|First off Paul quit the band. He dropped that bomb during one of the poker games we used to have after rehearsals at Blue Door. These were just nickel/dime games with more beer drinking then card playing, but it was a good time to bitch about whatever was bothering you. He was the best musician in Tracks and I knew he was bored with our simplistic approach to things. I don’t think he really ever got the whole punk rock thing. He never gave us a specific reason. Just said he wanted to do other things. Thinking back on it later, I suspected maybe it was more than that. I never discussed it with him, but I have reason to think he saw the cancer that was growing in Tracks that Lorry and I (caught up in the music) still hadn’t recognized. He willingly sold his share in the single to Lorry for five bucks. We did one more weird but memorable gig together (Side Story) and parted friends.
Lorry and I wanted to get things going with a new bass player as soon as possible especially since we had a gig coming up at Cantones. Tracks was well known on the scene by now and word got around quickly that we had an opening. We heard that John Shriver, who had been in the Bonjour Aviators, was looking for a new gig. So we asked him over to Blue Door to see if we wanted to work together. We did a few songs, but John played it cool. At first he was real evasive, then said he didn’t want to commit to anything until he saw us play. I don’t know. We were an established band, getting good gigs and he wanted us to audition for him? Lorry liked his look and his playing and she hit it off immediately with his lady, Sandy. But I was annoyed at his aloofness, so we started auditioning other players. We had a few people come over, but good bassists were hard to come by and none of the people we saw fit into our punk groove. Then John (Johnny Angel) Carmen (later of the Thrills, Swinging Erudites, etc.) entered the picture. Somebody knew somebody that knew him so we hooked up. John was really a guitar player but he had a Dan Electro Long Horn bass and played it like Dee Dee Ramone. It was a real good fit with our sound. Lorry still favored John Shriver, but I was ready to go with Carmen – screw Mr. Hard-to-Get and the Rickenbacher he rode in on. But here was yet another guy who acted like he was too cool to play with Tracks. John Carmen agreed to do the one Cantones gig but was non-committal about anything beyond that. Fine. Lorry called Sandy up and invited her and Shriver to the show. Sandy loved Tracks and was pushing John to join up. I didn’t give a shit.
|John Shriver: Mr. Hard-To-Get
Photo - Bill Pitcher
|"That biker chick gave me a hit off her joint”, she mumbled, nodding her head in the direction of a mean-looking, bleached blonde bear of a woman. Then Lorry added defensively, “I couldn’t say no!” I don’t know what that bone was spiked with, but poor Lorry was sure whacked. For our last set we wound up playing a forty minute version of Lou Reed’s “Heroin,” mostly as an instrumental.
As the weekend arrived, things got more serious. Tracks wound up providing the soundtrack to the constant fights between bouncers and bikers. There was one particularly nasty brawl on Friday night. We heard later that someone had come back after closing and knifed a bouncer to death. That didn't seem to cool things down any on Saturday. When we were safely packed up and looking to get paid at the end of the night, we were told that the band’s bar tab had eaten up most of our fee. We wound up splitting twenty bucks or so for four nights work. The club manager said he thought we were just great and would be the perfect house band for his place. So he was inviting us back for the following week, said there would be a bigger crowd and we would make more money. I told him we were already booked out of town.
(NOTE: 10/18/02 - I heard from Johnny Angel who tells me that his perceived indifference to Tracks was probably because he understood his status to be that he was only subbing until we had a permanent bass player. He planned to launch his own band, which of course he did with Thrills and later the Blackjacks, Swinging Erudites, etc. For more on the endeavors of Johnny Angel, a good place to start is HERE or HERE.)
|Chapter 9. TRACKS – Bass Players, Bad Attitudes & Bikers
Tracks’ live recording was in the can, but we still had to figure out what to do with it. The guys who taped the gig at The Club had their production studio in Needham, a suburb just outside of Boston. We went out there and got a raw mix on cassette and I wasn’t too thrilled when I listened to it. I had been hoping to press Lorry’s “Messin’ Around” (which turned out much too sloppy) and my own “Give Your Life” as the single. “Give Your Life” was one of our newer songs and I had spent a lot of time with the lyrics and structure. Paul had come up with a killer walking bass line that sounded like a punked-up cross between the soul classics “My Girl” and “Baby, It’s You.” Lorry phrased the lyrics with just the right amount of irony and angst I had in mind when I wrote it. I thought that up to that point it was the strongest song I had come up with. Unfortunately, although it came out okay on the tape, it just wasn’t hot enough to press as a single. On the other hand, “Brakes On You” which I had written in about three minutes, specifically as a quick and easy throwaway show-starter, jumped out of the speakers and lit your hair on fire. It seemed obvious, but it still took a long time to admit that that song and “Bombs Away” (basically a quick and easy “break tune” I wrote to end our sets) were the ones we had to press. We had to gather up the band, drive out to Needham multiple times and listen to countless different mixes and production advice. For me and Lorry, it was our first time in a real studio and we were pretty naïve to the whole process. Plus, at that time we were still more or less trying to run a democracy and probably let the band have way too much input which delayed things further. So there was a very long delay between recording and finally pressing the single. An awful lot happened in the months in between.
|Tracks..the Wild Ones|
|Paul "Kidd" Kross & Lorry Doll
Photo - Frank Gerace
|Johnny Angel: Track for a Day
(Photo pinched from dirtywater.com)
|The Boston chapter of the Devil’s Disciples had more or less adopted the Birdcage as their favorite dive and their Harleys lined the street in front of the joint. As we launched into the Stone’s “Live With Me” to kick off our first night, we were drowned out by a loudly revving motorcycle. Suddenly, a turquoise chopper screamed through the open front doors on one wheel, dropped down, skidded around the pool table, popped another wheelie and went roaring back out. Under most circumstances I would have thought that it was all pretty cool, but I sure felt like we were nakedly exposed up there on that stripper’s stage. But, the bikers liked Tracks, Lorry in particular. We tried to stay out of their way and got along fine. Since we were getting paid “big bucks,” there was no drink discount, but the bar would open a tab if we wanted it. Lorry and I declined, paid cash and nursed our beers. When we wandered off between sets to stroll around the scuzzy neighborhood, the angry club manager informed us that we weren’t supposed to leave the premises – it was bad for business. We could go outside, but had to stay in front of the club to make it look like it was a “happening” place. What? We didn’t argue the issue beyond a certain point because it became apparent just who was running the operation. Yeah, it’s humorous on that show on HBO, but it’s funny in a different way when it’s in your face. Then on the second night, Lorry stumbled out of the Ladies Room just before we started our last set. Her eyes were half-closed and bloodshot. I angrily asked her what happened in the minute she was out of my sight.|
|So we did the gig at Cantones. I thought we sounded great. Carmen seemed into it when he was playing, but acted like he was bored with the whole thing afterwards. Sandy came running up to Lorry after the set all excited that John liked our band. Whoop-di-doo, I thought. I remember Johnny Angel looking disappointed and kinda pissed when we told him that John Shriver had agreed to join us. I still don’t get what all these attitudes were about. (See NOTE below.)
Anyway, John Shriver turned out to be one of the few, truly nice people I was ever to play in a band with. Lorry and I became real close friends with him and Sandy. Having John in the band made the rest of our tumultuous time in Boston a whole lot easier to deal with. One of our first gigs together was also probably our nastiest.
The Birdcage was a strip joint in Boston’s sleazy Combat Zone, but I guess its owner figured his female employees were getting a little ragged around the edges and he needed to do something to pump up business. So he decided it might be a good idea to find a band to come in at night. That way he could draw more people into the place who would buy his weak, high priced drinks. John Lewis found out about it and was thrilled that the Birdcage was offering bands a guarantee to play. We were all broke at the time and the promise of a few bucks was something Lewis and John Shriver didn’t want to pass up. Lorry and I were dead set against it but finally gave in because we felt guilty for trying to deny them the extra cash. I remember walking into the place to set up our gear and having to wait for the stripper to come off the stage behind the bar. The place was so dark and the woman on stage so black that it took me a real long time to realize she was totally nude. We were scheduled to play Wednesday through Saturday, four sets a night. Used to doing one or two short sets of ten songs each, we added the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and New York Dolls tunes Lorry and I used to bang around on before Tracks. A few curious Rat scenesters showed up during our run, but for the most part it was old pervs and bikers that were hanging out.