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"MEMO"ries

Here on this page are a collection of stories from members of the Memos and some of our favorite gigs.

Jim

Here are 5 of my favorite Memos gigs of all time and why. Most of the time, I don’t remember the gig itself, but the events surrounding it. Not in any order of importance.

There are so many great memories, these are just a few.

1. Kent’s Hill Academy in Maine, January 1985. We had just finished playing out a week at a hotel/club in Calais, Maine with our new bass player, Alex. It had snowed and after the 5 or 6 days at the hotel, we were booked into this place called Kent’s Hill. We didn’t know what it was but it was on the way home. The morning of the gig got off to a roaring start when we left the hotel to gas up for the trip south. As I crossed the parking lot to the gas station, it was all ice. In what seemed like slow motion, the van slid across the parking lot and straight into the gas pump, knocking it over. No gas spilled because of safety features, but what a way to start the day. Anyway we drove all day and got to the gig and found out it was a Prep School. Teenagers. We also found out that because they didn’t know us, we couldn’t stay the night in the dorms or on the campus. While we were in the hotel with Alex the week before he taught us some of the songs he knew and we had rehearsed them that week and were ready to play them. What I remember most was that in the middle of one of the sets we played a couple of cover tunes in a row including I melt with you by Modern English and Love is the Drug by Roxy Music. Sometime during this set, there was a young girl right in front of me who just broke down in tears on her knees. I’d never experienced that kind of reaction before and I think it was just because we were a band playing the type of music these kids were used to listening to, but probably didn’t get to experience live at the usual school dance. Most of these kids were from Massachusetts and other states, going to private school. We drove home in a snowstorm and returned to play at Kent’s Hill twice more in less than a year.

2. Iowa School for the Deaf, fall 1979. What started off to be something we were making fun of, turned out to be a great experience. Our agent had gotten us this gig and it was probably a throwaway, but for us it was a money maker. The school was a short drive from our home in NE. and when we got there we weren’t sure what to expect. One of the first things that happened was that Tom Wilde dropped Dave’s cymbals and of course it made a loud noise. We reacted, but no one else in the building came running. We had a good laugh and went on setting up. I think someone showed us around a bit and we went to one of the recreation rooms and there were some people watching TV, albeit turned up full blast. When we finally played, we were told to turn things up as loud as we could. (Not something bands get told very often) The students would feel the vibration and would dance. Sure enough they did, we played and sang and they danced and clapped. Looking back it was a rewarding experience.

3. Phillips Academy, Exeter, NH. I don’t remember exactly when this gig was, but I think it was 1986. We were set up and ready to play at another Prep School, this one being the NH Campus of the famous Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. We had a dressing room downstairs from where we were playing and were just hanging out doing our usual stupid stuff before we played. Sneaking booze when we weren’t supposed to and the like. By this time, I was playing bass full time and Alex was on guitar. I remember that we played really well and in fact the kids were leaning on the stage so hard it was moving. I was feeling that we were hitting our stride as a band as we were able to get strong reactions from crowds by this time. This was just one example.

4. Two gigs in one day. The early summer of 1979, found us playing two shows in one day. We played a benefit at the Southroads Mall in Bellevue, NE in the parking lot. What was unique was that I played guitar with Variety and then played drums with another goofball band with some other friends. After we finished there, we were off to Underwood, Iowa for a graduation party on a farm. We had to travel east on I-80 and then onto a gravel county road. We actually set up in a hayloft. The party was for the proverbial farmer’s daughter, twins as I remember it. I don’t remember a lot about playing the gig, but it was a lot of fun. Free beer, there was a car you could bash with a sledge hammer and stuff like that. Once again, I got to play a couple of songs with the other group of guys on drums. I wasn’t a great drummer by any stretch.

5. Smith College, Northampton, MA. We somehow got a gig playing at Smith College’s freshman orientation dance. Smith College is a famous all female school out in western MA. We played to a packed house and we were the only guys there. Sounds great, except when we were done it seemed like everyone just disappeared into thin air. One of our friends, Diane King, came to the gig as she was a student at UMass Amherst just up the road. She had given Dana a note with a phone number and we could have probably gone and crashed with her and her friends at their place, but Dana didn’t read the note until later and we had driven the 4 hours home crammed into Chip Berberian’s van in the wee hours of the morning.

Dana's MEMOries

Most Memorable Gigs

1. The Raft, Lowell, MA 1982 - The first really great gig I remember the Memos doing was for a battle of the bands in 1982 that was being run by a local booking agency called "Rock Fever Productions". More than anything, we wanted to get into the battle of the bands for exposure, hoping to get future work out of it. The competition was going to be at "The Raft" in Lowell, MA. The agent told us what was expected of us. I remember being nervous about trying not to make a lot of noise (tuning, etc.) between songs, because we weren't that polished at the time. I am always afraid I'm going to break a string during a song!

The night of the competition came, and we had a set of songs ready. It was a mix of covers and some originals. "The Raft" had a very nice sound system, with a house sound tech. We got through our set ? no major blunders or broken strings. I think we put everything we had into that 40 minutes! We won the competition that night, but eventually lost to a Van Halen power-pop clone called "Azrock". In the larger picture though, it was the beginning of a long relationship with Rock Fever Productions as our booking agent, which eventually led to getting even better bookings through Pretty Polly Productions from Boston. Neil, the owner of Rock Fever, told me he didn't think we were a very good band, but that he liked that we played "Stir It Up" by Bob Marley and the Wailers, so he got us bookings. Later on, he bought a club in Manchester, NH called "The Casbah", where we became the 'house band' on Wednesdays, and did a lot of other great gigs there as time went on.

2. May 1983 - Really early on, when we were trying to find work anywhere and everywhere, our manager, Wilson, had gotten us a gig at a club in Rhode Island. Chip Berberian was our sound man at the time. The club was looking for a band to play all reggae for the weekend. We had quite a few reggae/ska songs in our repertoire ? "Stir It Up" by Bob Marley, "Pressure Drop" by the Maytals, "The Harder They Come" by Jimmy Cliff, and some of our own originals like "Happy With My Haircut", "You Can't Be In Love With Me", "Trend", "Drag Me Down" and "Living a Life of My Own". We didn't, however, have enough to fill even one set, let alone for an entire weekend of reggae. So what did we do? We went through every song in our repertoire, and made it a reggae song! "Turning Japanese" ? reggae. "What I Like About You" ? reggae. "Blitzkreig Bop" ? reggae. "Dancing With Myself" ? reggae. I think the club owner was angry with us a soon as we started playing! We were told not to come back for the second night of the gig, and we never played that club again.

3. ???? Rhode Island, ????, 1982/1983 - We had done a gig where we were booked at an outdoor private party. We were booked to play from before sundown into the evening. They had us set up directly in the sun, which we didn't mind. The problem was that, as the sun went down, the temperature was dropping, and as it did, the two guitars and the bass were constantly detuning. We prided ourselves on finishing up a song and immediately going right into the next one. That was impossible to do at this gig. We had to re-tune our instruments between every song. I remember long gaps between songs, making it impossible to put on any kind of show, or keeping the audience. I still remember how miserable that felt.

4. Calais, ME, December 1984/85- We had gone through a few bass players. We'd had Tom Wilde when we were out in Omaha, then Mike Sheehy when we first started in Massachusetts. When Mike left to join "The Mighty Charge", we took in the only female "Memo", Cindy Morin, on bass for a while. We also had an interim bass player, John, who was a very good bass player, but a lot older than the rest of us. Then we found Alex Rodriquez. For the first time, we had a guy who could really play, he was a great singer and a great songwriter in his own right. His personality worked well with ours, too. We finally had what I think was the perfect fit for us.

His first week with us, we drove up to Calais, Maine, for a week up there right after Christmas. Jim writes about the gig right after that, in his MEMOries. We had nothing to do in the room they provided us for the week in Calais, but to keep learning songs with Alex, and playing a Beatles version of "Trivial Pursuit" Jim's wife Patti had bought him as a gift. On the radio, they said they were going to debut a new song by U2 from their forthcoming album. I'd caught it on cassette, and we learned "Pride (In the Name of Love)" that same day, and played it that night. It was a very long week up there, but we really got us tight, as we hadn't been in a while. It was the start of us becoming the band we had been wanting to be.

5. Nostalgia, Quincy, MA, August 2, 1985 - There is a video of us playing a club on Nantasket Beach in Quincy, MA called "Nostalgia" in August 1985. Alex was our bass player by then. "Nostalgia" (which had also been called "The Beachcomber") had been there for many years, with lots of very famous people having played there, going back to the jazz age. We got booked to headline there. I feel like we had really hit our stride, as performers, and as a band by that point. I see that video and all I can think is that we were playing 'in overdrive'. We 'had it down' by that point. We worked real hard on stage, but we were fully confident at what we were doing. In my memory, I never really thought of "The Memos" as a really great band. But, as evidenced by the video taken that night, we were everything any band would want for themselves: we were tight as a band, in control of the audience, and exciting to dance to, hear and watch.

6. The Casbah, Manchester, NH, 1986 - A man who was investing in a new production company out in California had heard a tape of our originals, and wanted to fly out to see us live. We wanted to 'hand pick' which gig he saw us at, so we could put out best face out there. For some time, we had been the opening act for a lot of the bigger bands around Boston. The band "til tuesday" just had a national #1 hit with their song and album, "Voices Carry", and we had been asked to open for them at "The Casbah" in Manchester NH. Tony, the man from California, was scheduled to see us at that show.

The night of the show was fantastic! All we had to play was one 45 minute set. We packed our set full of only our best original songs. It didn't hurt that we packed the club with people who'd been following us, and that we'd been the 'house band' there on Wednesday nights for some time. It seemed to me that everything went right for us, and we were doing everything right. We were fun and exciting to watch. We fired off one song, right after the other with no stops ? exhausting ourselves and the audience, as we were in the habit of doing by that point. We even got an encore, which "til tuesday" didn't even get that night! They were pretty dull to watch. We were all hunger and adrenaline. We left them wanting more.