Friday, January 5, 2018

THE GOODest Story Ever Told: A Semi-Eyewitness Account [1980]

By Dave Meinzer / Rockers Magazine, 1980
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2018
Images from the Internet
This article was originally printed in Buffalo, NY-based Rockers periodical, which was published from 1979-1980.  This article is from the March 1980 issue, and was written by Buffalo musician Dave Meinzer. For a while, Dave was also in a very early version of The Good, and later formed his own cult band, Davy and the Crocketts. They released some great vinyl on local BCMK Records that are worth seeking out. This article is published with his permission.

I still remember where I was when, in high school, Bernie Kugel told me he was thinking of picking up the guitar. And here’s a little known fact: before there was the Good, there was Les Biens. It consisted of Bernie on guitar and vocals, and a pathetic me on bass. Between Bernie’s mom, Goldie, going ballistic about the name (“It sounds like ‘lesbian’!”), my totally admitted ineptitude, and Bernie moving away to attend Buffalo State College, Les Biens soon transformed into the Good when he arrived Upstate. Now, Bernie has been inducted in the Buffalo Musicians Hall of Fame for his work in the Good and the Mystic Eyes. HERE is a photo essay of Bernie.

Dee Pop would move to NYC and become an extremely influencial drummer in bands like the Bush Tetras and the Gun Club. Vincent Gallo would move out West and become a well-known actor, and also direct films like Buffalo '66 (1998), which would be dedicated, in part, to Bernie Kugle [sic].

I'm sure Bernie and Dave won't mind if I dedicate this reprint to Mary Martin Moser. - Robert Barry Francos - 2018.

Photo by Dennis Concepcion

This guy and this girl

Out West in the 1880s
The girl says to the guy
‘I'm goin’ off with your best friend’
He says, ‘Well you can do that but
I’m gonna be back after I
Walk around the world…
To prove my love for you.’
“Walk Around The World,” Bernle Kugel © 1980
The Good are on stage at the Muscular Dystrophy Dance Marathon in Buffalo State College’s Social Hall. Most of the captive dancers are having a grand time as are a large number of paying customers. People are yelling and screaming during loud, tightly played versions of such Good songs as “Walk Around The World” and “She’s The Kind of Girl You Can Trust.” Girls are grabbing at the tails of Good leader Bernie Kugel’s oversize T-shirt. People laugh and dance their way through progressively messy but enjoyable versions of rock‘n’roll classics “Road Runner,” “Gloria” and (killing two birds with one stone) a simultaneous medley of “Louie, Louie” and “Wild Thing.”
That was November 1979; I was there. I wasn’t in the band then, but there have been times...
The Good is Bernie Kugel, plain and simple. Musicians (and other odd sorts) come and go (and come again), but Bernie and his sense of humor and romance stay. He writes the songs. All of his songs are about love: how being in love is “like getting mail on Sunday,” the promise of wedded bliss, or just the reminiscence of a happy time. Bernie says he writes songs “to try to explain what it’s like to walk down Elmwood Avenue alone late at night.”
Bernie and RBF - Photo by Suzanne Newman
Bernie first played with a band called the Good In September of 1976, at a Buffalo State arts fair. He set up in the Student Union lobby with three backing musicians and began playing songs he’d written. Things didn’t go well and bass player Vinnie Catera quit toward the end of the set. Drummer Doug Webb packed up during the last song. Guitarist Sean Smith wound up sitting on the edge of the stage with a mandolin; Bernie wound up with bleeding fingers and a reputation.
For reasons I don’t remember, I was there that time, too; I helped Webb get his drums home.
The Good reappeared in the dormitories of Buffalo State when Bernie was introduced to Marlene Weisman, who had a similar New York City/CBGB’s taste in music. UB journalism student Dee Pop became the drummer after Bernie loaned him $60 for a beat up set of Swap Sheet drums. Marlene played a borrowed bass guitar for a while, but had problems (including falling down a flight of stairs and breaking the bass, leaving it with three strings) so Bernie’s roommate, Steve Lum, took over. This band played one show, with the legendary Blue Reimondoes (now the Party Nuggets), at Buffalo State in May 1977.
Marlene rejoined the band in the fall as lead vocalist, singing Bernie’s songs from a female point of view. They performed once, for a class at UB. “They kept telling us to turn it down,” Bernie remembers, “and (Dee) didn’t have anything to hold his drums down, and he had to keep chasing them across the floor in the middle of songs.”
A few months later I rehearsed with Bernie and Dee as a bass player, but that version of the band never performed. Mac McKernan also played with them around this time.
Bernie’s next appearance was once again at Buffalo State, as a guest playing with the Jumpers during their debut performance in February 1978. In the crowd was guitarist Dave McCreary, who later asked Bernie if he could play In the Good. Dee stayed on drums and Play It Again, Sam’s [a long gone but still beloved record store on Elmwood Ave – RBF, 2018] resident kid, Little John Simon, played the same old bass, which now had four strings again.
Photo by RBF
By May, however, Buffalo State photography student Jef Allen had come to me looking for a band to play bass in. I referred him to Bernie (who had left a “Wanted: rock‘n’roll players not into drugs, for original band” notice in my office on the Buffalo State campus). Several other people had suggested the same thing, so Jef replaced Little John, who was too young to play in the bars Bernie hoped would hire the Good.
On the same May 1978 night that my band, Davy and the Crocketts, first performed at the Central Park Grill, this version of the Good made their only appearance. Dee (who played for both bands that night) soon quit the Good (and the Crocketts) to play with Kenmore punk band the Secrets full time. Two replacements were auditioned: Tim Switala (Rockers writer, UB Spectrum music editor and now in his own band, Eddie Haskell) and Russ Schoenwetter. Bernie chose Russ, “because he played softer.”
The Kugel-Allen-McCreary-Schoenwetter Good played more often, and as a result better, than any previous version of the band. Kugel songs like “Faith in Rock,” “Let’s Get Married” and “Be Truthful,” as well as covers of “Back in the U.S.A.” and “Pipeline,” were features of shows at Buffalo State, McVan’s and Hallwalls.
Unfortunately that band broke up when Russ had to leave town, $4,000 in debt. They rehearsed a couple of times for a Play It Again Sam’s sponsored single featuring “Back in the U.S.A.” (with the Jumpers’ Roger Nicol on drums), but the deal fell through and the band split up. Jef joined the then-forming Tourists (now Third Floor Strangers) and Dave started playing with Mark Freeland’s Electroman.
January of ’79, Bernie was back with the ninth version (more or less) of the Good. He performed on Gary Storm’s “Oil of Dog” radio show and at the Masthead with Vince Gallo on bass and guitarist Professor Scum (now known as Pfc. Parts of the new band Stripsearch). Professor Scum quit shortly after Larry Galanowitz joined on drums.
That winter, the band opened for the Enemies and the Tourists at McVan’s, and played a farewell show at the Masthead before going Into Tom Calandra’s College of Musical Knowledge Studios to record “Looking For You,” “Mail on Sunday” and “I’m Calling You,” all Kugel originals. Within a week Bernie had moved back to his parent’s house in Brooklyn.
Though he jammed with various people (including the Zantees, and Chris Stamey and the Db’s) Bernie got nothing going in New York. A visit to Buffalo in late July included a guest appearance at my birthday party (with Jef Allen on bass and Bruce Eaton on drums), and a special show at the Masthead with Russ Schoenwetter, Vince Gallo, and Dave McCreary playing drums and bass, Gary Horowitz and Rachael Weinstein adding keyboards, Bill LeStrange on saxophone and guitarist Bob Kozak (former Jumper and Tourist, one of Bernie’s best friends and a collaborator on several songs). I got to play tambourine on a song.
My real chance to play percussion with the Good came a couple of months later when Bernie moved back to Buffalo. He first started playing with Gary Horowitz (Farfisa organ and electric piano) and working out new songs he’d written while living in Brooklyn, most of which were musically more sophisticated than the two and three chord tunes of the early Good. Kathy Moriarty and I volunteered to be a temporary rhythm section. (We turned out to be more temporary than expected.) We played one show in late October with Extra Cheese at McVan’s, introducing Good fans to songs like “Walk Around the World” (written on his front porch in Brooklyn) and “Clouds.”
Three weeks later Bernie and Gary played the Buffalo State Dance Marathon with Bob Kozak on bass and Mike Brydalski (ex-Extra Cheese) on drums. Two days later Mike left for California and Bob’s friend Mike Hylant replaced him.
This is the band that played the New Wave New Year’s Party at the Buffalo Entertainment Theatre, and accompanied Bernie when he returned to Tom Calandra’s studio recently to record “Walk Around the World” and “Clouds” for a BCMK single to be released later this month. I sang a few high notes and twisted a few dials for which I earned a co-production credit.
Obviously Bernie is a survivor. When Bob and Mike quit to form their own band sometime soon, Bernie will search for, and find, a rhythm section for the Good, Mark 14.
More recent - Photo by RBF
Bernie is also rather literate. A former fanzine editor (Big Star Magazine) and contributor to the Shakin Street Gazette, Foxtrot, New York Rocker and Lord knows how many other small magazines for rock‘n’roll fanatics, he’s eager to provide quotes. They are the kind of quotes that can be pulled from an article and used as kickers and captions. Here are a few he gave me:
“It seems that everybody who’s ever been in a band in Buffalo seems to pass through my band on their way to... something.”
“Should I give a list of who all these songs are about so riots go on in Buffalo?”
“The happiest times in my life have been playing guitar on stage with a rock‘n’roll l band.”        
“I don’t care how much money I have just as long as I have one square meal every two days and my clothes laundered without getting them starchy and making my legs itch.” “My best rock‘n’roll moment came when I tried to teach Vince Gallo ‘Whole Lotta Shakin Goin’ On’ and he asked me if I wrote it.”
“I knew I should come back to Buffalo when I played tambourine with Davy and the Crocketts at Dave’s party in the summer time. It was a great party. Send in your petition to have Dave have a birthday party more often!”
Whatever... Bernie Kugel still looks two-thirds his actual age, still writes great songs, and still wears pants that don’t fit right.
And as you can see, the saga of the Good is a long and involved one. Not every story (Marlene’s bracelets, Dave McCreary’s saxophone, and what Vince Gallo is up to now) could be told and not every person (Brett, Jennifer – owner of the three-string bass, Friday Night Dave...) could be mentioned. If I left your name out, tough bananas.
Besides, Bernie Kugel still doesn’t say my name right...

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the reprint, Robert. Great article that brought back a lot of memories.