Bridge and Tunnel Clad in Paisley
(But damn, how some of them could dance)
Teary eyed and sentimental, listening over and over again
to "Those Were The Days, My Friends" on my little, lost close'n play as I write this obituary/mash note/magnum opus to the
Dive, the club where many life changing and affirming moments transpired - although being plaster castered by a sweet tag
team of Germanic groupies was sadly not amongst them.
As we move forward, please, give me grace with the facts and figurines as I was
rarely sober during the go-go garage punk Eighties.
My group, The House Pets, was probably the first of the Long Island garage bands
to play The Dive. We brought quite a few newcomers into the scene, including the Sparks crowd (the Huntington club that spawned
The Mosquitos, The Plastic Device, and The Secret Service) and the NYU art and journalism majors, where I went to school.
These were the gals you guys slept with, and the guys who gave your bands good press.
I remember that our first headlining gig at the Dive was with the Raunch Hands.
This was set up by Bruce of Venus Records, where I spent way too much of my daddy's money. There was a bit of commotion 'cause
Johnny Ramone came down to see us, and Steve Wynn dropped in to see the 'Hands. Even back then we understood the concept of
calling in a few famous friends to create a buzz.
I fondly recall Glenn's handwritten ads (chock full of secret messages) in the
Village Voice, and his impromptu trumpet playing if a band really sucked. By the end, he started hitting on a few of my bandmate's
girlfriends. This kind of thing just wasn't done on honorable Long Island!
We often played on the Gore Gazette nights, which was actually quite trying as
both guitarist, Evan Shore (now of Boston's Muck and the Mires), and I were easily creeped out and shared a pathological fear
of driving. After a screening of "The Evil Dead", we got lost somewhere on the way to our Huntington rehearsal space on an
especially spooky patch ripped right from the movie. This was during a time when graveyards in the area were being dug up
and desecrated for supposed satanic rituals. There was much gnashing of teeth and wetting of pants that night. See, we really
suffered for our music.
Playing on Gore Gazette nights also had its bonuses. I met hero Herschell Gordon
Lewis and got to see the American premier of a documentary about a farmer who really adored his pet pig. If you were not there,
you really missed a moving, interspecies love story. Rick Sullivan really had classy, impeccable taste.
Although we drank heavily at the Dive and at the Deli across the street, I believe
the real imbibing and fellowship took place at an old man bar called The Dug Out, which was closer to our NYU dorms. There
was a cartoon in the Village Voice about "Lowlife Scum" which pretty much described the sloppy drunk, record-collecting cognoscenti,
who closed the place nightly. Many bands were hatched there, including Stinky and the Skunks, which was me, John Fay of the
Tryfles, Tony Matura of the Optic Nerve and Rob Nissendorf of the Pods. Here I must give a shout out to John Fay, my brother
from another mother, who was (probably), the only soul I've ever met without an ounce of guile.
Okay, stay on course. Fondest memory from the Dive Days was just how funny the
audience could be. How they screamed out the nuttiest things. Mod Monday's Ed Newman and fan-boy, Jeff Shore, shouted some
excellent one-liners during the shows that I was trying to tape. Sure, it wasn't exactly the caliber of the Algonquin Round
Table, but for a bunch of young, drunk and stupid college kids, ya' gotta' give 'em some kudos.
This captured during a Skunks show. We're tuning up and people are yelling out
Ed: "American Pie!"
Me: "We're trying to get some American pie after the show."
John: "He really is, the little Fellah."
At the Dive, the bands were the fans and the fans were the bands. Everybody came
out to see everybody else. The scene was made up of real music lovers, and zealots, impeccably dressed and some could really
dance. Remember Pat Lozito?
And even though the garage scene borrowed from the punk ethos of "Anyone could
do it", many of the musicians could really play. Peter Stuart and Jim Gange were incredible bass players. Mike Chandler and
Rudi Protrudi were gifted with stage presence. Ken Anderson of the Optic Nerve, was probably the best drummer I've ever played
with. I was always a sucker for a fat Farfisa, so the Cheepskates and the Stepford Husbands really rocked in my book.
Perhaps with better management or better mojo, more of these bands would have made it. Why only the Smithereens??? Why not
the Mosquitos???!!! Rudi, you with an open line to Satan himself, couldn't the dark prince get you a better record deal?
I repent now for all the teasing I slung at Mick London and the Jersey Mods.
Mick was an inventive guitar player and years later we played on a Midight Records Xmas album. He became a bud. I also regret
never recording with the Skunks. John wrote some really mature songs that are now lost forever. Shame. I'm proud that Evan
Shore, who I have played in bands with since junior high school, has kept the Faith with Muck and the Mires. I wasn't there,
but I heard they took the cake at the Little Steven Gig held recently.
Oh well, I'm taking up far too much of your hard drives, waxing nostalgia on
a scene that pretty much existed just to wax nostalgia.
I do miss you guys. Glad to have re-connected with many of you through
the forums at www.garagepunk.com . May God bless you all, and may you never have to sell off your records again to make rent.