: Overseas Vinyl

The Bohemian Bedrocks
The Bohemian Bedrocks at The Dive. left to right: Orin Portnoy, Bobby Belfiore, Elan Portnoy, and Ira Elliot. Photo courtesy

Sadly, like much of the history of early rock and general in general, it was the young kids of Europe to first notice and then support U.S. punk bands. Taking this principle to heart, NYC bands have found greener pastures touring Europe for the longest time. Often coming back with tales of how they would suddenly find themselves playing to thousands of people at outdoor festivals. Only to then jump on a plane, arrive in NYC a few hours later, and then play to the same 20-50 familiar faces the following week.

A perfect example of the Euro connection in regards to NYC garage bands was The Headless Horsemen. In 1987 a Dutch label, Resonance Records, showed a strong interest in releasing their first LP. However, once the record came out, the label then pushed the band to release an EP the following year. Essentially, using up songs that were slated to go on their second full length. Although the EP was solid and a great addition to their catalog, it didn’t sell well. While the band still toured successfully, the combination of fewer tracks at an LP price didn’t help their cause at the merch table. The record did make it stateside but, priced like an import, that too quickly disappeared. Soon Resonance went out of business.

Another NYC band with an interesting Euro connection was The Bohemian Bedrocks. A short-lived mid-80s group that contained members of both The Fuzztones and the future Optic Nerve. While the band both played out and recorded original material, their material was never released. After a year of performing, half of the guys went back out on tour with The Fuzztones while the other half became the aforementioned Optic Nerve. The Bedrocks ceased to be. (Some rare images from the Bedrocks live gigs, can be found on David Herrera’s informative site chronicling the Dive nightclub. Link HERE.)

Come 2012 though, Germany’s Screaming Apple Records came to the rescue. While they were only too eager to release the tracks by this quasi-supergroup in Europe, the import was hard to find in US stores. Even now, years later, while I was on a hunt for a new copy, I only found overseas vendors selling them.

Thankfully, this was not the end of the story for both records.

To say I was caught by surprise when Elan Portnoy revealed he had copies of both these imports (as well as the 1st HH LP and Rarities LP) for sale, is putting it mildly. Judging by the responses on his FB page, I was not alone. A quick email to Elan confirmed that he had “been sitting on these for a long time. Ever since they came out!” One week and one Paypal payment later, the records arrived.

Headless Horsemen Bohemian Bedrocks Records
Fuzz in a Box: Recently unearthed copies of the Headless Horsemen’s Gotta Be Cool EP and The Bohemian Bedrocks LP.

Hearing them now after so many years is an experience unto itself. On the one hand, you’re glad that finally, they’re a bit more widely available stateside. Then again, it’s hard not to feel a bit wistful to hear both groups at the prime of their existence, playing their strongest material to a (then) limited audience.

Alas while we cannot turn on the Wayback Machine, we can easily order these records once again. They certainly do not deserve to be stacked away in a storage container somewhere, unheard and more importantly, not enjoyed. Not only do they represent a specific time period in NYC, but also a moment in time where every member of these bands was concerned with just one thing. Making you have a lease-breaking, no-holds-barred good time. And that dear friends are as good a reason as any to crack open your billfold.

The Headless Horsemen’s Self-Titled 1st LP, You Gotta Be Cool EP (Resonance Records), and Demos and Rarities LP (Dangerhouse Skylab) are available for purchase along with The Bohemian Bedrocks LP (Screaming Apple) from Elan Portnoy. $20/LP, $15/EP. Postpaid (US). For more information contact Elan at elanportnoy(at)gmail(dot)com.

I Don’t Fit In

Paul Collins. Photo ©Rob Overtoom. Courtesy Hozac Records and Books.

Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White, I’m Not Like Anybody Else, Five Years Ahead of my Time. The misfit world has long been a unifying factor in the music scene. For every megastar with beaming Chicklets smile, you have hundreds of thousands of faceless guys and gals slogging through a career with a fair share of crappy motels and substandard meals. It’s rare to walk up to a music fan who cannot reel off a laundry list of supremely talented individuals who subsist hand to mouth—if they’re lucky.

Part of the reason d’etre for this blog was to highlight those NYC folk who’ve gone through this or are currently going through this. While many musicians have somehow found a balance, others are not so lucky. Something I’m reminded of constantly. And even out of the success stories, it’s hard to measure what the definition of “success” is.

I hate using a cliché, but Paul Collins’ career definitely exemplifies one to a T. He’s a survivor. A quick Google will lead you to Paul’s many achievements in the power pop realm (as well as his sometimes contentious relationship with fame, and former bandmates.) Still, Paul is a pro. One cannot exist in the industry for over 40 years without having—not just a strong backbone—but being a bit ornery as well.

Yet, everyone has to decide when it’s time to call it quits. And Paul has recently decided to gracefully close out his powerpop career with not just one, but two career highlights.

I Don’t Fit In is not just an autobiography, but also an overview of the heady time he was a member of The Nerves and The Beat. Two of the genre’s most exemplary and revered groups.

Discussing the book with Paul not too long ago he mentioned that it was in the planning stages for the longest time. Tracing its roots to when he was in Spain and going through a particularly difficult tour. The book started off as a semi-autobiographical exercise complete with anonymized names. While he did find someone to publish it in Spanish, he found no takers for an English language version. Disappointed, but undeterred, Paul eventually relocated back to his hometown, NYC, and continued to record and perform.

In 2018 however, Hozak Records label owner Todd Novak approached Paul and asked him if he would be interested in publishing his story. The indy label, long known as a haven for supporting new artists had started a book imprint and was experiencing some success publishing artist autobiographies. Teaming him up with writer Chuck Nolan, they reworked and added to Pauls’s original notes to create the definitive roadmap of his musical journey.

“Adding the bow tie to the package” (as Paul put it) is the release of Another World, a remastered collection of archival material that had only previously existed on personal cassette tapes that Paul had held onto for years. When I asked if there would be a volume two he replied “Nope, that’s it!” His assuredness made me realize how serious he was in commemorating this chapter of his life in the most positive way. And for someone like Paul Collins, that seems sorta fitting. I can’t imagine him saying goodbye on a less than stellar note.

Paul Collins Band at Naba, Osaka, Japan. March 2011. Photo © Jeff Cuyubamba

In 2011 I happened to find myself in Japan as The Paul Collins Band made their first appearances ever in the land of the rising sun. While I completely understood how the band was respected in the US, I was totally unprepared for the outpouring of support they would receive on this short tour. While all the sets started with an enthusiastic audience, they always ended with a smiling, sweaty, beaming mob waving their arms and looking like they experienced the second coming.

The fans go nuts for Paul in Osaka. @Jeff Cuyubamba

While the band was razor-sharp, much of the success was in the way Paul slowly built the crowd into a frenzy. What’s funny is that while I was amazed, Paul just smiled and took it in stride. As if he knew that this is what performers do. You just put on a great show for your fans. A fact further emphasized by what happened the following day. While my head was still buzzing from the enthusiastic crowd response, I asked Paul what his highlight was from the previous day. He replied excitedly that it was having the most delicious soup in the basement of the tallest building in Tokyo.

You can order I Don’t Fit In from Hozak Records and Books at this link. Another World can be ordered from Bomp Records here.