30 March 2011

Secret Origins, Part II

My first week in New York i joined the Jetz. I went to the audition with my Frankenstein Vox Bill Wyman bass (which i carried around in a cardboard box...! I had no case for it). April, Frankie and Ruby. April was the leader of the band; she had a bunch of tunes written, a collection of fast and hard songs but intrinsically pop. I guess that's what attracted me: i've always been a sucker for a good pop song: under three minutes, simple and hooky. Good power-pop, i guess what you'd call it. And i'm really really picky about my power-pop.

Power-pop is a genre that, in my worthless opinion, is a fine line to walk. It took me a long time to warm up to Big Star or Alex Chilton. I never had time for The Replacements. I never really liked Gary Valentine or Paul Collins, Greg Kihn, The Shoes (ai yi yi, the weakest of the weak, nothing personal)...oh Jesus, the list (unfortunately) goes on and on. These bands to me are hopelessly twee and anemic. The Records fall short. Cheap Trick while not always succeding* do a better job. The Posies when they are on they are on 112%, but they're not always on. The Beatles get it right. The early Who peg it. Blondie, The Ramones (yes, The Ramones), The Knack (yes, The Knack)...these are among a few who get power-pop right.

And April Lee, 5'0" of peroxide California dynamite, got it right too. After i had been accepted, i went to another audition i had already scheduled, just to see...y'know? No comparison: no pizzazz, colorless, more of a jazzy-type proggy thing. Strangely enough, they liked me too! But i'd told them i had another thing lined up so i couldn't accept. I think the guy was a little perturbed. But it proved to me that the first choice was unquestionably the right one.

April was great! She was always coiled and tense as she sang and played her little black Musicmaster, intense little black eyes, always dressed up in Spandex...come to think of it, so was Frankie! But i think April dressed Frankie. April and Frankie were girlfriend and boyfriend at the time.

Oh, geez...just as i was getting into it...more another time!

* at the risk of incurring the fury of Nine. And i love Robin Zander!

28 March 2011

Secret Origins, Part 1.6

Nine, you rule...what else is new?

According to Wikipedia, Madonna's last band, the one i remember, is called Emmy, with Stephen Bray playing the drums! Fuck Google, they're just your nosy neighbor, helping you out only because they wanna know yr bidness! Wikipedia is your real friend!

Unfortunately, there isn't a Emmy entry on Wikipedia. Breakfast Club, sì però.

EDIT 2011-03-29: Thanks to my friend and yours Wikipedia, i found this page with photos of Emmy! And there's Brian the guitarist, Stephen the drummer, Madonna and...and...who's that guy? That's not who i used to rent my bass amp from! Hmmmm...(not-so) precocious Alzheimer's setting in? The stranger thing is that i remember Madonna's Rickenbacker (which i thought was so cool)!

Secret Origins, Part 1.5

plannine said...

was the band the breakfast club?

And instead of burying this in the comments section...

Nine, are you saying that Madonna's band was called The Breakfast Club? I mean, as far as i can remember, it could have well been. But i seem to remember a one-word name. Entropy?...Empathy?...Entity? Something like that. I do remember the red-headed guitarist's name was Brian and he was from Virginia...or was that West Virginia? He and the drummer (whose name escapes me) were really nice guys.

After a few weeks, we changed rehearsal space from W. 10th Street to the Music Building on 33rd Street. Frankie the drummer's brother, Bobby Savage, played in a group called The Kidz The Gentz (yes, also with a Z...i've always hated that gimmick) that rented a space there. April (who somehow funded the band) split the cost with them and we split the space. It was there we met Madonna and her soon-to-be ex-band.

At this point in our illustrious career, Ruby was no longer in the band. She had started hanging out with the Heartbreakers crowd. It was then that Joey (who was visiting) and I met Ty Stix, the Heartbreakers' drummer at the time. Chilling. In fact, i remember gigging only once with Ruby, and that was at a Battery Park open-air gig. It had to be only a few weeks since i'd been there (again, i've got the pictures somewhere). But i digress.

EDIT 2011-04-12: Not The Kidz, you moron, but The Gentz! Yeah, still with that stupid Z at the end. And they're still around! Look, they even have a (self-created) Wikipedia page, as well as their own website!

27 March 2011

Secret Origins, Part I

I better get this down before i forget it all. All that is to be recorded is (obviously) from memory.

June 1980: instead of going to art school (Center for Creative Studies was the most likely choice) i informed my parents i was going to New York to play bass guitar in a band. That would be my career choice. I remember seeing my father's heart drop...well, his face reflected that anyway. Nevertheless, calls were made, tickets were booked and so i went.

I joined a band the first week i was there: The Jetz. I found their ad in the Village Voice. I liked them, they liked me, it was love at first sight. April Lee, guitar; Frankie Wilde, drums; and Ruby Rand, keyboards.

And me, Frank Anthony Di Mauro...hmmm, small problem. There was already a Frankie in the group. So, at CBGB's one night after one of our first band practices, lots of names (and drinks) were tossed around and i became Grey Tomorrow.

We did play CBGB's but just once. I have the photos somewhere. But we played Max's Kansas City several times. I only wish i could remember exactly how many times, and with who. It seems to me that we spent evenings regularly there at Max's. I remember seeing Cheetah Chrome play there more than once. I remember seeing Von Lmo play there, again more than once. I saw Madonna and her group (!) perform there just before she would jettison the band and become the Madonna. For the life of me i can't remember the band's name. I even used to rent her bassist's amp for gigs...Tony? I also remember seeing a butterscotch Telecaster being played by some skinny forgotten guitarist in some long forgotten band. Funny how the Tele sticks in my mind though. I loved how it sounded.

More on this later.

20 March 2011

Back in the USSR

Listening to: John Cale (the Island "trilogy" + Sabotage/Live).

When we were kids in the pre-Russian-Federation USA, we would been shown films every now and then (probably not unlike today). Sometimes in the classroom, sometimes in assemblies in the cafeteria or auditorium. I remember seeing Nanook of the North and Future Shock (women with green and orange hair!!) back in junior high. I also vaguely remember a documentary on everyday life in Soviet Moscow. Oh, i'm not talking about they're-coming-for-your-children, McCarthyist blatant anti-communist propaganda in black and white. I'm not that old, to begin with. No, i'd guess it was a relatively recent snapshot for the time (mid-1970s). It was less a propaganda piece than a cultural exchange on film. I remember stereotypical big peasant women and wizened yet smaller peasant men in colorless, heavy clothing, all threadbare suits, babushkas and shawls.

One scene i remember was people in some city square around a public water fountain (not unlike the disappearing nasoni here in Rome), but the fountain's structure allowed a drinking cup to be perched on the stand...and everyone shared that same glass.
Another scene i remember was shot in the GUM department store, with the famous long line of clients hoping to get one of whatever necessity it was they were queing up for. I remember the narrator implying that they were lucky to get what they came for, due to rationing and shortages and whatnot.

All this set-up and for what...? Well, welcome back to the Soviet Union 2011!
Na zdorovje!

This is yesterday, circa 9:15 am at the Ins supermarket off of Piazza Alessandria here in Rome. Ins is a discount supermarket, carrying a limited supply of (mostly) only their own store brand of products. They open at 9 am. There is only one cashier open. There are around 13 people in front of me.

The cashier is oblivious that the line goes almost all the way to the back of the store, me being equidistant to the front or the back. I am not the last person in line. Nevertheless, she is asking for exact change. Suspicion leads me to believe that the till has enough to make change but she finds a certain disdain in making change.

A paper grocery bag costs 15¢.

The employees stock shelves at all hours. The aisles are roughly 70cm wide.

The prices are heavily discounted while maintaining a certain quality but that is the sole reason to shop there. It is an exercise in subliminal masochism, a study of anti-feng shui, 180° of ergonomics, a mosquito hovering in front of your nose that refuses to be shooed away. It is as if Dr. Yen Lo and his team had designed a chain of discount supermarkets. Every time i go there, to quote Bukowski, i feel raped nine times over.

Yet i still go. I must be a masochist. A cheap masochist, to boot.

05 March 2011

Atlas and me

I'm still reading Rand's Atlas Shrugged and it's still less three-dimensional that the pages it's printed on. Coincidentally, i'd discovered this quote...actually, i wished i had said it...
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

-- John Rogers