Our first CBGB gig was a real trip. A road trip. I’m not sure why we picked such an important show to debut new drummer Pat O’Neill. On top of that, this would be Tracks’ first appearance in three months. Lorry had needed all of that time to recover from our car wreck in February of 1978. And she still wasn’t all the way back. Anyway, I guess it just worked out that way. Pat rented a questionable Ford Econoline on the cheap. We stuffed the van with our gear and ourselves and off we zoomed onto the Mass. Pike for the 204-mile Boston to New York trek. Actually, rather than zooming, we chugged along for quite a while until we could build up some speed. Lorry, ever the Girl Scout, had packed ample snacks and I brought a trip-appropriate collection of tapes for New York. Some Lou Reed, Heartbreakers, Ramones, NY Dolls, etc. It wasn’t exactly the joyous sing-along bus ride you may remember from childhood field trips, but it was sort of a funky punk rock version of that.
jeff rey's
We got to CBs in the early afternoon. Parked the Econoline right in front. A little stiff from being cramped up in the crowded van, but none the worse for wear. All of us had been there before except for Pat. He was a bit taken aback confronting the crowd of street people milling around out front (in those days, called simply Bowery bums). And as bad as the outside of Punk’s Mecca looked, inside was even worse. You couldn’t hose the place down long or hard enough to wipe out the stink of rock ‘n roll. We chained all our gear together for some semblance of protection against robbery and got out of the place as quick as we could in search of clean air, cold Buds and some chow before sound check.

It had taken us a ridiculously long time to get a booking at CBGB. Not only did we have to make several trips to New York to hunt down owner
Hilly Kristal in person, but he was under the impression we should set up the gig through the Rat’s Jim Harold since we were based in Boston. But we refused to be part of any of those Rat/CBGB showcases. We insisted on our individuality as Tracks, not as one of five or six Rat bands being put on display as Boston’s version of new wave. Finally, since we were getting airplay in New York and selling records he saw it our way
Tracks...the Wild Ones
Lorry Doll - her face still showing the effects of the band's car wreck, checks out the backstage graffiti
Charlie Martin was CBGB’s soundman then and in reality he was the guy who was managing the club. I guess Hilly had all he could handle just matching bands to dates and counting up the take. They had a great sound system and Charlie knew his stuff. We ran through a few songs and we could actually hear what was going on through the monitors. Amazing. So we went back to the dressing room to relax a bit before our set. Dressing room isn’t really descriptive of the little open graffiti covered cubicles – they’re more like gritty behind the stage holding pens that the bands are herded in and out of. You also had to be real careful you didn’t get your ears blown out by the bands that played before you. It seemed like it was louder back there then it was right in front of the stage.

But when we hit the stage it sounded great. Like I said, CBs had some sound system. And a very hot lighting system, too. Pat and
John Shriver were really dialed in as a rhythm section and Lorry was in another world, charged up from being on stage for the first time in so long. I wasn’t bad either. And the crowd was diggin' it. I looked over to my right and saw the Dead BoysCheetah Chrome bobbing his head to our music. Cool. Not too far from him was Joey Ramone, standing still with his back to the wall, but displaying his wry little smile in appreciation. Very cool. Sitting off to the left side of the stage was Blondie’s Clem Burke, dressed to the nines and with a slender blonde who looked like a fashion model. Man, he was paying more attention to her than he was to us. Oh well. It ended all too soon. I didn’t know it then, but Lorry and I would get back up on that same stage many more times for the next twenty years or so. And regardless of our band, we always sounded great at CBGB.

We partied pretty hardy after our set and hung out until CBs closed up at four. Then we loaded up the van, figured out who would drive first (the new guy, Pat) and settled in for the ride. Yep, cool gig and now back to Boston. A little buzzed and tired, but just about a four-hour drive. Piece of cake. The van wouldn’t start. Both myself and John knew a little about cars so we jiggled the wires. Still wouldn’t start. We cleaned off the plugs as best we could, checked the coil wire and distributor points. The van still wouldn’t start. A crowd of winos gathered and offered their help. We declined. Charlie Martin came out. Looked at us and shook his head. “Van full of 'spensive equipment in the middle of the night and you’re sitting out in the Bowery stuck,” he observed with feigned disgust. He pointed to a darkened Gulf station across the street. “They open at around 5:30,” he said before ambling off into the night. Since we had by now worn down the battery and the bums were getting a little too curious, the four of us pushed the friggin' Ford Econoline over into the garage’s lot, got back in and waited. The mechanic showed up right on time, changed the plugs, gave the battery a jolt and we were on our way a little after dawn.

Everybody else was crashed, so I got stuck driving all the way back to Boston. That was okay. I cranked the cassette player up beyond the limit of the van’s crappy speakers to the sounds of the New York Dolls. I don’t think my passengers appreciated it too much, but I hit the highway wired and wide awake on rock ‘n roll.
Pat O'Neill - Tracks new drummer debuts at CBGB.
Photos - Lorry Doll & Jeff Rey