I've been researching the true chronology of the genesis of the Soft White Underbelly for a while now and when a chance came my way to have a chat with Albert Bouchard after the 100 Club gig in 2005 and trawl through his memories of those heady times, I jumped at it with both feet!!

Although our chat wasn't intended to be an interview as such, I've had some requests to post a transcript online anyway so here goes:

Q: It was a great Brain Surgeons gig last night with some fantastic new songs and Ross the Boss is a brilliant new addition to the band, so after such a wonderful concert, the questions I'm about to ask you might seem a little churlish...

Albert: Right - cos it's gonna go with the past and all of that...

Q: I'm afraid so

Albert: Yeah, that's alright, that's alright...

Q: OK - well, one of the things I'm currently doing is researching a piece covering the period 1967 to 1971... Now there are a number of different sources that attempt to cover this period...

There's the "Goldmine" article and various interviews that have been done, the Poppoff book, the sleeve notes to the Stalk Forrest Group CD, etc etc... lots of good stuff in there, but they often seem to contradict each other, and anomalies crop up if you try and apply the seemingly definite known datable events and concerts to a fixed timeline...

Albert: OK...

Q: So what I'm trying to do is create an accurate timeline chronology of the interweaving events that led to the creation of Blue Oyster Cult from the ashes of The Soft White Underbelly, plotted against the activities of the individuals involved, such as Andy Winters, Jeff Latham, John Wiesenthal, Jeff Richards etc

Albert: Right...

Q: Just to give you some context about where the questions are coming from - Now, I'm a big BOC fan, but it could be argued that Blue Oyster Cult as a dynamic creative force died - to some extent - on August 20th, 1981, the day before Donington...

Albert: Long live BOC!! [Laughs] BOC is dead!!

Q: Don't get me wrong, I love Blue Oyster Cult and I love going to their gigs but there's a case to be made that their greatest music was produced in the years up to 1981... I don't believe they were the same band after this date... for example, take a look at their last three gig setlists...

[ I hand him a printout ]

Q: Now if you glance down the list - apart from 2 or 3 songs I've asterisked - you'll notice that there's not a lot there from after 1981 - BOC themselves clearly realise which songs are their best - that's why they're in the setlist!!

Albert: They did "Hot Rails to Hell"? Every set??! Holy shit! Joe must be shitting his pants!! [Laughs]

Q: They get Richie the new bass player to sing it, which must be interesting to have another vocalist in the band to give Eric a bit of a break!!

Albert: I know, I know... Well I was with him when he was at the top of his form - I mean in 1981, "Veteran of the Psychic Wars"? He still gives me chills with that, and he could never do that before that - he was always a guy with a good voice but just not putting it together quite right and on that album "Fire of Unknown Origin", Eric was like red-hot, red-hot...

Q: When BOC did that record, it felt to the fans that everything was coming back together again nicely after Mirrors...

Albert: Yeah that what I felt... That's why, when I got sacked, it was... y'know... people ask me did you see it coming and I totally did not - it caught me totally by surprise...

Q: Apparently, Rick Downey had to drive you to the airport before Donington... I bet that was an interesting journey...

Albert: Yeah...

Q: You must have known he was going to replace you for the gig - or did you think the concert would be cancelled?

Albert: Well I knew they had said "Rick can do it, and we feel more comfortable with him because you're off the wall..." we had like a band meeting the night before and y'know it was funny because after the gig I was really pissed off and really angry and I felt that certain things that happened weren't fair, like I didn't feel it was fair that they went all together in the car and I had to go by myself.

So I was mad about it but by the time we had the meeting, I'd cooled down, and I was like OK, I'd better apologise and tell them that I was really sorry for having that temper tantrum and y'know, I'm going to make every effort to not do anything like that again and they just didn't want to hear it.

They were just like "Rick can do it, Rick can do it, we feel more comfortable with him..."

Q: At that stage were you thinking that this was just for this next concert and there would be a period where it would all cool down and you'd be back?

Albert: Yeah, yeah - and it was presented to me that "we think that you should take some time and get your domestic situation together" - y'know, I'd split up with my wife, and I think maybe they were thinking that if I wasn't in the band - at least that's how I saw it, was that maybe I could reconcile with her and everybody would be happy

And as a matter of fact, I did reconcile with her for a little while - well, not a little while, several years, but by the time I was doing "Imaginos" and I talked to Donald and said "So when do you want me to come back?"

I was working on Imaginos at that time and he said "Well you're not coming back, you've been eighty-sixed, man" and I said "What??! I thought you wanted me to take some time to get my domestic situation together and now I have", and he said "Well, you know what, it's a lot less tense with Rick" and I said "Well, OK..." I mean well, what can you say to that?

Joe had said "It's like a breath of fresh air when Albert isn't here" - he says this in the Martin Poppoff book - and I read that book and I felt... I felt a little bit hurt, y'know, I felt like well, gee, y'know, this is what happens when you express your opinion too freely, I guess...

I just read this great book by Ernest Becker called "Denial of Death", which is gonna be the title of our new record, incidentally, and it's all about how we repress ourselves as a mechanical thing to deal with life, cos if you don't repress yourself, life is overwhelming, being a conscious being, it's too big a burden to think about death all the time, so you deny it... you deny that you're going to die, and that's how you get on, but in his thing, it was that you shouldn't do that, you shouldn't repress yourself, you shouldn't deny death, but it takes a great deal of courage...

But anyway, back to BOC, but then I thought well... I'd read an article in "Keyboard Magazine", about this guy who was in a group and then he left the group - he was a fabulous keyboard player, very successful, scoring movies for Hollywood, some Japanese guy - I can't remember the name - but he said "Well, I was in a band and the thing about being in a band is that whoever is the quickest thinker, always gets their ideas to happen, OK - if it takes some time for you to come up with an idea, then by the time you've figured it out, you're already doing the other guy's idea, OK?"

So I thought well, maybe that's what it is, because every time that we practiced, I'd have a list of "OK, let's try this in this song", and "let's try this in that song", I was trying to be very organised and just making a positive contribution to the music...

Q: Do you think that got resented after a while?

Albert: Yeah, I'm sure of it... it's kind of interesting, because Ross and I, we're completely different kind of people, y'know - he's not much of a student, whereas I was like a straight A student - a very good studious kind of person, similar to Deborah, I like school, I like studying, I like language - although, unlike her, she speaks all these languages...

My parents sent me to a French school because they wanted me to learn French, the kids teased me so much because I hated French, y'know - it's taken years to overcome this phobia that I have about French because of my bad experience in French school - and really I'm not real good at languages...

But anyway, Ross and I though, when we come in to a practice, we don't say - "You know what, I don't like that"... like, for instance, there are certain people in Blue Oyster Cult - I won't say who they are - but they'll come in and they'll say "That stinks - I really don't like that - it's really not making it"...

I would never say that, I would say "Hey - instead of doing it like this, how about doing it like that" - I would never be negative, I would always try to be positive and I wouldn't say anything unless I thought I had a better idea, and I'd try and get them to do it... so it's odd that they would resent this but reading this other article I see how maybe...

Donald, for instance, is a brilliant, brilliant writer, OK, but he's not quick - he's very slow. His ideas come slowly so maybe he resented it, and that was the crucial piece because let's face it, not to diminish Joe and Allen and Eric - but a lot of it was about me and Don - we were the two that started the band and I thought it was our creative mixture that made it great...

Q: So - talking of you starting the band with Don, can I now take you back to those very early days...

Albert: Sure...

Q: Basically, what I want to do is run a few facts/suppositions by you and see if you can confirm or deny them...

Albert: OK - by the way, you know before when you mentioned "Change the World Henry" - OK, there's a little history in there because I met Donald in 1965 at Clarkson College which is now Clarkson University at engineering school. "Change the World Henry" is about those days when we went to see this group called 'The Group' - that was their name - and Henry Small was the frontman - he was the singer and they did "Change the World" by Eric Burdon and the Animals so we would say: "Change the World Henry" [Chuckles]...

Q: Do you think Buck remembers that?

Albert: Yeah - what happened is that I couldn't remember the name of the group, so I wrote to him and asked what was the name, y'know and he told me, and that was just a couple of days ago...

Q: You mentioned it was 65 when you first met him... you were a chemical engineering student....

Albert: No, I was civil - I wanted to do architectural-like deals...

Q: Was it Buck who was the chemical engineer then?

Albert: No, he was electrical - the first two years of engineering school, everybody takes the same things - maybe the second year, he got a little bit of circuitry and I got a surveying course, which was my favourite course...

Q: So what did you have in mind for yourself back then - in 1965, what did you think you were going to do as a career? Or did you not know?

Albert: I thought - in New York state there was a lot of development going on, and I thought I would be a road builder, I thought that I would work on roads, y'know, work outside...

Q: Well, you're on the road a lot, so it sort of came true...

Albert: [Laughs] Yeah, I'm a roadie....

Q: Now, the story goes that it was Bruce Abbott who first introduced you to Buck... is that so? Was Bruce a friend of yours?

Albert: Bruce Abbott - for some reason, he was in every one of my classes... now the thing is, he'd introduced me to Buck - well, let's call him Don, cos that's what his name was back then - so anyway what happened is I'd met Don twice earlier - the first day of classes, we had a PE class and it was just a lecture - everybody sat in this big auditorium and the PE guy said "Hey!! You're gonna do this" and "you're gonna do that"

So I'd gotten to college and I come from a very small town in upstate New York, population of 1700 people and in this town it's mostly French Canadians - people who just came over from Canada or who were gonna go back to Canada, y'know it was one of these border towns, very small, very kind of sleepy and so the thing about it is that almost everybody in the town is fairly short - there's not a lot of tall people - and I got to College and there was 2000 people there - there was more people there than there was in my town...

[David Hirschberg, who'd joined us with Dom Berard, bursts into laughter...]

Albert: And everybody was tall - they were like giants - and I thought how am I ever going to score any chicks with all these tall guys around here and I saw this other little guy and he goes into the auditorium so I went in behind him and I said "Hey man, you're the first person I've seen who's as short as me" and he goes "Oh that's great"

[More laughter from Mr H] I said "Where are you from?" and he goes "Merrick" so I said "Merrick... Oh... Where's that?" - "It's down by New York City" - and I said "Oh, New York City?" and he said "No! Merrick!!" [Chuckles] And I said "Oh, OK..." and that was it....I could see I was annoying the hell out of him so I'd better not keep it up...

Two days later, I see him at the Freshman Talent Contest, and he's playing with my friend Bruce Abbott - it was just the two of them...

Q: Was that the Eve of Instruction?

Albert: Yeah... Eve of Instruction...

Q: Were they already formed or was it a debut?

Albert: I guess they were already formed - Bruce, he was on Donald's dorm floor and Jeff Latham was on my dorm floor - OK, so I went up to him and I said "Hey man, you play pretty good - you're almost as good as my brother" and he goes "Who's your brother?" and I said "Well, my brother Joe - he's really good - and you are too!!" And he goes "Oh, thanks!" [abruptly] and I thought "this guy's a little prick" [Laughs]

David Hirschberg: [Laughing] I'd love to hear the other side of this story - it'd be great if they were both going on simultaneously...

Albert: Well the odd thing is - he doesn't remember - either of these times - he says, "Nah - that didn't happen" - and I said "I'm telling you - that really happened"...

And then, a couple of days later, Bruce said "You know, hey I'm playing with this guy and we want to form a band".... and I said, "Well, I don't want to, y'know..." I've given up music - if I bring my drums up here, it's gonna be all over, it's gonna be terrible, I'm gonna flunk out, cos I knew that - really - what I wanted to be was a musician, I mean, that was my dream... but you know how you have dreams, you're gonna do this, you're gonna do that...

I mean, my son wanted to be a ninja turtle, I mean you know... now he wants to be a NBA star but anyway, you decide that this is not a practical ambition and you kind of push it aside...

So I thought that that was what was going to happen with music, I would be a part-time musician like my uncle, who was my inspiration to start in the first place - he was an insurance salesman but he played every weekend and he was the reason why we formed our band because he had gear and we wanted to be like him... and play on the weekends, so I thought that's good, but first I have to graduate from school...

And one day, some guys were jamming in the basement and they had a drum-kit there so I went down and I played and they went "Wow! You're great - you got to bring your drums up here" cos the drums belonged to some guy from Crane - the other school - who had brought his stuff over and he took it back so then there was no drums so my dorm basically begged me to bring my drums up to school - which I did...

And then Bruce said you gotta play with this guy, so we met in a bar and we sat down and we started talking about music and what we liked, and the bands that we were in - he was in another band too in High School....

Q: - Was this still in the first term of school

Albert: Yeah, this was in the first two months of coming to school...

Q: So October/November 65 then...?

Albert: Yeah, Clarkson was not very far from my home town, so I could go over real easy - so I brought up my drums, and in the back of my mind, I knew it was over, y'know -

David Hirschberg: (laughing) He'd made the monumental decision to flunk out!!

Albert: I mean, it's hard, y'know, calculus and physics and all of that stuff - the engineering regimen is really no joke... so anyway, we said OK, let's try this thing and he wanted the band to be me, him and Bruce Abbott, and I said "No, we have to get my friend Jeff, man, he's great" - he was one of the people in my dorm who was always jamming, and so we played with Jeff, and Don said he was really good, "yeah we'll get him in the band - he'll play rhythm" and Donald - he liked the Beach Boys, so he played a lot like the Beach Boys style which was really like a sanitised Chuck Berry, y'know - very, very white... and Jeff Latham was like this jazz guy - all he played was jazz and blues - he was just like this funky guy from Chicago so it was a good combination...

Q: How good was Donald back then?

Albert: He was pretty good but he wasn't great - he was really kind of stiff and although he had very good rhythm, he didn't have a very good sound and it seemed like his musical vocabulary was a little limited...

I didn't know it at the time, but Donald's father was like my uncle, a weekend musician, a "weekend warrior", and he was some kind of salesman as well, and he played saxophone and what happened was that as Donald got better, all of a sudden, you'd hear these saxophone riffs coming out of his fingers...

But, back then, I'd say he was on a par with my brother Joe... although I thought that Joe knew more songs and had a little bit deeper musical depth...

Q: This then was the musical nucleus of the Disciples...

Albert: Yeah, we were the Disciples first...

Q: Did the Disciples ever play any gigs, because Buck's on record as saying they didn't play any actual gigs..

Albert: No, no - that's not true - we had one gig, we played for the Alpha Zoo - the AZ Fraternity and they hired us and the setup was we played in a little basement in a room that was probably 12 feet wide and 20 feet long... it was teeny, and when we went down into this room, there were two, three, four people, no girls - just a few guys and we set up and we started playing, and then - one-by-one they all left...

So finally we were just playing by ourselves and at the end of the night, we'd played like three sets - the first set we drove everybody out of the room, and then the other two sets we played for ourselves and then the guy who hired us comes down and gives us the money - he said, "Well, you guys were loud and we wanted a loud rock band, so we got what we wanted so thanks a lot" [Chuckles] We sucked!!

Q: So I forgot to ask - this was including Skip O'Donnell?

Albert: Yes, Skip was in the band at this point - what happened was - we practiced one time and Donald wanted to be the singer, and I said, "Hey man, you can play guitar, but you're no singer - I can't even hear you - you're just mumbling into the microphone" - I said, "I got this guy in my dorm" who was one of these jam session guys who sang with the band, and we did not have a PA - we had two Fender Twin Reverbs which are 65/80 Watt amps...

David Hirschberg: Those were nasty treble yarghhhh - they'd rip your head off...

Albert: Yeah, they'd rip your head off and Skip would sing with no mike and you could HEAR him - that's how freakin loud this guy was, and I said, "that guy, now he's a singer"!! And also, he had a thing with the ladies - he was with a different girl every night... now he's an engineer, he works in Greenville, North Carolina for General Electric, I think, and has like seven kids and has been happily married for umpteen years... that's Skip O'Donnell...

David Hirschberg: I wonder if he sings in the shower?

Albert: As far as I know, yeah, he sings in the shower, but he didn't pursue music after college, he got a good engineering job, so... but he was a nice... bloke...[Laughs]....

Q: So if I want to place this on a timeline, was this gig still the first term of Clarkson or...

Albert: Second term... Yeah, what happened was, I got appendicitis just right after we decided to have the band and I don't think we even practiced - I think we practiced one time and that's when I told Donald we had to get a singer and I recommended this guy Skip and Donald was very resistant, he said "First it was just going to be the three of us, then you got your friend Jeff, and now you want your friend Skip...!!"

Q: He sounds like he was very conservative and resistant to change back then...

Albert: [Laughs]

David Hirschberg: Next he'll be wanting chicks in the band!!

Albert: But then he heard Skip sing and he said "No he really is good - we'll get him in the band"... and the biggest problem really was that Jeff Latham was playing guitar - and he was a decent guitar player but Bruce Abbott was playing bass - and Bruce was just the worst bass-player, I mean, I love the guy, but he was the worst bass-player I'd ever heard in my life... he was just terrible, he couldn't keep the rhythm right and he had a bad sound.

I'd been playing for years with the Regal Tones and we had a really great bass-player - a guy whose had a career in music even after our high school band, he went on and played for like 20 years in a local band in upstate New York but Bruce was terrible...

After that gig, I started a campaign to get Latham to switch to bass and Bruce to play keyboards, because I'd heard him play and he had studied classical music and he was really pretty good on the keyboard and I said "You could do that and you could sing - you'd have an easier time singing and we'll buy a Farfisa organ" so that's what we did, we bought an organ - but that wasn't until the second year...

Q: But what happened after that first gig? Did the Disciples sort of fizzle out or -

Albert: No - we still practiced - I think we did a talent show or something also - we had another situation where we played but it wasn't a real gig - we didn't get paid - but we had great ideas, "grand ideas" - as I say in "Change the World Henry" - and we just thought well, we'll continue next year... we had the break over the summer and we wrote to each other - I still have the letters - I saved everybody's letters - and I was a toll collector on a toll bridge - that was my job...

David Hirschberg: Not the one on Wellsley?

Albert: Yeah!

David Hirschberg: [Laughs and claps]

Albert: That was my summer job - and I also - I think I flunked a course, so I had to go to Summer School so I was commuting back and forth from the Summer School to the toll collecting job...

Q: About that Summer of 66 - here's what you say in the Martin Poppoff book:

"When I came home from college to Clayton, there was a band and I taught the drummer how to play, giving him lessons when I was in high school. Then I went away to college and played in a college band with Don Roeser and some other things, And I came back during the summer and this drummer who I'd taught to play was moving out of town and his band had all these gigs for the summer so they asked me to join to replace my student - I said "OK" and we played all over Cape Vincent, Alex Bay the whole 1000 Islands area. And the lead guitar and sometimes lead singer was Peter Haviland - and Peter Haviland said "I have this really good band back at school that I play with during the year - the Lost & Found...."

Well, there's a problem with the timeline there in that it looks like the Lost and Found weren't formed under that name until the September of that year over in Hobart...

Albert: Well, I played with Pete and he talked about his band that he had back at his college, and I just thought it was the Lost and Found - it might have been an earlier incarnation... who knows, maybe Eric wasn't in it...

Q: Well, the nucleus of the Lost and Found was already in existance when Eric apparently persuaded them to ditch their singer in favour of himself and this seems to have happened round about September, so that could be how it happened...

Albert: Oh, I see - so maybe they weren't called the Lost and Found at that point... but Pete was really good...

Q: Did this band have a name?

Albert: Oh yeah... well... here's the deal... the band was formed by my cousin George - another cousin - I was saying how everybody's related in my home-town...

Q: Oh, this wouldn't be The Clansmen, by any chance?

Albert: Yes, this was called The Clansmen... and they were a blues band... and the irony of calling themselves The Clansmen was that they said 'we're like a clan, we're all related'...

Q: But it's hard to appreciate the irony if you just see the name on a poster...

Albert: But it was with a "C"!! It was supposed to be ironic up there because it's so white - it wasn't an issue - we had one black family and they were superstars - we thought that they were so cool - we were so clueless about the whole racial problem - Canada never had slaves - so up there you don't think about that stuff - so it's not an issue...

I mean my great great grandfather fought in the Civil War - he signed up 2 months after the Emancipation Proclamation so I think at that point the whole town signed up - they were not going to fight over States' rights, but to free the slaves, they would do it... OK, - they're French Canadians... so anyway, we called ourselves The Clansmen, and I didn't think it was weird but the band was a blues band who played only music by black artists...

Q: And Joe was in that too wasn't he..

Albert: No, Joe wasn't in it...

Q: But he says in "Goldmine" he was in it.

Albert: [Incredulously] He was??!!

Q: Yes - he said: "I played in The Clansmen - I was a guitar player in The Clansmen for a while. That was a summer type of thing. That was the bluesey Stones thing..., a blues band called The Clansmen. We thought that was cool".

Albert: [Laughs]

Q: That's what i thought was strange - Joe didn't mention you, and you didn't mention him...

Albert: See I didn't even know that he was in The Clansmen..

David Hirschberg: They're brothers one and two... and it's still sort of like that...

Albert: [Laughs] Well, he must have been in them at some other point - what happened was - when I went away to College, the Regal Tones kept going without me - I was the oldest one in the band - and so I don't know exactly what happened - he might have joined The Clansmen briefly - my cousin George got into an automobile accident, OK - and George had formed the band with this other cousin, Eddie Bazinet, no not Eddie Bazinet - Bill Bazinet - Eddie Bazinet was in the Regal Tones - right [Chuckles] and at the time Eddie Bazinet was playing with Bill Bazinet and Peter Haviland, and I was the drummer..

Q: So it was just those four?

Albert: Yeah, they were The Clansmen when I was there... Eddie Bazinet, Bill Bazinet and Peter Haviland. And Pete and Bill sang lead - Bill was an OK musician but nothing great whereas Pete had charisma, he got the girls and we had a great time - we all rode motorcycles...

Q: Did you play with them all the Summer of 66 or was it just like a month or what?

Albert: Yeah, for about two months...

David Hirschberg: Did you just play drums for all of these bands

Q: You didn't come on with a guitar for the finale?

Albert: No, no - well, in the Regal Tones I played Louie Louie, that was the only guitar that I could play and sing at the same time... and I played the lead too...Joe and I would switch off... a fun lead...

Q: And talking of Louie Louie - Don Gallucci makes an appearance in the timeline a bit later on in the story...

Albert: Yeah - Don and the Goodtimes...

Q: Anyway, you get back to Clarkson after playing all summer... So when did the Disciples end and Travesty begin?

Albert: Well, what happened was I came back and said Hey man, I just had a great experience playing with this band, and it was the first time I would play with a band where every gig was packed, just packed - you couldn't squeeze another person in - it was so popular...

Q: And they didn't walk away when you started playing as well..

Albert: Ha ha - no they didn't walk away - they loved the band - that was a great experience so I came back and said you know what - the thing is, we were playing the blues and people really liked that... and The Group with Henry Small, they were the most popular band on campus, and they played basically note-for-note renditions of "Rubber Soul"... They'd do the whole album... basically Animals, Beatles, Rolling Stones, y'know - very faithful renditions - really no improvisations...

So I came back and said we should be a Blues band because there's nobody doing that up here, and Don said I just saw this band last Summer and they were so great and they were called the Blues Project, and all they do is Blues... Let's do Blues... so we started jamming and we would play for hours... we'd play like one song for two hours and at this point Donald started whereby he'd practice eight hours a day, every day - or even longer..

Q: So the engineering took a back seat?

Albert: Oh my God, it was going down fast... the engineering vision was disappearing below the horizon, and we'd stay up all night just playing and playing...

Q: And you switched Bruce Abbott then to keyboards?

Albert: And we went down to the City to see the Blues Project... and before we started we went down to Sam Ash and bought a Farfisa organ...

Q: Sam Ash of course crops up again in the story later on... Do you recall what was your first gig with Travesty?

Albert: [Long exhalation as he peers into past] Wow... it could have been a fraternity party, but I'm not sure... no, no - I really can't remember... we played lots of places... there were about three or four different bars that you could play, and we played them all... we weren't making a lot of money but by my fourth term we started having too many gigs - more than we could play so we started charging more money and by the time that fourth semester was over, we were making good money - it'd be good money NOW, y'know, we'd be making $500 a night, back in 1967 was... y'know we were top of the heap, we'd knock The Group off the charts...

Q: Did you both think by now you were going to drop out?

Albert: Yeah - the writing was on the wall - what happened was by that Summer we said "That's it - we're not coming back" - we're really having fun doing this - we're going to keep playing over the Summer and we're just going to keep on playing... we're not going to stop, so - first - we went to Rochester because we had heard that there were clubs there that we could play and also the most important thing was that we had done very badly at school, OK, all of us had flunked at least one class...

Q: How did your parents take that?

Albert: They were fairly upset, yeah and I had flunked a class the year before and had to go back to Summer School, so they wanted me to go to Summer School (again), and I was - no way was I gonna do that, I was not going back to College - I was just determined to do that, but Bruce Abbott who was a Straight As student had flunked a class also, and his parents insisted that he go to Summer School and that he stop playing in the band...

So we said alright, we gotta get somebody to replace him so the rival band in the town - and I can't even remember their name, except that the bass player in the band was Roger Maltz - which was Jeff Latham's friend from Chicago and the lead guitar player/singer was this guy Alex Vangellow, and Alex was a dynamite musician, and he lived in Rochester, so we said to Alex "do you want to play in our band", and he said "I would love to - you guys are great, I want to get into the kind of music you guys are doing", and he said let's do it, and he was going to replace Bruce Abbott...

So Donald, myself, Skip and Jeff Latham went to Rochester and we got there and we went to some places to see if we could get work and they said "Oh no, Summer is dead here, all the colleges are out for the Summer and everybody goes up to the lake" - Lake Ontario, you know...

Rochester looks like it's on the lake, but it's actually 10 miles from Lake Ontario, so it's set in a little bit, so everybody goes up to the lake so we said we'll try and get some gigs up there, but it was hard to find the clubs... I think people just go up to the Lake and chill out - they weren't going out to clubs...

So it was looking bad when we got the Kiss of Death when Alex's parents said "We got you this job at Kodak with great prospects and you have to take it, you cannot play in this band..." so... ironically, Alex Vangellow, what he does now is own Northern Music in Potsdam...

So anyway, at that point - this is what I believe happened - we went to Albany to see if we could find anything - Skip said I got some places that I play - Skip O'Donnell was from Albany - so we took the bus to Albany and we stayed at Skip's mom's house and we went around to the clubs and it was the same deal, school was out in Albany, there was no place for us to play...

So at that point, we went to the bus station, and Jeff Latham got on the bus to Chicago, Don got on the bus to NYC, I got on the bus back to upstate NY and that was it - that was the end of the band...

Q: I hear you went back to become a carpenter - how long did that last?

Albert: Yeah, well I got back to my house and my mother was like you're not going to sit around doing nothing, you've got to get a job... they're building a restaurant in Alex Bay and they need some workers and you're going to go down there and ask for a job - you're always building stuff...

Q: So how long did you last for at this carpenting job?

Albert: Probably about 2-3 weeks - not that long and then I got a call one day at my house from Jeff Latham...

Q: If you had to guess, what month would you say this was - how far into Summer was it?

Albert: It was probably - the whole debacle of Travesty took

Q: The travesty of Travesty!!

Albert: The travesty of Travesty took probably maybe not more than a week - it was going to Rochester for 2 days, and then going to Albany for 2 days and then we split up... so school was out - let's see - the first week in May, so it was probably June that I came back home and so it was probably mid-July that I went to Chicago...

Q: Now you went to Chicago to join a band with Jeff Latham and a piano-player - what was the name of this band?

Albert: Boffo! Isn't it a good name?... yeah, what happened was that the piano player whose name was also Jeff - Jeez, how can I remember this stuff?? It's great!! If I had some pot, though I could probably remember more... [Laughs]

Q: I'd love to oblige but...

Albert: That was my state in those days - a lot of marijuana... but his name was also Jeff - I can almost remember his last name - anyway - what I heard was that he did not go anywhere in music...

Q: So how long did this Boffo group last - did you play anywhere?

Albert: No, we just rehearsed and that lasted about two/three weeks... now that must have been in early July because here's what happened: we practiced maybe 6 or 7 times and then the other Jeff, the piano-player/singer - he'd got some money advanced for some equipment or something and then disappeared - he just took off - took the money and ran... and so I was there in Chicago, we had a band house that the rent was paid up til - this was the third week in July - and the band was defunct - I had the band house so I lived there til August 1st when of course the rent was due and I had to abandon the house...

Q: How did Jeff Latham get together with this other Jeff in the first place?

Albert: Jeff had auditioned - the guy had put up signs in music stores "Bass Player Wanted" so Jeff came and said I play bass and I play guitar, and the guy was great and said "All we need is a drummer" and Jeff said you got to get my friend Albert in - he's the best drummer I've ever heard"...

I think they did have drumming auditions and the guy was not liking the drummers so I went out there and played, and I don't think the music was the problem, the problem was the guy did not have any faith in himself making it in music, y'know when I talked to him he said "Y'know I could do this" or "I could be very happy in a hardware store for instance - people who run hardware stores, they make a lot of money", so that was his motivation..

Q: Well he did make a lot of money though, didn't he? He nicked your advance... So you're in Chicago on Aug 1st with the rent due - when did the visit from Donald come?

Albert: End of August because he was - here's what happened: he had gotten a job with a company installing television antennas in parochial schools...

David Hirschberg: [Laughs]

Albert: And he fell off a ladder and he hurt himself somehow and he was getting workman's compensation, so he was getting paid to do nothing basically, and he had some free time and one of our engineering friends, this guy named Steve Sauter who went on to become an engineer and a successful guy had come down to the City and he was like just travelling around, just enjoying his Summer before he had to go back to Clarkson and crack the books...

So they had a few days and they wanted to come out to Chicago, so I said well "Come on out - hey man, we'll have a great time, I'm staying here at the YMCA", [Laughs] in my little hovel... well, the thing is, we would hang out with Roger Maltz, and everybody likes Roger, he really is a fun guy, he's always got a joke... they're really stupid but he does it with aplomb...

David Hirschberg: And he's a great bass-player...

Albert: Yeah, and he's an awesome bass-player... so anyway, Donald and Steve Sauter wanted to come out and hang with Roger and we'd go around and see a concert or something and then they'd go back to the City... so they came out and I was like - this is it, I'm going to hook back up with Donald, I definitely want to, and he also he told me "I met this guy - remember that Crawdaddy magazine that we thought was so stupid...? Well, I met one of the writers and actually he says he's going to make me a star..."

Q: So meanwhile while you've been in Chicago Donald had been getting involved in this band house - the House on the Hill, it was called I think?

Albert: Yeah, right.. John Wiesenthal... Jeff Richards lived there, and Andrew Winters and David Roter... John Wiesenthal and David Roter were room-mates...

Q: Did Donald ever tell you how he hooked up with them?

Albert: He knew Andy from high-school... so Andy Winters was the connection there...

Q: So he'd been jamming in this house and I believe Sandy Pearlman had been along...

Albert: Yeah and Sandy Pearlman came over - Andy worked in Sandy's fathers shop - Hyman Pearlman had a pharmacy a drugstore in Smithtown, a big town by Stony Brook College, and so he was a very successful pharmacist in this town and Andy worked in the pharmacy so that's how he knew Sandy Pearlman...

Andy had said you should see these guys who come over and we have these amazing jams over at the house on the hill so it was Roter and John Wiesenthal, Jeff Richards... well, Jeff didn't really play, I don't think - Jeff was a visual artist, he painted...

Q: I heard there was a drummer called Joe Dick...

Albert: Yes - Joe Dick was the one and only drummer...

David Hirschberg: Was Roter writing then?

Albert: Yeah, Roter was writing from basically as soon as he discovered girls... that story about - you know the story he has about when he changes the name... on "They Made Me"? "Sir Elton Kiss My Ass?" That is a true story, how glibly Sir Elton changed a song about Marilyn Monroe into Lady Di and nobody batted an eyelash, it wasn't like "you bastard, how could you do that?"

Q: I think some people did!

Albert: [Laughs] Well anyway, David did that to one of his girlfriends and she didn't like it...

Q: So anyway - Donald had come down to visit you, he'd presumably told you about this House on the Hill and these great jam sessions that were going on - had you just had enough of Chicago and think I wouldn't mind getting back and having a look at this...?

Albert: Yeah.. I said I'm going to be the drummer on this thing - I'm going to get back in this - you know, the guy in Chicago, this guy Jeff - he was good but I really thought Gee - we really had a good thing going in that Travesty band, y'know and I really wanted Travesty to work - we had such a good time - we were always laughing and telling jokes and just being stupid, y'know...

Q: That's why I'm surprised you said it just took a week for it to fall apart! Two years to build it up and then one week to knock it down...?

Albert: Yeah, well, y'know when you're out on your own, it's tough y'know - you have to think about where you're going to stay and how you're gonna eat and all this stuff - when we were at college, of course, there were 3 meals a day at the student cafeteria and we were very spoiled, I guess...

Q: So round about the end of August/start of September, then you went back..

Albert: Yes we went back to Long Island and I stayed with Donald's parents...

Q: How soon after did you turn up at this band house? How long had you been back?

Albert: When I came back, I didn't go to the House on the Hill directly which would have made sense... I stayed with Donald's parents because I was getting tired of living on my own to be honest and having to worry about eating y'know because I didn't have any money whatsoever...

Q: You must have wanted to go and check this Joe Dick drummer out though...? How long was it before you went round to have a look at him?

Albert: You know what? I never met him. What happened is... Sandy Pearlman's girlfriend, whose name was Joan Shapiro, she had a house that she rented with 5 other girls and we started practicing at the girls' house... I mean, I brought my drums over to the girls' house and all of a sudden, instead of the House on the Hill being the focus, it was Joan's house...

And actually - Howie Klein was there and Howie was president of the Students Activities Board at Stony Brook so Howie was like I'm going to put you on every bill, y'know - you guys will be able to make some money, and he was telling Wiesenthal this, and Wiesenthal said OK, let's get a band house - that way we can practice all day long and all night and we don't have to stop because someone has to study or whatever...

So that's what we did, we got a band house... but I stayed at Donald's parents house for about 2 weeks and my deal was if I stay here, I will paint your house for you... and I did, I actually did paint their house...

Q: Which band house was which - there was apparently one at Lake Avenue, St James - which one was that?

Albert: That was the band house that John Wiesenthal rented for the band - oh he had all these great schemes - he sold shares in the band [chuckles]... he made T-Shirts that said Soft White Underbelly on them, he was very good...

Q: So when you got the band house - Joe Dick had disappeared then?

Albert: Yeah, Joe had a job or something - he couldn't do it full time and he had some kind of family obligations - and the fact is... I wanted that job [Laughs] and I was going to have it...

Q: So how soon was it before Allen Lanier started turning up and was he on guitar at that point?

Albert: Oh he was there from the beginning... he was there when I got there on guitar - he lived in the City but he worked at a film job and that's how he knew Wiesenthal so that's how Wiesenthal brought him into the equation...

Q: So you all moved to this new Lake Avenue, St James house - when was the first time you met Sandy Pearlman - before or after you moved? Mind you, if you were rehearsing in his girlfriend's house, maybe you met him there?

Albert: Yeah, that's where I met Sandy Pearlman, and I also met Les Braunstein there, now known as Les Vegas... I think he knew Joan - or one of the girls...

Q: The story I read was that it was Joan Shapiro who met him and brought him into the band house at some point...

Albert: Yeah, I think that's how it was.. and I'd actually jammed with Les and thought he was a pretty decent musician.. but we didn't actually think he would be in our band because he was more of a folkie kind of guy...

Q: When were you the Cows and when were you the SWU - did you actually play under the Cows name or was that just a name that was put forward and dropped?

Albert: No, it was just one of those where we were trying to think of a name for the group, so it was like Sandy was pushing for SWU, Andy Winters wanted the Cows... or maybe it was Meltzer, I don't remember...

I met Sandy and Meltzer when I was living at Donald's parents' house and there was a concert at Stony Brook with the Doors and Meltzer introduced the Doors and he came out onstage swinging a meat hook around and screaming, and this was his introduction to the Doors and I thought Wow - this guy is really strange - he definitely freaked me out...

David Hirschberg: You were right!!

Albert: Laughs - but that's where I met him and Sandy, both at the same time - and then we went back to Joan's house after the concert and we just hung out and talked and stuff..

Q: Did you get to meet the Doors?

Albert: Not then - not til years later... and by then, Morrison was dead...

Q: That Stony Brook hosted some incredible concerts when you look at a list of the shows they did - I'm amazed how they were able to attract such big groups...

Albert: Howie Klein and Sandy Pearlman... and Crawdaddy magazine, y'know...

Q: When you first started, I believe the singing was mostly handled by Donald and yourself...

Albert: Yeah, that's correct...

Q: What sort of stuff were you doing then?

Albert: [Big exhale...] Well, we did erm.. we did a lot of the blues songs that we'd been doing, some Blues Project... we did some Bo Diddley, Spoonful, some Jimmie Reid, "Bright Lights Big City", but we also played original music, we did this song "Rain is Falling" which was a song that Allen and I wrote together, "Can't Judge a Book by its Cover", that was another one... that was a big popular number...

Q: One thing I can't determine when it happened, but somewhere along the line, John Wiesenthal dropped out - had you actually played any concerts with him?

Albert: Yeah, we used to play with him - but he was very stiff on stage and Sandy felt like he was a liability and I think he played with us all during that time that we had that house in St James...

And we were playing all those Stony Brook gigs, at the end of the year, the lease was up and the landlord decided he didn't want to rent to us again, people were complaining that people were having sex in the grass and there was always noise coming out of the house, even though there wasn't another neighbour for 50 feet or so... it was a very cheaply built house, but people would complain all the time so we decided we had to move...

Les Braunstein's father had died I think when he was in College - he'd died not too long before - he had a sudden heart attack and that was it, he was gone, and he died right in front of Les... anyway, his mother decided she wanted to sell the house, which was in Dix Hills, and move to Florida, down where the weather's warm... anyway, she sold it so we had a few weeks before the owners were gonna move in, so we went there... they had a huge humungous basement - it was a humungous house, I think Les's father was in advertising or something - he was very successful...

Q: That's another reason to get Les in the band...

Albert: Oh Les was in the band by then...

Q: OK - going back to the Lake Avenue St James house...

Albert: Right - let me tell you what happened there - we practiced there for a couple of months - we were working on our stuff and at this point Donald had started coming up with some amazing stuff, y'know, started blossoming musically, and to not just becoming an impressive guitar player but actually coming up with riffs and stuff which was very intriguing, doing suspensions of chords - musically very sophisticated that I'd never heard before...

I don't know, his mind had been expanded, I guess, whatever and so that Fall they were going to have Jackson Browne and Steve Noonan for a concert at Stony Brook, - this guy Steve Noonan was a friend of Jackson Browne and who had a record out and with some Jackson Browne songs on it and who had a mild hit - and I can't remember the song - you probably wouldn't remember it anyway but Steve Noonan had this small hit and so he played a concert at Stony Brook and he asked the SWU to back him up, which we did - we practiced 2 or 3 times...

Q: I can pin this gig down to Oct 18 as it's in the microfilm archive at Stony Brook, and you backed Steve Noonan and the Holy Modal Rounders, whoever they are... And Phil Ochs...

Albert: Oh my God, we played with Phil Ochs?

Q: Now I thought that was your first gig but in an email to me you once said I'm sure we played earlier than that in the quad or something...

Albert: Yep, a mixer in the quad with the bass-player from "3 Fifths Alice"...

Dom: Was it a Monday or a Tuesday?

Albert: Now that I cannot remember but we played at least one gig with a bass-player - we had been hired to play - this was just Donald, myself and this other guy from "Three Fifths Alice" and we played in the quad...

Q: Why wasn't Andrew Winters playing bass?

Albert: Oh I think he had to work at the pharmacy or something...

Q: No keyboards - just you three?

Albert: No... y'know, I think this might have been way before that - this was when I was still living at Donald's parent's house in that first 2 weeks - we'd gotten a gig at Stony Brook and we also got - one day the phone rang and the guy said I'd like to speak to Don Roeser, so Don gets on and he says "yeah, I have a band, you want us to play at the opening of your restaurant, OK... where is it? La Petite"...

So he says we got another gig - we 're going to play at La Petite restaurant, so me Don and this bass-player we go to this restaurant and the bass-players got like a bassman, y'know, long hair and I've got my drums and stuff and we come into the restaurant and the guy goes Oh no - I thought you guys were a jazz band and Donald goes "oh... you meant Don Roeser Senior!!" [Chuckles]

The guy goes "Oh please, I'll pay you but don't play - this will ruin me if you guys play, this is a jazz club..." so that was the gig that we got paid not to play!

Q: I bet Don's dad was happy about that...

Albert: I don't know if he ever found out...

David Hirschberg: The Phil Ochs bill - back in those days, it was before like concerts were thought of as like a show and Phil Ochs was like a civil rights movement folkie guy y'know and all his songs were socialist American unionist - all that kind of stuff - and there were really strange bills like that - I remember the very first concert I ever went to was Sly and the Family Stone and Thelonious Monk opened for them - that's what shows were like back then - as opposed to even a few years later...

Albert: Yes but this isn't that odd because we played with Steve Noonan who was a folkie... And he played acoustic guitar, Donald played very light electric - we were a folk group...

Q: How long did you have to practice his songs?

Albert: I think 2 days... but we had the band house so we could practice for as long as we wanted - we could practice all day, and we played a whole set...

Q: Did you get to play any of your stuff or was it all his?

Albert: No, purely Steve Noonan - we didn't do any of our stuff...

Q: So it's not really your first main gig then, if you're just a backing band for Steve Noonan...

Albert: Yes - it wasn't really our first gig but it was with Andy Winters and John Wiesenthal and Allen Lanier... the full line-up...

Q: Now you've said in interviews one of your favourite gigs was opening for Muddy Waters and I'm trying to trace when this happened.. now you said to me in an email once that you thought the Muddy Waters gig was the Bluesbag at the Cafe a Go... this was Thanksgiving 67 and apparently featured Richard Meltzer on vocals - if you can call running around shouting "Piss" as vocals... And according to Meltzer: "And John Wiesenthal on unamplified keyboards (so you didn't have to hear him)"

Albert: [Laughs]

Q: Well, I've got 2 different accounts of that gig - one from Donald Roeser and one from Richard Meltzer - and they both say they were on with Richie Havens, who I believe opened, and James Cotton was the headline... And you were sandwiched between those two...

Albert: But Muddy Waters was there... I think it was Muddy Waters who was the headliner... and we were the openers... The gig was officially called the 3rd Annual Blues Bag at the Cafe a Go Go - it was the 3rd time they'd done it and it was James Cotton, Muddy Waters, Richie Havens...

Q: OK, another thing I'm trying to find out is when Allen Lanier got drafted... Can you remember him being on guitar that night at that gig?

Albert: No - but I think he was going to go - he knew about it - and he was going to have to be drafted shortly after that... I'll tell you when it was - Allen went in the army right before we backed up - were supposed to back up - Jackson Browne..

Q: So February the next year...?

Albert: Oh - that's when it was? Cos that's when Jeff Latham came...

Q: You also did - according to the Stony Brook newspaper archives - an Irving College Christmas Party in the ABC Lounge - wherever that was - in one of the dorms... I don't suppose you remember that?

Albert: No...

Q: The next thing I know about is the Anderson Yiddish Theater gig... Now they'd set you up between Jim Kweskin and Country Joe and it was to be a weekend gig - and according to Les Braunstein's account, they set you up first with a weekday warmup gig with the Group Image band at the Diplomat Hotel, in midtown Manhattan - which I've worked out to be the 31st Jan 1968...

Albert: Right - by that time the Anderson Theater was the last gig we did before Les became the singer, and I think Les was watching us with Pearlman, and Les said "Do you know, they really need a frontman"

Q: "They need me"

Albert: "They need me" and Sandy said, you know, I think you're right...

Q: According to one account in "Morning Final"", at the Diplomat show, Les actually got up on stage at the end song and sang something into one of the mikes...do you recall that?

Albert: Les did?

Q: According to "Morning Final", he caught your eye so he got up on stage for the last song - and was doing a freeform sort of thing into the mike...

Albert: I thought he was supposed to do that but I thought that was planned... He thinks that he just did it spontaneously?

Q: That was my impression... perhaps it was planned spontaneity...

Albert: We had had a meeting and were like "OK, let's try it with you singing"... and also... did Allen get out of the army by then? Cos when Allen got out we did one gig with Jeff Latham, Allen Lanier, Jeff Richards, Les, John Wiesenthal - a whole bunch of people - and at that time Latham decided to leave, Jeff Richards decided to leave...

Q: Where was this gig?

Albert: That was the Pot Bust Benefit with the Fuggs at Stony Brook - outdoors with the Fuggs...

Q: So that was after Anderson...

Albert: Yeah...

Q: That's a new gig to me. Anyway, apparently, it was the next day after the Anderson show - which would have been Feb 3rd - Les joined the SWU - what did the band think about that when Sandy invited him? Were you OK with that? Cos you'd been doing some singing, Donald had also...

Albert: Yeah, we were OK... but me and Donald still thought that we could do it... but then Les came in - at first we were like - "Yeah, he's got a good voice" - and he's still got a good voice - I mean, the guy's just naturally gifted... and I thought maybe we could be greater than we are...

Q: Also it's good because it provided a focus for an audience to latch on to - when you're just looking at guys jamming away, you don't know what to look at...

Albert: Yeah...

Q: So he joins... Now the Anderson show was considered to be a bad gig - what do you remember of it?

Albert: Oh, it was terrible... the thing is - I'd had success in other bands but this band was just too much chaos, there were too many people that weren't really professional and the whole thing - we'd get to the soundcheck and the guy said we were too loud and wanted us to stop - it was like just a bad scene.. and then we played the gig and the bill didn't seem right - it was another one of these folk things, y'know - what were we doing there with Jim Kweskin, y'know?

Q: It probably would have been up Les's street as we was a jug band kind of guy...

Albert: Yeah, well he could have worked that...

Q: Was the Jackson Browne thing after Les had joined then?

Albert: No, it had to be before because erm... oh wait - maybe it was...

Q: Because it reads as if you get Les in, and then all of a sudden, his group are suddenly backing Jackson Browne - I was wondering how that worked out..?

Albert: Well, Allen was in the army... and John brought Jackson Browne along...

Q: You'd got Jeff Latham in at this point?

Albert: Yes, Jeff Latham was in the band and Jackson really liked Jeff Latham - he wanted to bring him back to California, so maybe one of the reasons why Latham left when Jeff Richards left and Allen came back is because he'd said well y'know, I might like to go and pursue this gig with Jackson Browne...

Q: Now, there's a gig I can't place which Richard Meltzer writes about - incidentally - I don't know if you've seen this - [I hand him a photocopy of Richard Meltzer's piece from ZigZag#44] - it's a Richard Meltzer article which you might find interesting, written in his bitter acerbic style and it's very very funny of his early years with the band and of his time in the Great Neck house - and he doesn't like Les - that's an understatement - he doesn't like anybody really....

Albert: Y'know what's weird is - he only occasionally complains about me so I guess I'm OK in his book...

Q: I think it all might stem from the fact that he reckons they still owe him money...

Albert: Well, I don't owe him money - I'm straight up with that stuff, that's like respect, and when you try and cheat people out of money, it's like saying "I don't respect you"... and I have nothing but respect for Richard...

Q: Anyway, in this article he says: "Les Braunstein's first contact with the band was at a concert the SWU did at Stony Brook called 'Beethoven's Birthday Party' - whatever that is - "he tried out on vocals along with Larry Silvestri"...

Albert: Larry Silvestri... y'know, that's right...

Q: Meltzer said this was early 68, so according to him this was the first time Les tried out on vocals... Do you recall what this "Beethoven's Birthday Party" was about?

Albert: No, I have no idea but I do recall that Larry Silvestri was a musician and friend of Meltzer and Pearlman...

Q: And do you recall him trying out on vocals?

Albert: No, but he could well have done that... Meltzer and Pearlman both tried out in those days and then once again when Les left they tried out, they tried to sing the songs that Les had been singing, of course it was... [Laughs]

Q: They hadn't improved in the interim?

Albert: [Laughs] It was not a viable option...

Q: When did Jeff Richards leave? You'd done this Fuggs benefit you mentioned and it was obviously after the Anderson show ... how long after? Any ideas?

Albert: As I recall, it was after we backed up Jackson Browne - when we were backing up Jackson Browne, it was really not the whole band, it was me and Latham, Don, Allen and Andy - Wiesenthal wasn't doing it...

Q: If you had to pin a time on this, how long after the Anderson - which was the start of February - was this Jackson Browne business? If you had to guess...

Albert: Well, it was still Winter - it was NOT Spring yet. it was cold out ..

Q: So maybe still in Feb then?

Albert: Well, no, it might have been like March... so Les was probably singing with us or going to sing with us - and we got this gig backing up Jackson Browne...

Q: After Jackson Browne didn't happen - what did you do then? Because the next thing I've got is April and the Chuck Berry affair...

Albert: Oh? Wow... it seemed to me that we played at least once a month at Stony Brook in the Quad and we'd get to try out different stuff, that's what really kept us going with the money - y'know it was enough money to pay our rent, heat and to buy brown rice and dried soup mix which we ate every day...

Q: Well, this Chuck Berry/BB King gig at the Generation Club - I have you down as having played six days running, does that sound right?

Albert: No that is absolutely NOT right - the contract was for six days and what happened is we got fired on the third day - the first day we played and Hendrix came and jammed...

Q: Was that after all the shows?

Albert: Yeah, after all the shows - Hendrix was in the audience and watching BB King and after BB finished, the owner of the place or the booking guy came over and said "Some of the guys want to jam with Jimi Hendrix - can they use your stuff? And we said "Sure - we wanna see it", y'know...

He said we got the Paul Butterfield Band, most of them are here, we got Al Kooper here, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield and this guy Davenport, the drummer from Butterfield... and Hendrix - they're going to jam - is it OK if they use your stuff and we said that's great, man we wanna see that!!

So they got up there and they started playing - it was awesome but we had a three hour drive back to Stony Brook, and it was about 4 in the morning and we had to be back there at about 5, so it was about 6 hours of driving so we had to go, so we left while they were still playing...

Q: So you left all your kit there and everything...?

Albert: Yeah - we thought, Oh it'll be fine...

Q: It'd have been funny if you'd got up on stage and said "I need my kit now, I'm going"...

Albert: Yeah - "I gotta take my kit - you guys gotta stop"... but we were supposed to play for 6 days so it was no big deal... so we come back the next day... and everything is broken... well, not really everything, but we had two Fender Twin Reverbs and Don had one and Allen had one - both of them when you turned them on - nothing! and we're like "Oh Shit" and it turned out the fuses were blown - it probably had nothing to do with the people playing, it was more to do with there might have been bad electricity in the club...

It was really just a little cheesy club but it was on 8th Street in the West Village which is a happening street - it's still a happening street in New York, - not like we were last night - it's much smaller but there was always tons of people going by - it seemed like it was a great tourist area - but anyway, the fuses were blown, my hi-hat was broken, the connecting pedal to the thing which makes the hat go up and down had been snapped - admittedly, this was the drum gear that I had in the Regal Tones from high school, y'know...

Q: So it wasn't state of the art, then?

Albert: No, it was NOT state of the art - it was what I could afford so we had to make an emergency run to a music store to get another hi-hat and to get some fuses for the amps and we did that and the money we'd made the night before we had to use to buy a hi-hat...

So OK, that's the way it goes, but we're going to make more through playing for six days so we play the next night and at the end of the night, the owner comes over and says "Listen, Al had so much fun last night and he's back with his new band called Blood Sweat and Tears and they're gonna play with Hendrix, can they use your gear?" and we said "No!!"

And he said what do you mean, "no?" "Well we came in this afternoon and you weren't here but everything was broken, y'know and nobody's offering to pay for it - all the money we made last night went to fix our stuff".

He said "well, I'm sorry but that's just the way it goes - you guys left, and who knows what happened but they want to jam - what are we gonna do?" We said, "well OK - how about this? Whoever's going to use my equipment has to come over and talk to me about it first - it's not just somebody's gear, it's MY gear, and you don't abuse it cos it's mine! I'm doing it as a favour to you."

So just like that, everybody came over and asked "can I use your gear?" and we said OK, Bobby Columbi from Blood Sweat and Tears came over and asked me if he could use it and I said fine and he said "You know what - there's no hard feelings - I really respect that - I've let people play on my stuff and then I get up and the drum is useless - it has all these welts on it from people hitting too hard and bad technique or whatever, but don't worry, if anything happens, I'll fix it or replace it, whatever..." so I said OK, cool! So - and we've been friends ever since that night actually, Bobby Columbi and me - he's an A&R guy..

Q: Wasn't he at Columbia when you demoed for Clive Davis?

Albert: Yes - good connection there... anyway, they played and they were great - they played some BS&T songs and then Hendrix got up and played with them... we left, once again... about 4 in the morning... and we came back the next day, and all our gear was fine, everything was cool and the owner comes up and says "we got another band, you guys can take your stuff - you're fired!"

Q: So that was just because you said "no" to him..

Albert: I think so, yeah - he felt like we had dissed him...

Q: So you only played two actual shows then?

Albert: Two actual days - that's exactly how it went down - I'm positive of that... so that was the end of our Chuck Berry gig... the week gig that turned into two days...

Q: Of the actual, gig itself - how did it pan out - I believe you played your own set first...

Albert: Yes, we did a set with Les as the singer, and then Les got off the stage and the Chuckster came on and did his set...

Q: According to Les, during Chuck's first set, he let Donald do a lead - which was apparently very good - and then the next night, he didn't do that again...

Albert: [Chuckles] I seem, to recall that happened, yeah...

Q: Well, what did Chuck Berry do - if you guys had been kicked off the bill, you were Chuck's band... what happened to Chuck? He had more shows to do!!

Albert: He got another band...

Q: Just like that?

Albert: Yeah, just like that...

Q: He travels light that guy - just turns up with a plectrum...

Albert: Just a plectrum and his guitar, Maybelline...

Q: But you'd know all those songs anyway, probably?

Albert: Yeah, everybody knows Chuck's songs...

Q: It's the same song really, I suppose with different titles...

Albert: Yeah, well there's the Shuffle kind and the Rocking kind, and you play 'em both... [Chuckles]... and there was no rehearsal, and he just says - and it's a visual thing so you gotta see - [gets up and mimes Chuck with guitar] - He goes "Who's the drummer - right, drummer - OK - here's how it goes - when you see me raise my guitar like this, and I go down like that, you gotta stop right there OK, otherwise you just keep playing OK and when you see me go like this - that means the end of the song, wrap it up boys..."

Q: How did you do?

Albert: Great - no mistakes [chuckles]

Q: Drummers are quite often not always looking at what's going on to be honest, so I suppose you'd have to keep your eyes open, wouldn't you...?

Albert: Yeah, well because I've always sung - even in the Regal Tones I sang a lot, so I think if you sing, you keep your head up, you have to keep the microphone centred like this, y'know, you have to have eye contact - you communicate in that kind of way...

Q: Next gig I have here is supporting the Dead at Stony Brook

Albert: Cool... yeah...

Q: Can you think of anything before that? I have this show down for the 4th of May...

Albert: 4th of May... and the other one was in April?

Q: Yeah - about April 16th or so

Albert: Yeah, mid April - it could very well be - we needed to get at least one gig a month...

Q: That must have been a hell of a gig supporting the Dead...

Albert: Yeah, it was fun - it was good...

Q: How many sets did you do? Was it two?

Albert: Gee - I think we did - yeah, there was two shows I believe...

Q: Now I've heard a story that Bob Weir's SG got broken at one point and he had to use Donald's... any recall of that?

Albert: Oh? I don't remember that... if it was my drums, I would have remembered... [Laughs] it was his guitar... I remember that Phil Lesh came to our dressing room and said to our bass player "Hey Man, I like what you're doing - that's really cool" - he said "you guys are gonna be good someday - you got a lot of talent here" - so that was good, we got some nice words from Phil Lesh.

Q: Next thing I have is according to Les "Musicianship was now solid and we were playing Group Image gigs at the Hotel Diplomat on a regular basis"...Now somewhere along the line in this time period Sandy Pearlman sets up some SWU demos with Al Kooper...

Albert: Yeah, David Rubistein and Al Kooper

Q: I don't suppose you recall whereabouts that fitted into the timescale?

Albert: No, I don't... but it was Summer...

Q: OK - do you remember any of the songs you were doing back then? The only one I've heard of is "All Night Gas Station" where Les goes a bit mad at the end...

Albert: Right - which was an earlier version of "Sneakers" - I think it was maybe when we got the Elektra deal, we decided that "All Night Gas Station" was not a proper enough song - it had to be more formalised...

Q: I've got 28th August, Hotel Diplomat with Wind in the Willows (with Debbie Harry) supporting... it was a gig for Jac Holzman and was where he fell in love with Les Braunstein... would you say the Al Kooper demos were before or after you'd seen Jac Holzman?

Albert: No, I don't think so - I think we did the Al Kooper demos before...

Q: What do you recall of that Jac Holzman showcase gig? Anything?

Albert: I recall that they got him high with horse tranquillisers or something - they gave him some Marijuana cigarettes that were laced with something... not very ethical...

Q: So he wasn't in the best frame of mind to appreciate your musicianship?

Albert: Oh I think he was in a very good frame of mind to appreciate us... he was listening to the music on a visceral kind of level rather than how can I promote this kind of view...

Q: So he fell in love with Les at this concert, and after this gig you get signed to Elektra - how soon after this gig was that - this gig was the end of August, so I'm guessing you signed sometime in September... so how soon after did you get the cash, the advance...?

Albert: I recall it took a while... we signed and then nothing happened for a while and then finally y'know they pried the money loose and we got some new gear and met Eric Bloom...

Q: You got this new house in Great Neck as well, didn't you?

Albert: Well, yeah...

Q: Because part of the money was for that, wasn't it?

Albert: I guess so, yeah...

Q: Next thing I have is that you did some demos with Pete Siegel - Bonomo's/Arthur Comics/Queens Blvd - I think that's round about November as best as I can work it out...

Albert: What about Rationale Passionale?

Q: Isn't that later on? Do you think you did that then?

Albert: I think we did Rationale Passionale then...

Q: So mid-November, you finally have some cash from Elektra to buy some gear so you went to Sam Ash...

Albert: Right...

Q: And you meet Eric Bloom for the first time...

Albert: That's correct...

Q: And then you spot Peter Haviland, I believe it was, in a photograph...

Albert: I saw the name Lost & Found... I think Eric's story is incorrect cos I saw the name Lost & Found and said "Oh that's Pete's group - I know this guy" to Donald, and Eric happened to be right there and he overheard me - and I think it was the name Lost & Found that I had heard of or maybe... you know what - I'll tell you what happened - how I knew it is because they played in Clayton, my home town and my brother told me...

Q: Pirate's Roost?

Albert: No, Pirate's Roost was the name of the restaurant, no I was told that they'd played at O'Briens Hotel, the Lost and Found... Pirate's Roost was where my brother played...

Q: Joe actually says he saw the Lost & Found at the Pirate's Roost earlier with Eric Bloom on keyboards because apparently their keyboardist was unavailable and Eric Bloom had taught himself keyboards and Joe's story went "I saw the Lost & Found at the Pirate's Roost and they had the worst keyboardist I'd ever seen in my life"... O'Briens was their Summer gig, I believe...

Albert: Right - because Pete Haviland was kind of a celebrity in my town - it was a very small town - but he was outside of our town - he came from down in Rochester or Buffalo or something and he came upto the Thousand Islands and played there - first with the Clansmen, and then with this other group sop maybe that's where I'd heard the name Lost & Found, but anyway I knew that Pete was in the Lost & Found by the time we bought our equipment in Sam Ash...

Q: So it all comes to a crux at the Thanksgiving 68 gig at the Electric Circus with Graffiti on the Bill - 28th November, I think that was - now apparently - according to Richard Meltzer "That night they decided to dress up like hicks and slick their hair back and it so happened that Manny had also gone to school with Les" - do you recall this dressing like hicks business? No?

Albert: We could have done that - I don't recall... but I recall being very stoned...

Q: Well, apparently you needed the PA plus some erm... substances... and apparently, according to Meltzer, Eric Bloom was good for both... so that's why Les had asked him to come down ...

Albert: You know what? I think Meltzer is wrong about that... he's the one that said we slicked our hair back? Yeah cos Helen took a picture of me at the Electric Circus... I have a picture and I'm wearing the outfit that she made for me - that's Helen Wheels - and my hair is not slicked back... looks just like it does today... [chuckles] - except no grey...

Q: OK - well apparently at that gig everyone's a bit out of it and Eric gets asked does he want to be a roadie cos he's got a van... and a PA - which is bad news for Les a bit later on also...

Now - other gigs I know about - this was November 1968 - are, according to Les, he played the Cafe a Go Go with the Soft White Underbelly...

Albert: Oh...? Maybe we did...

Q: And it says here you were the house band at Steve Paul's Scene Club...

Albert: That's correct...

Q: Any idea - oh dear - I keep asking you this - but I'll ask you again - any idea when this might have been in the timescale of what we've just been discussing?

Albert: We played there... - if you go to a there's a Beatles book, I think it's called "Off the Record" or something - it came out last year and it is a day-by-day chronology of the Beatles from pre-Hamburg to their breakup... June 18th 1968, Ringo goes to the Scene with Jimi Hendrix and Hendrix jams with Jeremy Steig and Ringo declines to play drums, OK?... And that was my drums that he declined to play on...

Q: Didn't you offer?

Albert: I did, I offered - I said it'd be a great honour for you to use my drums... but he said "No no thank you very much"...

Q: You could have said use MY drums with me on them...

Albert: Well, I wanted to see Ringo with Hendrix, that would've been awesome, right? And after everybody left right - Teddy Slater the house manager of the Scene came over to me and said "You know why Ringo didn't want to play your piece of shit drums? Because they're just crap!! You need some new drums"... and that was June 18, 1968...

Q: Blimey - well, I asked for a date, but I didn't expect to get one!!!

Albert: OK, so that was during our week of playing at the Scene...

Q: So that places that after the Dead, after Chuck Berry...?

Albert: And before we got the Elektra deal - because the first thing I did was to get a new drumkit - a Premier kit that I played on every Blue Oyster Cult record....

Q: And now you're just waiting for Ringo to turn up again...

Albert: Yeah, and he still hasn't... but hopefully if he does come, he's got some amazing drums to play now...

Q: I heard of a guy who saw you play shows at the Mad Hatter in Stony Brook, and Tueys in Setauket - do you remember any of those gigs?

Albert: Yeah - there was nobody there!!

Q: Any idea where those gigs would fit in the timescale of things?

Albert: No, but I do think those gigs were with Les...

Q: You also played a society party for Marietta Tree, who I think was the ambassador to the UN?

Albert: Wow! It's quite possible - we played a lot of weird gigs!

Q: There's one gig that got cancelled on 31 Dec 1968 that I'd have loved to have seen - the SWU supporting the MC5 at the Broadway Central - cancelled due to problems with Bill Graham due to a Fillmore East gig or something - any memories of this?

Albert: Gee, I don't know - I know that we went to the Bill Graham and we met them backstage and as I recall, there was some problem, a riot or something that happened at the gig and it was not cool... so I remember that we were down to play with them and we met them because they were our label-mates, so that's where I met the MC5 at that Bill Graham gig which was like a week before or something right?

Q: Yeah - now I have nothing listed until the sessions for the SWU LP...

Albert: Right... that was in the Winter...

Q: I have Fantasy Morass/Mothra/JJ/Queens Blvd/Budha's Knee/Bark in the Sun - other ones have been mentioned - I've got these down as definitely recorded - no vocals were on one of them (Fantasy Morass, an Allen Lanier song)...

Albert: You know what - I don't think I did get that Premier kit then... no, when we did that, I had another kit I had - I got this ridiculous kit with a 28x14 bass drum, like a marching bass-drum, that I mounted horizontally... with a cocktail beater that hit up and when they recorded that album, the producer put a shotgun mike on the ceiling facing down to the bass drum - it was the worst drum sound you could ever imagine... it was all like Fantasy Morass.. that's what it sounded like... and then I got the Premier kit - after I came to my senses, so just get a GOOD kit that sounds good and forget all this crazy stuff...

Q: About that SWU LP... what are your memories about those sessions...?

Albert: I recall that we recorded it - I was very unhappy with the drum sound but the producer - well Peter Siegel was the producer, but the engineer was a guy who engineered this guy Gabor Zabo who was a jazz guy and he was trying to get like a jazz sound out of us, y'know, which I guess we were a little jazzy but y'know but we considered ourselves to be a rock band and it was very thin, and we thought we wanted them to sound more like... the MC5, y'know... ballsy and it didn't sound like that, it was very wimpy...

So I didn't like it... but I do recall that I thought Les's vocals - y'know, one of the good things about Les was that his pitch is very good so all the vocals were fairly viable - I mean, the only bad thing was that he was singing in a little tiny booth and he wanted to sing out in the big room...

We recorded it at A&R Studios, a famous jazz studio - y'know, Miles Davis recorded a bunch of stuff there, a lot of these legendary jazz people played there so we thought it'd be good to play there - it was a huge room and the gopher guy who went for coffee and who swept the floor and cleaned the bathroom was this guy Shelly Yakus, who was just a kid, y'know and he would reappear in our lives later on down the line...

Q: How did the problems with Les during that recording occur?

Albert: Well what happened was that he insisted I can do these vocals better, I wanna do it and the engineer, I think it was an 8-track or 6-track or something, said "Well, we can't - we'd have to erase your original vocals" and he said "that's OK, I know I can do a lot better"...

And then he'd do them and Sandy Pearlman would say "You know, I think the other one was better... do it again, Les" and he'd do it again and Sandy Pearlman would go "No, the one before this one was better - this is getting worse, what are you doing Les?"

And he'd go "I dunno, let me try it again..." and so he kept doing them over and over, and he said "Well I'm feeling kinda tense, maybe if I lie down and sing it, it'll be better"... And of course, it's even worse, y'know cos you can't sing lying down... [Laughs] it was just this retarded session...

So he ended up erasing the best part of the whole thing, which was his vocals... the drum wasn't good, the guitar was a little wimpy... the only thing good about it was the vocals, and he erased them and put these crappy vocals on... so we were kind of on his shit, y'know, like "Les, you erased the good vocals - you're gonna have to go in there and do them right - if you'd only have left them alone..." y'know... we kind of like aggravated him for doing this...

Then we go to Wells College and played a gig there... right?

Q: According to Allen Lanier, that's when he first heard a tape of the Lost & Found with Eric singing - him and Eric were driving there apparently, and so that's how he got to hear Eric, and that spelled the end for Les....

Albert: Well, I don't know... my feeling about it is this... it wasn't like we decided Eric would be better than Les - what happened was - we came back from the Wells College gig and Les's girlfriend went to Wells College... so he stayed up there for like a week or two weeks, y'know - he was gone... he'd disappeared, right...?

Q: And Eric was in the house with you guys...

Albert: And Eric was in the house, but we weren't thinking... and Les came back and said, "Do you know what? I know why I can't sing those songs - cos I don't like those songs... I can't sing them.. I think the lyrics are terrible... I hate these lyrics.."

Q: But some of them were his, weren't they? I mean, "Jay Jay" was his...

Albert: Well "Jay Jay" and "Rationale Passionale" were the two songs that still had a good vocal on them - he'd destroyed all the others, so he said "It's just because I don't like them, I really can't get behind them - it's just not me..."

Q: So it was like some sort of subconscious sabotage then?

Albert: Yeah, and we were like "What?" And he said "Tell Elektra that we gotta go back in and we'll write some new songs that I can get behind" and we said "Les, we're not gonna do that - we already did all this work - we're gonna finish this record, now you have to get in there" and he said "I'm not going to" and we said "Well if that's how it is, we're not going to be your back-up band - that's not going to happen... so OK, I guess that's it then..." so we did not decide to have Eric Bloom replace him, as a matter of fact, in our minds, Les in effect quit - he left us in the lurch and we were very upset...

So we said then "Well, who's gonna sing?" And I said, "how about me?" And they said "well how about somebody else? " [Laughs] "How about Sandy?" Well, we'd already tried - but OK, Sandy tried and we were practicing and Sandy tried and we said "O...K.... Richard - do you want to give it a try?" And Richard did quite a bit better... but it still was not acceptable...

We'd had Les who was a really good singer, and we had me and Donald who were like OK singers and then you had Eric, who was a really good singer also... what are you gonna do? We had to take Eric because we didn't have a singer and Eric was the only person that we knew who could kind of match Les in vocal power...

Q: Eric has said in interviews that he became singer in the first week of April 1969 - that's the next month following the Wells gig if the March date is correct for that... now the Stony Brook archives say that the SWU gig supporting the Band at Stony Brook was May, a month later... so how could Les be the singer for the May gig if Eric became the singer in April? Les has confirmed in interviews that he was the singer when you played with The Band...

Albert: I don't know - you're gonna have to work that one out for yourself [Laughs]... I seem to recall that Les was the singer when we played with The Band...

Q: So Eric's assertion that he joined in April looks like it's a month out at least...?

Albert: Yeah, maybe that's off, but I do believe that the Wells gig was the last gig that Les played with us, so the Wells gig had to be after the Band gig... so it could have been May that we played in Wells - I recall that the College was still in session... maybe it was right after that Band gig... It was right at the end of the year - I think that's why he stayed up there because College was over for her... it was probably their last dance or whatever...

Q: I'd always read that Eric's first SWU gig was the Fillmore East, but Eric says in an email to me "the first gig we played was a private party in CT for some debutante"

Albert: Yeah right .. with the Lester Lannon Orchestra, that is right...

Q: So how did that first gig with Eric go - do you recall?

Albert: The Lester Lannon gig? The girl's party? That was fun - that was really pretty good, I thought...

Q: How soon before the Fillmore East was that - was it a warm-up for it?

Albert: Yeah - well, we were a little concerned....

Q: Would have been hell of a debut at the Fillmore for Eric if it was your first gig singing...

Albert: Yeah....I recall that we didn't have much time... that's right... Les left and then we had to play the Fillmore, and Eric had to learn the songs very fast... right, it might have been like a week...

Q: So when Les left, you had the Fillmore East gig already booked?

Albert: Yes...

Q: Right - so you did this warm-up debutante's gig

Albert: Right - it had to be the same week or something...

Q: Then the Fillmore East - did you do two shows there?

Albert: Yes...

Q: Now this show was apparently a disaster from all accounts... And all I've heard about is Buck had pennies on his trousers that fell off... but why was it such a disaster? What happened?

Albert: The penny pants... either quarters or pennies... Well, one of the things that happened was I had seen other bands at the Fillmore and what always bothered me was that you could never hear the drummer - it just wasn't loud enough and so before the Wells gig, I tried this thing where I got a bunch of contact mikes and I put them inside my drum and put them through the PA...

Q: Well, if you've got a new kit, you want to hear it!!

Albert: Yeah, it seemed to sound pretty good as the Wells gig was outdoors in May and we had Eric's PA which was 4 fifteen inch speakers - which were huge colums y'know, six and a half feet tall and so when we played the Fillmore East, I brought along the contact mikes and the columns - the drums were horrendously loud and not just horrendously loud but horrendously bad sounding - I dunno if you've ever heard what contact mikes and drums sound like, but if it was a good idea, people would be doing it to this day [Laughs] - it was a bad idea - another experiment that failed...

Q: It got some bad reviews, I believe...

Albert: Oh yeah, but you know - we thought it was a bad gig but we didn't think it was horrible but then there were some bad reviews - there was more than one...

Q: Well, I've never seen the reviews as such - only read a reference to them online from Robert Christagou which said something about so and so's review of the SWU in the Village Voice last week was unwarranted - they had sound problems but they've got a really great lead guitarist so lay off them... so I've never seen the reviews - how bad was it?

Albert: Somebody has it... Have you talked to Bolle? I think Bolle has it...

Q: So after that, I believe you did some sessions with Jay Lee producing in New York [Columbia Records] so presumably Columbia Records were now interested in you at this point...?

Albert: Well first what happened though was Eric went into the studio with Peter Siegel to replace Les's vocals and it became obvious he couldn't sing most of the... Eric has a higher voice than Les and the keys were way to low and the tempos were too relaxed and Eric needed something that was a little bit more strident to sing...

Q: Well, he's basically a rock'n'roll-type guy...

Albert: Yeah, there was no folk... folk not spoke here!! Which was not a bad thing but Eric's voice just did not fit on those tracks... and we realised that - just like Les said - we would have to record the album over again... it was going to have to be redone, we were gonna have to change the keys becuase it wasn't fitting for Eric, we were going to have to change the tempos... it was just that this album was NOT meant to be...

So at that point, Sandy started lobbying Elektra - we'd got a new lead singer, we need to cut new tracks because it's not fitting and they said "We think you should keep looking for a lead singer - we think that although Eric Bloom's guitar playing is very good" (of course, you know, we turned off his guitar - [Laughs] - it was just a visual thing, y'know his guitar...)

Q: Did Eric know he was turned off?

Albert: Yeah, he did - he knew - they said, "oh no, you just can't stand there, you've got to have a guitar" - this was Pearlman basically saying you just can't stand there - you have to hold something - you look cool with a guitar, so Eric put on a guitar and pretended he was playing and he knew how to play guitar at that point so he could do a fairly convincing approximation of what the fingerings were supposed to be and really Donald put out enough guitar sound for two players - and we had Allen too - so it was plenty of guitar...

And they said "even though we find his rhythm guitar adds to the band, we still think that you need a lead singer"... so at that point Sandy said "we've got to get off Elektra - they're not going to go for this"... and that's when we did that demo...

Q: I have here that you tried to convince Elektra to have another look at Eric and you did a gig at the Electric Circus... I have no dating for this at all - I presume this has to be mid Summer 69...

Albert: Well, when was the Fillmore?

Q: The Fillmore was July 3rd...

Albert: July 3rd... so it was probably... gee, I just realised - that's sort of like what happened at Donington, y'know when... er... [Laughs]

Q: The black day...

Albert: [Laughs] That Black day... that black Castle Donington gig where er... they switched horses in mid-stream, so to speak... [Laughs]... there's something to be said for patience, isn't there... but anyway..

Q: The reason I ask is that the start of July is the Fillmore with Eric, but these July demos for Columbia... so I'm wondering when this Elektra -

Albert: You think it was July when we did those demos?

Q: Well those are the dates that are given on the Sony Remaster sleeves...

Albert: Oh? Wow.....

Q: So because they're July and they're for Columbia and yet...

Albert: Well July 21st and July 3rd... well, I believe the Electric Circus gig was in between... Because that's when Elektra said we don't have faith in Eric, so yeah - it had to be there...

Q: Really? So that's only about 2-3 weeks between Elektra saying "no" and Sandy getting you some demos with Columbia - that's a quick turnaround...

Albert: Yeah yeah - we were scrambling to keep the band together...

Q: Were you playing many gigs at this point?

Albert: Here's what happened: we didn't play that many gigs with - we used to call him Manny - we didn't play that many gigs with Manny - what happened was that we had a few high profile ones and then we made a demo and we were trying to get the record thing to happen, and really I think we cut those demos for Columbia in July and by -

Q: And also some in September as well...

Albert: Yeah - and by January and February we were out in California making a record for Elektra with Eric, y'know like several months later... we'd gotten them to bite... I think he used the Columbia demos to convince them and Jay Lee was a real hustler and he talked Jac Holzman into letting us do it...

Q: About the recording of that LP in California - in January I think - you drive there with Eric in the van for 52 hours or something... and you were there about a month... how did these sessions go?

Albert: Yeah, I thought it sounded good - I thought we for the first time ever captured some magical moments on tape - for instance, St Cecelia which you hear on that thing, that's what we heard when we finished the take, no overdubs - Donald just played some amazing stuff... Brian Ross-Myring was very critical about us - especially me - he felt that I did not play with enough power, that I was too prissy, y'know, and I would say that I was playing jazzy, and he'd go "well, I've engineered Chicago, now that guy plays jazzy... with power!! - if you're gonna play rock, you gotta pay with power - I mean, look at your sticks!! - and at that stage I was using 5As, which were like twigs, but I thought I'm not a big guy, I'm not going to be using tree trunks to slam the drums with and I was always afraid of breaking something - and of course, you saw last night I'm no longer not afraid of breaking anything!!

Q: Well your style's changed since - even the floor moves!!! OK, all had gone well with the recording - it's March and you're back in Long Island to find all the pipes frozen and it's very cold...

Albert: [Laughs] We'd come from laying under the sun and T-shirt weather and swimming in the pool and y'know smoking dope with Country Joe, and Barry McGuire back to poverty... desolation... destruction... death!! [Chuckles]

Q: Now the sequence here seems a bit strange and I'd like to see what you can recall about it... here's the things I know happened but I don't know what order they fall in... You change your name to Stalk Forrest group... Meltzer says "For a time though the band played shows under a few other names - they were called the Room for one gig, and ther Santos Sisters for another" - now I'd previously read that those were just names that were bandied about but according to him, you played concerts under those names...

Albert: No we didn't... No, I think when we came back, we really didn't have any gigs, we played at like the 18-24 Club, we played these little dive bars by the race tracks, y'know... it was not a proper concert - not like opening for the Grateful Dead or anything like that, y'know.. so I think yeah, it might be the name they'd write in marker on the little thing outside the bar...

Q: At some point, you got tired of the Winter weather and went home to Clayton for a while... when you went back, what was in your mind...?

Albert: I was just getting sick of not having a phone and not having any food and not having any gigs...

Q: But you were still with the band at this point, you weren't thinking...

Albert: No, I was thinking I was going to leave it... I was thinking that I wanted to play music and I didn't want to just sit around... and Sandy Pearlman had done this record and then - because the people at Elektra weren't jumping up and down, Sandy - to me - seemed to be losing interest... all of a sudden we weren't getting our... Howie Klein had graduated from Stony Brook so he was no longer getting us the weekly Stony Brook gigs - there was just nothing going on...

Q: But you did think that the LP was going to be coming out soon?

Albert: No, we thought probably the LP was going to be shelved just like the other...

Q: This Don Gallucci thing - how long were you in Clayton before you got the call? Weeks?

Albert: Yeah, we were gone for a couple of weeks... and here's what happened is - I wanted to go back upstate... Eddie Bazinet - you know, the guy from the Regal Tones and the Clansmen, was playing with a band called Life and two of the guys had left the band, the drummer and the guitar player, so there was just Eddie, the other guitar player Terry Bourcy and the lead singer, Spike...

And so he said "do you wanna come up and play with us? And do you know a guitar player", and I said, "yeah, Don Roeser can play..." and I said "how about Don and myself and Eric Bloom" cos Eric had played up there with the Lost & Found, and was sort of a celebrity and he said "well, we've already got a singer, we've got Spike"...

So we said "well, Eric will play guitar when Spike sings and Eric will sing some leads too, and Spike can like dance or something..." and so they said "OK"... so we went up there and we practiced with them, and I think we played like three or four gigs and they changed their name to New Life, so we were in the New Life for two weeks...[Chuckles]

Q: So you didn't stay with them long?

Albert: No, what happened was that - I didn't live at home, I was staying at the band house - they had a band house that was over a laundromat, owned by my Uncle Nooney and we rented the place from my Uncle Nooney - y'know, very reasonable but my mother sent me a message and I went over to say Hi and she said "Oh this guy from New York called, this Sandy guy, your manager I guess"...

So I called Sandy up and he said "Where are you man? Elektra sent this guy, Don Gallucci to produce a single - you're gonna record a single with them" and we said "Don and the Goodtimes is gonna work with us?" And he said "yes - get the hell down here".

So we drove back the next day and Don had already been in town for a few days and he was basically brought out by Elektra to help work with us and when we weren't there, he went to see this other group that was in New York at the time - Iggy and the Stooges and so what happened was he worked with us for one day and he said OK...

And there's the famous story where Andy says "I gotta go to the bakery - I can't be late, it's only my second day on the job, I'll get fired..." he left and Don kind of looked around and said "what the Hell? Y'know - I've been waiting for two weeks for you guys and..."

Here's what i found out later... he then went into the studio with the Stooges and they recorded Fun House instead of Soft White Underbelly... so there you go... I think he made the right move... [Laughs]

Q: So when was all this?

Albert: I think the whole New Life episode was actually in the Summer, and the Don Gallucci and all of that was in the Summer - I don't recall it being cold...

Q: I've got you down as May 70 as Stalk Forrest Group opening for Jefferson Airplane in an open athletic field - do you recall this one?

Albert: That was indoors... I thought that was in the Stony Brook Gymnasium...? Yeah, and we sort of put it on Sandy, y'know - if you'd gotten us a gig... we wouldn't have had to - but now, you think that was when?

Q: Well, I've got May 1970 - but this is only approximate from the Stony Brook site...

Albert: Yeah, I think that was earlier.... Andy was still in the group... and we got rid of Andy right after that Don Gallucci debacle...

Q: Well OK - here's a definite date for you - July 3rd again, only 1970 this time... Ten Years After, MC5 and SFG - hell of a gig that must have been - in the Gym - now this date's in the microfilmed newsletter so that date would appear to be pretty solid, so when you supported Ten Years After and the MC5, was Andy still in the group then?

Albert: I think he was...

Q: Right OK - Andrew Winters was fired then - he didn't leave?

Albert: Yeah, he was fired...

Q: Now here's a something... There seems to have been a period of fluctuation regarding Andy at this point - obviously he'd started this bakery job which was beginning to get in the way of band business... but at one point, according to Meltzer, even before this, Andy Winters is out of the picture briefly, for unknown reasons, and the SWU have got John Trivers in on bass for "10 minutes" after which Andrew Winters comes back and sees John Trivers and says what's going on here?... Does this ring any bells?

Albert: No - I've never played with John Trivers...

Q: OK, if Andrew Winters was gone - what made you keep in the band if it was all falling apart...

Albert: No no no - we got Joe in the band before Andy was fired.... we'd actually started looking around for bass-players earlier so that we weren't left in the lurch - you see, the thing with Les leaving was we were in the lurch - we were in the middle of something and he was gone... we had gigs and everything...

What happened with Joe was we had a supposed gig opening for Led Zeppelin and this guy - oh what was his name - the promoter, it began with "P" - well, so that was the enticement... I tried to get Eddie Bazinet first, and Eddie said "no I have a gig", and I said "well who are you playing with?" and he said "Well I'm actually not playing, I'm a roadie for the Foxey Ladies, an all-girl band"... [Laughs]

Q: I bet he regrets that decision now, doesn't he...?

Albert: I don't know - he's doing OK - he's a Justice of the Peace, undertaker, liquor store owner, trailer-park owner - he is basically the town of Cranberry Lake New York, a town even smaller than Clayton, but he's the big fish in that small pond...

Q: So in September 1970 you got Joe in... Now Joe thinks his first gig was in a park in Great Neck... and he says "most of the songs were SWU songs - I think Sandy Pearlman might have played harmonica for us... I sort of remember him being onstage with us but he didn't seem comfortable but my memory of that gig is definitely groggy - we played on a flat-bed truck for free..."... What was the event, any recall?

Albert: It was just - y'know, playing in the park, they'd let us play and we tried out Joe...

Q: The next thing I know of with Joe was the infamous Swingers Party, Camp Swan Lake... I don't know if there were gigs in between...

Albert: Yeah - there were lots of gigs - we were playing all the time - as soon as Joe joined the band, we played constantly...

Q: I believe he went out and got you a load of gigs, didn't he?

Albert: No - what happened was we got this guy Richard Dostell who was somebody who lived in Great Neck and he was a booking agent and he just started coming up with gig after gig after gig and I don't know that Joe got us any gigs... in the Regal Tones, Joe got the gigs... Joe was very good about getting gigs...

Q: What do you remember about that Swan Lake thing - it was nudist colony, I believe...

Albert: Ah jeez... you think about all the wild stories... but then on the other hand, you don't know if you really want your children or something to be reading this stuff, y'know... some of the guys were good... but I wasn't... we'll leave it at that...

Q: What resulted from that were the Lucas demos - two sets of demos in his jingle studios... my info is that the first set weren't very good so you went in again and did "Last Days of May", "Four-Door Blues" (an Eric Bloom song), I think you did "Betty Blue" at that point and "Siren SingaLong" - what was "Siren" about...?

Albert: Oh I don't know - mortality, and fame - "the Immortality Project", as Ernest Becker says in Denial of Death - that's what it was about - it was about fame and death...

Q: December 31, I've got you playing Conry's East at New Years Eve playing "Auld Lang's Syne"/"In a Gadda da Vida" Medley... God know's what that was but it sounds good...

Albert: That was really funny...

Q: Was that a one-off gig, or was that part of a run there?

Albert: Well, it was kind of a one-off - there were two Conry's - we played that one on New Years Eve and then I think maybe it was before that we played a week at Conry's... by that time we had played Serge's Cabaret in Wilkesburg PA, we'd played upstate a lot of different gigs...

Q: The West one?

Albert: Yeah, when we played the week at Conry's, I have the tapes - we recorded them all - yeah, that's pretty wild I mean Steve Schenk was "How do they sound? Can we put them out?" [Laughs]

Q: You should do!!!

Albert: There's quite a bit of distortion but there is some amazing things on there - there's "Last Days of May", there's an amazing jam with Eric playing drums, I'm playing guitar and Pearlman is playing harmonica, y'know - and Buck and Joe of course and Allen playing keyboards...

Q: I can't impress upon you too much how much of a waste it is to have those tapes on a shelf somewhere and people not getting to hear them....

Albert: Well, I will say this - they are in my house - they are NOT sitting in storage and I actually went on eBay and bought a very nice machine to play back the tape because they were recorded at a slow speed so that we could fit all the songs on them and what happened was I made a copy for Bolle when I got them from Joe but I didn't have a tape recorder that went at the right speed so I recorded them again on another tape fast and slowed that machine down half-speed, but of course the bias is totally out to lunch but since I bought this machine on eBay like three years ago, I have not had a minute to deal with this issue, y'know - fourteen hours of tape, y'know and EQing it, I mean, it's a lot, y'know - what happened was that I gave it to Bolle and I said listen to it and tell me what - maybe if I could just concentrate on a couple of songs, maybe I could optimise them, y'know, it's too much to listen to the whole y'know...

Q: No it's not!!

Albert: Five versions of "Aimless Lady"?? And we did not do a real good version of it, y'know, but there was somebody in the club that just wanted to hear that every night, several times a night, so every other set would have "Aimless Lady" in there... [sings] "Aimless Lady".... Oh my God...[Laughs]... and then there was "Casey Jones".. I mean, we played mostly covers, y'know, but we did have "Four-Door Blues", "Last Days of May", and we had another song called "What a Lovely Face" that was an Allen song that was pretty cool too - there was a lot of good stuff on there, so eventually... you'know what it is, also it's like it's much easier to get into thinking about the future rather than the past, for me...

Q: Yeah, I know - and that's why I'm a bit guilty because after such a wonderful concert last night...

Albert: Yeah, well you've seen where I'm at!!

Q: And here's me trawling you through 1969...

Albert: [Laughs] Dredging up this old shit, as Eric would say...

Q: Well, it's become my mission to try and set down some sort of accurately-dated historical record of all this stuff... So much is alreaqdy forgotten!! Take 1971 - it seems to be pretty much barren yet there was probably tons of stuff happening... I know in October you were at the Warehouse recording the First LP... now in this time period, I know you did a bunch of gigs with the Byrds and the Mahavishnu Orchestra... I've got a definite date of 11 Dec for the Stony Brook gig with them...

Albert: Yeah - that was the last one...

Q: Can you remember anywhere else that you played on this tour...?

Albert: Cortland College... they were all College gigs... Cortland was the first one where I made the mistake of watching the Mahavishnu Orchestra... now where else did we play....? I think all together there was about 6 or 8 gigs... and it was all New England... I think we played a gig in New Hampshire somewhere... maybe up at Dartmouth or something and we might have played in Maine...

Q: But Summer 71 you got signed to Columbia, October you recorded your LP and November/December, there was the Byrds tour but I've got a blank for the early part of the year - is there anything from that period that you can recall? As I say, I know you signed to Columbia in mid-Summer - did you do a showcase gig for them to get signed, other than that audition?

Albert: No... I know that we played several residencies where we'd play for a week at a time - we played in Wilkesbury at two different clubs for a week at a time at each one, we played in Albany at a club for a week - and we played twice at a club in Rochester for a week...

[Tape runs out at this point...]

 

So there you have it - highly specific in range and lots of it will probably only make sense within the context of the bigger picture of the article I'm researching.

That said, I hope you find it of interest and I'd also like to thank Albert for sparing me so much time and I hope I didn't blow too many of his memory gaskets!!

One thing is for sure - the next time Albert sees me coming, he'll be sure to run like hell in the opposite direction for the fire-exits!!

Note to self: before my next Brain Surgeons gig - lock the fire-exits first...