COLUMN EIGHTY-THREE, JANUARY 15, 2003
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
HOW I NEARLY MADE A MILLION DOLLARS IN THE ROCK AND ROLL BUSINESS
THE MYDDLE CLASS: FROM LEFT,
DANNY MANSOLINO, DAVE PALMER,
RICK PHILP, CHARLIE LARKEY, MYKE ROSA
[I found the following undated manuscript in my files. I must have written it in the latter half of the '60s. It's certainly not the best thing I've ever written and I at first thought I'd rewrite it for you. But on second thought, I decided to let it stand as it was as a document of my past.]
If ever there were to be a
definitive textbook on how to become a successful rock and roll manager, it
would have had to be written by Che' Guevera.
I'm not bitter, mind you, about having lost my life savings, my
suburban ranch-type house, my American Express card, my wife's equanimity, my
English sports car, a portion of my sanity and such odds and ends as my charge
account at the local Dairy Queen---all in a gamble on five 18-year "old kids
from New Jersey's white suburbs who dared to have me name them The Myddle
It doesn't even bother me
any more that one of those 18-year-olds stole into my office and filed the
dollar sign off my typewriter keyboard in a gesture as meaningless, perhaps, as
my bank account. Of course, I
don't use a typewriter any more, but what did bother me was the need to report
that even when you succeed in signing a contract with a record company, very
often it turns out to be not a contract at all, but a declaration of war.
"Men," I once had to
tell the teenage members of The Myddle Class, "they've cut our
This was after I had run up
a $960 bill with the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company.
"Men," I once had to
say to them, "we've got to regroup our forces."
This was after The Myddle
Class had been fired from three New York discoteques for playing too loud.
"Men," I said at
another time, "we've got to try to continue living in the manner to which
This was when I was feeding
my wife, my three children, the entire Myddle Class and their rotating 10-man
road crew on the dollar or so a day that poured in through the mail from kids
wanting to join our fan club.
At one point, we even
started filming a 16 millimeter movie to document our rise to success, at a
personal cost to me of several thousand dollars. We filmed it in New Jersey's Passaic Valley swampland, with
everybody wearing battle dress.
I have been accused of
going into the rock and roll business for no better reasons than a desire for
fame, fortune, glory and the chance to get my picture published in 16, a
teenage fan magazine to which my nine-year-old daughter subscribes with more
loyalty than she has ever displayed for me.
Frankly, I could think of no better reasons. At the time I was, as New York's Village Voice
described me, "a fairly well-known magazine writer," with a large enough
backlog of assignments to keep me as busy as a Beatle, if at somewhat less a
price. One of the first things I
discovered after I started managing The Myddle Class was a cobweb placed over my
typewriter by the drummer of the group.
The cobweb was still there
when, two years later, I announced that I was returning to the writing business.
With the same consummate skill that he used to drive through puddles to
splash old ladies waiting at bus stops, the drummer had lifted the cobweb, filed
off the dollar sign, and then replaced the cobweb so that it appeared
undisturbed. I guess he though I'd no longer have any need for the
I'm not bitter, mind you.
I can't say that I didn't enjoy the rock and roll business any more
then Joseph Heller can't say that he didn't enjoy the Air Force.
Of course, I wasn't drafted into it.
I was, rather, tempted into it. For
years I had been writing success stories about either people, mostly in the
music business, and I was curious to find out how it would sound if someone had
to write a success story about me. When
my baby-sitter told me that a group, known at that time as the King Bees, had
caused a riot during a variety show at Governor Livingston Regional High School
near my house in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, I thought to
myself, "Well, this sounds like a natural beginning."
I had no idea my success
story would turn out to be a humor column.
My wife says it's as humorous as All Quiet on the Western Front.
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" she asked me
at the time.
"A wife is supposed to be
an inspiration to her husband," I answered.
"I would hate to think I
ever inspired you to do this," she said.
I immediately asked my
baby-sitter where I could find this group and when I learned that they were
playing at a dance that very next week, I disguised my beard and balding
forehead in a pair of levis and a sweater and went down to take a look at them.
Later on I learned that they at first thought I was just some dirty old
They had been playing
together for about a year with the exception of the bass guitarist, one Charlie
Larkey, the scion of a men's clothing store chain, whose only qualification
for membership in the band had been his conviction that he was destined to
become a pop star. Charlie had been
one of the higher-ups in Mountainside, New Jersey's only teenage mob, an
organization called The Organisation, but when he learned the King Bees needed a
bass guitar player, he promptly went out and bought a bass guitar.
"If you want to learn how
to play bad enough," the drummer, Myke Rosa, told him, 'then you can teach
yourself how to play bad enough."
Charlie would lock himself in his room and play the bass along with a pile of records, sometimes with Myke Rosa singing the bass line into his ear. Myke, of course, was the only one of the group who couldn't sing. On the first night that I saw the King Bees, he was pounding the drums so hard that he kept breaking his drumsticks, throwing the pieces out into the audience. He also had a
but your neighbor's
house is on fire'
habit of throwing up during the course of each performance. Myke had nearly died of rheumatic fever when he was 12, and he had the further habit of passing out after every show. As for the other members of the group...
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56 BRIARWOOD DRIVE WEST, BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY IN 1998:
I BOUGHT THAT HOUSE IN 1957 FOR $15,000
(Photo by Thom Lynch)
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