|Lorry was in pretty rough shape after the car wreck. For several weeks she couldn’t talk at all for fear of ripping apart the sutures. She could only have liquids for nourishment, so it was soups and milkshakes that were sucked up with much pain and difficulty through straws. She visited the plastic surgeon twice a week to have salves applied and to make sure the cut was healing properly and not getting infected. And the wound was nasty. Her mouth was severely swollen and a jagged red scar ran across the bottom of her lip and down to her chin. The doctor assured that, if properly cared for, in time it would heal to a barely discernable scar that would be virtually indistinguishable from the natural line of her lip. His prognosis was right; it eventually almost completely disappeared. But for now it was very painful and Lorry was acutely self-conscious of the mess her face was.|
|Tracks...the Wild Ones|
|Then the bills started coming in. Emergency room and ambulance fees for two hospitals. Plus the doctors and drug fees. We had zero for medical insurance and we were both now out of work. Luckily, Lorry’s sister was working at a legal firm. Although car accidents weren’t their specialty, the lead partner volunteered to take care of the legal aspects. He had us turn all the medical bills over to him and he seemed confident that they would be taken care of and possibly a settlement could be made for pain and suffering. I had my doubts since we had the minimum legal insurance on Lorry’s car and the car that hit us had been stolen. The drunken teenagers who had been joy-riding in it had taken off right after the crash. Who was there to sue? Anyway, Lorry signed the appropriate papers and it was a relief not having to see any more bills. I got a temp job so we’d have some kind of income. Eventually bought an old Chevy station wagon for a hundred bucks so we could get around.
Lorry was miserable. Being incapacitated was not her style. She’d play her guitar a bit, then get frustrated knowing she couldn’t perform. She’d pick up painting again for awhile. Get frustrated with that knowing she really should be doing music. It was an awful time knowing that playing out and promoting “Brakes On You” like we should be was impossible. As the weeks dragged on, Tracks’ rhythm section, Wild Johnny Lewis and John Shriver were gigging out now and then with pick-up bands. Playing with Frank Rowe in versions of Baby’s Arm and with other people to make a buck here and there. That didn’t bother me or Lorry, we didn’t expect them to sit and wait for her to heal. What did bother me was Wild Johnny urging me to get another singer for Tracks. I had to explain to him that basically a band without Lorry Doll wasn’t Tracks. And Tracks was my band and the only one I wanted to play in. The bad blood between Lorry and Wild Johnny had started well before the car wreck and I knew what he really wanted was a band with a singer that didn’t have his act nailed down.
|Chapter 13. Wild Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye|
|I had my part in creating the monster that had become Wild Johnny. When John Lewis and Paul “Kidd” Kross had first joined up with Tracks back in the fall of 1976, Lorry and I had come up with a batch of new songs. I had written something called “Motorcycle Love”, loosely based on the Marlon Brando character from Stanley Kramer’s 1954 biker movie The Wild One. It wasn’t that great a song. I could tell you it was a social commentary on the psyche of outlaw bikers, but in reality it relied more on imagery than content. However, it did have a nasty crunching rhythm that sounded like an idling Harley. The lyric went, in part, something like this:
Oh Johnny was a wild one
Rode his bike on a midnight run
With the wind blowing through his hair,
Wild Johnny got the Devil’s stare.
Motorcycle Lo-ve. Motor-psycho Lo-ve.
Then he joined the angels from hell
And the cops couldn’t keep him in jail
With midnight leathers on his back
Wild Johnny – you’re the leader of the pack.
|Lorry had a real hard time singing it. If she didn’t feel the song, if she didn’t relate to it, she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do it. But, she gave it an honest go. I figured we should dump it and try something else. Lewis would have none of that. He loved the tune. Maybe he didn’t have the bike, but he identified with the character of Johnny totally. During a break, he talked Paul into trying it. It sounded all right. Not great, but okay. So we went with that, besides it served to break up the set with another singer. By the next rehearsal, John had painted “Wild Johnny” on his bass drum, we began advertising the band as “Tracks ... the Wild Ones” and the rest is history, as they say.
In the beginning, I guess I encouraged his outlandish behavior, thinking it totally punk. But my tolerance soon wore thin. Lorry was more vocal about his lateness or absences from rehearsals and gigs, his sloppy, off-time playing from being stoned. His endless excuses for anything and everything that went wrong. This all happened gradually over time. Lorry and I were mostly concentrating on the music and paid little attention to Wild Johnny’s outside adventures – only those that seemed to directly effect the band. But naïve as we were, little by little we started to be aware of what was happening. There were obviously larcenous activities going on outside the band. One in particular where he tried to involve Paul that I now believe led to Paul quitting Tracks. Then he had somehow managed to get some kind of menial job at the Rat (when we were being courted to sign with Jim Harold’s Rat Records). Things around the club started disappearing. In fact almost whenever he was around things would go missing. Lorry took him on one of her housekeeping jobs so he could make some extra money. The medicine cabinet was raided for drugs, leaving Lorry to explain what happened. Excuses were made, cover-ups conducted, but in the end the situation was intolerable.
Now, in the spring of 1978 things were coming to a head as we were finally getting back to rehearsing again. Lorry couldn’t belt it out yet, but she could mouth the words to the songs. John Shriver sang lead on a few numbers and I joined him on more back-up vocals to pump up the sound a bit. It was slowly coming along. All except for Wild Johnny. He knew Lorry was still very frustrated and on edge about both her performance and injuries so he goaded her. Little irritating things. Stopping for obnoxiously extended periods to adjust his drums. Halting rehearsal to go to the men’s room and coming back loaded and unable to keep the proper beat. Any little thing to irritate he did. They were at each other’s throats. I didn’t help. It was an awkward position. We weren’t married, but it was obvious Lorry and I were partners, so despite my beliefs and feelings, I thought it fairest not to take sides. It was stupid; I should have put an end to it as soon as things had started up long ago. So it exploded. They had the inevitable pissing match and Lorry fired him. At least one of us had the balls to do it.
|While Lorry was out, Wild Johnny came to Blue Door pleading with me to let him back into Tracks. Although he had contributed much to our sound, there was no way I would put up with him again. I well remembered the things that had happened all along. Like sitting at the Rat’s bar with Lorry and DMZ’s Peter Greenburg. Peter was a little tipsy already when I bought him a drink. “I know you guys think I’m an asshole … but I always thought you two were O.K.” What we thought about Peter was that he combined with JJ Rassler to present one of the best guitar duos we had ever heard. Where do you suppose he got the idea that we thought he was an asshole? That was one of many such instances. Flash forward a couple years. Backstage at a Neighborhoods show at Hurrah’s in New York City. Lorry and I are talking over old times with Richard Nolan and I spot a blonde sitting across from us staring at Lorry. And she’s buzzed. She finds the opportunity to come over and announce: “Lorry Doll, I know there’s been a lot of animosity between us, but I want you to know you’ve always been a role model to me.” We find out later it was Nikki Lazer of the Lazers. Animosity? I don’t think either of us had even met her before. Why did all these people think we hated them? Tracks’ bad boy had left a trail of broken-hearted groupies (including some girlfriends of members of Boston’s finest bands). Had Wild Johnny’s pillow talk included badmouthing Lorry and Tracks? There’s more stories, too many stories, but I think you get the picture.
Wild Johnny responded to my refusal of reinstating him by slashing all four tires on my car in the dark of night. I thought about killing him. Actually went out looking for him with that in mind. But, he had gone into hiding. Although he was Tracks drummer for only half the band’s existence, he unfortunately is probably more identified with us than any other Tracks' player. Well, as my Momma used to say, if you can’t say something nice about someone ... so I’ll end this whole rant by stating that as a punk drummer Wild Johnny was good.
|The bad blood between Lorry Doll and Wild Johnny had them heading to the inevitable showdown.
Photo (detail) - Fred Taylor
|Brando's Johnny, the Wild One:
"Nobody tells me what to do."
What are you rebelling against?
"What've you got?"
Denise Donahue has a great photo essay of one of Wild Johnny’s arrests. See it at the Boston Groupie News website (HERE).
When Lorry and I moved to New York, we called our band the Wild Ones. It was not a tribute. There were at least two other bands and one club that were using various spellings of Tracks. As mentioned above, “Tracks … the Wild Ones” had been the tag line on our band’s promo material so we went with that.
This chapter represents what was probably the darkest time in Tracks’ history, for a lighter look at the late 70s Boston music scene, there is a new Rat Moment (HERE).
|Photo - Fred Taylor