Sunday, February 24, 2008

Day fifty three...Priorites.

So, we have a demo.

We have a glossy photo. And we all look bad ass.

But I never told you how that photo came to be.

Allow me if I may...

Atria had landed a gig. It was to be at the Bank Street Armory in (you guessed it) downtown Fall River. My Aunt, Lynda, had secured it for us. She didn't become our de facto manager until the end of 85, but she did help us quite a bit before then. She had contacted the Fall River Herald News and worked her magic in the press office. They agreed that Atria deserved a mention, and set up the photo shoot for the listing that would appear in the weekend section.

That's the short story.

This one's just as accurate but a bit more fun to tell.

The Bank Street Armory show wasn't our first gig, but it was our first conflict of interest.

You see, Deano (that's what I called Dean) was a music lover just like the rest of us. And in 1985 there was an amazing music explosion going on due to MTV. At the time, MTV was the greatest thing to happen to music since a gut string had been stretched over a flat surface and plucked.

My family didn't have cable until '87 or so. Until then, we watched something called V66.

V66 was a maverick among television stations. First off, it was predominantly a music video station. This was unthinkable on "regular" television. MTV was the only game in town for 3 years or so.

If I wanted to watch MTV, I had two choices. I could either walk down the street to the Thomas Chew Memorial Boys club and sit with the other mesmerized kids in front of the big screen. Or I could walk a block down Johnson St. (named for my Great Grandfather) to my Grandpa's printing shop.

My Grandfather's name was Alex, but in the barber shop he was known as Alley; as in alley cat.

He was an amazing individual who passed away many years ago at the respectable age of 86. He was a powerful public speaker who had risen to the upper eschelon in the Kiwanis association. When he spoke you could not look away for fear you might miss a raised eyebrow that would send shivers through the room.

And funny? I could write for hours about how funny my Gramps was. I'll just drop this example.

He printed up buisiness cards that said: "My name is Alex Johnson. I am a very important Catholic. In case of emergency, please call a Bishop."

Like I said, funny guy; found a way to make his work more like fun.

Nobody made 'em laugh like Alley. I've been stealing his bit for 37 years.

He had operated his print shop since the thirties. It was the first of its kind in town.

President Kennedy-excuse me-President John F. Kennedy, had solicited my Granfather's services to print up business cards when he was making a run for state rep in 1947. I can only imagine who could possibly have one of those now, but I'm sure the box they came in had my Grandfather's name and address prominently stamped on it. He was always proud of that brush with untold greatness.

So, as I was saying, if I wanted to watch the curiously evolving cable music channel, I'd have to go over to the shop and wait until he fell asleep and begin to audibly snore. When that happened, I'd turn down the volume ever so slightly (with a Scientific Atlanta remote, no less), and I'd press in those magic numbers:


"Scrrrrch pop!"

"...You, hear it...Chunka-chunka-chunka-chunka-...first."

I'd usually get to watch for 15 minutes or so before Gramps woke up. As the snore sounds from his throat became more and more staccato, I'd have to quickly push those buttons with my little Jimmy Dean sausage fingers, being careful not to drop the expensive and important device onto the dark, hardwood floorboards. I'd carefully return the ancient-albeit massive and majestic-Sylvania back to the news channel.

"Scrrrch pop!"..."President Reagan blah, blah, blah...."

Always something about Reagan.

After a while, I'd give him a big hug and kiss his perpetually sandpaper-like stubbled cheek and head back out into the sunlight.

"Tell your Mom and Aunty that I love 'em..." he would invariably say, and I would do as instructed. I was a good boy.

But I digress. It's what I do.

Back to the music...

I'd go back to my house, dial in V66, and sit and watch the music videos and play my Aria Pro 2 electric guitar. It had a "thru-the-body neck" that I'd point out to anyone who'd listen.

There was a song called "All You Zombies", from the album Nervous Night by a hot new band called The Hooters. It was a favorite video of mine. Dark and mysterious, with a strange melodica sound mixed louder than the guitars. It was a novel idea in a time of untested musical boundaries.

Deano loved The Hooters too. And he bought two tickets to a show at the Providence Civic Center that was slated for Friday, June 28th 1985.

My Aunt had worked hard to get us our first high profile show. She was a highly regarded teacher at the time and knew some people in the recreation department. They were looking to hire some entertainment for the Community Development Recreation Program's summer music series. It was at the Bank Street Armory smack dab in the middle of downtown. They had one date open. It was a Friday night in June and she grabbed it.

Dean was furious when he heard the news.

"But I have tickets! I've had them for months. It's the freakin' Hooters! I'm supposed to go with T____"

T____ was the girl he would always love regardless of the fact that she called him Deano and play-punched him on the arm when he'd get too close.

"They'll play there again Dean." I said, "this is an important gig. It our first big show. My Aunt worked her ass off to get us this gig and I refuse to let her down."

"Mrrrrgggg... grumble grumble grumble ... mrrrrgggghhhh...all right Alex, I'll give my ticket to my sister."

And so he did. And we played the show. And we had to lug all of our cheap, heavy gear up 3 flights of stairs into a gigantic room as boomy as an airplane hangar.

And it sounded even boomier because there was only 7 people there; three if you didn't count our relatives.

Deano always resented me for making him play that gig. And he had to hear from his sister how much fun she and T____ had that Friday night. He had to watch T____ wear the way too small tour shirt that he would have bought for her if he had had the night off. He would have gotten her the correct size though; a size that was respectable to wear out on a date.

Here's that glossy press photo from the Herald News again that came out on Thursday, June 27, 1985.The caption below it says, in bold letters: "Rock Band To Perform."

If you go back and look at that press photo, you can see the rock star glare from me, Bob, and Dave. We look like we're saying, "Come on out and we'll rock your socks off. We're Atria and we've got a big show to play."

If you look at our bass player it seems as if he's shrugging his shoulders and saying ,

"This wasn't my idea. I have tickets to a show..."

"...I've had them for months..."

Thanks for reading.


Now how about another song from Fall River's finest. From the unreleased album "The Legend of Atria"

This one is sung by the youngest member of the band. His name is Alex and he hopes you enjoy this special treat.

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Al, I just got caught up and have to say keep it coming, el capitan. You're firing on so many cylinders so well it's hard to narrow down a response. The images and sound files are obviously a Smithsonian bonus, and taking us along through songs simultaneously on a technical and inner monologue level was a highlight for this philistine.

On another note, in that same era before the widespread use of the Walkman, I used to wander the sidewalks of Brockton cradling twelve-odd pounds of boom box and D batteries, blaring Nervous Night, The Hurting, and other heavy-hitting classics of the day. So I can understand if Dean never quite forgave you for getting between a man and his Hooters.

Johnny J