Those of us who admire music-makers of renown shared many hard losses over the past year. And many us who treasure our own music scenes have lost local heroes as well.
Time passes, and young lions grow older — since their mortality reminds us of our own, and the music they made reminds us of our receding youth, it’s always personal. And for those of us of a certain age, 2016 seemed way too close for comfort.
I’m not just the author of FiveBands — I’m also a fan. Working on this project has given me the chance to discover groups I never heard of but would have loved from Day One. And of that growing list, Boston’s Fox Pass is one of my favorites.
The duo moved to New York, where they joined their friend Tom Dickie to form Tom Dickie and the Desires (managed by the legendary Tommy Mottola). That band dissolved in 1982, and Macey and Roy parted ways until the late ‘90s. A reformed Fox Pass finally released its debut album in 2005 and a second in 2010.
While Fox Pass released just one single during the ‘70s, Jon Macey has generously shared some unreleased Fox Pass tracks from the era, which I’m honored to present here:
Now Rossi is combining his professional passions with a film project aimed at documenting and celebrating the bands, street artists and poets of New York’s protopunk scene. (The working title is You’re In or You’re Out/Urine or UR Out.) Rossi describes the style — which is in pre-production through his company Tantamount Productions — as “cinéma vérité meets ‘The Last Waltz,’ and he’s networking with his contemporaries and other fans to raise the money to bring the project to a screen near you. (As actor and veteran New York musician Fenton Lawless remarked in a Facebook discussion, the project is “what Vinyl promised but failed sooo miserably. … It needed a Peter Rossi.”)
While many bands that powered the scene have expressed excitement about gathering for a live event 40 years later, Rossi emphasizes that he’s not looking to document a reunion that simply retreads the participants’ back catalogs. “This is about catching up with the artists who still have the fire in their souls,” he says.
Rossi is rallying some of the top acts of the era to top the bill again and demonstrate the chemistry that made New York a catalyst for a new generation of music.
There are 8 million stories in the naked city, and Johnny Angel has a few thousand of them. As founder of Thrills, the Massachusetts native (and current Los Angeles resident) played a major role in Boston’s late-’70s scene focused on the legendary Rathskeller, better know as the Rat (and a k a “Boston’s CBGB“). Thrills gigged with Boston’s finest as well as touring groups from the Ramones to the Dead Boys to U2; Angel has maintained those relationships as a musician, radio personality, print journalist and actor.
But how to tell the tale without the clichés of a standard-issue memoir? Johnny took a novel route in 2015, when he published Looking for Lady Dee: A Punk Rock Mystery. The book weaves together scrupulous autobiography with a film noir mystery: An old flame from his days at The Rat has disappeared, and Johnny teams with a punk femme fatale to find her.
Judy Simonds — who actually lived the Milwaukee scene and is working to document it in depth — is helping me learn more about the amazing kaleidoscope of creative projects Richard LaValliere powered over nearly 50 years of his short life. (Check out the Richard LaValliere memorial page she runs on Facebook.) I haven’t asked her about his personal trajectory, or whether he was also frustrated that his work wasn’t heard by more people.
Gene sets the record straight on a few points about the Harlots (who New York Dolls frontman David Johansen calls his favorite band on the scene) and shares a motherlode of Harlots memorabilia, including photos, flyers and the band’s own fan newsletter.
“Love the article and the take on the scene as well as the shout out for me and the boys” Gene writes, “though, unfortunately, it’s a little inaccurate as are many things from that time frame.”
By the time 23-year-old Bruce Springsteen officially introduced the E Street Band in October 1972, he’d already put together at least half-a-dozen musical groups, building a core of backing musicians and experimenting with different kinds of lineups.
Among Springsteen’s notable efforts: the Castiles, his first serious mid-’60s band; Steel Mill, a long-haired hard rock outfit that toured the country and opened for some major acts of the era; and The Friendly Enemies as well as Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom, two big ensembles that Springsteen built expressly for a couple of memorable shows. These last two lineups played just one and two gigs, respectively, but they’re still remembered as the first time Springsteen combined some of his core rock musicians with horns and other enhancements that tapped into the R&B traditions of the Jersey Shore.
As a footnote in history, the refurbished 1924 movie theater run by local promoter Jim May is most often mentioned as the venue where Nirvana played some of its earliest shows under names like Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew and Ted Ed Fred (as well as its first show under its final moniker on March 19, 1988).
“The Ramones all originated from Forest Hills [Queens,] and kids who grew up there either became musicians, degenerates or dentists,” Tommy Ramone wrote in an early press release. “The Ramones are a little of each. Their sound is not unlike a fast drill on a rear molar.”
Sure, Queens has never had the cachet of Manhattan or Brooklyn, but the borough’s role in promoting New York musicians shouldn’t be overlooked. Consider Coventry in Sunnyside, Queens: The erstwhile Popcorn Pub changed its name at the end of January 1973 — the same weekend it hosted KISS’ first-ever gigs — and went on to feature an eclectic assortment of musical acts.
“It was a big club, around 5,000 square feet, and it held around 700 people,” recalled owner Paul Sub in Ken Sharp’s Dressed to Kill. “Everyone from KISS, The New York Dolls, The Ramones, Blondie, Sam & Dave, The Dictators, and Elephant’s Memory played there. I’d put on 10 acts a week, both local and national. The only act we turned down, because we didn’t want to spend $300, was Aerosmith (laughs). The New York Dolls were really the ones that kept Coventry going. They played once a month, and whenever they played, 700 people would show up. They had the main following of all the bands who played there.”
According to Dictators bassist Andy Shernoff, “The Coventry was one of the glitter-rock places in New York, and if you were doing original music, that was the ONLY place to play. If you were a cover band, you could play anywhere; that’s what people wanted to see.”
Many of the up-and-coming local acts to visit Coventry are now more closely associated with Manhattan clubs like Max’s Kansas City; the Mercer Arts Center; and CBGB, which would open later that year. (Before he switched noms de punk, Joey Ramone played at Coventry often as “Jeff Starship” with his first band, Sniper.) Others aren’t so well remembered, but they’re worth more than a casual listen. Here are five bands that played Coventry and you should know about: Continue reading “Between KISS and the Ramones: Coventry and 5 bands you should know about”