THE DEL-LORDS WINTER 2013
PT. 1 OLD WORLDIN’ IT –
PT.2 A WORLD WITHOUT LOU
Ok, the sneezing (mine) and coughing (mine) and yes, the whining (also mine), has stopped. My wife is still battling the cold she surely caught from me, but now she too is on the upswing. Two weeks ago tonight, I landed at LAX a mere twenty-six hours since leaving our hotel in Malmo, Sweden. Three planes, each one taking off on time had finally brought me to the tarmac in Los Angeles. We were comfortably and casually taxiing to our gate, and in another twenty minutes or so, I would be seeing Sharon and Sally. It was at that point, with the plane coming to a dead stop, the pilot got on the horn and told us there was good news and bad news. Uh, wha??? NO FUCKING WAY was my calm, cool, collected reaction. NOW, all these many hours and planes later, about one hundred coughs and sniffles later, when I am already on solid ground, NOW you have good news and BAD news??!!? Yes, Sharon, Sally, and I would all have to wait a bit longer for my return.
It seems there had been a “security breach” at LAX and a few terminals had to be evacuated. Some planes had to be diverted to other airports. Luckily ours did not (and that, by the way, constituted the full extent of the pilot’s “good news”). Turned out there had been a car accident at the airport, the sound of which had been mistaken for gunfire. Uh, wha?? Now, I am from the Bronx, lived in the East Village in the 80s, so I know the difference between the sound of gunfire and a car crash. But, all it takes is one panicked phone call, you see, and there you have your evacuations and my delayed return. But, the pilot did keep us up to the minute, and one hour later, I was at Baggage Claim, and then finally into the arms of my wife and the target of many many puppy kisses for Daddy.
A week and a half later and I was no longer sick. Sharon, on the other hand, is still not quite 100%. But, as for the trip itself, it was extremely successful. There wasn’t one show where the band was not great top to bottom, where the audiences were not deliriously enthusiastic, and the promoter not duly impressed. Some shows could have been better attended, but those were a small blip on a very large and most rockin’ screen. All this in the face of a classic traveling illness (cold/flu) that made its way all the way around the van, finishing with Eric, who had started the merry-go-round with a cold a few weeks before we left for Europe. The tour ended with him barely able to utter a single word for the last two shows. Yet, even those two shows went spectacularly well, maybe even the best of the tour.
But, I digress before I begin. We started in England, landing at Heathrow on the morning of October 25th. There we were met by the aptly named Big Mike (Allen being his actual surname), were introduced to our home for the next thirty days, a nice size, rather comfy (especially for Europe) large van with room for everyone to spread out. We then hit (the wrong side of ) the road to pick up the backline: a drum set, courtesy of Big Mike (a drummer himself), a bass amp courtesy of a pal of Mike’s and a loan of two Dr.Z 18-watt beauties thanks to John Priest of Peach Guitars.
Next stop, a hotel somewhere along the way to Newcastle (home of The Animals), and our first show the following day. In Newcastle, we were greeted with a full house, and a successful test run of the gear. But, that was just the beginning. The audience really knew our catalog, with different songs getting cheers of recognition throughout the show. That first night could not have gone better. It felt great to get one under our belt, and extra special because the show had gone down so well.
The second night was Leiceister, and the shocking and awful news of the passing of a great friend of our band, a personal musical hero and inspiration to me, as well as my old NYC neighbor, Lou Reed. The show in Leiceister was very emotional, and very well received, as we wheeled out I’M WAITING FOR THE MAN for the first time in nearly thirty years in tribute to Lou. More on Lou later.
Next would be Spain for a dozen shows before we hit Germany for our first time as a band, then finally, onto Sweden. Twenty-two shows in all, with but one day off. Yes, just one. In case you’re wondering, a five, six, seven or more hour drive in the van DOES NOT qualify as a day off. Small wonder we all got sick and then passed it around and around (as Chuck Berry said) for the entire final two weeks.
The shows went pretty much like so: We played most of ELVIS CLUB, lots of stuff from the catalog, and a few covers – the most poignant of which was I’M WAITING FOR THE MAN, from the first Velvet Underground record. We used to play it back in the 80s, but this was different.
After the first two shows, in England, yes, it was off to Spain, where the band had always done exceptionally well. This also holds true for The Dictators, so I have a long standing, and frequently renewing, history with the rock’n’roll audiences in Espana – probably the most enthusiastic and passionate audiences in the world.
The trip to Spain from England is a long one, so it required two travel days and two (no show) nights in France. I can’t remember where we stayed the first night in France, but the second night was in Toulouse, where we had a great hotel, a great cous cous dinner, and not much else to tell.
There were, as I say, about a dozen shows to play in Spain, all with The Western Sizzlers from Atlanta in support. A true blue Southern rock’n’roll band, somewhat in the mold of The Georgia Satellites, and including ex-Satellite, Rick Richards and fifth-Satellite, Kevin Jennings in his debut as a frontman, they played a decidedly un-hyphenated guitar heavy r’n’r set each night. Nice guys, too.
The Spanish leg would also take us back to Gijon for the first time since 1989, where it was our very first Spanish gig, as well as to Del-Lords strongholds like Madrid, Bilbao (up in the Basque Country), and finally a sold-out, manic show in Barcelona, a town which had taken us longer than most to finally crack. In a continent where most shows are extremely sweaty affairs, the Barcelona show stands out as one where even the outside of my leather belt was soaked through.
Backtracking a bit, though, the trip to Spain took us through the Pyrnees Mountains, a first for us, too. Eric filled us in on the ins and outs of this awesome mountain range as regards the Tour De France. Eric is a serious cyclist, and trying to imagine taking these mountains on a bike was impossible to really get my (non-cyclist) head around – let alone as part of a race!
I also found an anniversary present for Sharon in a little shop in the foothills of the Spanish side of the mountains. Ya see, I was gonna be missing our second wedding anniversary while on tour, and I wanted to have something for her when I arrived back in the USA. A good husband I am.
We hit the ground running in Monzon and Zaragoza, two towns in which we had never played, and both shows went great. While the set list was already sturdy, there was still some tinkering to be done as the tour would progress.
A few nights later we were on a festival bill in Jerez, a seaside town west of Gibraltar. We were way down south. The Dictators NYC, the incarnation of the Dictators that has taken over where the original configuration of the band left off, were also on the bill.
I had not played a note with Richard, Ross and JP in five years, and there was a distinct possibility that streak was to going to come to an end that night. After our set, which went great yet again, I waited around and for the first time ever, I got to watch the Dictators (NYC or not) as an audience member. I gotta say, they were fucking fantastic. They sounded terrific, as Ross was still just incredible (obviously), JP was solid as a rock, and Richard was singing better than ever, and just a completely captivating performer. None of this was any surprise, but to be confronted by the fact of it rather than just the idea of it was amazing. I was so proud, as Daniel Ray, and Dean Rispler did a bang-up job taking my and Andy’s old spots. They were fun, ferocious, and thrilling.
After their set, I did indeed join them for an encore of SLOW DEATH, the great Flamin’ Groovies tune we had been playing since the 70s, and even recorded for BLOODBROTHERS. It was a lot of fun to be sure, but it was also very emotional for me. That part surprised me.
To be onstage with Ross, doing the thing we had done together for nearly forty years was emotionally overwhelming. To lock in with JP once again, as we kept that locomotive on the tracks for every hairpin turn and straightaway was also very moving. And, to be alongside my great friend of half a century, HDM, one more time was probably the most special moment of the whole thing for me. I went back to the hotel that night with my head spinning, and reliving every second of the fifteen or so minutes I was up there with them. A truly unforgettable experience for all of us, I think. I think the audience even appreciated it. That too surprised me. I am not feigning false modesty here but I would have thought that outside of the hardcore fans (maybe 20% of the band’s audience, at the most) would have any idea I was ever even in the band. I mean, I know they know Richard and Ross, but I thought I was more “the other guitar player” to most of the band’s audience. But, if that night was any indication, they did know me, and did seem really glad I was there that night. That feels good, too.
Back to the clubs. The hardest thing about playing in clubs in Spain, besides set time usually being well after midnight, even on a weekday, is that nearly every “rock” club transforms into a disco each night as soon as the Rock is through. This changeover happens with the speed of a panic-stricken, run for your lives, fire drill, and is a most annoying and obnoxious nightly event. In Madrid, the DJs were being extra careless moving our stuff, and it came a little too close to physical violence, as we were very angry at our gear being mishandled, and with so little regard for its value. I thought I would have to pull Eric out of there before the cops came, when I saw him waving a big piece of metal at a couple of cowering DJs. But, they were smart enough to back off, and their skulls were saved, and no one went to jail. And, in the final tally, this show, too, was a resounding success. But, I do fucking hate the late night disco transformation in oh so many ways.
I understand Spain is having a very difficult time, living with 27% unemployment – guess that austerity thing didn’t work out so well there either – so I am sympathetic to the clubs needing to augment their take by needing to get a completely different crowd in there, paying a second admission, even as they chase out the paying customers who had been there all night long, but a little courtesy, too, goes a long way – and we are not the right guys to fuck with in such a destructive and rude way. The same goes double for our gear.
As for our set, we messed with the set list here and there, and after a few shows a nice sequence of songs fell into place. There were some songs that worked best in certain spots, and some that were great anyplace we stuck ‘em. There were also several nights when we played two shorter sets rather than the one 90 minute one. I enjoyed the two set nights, as it gave me more of an opportunity to talk with the audiences, get a feel for them, ask them who might just be a Facebook friend of mine (lots, evidently), and talk about the songs a bit. The pace of the two set night is less hectic, less dependent on building a certain momentum, and maintaining it. Each song can stand as its own showpiece. The 90-minute set feels like the BIG concert vibe, with the need to really keep it all motoring along. Personally, I like both the short and the long sets, and am glad to switch them around.
This time around, Eric’s re-arrangement of JUDAS KISS was a nightly highlight, and we are trying to get a good live recording of it for release. Some great built-in dynamics, and by far the most dramatic version of the song we’ve ever played. Our arrangement of I’M WAITING FOR THE MAN is another of which we would like to grab a live recording. Some old favorites like I PLAY THE DRUMS, GET TOUGH, CHEYENNE, & HOW CAN A POOR MAN STAND SUCH TIMES AND LIVE? all still work.
From ELVIS CLUB, WHEN THE DRUGS KICK IN, FLYING & ME AND THE LORD BLUES are all going over exceptionally well, and I’m a little surprised at how many people have heard WHEN THE DRUGS KICK IN, but there is a definite sense of recognition every time we introduce it. Each night, the final song of the final encore was SOUTHERN PACIFIC, a Neil Young song we had been doing since the earliest days of the band, and we had finally committed to vinyl (so to speak) for ELVIS CLUB. It’s like our MY GENERATION without all the busted gear. There is a definite sense of finality to it, and during it a borderline rock’n’roll chaos that takes off for Mars until it just vanishes from view.
The last Spanish show was the great one in Barcelona, and that was followed the very next day by what would prove to be our only day off in the thirty days we were gonna be in Europe. Yes, one day off outta thirty (as I believe I have already mentioned)!! I went to sleep in Barcelona, woke up in Barcelona, and went to sleep again that night in Barcelona! It felt good, brothers and sisters, it felt good!
My friend, Laurent Pardo, was in town visiting his girlfriend, Anna. I know Laurent because he plays bass with the awesome Normandy All Stars, whom I know from the two tours I did with Elliott Murphy, as they were his band – and an amazing band they are. All great players, singers, and rock’n’roll brothers; Laurent on bass, Alain on drums, and Olivier on guitar. Laurent and Anna, and I went to the Gaudi Cathedral, the Sagrada Family, and although the long lines prevented us from seeing the inside, the outside alone was awesome and a total engineering miracle. There was a paella lunch, then goodbyes. It was about 3pm and I was ready for bed, and not much else.
Monday morning, back in the van and off to Germany. Hannover, at the Blues Garage was the first stop, and unfortunately, the most poorly attended gig of the tour – a Monday night that brought out maybe 100 people. But, we did stay at the rather incredible Motel California – a Rock’n’Roll establishment, with the excellent Henry Gellrich, proprietor, complete with a John Lee Hooker Room, A British Blues Room, and Classic Rock Room (which was where I laid my weary head), and so on. Every room different, decorated in some rock’n’roll way, every room super comfortable, clean, cared for, and a real respite from the real world. Check out their FB page so that you can verify what I am saying, and that I am not now, nor was I then, tripping.
As the tour progressed, the band got sharper with each show. Steve started great and only got better as we went along. One thing of which we did not have the luxury was leisurely sound checks. With Steve still relatively new to the fold, and with five Del-Lords albums to learn, we were still hoping to continually add songs to the set, and getting that accomplished took longer than we hoped it would. We did add EVERYDAY, from ELVIS CLUB, a song I wrote with Dion for what was then a green-lighted biopic about him written and to be directed by Chazz Palminteri.
EVERYDAY was written for the scene where the fateful Winter Dance Party reaches Clear Lake, Iowa. It was early morning, at the hotel, in the lobby as everyone arrived, that the news was on TV about the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens, along with the pilot, and was first being reported. Buddy had given Dion his guitar to take with him to the next town, and upon hearing the news and going to his room in a state of shock and grief, that Dion pulls out Buddy’s guitar (a lot of poetic license enters the scene now) and tries to remember that new song Buddy had played the night before. It was called EVERYDAY, and Dion, while trying unsuccessfully to reconstruct the song in his head, comes out with this song instead.
It is a simple song of friendship and written without any irony, sarcasm, or any other literary device other than pure emotional honesty and brotherly love. It was great to add it to the set, and Steve sang the hell out of it each time.
We also added DAMAGED, but now with Frank taking the lead vocal. It seems I had written a song in which the rhythm guitar pattern was very much at odds with the cadence of the vocal. I could never get it to sound exactly right, so Frank volunteered, and he did a great job with it, too.
We added SHAME ON YOU, from FRONTIER DAYS, with Eric taking the lead vocal, as he had back when we recorded it. It features a lyric Eric really related to back when it was a brand new song, and it instantly became, and remains, his song. One night we actually played, with Eric leading us through, DOWN BY THE RIVER, and even LIKE A HURRICANE. We are a band full of major Neil fans. This was a catch it while you can, unscripted, flying by the seat of our pants, occurrence, and it worked out well.
The rest of the German shows went well, with great crowds, and folks coming from all over the continent to see this band (us) they had known about for thirty years, but had never seen. Nor did they think they would ever get to see them (us). Night after night, I would meet people who had driven hundreds of miles, or flown, or who had made a weeklong vacation out of catching a couple of Del-Lords shows, and so on. So, despite fighting a lousy and untimely cold, and feeling worse each day, it was never hard to break through that awful feeling to find inspiration and the energy necessary to give these folks the best show we possibly could, to sing and play the best we could. I am proud to say we did not dog even one minute. We left nothing in the dressing room, and nothing on the stage.
The last two shows, in St. Gertrude in Malmo, Sweden, having sold out in advance, found us at our weakest physical state of the entire trip. I was sick, Eric could barely utter a word, Steve had been fighting a flu with varying success, and Frank was fighting one himself. I have to admit that when I had lunch with Eric that afternoon, between his condition and mine, I was seriously concerned whether or not we would be able to play the show. We were not happy.
You see, I have one rule that I live by, and that is: WE CAN NEVER DO A BAD SHOW! That is the one absolute for me. We can never afford to do even one bad show. We start with that and work backwards from there.
(We had to move our London show because the logistics kept mounting against us, almost daily, with the show a few days away, and all the little pieces coming undone – due to no fault of our own. But, fault is an insignificant matter in those moments. There is only the show, and the axiom. It became painfully obvious, with less than a week to go, that the London show would just not be doable, that the chances were better than not that we would NOT be able to do a good show. With no way to get our hands on the throttle of that runaway train, being a thousand miles away, and nowhere to turn, we agreed with the club to re-schedule the show for a time when less than everything was working dead against us – and, we could live up to our own professional and personal code of honor, respect for our music and for ourselves, and for our audience. For everyone who had planned on being there, we will be there sooner rather than later, and we will keep you all informed.)
In the meantime, in Malmo, somehow we all rallied. Eric powered through, I powered through, Frank held up his end, as did Steve, and we ended up playing what was perhaps the best show of the entire tour. The audience was practically levitating. We did what he had to do, and we played for nearly two straight hours before the whole thing came careening to a halt, the last notes and feedback of SOUTHERN PACIFIC fading into the past, everyone now ready to have one little night cap, and then to bed.
For us, it was the last night we would fall asleep on European soil this year, and in a few hours, catch the first of two (three for me), flights back home. All in all, it was a magical year for us. Being back together, making a record that has been so very well received, and getting out on the road, have made 2013 one for the books. Thanx to Rich Nesin, my old pal, my bro, for all the love and hard work in service of the cause. Thanx to the newly wed Gary Borress, without whom a great record would have gone unheard, and who always had an idea when such things were scarce, and a lantern when the road turned dark at night. Thank you guys, we could not have done it without you. Thanx to the wives, girlfriends, pals, who put up with us. Thank you to the fans without whom those gigs would have been mighty lonesome affairs. A special thank you to Sharon without whom there might have been a record but it is doubtful I would have been able to be a part of it – and I would have hated to miss that! Love you, baby!
A WORLD WITHOUT LOU REED
(a little personal remembrance)
I just want to add a short remembrance of Lou Reed. I was going to just add it into the rest of the tour report, but it didn’t feel like enough to me. Lou was so special, so central to who I am as a musician and writer, as well as having been a great friend to our band, that I wanted to try and just speak from the heart and give Lou a proper send-off from The Del-Lords.
WE GET THE NEWS
It was at the second show, Leiceister, England, that the club owner, upon our arrival, informed us that Lou Reed had passed away. It felt like we ran into a brick wall. We had toured with Lou in the 80s, and he was the nicest, most generous, most gracious, and most stand-up guy I had ever met in the music biz. I know the stories people tell about Lou; his orneriness, his unpredictability, his flat-out nastiness, etc. While I cannot refute someone else’s experience, I can tell you that not for one single second did we ever see THAT Lou Reed.
SCOTT, MEET THE VELVET UNDERGROUND
I first heard The Velvet Underground at my friend, Robert Cirkiel’s parents’ apartment at the Parkside Projects in the Bronx. The Dictators eventually shot the BLOODBROTHERS LP cover in Big Playground there. It was Big Playground, where the real-life Wanderers (of Richard Price’s epic novel of the same name) hung out.
Robert had a copy of the 1st Velvets record. I guess it was 1967 by this point. The cover amazed me, with that yellow peelable banana, and Andy Warhol’s name on it. Not to mention the song titles; HEROIN, VENUS IN FURS, THEBLACK ANGEL’S DEATH SONG. I’M WAITING FOR THE MAN, and EUROPEAN SON, that gave me chills of nervousness and anticipation, as I knew this record was gonna be very different. What it was about it that made my thirteen year old brain and libido go nuts, I cannot fully say. But, it did, nonetheless. That record crawled under my skin and is yet to leave. I was instantly hooked. I couldn’t wait to hear it again. Robert and I would take a lamp he had made in wood shop in school, remove the light bulb, replace it with a red one, take a kazoo with some aluminum foil, and turn it into a hash pipe, and blast-off with the Velvets every day after school for a few weeks. The Velevet Underground took a place at the very top of my list of favorite bands, and this as a favorite record. Then WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT, then the shock of the third one, and finally LOADED. All four remain among my very favorite records of all time. A huge inspiration and a huge influence.
The plain way Lou spoke/sang about song subjects I was certainly not going to tell my parents I was listening to. In fact, I am pretty sure I never had a discussion with my folks about Lou or the Velvets. But, the artfulness of it, the hard edged beauty of it, the volume, the racket, the prayer-like ballads, the all-encompassing New York City of it all. It was all just so beautiful.
LOU INVITES THE BAND TO TOUR WITH HIM
We were on the tour Lou did for MISTRIAL in 1986, as Lou’s invited guests, and that is exactly how we were treated. Lou made sure we got a full sound check every night, even standing on the side of the stage during our sound check until he was sure his road crew understood that this was to be the norm. Anyone who has ever been an opening act, or toured as one knows how rare it is to get a sound check in that situation, as well as how crucial it can be in that night’s show going well.
Most days, we would show up as Lou was finishing his sound check. He would get this big smile when he saw us come in, and as soon as his sound check was done, he came over to hang out and bullshit for awhile. Lou and I were both big Boxing fans, and the 80’s being a Golden Era for Boxing, there was always stuff to be excited about concerning the Sweet Science, and although we said we would, we never did get to go to a match together. Lou also dug baseball, and was a Yankees fan, and as anybody who knows me also knows, I am a major one, as well.
SOME RANDOM MEMORIES COME TO MIND
Lou even appeared in our video for JUDAS KISS. I remember waiting out in the street in front of Eric’s old pad wondering if Lou would actually show up. I mean, it was Lou Reed after all, one of my most inspirational, and most influential, musical heroes. And then, suddenly, coming across Avenue A with a big grin, was Lou. A visionary, a revolutionary, a genius, an iconoclast, and one of the very greatest writers of all time – all apt descriptions of Lou Reed.
AND, Lou was my neighbor when I still lived in NYC! Occasionally I would run into him and it was always fun. We would chat about this and that, rock’n’roll, doo wop, Dion (he and Dion were pals, each inducting the other into the R’n’R Hall of Fame), the tour we did together, and just regular bullshit.
I remember the first time I ran into Lou in the neighborhood (at least since I had gotten to know him). One day I turned up West 10th street, from 7th Ave. and there he was about twenty feet ahead of me. I called out, “Lou!”. No response, so I tried again – a little louder this time. Still no response. Finally, I call out, “Hey Lou, it’s Scott from the Del-Lords!!” THEN, he turns around. He’s smiling and apologizes for not turning around the first few times I called him. I ask him what was up with that, and he tells me, “Scott, you don’t know how many times, and for how many years, I am on the street and a stranger comes up to me, yells after me, not just to say hello, but to tell me how many times they shot up listening to HEROIN, or this time they OD’d listening to HEROIN. Or, this one died while…… It gets old!”
I had never thought about that. Of course, on the one hand, to have written a song that so many people are so moved by, and in so many different ways – that is an amazing thing. But, to have achieved that and have it turn on you, come back to haunt you, that too is an amazing and pretty big weight to carry. Right there, I understood how some people could possibly have had an unpleasant experience meeting Lou, only to be perhaps unfairly, and unknowingly, victimized by the person who came up to say hi to Lou right before they did. All I know for sure is I never once saw that other Lou Reed. A total sweetheart of a guy, as far as I am concerned, and forever grateful for being invited to tour with him, and how gracious and fun he was once we were out there.
LAST MEMORY OF LOU REED
I don’t think there were many times in my life that made me feel as special as the times I would run into Lou, and seeing how happy he was to see me. The last time I saw him was in 2010, on a Sunday morning around 8AM. He was with his wife, Laurie, and their little terrier. This wasn’t the Lou Reed of old, up early on Sunday morning because he had been up speeding since Friday. No, this was Lou and Laurie, up early walking the pup. I had never met Laurie before, and Lou gushed to her about how great The Del-Lords were, and how much fun we all had, and how he even got us to sing with him a couple of times (yeah, teeth had to be pulled really hard to get us up on stage to sing with LOU REED!!!!!!). I am sure I blushed, as I thought, man, I love this guy!
So, we played I’M WAITING FOR THE MAN, every night, and each night it got a little harder to introduce the song, and our dedication of it to Lou. It was like every night, it sunk in a little bit more that we were now living in a world without Lou Reed, and I wouldn’t run into him again, to bullshit, or grab a burger, or anything. It made me very sad, very emotional, and it choked me up a bit most nights, too.
I am glad that my last memory of Lou was that morning I ran into him and Laurie, and how happy he was. His smile was so big. Contented man, I thought to myself. He was thrilled to see me, and to tell Laurie all about the time we toured together. He asked about our friend, Dion, and told me send his love to D. Watching Lou and Laurie for that ten minutes or so, how they interacted, their tone of voice towards each other, the obvious connection, it was all good. Very good.
A WORLD WITHOUT LOU REED
So, goodbye Lou, you left a mark. Your art is eternal and timeless. Your influence, your inspiration is beyond the tethers of this world. I was just thirteen when I first heard your music, and it entered my blood, and has never left. You have left a deep scar on this boy’s heart and soul. Dear Lou, never to be forgotten.