Just as it was in 2019 with Carnegie Hall, Fall River Arts Academy Director, Todd “TJ” Salpietro knew he couldn’t say no to a performance at Graceland.
On Thursday, April 7, 2022, twenty-two of his music students from the Fall River Arts Academy (FRAA) will rock the Guest House at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, and he couldn’t be more proud.
“I know some of the younger students don’t exactly get it yet,” he beamed during a recent chat. “But as they grow up, they’ll certainly come to appreciate it. And as for the parents, they’re really excited to have their kids perform not only at the home of the ‘King of Rock and Roll,’ Elvis Presley, but in Memphis, which is considered rock’s birthplace.”
The appearance on the Memphis stage—a 400-seat theatre on the Graceland property—is part of yet another honor bestowed upon the school: FRAA has been nominated for Music Academy School of the Year. The final chapter in this competition is tied into the trip to Memphis.
“FRAA is one of eight schools that’s up for the prestigious Music Academy School of the Year award,” Salpietro explained. “That’s amongst a group of several hundred other music schools across the country. We’ll be presenting in front of a panel of industry professionals at the Graceland Guest House on April 5, explaining our amazing growth— specifically, what approaches we’ve taken to grow our school to 550 music students. All eight schools presenting for School of the Year will be hosting student performances that week.”
For the music portion of the trip, Salpietro says there are two significantly different FRAA showcases planned for April 7 that will include students ranging in age from seven to sixty. The first, an early afternoon set at 12:45 p.m., will consist of ten vocalists singing with a combination of backing tracks and accompaniment supplied by instructor Giulia Khoury, as well as solo viola and piano spotlights.
The second showcase is an evening gig, slated for 7:45 p.m., which will feature a trio of band configurations: a house band, including Salpietro on drums with FRAA instructors Jim Denour, Nolan McGovern, and Giulia Khoury. The other two are plucked from TJ’s Music Allstar ensembles: Level Up and On a Thursday, both of which will play a four-song set.
“I’ll be participating as the house band drummer,” he said. “I’ll be performing a few songs with students and also with Luciano Jacques, an amazing 14-year-old multi-instrumentalist and relative of mine. He’ll play with On a Thursday during their set, and he’ll also feature during the house band’s set, singing and playing fiddle on the Charlie Daniels classic, “Devil went down to Georgia” to close the show. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get on stage to perform with him. This performance means a lot to us both… we’re looking forward to tearing the house down.”
Salpietro seems excited to get back to an ongoing trajectory of live student performances after the pandemic put a forced pause on his plans. He intends to continue building on the success of the school’s 2019 trip to Carnegie Hall where the FRAA players received a standing ovation.
“We’ve hosted some of our rehearsals, and you can just see how pumped everybody has been and how much preparation is going into this performance. My mission as director of FRAA is to introduce as many performance opportunities as possible that will inspire our students to really practice. Personally, I feel they practice more diligently knowing they have a higher profile performance coming up.”
In between presenting for the award on April 5 and the sold-out musical showcases on April 7, the group will enjoy a pre-show party for 75 people on a Memphis Riverboat dinner cruise with a live band, dinner, and dancing. The good news for the rest of us is that the April 7 musical performances will be live-streamed. Click HERE for more information.
“As far as I am concerned just being nominated and nationally recognized amongst this amazing group of business professionals is an honor to me,” Salpietro said. “But I’m going to give it my best to bring home the win.”
He’s excited to get back to touring, excited to show off his band, and excited to deliver a set chock full of Eagles songs he knows we want to hear.
And those are the topics he was eager to discuss when we spoke with him on a recent call from his California digs. The celebrated former Eagles lead guitarist and co-writer, oft-recognized for his use of a double-neck Gibson EDS-1275, has released two solo albums in the past decade, the most recent being 2019’s star-studded American Rock and Roll. But his 2022 tour dates, including his stop at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, on Tuesday, March 1, will revolve around his 27-year tenure with the Eagles. [Purchase tickets to the show HERE].
He’s excited for the crowd-pleasing.
“I always do at least two solo songs every night, for those people that want to hear them, and I mix those up from show to show,” he said. “But the majority of the people in my audience are probably over a certain age… some of them know some of my solo material and some don’t. I would rather err on the side of making people really happy and ensure that they’ll enjoy the show because they’re familiar with most of the songs.”
Felder, now 74, admits to being flattered by fans that have clamored for deeper cuts from the Heavy Metal soundtrack and his 1983 solo album Airborne, but he has recently surveyed ticket holders for their top ten setlist choices via a contest on his website. One would assume that his 2022 sets will be based on the results – Eagles, it is.
Despite this, he’s quick to acknowledge the satisfaction of writing and recording on his own. Truth is, when he joined the Eagles, during the recording of 1974’s On the Border, he’d already learned quite a bit about making records from earlier periods spent working in recording studios. But the band dynamic kept him relegated to a specific space. Nonetheless, Felder either sang or played on many of the group’s best-known songs, and his co-writing credits include “Hotel California” and “Victim of Love.”
“I would write between twelve and fifteen ideas—song beds, I call them—for each Eagles album, and I’d submit those, and they’d pick a couple. That’s really how that team worked, where I provided musical ideas and then we’d develop them. Some of my music that was discarded I got to use later on. I wrote this one song, the working title was “You’re Really High, Aren’t You?” We cut it as a great hard rocking track for The Long Run. But we were just at a point where we already running late. We had to get out of the studio and go on the road, so it never got finished. Eventually, that became “Heavy Metal.”
“I’ve gone back and listened to that stuff and have reworked some more of it,” he continued. “The title song from my album Road to Forever was another one that I’d recorded and submitted to Don (Henley) and Glenn (Frey), and they just didn’t think it was really, you know, Eagles material. So, if they weren’t into it, it just didn’t happen. Now I can go in and record anything I want. I have my own first class, top notch recording studio. And I do that all the time, I go in there with an idea, I fire it up and record some guitar parts and immediately start working on putting together a piece of music. If I like it and I release it, then I hope other people like it too. If I don’t like it, then it goes to digital heaven.”
Felder built his home studio over 40 years ago, prior to the digital recording revolution. It’s safe to say that he’s versed in current technological trends, but he takes pride in having cut his teeth at a time when there were fewer tricks available to artificially sweeten records.
“Our producer and engineer Bill Szymczyk used to say that if you can’t make a record with the 24 available tracks, you’re in the wrong business. You had to be able to play on time and sing in tune. You know what there was before Pro Tools, right? There were pros. They didn’t need the tools.”
Felder’s current band meets his stringent glove test, and his enthusiasm about delivering an unabashedly Eagles-centric show is unstoppable.
“Everybody plays and sings remarkably well,” he said. “I think they all have scars on their back from me cracking the whip on them to be able to play these songs impeccably… because I want it to be tight. I don’t want to go out and have mistakes, but these guys are on top of it. And so we take pride in how well we present these classic songs because it’s important to me that if I’m going to do a show like this, I have great people with me and we present audiences with a likeable, affable evening. Audiences enjoy these songs so much and feel like they can reach out to touch something they’ve been listening to for the last 40 or 45 years—here it is, live in front of them… and at a very affordable price! It makes me super happy to be able to do that and be back out playing live after this year and a half of just solitary confinement.”
The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, MA. Tickets to this can be purchased online at narrowscenter.org or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.
Thanks to comedian Will Ferrell, former Blue Öyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard’s liberal use of cowbell on the band’s FM staple, “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” might be what goes down in the music history books as his defining rock and roll moment. But Blue Öyster Cult is much more than the butt of a joke or a couple of tunes in the classic rock canon, and Bouchard’s imagination stretches well beyond the percussive stroke of genius that propels one of their biggest hits.*
Hardcore BÖC enthusiasts have long been aware of a collection of scripts and poems written by collaborator/manager Sandy Pearlman over fifty years back, entitled The Soft Doctrines of Imaginos—a secret history of the two World Wars. Think of it like a battling good-and-evil story that merges historical facts and far-flung fiction with gothic imagery, horror, elements of fairytale, and Lovecraft-inspired sci-fi.
For those that don’t know, Pearlman wrote or co-wrote many BÖC songs and often served as a co-producer on their albums. Blue Öyster Cult had utilized fragments of Pearlman’s Imaginos storyline for songs scattered throughout their first four albums, but they lacked context, so those tracks carried an added layer of mystery that intrigued listeners looking to decipher meaning from the band’s music. The song “Blue Öyster Cult”—which could be considered their defining moment—appears on the Imaginos album, which finally surfaced in 1988.
But by the time of its release, Imaginos had gone through multiple unplanned revisions. Originally begun seven years prior in 1981, the recording and release of the ambitious concept album were fraught with complications.
In the first place, it was Bouchard who’d championed the idea of developing a rock opera around Pearlman’s storyline, but he’d been officially fired from BÖC in 1981. He then planned to release the project under his name, having inked a solo deal with CBS/Columbia. But by 1984 it was clear that the label was no longer interested. Given that they owned the existing recordings, Imaginos was then reconfigured—without Bouchard’s input—as a Blue Öyster Cult album, which eventually saw the light of day four years later. In the interim, BÖC had disbanded and reformed. By that time, Aldo Nova, Joe Satriani, and The Doors’ Robby Kreiger had all played on the album and Bouchard’s lead vocals had been completely removed.
Even after all the revisions, and despite a fair amount of critical accolades, Imaginos didn’t sell particularly well. But BÖC fans knew that it had been planned as a trilogy and, in the nearly thirty-five years since its release, they’ve continually clamored for the rest of the story to materialize.
Now Bouchard is seeing it all the way through. He recorded a mostly acoustic version of Imaginos, entitled Re-Imaginos, and released it in November 2020. Then, in October of 2021, Imaginos II: Bombs Over Germany was released, featuring Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom from BÖC. Bouchard has since begun writing the third installment—the working title is Imaginos III: Mutant Reformation—which he hopes to release in 2023. And on Saturday, January 15 at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, he will perform Imaginos for the first time, in its entirety, along with selections from Imaginos II and some BÖC favorites. Paul Bielatowicz, of Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy will open the show with an abridged version of his Nosferatu score. Purchase tickets HERE.
To say it’s been a journey doesn’t really capture the winding path that Bouchard has walked to get to this point. He recently spoke with us at length from his Manhattan apartment about the process of coming full circle with this creative labor of love.
Limelight Magazine: What about this story holds so much fascination for you?
Albert Bouchard: It’s just a classic story. Maybe it’s a bit like Homer’s The Odyssey. It focuses on this person who travels through space and time and certain things happen to him and other things he makes happen and… all that kind of stuff. The original Imaginos is his origin story. And then the second episode, this last one I just put together, is where all the bad stuff starts happening. It’s the dark Empire Strikes Back part of the story.
LM: Was Star Wars inspiring?
AB: I first started visualizing the story as a whole when I was watching Star Wars, so, yes, definitely. I was also reading a book by Joseph Campbell… something about the gods and how these various myths just seem to continue playing out and how, as stories and reflections of our own experiences, they just never get old. Rather, they just keep getting retold but dressed in slightly different clothing. When I talked to Sandy about it back then he said that’s exactly right, that Campbell truly understood the value of myths in our culture. So, at that point, we started thinking beyond just this song and that song and began looking at the larger picture and how to deliver this story, musically, as a bigger piece.
LM:Was expanding it into a trilogy something that you’d discussed with Sandy from the beginning, further elaborating on his original writings, or was that an idea that came later?
AB: From what I remember, that aspect of it didn’t come together until towards the end of the time I was with BÖC. But Sandy’s original writing was epic, so it was never a story that could be easily condensed.
I’ve always found with doing this stuff that you can’t hold anything that sacred. You might find a better twist of a word or phrase that improves a song, so it’s best not to get too attached to doing something a certain way. Because when you’re talking about songs, you’re talking about rhythm and melody at the same time as you’re talking about the actual words, and you have to balance all of that out. Sandy’s writing didn’t always loan itself well to song structures because he was wordy. Wordy songs can get tricky. Originally, “The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle at Weisseria” was very long with lots of additional parts. Some of it was very good, but some of it was… just embarrassing. So I kept working on it. I thought the first version I did was pretty good—had a lot of nice little guitar licks in there— but Sandy said he didn’t like it. So then I redid it, and this time it was really awful. But at least I’d gotten the words to better sync with the music. That made it clearer to Sandy said we should break it into two songs, so it became “Siege and Investiture…” and “The Girl That Love Made Blind,” so that rather than forcing it to work as a suite, one was more of a ballad and the other was a heavier, angrier piece. Just scarier. More menacing.
LM: Do you think Sandy Pearlman would be happy with what you’ve done with Re-Imaginos, Bombs Over Germany, and the third installation that you’re working on? Is this true to the form he thought the story would take?
AB: I think he’d be okay with it, yes. I remember somebody in the press saying, when the original Imaginos came out, “Sandy Perlman is doing all the interviews… who wants to interview the manager?,” not grasping his contribution to the band. But he was our fifth Beatle, you know? Especially in the beginning, he was there all the time. And always with ideas and suggestions for how to make things better. And, of course, this story was his original idea.
When I was working on the first record back in the early 80s, Sandy and I were very excited. We felt as if we were doing something that hadn’t been done in rock music. The music itself seemed almost indescribable, and we had the gut feeling that it was quite good. I had a lot of great players on it who could do just about anything I asked them. So it was very intoxicating. And at the time we thought, okay, so we’ll put this out, and if it hits, I have my solo contract, we can keep going. So, we began writing songs for part two right away, but there were schedules to work around. Blue Öyster Cult and Foghat were using the same studio, so I had to take time off recording the original tracks because I couldn’t get in there and everyone had other projects they were contributing to… we couldn’t just do it all at once. During those breaks, Sandy and I worked on writing for part two and conceptualizing part three, but no songs got written for the third part at that time.
LM: Would you credit Sandy with setting the sort of ominous, mysterious tone that runs through so much of BÖC’s output?
AB: Yes, I would. He didn’t like to fill in all the blanks. So there would always be plenty of space for you to imagine what we’re talking about. He loved that. He never wanted to be nailed down to any specific meaning on any specific thing. He just enjoyed having a sort of poetic attitude about what BÖC was doing, what each song meant, what each song might suggest. He was trying to create something different. I’ll say this—we were heavily influenced by the original Alice Cooper band. But not so much their theatricality, even though that was great, but more their musical style. Initially, it was very hard to pin down what they were. I think people kind of bemoan Alice Cooper’s show now because he’s kind of taken on that heavy metal mantle with the four guitar attack, but the original Alice Cooper would do some very unusual stuff. It was as if they felt like they could do anything and get away with it, and we admired that.
LM: So, What made this the right time to get this done?
AB: This has always been something I wanted to do, but in 1987, I began working in a public school. I would play on weekends or sometimes tour with a band during vacations, but I decided to put my time into that career. I’d planned to retire at 70 to get in a good ten years of rock and roll. I’m going to be 75 in a couple of months, so time is limited for me to do the things that I want to do. And this is one of the main things that I wanted to do. In 2015, Sandy had an accident and he was in a coma. The music writer Robert Duncan was checking in on him at the hospital and sending out email updates about his prognosis. I wrote back to Robert and said I want to go and see him because I had all these things I wanted to talk to him about, one of them being about finishing this trilogy idea. We had songs that we’d started to write and never finished. I wanted his input. Fans were saying I should do my own version, asking if it’ll ever get finished, and I would always say I’d have to have Sandy Pearlman help me because it was his idea. I couldn’t just go and do it without him. I wouldn’t even think of it, really, just out of respect for my friend. He eventually came out of the coma, I went to the hospital and told him that he had to get better because I wanted to complete the trilogy. And then, in the end, he didn’t make it. He never really regained his faculties. He was conscious and could hear what people were saying. He could communicate by moving his left index finger or that kind of thing, but he really couldn’t have a conversation. He could just acknowledge if he understood or not.
LM: It must have been challenging to deal with what happened to the original Imaginos album since this was your solo project with Sandy, and then it was released as a BÖC album that you’d lost creative control over. There are a lot of stories about various betrayals on the parts of both the band and the label. How did you feel at the time?
AB: Well, you know, emotions can cloud our perception of things. So when the record finally came out, I was very unhappy. I felt like the mixes weren’t good. What I’d heard when we cut the basic tracks was so much better, but it was six years since I’d cut those tracks and it’d been worked on, on and off, for those six years. Everything was on tape at that time, and every time you play the tape, it deteriorates a little. So there was that problem. They replaced my vocals, which I wasn’t thrilled about, but I have to admit that the vocals were largely an improvement. Donald Roeser’s—you know, Buck Dharma—versions of my vocals were excellent. Much better than I could do. For the most part. Eric Bloom did a great job… at least as good as I did, if not better. And Joseph Cerisano, thank God they used some of his stuff. I heard this rumor that Columbia didn’t like the vocals and that’s why they weren’t behind the record. But you’ve got to figure it was Al Teller and Donnie Lenner running the show at that point… anybody who knows what was going on at Columbia in those days knows those guys didn’t have a clue. Al Teller was an accountant and Donnie was his buddy. So, what does that tell you? Clive Davis was gone. Bruce Lundvall was gone. All the people with ears for music were all gone. And the people that’d signed me to the solo deal were all gone. All we had were these accountant guys, and they had no interest in music. Then they brought in Tommy Mottola to keep it from becoming a total disaster. At the time, I was extremely angry with the record company, that they wouldn’t put it out as my record, that they would only put it out as Blue Öyster Cult, you know, and Blue Öyster Cult… they did the best they could do under the circumstances.
LM: Have you been able to reconcile all that upset?
AB: For the most part, yes. What was even more mind-blowing was that the label led me to believe that, since my solo project had been folded into a Blue Öyster Cult project, I would be back in the band when they toured Greece in 1987, just before Imaginos came out. And then the band informed me that they had never agreed to that and that they’d hired other people for those gigs. They said they had no idea the label had made any such promises to me. I was really angry about that, too, but they didn’t know anything about the conversation I’d had, so I couldn’t blame them.
That was the same year I’d gotten the job at the school, but working in a school hadn’t changed me yet. Becoming a teacher is a very solitary kind of thing, in a way, because it’s just you and the kids in your classroom, and nobody’s going to help you. You have to just sort it out on your own. On the other hand, working in education, you’re always examining your practice. And you invite other teachers to give you feedback. The amount of meetings that get scheduled is extremely annoying, but over time, it changed me for the better. I became able to separate my ego and look at the process rather than the product. I think that has made me a better person—much more responsible and much more patient. As a teacher, you have to be extremely patient, and you have to be able to present things in more than one way. And believe it or not, this has helped me deal with what happened back then.
LM: There was some debt to the label, too, right?
AB: Yes. I was three-quarters of a million dollars in debt to Columbia, which is why the band thought by not letting me back in they were doing me a favor… I wouldn’t have gotten any royalties for years, you know? We’ve talked about it since then. BÖC basically absorbed my debt for the solo recordings. I guess you could say that ‘Reaper’ started paying for Imaginos. So how can I complain about that?
LM: When you think about performing this work, is it daunting? Who’s in the band you’ve assembled?
AB: Not daunting to me, no, I could go into a club tomorrow and play the whole thing! I’ve set up a group of six, including myself. I’m going to be playing mostly acoustic guitar… or maybe an electric guitar that sounds like an acoustic. It’s a hybrid of the two guitars that are the backbone of all the Imaginos songs. It was just a concept in my mind, but I explained it to my luthier and he said he could do it, so we’ll see. Supposedly, I’m getting it this week. But the main, lead guitar player is going to be Mike Fornatele, who I met at a party hosted by May Pang, John Lennon’s ex-girlfriend. She has three parties every year and he’s always there, so that’s how we originally met. Then I did a gig with him and my brother backing up Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere and the Raiders. My brother, Joe Bouchard, is playing keyboards, trumpet, and flute. Cyzon Griffin will be on drums, this amazingly talented 26-year-old guy that I met when he was busking in Central Park. He reminds me of Larnell Lewis from Snarky Puppy. David Hirschberg, who’s on all the new Imaginos material, will play bass. And then we have Dana McCoy, who played ukulele and keyboards and sang on some of these songs, and hopefully, she’ll be joining us. We’ve been rehearsing!
The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River. Tickets are $38 advance and $43 day of show.
*Actually, the cowbell was producer David Lucas’s idea, but it was Bouchard who decided to use a timpani mallet to beat the bell, thus producing an unusual tone on the final track.
Or so it seems these days. But it remains to be seen if vinyl is here to stay; formats come and go. When Roger Chouinard opened Purchase Street Records in New Bedford exactly five years ago this Friday, December 3, wasn’t he even a little worried it wouldn’t take off?
“Totally,” he admitted during a recent chat. “But the way I look at it, the average person makes $300 to $500 a week and hopefully I can profit that amount with enough sales to pay myself. It’s worked out over the past five years.”
For the uninitiated, Chouinard’s shop is a little different. He mainly sells the music he knows best: metal and punk. He knows the industry from multiple perspectives as a retailer, as a working drummer, and as the nephew of the late Bobby Chouinard who played in Billy Squier’s band, among others. Prior to opening his record shop, Chouinard wrote a book about his uncle, The Story of Bobby Chouinard, Drummer Extraordinaire, compiling memories and photographs culled from far and wide. At the time, he owned a tattoo shop and, not surprisingly, he has his fair share of body ink. And some piercings. As a result, he might look a bit intimidating, but for the most part he’s a gentle guy.
“I’m nicer than what I appear… most of the time,” he said with a laugh. “But I have an edgier mood going in the shop. When you walk in here it’s all hand painted stuff. First thing you see is a big KISS sign. There’s Skid Row, Dio, Type O Negative, and Guns N’ Roses posters on the wall, so, you know, it does have an attitude. So I feel the owner should have somewhat of an attitude. I make jokes and offer to help my customers find things so they know I’m approachable.”
Despite being a specialty shop, Chouinard does carry some other genres and he stocks both new and used vinyl. He stays away from country, jazz, classical, and soul. He also doesn’t carry turntables, mainly because the ones he’d prefer to carry would be higher end. Additionally, he’s only got 400 square feet to work with, so he has to think strategically about maximizing the limited space.
In the five years since he opened, record collecting has exploded. Looking back 20 years, many music shops were closing. Longstanding small businesses in and around metropolitan cities had made the transition from vinyl and cassettes to compact discs through the late 80s and 90s, but when digital downloads became widely available, brick and mortar stores began disappearing.
Some five years later, Newbury Comics began stocking small quantities of vinyl again and devoting some retail space to the medium. Since then, what began as a dull roar has grown into a clamoring demand for vinyl. It’d seem that many fans prefer to honor their music by owning hard copies of albums in their ultimate physical form; call it a backlash against the disposable nature of digital files. Now it’s to the point where there’s an industry shortage and seriously delayed manufacturing times. In turn, this has driven up prices for new vinyl. Used vinyl has also gotten more expensive, in part because of the pandemic: record collecting is something that can be done alone, at home. New or used, records can be mail ordered from around the world, and when lockdowns started in 2020, collectors got busy online.
Chouinard used this to his advantage when he was faced with having to close the shop due to the spreading Coronavirus.
“When I closed down and stopped ordering things from my distributors, I wasn’t in big debt with my credit card, per se, but I did have a balance I wanted to pay off. And since I don’t usually do mail order, I went into my basement and picked out a lot of releases that I’d overstocked in the past. For the first time, I put them online for mail order and actually sold my extra stock for substantially more money than the price point in the store. These were titles that didn’t move in the store, for whatever reason, but the price had tripled online.”
Chouinard also got crafty, selling exclusive t-shirts, hats, and tote bags online to an audience that was eager to help him stay afloat. But as someone that’d worked seven days a week pretty much since he turned 18, he was also okay with having a couple months off. He says it gave him time to work on his house and reorganize the record store.
“I stayed away from the curbside pickup,” he said. “I laid back and let everybody else do that. I tried to mainly just stay home and take it easy while they figured out how to get a handle on this thing.”
Despite having to close his doors for a bit, Chouinard felt confident that when it came time to reopen, his customers would return. He knows he’s providing a desired service. And if you weren’t already aware, metal fans are unusually passionate about their collecting.
“Metal guys will spend their last dime on a record and they just don’t care, it’s more important to them,” he explained. “They’re like okay, so I can have this sandwich or I can have this metal record that I’ve never seen. They never second guess themselves. And they tend to be completists. So, the collectability factor is definitely there. Also, a lot of metal stuff is very limited. Some of it has a different meaning, you might say it sends a ‘bad message,’ so sometimes you can’t buy it online as a result, because certain platforms won’t carry it. But we might have it and when a metal dude sees that record, they’re like, I’ve never seen this before, and I can’t buy it online, I need to buy this. As for metal guys selling their records, they would lose their apartment before they’d sell their records.”
Some obviously do sell their records or Chouinard would be at a loss to carry used metal, but there’s a scarcity-mentality that keeps his customers loyal. And, for collectors of a certain age, there’s an irresistible nostalgia factor. This gets reinforced by his having made the shop a destination spot for artists to do signings and, in some cases, just to stop in and shop on their way in and out of the area—The Vault Music Hall is located directly next door. You might just get to meet some lifelong heroes at the store.
“I’ve met so many local and national artists at Purchase Street Records,” said John Sylvia, a New Bedford resident and ongoing customer. “There is no better feeling than pulling up, seeing tour busses in front of the venue next door, walking into the store, and seeing band members hanging out, telling stories, or buying records for themselves.”
Sylvia first entered Chouinard’s store to buy a spot in line for a signing with Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider and says he felt like he was walking into 1986. He began to frequent the establishment regularly, becoming close with Chouinard, and helping out when needed. The camaraderie he describes harks back to a past when record stores were places at which local music enthusiasts would hang out in their spare time—a culture that has returned, to some degree, despite the price hike for the records themselves.
“The store has become such an important part of my life,” Sylvia said. “As a result, I began re-collecting the items of my youth—patches, pins, posters, cassettes, t-shirts, and, of course, records. Roger has been able to connect me with some amazing, hard to find pieces. People travel from all over New England and beyond to visit his store. I hear time and time again about how impressed they are with his selection of records. If he doesn’t have it, which is rare, chances are better than good that he can find it for you.”
One thing that’s certain: collectors want independent record stores to stay around, so they continue spending the money to help them subsist.
“A lot of folks want to have original stuff and it’s gotten expensive,” Chouinard explained. “It’s more of a collector’s value. There are plenty of $5 and $8 Pat Benatar and Billy Joel records in the racks, but especially with a lot of the metal that came out in the 90s—they didn’t print that much of it, so that drives up the price. You can buy reissues when they’re available, but collectors often want the sense of history that comes with buying original copies. And they’ll wait until they find it. It’s almost like an Easter egg hunt for them. The flipside is that the record has been floating around for thirty years and, sometimes, may have been mishandled along the way. Take Metallica’s Master of Puppets. Originals are between $100 and $200, depending on the pressing. You can buy a reissue for $24. Especially for a lot of the newer people, they’re okay with $24 Master of Puppets, because you still get the music and the vinyl is brand new. But a lot of the more devoted metal guys feel that buying reissues demeans their collection.”
Regardless, Chouinard says that in the five years he’s been opened, one important thing he’s learned is never to make assumptions.
“As for buying and selling, you never know what’s gonna walk through the door,” he said. “I’ve had holy grail records walk into the store in this town. And then I’ve taken entire collections and just thrown them out because they’re all junk. But you take the day that’s given to you and just try to succeed. You never judge a customer when they first come in. I always try and greet new customers the way I would greet one of my best customers. Because when somebody new walks through the door, you just don’t know who it is.”
Purchase Street Records is located at 767 Purchase Street in New Bedford, MA. If you stop by the store this weekend, Dec. 3-5, you can get 15% off your entire purchase and a free shirt with a $40 purchase. Furthermore, hoodies are $30 and hats are $15. Visit the store’s Facebook page by clicking HERE for more info and the latest news.
Plenty of adolescents have been inspired to pursue the guitar because of Pete Townhsend. But only a few professional guitarists actually end up playing Townshend’s role in a Who cover band, and even fewer are good at it.
Enter Mark Cherone.
As a member of Hurtsmile with his brother, Extreme’s Gary Cherone, he gets to satisfy his ongoing itch to play original material, which has remained his primary musical ambition since attending Berklee College of Music in the mid-80s. This leaves him wide open to enjoy the duo’s other project, SlipKid. Dubbed “A Celebration of The Who,” the brothers Cherone get to channel their heroes with an invigorating showcase of tunes that highlights The Who’s undeniable genius, power, and passion.
Slowly emerging from the pandemic, SlipKid is playing at The Vault Music Hall in New Bedford, MA, on Saturday, February 12, 2022. Purchase tickets HERE. Johnny Barnes and the Nightcrawlers open the show.
Mark Cherone recently took the time to speak with LimelightMagazine about how this project came to be and what it means to him and his brother.
LM: Do you remember the first time you heard The Who?
MC: I do. I remember. You know, since childhood I’ve grown to love many artists like all of us do, but The Who? The Who made me want to play guitar and be in a band. I saw their movie, The Kids Are Alright, in the theater in the late 70s, I was 10 or 11. A friend of my brother took me. And there it was on the big screen! I just remember seeing Pete Townsend slide across the stage on his knees during “Won’t Get Fooled Again” at the end of the movie, and I just thought he was the coolest person on the planet. I’ve loved him ever since, his whole career, I love his solo albums. I’m just crazy for him, still, and I love The Who. So SlipKid is really a labor of love. I’ve never been in a cover band, only original bands, which, looking back, seems a little odd. I kind of wish I had played in cover bands… maybe it could’ve helped my guitar playing.
LM: So, what were you doing while your brother was having success with Nuno Bettencourt in Extreme?
MC: I was also in a band. Actually, I was in a couple of bands before Gary and I started Hurtsmile with Joe Pessia around 2007. In the time during Extreme’s huge success, I was in a band called Flesh. And Nuno helped us out, helped get our album out. Extreme took us on tour, which was a lot of fun. Then, in the late 90s, I was in a band called Super Zero, which was another great band and fun time. We got two albums out on our own. A Japanese company put out some of our music, so we went over to Japan. And after that, I did another band where I was singing. Since then, I started splitting time between SlipKid and Hurtsmile, since they started around the same time.
LM: How did SlipKid come about?
MC: My whole career, I just dove into the original music thing. Looking back, I don’t know if that was wise, but it’s what I did. Many years ago now, Gary and I talked about doing some kind of Who thing and it just seemed like a cool idea. We talked about doing Tommy, which SlipKid has performed. It kept coming up when we’d see each other. At one point he called and said “Hey, I’ve got a drummer here… come down and let’s run through a couple of songs.” And it just snowballed right away. The very next week, he had a bass player. And the drummer then tells us, “I know a keyboardist that knows all the Who tunes,” and we were like “Get him over here.” So it just came together, and pretty quickly at that. When we’ve performed Tommy… let’s just say it’s a pretty big undertaking. Honestly, I’m not even sure how we pulled it off, but we did the entire thing. The audience seemed to love it and we had so much fun doing it. I really love being in this band.
LM: So, it looks like SlipKid was active for a while and then took a hiatus?
MC: Sort of, yes. This is the second coming of SlipKid. We got started a while ago—maybe 2006 or 2007? I honestly don’t remember, but it was around the same time Hurtsmile started. And we played out all around Boston and the surrounding area. Gary would leave and do Extreme tours and other projects, so we worked around that for about eight years. But then, at a certain point, we took a good ol’ break and we were kind of out of commission for a handful of years. Sometime in 2019, we said let’s try to get this set back up and running and do some shows. We were able to do two shows in January of 2020, and then the pandemic hit, so we ended up taking another year off.
LM: Since this is your first cover band, it must feel completely different to step into somebody else’s catalog. Is it almost a relief? Or, is it more daunting? Maybe a little bit of both?
MC: It’s been interesting and wild. These are songs that we’ve been singing along to, on the radio, in the car, for decades. And then you go to learn the chords and discover surprises like really weird chord changes, and you have to wonder, like, ‘why would he go from here to here??’ But, you have to learn it. I ended up developing an even greater appreciation for Pete’s writing when I had to figure out the chords and pay attention to the arrangements in a new way. A lot of the stuff on the radio is very square—you know, eight measures for this, eight measures for that, eight measures for the other. Pete does these weird nine-measure, ten-measure solo sections, just really odd. We asked each other, ‘should we straighten this out and make it square?’ But we decided to perform the songs as they were written, which has made it more challenging, but it’s helped us with Hurtsmile because we will take more chances with progressive arrangements thanks to learning this material.
LM: How did you go about creating a setlist? I imagine it’s a tough call whether to stick with crowd-pleasers or indulge in deeper cuts that might be more satisfying to you, but maybe not for the audience.
MC: I think we’re such Who fans that we have to kind of ask ourselves, “I love the song, but does everyone else love this song?” except for the most obvious ones. And we do have to stick close to the vest on a majority of the set, so we don’t lose the audience. But we throw in as many deep cuts as we can without being self-indulgent. We decided on a mostly chronological approach. There are a few things out of order, but for the most part, it’s kept chronological, so it shows the band’s musical evolution.
LM: The song “Slip Kid” was originally written as a vague warning about the music business, amongst other things. Was that the context in which you chose the band name?
MC: No, not really. It was an aesthetic choice. It’s the sound of it, the punchiness of it. I don’t think we brought in the lyrical content of that particular song, but we’re aware of the band’s rebellious edge. We don’t even call it a tribute band, we refer to it as ‘A Celebration of The Who.’ We go up there and we try to channel the visceral piss and vinegar of The Who without smashing our instruments, you know? More than imitating or paying tribute, we’re celebrating this incredible catalog of music.
The Vault is located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford, MA. The venue is set within a former bank building featuring original vault doors and a truly historic feel. Patrons have raved about the superior acoustics and intimate setting.
Please note that one MUST BE 21 or OLDER with Valid ID for Entry.
Alan Howarth’s sound designs are ingrained in pop culture.
The sound you hear when the Starship Enterprise appears in the Star Trek films? That’s Howarth. When the little girl calls from within the television set in Poltergeist? Howarth. That musical sense of foreboding that overcomes you when Indiana Jones faces a cobra in Raiders of the Lost Ark? All Howarth.
And if you happened to see jazz fusion pioneers Weather Report in the late 70s, you might recall marveling at co-founder Joe Zawinul’s next-level keyboard setup. That, too, was Howarth’s magic, working as a touring technician to keep Zawinul’s complex array of synths in running order from night to night — no small feat in the pre-digital age.
As an adolescent, Howarth was always more interested in visual art, but music ended up in the driver’s seat. Eventually, he married the two things, creating music to soundtrack images. Nowadays, he’s also drawing sketches of some of the famed movie scenes he’s celebrated for scoring — an unexpected full-circle connection to his creative roots. Howarth will have some of his sketches for attendees to view when he performs a set to kick off the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s 20th Halloween Horror Marathon at 11 p.m. on Saturday, October 30th. Purchase tickets HERE.
“When we were approached about the idea of bringing out Alan Howarth for this event, we jumped at the chance, because it just worked perfectly,” said Mark Anastasio, a.k.a. ‘Midnight Mark,’ Program Manager and Director of Special Programming at Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre for over fifteen years. “And we were thrilled that he was willing to perform as part of this show. People love the scores that he’s created and to hear some of them live with a packed house full of horror fans is going to be quite something. Halloween III: Season of the Witch, [which he scored with John Carpenter], was already locked in as one of the two films we’d be revealing early, so it just made total sense.”
Howarth is best known for his spooky sound signatures at the intersection of sci-fi and horror, but his musical interests began with an accordion found in the attic of his Cleveland-area childhood home. Music became more than just a hobby after a one-off high school gig (playing sax) yielded an $80 payout—big money at that time.
So began a series of serendipitous events that shaped the trajectory of his career. Playing bass in popular Cleveland bands, one of which opened for The Who, eventually led him to Los Angeles. There, an earlier connection to the band Weather Report resulted in attaining the keyboard technician job that put him on the road for several years, beginning in 1976. Four years later, based on his job with Weather Report, an old Ohio friend working at Paramount Pictures recommended Howarth as a knowledgeable ‘synth guy’ for some work on the first Star Trek movie. In the wake of completing that project, Film Editor Todd Ramsay offhandedly put him in touch with John Carpenter, but Howarth was not expecting to become the tech-yin to Carpenter’s creative-yang.
Actually, at that time, Howarth was taking classes on film scoring at UCLA Extension. A lot of guys would’ve probably quit the classes, but for Howarth, working with Carpenter was like a dream internship on steroids.
“John and I are the same age,” Howarth said over the phone from Newport Beach, California. “He’s from Kentucky and I’m originally from Cleveland, so we’ve both experienced life through a Midwestern lens and on a similar timeline. But he’s John Carpenter, right? I mean, he’s a trained musician from his dad, his dad was a concert violinist and also taught music. In our first meeting, he came over to my house and we sat and just talked for about three hours. I showed him some stuff in my little dining room studio, and we were excited. And at the end of that meeting, he goes, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,” and so just like that, I’m now scoring with John Carpenter on Escape From New York. It was my first score! And I had all the gear, but John wasn’t interested in gear. Several times I tried explaining to him how something worked and he’d say ‘Alan, I don’t really want to know about that stuff. That’s your job’.”
In the forty years since, Howarth collaborated with Carpenter on a half dozen more genre classics (Christine, Halloween II, Halloween III, Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness, and They Live) while moving further into his own scoring career (another trio of Halloween films, amongst others).
When he’s not scoring, he’s often called on to create effects or sound designs — mini-themes — for specific moments in films. This is his specialty, taking visual cues and effectively representing them sonically— merging his passion for visual art with his musical abilities and technical chops. As a result, his designs have been featured in everything from National Lampoon’s Class Reunion to Beetlejuice, Phantasm II, and the Back to the Future sequels. Howarth’s team won Academy Awards for their sound effect work on The Hunt for Red October and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
While the tone of his work remains largely ominous (but not solely—more on that later), how he creates it has shifted over time. Like most everyone involved in music production, Howarth has learned to use Digital Audio Workstations (Ableton Live, Garage Band, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, etc.), which have become an industry standard. As a tech-enthusiast, he’s stayed abreast of the changes from the very beginning, and he was even involved in the development of what we now know as “surround sound.” Most of the digital shift, he says, has been positive.
“The editorial aspect of digital is a huge improvement,” he said, explaining that the cut-and-paste nature of digital recording ends up requiring less musical skill, but it makes his job easier. When he and Carpenter did Escape from New York, they couldn’t synchronize the videotape with the audio recorder. Literally, it was just a matter of pushing play on both consoles at the same time, letting them freewheel and the pair would work on the score that way. The other thing Howarth would sometimes do is record the dialogue from the video to one track of his multi-track tape recorder, so he could turn the video off and still know where he was in the movie.
Lately, an appreciation for analog sound is fueling a revival of sorts. Howarth says that the sound of analog synths and analog tape that he and his contemporaries were using forty years ago — emulating avant-garde artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze — has become sought after. As a result, popular software has emerged to recreate those textures. What’s more, he’s now being asked to work on vintage equipment.
“The last two scores I’ve done—one was a movie called Hoax (2019) and the other is Cosmic Dawn, which will be out in the spring—both directors asked me to do what I used to do in the 80s with analog synthesizers,” he said. “So, it was technically somewhat limited, but now it’s a style. Back then, we got the most out of the technology because that’s all we had. Now, with digital, the possibilities are limitless, which can actually make things more difficult. I had lunch with Brian Eno one time and he was talking about producing records for other artists and he said that what he does now is limit the use of technology. Before he starts work on an album, he sets parameters, like real drums only or only analog synths or… anything to make the universe of digital possibilities more finite. He said it provides a sense of direction because the limits of the past have proved to be a good way to go, artistically.”
No doubt, the folks at the Coolidge Corner Theatre would wholeheartedly agree with Eno: they prefer to run 35mm film prints. As a registered NFP for over thirty years, Anastasio says it’s one of the main factors in keeping the venue’s programming unique. But staying true to an analog vision in the digital age comes with challenges.
“The main challenge with that, in this day and age, is the expense,” he said. “Shipping rates across the world have increased. And 35mm prints are heavy. So it’s more expensive than ever to show 35mm, but it’s something we still do here and we do it well so that we’re able to maintain relationships with studios and archives in order to borrow what is becoming increasingly rare. Film on film has become a rarity. But I think a lot of our audience comes out to watch these movies in their original format and they appreciate it.”
Anastasio says the Halloween Horror Marathon is a 100% 35mm program right down to the trailers that will run between films. He explained that a distributor who owns the rights to a film they might want to license won’t necessarily have a 35mm print of the film in stock, forcing the Coolidge to have to go to a private archive or to private collectors — folks that have salvaged these 35mm prints from destruction. That process fetches an additional fee.
For the Marathon, five of the seven films will remain a secret until they’re actually up on the screen. Anastasio also points to the challenging endurance test involved for his projection team, led by Nick Lazarro, formerly of Kaiju Big Battel, and Thomas Welch.
“But it’s also a ton of fun,” he said. “And I do think that there’s something really special for our audience members, to be able to spend an entire night inside of a place that they love so much. This is a way of reminding our audiences that this is their theater. It’s such a beloved community space and they support us by coming to our shows, and by donating. So having a night where they can sleep over and feel as though it’s truly home is special.”
If there’s something that (thankfully!) isn’t particularly challenging for the Coolidge, it’s making sure that patrons have the safest possible environment to enjoy their unique programming.
“We’re not messing around when it comes to the safety of our guests,” Anastasio said, and he’s not kidding. In addition to requiring masks and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within a 72-hour window, he explained that the Coolidge went a step further, upgraded their HVAC with high MERV-rated filters and new, state-of-the-art Continuous Infectious Microbial Reduction (CIMR) Systems technology. In the most basic terms, the CIMR system scrubs the air, “creating charged, ionized compounds of safe, self-regulating ultra-low level hydrogen peroxide,” that kills airborne pathogens. Apparently, it’s the same system used at the Pentagon and the Department of Defense. Additionally, they’re blasting their ventilation ducts with UV light, which also works to kill pathogens. All told, it seems like spending the night at the Coolidge is a safer bet than most hotels.
Anastasio also clarified that the smaller theatres will be open for guests to enter should the big room begin to feel too full.
For his part, after a long period of performing very little, Alan Howarth is excited to bring his stage show to an appreciative group of genre fans, particularly on mischief night and in celebrating 20 years of Halloween marathons at the Coolidge. When he performs live, he creates an amalgam of his most famous scores and sound designs with cleverly edited visual accompaniment from the related movies.
Of his most recent work, a project with Oliver Stone’s son Sean Stone on a politically charged docuseries, The Best Kept Secret, sounds most riveting. Amusingly, Howarth was told to dial back the dark, menacing score he initially provided because it made the series too heavy. In the end, he used lighter tones to set up an interesting contrast, which reveals his other side: there’s more to Howarth than witches, ghosts, and goblins and spaceships.
“I’m really into meditation and spiritual things, and I’ve done two meditation CDs, Paradise Within and Indigo Ra,” he said. “I also collaborated with a jazz buddy of mine named John Novello who has a very famous band called Niacin. That project is called Luna Tech. All of that stuff is up on Youtube, so folks can check it out for free. I want to do more work like that, that’s not all dark and black. These are the sunshine and flowers and beauty projects, y’know?. One of my clients for many years, before the internet, was Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” based in San Diego. “They had an annual video that they would distribute to the donors showing what they were doing each year, and I scored all that stuff… the fish in the reefs, and the oceans and the winds and the climate. I have a whole other part of me and my work that nobody knows about.”
The Coolidge Corner Theatre is located at 290 Harvard Street in Brookline, MA. Tickets for the 20th Annual Horror Marathon with Alan Howarth live can be purchased HERE.
Caped keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman remains an unforgettable pillar of talent within rock’s progressive canon. Most know him from his runs with The Strawbs and Yes, the latter spanning some of the band’s most celebrated material, beginning with 1971’s Fragile.
But what many may not realize is the breadth of his solo career, which boasts worldwide album sales of around 50 million. His first three solo recordings all became gold records in the States. When Wakeman overcame some persistent health problems by sobering up in the mid-80s, a mind-bogglingly prolific work ethic emerged; he’s released multiple full length recordings in most years since. Among them, he’s scored multiple films, sound-tracked video games, and even recorded his own version of Phantom of the Opera. Intermittently, he’s released updated versions of his Yes material, recorded a series of collaborations with his son, Adam, and composed multiple volumes of ambient, ‘relaxation music.” He’s also written three books.
Now, after 18 months of being locked down in the UK, Wakeman returns to the States this fall with “The Even Grumpier Old Rock Star Tour,” a delayed follow-up trek to his sold out ‘Grumpy’ tour in 2019, which brings him to the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, next Tuesday, October 19. [Purchase tickets HERE.]
It’s a grand piano tour that provides an overview of his entire career, highlighting early session work (he played on David Bowie’s “Life On Mars,” for instance, though he apparently declined an offer to join The Spiders From Mars) and his contributions to Yes while surely touching on three recent releases: Piano Portraits (2017), Piano Odyssey (2018), and The Red Planet, (2020).
On the eve of leaving the UK, Wakeman took time out to answer a few questions for us in his inimitable, cheeky manner. He has much to celebrate, having been appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s annual birthday honors. In chivalrous ranking—i.e., The Order of the British Empire—it’s just below knighthood.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE (LM): Lockdown was awful and frightening in many ways, but, for those that managed to avoid illness and jarring financial consequences, it held its own kind of delight… an enforced rest, perhaps. And maybe, for intensely creative people, enforced restlessness. How did you fill your time?
RICK WAKEMAN (RW): I found it terrible. I lost a few friends to the virus and it prevented performing, which is my great love. At 72, the last thing you need is an enforced rest! I wrote a lot, practiced a lot, screamed at the news a lot, and spent time walking with our rescue dogs who are great listeners when you’re constantly moaning about the mess the COVID virus has placed the world in… and I’m sure the dogs agreed!
LM: I imagine the Queen’s CBE honor is flattering. We don’t have anything quite the same over here, but it seems much more prestigious than an award, and it speaks to a lifetime of work rather than a particular recording or event. Can you talk a little about how that feels?
RW: It’s very flattering and genuinely came as a surprise as well. There are four awards given twice a year. Knighthood is the highest honor, then the CBE, then the OBE and finally, the MBE. The CBE is usually given in recognition of the work you’ve done—in my case, music and broadcasting. I’m extremely proud of it. I’m a strong royalist and to have this approved by the Queen means a lot to me. I have had the honor of meeting most of the Royal Family, including the Queen… it’s wonderfully British. I wish my parents could have been alive to have seen this happen, but there’s good reason they are not, since my father would have been 107 and my mother 105!”
LM: Sometime in the 80s, Rolling Stone published a ‘rock encyclopedia’ that pegged you as a beer-swilling, meat-loving foil to Yes’s otherwise uptight vegetarianism. Is that a fairly accurate description? How did it feel to be the guy that walks in with this incredible talent and, sociologically, being the one that turns everything upside down?
RW: I remember that. Written by Cameron Crowe, if I recall correctly. Back then, when I joined on, it was probably accurate. The irony is that apart from Steve [Howe] who is a strict vegan still, the rest of the guys aren’t, and I eat very little meat at all. And whilst the others all drink alcohol, I’ve been teetotal since 1985. So, my, how things turn around!
LM: In contrast to that image, your showcase piece on Fragile, “Cans and Brahms” sounds a bit prim.
RW: We decided that on Fragile, we would all have a solo piece to illustrate what our musical contributions to Yes were. I couldn’t do what I wanted because Yes had extreme publishing restrictions, which meant I had to record a piece that was already out of copyright, so I chose one of the pieces I studied for my A-level music course.
LM: Let’s talk about the capes. You’ve continued wearing capes on stage since the early 70s. By the middle of the decade it almost seemed like some sort of prog-fashion, but what was the original impetus? Were you just having fun, or does it aid your playing in some way?
RW: I bought my first cape from a deejay introducing us on stage in Hartford, Connecticut in 1971. I had previously been described in a review as ‘looking like a demented spider’ with arms and legs stretching out to try and reach keyboards and petals. Seeing the deejay on stage wearing one, I realized it covered up everything, and so I bought it from him. Michael Tate, our lighting man, said afterwards, ‘That’s your answer, but you need a specialist making your capes.’ He them introduced me to a lovely lady in Cleveland who made all the classic capes for me. I still wear them for all the rock shows, but not the piano shows, as it’s really hard to play the piano wearing a cape! I might give it a go again, though.”
LM: The CBE honor comes at time when you’ve recently released a trio of very well received solo recordings and are touring a show that takes a macro view of your whole career. I imagine it’s been a time of reflection, so are there things that you’re most proud of? Is there something that gives you more satisfaction, looking back?
RW: It’s a difficult question that I would probably answer differently on a daily basis. I’ll say this: my first solo album, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, was pivotal for me, as the head of A&M in England hated it. And the initial reviews weren’t good either. But, thankfully, the music loving public did like it and suddenly the record company and later reviewers changed their tune.
LM: Touring in 2021 is a bit different than in the 70s. In some ways it must be a better experience now, but maybe there are some things you miss? What’s your favorite aspect of being on the road nowadays that’s different from the pre-digital age?
RW: It’s very different now… better in some ways and not so much in others. Back then, so much was new. We were playing venues that had never before been used for rock concerts and sound and lights were just developing, so every day was a new adventure. Certainly, the reliability of [digitized] instruments make a huge, positive difference. And, of course, I miss being in my twenties for sure. It’s harder on the road when you’re in your seventies, but that’s mainly traveling and long days. Playing on stage will always be exciting, though, and long may that continue.”
The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, MA. Tickets can be purchased online by clicking HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. Box office hours areThursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and during show times.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has been rough for just about everybody, but folks that work in event-related fundraising have especially been feeling the squeeze. It was enough to make Rockin’ 4 Vets founder Jim Tirabassi reevaluate his sense of purpose.
But in the end, he doubled down: he’s got three music fundraisers to benefit homeless veterans scheduled through early fall.
Just before the late winter lockdown of 2020, Tirabassi was working with friend and Saugus native Dennis Moschella on a project to send ten Vietnam vets on a weekend ‘trip of a lifetime’ to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a.k.a. The Wall, in Washington D.C. The pandemic put the pair’s plans on hold for over a year.
Determined to see it through despite Murphy’s Law-style setbacks galore, Rockin’ 4 Vets finally produced its first gig of 2021 last month, starring John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. Tirabassi walked away knowing the ten vets would get their trip to D.C., but he was also burdened with some new knowledge that helped him get his fundraising groove back.
“During that show, the company that does our ticketing told me a rather disturbing story,” he recalled. “It involved a Vietnam vet who’d become homeless and was living in a shelter, but his wife was unable to reside there and was forced to make other, less-than-healthy decisions about where to live. They’ve since found housing together; not the greatest, but an improvement. But this story was very concerning to me since I’ve had a place to put my head at night and food if I’m hungry, even during the toughest times in my life. Our vets deserve better.”
If there’s one thing Tirabassi’s never short on, it’s talented musicians who are eager to help. The upcoming trio of shows will feature Boston co-founder Barry Goudreau’s band Engine Room (Sept. 25), James Montgomery Band’s 50th Anniversary show (Oct. 2), and revered Beantown ax-man Jon Butcher, with special guest Sal Baglio from the legendary Stompers (Oct. 9). All three shows will be outdoors at the Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus.
“It’s been a privilege having been successful in the music business and being able to continue to write and perform new music,” Goudreau said of his latest project. “It’s also a privilege to be able to do what I can for the veterans who volunteered to serve our country and make it possible for the success I’ve enjoyed. I hope folks come out to these shows to support our veterans and enjoy an afternoon of rockin’ good music in a wonderful setting.”
For Tirabassi, however, getting to this point was a journey unto itself.
“During the 2020 shutdown, I debated the idea, purpose, and overall identification of my organization,” he explained, referring to the newly renamed Rockin’ 4 Vets — formerly V is for Veterans — which he’d founded some years earlier.
“I eventually came to the decision that I needed to identify a more specific set of causes to attempt to assist and to rename the organization to better reflect how, exactly, it raises funds. To that end, the name was changed to Rockin’ 4 Vets since all the events have been live concerts.”
Tirabassi has spent the better part of his adult years moving back and forth from the east coast and warmer locations, feeling the alternating pull of the private job market and his music industry connections, which date back to the 1970s.
“In the late 70s, while in L.A., I did some booking for Steppenwolf, The Grass Roots, and The Guess Who,” he said. “When I got back to Peabody, I started working on the production end of shows — sound, lights, and staging — for local and regional talent. To be honest, it was the kind of life you had to love since there wasn’t much money in it. I’d periodically leave it to take better-paying work and then feel like I was missing out on a hard-to-finger level of excitement. It must’ve come from taking pride in a job well done because I was pretty disconnected from the crowds. It was behind-the-scenes work.”
Tirabassi’s small-time production work eventually landed him bigger touring jobs with Foghat, Badfinger, The Outlaws, and others. The lure of being involved in the staging of live music has never left him, so it makes perfect sense that his fundraising endeavors would be rock’n’roll-related.
It also makes perfect sense that Boston-area blues legend James Montgomery would be involved. Montgomery has often used his music to raise funds throughout his long and storied career, beginning in the Vietnam era. His mother served in the Women’s Army Corps in Europe during World War II, and his father fought in Okinawa. Safe to say, the issues that face veterans returning from duty are at the forefront of his consciousness, and fundraising has been a facet of his music almost from the beginning.
Tirabassi and Montgomery have worked together on various projects since the 70s, and it was from their relationship the ideas behind Tirabassi’s organization initially came alive.
Joining Montgomery for his 50th Anniversary celebration on Oct. 2 will be gritty soul shouter Barrance Whitfield and former U.S. Senator/Ambassador Scott Brown on guitar.
“It’s always an honor to play with James Montgomery and his All-Stars,” Brown enthused. “I’ve been a fan for decades. I’m even more impressed with the amazing philanthropic work James does for our veterans. I encourage you all to come out to a great concert for a great cause. Come out and make a difference!”
Tickets for all shows are $35.00 in advance and $40.00 at the door, available individually or at a discount for a series package. They will also be offering VIP packages. For more details, click HERE.
100% of all profits from this series will go to area veterans organizations in the area dealing with the vets homeless crisis.
These are outdoor concerts. Gates will open at 1:00 PM, and music starts at 2:00 PM.
Some folks get involved in music to try and get famous. Real musicians, however, are motivated by the craft.
John Cafferty is of the latter variety. He formed the Beaver Brown Band in 1972, cutting his teeth in barrooms along the East Coast for a decade before his brush with the big fame machine came along. It was an offer to record the soundtrack for the movie Eddie & the Cruisers (1983), and it certainly boosted his profile.
Curiously, neither the film nor the soundtrack did all that well upon initial release, but subsequent airings on HBO rejuvenated interest and sent the album up the charts. It went on to sell over four million copies, and the ensuing string of hit singles, including “Tender Years,” “C-I-T-Y,” and “On the Dark Side,” has helped keep him and his band on the road ever since.
But it’s the sense of purpose he derives from making music that got him started. And, fifty years on, it’s what keeps him going.
Case in point? A fundraiser he’s playing on Saturday, August 14. It’s an outdoor show at the Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus, Mass., and it benefits an organization called Rockin’ 4 Vets, formed in 2015 to assist veterans dealing with PTSD and substance abuse through live music events. Cafferty has appeared at a half dozen of these events, both by himself and with the band. The show on the 14th is of the latter variety, featuring sax player Michael Antunes, who turns 81 the week prior.
“We like to get involved in doing things that help to make peoples’ lives better,” Cafferty said during a recent call from his Rhode Island home. “Music is a giving thing. When I go see someone play, and they’re delivering the right way, it lifts my heart up and makes me feel better… always has. And I have that ability to do that for other people, so do my friends, and it’s a gift. So, when asked to pitch in, we have a tendency to say yes.”
Cafferty says he originally met Rockin’ 4 Vets founder Jim Tirabassi through bluesman James Montgomery, a mutual friend who helped Tirabassi, who used to do larger shows with artists like Foghat, The Outlaws, and Badfinger, start his organization. As a disabled vet with a passion for organizing events, Tirabassi launched Rockin’ 4 Vets to see if he could deliver a better return to the non-profits of his choosing.
“This is the very beginning of the first foray into doing live shows again,” Tirabassi said over the phone. “I’m also on the Board of Veterans Assisting Veterans (VAV), and they’re doing a unique thing, bringing a dozen vets down to the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Wall in D.C. this September. We started this project a year and a half ago but had to halt it because of COVID, so it’s a long time in coming. This concert fundraiser is one of the final parts of putting this trip to D.C. together for these guys.”
This show is one of Cafferty’s first since the lifting of COVID-related restrictions on large gatherings. A tour itinerary is coming together that will keep him and the Beaver Brown Band busy well into next year, assuming the mounting threat of viral variants doesn’t shutter venue doors once more.
“Our schedule just started,” he said. “We did a couple of spring shows in New Orleans, private ones, not open to the public. But we just started playing to crowds this past weekend at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. We had a year and a half off. But we huddled up together when we could, safely, and continued on making music and writing songs. I felt pretty safe when we played this past weekend, but I tried not to extend myself unnecessarily. I believe in the vaccines.”
Tirabassi is erring on the side of caution.
“Anything we’re planning right now will be outdoors,” he explained. “I know folks want to get back to indoor shows, and I understand that, but I think it’s wise to avoid that right now. I will certainly have masks available at this show so that people can feel as comfortable as possible.”
Cafferty isn’t looking ‘on the dark side’ with regard to the pandemic. Instead, he’s focused on the good it brought out in some of us.
“This was an unimaginable situation we’ve been through,” he said. “If someone told you the week before that it was gonna happen, you wouldn’t have believed it. And then it did. But the world and the individuals in it found a resilience they didn’t know they had. When things were dark, people stood up and helped one another, protected one another… people were willing to put themselves on the line. Look at these essential workers — talk about heroes!”
“With these veteran events we do that Jim puts together, we’re also honoring and celebrating heroes, people who put themselves on the line. That’s who the vets are, putting themselves out there for the sake of everyone else, and they deserve everything we can give them.”
John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band will perform as part of a Rockin’ For Vets fundraiser event at Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus, Mass., on Saturday, August 14, from 1 to 5 PM. Click HERE to purchase tickets.
True innovators don’t often realize they’re marking new territory until after the fact.
When composer/musician Harry Manfredini got the job to score Friday the 13th, which is celebrating its 40th-anniversary this year, he already had a few notches in his professional belt, but he was mainly just trying to keep working.
“It was about putting food on the table,” he said recently, over the phone from his home in Valencia, California. “I knew I was going to get paid, and, at the time, that was enough for me. Nobody involved had any idea what we were onto. It wasn’t until we actually screened it and saw the audience’s reaction that we realized we had lightning in a bottle.”
Manfredini went on to score most of the Friday film franchise alongside a lengthy list of other projects. However, there was a time in his life when film scoring was more of a fantasy than anything else. As a classically trained musician playing sax in jazz clubs and earning a doctorate in Music Theory at Columbia University, he wasn’t at all sure what direction his career would take. A fellow Columbia student that was producing records on the side helped point him in the right direction.
It began slowly with a shoe commercial and assisting with some demos. That led to working with Arlon Ober (Robotech, DeepStar Six) on the score for a controversial art-porn film released in 1976, Through the Looking Glass, directed by Joseph Middleton. Scoring music for porn might not seem like an auspicious break for a classically trained guy holding a doctorate, but Throughthe Looking Glass doesn’t sound anything much like the blaxploitation-toned soundtracks that characterize skin flicks from that era.
“Middleton told us he wanted a really classy, orchestral score,” he recalled. “It was wall-to-wall music forever – scored like a real film, very unusual. I’ve only seen the parts of it that I composed the music for, but it’s supposedly a well-regarded, experimental film for that genre.”
And as if to balance out Through the Looking Glass, Manfredini and Ober also scored two short films during that same time frame that went on to win Academy Awards, The End of the Game and Angeland Big Joe. Sometimes versatility is your best asset at the beginning of a career.
“One of the things you learn in the land of low budget and small films, especially back then in New York, is that with each one you work on, you’ll know some of the people on the next assignment,” he explained. “The small budget family is very small and very close, and we were all out there helping each other. “
When Ober left for California, Manfredini worried the phone might stop ringing, but the Academy Award wins opened some doors. It wasn’t long before someone introduced him to Sean S. Cunningham, producer and director of Friday the 13th.
“Given my background, I understand a lot of contemporary avant-garde music. But one of the things you learn about scoring films is how different the composition is from other modes of writing. You’re ninety percent dramatist ─ sometimes you write just one note, and it works. Your obligation is to the film, not to show off your chops or how complex your understanding of composition can be.”
Though he initially wondered who, if anyone, would go to see the film, Manfredini brought musical personality to the soundtrack of Friday the 13th by making his score come to life as a character. ‘Leitmotif’ is a compositional term mainly used in opera that denotes a recurrent passage of music associated with a specific person. In this case, he bent that musical tool to indicate the presence of someone we can’t see. It was an unusual twist for a slasher film.
“I told Sean that because we don’t see the killer until the ninth reel, we needed to somehow introduce them in reel one,” he said. “I suggested that we only have music when the camera is from the viewpoint of the killer, making it immediately indicative that we’re now seeing with their eyes. So, the score became a character, in that sense, and I think that’s a large part of what makes the music stand out so much.”
And stand out it certainly does, particularly with the chilling “Ki-ki-ki-ki…” and “Ma-ma-ma-ma…” chants (recordings of his own voice saying the words ‘killer’ and ‘mommy’ processed through some filters) and the orchestral swells that frame the boat scene toward the movie’s end.
“The chanting is scary because it’s a human sound,” he noted. “For the boat scene, it was my job to make the audience think the movie is over, and the editors stretched that damn thing out as far as they possibly could. I couldn’t imagine what the hell I was going to write to make that work.”
In the end, he chose to retool a country song he’d written for the diner scene from earlier on in the movie. The second version of the song bears little resemblance to its jaunty former self, presented as an orchestral piece with keyboards, light drumming, and a substantial ‘flange’ effect. It projects what one might call a ‘mournfully triumphant,’ tone, leading the viewer down a path of resolution and effectively indicating that the story is ending ─ but there’s just a hint of menacing undercurrent. Folks that are familiar with the film know why.
It would appear that, despite the unlucky associations with the calendar day itself, Friday the 13th is the gift that keeps on giving.
With a no-name cast (Kevin Bacon’s career was barely underway, leaving Betsy Palmer as the sole recognizable star) and a meager budget of $550,000, Friday the 13th still grossed nearly $60 million at the box office when it debuted in 1980. Now considered a classic, it’s been franchised, novelized, incorporated into comic books, and made into a video game. Manfredini, now 77, says producing music for the game was particularly challenging, given that the music continually shifts for each person playing (up to 8 simultaneous players) depending on the path they take.
About 15 years ago, Manfredini got clued into a fun world of fandom he previously didn’t know existed when he attended the movie’s 25th-anniversary screening in Los Angeles. Encouraged by Friday cast members ─ folks he’d never met before because the composer is usually the last person to work on a film ─ he discovered an audience, thriving at conventions throughout the country, that’s familiar with his work and wants his autograph. He’s since become a regular at these events.
He’s also enjoyed a resurgence of interest in his scores through the vinyl revival. Horror-centric indie label Waxwork Records has pressed the original soundtrack twice, and it has completely sold out both times. In fact, all but three out of eight Manfredini releases the label has issued have sold out. He says he’s thrilled on multiple levels.
“It’s incredibly gratifying and monetarily tasty, too. What’s really cool is that we went to Paramount and got the original tracks specifically for the Friday stuff, and then they were remastered by James Nelson for the 6 CD box set that came out on La-La Land Records. I called him up and he asked me what I’d like to do, so I told him ‘more low end, more high end, and clean up the middle,’ because sometimes the mid-range can get plugged up. He added some reverb, and when I heard the results, it was like night and day! I’m very grateful to him for helping my work sound so good. For the vinyl releases, Kevin Bergeron at Waxworks remastered the tracks specifically for vinyl, which requires a different process, working off of the great sounding transfers that James Nelson had already done. They’re unbelievably good.”
Recently, at the request of an orchestra in Spain, he’s reworked the Friday the 13th score into an orchestral suite, which then got performed by a group at MIT (a YouTube video exists). To continue fostering the trend, he’s also remade DeepStarSix into an orchestral suite and is currently developing Suite from Swamp Thing. Additionally, Austin-based film composer Brian Satterwhite has interviewed him extensively for an upcoming book about the music of Friday the 13th.
According to IMDB, Manfredini also has many new scoring projects on the horizon, and, looking at the long list of contributions to his credit, he’s remained consistently busy. Curiously, he says he’s not a big fan of horror as a genre because much of it involves gratuitous killing and torture. He sees Friday the 13th as a murder mystery.
“Friday the 13th knew what it was, it knew what it was going to be, and it didn’t try to be anything else. The cast looked like a bunch of regular people, not models, and you briefly got to know each one of them. It knew exactly what it was, and for what it was, it was very good.”
[PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Harry Manfredini & Fred Mollin’s score to Friday the 13thPart VII: New Blood was recently released on CD through La-La Land Records. Copies of the CD signed by Manfredini are currently available for pre-order at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA, by clicking HERE. Please support small businesses during these difficult times.)
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