Well, the band started off and of course their crowd went absolutely nuts for them, singing and bouncing along to the inane pop lyrics that they all seemed to know by heart. I tried to settle myself down, hoping we would pull out a great second set to salvage the night. But Lorry had worked herself up. I tried to calm her down, but she would have none of it. She was pissed at herself, pissed that we were so bad, pissed that Richard had booked us with a pop band, pissed at the audience, the club, the owner and whoever else she could think of. Now Lorry was usually pretty calm about most things, but like me she had that passionate artistic temperament. Juice her up with a few drinks, add the aggression of rock ‘n’ roll, and the frustration of not bringing that to a satisfying release, and she was ready to explode. She went to the stage door, watched the band and their fans for a few moments (I could swear I saw smoke coming out of her ears) then she whirled back in, rushed to the electric box and pulled the main switch.

The extreme contrast of going from a high decibel Saturday night rock club with blaring guitars, wall shaking rhythm section, high pitched vocals and yelling fans to absolute silence was staggering. This was a state of nothingness. It was passing out, it was death, it was also pitch black. This total sensory void seemed to last for an absurdly long time. Then after awhile there was scattered and panicked murmuring, followed by emergency lights. Lorry and I looked at each other. We knew we were in some deep shit. Jim Harold burst through the backstage door. He was an imposing figure at the best of times. Now, his scowling face was the color of a ripe tomato and behind him were four of his beefy bouncers. After switching the power back on, he asked what happened in a placid voice that was all the more threatening for being so calm. “I pulled the plug on ‘em,” Lorry arrogantly boasted, with the unspoken but obvious challenge of “so what are you going to do about it?” Damn, I was proud of her for having such real sass. But still I wasn’t stupid enough to think that we were gonna get out of this unscathed. “Get them out of here,” was Jim’s retort. With smiles of anticipation on their faces, the bouncers took the two of us by the scruff of our necks. Then Jim unnecessarily added, “You’ll never play in my club again.”

As we were being dragged through the boisterous crowd like a couple of anti-Christs, I figured they’d wait ‘til we got outside before they beat on us. Now I had learned a thing or two in the Army and I had known a Green Beret crew in Augusta, Georgia who had shown me how to properly clear out a rowdy redneck bar. But, I was also sober enough to realize that the best I could hope for was to get in a few critical shots that would make these four jocks concentrate on me instead of Lorry. Hey, it was the best game plan I could come up with under the circumstances. They shoved open the back emergency door and tossed us out, hard. We kinda tumbled to the parking lot asphalt and the door slammed back shut, its echo ringing in our ears. We were alone. Well, the surreal humor of this whole episode suddenly hit me and I was about to roll around in hysterical laughter when Lorry sprang up and charged for the door. I just managed to grab hold and spin her around. Not only was she still pissed at everyone, she wanted to beat ‘em all up, too. I shook her for a bit until the fight was out of her.

Somebody got our guitars out (thank you, whoever you are), then our rhythm section emerged. They were not amused. Chuck said, “I can’t play in a band like this.” George said, “I’m outta here.” Actually, he was never in. Afterwards, Chuck played in a few other bands in Boston and we saw him around quite a bit, but unfortunately our relationship was never the same. George eventually started up his own band, the poppy New England. I guess I can’t blame them for quitting on the spot. But, I don’t think any of the other people we were to play with would have walked out. I always kind of thought of my bands as kind of my gang. In the future there were to be quite a few more scraps, brawls and whatnot (which you will read about in these pages), and even though we weren’t the best of friends with some band members, we all did stick together when it was needed.  We never did see Richard Nolan again that night. He, of course, carried on with Third Rail and the Neighborhoods. After a few months, we resumed our friendship with him that continued through our time in New York. We probably kind of pressured him into getting that disastrous first gig so I never could really blame him. Plus I’m sure the Tracks fiasco didn’t help his relationship with the Rat any. I never saw the band we opened for again and don’t really remember them continuing on the scene, but I recently heard that they had a record deal at some point. Why doesn’t that surprise me?

                                                                                                                           
Chapter 3. TRACKS - Electric baptism ...
By the dog days of summer, Tracks was coming together quickly. George Maloof had hooked on as our bass player. His mustachioed clean cut image didn’t fit in with what we were trying to project, but I figured Lorry was gonna be our focal point regardless of who was around her and besides we were anxious to start gigging. Richard Nolan managed to talk Jim Harold into booking us at the Rat on a Saturday night. We were going to open for a band I wasn’t familiar with. We knew DMZ, the Real Kids, Mickey Clean, Willie Loco and a few of the other bands, but I hadn’t seen these guys before. They would later appear on the Live at the Rat album as an example of just how diverse the new music scene was in Boston. Now I had nothing personal against them, and I guess they were good at what they did. But what they did was Italian suburban pop rock. I knew that scene well. In my pre-Lorry days, I had frequented the Revere Beach clubs to pick up girls. I didn’t know it until the night of the show, but there was no way their fans were gonna be fans of Tracks.
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We were sounding pretty good in rehearsals and when we got to the packed-house Rat that night, we were confident of a performance that would be memorable. But the people in the club weren’t regulars. Except for a few scene makers and members of other bands curious to see what our hype was all about, the crowd looked really straight. Sitting around backstage, having a beer and watching Lorry quickly down one tequila after another, it suddenly hit me that she had never, ever performed in front of an audience before. In fact, I hadn’t played in front of anyone myself since high school and never a crowd anywhere near this big. I then realized that both Chuck Mira and George looked as nervous about this whole thing as I was quickly beginning to feel. Richard Nolan wisely kept himself scarce. I got myself a shot to steady things out and before I knew it we were on stage. You know, I later learned that things never, ever sound the same on stage as they do when rehearsing. But what we were hearing was so alien from what we had rehearsed that we played harder and of course louder to try and bang it back into shape. The result was being wildly out of tune and eventually breaking strings on almost every song. Considering just how lousy we were, the crowd was more or less polite. Basically they just ignored us as a minor annoyance.

But, thinking back on it, if we had been friggin’ brilliant, we probably would have gotten the same reaction from that group. Lorry later swore there were a few obnoxious comments, but I was too busy trying to hold it together to notice. We managed to struggle through the set and make it back to the dressing room. The other band was vaguely snotty to us in that Italian macho way I knew so well. But then again maybe it only seemed that way since Lorry and I were both pretty buzzed and pissed off.
Tracks...the Wild Ones
Poster illustration - Jeff Rey