Remembering Abbey

From nursery school through the start of second grade, I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts, just outside Cambridge, where my dad was a biochemist at Harvard University, the first in the family to get an advanced degree. My dad discovered the local sub shops first. Unfortunately, these shops no longer exist, having been displaced by chains like Subways. That’s unfortunate because they had real fresh bread: warm, slightly crispy on the top and fluffy in the center, nothing at all like the Wonder bread baked at Subways. All the possible additions were already chopped fine and you picked out which ones you wanted, just like they do today, only they slice today instead of finely chop. This chopped-up salsa sauce of pickle, onion, hot peppers, and tomato was fully mixed in a bowl before being added to your sub. Oregano flakes and coarse black pepper were a big part of the taste. These shops were located all up and down Massachusetts Avenue in the 1950s, all run by some ethnic group, perhaps Middle Eastern? They created the perfect sub sandwich and my family has been making replicas of them ever since, even though we departed the area when I was around 7 years old, never to return except for brief visits. But my family never took a road trip without my mom making a huge stash of Boston subs for the car, a tradition that continues today with my own kids.
In fact, in my glory days as a rock star, whenever my band (The Soul Assassins) would go on the road, I’d prepare a stash of these, just like my mom taught me. Abbey, one of the Assassinettes, was the first true vegan I met and she was very, very picky about what she ate. I’d already gone vegetarian myself, but just for Abbey I engineered a vegan version and discovered to my surprise it tasted just as good, if not better, than the animal alternative. Abbey had the whitest skin I ever saw, and never went to the beach in her life as far as I know. She loved my vegan Boston subs though, and she’d look forward to our road trips just knowing she was going to get to eat a few along the way. We had no idea at the time she’d become the first in our tribe to pass on to the other dimensions, a victim of a careless doctor not detecting breast cancer for years until it was too late. She refused chemo, preferring to die with dignity. Since Abbey was born and raised in Boston, it seems only appropriate to name this recipe after her.

Abbey’s Sandwich

Any long roll or baguette will work, although the better the bread, the better this sandwich is going to be. Do not get hard crust bread as the softer versions work far better. Cut one side open and scoop out some bread from the top to make room for the salsa.

Line one side with vegan cold cuts and cheese slices. I prefer the Baked Ham Style and Bologna Style from Lifeline, available at most supermarkets. Galaxy Traditional Foods makes rice-based veggie cheese slices in swiss and cheddar, although I prefer the swiss for this sandwich. Avoid soy whenever possible, it’s heavily GMO’d.

Salsa:
Dice large dill pickle, small onion, ripe tomato (or four to five mini tomatoes). Add chopped marinated hot pepper ring to taste. Mix with dash of olive oil, salt and loads of oregano flakes and coarse black pepper. If you can, let this marinate for a few hours or even overnight in the fridge.

Alternate cheese and cold cuts, at least two layers of cold cut and two of cheese (although you can go Dagwood-style and pile even higher). Spoon the oregano salsa sauce on top, close the sandwich and cut into thirds.

I usually slide the completed sandwiches back into the long paper bag the bread came in, and twist the end closed. If refrigerated, these sandwiches keep for an amazing amount of time and often taste better as time goes on.

Now check out the real Abbey rocking with the Soul Assassins:

https://theoriginalsoulassassins.bandcamp.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Chakra-Candles/dp/B00BVMZ8U8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414952468&sr=8-1&keywords=candles+steven+hager

First Visit to a Recording Studio

Unfortunately the Soul Assassins made only a few trips a recording studio, the first, in fact, with the original Assassinettes (Claudia, Helena and Mean Jean), as well as original drummer Brian Moores on January 2, 1988. Flick and Brian Spaeth found the studio in the East Village where we eventually did most of our recordings. I guess it was run by some coke-head because the sound we got out of that place was always terrible. The owner was going to record and mix us one afternoon, but after a few songs, he split and left some crack-head behind to do the mixing. Of course, that dude was being paid by the hour, so he kept us there all night, twiddling knobs, acting like he was souping things up. What a joke. Garage bands sound best with zero mixing. But you have to know how to mic and EQ the instruments, which these guys obviously didn’t have a clue about. Even the demo tape they gave me on a cassette tape had crazy levels, one track riding the red all the time and the other barely there at all. It was sad that we never really stepped into a competent situation in a studio or who knows what sort of records we could have produced.

Flick and Brian were masters at showing up at the studio armed with Brian’s ancient tape-recorder and a brand-new song they wanted to do. Brian would play some Bill Kelly Show taped off his equally ancient radio. It was like a game of telephone tag trying to decipher those faint and scratchy sounds. I’m hopeless at transposing anyway, practically tone-deaf, so Bob Brandel would always work out the chords for me. He was so amazing on guitar that it usually only took Bob a few seconds before he riffed off some major chunks that sounded just like the record, only better.

In fact, it was a testament to how great the band was that we could even learn a song and record it minutes later as if we’d been playing it all our lives. I just put up a new track on our bandcamp site (see link top-right column). It’s from that first session: “That’s the Bag I’m In,” perfect for Flick’s bulldog personality. We also recorded two originals I wrote that day, “Scream” and “Higher Ground,” as well as “All Night Long,” “Down at the Nightclub,” “”Have Love,” “The Assassinettes Theme,” and a few others. The reason we picked up “Have Love” is Brian’s brother Gordon (a member of the Fleshtones) told us my song “Scream” was a copy of “Have Love” (even though I’d never heard that song before). But once I listened to “Have Love,” I realized it blew my humble tune out of the water. Gordon would eventually teach Flick how to play the harmonica.

The original Assassinettes had no problem with “Scream” but their replacements did. At least Abbey did. After she heard the song on the radio one day, she told me we couldn’t play it with her on stage because of the line that went: “If you got a gal that don’t know her place, all you have to do is laugh in her face, and just scream!” Abbey didn’t dig that line, so we dropped the song. I just posted a bunch of songs from that first session on our bandcamp site for the first time, so you might want to check them out.

Why not check out my band, the Soul Assassins, or my free eBooks, just click the links at the top-right column of this page. And please subscribe so you don’t miss any future posts. And thanks for stopping by.

The Plan to Make Rock History: Phase 2

I guess you could say Phase 2 of the Soul Assassins’ plans to make rock history began in a rehearsal studio in the East Village, when I met four people for the first time, three of whom would become longtime friends. We must have been operating on a very high magic-factor, ’cause a Hollywood screenwriter could not have concocted a better set of characters for our script.

Where to begin?

Ok, Allegra’s friend, Abbey Lavine, she’s the super hottie on the left. Notice the Betty Page haircut (long before that craze took off). In fact, Abbey once played Betty in an independent film. She was a literary scholar and librarian. A brainiac. She was also semi-famous as the world’s greatest female 8-track music collector and appeared in a documentary on the subject. She was also a go-go dancer at a Queens strip club when she needed the money, but she vetoed the idea of me coming to see that performance once so I won’t be offering up any photos along those lines. Abbey was the first vegan I ever met and she knew garage rock history as good as I did! She hailed from Boston originally, and her crowd from Boston included Dino Sorbello, who was sort of the unofficial king of the garage scene at the time. He courted Abbey for years, and even won her heart for a while, and they lived as king and queen of garage rock on Sixth Street. Some of the best bands at the time were from Boston (Lyres), and the best after-parties were always at Dino’s, where the band could crash when the sun came up. But enough about Dino. Abbey had a very sharp wit, and sometimes put some camp into her go-go dancing. I particularly remember her “bunny” moves with paws outstretched. I do have video on that move.

Kimona 117 (above, far right) had a voice, though, nobody could fuck with. The second she started singing, the energy in the room shifted, with her at the center of gravity. We instantly hailed her as the female alpha in the bandĀ  just based on voice alone. She also had great style and a voluptuous figure. Kimona wasn’t comfortable and at-home with the music the way Abby was: she had yet to get her schooling in garage rock history, but that would come easy. You can see in the picture she has not yet assumed the regal bearing of garage rock goddess she would soon attain. Kimona was struck by many tragedies, unfortunately, and was struggling with a law-suit and bad-news boyfriend the day we met her. One of her best friends was on crack. So we quickly pulled Kimona out of that scene and she became our hang-out-every-day side-kick. We all knew instantly we had a diamond, not even in the rough, she was pretty polished even back then.

Drummer is always the hardest position to fill in any band. I got a whiff of the reason why when, for a micro-second, I was going to play organ and guitar in the Soul Assassins, before I figured out all the shit I was going to have to drag around to the gigs. Well, that shit doesn’t even come close to what a drummer needs to drag around to the gigs. Brian Morse had been the real thing, a former drummer for the Finchley Boys, the most famous garage rock band of central Illinois. But Brian could not shake a stick compared with the pad-pounding Dave Rodway! Holy cow, that guy had some crazy energy and the strength of Hercules! Dave was also an accomplished martial arts expert and his idea of a fun thing was to sleep on a bed of rocks. He avoided mattresses like the plague. It softened him up too much! Dave was a rock! I’ve never seen anybody so chiseled before or since. He was the dream drummer for any rock band, and of course, other bands instantly wanted to steal him away. Dave had a blast at the rehearsal, though. He had his pick of any band, any style he wanted to go for, but he went for us. He told me that day he loved playing off my rhythm guitar. That’s Mr. Brandel on the right. I don’t think he’s been properly introduced yet.

But the Joan-Jett lookalike in the middle (top photo)? That’s Kimona’s friendĀ  Joia Morello, who left town the day after doing one gig with us. And wouldn’t you know it, Abby knew a garage rock goddess who wanted to join. And she was a blonde, which might go good with Abby’s black, and Kimona’s red. And she would actually evolve into the greatest of all the East Village garage rock goddesses, the favorite runway model for the top designers looking to achieve that magic “East Village” effect. But you’ll have to wait for the next episode of this blog to meet her.

If you like these stories please check out the Soul Assassins Greatest Hits on bandcamp, just click the link at the top-right. Also subscribe to my email alerts so you don’t miss any future posts. And please check out my free eBooks on smashwords. And thanks for stopping by. And….