In August, 1976, five kids from Northeast Philly were going to be the heroes who saved Rock and Roll.
Mrs. Ryan always started drinking early. It’s a fact. Ask anyone in the neighborhood. Wine was her drink and you could set your watch by how many empty bottles you counted in the kitchen trash. This made the Ryan’s house the perfect place to hang out in the summer. You see, Mrs. Ryan loved two things in life—her Gallo wine and her Electrolux Model 1205 canister vacuum. She worked them both hard but she loved them both more than anything else in the whole wide world and as long as we didn’t mess with either we had free reign to do what we pleased. That’s why we decided to make the Ryan’s house our home base the day we went into Rock and Roll.
It was August 1976 and the music world was in shambles. Rock had lost its way and bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones had been replaced on the charts by the likes of Kiss and Peter Frampton—Peter Fuckin’ Frampton and “Frampton Comes Alive.” Not to mention disco: don’t even get me started there. Rock was in trouble, Rock needed a savior and that’s what we intended to be. Five kids from Northeast Philly were going to be the heroes who saved Rock and Roll. That’s why, after a morning of careful deliberation we settled on a name—The Saviors.
We actually made a lot of progress that morning even through the distraction of Mrs. Ryan’s constant vacuuming. Besides the band name we also came up with the concept of our first album cover. Naturally it would feature the five of us looking cool. We would be standing in front of this lake of fire surrounded by volcanoes and rising out of the lake would be a cross that also was an electric guitar with lightning bolts shooting out the top. Mikey, our drummer and the only one of us with any musical experience, would be standing on the side of one volcano, bare chested, with both arms thrust into the air, his left hand giving the sign of the devil and his right giving the sign of God. There would be three chicks crawling up the volcano to his feet, a little homage to Zeppelin and the cover of “Houses of the Holy.” Toney would be hanging off the neck of the guitar-cross with one hand in the throes of an electric shock signifying the power of our music. Larry, the older of the Ryan twins by two minutes, would be swinging his guitar overhead, smashing a pile of skulls at his feet a homage to Pete Townsend and a sign of the creative differences already gripping the band. Petey, the younger of the twins, wanted to be smashing skulls, too, but Larry wanted to be doing his own thing so Petey decided he was going to be dressed like Elton John on the cover of “Captain Fantastic.” This pissed everyone else off because it had nothing to do with the album cover or who we were about—we were saving rock from people like Elton Friggin’ John for Christ sakes—but we had to let him do this because no one could come up with anything better. I decided that I would be coming out of the other volcano on the cover holding two album covers above my head, sort of the way the pictures at school showed Moses holding the tablets coming down from Mt. Sinai to show the Israelites. The guys objected to that as well but I argued that since I was to be the principal songwriter it only made sense. This led to another argument as to just who was going to write our songs. Apparently Larry and Mikey thought they were going to write the songs. In the end we agreed we’d do like the Beatles where Lennon and McCartney did most of the writing buy George got to write a few songs as well. By this point it was lunchtime and creative tensions were high so we left it at that. We’d decide who was the John, Paul, and George in our band later.
Lunch in the summer was usually Fluffernutter or bologna sandwiches depending on whose house you ate at. Since we were on a roll we decided to make it a working lunch and so we planned our first tour over bologna and iced tea while Mrs. Ryan vacuumed around us in between drinks from her wine glass. We decided to make the Velvet Lounge our home base because of its location in a shopping mall right on the city line. This would give us a reach into the city and the suburbs so we could build our fan base. Plus we could take the bus there from our neighborhood. Once word got out we’d be able to play other clubs throughout the city culminating with a gig at America’s Showplace, the Philadelphia Spectrum. Larry and I almost came to blows when the discussion turned to pyrotechnics—he wanted a lot of explosions and I didn’t, I was about the music—and Mrs. Ryan chased us back outside because she couldn’t hear Bob Barker and “The Price Is Right” on the black and white sitting on the kitchen counter over our arguing.
I was already making plans to go solo as we worked out our stage alignment on the Ryans’ back patio. Besides who would stand where we also had to decide who would play what instrument. By now, creative differences were really tearing the band apart. Mickey, Toney, Larry, and I each thought we should be the lead singer. Mickey was voted down because he had to play the drums and no band that was going to save Rock and Roll was going to have a drummer for a lead vocalist. Who were we, the fucking Eagles? In the end we decided to hold open auditions. We’d each take turns singing “Baba O’Riley” and whoever had the best stage presence would get the lead. We tossed for it and Larry got to go first.
Since we didn’t have any instruments we had to use the Ryans’ boom box for the actual music. For the first go-round, Larry would be Roger Daltry. Toney would be Pete Townsend. Mikey would be Keith Moon, Petey would be John Entwhistle, which made no frigging sense because he’d be dressed like Elton John, and I would be the guy playing keyboards, the one whose name nobody could think of. This insult really pissed me off and further convinced me that my destiny was a solo career, like the way Peter Frampton had to leave Mott the Hoople in order to make it big.
But then it all went down.
No sooner had we popped in the cassette of “Who’s Next” and hit play when Mrs. Ryan came bursting out the back door wielding the arm of the Electrolux 1205 like a flamethrower and dragging the canister behind her like a dog on a leash. She had switched the damn thing from suction to blast and blasted us with a lifetime’s worth of dust and debris from the house, sending us scattering onto the lawn like leaves in the wind and depriving the world of the greatest rock and roll band of all time.
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