Okay, here we go.
I ran across your Floor Models website while trying to find info on an old 45 by a band called Arboreal (I'm guessing from the late 1970s). I am wondering if the songwriter Glen Allen is the same Glen Allen from your band? If you could provide any insight, it'd be great. (The songwriters on the Arboreal 45 are Glen and Greg Allen.) I collect records and (a) am curious as to where and when this 45 was released, and (b) would love to get one for my own collection.
Any info would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!
--Jason (Providence, RI)
I gotta admit, this was news to me. In all the years I've known and worked with Glen, this is the first I'd heard of this stuff.
But as it turned out, yup, it was him.
Here's the whole saga, as Glen communicated it to me last week.
My brother Greg and I were raised in a musical household. We lived in Nutley NJ, home of Robert Blake, Martha Stewart, and, once upon a time, Annie Oakley!
Neither of our parents pursued an instrument beyond their grade school years, but as newlyweds they hosted an Upstate NY radio show pithily titled Ad-Libbing With The Allens.
They interviewed (and featured music by) the likes of Stan Kenton and other Jazz and Pop acts. Greg, before I was born, would sit quietly in the studio as the show was being broadcast live. He tells me how he still vividly recalls the lights on the console, and the excitement of knowing his Mom and Dad were "on the air".
Our folks would play Broadway and film scores. Our Aunt Beverly worked for MGM Records, she sent new releases our way. Greg would play LPs by Duane Eddy, Howlin' Wolf, The Ventures, Johnny Cash and more in our room.
Greg and I both started playing the drums in '64. We'd play along to the records we'd spin on our family's massive (15" mono speaker!) Hi-Fi.
Circa '65, Greg played drums in The Revengers. They had quite the cool repertoire, covering The Pretty Things, The Yardbirds, and other British Invasion acts. They even appeared on Zacherle's UHF show "Disc-O-Teen," along with The Cyrkle of "Red Rubber Ball" fame.
My hometown band went through a few names over it's 3 year span -- The Great Unknown, The Unknown Six,and, I kid you not, Admiral Allen & The Permanent Wave.
By the time I was 12, we were performing at teenagers parties and actually making money.
Note of scandal: At one rehearsal in my family's basement, our newly added Go-Go Girls -- 3 of our sixth grade classmates -- tied their blouses up to create a bare-midriff look.
This was well received by five of us in the band. However when our lead guitarist Steve Ucci's Dad showed up, Steve exclaimed, "Dad, the girls were bare!"
A sad farewell was said to the Go-Go girls.
We performed for 3000 people at The Nutley Oval on July 4th in '66. Another, older, band let us use their gear. A third band got stuck in transit, so we had a double set that night of about 90 minutes. We had 'em dancing on the infield to "Good Lovin", and because we had horns, "Batman," "Downtown," and,of course, "Tequila".
That night sealed my fate -- drums forever!
Greg and I had a clunky but good sounding Telefunken tape recorder and, later, a Sony that had sound-on-sound,as it was called back then. We could overdub ourselves. Many Dada-esque tunes were recorded, and some attempts at "real" music as well.
But in '68 I took up guitar, and we wrote and recorded more in earnest. By then our family had been in NYC for about a year. Greg and I decided to record in an actual studio.
An older classmate of mine, Jon Fausty, was working in a studio that specialized in Latin music. The first day in the studio the equipment went south, wouldn't work. I was actually relieved, for although Greg and I had performed in public and had recorded at home, this was A STUDIO! Where RECORDS WERE MADE!
The next day the gear was in working order, and I had shaken off the nerves. After all, I did have long wavy hair, a cool turquoise ring, a Superman-logo'd tee shirt, tie-dyed jeans, and, most of all, my '68 Gold-Top Les Paul Standard on which I had mastered the three essential chords.
I also loved the name we'd devised: Arboreal. We always had a thing for chimps, and we both probably would've proposed to Jane Goodall.
Greg was a metronomic drummer, a better time-keeper than me ('though I keep good time!). But who knew at the time that left handed drummers set up their drums differently than righties? Not us -- we'd only seen righties ever play.
Nontheless, with Greg keeping time and me on guitar, bass and vocals(!), we cut "Our Souls Would See Us Through," which Greg wrote the lyric for, and "Sixteen Years Old," which I wrote.
The chorus on "Sixteen..." was originally "Things are pretty shitty when you're sixteen years old.." But for the sake of mass appeal and radio play, I cleverly changed "shitty" to "sickening". A move of rare genius, though I missed the sheer beauty of the "pretty/shitty" rhyme scheme.
Greg, in true mystical metaphoric mode, came up with "we gazed into each other's eyestreams, until we met each other's dreams." And to think -- "eyestreams"was hardly ever used back then!
We printed 100 45's, sent them out to several record companies, and waited for the offers to roll in. Some of the rejection letters came on very nice stationery. Some with encouraging comments and actual signatures!
As I recall, Pickwick, a budget label, made an offer, but we held out for the big fish. That fish is still swimming merrily out there somewhere....
Greg would eventually quit playing the drums and moved on to a long career as a record reviewer and live performance critic for The Atlantic City Press, The Christian Science Monitor, Cashbox, Trouser Press and other newspapers and magazines. (He and I co-wrote songs for Ronnie Spector in '80 for a band I played in with Rafael Fuentes and that Greg managed -- Diamond Dupree.) He then went into talk radio (he hosted two nationally syndicated shows: "Him & Her w/ Greg And Fran," and "The Right Balance") and now regularly walks the malls and writes poetry (in retirement) on Florida's Gulf Coast.
As for me: Baby Moon (CBGB regulars), Diamond Dupree ( Lone Star Café regulars), The Floor Models (Darlings of the Village Scene), Lucy Kaplansky (ditto, the Village), The Human Condition ("World Beat" before the term even existed), Gerry Devine & The Hi-Beams (Flo-Mo's bastard son) and, for the last 22 years, French Cookin', Doc French's ensemble (B.B. King's Club regulars/Inductee NY Blues Hall Of Fame). I also perform with The Rock Club (featuring Ron D'Addario, proud father of The Lemon Twigs).
Jon Fausty is a Grammy Award winning Engineer/Producer in the Latin music field. He appeared on my wife's Cable TV show "Eddy Coston's Metro Music Scene" years ago to promote the David Byrne LP "Rei Momo," which he engineered.
Of course I've had the pleasure and privilege of being Steve Simels' personal musical conductor/arranger since '82. He promises my fee is forthcoming.......
A final note: I was astonished to discover that somebody stumbled upon Arboreal's one and only record.
More so that they posted it on a cool garage rock site.
Most amazing of all, I didn't cringe nearly as much as I thought I would after hearing this for the first time in 35-40 years.
I hope you don't either. -- Glen Allen
To paraphrase Thelma Ritter in All About Eve: What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at his rear end.
But seriously, folks -- I love everything about that essay, and a big tip of the PowerPop hat to Glen Bob for sharing it.
I should also add that a special PowerPop No-Prize™ will be awarded to the first reader who -- without googling -- identifies the source of today's title.