Monday, April 18, 2011

In Everyone's Life, There's a Summer of '42...

[I originally posted this over at PowerPop back in September of 2010, but it seems to me it should be archived here, since it's the early history of the band, essentially. Enjoy, in particular if you missed it the first time around. -- S.S.]

...or so said the tag line in the ads for the movie of the same name. But in my case (self-indulgence alert!) such a summer lasted for almost two years, circa 1982-83 (metaphorically, of course). When The Floor Models, the 12-string pop band I played bass for, had a more or less uninterrupted weekend residency at the Other End Cafe on Bleecker Street in fabled Greenwich Village.

The short version is that pretty much every Friday and Saturday night during that period we would arrive at said hole-in-the-wall venue and bash out three hour-long sets (shows at 10pm, midnight and 2am). Essentially, it was our equivalent of The Cavern, and though the schedule was grueling, it never once felt like work, this due to the fact that a) the four of us enjoyed each other's company almost as much as the music we were playing; b) we were rather handsomely paid, if you can believe it; and c) thanks to the weekend traffic on Bleecker Street we almost always wound up performing for an elbow-jostling and appreciative crowd (around 200 well lubricated NYU kids and tourists crammed wall to wall on an average lively night) even when our friends were otherwise engaged. It was a ridiculously ideal environment for a young band getting its stuff together, and as I said, it never felt like work; I look back on the whole experience these days as pretty much the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on.

I should probably also mention that I lived across the street from the club, which meant that moving equipment was a breeze. And that between-set, uh, refreshments and after-hours carousing were rather ridiculously hassle-free as a result.

In any case, here's what we looked like on one of those weekends; as you can see, calling the stage cramped would be seriously gilding the lily. The sound system wasn't exactly state of the art, either.

As I noted earlier, we used to do three hour-long sets an evening, which meant we necessarily had to do a fair number of covers; given that our idea had always been to do the songs that had inspired to us play in the first place (especially ones we'd never had a chance to essay in other bands) this was hardly an odious task, and so we'd bang out everything from The Monkees to Television. (Doing The Hollies "Bus Stop" -- and well, I think -- was something of a dream come true for me.) We also had a lot of musician friends from the neighborhood who'd help us out by dropping in for the late sets; we'd work up little guest spots for them and some of those occasioned among my absolute favorite moments during our run.

Here's one of them: the lovely and talented Jan Melchior (then otherwise mostly toiling in The Roommates, a sort of folkie girl group a la The Roches) as heard with us on Saturday October 9, 1982, sometime (I think) in the third set, in a jangly version of Lulu's "To Sir With Love." The sound is a tad primitive -- like I said, the PA sucked, and this was taped on a cheap cassette player -- but I think the atmosphere and Jan's remarkably authentic vocal come through loud and clear.

I suspect you'll believe me when I say this performance engendered a lot of serious dropped jaws; you really didn't hear a lot of Lulu covers in 1982.

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