“When I moved into NYC in 1978, the thought was to “become a serious musician”. By 1980, I’d found “The Music Building”. Perfectly situated in the sleazy neighborhood where visible out of our filthy windows, The Port Authority Bus Station sat as street vultures waited to grab runaways from all over the country before they even made it to 8th Ave. I worked at an iconic comic book, sci-fi, and toy store; “Forbidden Planet” for a LOW wage…my motto was “If you have an image and hairstyle that would ALLOW you to get a serious job, then you weren’t a serious artist”…I’m not positive that I don’t still believe that.
I was determined NOT to ask my father for money to support my lofty goals of…honestly, not “Rock Stardom” as in making money, but becoming an artist that my worst critic would love…ME.
I was very insecure about my worthiness, though you’d never think that LOOKING at me…I was strutting the BIG image like a peacock through NYC. I remember walking through the alphabet jungle, as we used to refer to the Lower East Side…Ave.s A, B, C, D, below 14th street. It was more sleazy than the Upper West Side studio, but it was my home and it was ROCK & ROLL to me, and I can hear myself saying out loud ”THIS IS MY TOWN NOW! I LIVE HERE!”
I had chosen by chance to move into The Big Apple right as it was becoming the center of the Rock & Roll UNIVERSE! The rehearsal room…room 903, a 20’ x 20’ concrete box, was my HOME more than my apartment ($450 a month for a 2 bedroom, including utilities, rent shared between me, my gal, and a roommate.)
The concrete box, in a 9-story old factory building FULL of rehearsal rooms, was $800 a month. That was an intimidating amount of money when a dollar was actually worth something and I was making $8 an hour.
I had to get as many bands to share the rent with me as possible. The way I often made that happen was to join a band as a bass player. I couldn’t just “mail it in”, though, or they’d think I was only in their band to get rent.
I was just doing my first band that was MINE, “Kill Me” when I joined up with a very talented singer, songwriter, guitarist, and band leader Gene Oliver in his ‘ ALL ORIGINAL MATERIAL” BAND, PLASTIC POLLY. Gene was further along than me in every way. He was confident of his talent, lyrics and musical direction. He was also “weird”, like ME, but more developed. I have a memory that I tell all the time that serves as a perfect analogy for what I was going through in my head…groping for my identity.
I have a BA in English Lit. and have written poetry and stories. I wanted to be a writer. Gene’s lyrics were great and unusual. I handed him a page of lyrics for a yet-to-be-written song, wanting his opinion, He stood and read them in front of me, After reading he looked me in the eye and said “It’s really HARD to be cool, isn’t it?” With a sympathetic smile. OUCH!…
We played with a very handsome Brazilian guitarist…I believe we gigged a bit. We parted with the guitarist and as I remember it, I suggested that we use the very “real musician" sax player from Kill ME, John Dugan, and a singer guy that I knew from a friend’s band that had broken up…Jerry. The drummer, Dave Gasparri, and I had by this time really locked into what was challenging bordering on progressive riffing. The combination of characters seemed cool and unique, which is what I am always drawn to.
PLASTIC POLLY, the band’s name, was the only benefactor of a Teac 4-track cassette machine that I'd managed to get my hands on and, thankfully, John, the sax player and my roommate, was experienced enough to capture 27 minutes of well-rehearsed music…my first recordings.
Buried treasure, these cassettes have just recently been found and polished off. We also did a live-in-the-studio hyped-to-the-max run-through right before leaving for our first and, sadly only gig. I must say…I was better than I thought I was…this stuff is well played, well written, and has STYLE.