It was mid 1981, I think. Pee Wee, an old friend and former bandmate as well as the soundman for New Math, called and asked if I’d be interested in trying out for a band. The band was called Personal Effects. I said sure, I’d love to.
I went to try out with them and thought it went pretty well. The songs were cool, with chord changes I’d never thought of before. In general, things were an exercise in ‘less is more’ – using a minimalist approach to tell the slices of life that the songs expressed. I was called back many times before the end of the year and kept hoping that I was in the running, as I very much loved the material and the people. In December, I had a party during which Paul and Peggi told me that we had a gig lined up at Scorgies on January 23rd (this would be ’82). I said, “so, does this mean I am in the band?” They had a good laugh… they’d forgotten to tell me that I’d been in the band since, pretty much, the second time I ‘tried out.’
The first gig at Scorgies was wonderful. I’d always been pretty shy and nervous about playing. But this gig was like coming home. From the moment we took the stage, I felt completely at ease and absolutely energized. I am not sure I’d have felt that way in any other club for my first gig with any band. Something magical about Scorgies. That show is still, to my memory, one of the best shows we ever did. Of course we went on to play there a zillion times.
The John Cale show, from the night in 1984 that Reagan got re-elected, is one that sticks out as being a real highlight. We opened the show – I remember that John was a bit irritated with his band and was acting up a little in the dressing room. His guitarist needed a guitar strap, having left his at the last gig. I offered him mine and said I’d trade him for a John Cale T-Shirt. This sent John up the wall and he started screaming at his guitar player saying that the cost of the shirt was coming out of his pay. Then, they went out and played one of the best shows I’d ever seen at Scorgies. I secretly recorded the show on a 4-track tape recorder and, immediately afterwards, Duane and I went back to his apartment and we mixed it. That recording sounds MUCH better and is a hugely better performance than the live album Cale released of the same material. Here’s a link to Paris 1919 from that show: [audio:http://www.rockinrochester.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/12-paris-1919.mp3]
At Scorgies, there was a huge sense of community but, with the bands there was also a healthy bit of competitiveness (it still exists – you can read it in the congestive subtext in a lot of the posts right here). Even when we’d agree to work together, there was always wanting to do your best – for YOUR band to give the best performance. Still, it was friendly competition and we all worked together, subconsciously realizing that the entire scene was probably the most important thing.
I was kind of a musical slut – I’d hop up and play anytime anyone asked me. I sat in with New Math a few times… one time, when Mark Schwartz couldn’t make it, I had to learn all of their songs the night of the show! AND, it had to be the keyboard parts – or at least guitar parts that supported the songs the same way the keyboard parts did. That was a challenge, but I think we pulled it off. I used to sit in with Brian Horton’s band Blue Hand on a regular basis. I also joined a side band to open for Alex Chilton with members of Invisible Party and Absolute Grey. I really just loved playing music and enjoyed interacting with lots of different musicians. Still do.
These days, Paul and Peggi and I play, together with Ken Frank (Five Star Buffalo, Color Blind James, Flower City Five, Phil Marshall Trio, etc) as Margaret Explosion. Each show is completely different than the last as we tend to compose all our material on the spot. But lately, we’ve been rehearsing the old Personal Effects songs, getting ready for the reunion. It was a little tough going at first – very different set of disciplines. But last Thursday’s rehearsal just made me want to get up and run around the block. It had all the magic of that first Scorgies show. I can’t wait to play with Personal Effects this Friday. It’s gonna be a blast!
As I think I’ve stated elsewhere, Bob was the only guitarist we tried out when forming PE because he came over and played great parts for a whole set of songs he’d never heard before. After he left Paul and Peggi and I looked at each other and wondered whether it was worth even looking at another player. I think we decided that first night that it wasn’t- though apparently we neglected to tell Bob!
One of the great things about the Scorgies scene is that, while competitive, it wasn’t judgmental of new bands- we all wanted newbies to be great and many were. Really it was a remarkable outpouring of talent for a small city like Rochester.
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