The Drummer

I met Richie Wurst that first night at Edmund’s. Right away when we got there, Brian introduced me to this wild eyed, 18 year old rocker. He had a strawberry mullet and a blue and green tie dyed t shirt.   He was a jester, a jokester. he had a big giant smile and a loud contagious laugh. Brian had been telling me about Richie and his band, The Cogs. They were on a hiatus because their guitar player was “bein’ a fag” about something, but I never found out what that was. I was looking forward to meeting him. I thought it would be really cool to get together and play with a drummer, even though I really didn’t know a whole lot on the guitar. Apparently Brian had been telling Ritchie about me too. Almost immediately after we got there, Richie was telling me very excitedly about his band and how he couldn’t wait to play with them again. All they needed was a new guitar player. They’d had it with the bad behavior of the last guy, but he wasn’t specific about what the problem was. He started asking me what kind of music I liked to play. I was like, “Man, I’m not really any good at the guitar at all, I just started not too long ago.” “We should jam sometime!”, he said excitedly.  I was like, “yeah!…that would be great.” “What are you doin’ tomorrow?”, he asked, with a focused intensity and sudden seriousness that caught me off guard. “Uh..nothin, I don’t think.”  Nothin’ was in fact, totally correct.  I had been doin’ nothin’ all day every day since I quit my job at Carmine Esposito’s Italian Water Ice stand right at the beginning of that summer. I had promised my parents that I would knock on people’s doors and offer to cut their grass, but I never did that. In fact, as it was, my parents had to lean on me hard to get me to cut the grass and weeds in our own yard. My laziness and ability to avoid work were staggering.

“Where would we play?” I asked “How ’bout your house?” he shot back, with the quickness. “Uh…I don’t know. It’d probably be fine, but I have to check with my parents. what do ya wanna do, bring your drums over?” “Yeah, they’re at Danny’s. I’ll see if Mark can help me move ’em. He’s got a station wagon”, he replied. “Who’s Danny? Who’s Mark?”, I asked. “Danny’s our old guitarist. That’s Mark.” He pointed to the guy holding the jam box. He had a giant white t shirt, colorful jams shorts, and poofy high top NIKEs and a thick black mullet with heavy feathering up front. “Alright, gimmee your phone number. I’ll ask my parents tonight and if they say it’s cool, you can bring the drums over.” “Cool!” he said, and wrote down his phone number. It had seven digits.

When I went home that night, I asked my parents if Richie could bring his drum set over so that we could jam.  Sure, they said. It was no big deal. Fuckin amazing parents.

The next day at around 11AM, Mark and Richie pulled up in a white station wagon with grayish brown wood paneling on the sides. It was jam packed with music gear. There was a drum set, but there was also an amplifier head and a gigantic speaker cabinet. They both said “Acoustic”. I found that to be very confusing.  In addition to the drums and the gigantic amp, there were a few small Casio keyboards, a microphone, a bunch of cables, and 2 small metal boxes that would yet again change my life. One was orange, one was silver. The orange one said BOSS and Distortion. The silver one said DOD and Stereo Flanger.  “What are these?! What’s a Flanger (the way i asked, it rhymed with banger)” Mild mannered Mark corrected me, “flanger(flan jer)” he said, “it uh…flanges it.”

Up until that point, I had been playing my D’Agostino electric guitar through a small Gorilla 20 watt practice amplifier that my mother bought for me at Pat’s Music under the El near Margaret/Orthodox. It had a knob that said “tube stack”. if you turned that up all the way, the tiny little amp would distort and sound “electric”. It was a great little practice amp. What I didn’t know, was that I was about 15 minutes from outgrowing it. As Richie began to put together his kit, Mark said, “Alright man, I’m gonna take off” Richie replied, “Cool man, thanks a lot!” and Mark slunk out the back door, got into his car and drove away. What I was starting to piece together was that this was all of the gear that Mark and Richie owned that had been at Danny’s. It seemed that maybe they were no longer gonna be friends with Danny and now it all lived at my house.

There was a knock at the front door. I went upstairs to answer it. Brian, Wayne and Robin were at the door. They looked like the cast of The River’s Edge. “Yeheoww Deuude! We heard you and Richie were gonna jam!!” Wayne said, excitedly.  “Hey, yeah…come on in.”  I ushered them all downstairs into the basement, which was getting steadily smaller as Richie set up his kit.  I was happy they were there. Brian was my main homeboy, Wayne was a little older so I felt cool that he was knocking on my door, and Robin was quiet, nice, and super beautiful. However, I SUCKED at guitar. It was gonna be embarrassing enough for Richie to hear how bad I was, but to have the big reveal in front of an audience was kind of a drag. What was I gonna do? tell them to leave? I couldn’t

Richie got his kit all the way set up and started to play. Holy mother of fuck was it LOUD.  I mean, I had seen plenty of live drummers at concerts at The Spectrum, at smaller, free concerts at Pennypack Park, at Penn’s Landing, and even at weddings. What I hadn’t heard was an unbaffled drum kit, played by a madman, in a small basement with concrete walls.  I was totally blown away. I was terrified. I was sure the police were gonna come immediately. What was I gonna do? Tell him to stop? I couldn’t.  I plugged into my gorilla and turned it all the way up and started to play the riff from Day Tripper because I thought that was the most impressive thing I played. You couldn’t even hear it. Literally. You couldn’t hear a fuckin thing but Richie as he played the beat from Born To Be Wild. Richie stopped playing. “Hook up the Acoustic! THAT fuckin thing is loud enough, believe me! Ya gotta be careful though. It can shock ya”

I guess I just stood there looking clueless (I was) because Richie crawled out from behind the kit and started to hook up the amp. Every amplifier I had paid any attention to until that point was a “combo” amp, meaning that the amplifier and speaker cabinet were housed in the same unit. That was not the case with all amps. Lots of amps have a head and a speaker cabinet which are separate. Richie stood the cabinet up and placed the head on top. he dug through the tangle of cables and found a short one and used it to connect the 2 pieces.  “Plug it in!” he said. I plugged my guitar in and turned on the amp. Richie got back in the corner and gave a 4 count with his sticks and we blasted into our rendition of Day Tripper/Born To Be Wild. The sheer amount of volume had me terrified on the edge of vomiting. I had never felt anything like that before. There was a storm of volume and I was at the center of it, the cause. I didn’t know the turnaround or chorus part so I just played the riff and then went up a string and played the riff in A, and just kept repeating it.  After we played that for about 10 minutes, Ritchie asked what else I knew. I started playing some of the open chord stuff from my lessons and it was horrible. the open chords sounded like trash through the blaring, clean solid state monster amp. Also, I was kind of out of tune. Not only did I not have an electronic tuner, I didn’t even know they existed yet. There were those 2 pedals that I mentioned, but they weren’t hooked up. I didn’t know how to use them yet. I didn’t know the first thing about getting a good tone.

I knew that Day Tripper sounded ok so I just decided on the spot to come up with something similar. Some single note riff played on the lower strings that we could just rock out to immediately. I basically just wrote 2 shitty little songs on the spot that day. What I found out was it didn’t matter that I wasn’t any good at the guitar. All that mattered was that I believed in my riffs. Playing with Richie was a revelation. It was the essence of the power and glory of Rock and roll and from then on, I wanted to always be doing it.

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