Text © Robert Barry Francos
Images from the Internet
Soon, I will be taking a very brief trip to south Florida to visit relatives, many of whom I haven’t seen in a number of years. Needless to say, I am excited about it.
The Majestic Gardens condo
Coincidently, I recently found my journal from the early ‘80s, which includes a visit to these same relatives, who then lived in adult complex called Majestic Gardens, across the street from the Lauderhill Mall. My pal Alan Abramowitz joined me for a few days, and then flew back while I remained at my Aunt’s insistence (not that I had any complaints, mind you). It was between jobs (much as I am now), so I stayed down there for about a month, hitting thrift shops looking for albums (found a ton, which I had shipped back), and seeing films (including Ghost Story, Raiders of the Lost Arc, and the cheesy horror film, The Beast Within).
Back in the ‘80s, South Florida was a minor hotbed of musical action. There were a large number of bars that flowed along the coast from Ft. Lauderdale down through Hollywood and Miami, as it was still one of the Spring Break hotspots. Each place had their own house band and even those groups made their tours of other bars in the area. Some were great, like Charlie Pickett and the Eggs (who I saw at CBGB), but mostly there were cover bands.
I am reprinting, in part, my diary entry for Tuesday, March 16, 1982, which discusses the night before, when I went bar hopping with a relative of a member of the condo complex in which I was staying with my Aunt Elsie. Any comment I have added will be in brackets and italicized, [like this]. For longer commentary, I have used asterisks (*), which will be referenced at the end.
11:20 PM – At Aunt Elsie’s House, Florida
Lauderhill, in relation to Ft. Lauderdale
At 7:00 PM last night, I met Robert (W–, grandson of Chasen) and we drove [From previous day’s journal: He has the car for one night (tonight) so we’re gonna head to downtown Ft. Lauderdale and do a bit of bar-hopping. I’m meeting him…by the pool.] to a bar in Ft. Lauderdale called the Playpen*. They had two bands playing. One was a ‘60s band (members about 35 years old) called, appropriately, The Greasers. They also did early ‘60s surf song, etc. Not bad.
The other band was a rock’n’roll group call The New Society Band**. They were really good. They were doing covers of early ‘sixties stuff like the Who, Beatles, Elvis, etc., along with the occasional Lynyrd Skynyrd (Yeeech), Go-Go’s (“Got the Beat”), and Split Enz songs. During one of the songs, the lead signer points to my Buddy Holly button and goes an “OK” sign. Then shows his Elvis button and I returned the sign.
We went outside to go to another bar and ran into the latter band. The lead singer (Robert, who looks like a young Alice Cooper sans make-up) remembered me because of the button. I told him I liked the band, even though they only did covers. He said that they do originals, but they get paid to do covers to the students in for Spring Break. I gave him my card and told him to get in touch with me if they ever get into NYC. He said he’d subscribe! [To my fanzine, FFanzeen, which was active at the time.]
Robert (W.) and I drove around a bit after putting on free Playpen tee shirts (for coming in before 8:00 – it was a $4 cover and one beer at $1.75). We ended up back at the Playpen and saw another set of both groups. The bass player and lead singer Robert waved to me. During the Greasers’ set, we stepped outside and talked for a while with Robert (they are Playpen’s house band it seems, and they work 7 nights a week – he’s 30). He said that he’d include an original, “Middle Class Blues,” for me.
When they were on stage, the bass player waved to me, and when it came time to do the original number, Robert said, “This goes out for Robert. Everybody buy FFanzeen!” I was impressed, even though I doubt there was anyone there who knows what the hell he was talking about. Still, it’s rare a song was dedicated to me (the first being by the Rattlers at Zappas [a long-gone Brooklyn bar and showcase]. We left while they were still on stage (the place, which is also known as the “Pigpen,” is rightfully nicknamed, ‘cause it was a real zoo), and they waved goodbye to us.
After driving around a bit, we ate at a Denny’s on 441 and Oakland (I had a terrible sandwich of dried beef and melted swiss cheese). We got home around 2:15 am. I woke up once at 6:30 for 20 minutes (dreaming of chainsaw murders!) and then Aunt Elsie woke me at 9:30.
There isn’t much of a takeaway from this, but one of the points for my reprinting this is to reinforce something I have stated before: when one goes to see independent bands, one is never certain what will be found, quality wise, but the groups are usually accessible, giving a more personal feel to the music. For example, I was able to walk up to the Cramps at CBGB to ask for an interview in 1977. Getting to hang out with the Ramones backstage/upstairs with the Ramones the day before they left for their infamous first tour of the UK is something I’ll treasure. Perhaps the New Society Band and the Greasers never reached the level of any of the bands they covered, but they were fun and personable. I thank them, and all the up-and-coming (or down-and-coming) bands out there.
* From inthe80s.com: “Art Stock's Playpen, South Fort Lauderdale, FL – 1981-1987. Great hole in the wall that had 'Heavy Metal Mondays' and free drinks every weeknight from 8p-10p. Cool local bands and even a few national acts from time to time. Hot metal chicks (does anybody remember Ruby?) and great local acts like Diamond Rose, Panic, etc. One Monday night, with my buddy Mark Fenney passed out on a bench outside, I actually met a fella named James Hetfield there, who at the time was the lead singer and rhythm axeman of a little know up and coming band called 'Metallica'! The place became a popular titty bar in the late 80's called 'Pure Platinum' and the memories (but certainly not the mammaries) were gone forever!"
** I am not sure if this Bangor, ME-located band is the same, as I have a slightly different name for the lead singer in the journal, but who knows if I heard right. Also, the style of music they list is similar to the kind played that night, and the age of the band is similar. If this is the same group, great; if not, my apologies: myspace.com/rockinronandthenewsocietyband.