Wednesday, September 08, 2010

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

...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.

14 comments:

Gummo said...

I probably heard you guys from the street on many an aimless weekend night's wandering in the Village back then; don't recall that I ever actually went into the Other End Cafe.

Not only was that a nice cover, but man o man, the overall sound really takes me back -- I don't know if it was the sound equipment or the recording equipment or the times, but there was a certain sound that club guitar bands had back then and that recording really crystallizes it.

Thanks for another glimpse into your motley past!

steve simels said...

Gummo:

In 1982, literally every guitarist in the world had just bought an effects pedal called CHORUS. It was the dominant sound of the era, and we overused it as much as everybody.

Gummo said...

Oh, sure I had a Chorus pedal, too (along with wah-wah, flange & fuzz pendals). But it's not just that, it's the drum sound, the bass sound, the blend -- very much "of its era" in a nice nostalgic way.

steve simels said...

Hey -- if you've still got your old Chorus pedal, I'll take it off your hands. New ones are expensive, so make me an offer.
:-)

Gummo said...

I'll have to go digging in the closet, I'll let you know....

Brooklyn Girl said...

I lived on the next block during that period ... like Gummo, I probably walked by a thousand times, and I even went to some show I can't remember there once. Who knows? I may have been there when you were playing.

Small world.

Noam Sane said...

I was more of a Big Muff/Dyna Comp guy myself. But hey.

Nice cover, she obviously loves the song, really digs into it.

Gummo said...

Noam Sane said...

I was more of a Big Muff guy myself


Um, I think you're on the wrong blog...

;)

allen vella said...

Gummo, must've been the cassete recorder..hearing that reminded me of the boxes of cassettes I have of the the bands I played with in the early 80's...good cover..and I still like chorus!

MikeJ said...

you really didn't hear a lot of Lulu covers in 1982.
I first heard To Sir With Love right around that time when Alex Chilton was including it in his sets. But no, it wasn't Stepping Stone-like in its popularity as a cover.

Sal Nunziato said...

Nice version! And great story. I know we've said this before, but we must have played at least once on the same night.

Anonymous said...

The Floor Models were fuckin' great!

What me to say it again?

ROTP(lumber)


Word Verification: palphat> Pronounced pal-fat or palp-hat?

Anonymous said...

Being Jan's backup band for that number was just the best.

That song had interesting changes, too.

AP

Jan Melchior said...

Hey Steve, it's the lovely and talented Jan Melchior. At least it used to be. A friend Facebooked me the link to your blog. It made my day! Hell, my whole summer! How are you?

Jan