"That's how it's been, see--unbelievable ups and downs coming right on top of each other."
Earlier in January of 1977, my guitarist friend from Brooklyn (he grew up with Matty--and also Chris Stein and Debbie Harry who come into the picture later) and I formed a semi-talented-freaky blues band. I had no keyboard in those days but my bandmate was a school teacher and he checked a keyboard out of his school's music program--his job was teaching teenage mothers-to-be or already teenage mothers in a special school in thunderously dangerous East New York--"A slicing knife around every corner" was the joke about East New York.
This keyboard was a piece of shit. Its brand name was and I'm remembering and may be remembering wrong but I swear it was a Carlo Rosselli (not to be confused with Carlo Rossi wine, the wine of cheap choice back in my greatest days)--which we started referring to as "Carlo"--and it had a tinky-tink pure toy piano piano sound that wasn't helped that much by plugging it into a Fender Twin Reverb amp or a club PA system--no matter how well you amped it, it still sounded like something an idiot savant 5-year-old might be whacking out a Bach WTK on--like Schoeder in the Charlie Brown comic strip--Schroeder the toy piano genius--it sounded like Schroeder's toy piano amped. Anyway, we didn't give a shit as long as it sounded enough like a piano so's I could whip some good chords and then solos out on it--whacked out solos, sort of a la Burton Greene. Anyway, we put together this band. I don't know if we called it the Swilltones yet, but that's what it eventually matured into, the guitarist's, I'll call him Jesus Christ, it fits his real initials, and my finest band, The Fabulous Swilltones.
Our bass player was Matty's roommate and that's how Matty got involved with helping us book this band. He brought to our aid Robin Rothman, another neighborhood and high school friend of Jesus Christ, Matty, Chris Stein--et al, the list gets longer every time I start recalling all this from scratch memory--I'm writing this as spontaneously as I would do a multichorused jazz piano solo were I still playing jazz.
And Robin was a trip and a half. By the bye, all these Brooklyn Jewish friends looked alike and acted alike--I kid you not. Robin Rothman looked like a female Matty and Jesus Christ looked like Matty, too, except he was better looking, but it was the same face on all of them; Chris Stein, too; and they certainly all acted alike--street tough, cocky, sure of themselves, amused by reading Kafka, smart as whips but so cynical in this smartness they were quick-as-foxes with their smart mouths and down-their-nose put downs. They had a sense of humor, but it was blacker than black, though when we all caught on to each other's humor, we laughed like LSD'd hyenas as we slid off deeper into another night of what straights called "debauchery"--very symbolic of this generation. One other thing, too, that's interesting; all these Brooklyn Jewish friends and now becoming helpers of mine were from broken homes. Boy were they meanly tough--rough lovers, too. Matty once came in the Ear with this docile looking bleached blonde. He bought her one drink, then he took her to the door and booted her in the ass and she tumbled out onto the sidewalk. I was concerned. Matty said, "Don't worry, she likes that kind'a shit. Hell, I just fucked her with a clawhammer." Whaaaa! Matty the quickest man in town. Matty also clued me in to another chick, a really sweet-looking young willowy slim woman--a singer who he brought into the Ear one afternoon. "Matty, Matty," I shouted, "Who the hell was that sweet thing?" "Shit man, you want that? All you gotta do is whisper in her ear that you've got some pot and you got her, baby. That's all she's interested in though, gettin' high, so you can fuck her as long as you want as long as you keep rolling the doobs--the minute you run outta weed, she's dressed and long gone 'fore your pecker goes down and you're forgotten until the next time you whisper in her ear you got some pot."
So me and Jesus Christ put this band together and we had like I said Matty's roommate on bass, a guy we called Twinkies on drums (his father had been a famous jazz bass player, a Jewish guy, and his mother had been a black addict-prostitute--both of whom had died by the time I met Twinkies--his dad of alcoholism and his mother of a rare disease), one of the best god-damn alto players of my time in New York--I'll call him Little Richie Rich and a big tall "great all-round" dude on tenor sax--a stone junky unfortunately--I'll call him Dirty Underwear--the first time I went to his first-floor closet-size apartment on Thompson Street in SoHo I had to duck under a line of his big-ass jockey shorts he'd just washed out in his tiny filthy kitchen sink in his tiny filthy kitchen and that line ran from his kitchen all the way across his tiny filthy livingroom-bedroom to the big filthy front door--at least a dozen pair of washed jockeys dangled wet and soppy off that line, though everyone of them was well worn and still pretty obviously stained--I mean, I guess DU didn't use his Clorox for washing--all junkies always had a big bottle of Clorox around--I assumed it was to sterilize their overused spikes--but I never asked--so I'm sure DU had Clorox but he just didn't want'a waste it on his jockey shorts--big jockeys, too, 'cause DU was about 6-three.
And Robin Rothman was Joey Ramone's girlfriend at that time, though I didn't know that at that time, and besides, I wasn't really that big a fan of the Ramones, though hell, I liked 'em and Matty was always playing them full blast on his stereo and I once sat in Matty's apartment with the artist Ratso Rizzo (another old pal of these Brooklyn boyz) and Matty's roommate and a couple'a strange chicks and Robin Rothman--and Robin suddenly said, "Damn, I feel like fingering myself off to this!" And Robin Rothman was skinny as a rail, nutty as a shelf of fruitcakes, high by nature and design, though not as pill freaky speedy as Matty; and Robin and I hit it off fine right off the bat. I've always been attractive to Jewish chicks from way back when I was a high school hotshot. My first totally true and honest lusty love was for a Jewish chick--God, a Swiss-Jewish beauty--damn, I still get to rocking back and forth like a rabbi at the Wailing Wall remembering how beautiful and alluring that damn woman was. And, yes, in New York City, holy bejesus, I was corralled by any number of Jewish chicks, all of them madly adoring me and wearing tight gold lame skirts around me, shaking their charming Jewish Princess tushes in my staring face, inviting me with their Jewish Princess Little Girl come ons, usually ending by my face getting smothered among bounteous Jewish Princess breasts--Robin had no breasts that I remember so I guess Robin wasn't a Jewish Princess--no, definitely she wasn't. But Robin loved teasing me, though I never got any kind of hots her. She just wasn't sexual at all to me, though I knew she was sexual as hell. "She's like fucking a whole roasted chicken after you've eaten all the meat off the bones," I was told by those who knew.
So that's how Joey Ramone's girlfriend came into my life; and Robin booked this odd band into Dan Lynch's, a blues bar on Second Avenue just below 14th, opened by the infamous Lynch Brothers and managed by a character named Motor City Jim and that had Bill Dicey booking the bands, and God what a madhouse and what a dump and yet it was a venue that launched a dozen or more second-rate bands to a pretension of being first-rate--one or two of the old Dan Lynch originals making it pretty big, like Bobby Radcliffe and the Holmes Brothers.
Dan Lynch was a seedy bar full of dedicated winos and was surely an official halfway house for Bellevue rejects and outright crazies, with a constantly active pool table in the back, a long bar at which sat the bar's loyal creatures of habit, a long line that included a ribald but totally scummy looking oddball in a wheelchair who kept toasting the band as we played by throwing back steins of lager and then we bought him several steins of lager and the more we played the more steins of lager he threw back. After the gig and when we got back to our Renwick Street headquarters, Jesus Christ's apartment, revelling over the gig then Robin informed us that the goofy oddball in the wheelchair was none other than Doc Pomus, Raul Felder the high-falutin' lawyer's brother, and one of the greatest songwriters old NYC ever produced--Elvis's "Lonely Avenue" and "Mess of Blues" were written by Doc--and I thought "Burning Love," too, though maybe not.
Here's old Doc Pomus (aka Felder) back in his blues singing days.
To be continued as everything is always continued as if in a continuing present.
for The Daily Growler
Pavarotti is dead. We never liked Italian folksongs much. We will not miss Pavarotti. He drank a lot and loved young, young girls--that's how we'll remember Luciano. Here's to ya, Luciano now in the sky with lots of diamonds.