|As bitter and bleak as the New England winters always were, with the first blossoming of spring, Boston always managed to elicit a degree of renewed hope. And so it was for the fortunes of Tracks in the Spring of 1978.|
|Tracks...the Wild Ones|
|Let me backtrack a bit to right after our car wreck in late February. When we came limping back from the hospital there was a letter waiting from Greg Shaw. The founder of Bomp! had heard about Tracks and our single through the raving of DMZ guitarist JJ Rassler. Shaw wanted Bomp to distribute "Brakes On You" and he indicated he might be interested in producing us, too. So I had a bunch of records shipped out to California and a few weeks later Shaw wrote back saying he thought Tracks was great, but he also thought we could sound much better if we recorded in a proper studio with him sharing production with us. We had heard good things about Greg Shaw and Bomp and if we were going to trust any label with our music, it would be one like his. Although Lorry and I were real comfortable with our do-it-yourself approach to recording and releasing material, this was an opportunity we definitely felt was worth further exploration. But, there was one glaring problem - our lead singer's mouth had been ripped in half and Lorry Doll wasn't even able to talk at the moment, let alone sing. We didn't know when she could perform again, but it looked like it would be months before she would be properly healed to carry on. So, I didn't want to tell Shaw and put him off to the whole idea. I kind of strung him along with some half-assed excuses for a while. All of our contact was via very slow cross-country mail. You gotta remember these were the days before instant or even fast communication like email. And we were too broke to even afford a telephone. Shaw said I could call him collect. But conducting business from a pay phone or from the phone of the Gay Community News across the hall from us at Blue Door was awkward at best. I managed to keep him at bay for awhile, but when Lorry was finally able to perform again, we fired Wild Johnny as chronicled in last month's chapter. So now we had a singer, but only half a rhythm section. Understandably, I guess Bomp finally figured we just werent interested any more, and in truth we weren't. I think they were having their own financial problems handling their upstart record business - payment for the distribution of our record had been slow in coming. So we never got to find out if the collaboration would have worked or not. All I know is that shortly after sending the records to Bomp we started getting fan mail from all over middle-America, Europe and Japan.
|Chapter 14. Bomping to the Beat of a Different Drummer|
|Getting another drummer was ridiculously easy. I had my eye on Pat O’Neill as a band-mate years before Tracks. Lorry had met Patrick right after she moved to Boston from New York and he had originally given her her stage name (Go There). And I had known Pat since I met Lorry a short time later. We had seen him in a number of cover bands, most notably Robo & the North Side Booger Band where he was teamed with bassist Sev Grossman (later of Willie Alexander's Boom Boom Band). They played bluesy rock, like old Stones tunes and somewhat obscure blues songs. Robo was a great guitarist and Pat had a real Charlie Watts feel to his drumming and along with Sev formed a really tight rhythm section. They played Jack's in Cambridge a lot and were on the compilation album recorded live at that venue in 1974. But later, Robo had gotten horribly sick and the band broke up. When Lorry and I were getting our own band together, Pat was definitely who we wanted for our drummer. But, he was already working on original material with another guitar player. Besides I don’t think he was too taken with the whole punk rock thing just yet. I recall that Lorry also asked Sev to join on, but of course he had something else going on already.
While we were doing Tracks, Pat eventually hooked up with George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic as a drum tech. He got Lorry and me stage-side passes for one of their extravaganzas at the Boston Garden. Bootsy Collins sailing through the air with the flying Mothership, explosions everywhere and the whole stoned joint just digging and dancing' to it. One nation under a groove. What a spectacle. KISS for cool people. But now in the early spring of 1978, Pat was working with Aerosmith as Joey Kramer's tech. Draw The Line had been released that winter and although Aerosmith had just come off a mini-tour, it was back to Boston for a while and Pat had a lot of extra time on his hands. So he finally joined Tracks.
|Pat was quite a character. He was really into glam, loved the campiness of the New York Dolls and would dress fey at the drop of a hat. He also threw absurdly ribald parties at the house he shared with his father and brothers in Somerville. And women absolutely adored him. Somewhat small in stature, Pat favored them tall. It was rare to see him without a long-legged beauty hanging all over him. He could be sexist, downright vulgar and blatantly crude. But coming from Patrick, girls thought it was all just sooo cute and charming. He even got away with the rather large and realistic prosthetic penis he had attached to the high hat stand of his drums so that it would pump to the beat of the music. Even Lorry - who usually rewarded sexism with either a biting put down, or a well placed punch - thought that it was kinda cute.|
|A lot of drummers make the mistake of thinking that banging out punk is a walk in the park, until they give it a try. Pat was no exception. Lorry and I always knew that the rhythm section (and especially the drummer) was the most important part of any rock band. Without a solid driving beat, it didn't matter what else was laid down. If you can't shake your butt to it, it ain't rock 'n roll. But Lorry whipped Pat (and herself) back into playing shape in no time. Pat was also capable of combining with John Shriver on bass for a dynamic subtlety to our songs that just wasn't there before now. I can't tell you how happy I was to be playing with three people I genuinely liked. The past half-year had been extremely grueling - releasing and trying to support and promo the record, the car wreck stalling our plans and the unending frustration of dealing with Wild Johnny. Some say you gotta be pissed off to play punk. But we already got enough inspiration from living at the poverty level in a cold-water walk-up in the middle of a cruel city, and from being involved in such a back stabbing business. I was playing in my favorite band with the lady I loved and two of my best friends. We were happy, damn it. And inspired.
For our first gig with Pat O'Neill we set up a show at America's punk palace – CBGB in New York. It would be our first time there, and also Tracks' first appearance anywhere in three months. Yeah, we liked pressure.
For pix and to read all about that CBGB show, Go Here.
|Patrick O'Neill - An old friend becomes the new Tracks drummer
|TRACKS - Spring 1978: Pat O'Neill, John Shriver, Jeff Rey and Lorry Doll
Photos this page - Bill Pitcher