I play the rock. I used to play the bass.

I get chills when I watch this.

Well, once again I have failed to abate the tide of Christmas consumerism with mere cynical barbs and snarky asides to arm myself. So once again mete it be so… But seriously, come on…is ONE KID smiling or laughing out of joy during that Charlie Brown special? ONE KID?!?!?

Here are a couple other memorable (well, remembered) gigs I thought I’d tell you about. Not included: The Rick Angle Band gig where I forgot the lyrics to Stairway to Heaven after the first verse and tried to cover it up by saying to the audience “You sing!” and then standing there like a goofus while the five people watching us just stood there. There was not enough of a critical mass to keep the momentum going, I guess.

1980 – The City Victims (myself, Dan Lewis and Paul Rinedoller) were more or less searching for an identity after our initial burst of songwriting creativity. Not that the creative part ever stopped. We just knew that getting people to watch us play live was going to require a swift abandonment of our hard-won line in the sand regarding cover songs. Paul got us a gig (which meant someone told Paul “Hey, you could have your band play there…”) at a place called Elma Meadows, in Elma, NY. Your standard campground. So we rehearsed a whole bunch of some rockin’ cover tunes. Lessee…

“Can’t Get Enough” by Bad Company, “Please Don’t Ask” and “Alone Tonight” by Genesis off the Duke album, which we were all into at the time, “The Gold It’s In The…” and “Fearless” by Pink Floyd, etc. etc. So as you see, it was an excellent set list for old and young alike. People love Pink Floyd, right? Genesis? No? Campers out eating hot dogs and swatting away flies. I think it was the first time we got smacked in the head with an apathetic audience.

So we’re grooving along, defeated, heads hung low, somewhere in the middle of the first set, when this Boss Hog-looking guy pulls up, gets out of his car, and yells “UP YOURS!!” to everyone and no one, and everyone around us, to a man, woman and…child…yells it right back!! “UP YOURS!!!!” And everyone laughs. What was this? Some twisted cult? Where did they learn this little back-and -forth? And who taught the children? Even his home-made (natch) t-shirt bore that precocious little missive/mantra/command. We were decidedly third-billed behind the steaming, grilled meat and the “Up Yours” guy. He glad-handed his constituents (there’s no other word to describe the dynamic) and even had a little téte-a-téte with my mother, who had shown up to drive me home. “We do it for the kids…” I heard him say to the rosy-cheeked, inebriated woman in the plaid dress.

1994 – The gigs weren’t all bad. If that were the case, I’d be literally insane to keep going. I have, dear reader, eaten many, many shit sandwiches on stage, and the reason is because if you eat enough of them, you sometimes have a show like my country band East of Idaho (Lyle Lascelle, Steve Camilleri, Theresa Quinn) did in late 1994.

"Lessons We've Learned..." 1994

Our CD release party to celebrate the availability of “Lessons We’ve Learned…” This was my favorite show of all time, really, for two main reasons. Firstly, it was the first CD of which I was ever a part of. I wrote all the songs and recorded them with amazing, competent, sympathetic, educated adult musicians who utterly believed in the songs I wrote. This was my version of commercial Country Music during the Garth Brooks era, which meant that the songs, when they were good, were slightly twisted. And the first 4-5 songs on the CD were as good as anything I had ever done.  I never liked Country music and I still don’t, so I regarded it as ‘craft’.

(l-r) Steve Camilleri, Lyle Lascelle, Theresa Quinn, Gilbert Neal

“Song For Sue” was the opener. I know we were supposed to do the de rigueur and start things off with a rip-snortin’ tune about how all women are objects, but this was a really bitter experience for me and since it came out so nicely, we thought it would made a unique statement.

“Real Men” was a kind of generic revenge tune but the music had been floating around my not-insignificant melon for a few years, waiting for an opportunity to burst forth.

And “Don’t You Want Me” was going to be the big hit. It was not a big hit, but I really like it.

The second reason was that in order to justify the cost of holding our CD release party at the biggest Country Bar in Buffalo (Howdee’s) we had to attract about 150 paying customers, which seems impossible to me now, but we believed we could, never for second thought we could not, and we did, and then some. It was an amazing feeling. The CD got some great reviews and we had something that set us apart from the other local bands.  Theresa was a magnificent promoter, a hard worker, and the whole band was wonderfully open-minded and versatile. We formed another band entirely but with the same players, called The Murk. Covers and originals, less successful, mostly because country (and blues) had its own built-in local ‘infrastructure’, if you will, that other forms of music didn’t.

It was an honor to play in that band.  Steve Camilleri, in fact, plays drums on my last CD, “Vultures and Diamonds”, available now on iTunes. Just sayin’.

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3 thoughts on “I play the rock. I used to play the bass.

  1. Lyle Lascelle says:

    I was just thinking about our little project titled The Murk earlier today as I hummed the melody of “Don’t Push, Don’t Shove”. I like the fact that we share a perverse curiosity for twisted tri-tones. That was the best band I ever played in that nobody ever heard. I could sink my teeth into those songs and finally sound like me. It was liberating. I spent my whole career as a side man…always trying to treat the music appropriately…be a Chameleon…stuffing my musical voice further and further into a hole. In The Murk, I could finally breathe, finally see, like someone cleaned the dirty window obscuring a painting, the color could at last be seen. One of the proudest moments of my playing experience in our Murk days was one night at Mohawk place during a tune where I was featured. A couple of guys got off their bar stools and took a few steps closer to the stage. They were actually listening to my playing. Wow, that never happens in cover bands.

    The songs were strong, Gil. The playing was tight. And on some of those tunes, it fucking slammed. Not in a metal way, but in a very thick-and-meaty-pocket way. Grooves you could drive a VW bus down the middle of. That band was the closest thing I’ll ever get to making real music.

    We sure didn’t suck.

  2. Thanks Lyle. It’s too bad there wasn’t much of a scene to enjoy in Buffalo at that time. I think we could have been really special. Now were was Mohawk Place? How would I remember that bar? I remember the big empty place on Walden and the bar at the corner of Indian Church and Mineral Springs. But not Mohawk Place.

    • Lyle Lascelle says:

      Mohawk Place is on East Mohawk off of Washington. They still attract a diverse selection of bands on the rise. The stage is slightly cut off from the bar. Why I remember guys getting off their stools…they had to make an effort.

      Yeah, I was not pleased when we split. I thought it could pick up again later, but I’m naive like that. I’m the guy that can’t see the break-up coming…until she says, “Get the fuck off of me, you’re not turning me on”!

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