Who is your favorite musical artist? Ask a thousand different people that question and you will get 1,000 different answers. For some, it's The Rolling Stones, others are reliving Beatlemania, while the lesser evolved think Britney and Justin are "da bomb."
For me BLUE OYSTER CULT is and always will be the world's greatest rock band, their music and lyrics permanently forged onto my mind. As I told Donald Roeser at a show recently, BOC provided the "soundtrack of my life."
Like BLACK SABBATH in their dark, underground imagery, BOC has never the less created a subversive world unique in itself, complete with a revolutionary persona, morbid sexual desires, the blazing action of old WWII movies-all set to fireball, frenzy guitars, bombastic drums and keyboards hovering like bats ready to swoop down upon their prey.
This is all done with the black humor of a Hitchcock film and soon the newly initiated are mesmerized by the band's alluring grasp, hypnotized to follow the dark forces dwelling in each of us.
Unlike other super fans, who only dream about meeting their favorite artist, I worked for the band, their producers, co-wrote songs with them, had my song recorded, got paid royalties, worked for others in the BOC family, and met and hung out with other music superstars.
This all came about strictly by accident.
In 1974, I was a devoted Alice Cooper fan (over the last few months I had the pleasure of meeting Neil Smith and Dennis Dunaway who perform with Joe Bouchard in BDS, but I digress). AC was today's Marilyn Manson, steeped in controversy. But by the aforementioned year, AC mellowed out. He played celebrity golf, guest starred on prime time TV shows, and I began to search for more subversive artists to enjoy.
A friend from work gave me a ticket to a concert he could not use. The opening act was T REX, a band whose music I knew. But I was unaware of the headliner, BLUE OYSTER CULT. This was October of 1974, and BOC had yet to appear on TV or make the charts' top 40 list.
Ironically, T REX did not appear at NYC's famed Academy Of Music that night, but I sensed the electricity going through the crowd as BOC was set to take the stage. Teenage boys struggled among themselves to line up by the stage so they could "see the Cult close up."
Minutes later, a buxom blonde, dressed in leather, announced "On Your Feet Or On Your Knees," as explosions heralded BOC's furious command of the stage.
I did not know any of the songs, but by set's end, I was hooked on this band!!! The next day I purchased the entire BOC catalog and caught the band at local shows in New York and New Jersey. ME 262, HARVESTER OF EYES, FLAMING TELEPATHS, CITIES ON FLAME, HOT RAILS TO HELL--BOC created their own demented mythology, a pitch black, subversively seductive universe that captured the alienated outsider, and bid the insulted and injured welcome.
Such a darkly insulated universe provided the listener admission to a fascinating club, a secret organization that mocked the hypocritical institutions of the real world that demanded strict conformity.
Flash forward to 1976, I wanted to get a job with the WWWF as a manager. I paid a professional photographer friend of mine to snap some shots of me in my wrestling character's costume. I later sent those photos into PUNK MAGAZINE, who were looking for off beat subjects and a letter declaring my punk ferocity and calling myself, "Subhuman," after the BOC song.
May of 1976, Memorial Day weekend, I had just returned to NYC after seeing the cult perform in a small theater in Portchester, NY (Rush opened for them). I saw the new issue of PUNK on the newsstand and saw the photos I sent them received a full page spread. I was their PUNK OF THE MONTH for two consecutive issues!!!!
As a heavy metal devotee, I sought out the newest, wildest acts I could find. The Dictators were and still are a legendary NYC band, whose first LP is still considered a classic. The band was playing gigs around NYC in order to get a new record label and I knew they were managed and produced by Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman-the masterminds behind BOC.
On June 18th, 1976, I left work early to get ready to go to The Dictators' show at Club 82 on East 4th St. in NYC. Little did I know it was the night that would change my life!
My newly found infamy as Punk Magazine's Punk Of The Month helped me to meet The Dictators, Punk editors John Holmstrom and Ed McNeil, BOC lyricist Helen Wheels, and SANDY PERALMAN.
Helen Wheels was great!!! Blazing red hair, a shapely figure all of punkdom drooled over, tattoos, and a wide, warm smile, she brought a female sensibility to BOC's lyrics with SINFUL LOVE and TATTOO VAMPIRE. She was thrilled that Tattoo Vampire would be the b side of the cult's new single, DON'T FEAR THE REAPER, little did we know at the time, it would be a top 5 hit.
There were probably fewer than 100 people in the small, lesbian managed club, but they were rabid Dictator fans. In between dancing with Helen Wheels to "The Next Big Thing," I unabashedly gushed over meeting and conversing with Sandy Pearlman, co author of my favorite songs and creative and business brain of my favorite band-BOC.
Tall, thin, blonde haired and always wearing his astronaut cap and red shirt, the rapier witted Sandy seemed to enjoy my presence as much as I loved meeting him. Perhaps in me, he saw an army of devoted BOC followers and lovers of the vision he helped create. Perhaps it was the concept spoofed by EMINEM today. The disaffected fans need a hero to worship and once they find someone they can relate to, they become their idol and follow the star without question. If an artist can cultivate a million followers, the artist is set for life, moreover if you can reach one at the start it's just a matter of time until the rest fall in.
He invited me to Philadelphia the next weekend to see BOC perform at The Spectrum. BOC were sandwiched between opener Ted Nugent and headliner ZZ TOP. BOC would be performing songs from their newly released Agents oF Fortune, including DON'T FEAR THE REAPER to their newly acquired laser show.
Sandy said they cult would talk to a fan all night, and they did!! I met my heroes, had backstage passes, saw a great show and met Ted Nugent, another guitar superhero.
I guess I always had a passion for larger than life things: comic book superheroes, pro wrestling and rock and roll's super idols and icons. I liked subversive things more than things that had mainstream acceptance-if everybody liked it; it lost its coolness for me.
Anyway, for the next few months, I spent my free time and money hanging out with The Dictators and Helen Wheels at the legendary NYC club, CBGBs. The Dictators, who featured Mark "The Animal" Mendoza, later of TWISTED SISTER, played bass for The Dictators and lead singer HANDSOME DICK MANITOBA, played the part of a wrestler on stage. As mentioned, pro wrestling was already a passion of mine, so I quickly related to the handsomest man in rock and roll, as well as Andy Shernoff penning songs for wrestling manager, Capt. Lou Albano.
Unlike other punk bands, The Dictators were, and still are, funny. In an era that pushed Donny and Marie, and David Cassidy on the public, Handsome Dick and the guys were genuine, sincere in their outrageousness. Handsome Dick, in his oversized Afro, booming voice, big, teddy bear warmth, lampooned the mass produced, pretty boy idols dominating the media. The songs had the distinct New York flavor, bold and aggressive, with lyrics the underdogs could readily identify with.
The band was a frequent headliner at CBGB club on their way to being signed to Elektra/Asylum records. They even helped me get closer to Helen by dedicating a song from me to her.
Meanwhile, I saw BOC and hung out with them in the Autumn of 1976 at their gigs in Philadelphia, this time they headlined The Spectrum and sold it out with ANGEL, in Boston, BOC headlined The Music Hall with opener, BOSTON, and I saw them on New Years' Eve in Cleveland with openers, URIAH HEEP. They were shocked to see me board the plane with them!!
They knew I was a serious fan, a bandaid you would call it. The year before, I saw BOC strictly as a fan at Nassau Arena in New York where they opened for KISS. I explained to Sandy on the flight that it isn't New Years' Eve for me without BOC. Some love Guy Lombardo, I love BOC.
The Cleveland show was tremendous!!! Everyone was up for it being New Years Eve 1976.The cult was bonafide stars now that "Reaper" was a hit that year. 20,000 fans packed the Richfield Arena! Afterwards, we ate at an all night steak house and we joked how if we were in NYC, we would be eating at our favorite Chinese eatery, Wo Hop.
BOC, their crew and management, were always respectful and kind. There were no prima-donna attitudes among anyone. Everyone was friendly and professional. Anyone expecting to hear about wild groupie parties or drugs or elaborate perks, were sadly disappointed. BOC were just five regular guys who played rock and roll for a living. Four out the five were married with homes of their own and some were soon expectant fathers. Food was the big vice at BOC shows. Food before, during and after the shows. During my time in the recording studio with them Sandy made a career of going food shopping at boutique eateries.
February of 1977, I saw BOC at some local venues. Helen Wheels and I went to CBGBs to see a new act, The Dead Boys, Cleveland's answer to THE SEX PISTOLS. When lead singer STIV BATORS found out I was the punk of the month, he had me onstage doing the band's introductions and scream over for the song, DOWN IN FLAMES. I became the band's new friend and mc. I would yell to the crowd something like, " Alright you cretins, you've seen the rest, now here's the best, up from the grave to take your souls, here's The Dead Boys." And the rabid punks ate it up. One night, we threw toilet paper rolls at another band from the Midwest trying to showcase at CBGB's-DEVO. We humiliated them that night when they played to a capacity table. Little did we know that this band of geeks would have a hit, WHIP IT, while Stiv and the guys would not go beyond a niche status (unfortunately).
CBGB's management signed The Dead Boys to a recording contract. I introduced the band at many of their gigs around NYC and on the night they recorded their LP, YOUNG, LOUD, AND SNOTTY in Electric Lady Studios on W. 8th St. in NYC, I flew in from Atlanta, GA where I saw BOC at the Omni.
BOC headlined over RUSH and REO SPEEDWAGON that night. We flew back to NYC and I went to The Dead Boys' recording session where at 3 am, I did the scream over for DOWN IN FLAMES.
I also hung out with The Dictators as they started recording MANIFEST DESTINY LP, with Pearlman and Krugman producing.
In April of 1977, I got very ill at work and had to be suddenly hospitalized during a weekend The Dead Boys AND The Dictators were co-headlining CBGBs. Both bands dedicated their sets to me. I was honored and proud!!!
May of 1977, Sandy Pearlman asked me to become BOC's roadie/gofer in the Record Plant recording studio while he produced and mixed "SPECTRES." I would be paid to hang out and work for my favorite artists. I hung out with Allen while we watched Ernie Kovacs vintage TV shows and met Jim Carroll, the NY poet on whom THE BASKETBALL DIARIES is based.
I was there for the birth of Eric's son, Benjamin, who recently graduated college. I started writing some songs with Albert Bouchard, who just became a father. One of them, TNT, TOUGH 'N TENDER, was about Helen Wheels. BLONDIE, with whom I was friendly with from a Punk Magazine photo shoot, were the first to hear the new song I wrote with one of my rock heroes.
Albert and Joe Bouchard are the nicest, most out going men one would ever meet. I spent more time with them, especially because Helen Wheels, who penned several songs on the LP, had been romantically linked with Albert a decade ago.
Sandy Pearlman called me "Superpunk," due to my Punk layout. He was a legendary rock journalist, having coined the term, "Heavy Metal." He also promoted rock shows like bringing THE YARDBYRDS to America. I was there when he wrote the lyrics to RU READY TO ROCK, E.T.I., and other songs. They went through several drafts in titles and I learned much from watching this master craftsman create the lyrical imagery. I also tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could from watching Sandy work with agents, promoters and record companies. I learned probably more than any music biz intern and magazines like BILLBOARD and RECORD WORLD became my textbooks. Sandy was an inspiration.
The promotion of music was different during the pre-MTV 1970s. BOC, I was told was signed by Clive Davis to CBS in 1972 for a $70,000 advance. Bands were signed to multiple album deals. The catch was the second LP had to outsell the first, or the band would be dropped from the major label. Few artists released their own albums. As a young band in 1972-1973, BOC, not unlike other acts, would build a following through gigs, usually third billed opening at mid sized venues, or headlining clubs. Bands would make in-store appearances and do radio interviews hoping to build a word of mouth following. Press exposure was very important.
If the record co. thought the act had potential, i.e. the band became signed to a major talent agency or they got encores as the openers, the label would pay for the band's tour support. The band then could finance a tour as a special guest on a big tour to promote their second LP. The third or fourth LPs usually had the act's best shot at a hit single for radio play on AM.
By this time, an act could headline a small venue, fewer than 5,000 seats. Once the band had a hit single, the public bought the band's catalog of LPs and if the band had a great live show, they could headline or co-headline stadiums and 10,000 plus halls. The record co. usually lost money on the band until they had a hit. The band usually saw no royalties until the record co. recouped all of its losses. And even the band's tour receipts would go to pay back the record co. for cost overruns and promotional costs like a press agent, radio promotion people, tour support, etc. As one musical superstar from that era told me, "You can have a number one hit and not earn a dime."
Punk rockers seemed to be an exception.. THE RAMONES, who opened for the BOC on some shows for $300 received a $10,000 advance for their first LP, whose sales exceeded 60,000 units in 1976. Sire Records made a hefty profit from them but heavy metal audiences did not take to them as I recall them being booed at their BOC gigs. When they played CBGB'S later that night, they received a heroes' welcome.
From where I sat, it took about three years from BOC to go from cult status to AM acceptance. There were a lot more places to play then. Each market had several venues. And it was a climb to reach super star status, unlike today's chew them up and spit them out pop icons thanks to the video revolution. There were very few TV shows featuring rock and roll back then so artists had to rely on a following built on word of mouth from the music if they wanted to become a hit.
Allen was the cool intellectual, but warm-hearted. Eric and Donald were the more serious members of the group. They both knew that there was a sixth member of the five man group who helped create the high concept, tongue-in-cheek revolutionary persona of the band. They had to balance not only art and commerce, but also balance their music and vision alongside someone behind the scenes. Unlike today's manufactured artists, rock and roll is supposed to be subversive and maintain artistic integrity. No one wanted to be THE NEW MONKEES. Donald was the virtuoso, the guitar hero who penned "REAPER." Negotiations between the band and management were constant as publishing rights were discussed, and especially how many songs from whom would be represented on the LP. Not only did I go for food but I also reviewed the cult's riders, that specified the band's pay, and backstage perks.
I accompanied BOC to a huge outdoor show in Buffalo, NY. At this stadium, BOC headlined over LYNARD SKYNARD, STARZ, and Ted Nugent. During the set, I helped with the special effects laser coming through the 30 ft. high GODZILLA head as the crowd went nuts.
Forget James Brown. The BOC road crew was the hardest working guys in show business. Sam Judd, Rick Downey, Ricky Reyer, Eric "E" Factor, The Geraneos brothers, George and Tony did a fantastic job at the shows and were always fun to be around.
Even when I wasn't working for BOC, I wore my cult shirts and buttons proudly, like a badge of honor around my community.
The aforementioned gig took place in a small town outside of Buffalo, NY in front of about 30,000 fans. After the show, Eric and I went for pizza in the limo and Eric was still in his stage gear. We stopped at a pizza shop full of fans coming from the BOC show. When Eric and I entered, the noisy fans suddenly saw their jaws dropping as the lead singer of the band they rocked out to less than an hour ago was ordering pizzas with extra cheese before their eyes. The place fell dead silent in awe.
Being at The Record Plant constantly, I met many great stars and stars in the making. I met Peter Wolf from J. Geils Band. (He dug my punk persona and intro skills with The Dead Boys, he invited me to mc a few of their shows in 1978, in front of 10,000 fans). I met "The Boss," "Aerosmith", PATTI SMITH, Allen's steady at the time and co writer of BOC's CAREER OF EVIL, MICK RONSON one of Bowie's spiders from Mars, and JIMMY IOVINE, a young recording engineer who was nicknamed Jimmy Shoes. He would later start a recording empire. And I met, and feuded with BOC rival, KISS.
While I was at my day job during that time, I heard Gene Simmons of KISS bad mouth BOC during a radio interview with Jay Thomas. Gene not only claimed that BOC had copied their act, he also rubbed BOC's noses in it by laughing at them due to BOC now having to open for KISS. Worst of all, Gene called Eric Bloom "kasha face" on the radio.
Whenever I went on an errand for BOC, Gene and his young KISS Army followers would taunt me and bash BOC. KISS was also recording at The Record Plant in a studio downstairs while BOC mixed "SPECTRES" up stairs. What angered me most is that Kiss groupies would ask BOC members for autographs after screaming at me how they thought BOC sucked moments before.
A member of BOC's top brass told me about Gene's Hebrew roots and his real name.
When I went on a food run for BOC, the same teens were calling BOC and I names. I politely asked them, "Did your friend Hymie tell you to say that?' The teens, some of whom were raised in an anti semite culture, could not believe Gene Simmons was one of them. The Kiss army was shocked when they heard "the awful truth" about their idol.
About an hour later, Gene Simmons went on the warpath looking for me. BOC members and I went into the hallway to face him. I still have nightmares about him. "Stay away from my fans," he screamed, "Say what you want about the band, but stay away from my fans." He was enraged at his secret identity being exposed. BOC members then reminded him that he started it with on air insults and how he baited me. In order to stop wasting studio time which cost $200.00 an hour then, apologies were exchanged all around with BOC and KISS trying to out do each other in sending make up gifts.
Some other funny moments from the recording session was Eric bringing his lunch from home in a KORG THE CONQUERER lunchbox. KORG was a popular kids' TV show and to save some money as his son Ben was just born, Eric brought "Korg food." One day, BOC, Helen Wheels and I went to BOC rehearsal up the street from the famed Studio 54, the cathedral of disco. We tried to stand on line to get in, just to see what it would be like. We tried explaining who we were and how there are million selling artists here, but we were denied admission to Studio 54 for not being cool enough. Albert Bouchard frequently wore his HOWDY DOODY T SHIRT to the sessions, "My first hero", he once told me.
Fortunately, Kiss left the studio by May of 1977. Helen Wheels, who had been in talks to start her own band, now was getting serious. She began to write songs with a guitarist named Moxie Arronson on W. 24th St. and she was auditioning lead guitarists and bass players.
I was deeply in love with Helen by that time and would do anything to be near her. By this time, she was collecting royalties from SINFUL LOVE and TATTOO VAMPIRE on Agents oF Fortune and she was anxiously awaiting the release of SPECTRES LP, which featured two of her songs, NOSFERATU and CELESTIAL THE QUEEN. I became her road manager/publicist, and despite objections, I invested some money into her act. I purchased some equipment from BOC members.
By summer's end, Helen Wheels Band made their debut at The Village Gate in NYC and all those who doubted she could do it were surprised by the ferocity of her performance. As Punk was the media darling in 1977, Helen was fast becoming a New York legend with just one show under her belt. Even Robin Leach, later of LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS, praised her in print.
By the fall, BOC took to the road to promote the forthcoming SPECTRES LP. They had a top 5 hit with Reaper the year before, so they began to play larger venues in addition to theaters. I hung out with The Dead Boys who were promoting their first LP in punk clubs and The Dictators were on the road promoting MANIFEST DESTINY. I still had my day job, and wanted to see my investment in Helen pay off by doing anything and everything to see her signed to a major label deal.
Helen was becoming fixture on the NYC club scene, performing at Max's Kansas City, CBGB's regularly, The Ritz, and at punk clubs in Boston and Philadelphia. Helen projected a powerful female persona with her "weapons of peace" on stage. She played with guns and knives while the band soared with blazing riffs and thundering drums. Helen was always friendly and sweet and a joy to be around, a truly inspirational figure. Meanwhile she happily collected royalties and fame from the fast selling "SPECTRES" LP that featured her songs, CELESTIAL THE QUEEN and NOSFERATU.
In 1978, as Helen's popularity grew around NYC and surrounding areas, I split my time between road managing her and working for Sandy Pearlman in the Record Plant as he mixed the cult's second live LP, Some Enchanted Evening. On off days, I worked for BOC at some local gigs in New Haven, CT, and Westchester County NY among others.
I was now a fixture in the BOC camp, having graduated from "just another schmuck who comes to our shows," as some BOC members referred to over zealous fans. I had more responsibilities such as calling the band at home to pass on information, arranging travel, and providing feedback on the session.
Sandy was a master mixer, precise and demanding, for he had to work with many recordings of BOC standards. Mixing is like cut and paste, a guitar riff, let's say, from one concert could be enhanced by another riff from another show, plus the engineer can change the whole thing in the studio, or even the master session if the producer wants. It is during that time I befriended CORKY STASIAK, a great engineer who would produce Helen Wheels' EP in 1981.
BOC always took lots of time in pre-production, detailed rehearsals for the recording sessions. It was easier to fix mistakes at $20 per hour rather in a $200.00 per hour recording studio. They mixed and mastered their LPS likewise in a precise fashion to make sure the music sounded great on even the worst speakers.
Due to my loyalty as a fan and worker, Sandy Pearlman once called me, "Son of the Cult". It was a great honor for this super fan!
These sessions were much more business like for Sandy wanted to capitalize on the cult's commercial success as soon as possible. Thanks to the success of "REAPER" and "SPECTRES," BOC played big, outdoor shows as headliners. The band went from a $4,000. per night for halls holding less than 5,000 fans to $40,000.00 per night at festivals in front of 50,000 fans. For the summer of 1978, this was serious money.
Meanwhile, despite the punk scene growing bigger, Helen's gigs became fewer in number due to increased competition and personnel changes within the band. Bands with whom we were once friendly suddenly became rivals for spots at clubs. Even The Dictators, with whom Helen performed with, headlined NYC'S Academy Of Music and The Dead Boys NOW OPENING UP FOR Iggy Pop, left the scene for bigger things.
Bands no longer auditioned at showcase night, but rather made their own single record and sent that into a talent buyer. Many unsigned bands were now signed to major deals and although the artist promised Helen she could open, the artist's agents had their own acts to showcase. I wanted Helen to make a demo, but after some band members had a falling out with her and her new beau, she did not have a well-rehearsed group with which to cut a demo recording.
In late summer of 1978, Sandy Pearlman was paid to produce The Clash'S first US recording. In England, PUNK was a serious social statement. It was an outcry against the British caste system, it was a badge of defiance against the ruling class, not unlike the American Civil Rights movement 25 years before.
Making music for them was a way out of poverty and a way to make social change. I admit now, I harbored some prejudice against them for their not fitting into the rock star for fun and profit role models I was used to. They in turn wore their rebel badges loudly and proudly. JOE STRUMMER AND MICK JONES harbored a distrust of corporate America, and that was intensified by THE SEX PISTOLS' disaster laden US tour earlier in the year.
Where BOC were all pros, I had to baby sit The Clash. I taught them to ride the NYC subway, helped them check into their hotel, break up their fist fights with their manager, help them score pot.
Sandy Pearlman scored tickets for all of us to see BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN in concert. Sandy and I loved the show, but The Clash thought he was an American sell out.
But The Clash'S songs, GUNS ON THE ROOF and THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR left an indelible impression upon me. Their blood and thunder fury came from within. I later saw them play at NYC'S Academy Of Music where they tore the roof off.
While mixing in the states, Joe and Mick wanted to perform. They would join the infamous SID VICIOUS and some former members of THE NY DOLLS on stage at MAX'S KANSAS CITY nightclub. I was their roadie for the night as I was already known to the club's management through my position with Helen Wheels. SID VICIOUS was everything he was portrayed to be and more-a nasty, ill mannered addict. It was only a matter of time until he hurt someone. He made Joe and Mick look like the Royal family.
The Clash and I became good friends after that show. They were happy with Sandy's work and they even came to a Helen Wheels show at CBGB. The prestige of having punk royalty from England helped Helen score more much needed gigs.
I even befriended THE DAMNED when they opened for The Dead Boys around Easter of 1978. I gave the singer one of my pro wrestling masks and he wept with joy!
In the fall of 1978, Joe and Albert Bouchard were helping Helen cut her demo. Some Enchanted Evening would be released soon and BOC would tour to support it. After a show in Poughkeepsie, NY I handed Joe a lyric I had written. I misheard a newscaster say eye of the storm, and thought, I AM THE STORM. I wrote the chorus and handed it to Joe. He loved it and encouraged me to finish the song. Although the verses went through rewrites, the chorus remained unchanged. All told, I co wrote about ten songs with The Bouchard Brothers at that time-PREMONITIONS, SILVER STRINGS, UNDYING FLAME, ALPHA AND OMEGA, INFINITY MACHINE and LET'S NOT THROW THE NIGHT AWAY are the ones I best remember.
Ironically, Helen and I vied for a place on BOC's next studio LP as 1979 grew near.
Again, I received on album special thanks on Some Enchanted Evening as I did on SPECTRES.
My friend from the Record Plant, PETER WOLF from J. GEILS BAND invited me to mc some shows for them at THE PHILADELPHIA SPECTRUM, THE POUGHKEEPSIE CIVIC CENTER AND THE PROVIDENCE CIVIC CENTER during the holiday week of 1978.
The woofer goofer as he was known then, Peter showed me how to really work up the crowd as a mc. I even came back on stage with them for a finale. The guys were great. They loved serious fans and admirers. There was more of a party atmosphere with them.
What a way to end the year and start 1979 in grand style!
In 1979, BOC began work on Mirrors. The LP would be recorded in California with producer TOM WERMAN, the producer of CHEAP TRICK. BOC was trying to retain their heavy meal following and expand into a pop mainstream. In the spring of that year I got great news, I AM THE STORM, the song I penned with JOE BOUCHARD made it on to the LP, ironically displacing one of Helen's songs, but Helen had the publishing rights to my lyrics so she earned something from the LP'S sales.
Wow!!! I could not believe it. I went from a fan, worshipping someone else's lyrics to now having my words join their words on disc in just 3 years!! Helen's words from SINFUL LOVE left an indelible impression on me, "No more idols, I've got my own self control".
I was so nervous about my song finally making it on to the disc, I accompanied the producer, TOM WERMAN, to the recordís mastering session to make sure my dream was coming true.
While Helen regrouped I worked at a Times Square record store until my royalties came through. One day, the members of the Brazilian soccer team came into the store. I displayed Mirrors in the store and played it on the store's turntable. The team loved my song and they all bought copies from me and when they found out I was the songwriter, they all asked me for my autograph.
1979 was not a good year for rock and roll. The oil crisis led to a depression. Home taping became more of the norm. Disco was the king, and by 1980, old school heavy metal like BOC competed against new, hair metal bands, that grew up listening to the cult. Hair metal acts expanded their audience to include female friendly ballads.
Whenever Helen Wheels played a gig, I did everything except play on stage - I made up contracts, booked shows and radio interviews, sent out press kits to those who would publicize her, wrote press releases, helped set up the equipment, got the band's pay, hired the crew and transportation, made travel arrangements and sold records at shows and watched the door when we were paid from the number of admissions
I joined BOC on stage once, at a gig in Boston in Sept. of 1979. The Cult played the Boston Garden to a packed house as I watched the show from the side of the stage. Joe Bouchard heralded me to come on and he handed me his bass and told me to wail away for thirty seconds, I did before BOC's crew realized it wasn't Joe playing but it was I playing Joe's solo.
In 1980, Helen had formed a new band and we began to get her career underway. Punk was gone, as new wave became the in thing. BLONDIE, THE RAMONES, TALKING HEADS reached out for mainstream acceptance
After playing some pivotal NYC gigs with The Dictators, The Dead Boys and performing with HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS at The Ritz, Helen began to lay down tracks for her own EP, POST MODERN LIVING. Helen's band included Top Ten from The Dictators, ANDY SHERNOFF, also from The Dictators and former BOC drummer, Albert Bouchard.
With a little help from her friends, Helen achieved a lyrical maturity and sophistication. Record Plant engineer CORKY STASIAK produced PML on Helen's own label, REAL AMERICAN RECORDS. Helen shared this small recording studio with the group BLUE ANGEL featuring lead singer CINDY LAUPER.
We sent out at least 1000 promotional copies to radio stations and publications-anyone who would give the EP exposure. PML was even a top pick in BILLBOARD, and was number three on a radio station in Cincinnati, OH. Despite favorable reviews and radio play nationwide, Helen's boy friend/investor refused to have PML distributed through consignment so I could not sign with a distributor. Fans who wanted PML, could not find it in their local store.
Helen always put her artistic integrity over everything. But by the mid 1980s, she was still a local hero not going beyond a national following. Younger, more pop oriented female acts dominated, punk was yesterday's news.
In 1984, Helen released her single, CARRY MY OWN WEIGHT, and I worked for her when she did some dates opening for THE RAMONES in some cities. But by that time, the scene and industry changed greatly from the heyday of the mid 1970s for BOC, Helen and The Dictators as the darker, street tough artists of that period had given way to the plastic rock of the 1980s.
After an illness, I went back to college, becoming a paralegal and working for a large music publisher, PEER-SOUTHERN, that ironically was the administrator of several BOC songs.
While pursuing my undergraduate degree in 1990, I read ROBERT L. PATTISON'S book, THE TRIUMPH OF VULGARITY. This scholarship detailed how rock lyrics from the 1970s, had their roots in poetry from The Romantic period of English poetry. Because of my failing health, I decided to pass up a law school education despite my 3.9 GPA and instead became an English Teacher. I finally understood what The Clash was fighting for while I studied the poetry of Shelley and Keats.
I last saw Helen Wheels in Feb. of 1988 on 57th St., although we kept in contact over the years, I was devastated on Jan. 18th, 2000 when I learned of her untimely death due to complications after surgery.
I felt a large piece of me died as well.
I am always inspired by her memory and nurturing ways.
On Feb. 17th of 2000, a memorial was held for her. I was reunited with old friends from The Dictators and The Bouchard Brothers. Helen had touched many lives and I was honored to praise her.
On Dec. 4th, 2001, there was a memorial concert for Helen at a local club. The Bouchard Brothers, The Dictators, BUCK from BOC, NEIL SMITH and DENNIS DUNNAWAY from Alice Cooper and other rock stars came to play a tribute concert to Helen Wheels.
I was reunited for BOC's DONALD ROESER after over 20 years. I began to join the computer revolution to keep in contact with Eric and Allen, Joe, Albert and Donald.
Joe Bouchard told me that my punk picture was on display at THE ROCK AND ROLL MUSEUM in Cleveland, OH and that an old videotape of myself was featured on a VH1 TV special on Punk Rock. I still cannot believe I am part of rock and roll history.
On Jan. 25th, 2002, I was happily reunited with BOC at their show at BB KING'S club in NYC. It was a warm and wonderful reunion seeing their children as adults.
On BOC's ON YOUR FEET OR ON YOUR KNEES, Eric calls his on stage gift something he will, "treasure forever." I feel the same way about my time with BOC and their families. I will never forget my time with BOC and I am thankful to the powers that made these once in a lifetime experiences.
Ill health prevents me from being as much as a fanatic as I want to be, but I consider the cult and everyone I mentioned friends and I will be their fan forever.
Ronald Binder co-wrote "I am the Storm" on Blue Öyster Cult's "Mirrors" LP, and also received "special thanks" credits on both their "Spectres" and "Some Enchanted Evening" releases.
He is featured on The Dead Boys's LP "Young Loud and Snotty" and Helen Wheels' EP "Post Modern Living" and was "Punk" magazine's "Punk of the Month" two months running (issue 4 and issue 5).
Mr. Binder is also the author of several works:
Billy Steele: Kid Ranger is a superhero western for kids in the vein of Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings set in America's wild west. Click here to find out more, or here to see a review.
The B.B. Wolf Follies and Flashback Feline: the TV Guided Tabby are other children's books written by Ronald Binder.
Watch out too for Monster Copz, a comic book set for release early 2003 - contact SMASH COMICS at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Other comic book works available from Ronald Binder include:
For further info on any of these works, contact email@example.com.