Mike Says 23

Hey Fools fans, how yall doin? Huh? Speak up I can’t here you, my ears are filled with water. Sorry I’m late this week but I just returned from a couple of days on Marthas Vineyard where I spent the time yelling at other drivers (how dare they go down there when I’m down there and get in MY way!) and body surfing on South Beach. The body surfing part was cool although it did take some time to find a body and drag it to the beach. Plus the body I found wasn’t entirely dead so it made for some exciting surfing. It’s important, I found, to strap the arms and legs of the body tightly together to give it more of a surf board-like look. It also keeps the body from flailing around especially, as in my case, if the body still has some life in it. Anyhow go try it –it’s fun! …And thank you all for letting me know you’re out there. I plan on coming to each and every one of your houses and thanking you in person (as long as you have cable TV and a full pantry) just so you’ll know how much it means to me. But now, on with the show. I can’t tell you how many times over the years people have asked me how the fools got started. To be honest with you I’ve told so many different stories to so many different people that I’m not entirely sure myself anymore what the truth is. But at least some of what I’m about to tell you is true. So get ready and strap yourself in because we’re going to do a little time traveling…. Sherman, set the way-back machine for 1977 (I think) and as Captain Picard (of the starship Enterprise) says, “make it so.” There’s me looking cool and a lot younger having just returned from a year in Sonoma, California. I’ll save the story of the year in Cali for another time but let’s just say that while I had lots of fun out there, I spent most of my time working like a schnowser (dog) at many mind numbing, low paying, menial tasks. By the time I got back to the East Coast I knew that anything resembling real work was not for me. So I did what anyone in my position would do–I started a rock band. I wasn’t without experience in this regard (see my earlier column on “The Fools Before they were Stars”) since I had been in bands throughout my high school years. Most of them were pretty awful, but that never stopped us from getting gigs. So soon enough (fall of ’77?) me, Rich, the Pedrocks, and Doug Forman (departed band in ’83) were starting to put a few tunes together. Unfortunately before we were ready to actually play out we got a call from a north shore club saying that a band had cancelled and would we like to fill in. ‘Yes!’ we said. And so it was that with only about 15 songs in our repertoire we showed up and found that we would have to play four 40-minute sets. Boy did we suck! By the end of the first 40-minute set we had played everything we knew and the club had emptied of everyone except the club owner. It was at this point that a Life lesson was learned. Our choice was clear, quit the night (maybe even music altogether) or find a way to get through the evening. After all, the club owner didn’t know we’d run out of songs, he only knew we sucked so bad that his club had cleared out. Maybe if we could make it through the next 3 sets he’d still pay us. So that’s what we did. First we repeated most of the 1st set, trying to make the same songs sound a little different. (Youd be surprised how long it takes to actually count the 96 tears in the song ’96 tears’) And then when that ran out we started with show tunes like ‘Oklahoma’ and ’76 Trombones. Then it was on to TV theme songs like ‘Rawhide’ and ‘The Adams Family.’ All the while the club owner sat halfway back in his big empty club and watched us with the kind of horrible fascination you’d have if you saw a fat man slowly pull a turtle out of his ass. He wanted to look away but he couldn’t. And somehow as the evening went on we started to have fun. It was on this night that we first played ‘Mac The Knife’ (which through the years became a staple of our show) and realized that going ‘woods bombing’ as we came to call it was a wonderful thing. I think now that if we showed up for that first gig with 50 cover tunes all worked out The Fools might never have gotten started. After 3 sets the poor man had had enough and he told us we didn’t have to play the last set. But wonder of wonders–he paid us most of what he owed us! Well that’s all I have time for this week but come back next week and you’ll find part 2 of ‘The Fools –the early years.’….adios amigos.