Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rehearsal Spaces part 3

When I was 15 I got a cassette recorder. This was really high-tech stuff back then. My first recorder, a few years earlier, actually used two small, open reels.

I actually got some recordings of the rock opera Dom and I wrote. It was called Webster Hangover. I think I might have 4 songs from it.

We were world weary 15 year olds. For example: “You say you can rely on me, but you don’t know for sure. My blood runs cold, I’m thin and old and my thoughts aren’t quite so pure.” Or, how about, “So sit back in you easy chair and light your smoke without a care- Pretend that I’m not even there- and dream of days now gone”?

Dom and I actually wrote lyrics and music together, contributing equally. It’s amazing, considering how big our egos would get. We had a blast!

I was listening to E Harmonix from those recordings. That song made it all the way through the band’s career. We played it our very last show. We opened our reunion show with it.

Benet’s drumming on the old recording is amazing. He was dropping beats like an old jazz pro. He was the best in St. Louis even at 14.

We lost him several times to paying gigs. He’s the only one of us that could pull that off. We lost him while we were rehearsing in Theo’s basement.

I think I posted an ad that got us Keith Hittler. Keith sounded and looked like Bill Bruford.

My dad moved into a really cool house in LaSalle Park with his girlfriend Joan. He invited us to move into their attic. When I think about it, my dad did everything he could to support the cause.

It was at this time we played our first Euclid festival. My dad confessed that I was realizing his personal dream when he heard kids yelling out my name from the audience.

The attic was beautiful. The walls were brick but it still sounded great. All was well until winter came around. We were faced with our old curse--- no heat.

We burned Dura-Flame logs in an old Franklin stove and played right through the winter.

Eventually Keith found a paying gig and dropped out of the band. We went through several drummers. Most notably, a guy named Anthony who eventually left us to play for Jesus.

Nothing could break our spirit, but being in a band without a drummer is like being homeless. You’re convinced you could get your life back together if you could just get a break.

It turned out Benet was still paying attention and liked what we were doing. He came back and the family was whole again.

Joan’s ex was a psychotic Marine. Benet hung an American flag around his drum booth. Joan’s ex thought we were desecrating it. He took it out to the back yard where he burned and then buried it. The guy was totally raving. I think that’s why we decided to move. Maybe it was the absence of heat. We lost Theo, too.

There was a Fraternal Order of Eagles hall in the Dutch Town neighborhood. I have no idea how we found it, but their president, Marty Luepker told us they only met once a week to play cards. We could rent their basement.

This is where Matt O’Shea shot our sessions for his film, The Band Practice. We ran it at our reunion gig.

I think we grew up down there. It was the late 70s. I recorded my first Christmas song for my mom there. I’ve done it every year since.

I remember opening the door to go down into the basement one night. There was a frightened rodent at the bottom of the stairs. We squealed like children, convinced it was a huge rat. The poor animal was someone’s escaped gerbil.

We began to write the songs that would end up on the records.

Tracy and I were living together in the Central West End. Washington University bought our building and we were forced to move. It was the third place I had to move from because they were buying up the whole West End. We decided to get out of the neighborhood.

We moved into a 4 family flat in Benton Park. Dom and Benet lived a few blocks away. Fojammi lived in an odd little house in our back yard.

Right around this time the band moved into a studio on 39th street. It was attached to the Lester Family’s record shop. They were a gospel group and they even had their own TV show. Our rehearsal space was their recording studio. It was old and funky, but we were definitely moving up in the world.

Fojammi was playing drums in my brother’s band, Jam Box. They recorded an EP in the studio. Fojammi began to put together a solo project. He was really a keyboard player. I began to work with him and realized he was a great song writer.

My band found a 12 track studio in Southern Illinois that was really cheap. Fojammi and Earwacks split expenses and bought blocks of time.

We recorded Distances down there. John Lennon was shot during one of the Fojammi sessions.

It became clear he had to join the band.

A guy named Rick owned and lived at the Lester’s studio. I worked for him in trade for studio time. I still have a lot of good material I need to finish from those sessions. I got Jon Rosen to lay down keyboard tracks for me. He’s an incredible keyboard player and picked up on my material immediately.

The Lester’s studio only had 8 tracks and we wanted more for the band. We found a 16 track called Swing City in Collinsville, Illinois.

Dominic had come up with the name Earwacks for the band but he envisioned a theater group that would work with us called Wax Theatricks. I loved that name and when it became clear the theater group wouldn’t happen we adopted it as the band’s name.

In those days records were called wax. I love the idea of theater on wax.

Unfortunately I was drifting apart from Dom artistically. Being a control freak, I began to push for us to play more and more of my material. Dom was gradually squeezed out and, as a consequence, isn’t so fond of the name Wax Theatricks.

None of his songs made it onto the last LP.

On a brighter note, we had friends who owned an 8 track studio in Benton Park called Magic Masters. We bought a keg and invited 100 of our friends to a party where we recorded a live flexi-disc that would be inserted into a local rock mag called Noisey Paper.

We recorded Dominic’s classic punk song “Ronald Reagan”. The folks at Evatone Records decided they wouldn’t allow us to use the F word. They beeped the record in 4 places. Unfortunately Dom only sang the word 3 times. They also deleted the word Fun. When the disc came out Timothy Time, who wrote the accompanying story, noted, “There will be no fun under Ronnie’s rigid rule!” I know I’ve posted that story several times before, but I love it!

It was at the Lester’s studio that we decided to part company with Dominic.

We did a 2 week marathon of farewell shows at Heartbreak Hotel and Billy Goat Hill. They were our best shows and we should have realized we could have outgrown our differences.

Jon Rosen took Dom’s place. He sang, wrote and played. He seemed perfect. He was way more professional than us.

We had 2 weeks to teach him our material for a big fashion show at the Shell Building downtown.

The deadline was already creating too much stress when Jon announced he wanted half the songs to be his. Unlike Jon, we weren’t quick studies and I was very unhappy.

We pulled off the show, but this wasn’t the same band. I felt like I was responsible for kicking Dom out of the band and now I didn’t even recognize it. I quit.

I went on to work with a lot of great musicians in Delay Tactics. I started finding distraction in skydiving and eventually having a family.

Man, kids are a whole ‘nother story!

I’m still plugging away at the music. We all are.

Pics are: Theo’s basement, Theo and me in my dad’s attic, the attic with Anthony-Tracy and me, the attic with Keith- Dom- Tracy and Mark Gray, and a newspaper shot of band at the Eagles Hall. I can’t believe I don’t have a single shot of the Lesters’ studio. Years later I heard a news story that they were trying to kick out elderly people who lived on that same block. Televangelist Lary Rice fought the eminent domain powers at city hall. I sent him a little money to help with attorney’s fees. He wrote me back the most beautiful letter with all kinds of biblical quotes pertaining to the evils of greed and corporate corruption.


Dominic said...

The Tim Time quote is actually Tony Patti from the article in the picture.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I've heard the article story before, but that's still hilarious. On another not, finding a drummer was the biggest challenge for our band too. We spent every year we all knew each other looking. After finally finding 2 drummers who never came through and one who quit, I think the pressure became too much. Our bassist quit, our lead guitarist left for a paying gig, but still the keyboardist and I kept trying. After 2 more drummers never came through, however, even we sort of stopped talking about it. I think the keyboardist snapped because I believe he is now trying to use our band name as a personal rapper pseudonym. To sum it all up, I can totally relate to the struggles of no drummer.