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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Boston Rock Clubs of the 1980s: Scotch & Sounds

The best Boston rock club that wasn’t in Boston was named Scotch & Sounds. Anybody who was anybody in Boston played there and even some big name New York groups you wouldn’t believe played there.
My friends Bill and Steve loved this place and we went there frequently during its run in the 1980s I’d have to say I saw some great shows there. Bill and Steve weren’t so interested in the music as there were in all the new chics each band would draw. The Sounds had hot and cold running chics! Bill and Steve were “regulars” and were on a first name basis with the entire staff which meant when I was with them there was no cover and the likelihood of being arrested if and when an altercation took place was low. This came in handy on more than one occasion.

Scotch & Sounds resided at the Westgate Lanes bowling plaza at the Westgate Mall in Brockton, Massachusetts, about 22 miles from Kenmore Square which, to me, was always the epicenter of the Boston Music Universe of the 80s. the legendary Rathskeller was there, the two most popular discotheques in town, Celebrations and Narcissus were there just across the square from "The Rat" where the BU bookstore now resides. The Paradise rock club sat just up Comm Ave and Lansdowne Street was a short walk around the corner where other Boston clubs like The Metro, Spit and that "$5 dungeon" called 9 Landsdowne St all resided in a row. There was no other place you had to be to catch a band from Boston.
Except for Scotch & Sounds.

This place was too different to be in Boston but they loved booking Boston bands. It was actually a NICE PLACE to go. You could even dress up and not be out of place there and people did. It was a big room, had a thoughtfully lit interior, tables with lights, lots of glass and wood, a nice bar, an open center placed stage, a good sized dance floor and while writing this now, I don’t think they ever had a night when I was there that the sound was bad.  They had door men, a coat lady, waitresses and they served a stiff drink in a real glass. It was a classy joint in those classic cocaine days of the mid-to-late 1980s, a real nightclub where people came to meet and see what they otherwise would have had to travel for. They also had a police detail for when things got out of hand. If there was a full moon, it was best you get out in the parking lot first to watch the fireworks.
Robin Lane and the Chartbusters played there often. I was told this was after Robin had previously left the band to go back to California to be “discovered” and apparently she wasn’t so she was back and the band dropped what they were into to reform. I had never seen them previously so I don’t know if they were different from before but judging by the Scotch & Sounds shows, although well played, lacked the intensity of their best selling albums that had been out for about 6 years by that time.

Part of the problem could have been that a few times they were put on the same night with the Neighborhoods who would make anybody else following them look low-fi. Having won the inaugeral Rock & Roll Rumble in Boston in 1979, I've seen plenty of "Hoods gigs and I can say with all honesty I’ve never seen them play or sound better than when they played The Sounds. One time they were opening for Til Tuesday and there were tables and chairs already set up on the dance floor for the headliner's crowd which drove the ‘Hoods lead man, David Minehan, to announce to his audience who were looking for room to dance, “I don’t give a shit, come up and dance on the stage!” And they did and it was great! There were so many people pogoing on and around the stage while the band weaved through them playing, it was a riot! They blew anybody else on the bill off the stage when they played Scotch & Sounds and that included Robin Lane and Til’ Tuesday.

David Johansen of the New York Dolls played Scotch & Sounds with his band not long before he became “Buster Poindexter”, had his big hit “Hot, Hot, Hot” and was in the movie “Scrooged”. He looked and dressed like a regular guy and put on a real professional show and the Dolls hit “Personality Crisis” was a memorable highlight.
There was a local southern rock cover band that played  The Sounds regularly called “Midnight Traveler” and they would play “Whipping Post”, “Rambling Man”,  “Freebird” and any southern rock song you can think of note for note like the record. I wasn’t into cover acts much at the time but they really jammed and were the best southern rock band I've ever seen before or since. Other than that, where they came from or where they went, I know nothing about. 

The Boston band The Lines played the Sounds as did the The Drive and if anybody didn’t know, The Lines were a popular Boston band and I remember WBCN had put their picture up on a bill board in Kenmore Sq for awhile but there was some sort of split and some members left to form The Drive. The Drive was the far more dynamic and popular act after the split, had catchier tunes and released a big Boston hit called “Doing the Countdown”. The Lines had sort of disappeared by that time. I know for a fact that the guitarist/singer Jaime Walker and the bass player Paul Kochanski are still out there as part of The Swinging Steaks, an original country band and having seen them play a number of times, they’re really good.
Charlie Farren played the club regularly with both his post-Joe Perry Project acts, The Enemy and Farrenheit. There weren't many "hooks you could hang your hat on" and I couldn't tell you one name of any of his songs but Charlie Ferren was wildly popular and his bands were fucking LOUD!

Jon Butcher was another regular and his live performance of “Ocean in Motion” I can still see if I close my eyes. Anybody who’s every caught one of his shows knows how dynamic a musician he was in those days and he really worked the stage and the crowd.
Berlin Airlift played Scotch & Sounds of course! And I was there every time. One memorable moment I can think of was one time Rick Berlin asked the crowd, “Did you ever throw up a little but catch it in your mouth and swallow it? Well that just happened to me.” A Berlin Airlift gig would find Rick playing the keyboards, singing and dancing and fronting one of the tightest acts Boston ever produced. Two keyboards, bass, drums, Steven Perry on guitar and everybody sang. Rick Berlin is certainly one of the most insightful lyricists to ever come out of the Boston music scene. And his tenor voice on “Can I Fall In Love?” would just rip your heart out. Steven Perry would bring 6 guitars to every show and was the first guitarist I ever saw who had guitars handed to him between songs. Just who the hell is this guy, needing a different guitar for a song? They were on a different level in my mind.

Arguably the biggest band to play the Sounds was John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band who sounded so much like Springsteen you wouldn’t believe but who also had those two Eddie & The Cruisers albums they recorded go triple PLATINUM and GOLD respectively and yeilding two number one hits (C.I.T.Y & Dark Side).  The Beaver Brown band was what I call one of those “12 year overnight sensations”. They had been gigging the East Coast regularly all those years and finally hit it big. Very professional act and they would come out and sound just like the record.
The Outlets and O Positive played the Sounds on a couple of occasions. Neither were memorable sets as I recall and they were "go get a beer and try to talk to chics" bands.

I don't know if anybody remembers the pop metal band L 88 but they had a big local hit with "I Want You" or rather "I...Want You". They played a couple of shows at the club and were both tight and entertaining. They didn't take themselves too seriously and looked every bit like they enjoyed their time on stage.

Digny Fingus of "Girl with the Curious Hand" fame played on at least one occasion that I can remember. Scotch & Sounds at most times had quite a diverse mix of patrons but my impression was that Fingus and the people that followed them somewhat weirded out the locals a little bit.

The Ramones played The Sounds near the end of their career and it was a mob-scene! Never saw a crowd that big in the place and it was most likely way over legal capacity. It was an impenetrable mob of Ramones fans and getting close to the stage wasn't going to happen unless you were prepared to fight for it.
Occasionally the Sounds would have a comedy night and none other than the late, great Sam Kinison himself did a show. He drank two bottles of champagne during his routine which included his Ethiopian jokes “If I could, I'd get a bunch of trailers and I'd take ‘em to where the food is! Look, this is SAND! Nothing grows here, asshole!” and he did his song he said he wrote about his ex-girlfriend, enough said.

I’m not 100% sure when Scotch & Sounds bit the big one but I believe it was around 1989. By then the owner, Mr. "I can’t remember his name” most likely succumbed to his habits and the club changed hands. As I recall, he was a classic nervous club owner who ran a club in one of the biggest cocaine trafficking areas in the state. There was a lot of Blow and the Bickford’s Breakfast Restaurant was always packed from 2 to 5 am after a full evening of music.
Yep, Scotch & Sounds was quite a place and it was quite a time.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Another Disappointing Doomsday Prediction

Can’t anybody get this right?
Just once I’d like to see these people predicting the End of the World to get it right. Just once.

But they never have. What a gyp!
And so many people fall for this game every time it’s played. You’d think they’d learn a thing or two from the whole experience. They get us all worked up, get our hopes up and BAM, they let us down.

First one I can remember is all the planets lining up in 1983 or something and it was going to pull the oceans up on top of us with monstrous tides with the flooding and the cataclysm and the whatnot…didn’t happen.
Then it was the Harmonic Convergence with the Mayan “Hell” cycles ever 52 years which ended in 1987…never came.

More recently there was that crock of shit called Global Warming that was going to do so much damage until it was discovered that the Earth is actually getting cooler and then it turns out that all those Brown Shirt scientists were cooking the numbers. Thanks Wikileaks! This is the real reason the U.S. government is after that Julian Assange guy, he outted the world global warming cabal among other seedier elements of governments everywhere.
Of course there's always been that crack-pot Nostradamus who not only alledgedly predicts WW III and when the world will end but continues to publish new books and "predictions" every year even though he's been dead since 1566. I'd say the real trick would be to get your hands on his FIRST book and see how well he did with the predictions. I'll bet his track record isn't nearly as good as anybody you've met down at the dog track.
More recently there was the Oakland, California Pastor, Harold Camping, who predicted the world would end May 21, 2011 for no apparent reason other than he said the Bible said so.  Just more wishful thinking as far as I’m concerned. The government media just loves the distraction of a long count-down and so all this optimistic talk of the world ending just left me and a boat-load of other people sorely disappointed. Damn! Wrong again.

What an empty feeling it is to be waiting for the end of the world and then nothing happens and you have to go to work the next day. Bummer!
So now it’s back to the Mayan Calendar again because, well, that’s all they got left. And, since I’m putting this out on the “Day of” our latest predicted end and you’re reading it, well, you get the idea. Another letdown, that’s what!

So I’m swearing off the whole Doomsday thing. Never again I say. I’m not taking any more days off from work just to hunker down in the back yard bunker. It just never happens so I’m going to save my vacation time and go someplace nice next time.  
So now the end of the world will just have to happen without me. I’m not buying into it anymore. How many times do these people think I can be fooled?

Now what am I going to do with 7 years’ worth of military Meals-Ready-to-Eat?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Decline and Fall of the American Socialist System

Rather than recent events being a triumph of the Leftist agenda to transfer the assets of successful people to those less successful and of Governments attempts to gain unrestricted control of the nation’s economy, we are actually seeing the final downfall of Socialism in the world.
Much like other totalitarian regimes before it, the takeover of the Federal aspect of the United States by the Liberal Left is failing just ahead of what many are pointing to as its greatest triumph: Total responsibility for what is produced and not produced in the nation.

Of course this all hasn’t happened overnight. Economic historians can point to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and broad powers of administration for not defeating the depression but prolonging it by almost a decade. Imagine what would have only lasted 3 or 4 years was stretched by bad policy to 13 years. Then WWII came along and we HAD to dedicate resources to making stuff again. But that demand came without the means of actually paying for it so the debts began to pile up.
Later President Lyndon Banes Johnson provided us with The Great Society, a war on poverty in America! But as always happens, his war on poverty only cause poverty to increase. The rewards for not being successful started to gain on the rewards of actually being successful. Coupling this with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s really was a wealth of positive information for the Socialist Left of this nation: They discovered that they could make the slaves love their slavery.

These “Movements” have nothing to do with actually taking care of people or caring for their economic situation or even “Fairness” since statistically their situation overall doesn’t improve. It only means that the beneficiaries of the Welfare State don’t have to work as hard or educate themselves to stay where they are. And it’s all about making people happy to be where they are even if it’s comfortably poor. These people actually think they’re getting away with something. The joke is on them.
But at any rate, bad policy takes decades to manifest itself in the shaping of the collectivist mind, the attitude that the common good outweighs the rights and successes of the individual. What’s yours is also mine. It’s that air of entitlement that the left needs so much to drive its mobs of newly uneducated.

This is why it was imperative to take over the National School System and to buy its way into public media, to control the message and to control the mind.
So now they have 51% of the vote. But here is the fatal flaw in their newest plan: It Doesn’t Work!

It can’t work. Every new set of Leftists throughout the recent history of Karl Marx think that this NEXT TIME will work, that every time before there was something done wrong and that THIS TIME they will make it work. They will take from the successful and buy their influence with the majority of less successful or just plain unsuccessful. Of course government has helped those less fortunate from actually being successful in so many ways by controlling access to capital, providing the standard, sub-standard education and by taxing money out of your pocket so that you can’t do anything with it yourself. BUT they’ll lend your money back to you if you want to go to college. Just as long as it’s the government hand you go running to for your sustenance, it’s good.
But subsequently the Left is always doomed to failure unless they can force you to stay and take it. This is why the Soviet Union had to build wall around the entire country and put people with guns in towers. But even doing that, people never stopped trying and dying to reach the other side of that wall. Why? Because they’d rather die than live the way they were living.  And this is the end-game of all totalitarian Marxist regimes.: Shortages, Hardship and Financial Ruin.  

When have you ever heard of a CAPITALIST PURGE? Never? That’s because freedom doesn’t need a purge. Joseph Stalin is “credited” with killing up to 50 MILLION Russian people during his bloody reign. Mao Tse-tung? He leads the way with up to 70 MILLION Chinese people. Then there was Pol Pot who only managed to kill 2 Million Vietnamese in his quest for a Communist farming society.
And who did these purges target? Smart People! If you had any brains or education you were TOAST! They didn’t want a guy/gal like you around telling people things. You were out in a bad way.

Knowing this, how can anybody speak in admiration of these killers? Yet Mao and Stalin are actually revered by the left. The Chinese totalitarian regime, though decidedly more Capitalist than Communist is still a totalitarian regime. No one has a vote and no one gets to decide how they are to be governed. They are told what to do and what to make. The government decides what it wants and it takes it. Just ask the people of Tibet. Way to go China!
But ultimately the Socialist Systems always crumble because they lack imagination and the freedom to pursue an idea. An idea like a personal computer or a new way of drawing oil from a place previously thought impossible. A Socialist System cannot think like this. It draws resources but cannot replace what it has taken nor increase its production since many times it will make what people don’t want. It ignores the Strongest Force in the World: The Market. And without that swirling force of ideas, risk, failures and triumphs, Socialism cannot stand.

So as of right now, The Federal Government has spent 17 times the country’s Gross National Product and has nothing to show for it. It has artificially held up its public workforce with tax money that has yet to be earned. But even the United States cannot defy gravity. Now Obama’s government owns the economy. Who can they blame?
It’s a shame that freedom loving peoples all over the world have to endure such misguided ideology and hardship but such is freedom that it has to be savored and revered to survive. It’s when people trade their freedom for the promise of a Pot o’ Gold is where the figure of man so imperfect still stumbles from time to time.

People will find alternatives. They'll join the underground economy and step away from the taxed goods. They'll vote with their feet and the successful will move to the red states. The country will stratify and there will be successful states and very, very unsuccessful states. The Federal overlords will eventually capitulate to the forces of the Market since the Government will be totally broke and the dependent class without it's mother's milk.

The wheels are already in motion.   

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Washington State Legalizes Pot: One Week Later…

Overheard from a local advocate for the legalization of pot in Washington State:
“Oh man, my head! I’ve been smoking bombers for a week and I can’t think straight. Where are my keys? I can barely open my eyes. I’ve got to cut down on this shit. “Wheeze”, I can’t make it up these stairs! Why did I get a 4th floor walk-up? Man, I think I’ve gained 20 pounds this week. I’ve gotta start back at the gym. I think I’ll take a couple weeks off of smoking Hoot. Where are my keys!?  Man, I’ve gotta start taking better care of myself. “

Once the novelty of marijuana being legalized wears off, people will return to normal and life in Washington State will go on. Yeah, people will go a little crazy but within a week or so it will all blow over except for maybe some saber rattling from some federal agency or another. It certainly won’t be Eric Holder; he’s in enough hot water what with conspiring to run guns to Mexico, conspiring to undermine the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, being an accessory to the murder of a federal agent and many, many innocent Mexican citizens and lying about the whole thing. Mr. Holder and the federal government have lost the moral high ground, I would say.
Legalization of pot is just the first step. In order to kill the illegal drug trade and to dry up its resultant illegal money that is almost impossible to track and which has funded terrorist organizations all over the world including al-Qaida, we must legalize it all.

But more people will do drugs, comes the cry of the misinformed right wing which has much to lose if such a scenario should finally come about.
The answer is: No they won’t.

There could be an increase in experimentation but it’s not like anybody who wanted to get their hands on drugs couldn’t do so before. It’s almost literally on every street corner. Kids are exposed to drugs at a very early age, weren’t you? Are you a drug addict? I first saw marijuana in the 6th grade which coincided with the first visit to our class by the local police drug education officers. Don’t know if they still do this sort of thing anymore. They still should.
Nobody grows up wanting to be addicted to drugs yet here they are and we as a society still don’t do the right thing to handle the situation. Although drugs are illegal, thanks to the bourgeois capitalist principle of supply and demand, they are everywhere and even the cops know their job isn’t to stop them but to make them pay. We have a judicial system in this country that’s only in it for the money. They can find you a jail cell but can’t find you a bed in a rehab center. That’s not the job of the State.

Let’s not pretend that people aren’t dying by the cart-load in this country because of illegal drug trafficking because they are. Good people, law enforcement people, innocent citizens and, of course, drug dealers. All because what they sell has been branded as illegitimate by the government.
This is a waste of resources and lives.

With what we spend on the multi-billion dollar corrections industry every year, which has the most people behind bars in the world, we could fund rehab for people who want it and need it. We could also watch terrorist organizations try to hold telethons to raise the cash they won’t be getting because people would be able to buy their drugs legally.
Although care should be taken to ease the nation into this, let’s not wait another 35 years for government to finally realize what most people already know.

The War on Drugs was a giant and wasteful failure.