Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Train Wreck at CBGB?

We decided to take our act downtown and secured an audition at CBGB/OMFUG (Country, Blue Grass, Blues and Other Music For Unusual Gastronomics). A couple of years earlier, Richard Hell talked owner Hilly Krystal into letting them perform at what was a rundown biker bar. His band Television began appearing regularly and was soon followed by Patti Smith and the Ramones. Soon word got out and bands were coming out of the woodwork to play there. They had a big showcase that summer and I was considering going down with Spoiler VI but we had enough on our plate, as you saw, and I didn’t think much of the whole scene at the time. As it turned out, the Village Voice began headlining the Next Big Thing and, suddenly, we found ourselves at the end of the line.

I was working to improve our stage act because I knew, with all the work-in-progress songs and volume problems (that would plague us throughout my NYC career), it was our ace-in-the-hole regardless of where we played. I introduced the Smoking Skull at Max’s, which was a skull propped on a stand into which I inserted a colored smoke bomb that had a great effect. We played our first open mic in Bay Ridge where I tossed my first fireball. It barely missed Alma’s head, which created an even bigger impact. Together with my gymnastics and the dancing girls, we made quite a spectacle wherever we went.

My parents actually came out to our CBGB debut, the first of five appearances there. Our first show was on the small stage, actually a platform about the size of a wrestling ring. I was psyched up and half-cocked, and I made a bigger spectacle of myself than at Max’s. Lou Cazucci later said that I was not only his favorite rock singer, but the only person he’d ever played with who he had lost sight of during the show with all my lunging about. Nevertheless, Krystal’s bookers decided we weren’t quite ready and offered a rematch.

Somewhere along the line we lost our vision, due to a number of reasons. Louie and I were having philosophical differences, largely because he was focusing on musical development while my priority was the stage show. His relationship with Al was also deteriorating, largely because Al resented Lou’s superior ability. It would come to a head with the Ducky Boys years later when Al took over on guitar and would not make room for Lou. Anyway, Lou was expanding his horizons and was not only making new connections in Bay Ridge but in Manhattan as well. Lou was looking towards the door again, but I did not suspect he would be gone for good as a Spoiler. In the meantime, I had been researching 60’s metal and began channeling Robert Plant, of all people. Somehow Spoiler VII morphed into Spoiler VIII, and the Cazucci Era was soon to come to an end.

Mondo Acido was perhaps the first documented proof of the level of achievement we had finally reached. We copied it from reel-to-reel to an 8-track tape which I am sure is in safekeeping somewhere. It featured what constitutes a lost world of Spoiler music, most half-baked but none without promise that may yet be recovered one day. “I Wish She Was Waiting For Me” was what Louie and I would be our first commercial hit. Isn’t ignorance blissful! There were also the aforementioned “Barbarella” and “Yolanda Told Me”, as well as “Monday Morning Push On”, another MOR (*media-oriented radio) hopeful, “Smash That Child” (a song against child abuse), and “Jamaican Vacation”, a song in which Louie structured three exotic bridges between verses. It was no wonder that Louie and I were so starry-eyed. Ours was a magic relationship and we were churning out quality songs at a level unmatched until Spoiler Y2K. Looking back, it is astounding that no one ever discovered what we were accomplishing in that small apartment. But, as you will see, my life has been a series of tales to astonish.

John Momo was a Bay Ridge kid who made friends with Louie and eventually became the first ‘sorcerer’s apprentice’, debuting in Spoiler VIII as our new bassist. Momo would resurface as Johnny B. Zyklon and set his mark as the greatest Spoiler guitarist, second only to Louie Cazucci. Yet it was the arrival of the Di Bernardo brothers that would make the biggest impact since Sherry and Zing.

Eddie Polito was the younger of the two, a powerhouse drummer wearing a big Afro which made him look like Dictators’ singer Handsome Dick Manitoba with glasses. After blowing our CBGB’s showcase debut, we scheduled our rematch with Eddie on drums and Momo on bass. I felt like I blew the show by altering my BT Superstar image, coming off with my new Robert Plant look replete with wrist bandanas, a no-no in an anti-hippie punk club. Yet we were all shocked when Eddie’s throne collapsed, causing him to walk offstage in the middle of a song to get a new chair! When his brother Frankie came around, bragging he was the one who taught Eddie to play, we fired Eddie and hired Frankie forthwith.

Once again, Louie once again decided to pull up stakes, but this time it was a life change that took him out of Brooklyn on into Manhattan. Frankie next went on hiatus, leaving me with no inkling of what to do next. That left me picking up the pieces, which constituted three failed Spoiler projects in the space of one year. There were plenty of candidates around but I had to find a way to make the band hold together and keep the campaign going. As they say, crisis brings opportunity, just as the converse often holds true. I would learn this lesson well when Benny Rock climbed aboard. 

(To be continued...)

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