This page is intended to document the known information regarding the various band houses that were used during the early years of the band's formative period.
They provided a creative environment, a refuge, rehearsal space and living quarters for the group, and were the backdrop against which various important events and dramas in SWU/SFG history unfolded.
Buried deep at the heart of BOC folklore is the famous "House on the Hill" - the original 1967 band house, just outside Stony Brook University's walls...
The legend goes that a couple of the occupants initially started using the house as a practice space - a little later, some other friends were roped in, and one of the resultant jam sessions caught the attention of a certain Sandy Pearlman.
Sandy was fresh back from the Monterrey Festival and was looking for a band to mould - and in the living room of the Bennetts Road house, he found it...
Well that's the story... but what about this house - where was it, what was the "hill", and who lived in it...?
The "house on the hill" was a two story colonial style building situated on Bennetts Road, East Setauket (just outside the University) and should be referred to in future writings as the place where it all started, although this area has since been re-developed... If you ever saw the movie "Animal House", that was remarkably similar to the Bennetts Road House.
Dave Roter and I moved into the Bennetts Road House (BRH) in the Fall of 1966. The original occupants of the BRH included me, Tom Stone, a pipe smoking philosophy student, David Roter, sometimes Sue "Suzy Creamcheese" Gerchick, Danny Englehardt (also a guitar player) and later Andrew Winters.
Anyway, as mentioned by John Wiesenthal, the above-named Stony Brook students were soon joined by a new occupant, Andy Winters.
Andy, who was a high school student from Smithtown, couldn't take living at home and moved in with us.
I can't give an exact date for when it was that Andy moved in, but he did give an approximate date once whilst discussing Jackson Browne:
Jackson Browne showed up with Greg Copeland and Adam Saylor in a mangy looking Nash Rambler station wagon at the Bennett Road house in the winter of 66-67, when I first lived there.
Greg was the co-writer of "Buy for Me the Rain" with Steve Noonan and Adam was the guy who got killed or committed suicide in "Song for Adam" on Jackson's first album.
Noonan was living in NYC where he was a Vista volunteer and working on his first album.
So - Winter 1966 it was, then. Andy described the house as "a real freak scene, with an amazing array of freaks like Pearlman, Meltzer, David Roter, John Wiesenthal, a guy named Danny Englehart, and various other locos."
Such a freakshow, in fact, that it seems to have caught the attention of the local press:
Around this time, there was a story by an undercover reporter, Jerry Parker, which painted a picture of the life for the Long Island Press (or Newsday?) that was featured in the Sunday edition.
As the university was growing and hippie life was starting to emerge the local press sent out Parker to do an undercover story on the alternative lifestyle.
He showed up at our door posing as an applicant to a graduate program and asked to stay with us for a week or so. We smelled something fishy in the story, but we weren't engaged in any criminal behavior other than occasionally smoking a joint.
We called him "Jerry the Cop". We were only half-surprised to see the cover of a Sunday edition featuring his story.
The visit predates the band by at least a couple of months, but the story probably came out in the summer of 67.
If you could find that article [in the archives], that would be a golden snapshot of the house just before the band got going...
Well - is there anyone out there with access to the Long Island Press or Newsday archives? It was apparently on the cover of a Sunday edition - maybe in early Summer 1967, so that should narrow it down a bit...
I had previously thought that Donald - and then Albert - didn't visit the Bennetts Road house until mid-to-late Summer 67. However, Albert has revealed this:
I first visited the Bennetts Road house in spring of 1967 when the car that we drove from Clarkson to the Cafe Au Go Go to see the Blues Project caught on fire and, after we got it running again, we brought it over to the house of some people that Don knew and abandoned it in the back.
I'm not sure but when I came back there later in August of 67 it was still there.
I could only find these Blues Project gigs listed for the Cafe au Go Go for the first half of 1967:
Mon 19 Dec 1966: The Blues Project
Tue 20 Dec - Sat 24 Dec 1966: The Blues Project, Ian and Sylvia, Richie Havens
Fri 17 Mar - Fri 24 Mar 1967: The Blues Project, The Gary Burton Quartet
My best guess then is the Blues Project gig we're talking about would have occurred within that March residency...
Al's comments also show that Don knew that Andy was now living at the Bennetts Road house, and the implication must be that he'd already visited it at this stage...
Anyway - the arrival of Andy Winters brought about an important development - the beginning of using the house as a band rehearsal space.
So far as I can work out, this started happening in Summer 1967:
I had to attend summer school that year because I had failed to graduate and, it being 1967, wasn't paying much attention to school.
I had a classmate named Joe Dick who, just by coincidence, was a fantastic drummer. We started playing with David, accompanying him on his songs.
So, if Andy only started backing up David Roter with Joe Dick during Smithtown High Summer School sessions, then ifI could find out the dates of these classes, then that would help me pin a date to these initial jam sessions.
For example, Stony Brook Summer sessions lasted for 6 weeks and generally started around 3 weeks after Commencement - in 1967, that was Saturday 4 June.
If Smithtown's Summer sessions ran to a similar schedule, then they might have started around Monday 26 June and ended Friday 4 August 1967, meaning the rehearsals with Joe Dick and David Roter would have happened within this time frame.
Then again, maybe they were earlier and I'm weeks out...
Anyway, these rehearsals seem to have been the nucleus, the hub from which everything else later sprang.
Now, the next piece of the puzzle falls into place in the form of Andy's old mate, Don Roeser.
Andy and Don were high school friends (from Smithdown High School) but Don was a couple years older.
After the demise of his college band, Travesty, Don moved back home for the summer, and one weekend Andy invited him down to the house to jam with them.
It's hard to be sure just when exactly this happened, but my best guess would to place it at the very end of June or the start of July.
The real beginning of the Underbelly was a jam session we had with Donald who had been my best friend in high school, me playing a bass with a missing string (first time on bass), Joe on drums and I don't remember who else joining in.
It was on a par with anything you might have heard or read about the Dead or the Airplane or any such thing from the sixties - great, spontaneous music.
Also in attendance was Pearlman who at that time was working for Crawdaddy magazine and had recently come back from the Monterey International Pop Music Festival. He considered himself quite the dandy - a real impresario in the making.
When he heard the music that night he went nuts - it was as though he had taken LSD and found Santa Claus on the same night... that was the beginning, must have been in August that year, before Albert came on the scene.
Donald went back to college until that Fall then he came back.
Andy said he didn't remember who else joined in - one of those was surely fellow-housemate, John Wiesenthal - I did wonder if it would have possibly been on keyboards, but he has said previously that he only ever played "experimental" keyboards at the November Cafe au Go Go gig - at all other times, he played guitar...
What isn't clear at this point is whether or not the jam that so impressed Sandy Pearlman featured David Roter or not?
Also in August, another musician attended a jam session with the band for the first time.
At the start of the Summer, John Wiesenthal had started working a film designer in Westport, Randy Enos, who did a strip called "Chicken Guts" for the Lampoon.
We were doing animation stuff, it was really neat.
One of the studios we used to do freelance work with was a place called Steeg Studios and they had done a soundtrack for a film for a cosmetics firm and one of the office boys had brought in his band to do it and that was Allen Lanier.
He and I started talking and I told him about Meltzer and Pearlman. I used to think we were gonna take over the world, which Pearlman may still do. I see him as sort of the Henry Kissinger of rock & roll. He's a really brilliant guy.
So I brought Allen out to Long Island one weekend. A friend of Andy's from high school was really a hot guitar player, phenomenal guitarist - Donald Roeser and his friend Albert Bouchard. Albert was drumming.
Jeff Richards, a fellow art student at Stony Brook started to show interest in our lifestyle, and came around. I was "dating" Joan Shapiro and painting in classes with Allen Kaprow, Nam June Paik and Ed Countey.
Albert Bouchard has said that he never rehearsed in the Bennett Road house, so I think John's recollection is probably mixing Albert up with Joe Dick.
Yes I never jammed at the House on the Hill (named after the Hank Ballard tune). John might have got this wrong.
I was under the impression that Allen jammed at least once at the House on the Hill before I got there.
But what I did find interesting was the info about Allen Lanier having been in a previous band and them coming in to record a cosmetics soundtrack - I wonder if it still exists someplace...?
Now John says that he brought Allen down to the house "probably August '67." But was Don there when he did?
Reason I ask that is because of Andy's comment above, when he said "Donald went back to college until that Fall then he came back"...?
The "college" Andy's referring to is the Comms Course at NY Tech that Buck went on - it has to have been a summer school session, due to the timeframe involved.
Presumably the other musicians continued to practice in Donald's absence - just to keep the momentum of the thing going. I did wonder if Donald might have popped back at weekends to rehearse, but the fact that Andy says he went away and then "came back" afterwards tends to suggest that he didn't.
Best guess as to a date for this course is late June to early August. When Buck returned home afterwards, he didn't just have music on his mind - he managed to get a job with a company installing television antennas in parochial schools - a very specific remit.
I'm not sure yet how long this employment actually lasted, but it doesn't seem like it can have been long, because Buck fell off a ladder and injured himself. He was eligible for 'Worker's Compensation' and so found himself with spare time on his hands, which he spent by continuing to rehearse at the Bennetts Road house.
In June 2016, rocksbackpages.com uploaded a short audio segment of an Allen Lanier interview from 28 Apr 1978 (with Ian Ravendale), and during it, Allen said this:
Sandy Pearlman was not only manager and producer, but he was also lyricist for a large body of material and Sandy was there the first day that I ever played with Donald and it was Sandy who looked up at this party one night and said "hey you guys play great together - ever thought of getting a band together?", so he's been a part of the group integrally ever since the very very beginning...
This seems to suggest - if taken literally - that Sandy Pearlman was on hand during the very first practice and that it was apparently only a casual inquiry by Sandy during a social event that perhaps provided the catalyst for the formation of an actual band (rather than just a group of friends just getting together for a casual jam), and not part of some grand Svengali-esque Pearlman meisterplan...
But I think most people think that, after attending Monterrey earlier in the year, Pearlman had come back with just such a project in mind. Actually, Jeff Richards has suggested that Sandy might have been keeping an eye on two local bands:
It was crystally clear from the beginning that Donald was an exceptional guitar player, one of those innately talented people that learned fast and had his own voice.
I think it was mostly that that led Sandy to promote the very fledgling band. To a lesser extent he was also interested in another local band named Alice.
On the basis of these two groups he referred to Stony Brook as a "cultural nexus" in Crawdaddy magazine, which he co-founded (with Meltzer?).
His connections were crucial to getting Soft White Underbelly off the ground, at a rate probably unthinkable today.
NB: Pearlman and Meltzer didn't actually co-found Crawdaddy as such, but for a time back there (around 67-68) they were certainly principal voices...
Albert had been exchanging correspondence with Donald all during this time, and at the end of August, it was arranged for Donald to take a road trip down to Chicago with Steve Sauter, a visiting friend from Clarkson, to come and hang with Albert and Roger Maltz.
If you've read the main article, you'll know that during July/August, Albert Bouchard had been staying in Chicago - he'd gone there to play in a short-lived band, "Boffo", with his old classmate, Jeff Latham but it had fizzled out when the bass player ran off with their advance.
Whilst there, Donald told Albert about the Bennetts Road House rehearsal(s) and Sandy Pearlman's interest in the band, and that he'd told Buck he "was going to make him a star". This certainly piqued Albert's interest, so he decided to come back to Long Island with them and see if he could get himself involved in the band.
The start of September 1967 seems to be when a number of things happened, but it is certainly very difficult to try and pin actual dates to them and indeed to put them in the correct chronological order.
We know Albert arrived back with Donald and we know he was interested in 'inserting' himself into his friend's new band, because he says so:
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...
Albert didn't go home to Clayton, nor did he go to check out the band in the Bennetts Road house - he stayed at the Roeser household:
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...
My deal was if I stay here, I will paint your house for you... and I did, I actually did paint their house...
Albert had been to the Bennetts Road house before - back in March, he and Don had dumped their broken down car there, but it's not clear if he went there again at any point prior to his return from Chicago.
However, consider this statement:
I never jammed at the Bennetts Road house but I did spend some high times there. I've looked for it in the past couple years and I can't find it. I think it's gone.
That would suggest that Albert did go there on more than one occasion, but the problem there is that he can't have had much time to do so, as from what I can tell, events there were in flux.
For a start, some of the occupants of the house had graduated and were moving on - David Roter, for example, was off to grad school at the University of California, Irvine. It's possible that their student tenancy agreement had run out or maybe the rent was due to go up, with less students to pay it. Maybe having band rehearsals in a "mixed" house had been causing problems.
Add to this the fact that Andy Winters was also about to head out west, possibly following in the footsteps of David Roter, but health problems put that on hold:
The whole thing started in September 1967 when I was about to head off to California to try my luck on a different coast. I needed an emergency appendectomy and the time to recover so didn't leave.
Another puzzling aspect is the disappearance of Joe Dick from the picture. I know it had been on Albert's mind that he was going to replace him, but what happened exactly seems to be a mystery:
You know what? I never met him... 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...
Since Albert said that in 2005, I've since had an update:
Joe Dick's family had a very successful construction business and so he was involved with working with them when I came on the scene.
I found this out years later at a gig where we met for the first time. That's why he wasn't around when I got there.
My conclusion is that once Joe passed his Summer School exams and received his Smithtown High School diploma, he exits the fledgling SWU story to go and work for the family business...
Anyway, it seems clear that John Wiesenthal felt that things seemed to be winding down:
By the time fall rolled around I was ready to go back to school. Things seemed to be falling apart. Andy had to have his appendix out. I remember one night down at this theatre that Pearlman was remotely involved with, I think Moby Grape was playing there.
I said look, we're gonna have a band. We'll get a place and get it going.
Here's a look at Bennetts Road in relation to Stony Brook University:
Bennetts Road can be seen to the North East of SBU, linking Sheep Pasture Road to the main North Country Road (Route 25A ).
Just before Bennetts Road meets N Country Road at the top, you'll be able to see that it is crossed by a thin gray line which represents the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) - Stony Brook train station is actually right opposite the school gates on the north-west side of their campus.
My initial working hypothesis is that the "house on the hill" must be adjacent to the railway embankment that carried the tracks over Bennetts Road - hence: "the hill".
Assuming that to be correct, then was the house "beyond" the rail crossing or "before" it - by which I mean if you were walking up Bennetts Road from Sheep Pasture Road would you get to the band house before crossing the overhead LIRR, or just after it.
And would you come to it on your left, or your right?
My current thinking is that you'd hit the band house just before the embankment on your left (so westwards-ish). But if you know any different, please let me know.
Anyway, in the absence of an actual house number, here's my best guess as to the location of the Bennetts Road house:
The above is the street view from 2008, whilst it was still being "re-developed". Click inside the picture (it's interactive) and drag to the left to reveal the embankment and railway line on the right.
We know this house was known as "the House on the Hill" - but what was the "hill"? I know Albert has said that the House on the Hill was named after the Hank Ballard tune, but that only makes sense if there was an actual hill to name it after.
As mentioned above, I wondered could "the hill" refer to where the LIRR crosses Bennetts Road, with the house somewhere next to the railway embankment?
John Wiesenthal had a look at the above picture and provided some helpful feedback:
It looks like the terrain there has been leveled. The house was set back from the road about 100 ft. There was a large yacht hull by the railroad tracks that ran along the west side of the property.
Behind the house, over the "hill" was a field of wheat or corn. This whole area is much more developed in the 45 years gone by.
The house was an old colonial style. There was a small central porch with columns. If you ever saw the movie Animal House, that was remarkably similar to the Bennets Road House.
But the house on that photo could be it - it was a corner lot, but not at the corner.
It's hard to tell but the set back from the road seems farther. There were no trees in front of the house, but years could have put some there.
Those don't look like OLD trees. My recollection was that the house was white. The photo looks like brick, but it could have been painted.
You can see from the gravel road that development is underway in the area behind the lot. The yacht hull would be on the rise to the right of the gravel.
As John says, if you stand in the drive facing the house there was a railway embankment on the right, so that does seem to fit the bill... according to Google Street view, apparently that was number 44, but that's not always accurate.
Here's the same plot of land in 2011, following "re-development" - you can just see the new house poking out between the trees:
Another piece of Long Island's cultural heritage ploughed into the dust...
The accepted story is that about now, there was a bandhouse switch from Bennetts Road to the "Villa Sapienza" in St James - but according to Albert there was an intermediate rehearsal stage:
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... "
This is a strange one - an intermediate band house. This quote by Albert is the only mention of this that I've ever seen and seems to suggest that they left Bennetts Road before they had another house lined up, or had even entertained the idea of doing so.
Albert's gear - and presumably the band's gear also got moved into this house, but I can't think they stayed there - Albert was temporarily living at Donald's house, Andy was still in hospital, so I wonder where John Wiesenthal was living during this transition?
I only stayed at the Roeser's for a couple weeks. Just long enough to paint their house.
Then I stayed with the SB girls for a couple more weeks and as soon as we got some paying gigs, John got us the house in St. James which allowed us to practice enough to get good.
I first jammed with Allen (on guitar) and Les at Joan's house. Andy was recovering and played bass for a little bit.
I met Pearlman there and met Meltzer a few days later at a Doors concert at Stony Brook (Also Robby, Ray and John).
Albert also confirmed that this was the first place he met Pearlman when he was recounting his memories of Sandy, after he sadly passed in 2016:
We liked each other the first time we met. I can see it like yesterday, upstairs in Joan's house.
OK - there's a bit in the first Albert quote above that I want come back to in a moment ("I first jammed with Allen (on guitar) and Les at Joan's house"), but taking things at face value, that gives the following approximate chronology:
Last week of Aug: Donald And Steve Sauter come down to Chicago to visit Albert, who returns with them
First week of Sept: Andy has appendix out - whilst he's in hospital, the Bennetts Road house residency comes to an end (for whatever reason)
First two weeks of Sept: Albert stays with the Roesers whilst he paints their house
Last two weeks of Sept: Albert moves in with the Stony Brook girls (!!) and that's when he first jams with Allen
Sat 23 Sep 1967: Doors/Tim Buckley Gig at Stony Brook
Having a concrete date for the Doors gig helps pin down this intermediate bandhouse period to the timeline - and if Albert only stayed there "for a couple more weeks and as soon as we got some paying gigs, John got us the house in St. James", then the move to the St James band house can only have happened around the start of October.
But what were these "paying gigs"...?
Also - there's a bit of an anomaly brought up by Albert's statement: "I first jammed with Allen (on guitar) and Les at Joan's house. Andy was recovering and played bass for a little bit."
Regarding Andy being there and playing a little bass whilst he was recovering - Andy is on record as saying when he came out of hospital, he went straight to the St James house, and that's where he first played with Albert.
I can only think that Albert might be mis-remembering the Andy participation at Joan's house - if the band were rehearsing there, then without a bass-player, they were probably less intensive than they would have been normally.
And regarding Les: Les maintains he was first introduced to the band by Joan Shapiro out in "the woods in St. James, a few miles from Stony Brook, where the band has a practice place..."
I've therefore always assumed that this first meeting between Les and band occurred at the Lake Avenue, St James house (see next section) - but, if Albert's right about first meeting Les at the girl's house, could this be where they all first met? After all, it too was in St James (see the location information below)...
Or, if Albert seems to have mis-remembered the bit about Andy, could it be the same case about Les?
At the moment, I don't know. Actually, to be honest, I'm surprised anyone remembers anything from this time-frame - after all, all it was 50 years ago!! I can't even remember where I put my keys last night...
Joan's house was in a brand new development just South of Stony Brook and just off of Nicolls Road.
I travel that road all the time and there only three possible places where it could be: Hastings Drive, Oxhead Road or Barker Drive. I think it was Hastings but I haven't driven down there to check it out.
Here's Hastings Drive on the map - the other two possibilities of Oxhead and Barker are both south of this one, and both branch off Nicolls Road - just drag the map upwards to see them...
John Wiesenthal puts it like this:
Quickly people started to pay attention to what was happening and I realized that when summer ended everyone would scatter to the four winds. I decided to rent a house.
I managed to find us a summer cottage at 625 Jefferson Avenue in St. James NY owned by Salvatore Sapienza. I said let's do it.
As to when this was, I'm sure I leased the place at the beginning of the semester - end of August or beginning of September '67.
Looking at all the dating evidence I have amassed so far, I think that John's estimation is possibly a month or so early, but it's clear he had a great entrepreneurial zeal and without this move, it's very possible the band would have just fizzled out.
Also - I'll examine John's contention that the house was in "Jefferson Avenue" in the location section - suffice it to say for now - all other testimonies point to the house being in Lake Avenue, Saint James...
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...
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...
NB: John later gave me some info on these shares mentioned by Albert: "The "shares" in the band were simply posters that I sold for 25 cents (they were a big orange circle on a blue background that said 25¢ and we called 'em shares in the band. It bought a bag of groceries."
The house was owned by this guy Mr Sapienza and his brother-in-law, Fred, and he was always threatening to murder us if we messed the house up or didn't pay the rent on time which we never were.
The band rented a house together in St. James, Long Island from a family named Sapienza who we always thought were mafiosos; they had a bocce court in the back yard, real NY Italians like in Mean Streets. Anyway, that's when Albert came into the band.
So who lived there?
Well, when they first moved in, according to Jeff Richards, the three main bedrooms were taken by John Wiesenthal (and Jill Alpert), Albert (and later, Helen Robbins) and Jeff Richards (he later painted his room black)...
What I don't yet know is: before Allen was drafted - did he live there? And was that with, or without, his girlfriend, Hope Nigro?
As far as I know, Andy Winters was in hospital when the move took place, but afterwards, did he move in, or did he go home to his mum's house in Setauket whilst he convalesced, as Jeff Richards reckons?
After Allen got drafted, Jeff Latham moved in with his girlfriend Lee Balstad - and they had to occupy the attic, as there was no room elsewhere...
John Wiesenthal explains that "Don mostly lived with his parents."
NB: reportedly - Albert didn't meet Helen Robbins until the Ravi Shankar gig at Stony Brook on 17 November 1967, so for the first few months at least it would have been just Albert.
When Les Braunstein met up with Joan Shapiro in a Stony Brook car park in what he says was "early fall", and she brought him back to the St James house, he gave a partial account of his first visit to the house:
So Joan takes me out into the woods in St. James, a few miles from Stony Brook, where the band has a practice place. The Soft White Underbelly.
She leads me up the path to a little house alone in a clearing. Some guys are standing around outside. Joan greets them with a wave.
"Yeah," says Albert. "Were takin a break for this." He holds up a fat joint toward me. I am already high but appreciate the comraderie of sharing another joint.
After we smoke, I follow the boys inside to an inner room. It's wall to wall with amps, instruments, and drums. Each man turns to his pile, pops some switches and rotates a few dials. Ba Dim Dim! That bass is loud.
And then an icy scream whips across the air like a smack in the face. Electric guitar. But I've never heard one like this.
This mention of the house being in a clearing "in the woods" was interesting - first it was "The House on the Hill" and now it was "The House in the Woods".
But where were these woods...? I must presume that they've been "developed" since then...
I got sent the following memory fragment from ex-Stony Brook alumnus Robby Barkan which gives a slight hint of what life was like in the Lake Avenue band house:
When I was a student at Stony Brook University in the fall of 1967 young Sandy Pearlman started bringing the boys around to the college. At first they would jam in the dorm lounges. One Saturday night in November 1967 a Hendrix-Cream copy band named Alice was playing in one of these lounges. The boys and Sandy were hanging out listening. Alice lent them their instruments and let them sit in. They had no singer then. They jammed like you and I breathe--every waking moment it seemed.
SWU let me sing a Doors song "My Eyes Have Seen You" during that set, which they expanded into a long jam after the second verse. I stood right next to Donald and Andy Winters, their original bassist, who was quite good. Donald was all over his guitar, as the saying goes. He flew. The room tripped out with them playing in it. The boys were tight and fast and rocked hard even then. This was 1967. Pearlman knew exactly what he had.
They began opening for every rock concert at Stony Brook. One of their best performances was at the Grateful Dead concert in the gym. After their set the Dead were rigging up. Bob Weir set his Gibson SG against his amp. When he walked away the guitar fell over and the sound of the neck cracking filled the gym. Weir was upset to say the least. Donald also played an SG so guess whose guitar Weir used that night? Mr. Roeser at his kindest.
The boys lived in a house on Lake Avenue in Saint James, the next town over from Stony Brook. I hung out with them a couple of times. The walls of the rooms were painted black. They practiced in a spare room. One bedroom had a fabulous mural of Jim Morrison and the Doors, artist unknown to me. Jim was depicted as a strutting lion.
I asked them if they needed songs - I had started writing some of my own. No, they said, they had plenty. I asked them if they needed a singer. No, they'd found one - probably Les. One thing I remember is the boys were always kind, even in rejection. Polite and kind. They got the success they deserved.
Summer of 1968. I was asked to join guitarist Eddie Schrager's band as bassist and singer. Eddie borrowed the SWU's amps when came time for our Stony Brook gym concert. I remember driving to their house in Great Neck with Eddie in my '60 Chevy to pick them up--three Fender Twins. The boys were still asleep but for one, who let us into the basement studio to fetch the amps.
That's all I can remember about the boys for now. These are sweet memories indeed - happy to share them with you...
Robby Barkan's memory is pretty good, better than mine for the most part but the description of the St James house is a little off.
Jeff Richard's room had all the walls and ceiling painted black except for the painting of Morrison. Richards did all the painting himself. He was an excellent painter (and singer). None of the other walls were black. Little did we know that Richard's room was the matriarch's.
My bedroom was the largest and also the practice room, not a "spare" room. There were usually many people in that house at all times.
When Allen got drafted, the band had to get a replacement - they settled on Albert and Donald's old mate from Chicago - Jeff Latham.
Meanwhile a friend of Donald's and Albert from a previous band, Jeff Latham, came in with his girlfriend so there were eleven of us in this, little, tiny house. We had this rope ladder that went up into the attic, and we used to go up there and get stoned.
John says there were "eleven of us", but my current count is only ten. If anyone knows whom I'm missing, please let me know.
John also gives a clue as to what life was like in the band house:
Basically I think the communal apathy set in. Nobody would have enough love in their heart to take out the garbage and do the dishes. Everybody felt that they were the only one that was doing it. So I was feeling that too.
I remember once dumping over all this garbage in the middle of the kitchen, throwing chairs around. So I started getting a reputation of something of a madman which was making it harder to function.
So how long did the band remain at the Villa Sapienza?
We were there until the beginning of summer '68. Sapienza was very shocked and upset because Jeff had painted Sapienza's mother's room black (bad omen).
So it seems that the band left the Sapienza house in early Summer 1968 but there seems to have been a gap before their next house was arranged.
Also, Jeff Richards had graduated from Stony Brook in May with a BA in Art, and seemingly drops out of the picture around this point - certainly, he doesn't seem to have made the move to the next house...
A word about that "625 Jefferson Avenue" address quoted by John Wiesenthal. Every other mention I've ever read or heard says the house was in Lake Avenue, St James - if you check Google Maps, you'll see that Lake Avenue runs parallel to Jefferson, and is considerably longer.
Google Maps also indicate that there is no "625 Jefferson Avenue" - it's simply not long enough, but there is a "625 Lake Avenue" - just. So this location aspect is a bit confusing at the moment.
Furthermore, as it's the "house in the woods", where are the woods? This is confusing...
In the Street View below, 625 Lake Avenue would fall between the two buildings separated by that side road, so if it was ever there, it now seems to be gone...:
Here's an idea of where Jefferson Ave is in relation to Lake Avenue to the right of it:
OK, this one seems to have been another intermediate venue for the band in between main houses. I get my info on this one solely from initial comments made by Albert, and a later corroboration by Les...
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' father was in advertising or something - he was very successful...
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..."
That's all I have on this one. Did the band actually move in or did they just practice there? When did they move in, and how long did they stay?
We all lived at Les' house. I'm not sure for how long.
It looks like they were living and rehearsing there at least for a couple of months, so if they moved out of the Sapienza cottage in early Summer, then that would take them to, say maybe August.
There's a problem with that - see the next part for more on that...
I have no location information whatsoever for this one. If you can help, please let me know...
The third main band house was in Terrace Drive, Great Neck. According to Les, they had to wait until their advance money came through from Elektra before they could actually get a place.
November that we finally got any money. We had some pretty basic needs. We needed a band house and we needed equipment, and some food wouldn't hurt either.
Kippy was the one that found the house on Terrace Drive in Great Neck. It was a big Tudor house with three floors and a full basement. The owners were nowhere around so that seemed perfect.
Kippy and I got the master bedroom, not because I was the singer (that would never happen) but because it was Kippy who had found the house. She'd been the only one diligently searching the papers for a house for us to move into after we got the record money. The master was the biggest bedroom with its own bath, but everyone had a good space. A big old Tudor house. There was plenty of room for everyone in there. And we all moved happily in and began to prepare the practice room. That was a room in the basement where we blocked off the windows and covered the walls with thick insulation. When all that was done, all you could hear outside was a low muffled sound, while inside we played as loudly as we wanted. As loud as the future Blue Oyster Cult. We never had a complaint. The neighborhood knew we were there but there was never any real problem. The Underbelly were lawbreakers but not hoodlums. Each one was generally quiet and polite. Our noise came when we played. Occasionally the local young came around (There's a rock band living up the block!) but the band didn't encourage it.
So if Les is correct about it being November when they got to move in, what did they do between early Summer and then?
We all lived at Les' house. I'm not sure for how long.
I know that Kippy found the Great Neck house and I doubt we could have afforded it without the Elektra money so Les' version sounds more valid to me.
Once we moved away from Stony Brook, the mixer and dorm party money dried up and we were in for more hard times.
Sandy, Buck's partner, however reckons they moved into the Great Neck house arlier, during the actual Summer:
During the incredible, history-making summer of 1968, I moved with the band into the new Underbelly house at 5 Terrace Drive, Great Neck, NY. Then I went back to school for my senior year, graduated and finally rejoined them for good in January of 1970
The initial occupants of Terrace Drive were Albert, Donald (not yet Buck at this point), Les Braunstein, Andrew Winters, Allen Lanier and Richard Meltzer and his girlfriend Roni Hoffman. Over a period of a time, Richard and Roni left, and Eric Bloom joined the crew, and then Andrew Winters departed, to be replaced by Joe Bouchard.
The first time I lived there, between my junior and senior year in college was the summer of 1968. I would return again in January of 1970 and become a permanent member of the house until our time at 5 Terrace Drive would come to an end.
Here's a memory that was sent to the site which confirms they were definitely in place in November 1968:
I just happened across your website, as I was reminiscing about my early days living in Great Neck, Long Island NY. I lived around the corner from The Soft White Underbelly on Terrace Drive.
I had gone over to the SWU house the same week that the Beatles White Album was released (I had just turned 11). I remember discussing the LP with members of the SWU, and listening to the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat LP (more specifically the cut "The Gift") there.
I remember looking at the SWU list of tunes to rehearse. The only one I recall was called "Bonomo Turkish Taffy".
And that's it!
NB: The Beatles White Album was issued on Friday 22 November 1968 in Britain, with a US release following three days later on Monday 25 November 1968, so that pins the above events to the timeline...
If you've seen the main SWU article, you'll know that on 29 November 1968, Eric Bloom had roadied for the band for the first time at the Electric Circus and had been recruited right afterwards by Sandy Pearlman to be their "tour manager". Yes, that's right - he had a PA and a van...
On Christmas Day 1968, Eric moved into the house. There wasn't much room for him, and he had to sleep on a couch up in the attic, between Andrew and Allen's rooms.
Eric describes the house as "a big old once-fancy house that was now pretty beat. It was a hippy communal house revolving around the band's rehearsals in the basement, mildly soundproofed with fiberglass insulation."
Donald and Albert had bedrooms on the 2nd floor. Les had a live-in girlfriend and took the best room in the house which had it's own bathroom on the 2nd floor.
Les had an old beagle as I recall and the house was overrun with cats, at least 4.
On the main floor was the kitchen, a small non-working bathroom off the kitchen where the cats did their inside 'business', a dining room and a living room plus a glassed-in porch where Richard Meltzer lived with his girlfriend.
Richard Meltzer added his own unique slant on things:
By this summer Wiesenthal had acided himself west (somewhere along the line Albert had got drafted and he took some acid when he went down and Wiesenthal stayed up with him telling him all about how important it was to save the world and so Albert went in with that line and they just sent him home so next time he hadda queer his way out of armed service) and Richards had graduated so all that was left was the basic band members so they moved to Great Neck.
Got one of them decaying mansion type places where F.Scott Fitzgerald mighta lived, bad pipes and bad wires and caved in ceilings for 300 a month or 4.
Les got there first when they moved in so him and his sweety Kippy (she used to cook a good pork butt) grabbed the biggest room, the only one that had its own bathroom (real sneaky fxxkers and everybody hated 'em for it on top of hating 'em already).
Seems a tad unfair, seeing as how it had been Kippy who had arranged the finding and renting of the house in the first place...
Sandy Roeser has penned an evocative account of what it was like behind the walls of 5 Terrace Drive:
I'll never forget the first time we entered the place that would become the second "band house." It was a pretty and somewhat rundown Tudor-type house in an upper middle class neighborhood in Great Neck, N.Y. It sat on a nice piece of property, with a white stucco and beamed exterior and a large front porch.
You entered a small foyer that led to a large living room with lots of windows and a fireplace. The living room led to an enclosed porch that eventually became living quarters initially for Richard Meltzer and ultimately for Allen Lanier. The living room opened to a dining room and the kitchen was off the dining room to the back of the house.
There were three large bedrooms on the second floor and a balcony that faced the street. French doors allowed access to the balcony. The master bedroom was on that floor and had its own bath, and the other bedrooms shared a second bathroom. There were a couple of rooms on the third floor and the third floor became living quarters for one person. Andrew Winters lived there initially, and then Eric Bloom made it his home.
The basement, which became the band's rehearsal studio, was a dark place with low ceilings at the far end of the kitchen. The guys put up studs and attached insulation. The insulation ended up being a soot magnet, and the dark basement got even darker as time went on.
The initial occupants of Terrace Drive were Albert, Donald (not yet Buck at this point), Les Braunstein, Andrew Winters, Allen Lanier and Richard Meltzer and his girlfriend Roni Hoffman. Over a period of a time, Richard and Roni left, and Eric Bloom joined the crew, and then Andrew Winters departed, to be replaced by Joe Bouchard.
It didn't take long for this fairly typical suburban neighborhood to take on a distinctively different flavor. First of all, we didn't blend well into our surroundings. The fact that we were accepted so quickly was both heartwarming and surprising.
The area was upscale,and only 25-30 minutes to mid-town Manhattan by train. Any town that close to New York City, is by definition, a pretty expensive place to live. So, there we were, a bunch of hippies, with all the requisite accessories. . . beat up cars, an old van, several cats, lots of long hair, strange clothes and an odd assortment of visitors coming and going at all times of the day and night. We kept weird hours, and were weird. What can I tell you. If the collective "we" ever moved next door to the current collective "we," I'd be keeping my kids very close to home!
So, we divided up the bedrooms, attempted to make the place livable and functional, and settled into a scene the likes of which didn't resemble anything remotely normal or mainstream.
The music scene was starting to build its legacy then, and so was the band. And there we were, in the middle of it, experiencing life through a musical filter. Actually, at times it was more like a haze.
The first time I lived there, between my junior and senior year in college was the summer of 1968. I would return again in January of 1970 and become a permanent member of the house until our time at 5 Terrace Drive would come to an end.
The years between saw the coming and going of many people. Musicians, friends, visitors, and the occasional neighbor who would bring us food. I remember the day when a guy from across the street brought us some fish he'd just caught. He figured we "could probably use it." Of course we could.
The kitchen was interesting. We had no curtains and a window that looked out onto the driveway and the next door neighbor's house. I can't remember who decided to paint the window silver, but someone did. It was cheaper than any curtain or shade we could buy, and no one could be bothered. All I can say is, the paint provided us with all the privacy we'd ever need.
The kitchen was inhabited, actually ruled, by particularly vile cat named "Tiger". He was one of several cats residing in the house, two belonging to Les, "Frumius" and "Bandersnatch," and a tabby belonging to Andrew, "Captain Pissgums." Tiger was a stray we picked up in the neighborhood, whose tail was 'dead', probably as a result of a run-in with a car. He would sit in his lair to the side of the refrigerator on a pile of paper grocery bags. He would lurk and sometimes attack people who came too close, but mostly just sat there looking sullen and unapproachable.
The Tiger, who resembled "Churchill" from Stephen King's "Pet Sematary", contributed to the non-domestic atmosphere in that kitchen along with the occasional piece of French toast nailed to the wall above the stove, (a bra hung there for about a week once), and the unmistakable aroma of the chicken heart/chicken neck feast ("chicken necks, what the heck, why should I get out of bed for that") that Les Braunstein would make for the gang.
Hey, it was protein, it was cheap and it was plentiful. You could really fill up on these ucky little morsels smothered in Saucy Susan bottled barbecue sauce. We would generally descend upon the local Pathmark grocery store as a group once we'd scrounged together enough money to shop. I think the chicken parts cost something like 19 or 29 cents a pound.
We had 26 cats at one time in the GN house! Oh! the cat stories are epic.
In 1970, Stalk Forest (Group) went West to record their LP for Elektra, leaving their womenfolk behind to make sure the house didn't burn down... or freeze over...
During a long period of time, Helen (Wheels) Robbins lived with Albert in the second floor bedroom at the front of the house. I'll never forget when the "boys" left Helen and I alone while they went to record the so-called "California record" (currently known as "St. Cecelia").
It was winter and the house was a heat sieve. There wasn't a good window in the place. We were always needing oil delivery and the oil company didn't really trust us to pay our bills. They demanded payment at the time of delivery.
I can still see Helen and I standing in the kitchen, while the delivery guy...all gross and dressed in oily blue overalls, made us an offer he thought we couldn't refuse. Heating oil - in exchange for.... (excuse me while I laugh out loud)... some attention of the most personal kind.
We laughed long, we laughed in front of the guy, we laughed for years afterward. At the time and even though we were amused by his nerve and his incorrect assumptions about us, we quickly whipped out the required payment in cold hard cash. And he never came back.
I'm trying to find when the band moved out of Terrace Drive - the last dated evidence I have is this:
When Albert called me up in the middle of the night in August of '70 asking me to join the band he said "you gotta come right away because we're opening a tour for Led Zeppelin!"
Of course I said I'll get there as soon as I finish my last production at the Vineyard Players. I was the musical director.
So I drove through the wickedest Labor Day traffic I've ever seen from Martha's Vineyard to Great Neck LI. I got to the house and I said I'm ready for Zeppelin.
I don't have a date for the infamous Camp Swan Lake gigs, but it was only a few days after Joe joined (so in fairly early September) and the band were still there then because Sandy says so:
The night promised to be both uncomfortable and way too hinky and kinky, so Donald and I decided to drive to Great Neck and return the next day.
So that shows the band were still in Great Neck in September 1970. But when did they leave...?
We moved out of the GN house about a month before I married Denise which was in May 1971.
At that point we didn't have a band house but we had Phil King who was getting us regular paying gigs.
Here's a photo of Eric standing outside the original Terrace Drive bandhouse:
The thing I noticed more than anything else in that photo? See that bit of a white building to the right of the shot? That's not a shed or out-house - that's next door!
I did consider that living that close to a practicing bandhouse must have been problematical, but I've seen a photo of the house from around 1970-71 that shows it had more space around it back then, so maybe it wasn't so bad...
Eric has this to say about the bandhouse:
It no longer exists. However, you can go on my fb page or other sites and find a photo of me standing in front of it (it looks boarded up after a fire). I am holding a guitar in the photo. The photo has been used in several web pages.
Newsday.com or Newsday the newspaper took me there about a decade ago for a photo shoot and that was the best photo from that session and I've used it several times.
By Jan 2008, the plot had been levelled prior to "re-development": (by the way, Google keep changing the way the scripts work for embedded links, so every few months, the interactive street view maps no longer display on this page - if so, please let me know and I'll fix them):
And here's the house that stands there now:
It's very nice, I'll grant you - but it's not the band-house... how's that song go? "They paved Terrace Drive and and put up a parking lot"... Well, something like that...
There now followed a period lasting maybe six months of the band fending for themselves with no band-house:
I moved into a housing project in Glen Oaks, Queens. And for a while everybody went their separate ways as far as living quarters.
So if Albert was in Queens, where was everybody else?
As usual, I can only pin tentative dates to most gigs in this period:
03 April 1971: Dartmouth College, Hanover NH (might have taken place on 10th April)
06 May 1971: The Pad, Canandaigua NY (Billed as "Stalk Forrest")
May 1971: Albert marries Denise
Jun 1971: Unknown Bar, Mineola, Long Island NY
Jul 1971: Tony Mart's, Somers Point NJ
28 July 1971 is the date BOC offically signed with Columbia (according to their contract).
One thing I'm not sure about is was this also the date of their famous audition with Clive Davis? If so, this would also approximate the date of their officall transformation from "Stalk Forrest Group" to "Blue Oyster Cult".
However, maybe they did the audition and then there was a period of unknown duration before they found out they'd passed...?
It was only once they'd signed their contract, and they'd received their first advance, were they in the position of being able to get a new band house to rehearse in.
If we allow a month for all this to occur, so effectively, August 1971, then that leaves the earliest possible date to move to the new house to be around September 1971 - so that's what I'll go with until I get information to the contrary.
That being the case, there was at least one more gig - or series of all nighter shows - that I think happened in August, and therefore would have taken place within this particular "homeless" period:
Aug 1971: Southampton Breakfast Club, Southampton, LI
Also there was this:
23 Aug 1971: Donald's engagement to Sandy was announced
OK - I'm struggling here for a date range for the Dix Hills sojourn. I think they moved in around September 1971 and have no real clue as to when they left.
Other than that, I'm completely on top of the situation... :-)
Please help if you can.
We got the Dix Hills house after we got the Columbia contract and we needed a place to do some intensive rehearsal for the first record.
We'd started working on the first album songs in Great Neck and then wrote Cities in one day at Johnny Winter's loft in NYC. Steve Paul let us use it...
I believe that the band moved into the house at the end of summer, or maybe in the autumn of 1971. When I moved in - with my friend, Bruce Kapler (long time sax player on the David Letterman show), the band had just moved in. Eric had the master bedroom and was the "house manager". He basically dealt with the landlord, paid the bills, etc.
I was 19 and Bruce was 18. We knew Ken Berkman, the band's attorney. We were looking for a cheap place to live and Eric wanted to rent out the den on the first floor. Until that time, I had never met any of the band members.
Besides Eric, Allen and Patti Smith lived in a little room by the garage, but they were mostly in the city. Don (Buck) and Sandy had a room; Joe and Sarah had a room; and Albert and Denise had a room.
Don and Sandy moved out fairly quickly - as they found an apartment for themselves and Sandy had had it with living with everyone else.
There was almost no furniture in the house. The living room had a drum set and Hammond B3 organ in it, and that was it.
David is wrong about me living in the Dix Hills house: I never lived there. I was still in Queens the whole time.
The house in Dix Hills, (L.I.) New York was to be the last "band house" for the Soft White Underbelly. It was a large, sprawling ranch house that sat back from the road on about an acre or so of land. It was a typical, upscale place with large rooms on the main floor and an upstairs area with a couple of bedrooms over the garage. I must admit that my memory of this place is not as clear as the others, since Buck and I lived in NYC's Greenwich Village for a summer and then moved into our own place in Huntington, NY after that.
It was the band rehearsal place, as well as the home for a number of different people including Eric Bloom, a couple of fine young fellows named David Ramage and Bruce Kapler (now the Sax player in the David Letterman Band), Joe Bouchard and Sara (soon-to-be-wife), and Phil (soon-to-be-dead) King.
The Dix Hills house was in Vanderbilt Parkway in Dix Hills NY. It was owned by the Viemeister family (not sure of the spelling). Peter Viemeister owned the house. I was the only band member living there, on the 2nd floor.
David Ramage and Bruce Kapler lived on the 1st floor as tenants. Later in life Bruce Kapler was the resident sax player in David Letterman's band on CBS Late Night for many years.
David later owned a book store in Huntington LI, became a family man and later on was an EMS technician in NYC.
Key to the Dix Hills story is our friend Phil King (Friedman) who was crashing there at the time of his death, but that's a longer story. The band rehearsed in the living room.
No one else lived in the house except briefly, Phil King moved in. He was basically a guest who the guys were too kind to throw out. He showed up and we couldn't get rid of him. Unfortunately for Phil, someone else took care of that one night.
On the night he was murdered, he had a girl staying with him - they were in Allen and Patti's room after they had permanently moved to Manhattan.
I can't remember the order of people moving out, although I think that Don and Sandy were first and then Allen and Patti. I left in the early summer of 1972 and Eric might have been the only one still living there.
Gawlik and Farcas, although they came over a couple of times, lived elsewhere.
That's odd - Sandy Nasci (Roeser) once said that Harry Farkas, whose name is largely known to BOC fans because it's on the credits of 'Redeemed', was actually a tenant for a short time at the Dix Hills band house, along with his rather angry St Bernard, Sir Rastus Bear, whom she says was named after the character in the song, rather than the other way around.
In point of fact, very little is known of Harry's time with the band - this is from the official site:
A one-time amateur roadie for the band, Harry Farcas was also a folky-style guitarist, and helped write "Redeemed." Farcas is now an iridologist in Southern California.
Going through old issues of The Statesman, all I could discover about him was that he was active in Student Union politics - he was voted onto the Union Governing Board (in March 1969) and he graduated in 1971 (discipline not given in the yearbook).
Occasional hints are given as to his musical ventures:
08 May 1971:
Come to the first SB outdoor Spring Folk Festival G quad lawn 12 noon-6p.m.
Sat. May 8. Dave Spivack, Harry Farkas, Myra Dud & Cuticle, Toni, and John & Elliot. There will be an open mike from 4 p.m. on...
27 Oct 1972:
This Week in the STONY BROOK UNION:
Friday, October 27
RNH* - Evening: early, Harry Farkas; mid, Cathy Rotolo; late, Lorelei Allan.
* and every day at the Rainy Night House
22 Nov 1974:
The Golden Bear Cafe in O'Neill College features Andrew Winter (formerly of the Soft White Underbelly and Blue Oyster Cult), Harry Farkas (formerly of Santos Sisters) and David Roter at 10 p.m.
That last one is obviously an especially interesting line-up - plus it mentions Harry was formerly a member of "Santos Sisters" - that obviously might just be a joke, but it should be noted that's actually a name that is often given in the list of band name choices Pearlman once came up with for the SWU: "Knife-Wielding Scumbags", "1-2-3 Black Light", etc...
Also - by the time Harry would have come into contact with the band, Andy Winters would have been out of the picture so far as BOC were concerned, so it's interesting Farkas later hooked up with both him and Roter. It's interesting to note that David Roter and Andy Winters apparently also had a moving company together called "Half Starving Graduate Students"...
Another thing I don't know is the extent of his roadie-ing with the band - was this around the time of Richie Dostel, Jeff Hayes and/or Phil Friedman/King...?
Beyond that, Harry Farkas is a bit of a mystery figure in the BOC story... but as far as his relevance to this bandhouse-themed page goes, he either did or didn't live in the Dix Hills band house. Sandy Nasci says he did, and David Ramage reckons he didn't.
Also living "elsewhere", according to David in his comments above, was the enigmatic Bill Gawlik, but Joe Bouchard contends that Gawlik once did live in the bandhouse:
Bill Gawlik. He used to live in our band house. Drove a taxi in the city and had a machete underneath his seat. True.
Maybe in the same way Phil King moved into Allen's room once he'd gone, maybe Gawlik moved in after David Ramage left to help keep the rent from going up for the others that remained?
Gawlik certainly never lived there when I did, so maybe he moved in after I left, I don't know.
And by the way, Phil didn't move in to help with the rent. He just showed up one day and we let him crash, and then couldn't get rid of him.
He never paid a dime and, in fact, ran up a huge bill on my phone (big for then and a 19 y/o making about $50 a week.)
Like I said, I left in the early summer of 1972. Phil's murder ruined the house for me. It was really isolated, the police didn't tell us what happened and I was alone (besides Phil's girlfriend, who left immediately after she was interviewed by the police).
The band was up in Rochester playing and I was, frankly, terrified. I didn't know who killed Phil or why, and I was afraid that they would come to the house.
Thankfully, Sandy (Nasci, not Pearlman), rescued me by letting me crash in her and Don's apartment until the band got back from their trip.
But, after that, I never felt comfortable there.
By the way, Bruce had left sometime after Christmas to go to Syracuse, NY.
David previously mentioned that "Albert and Denise had a room" - however, I don't yet know when they moved out... any help here would be appreciated...
OK - the rough chronology I currently have is:
Band move in. Eric Bloom decides to rent out first floor
David Ramage and Bruce Kapler move in
Dec 71-Mar 72
Don/Sandy move out (Dec is just a guess - depends how long they stayed for)
Bruce Kapler left --> Syracuse
Jan 72-Mar 72
Allen/Patti move to NYC (again, just a guess - but Phil died in April 72 and apparently both Allen and Don were gone by then, so that puts an upper end to the possible date range)
5 April 72
David Ramage leaves
How long did the band stay at Dix Hills? Probably throughout the rest of 1972 and into 1973, but this is currently a pretty foggy area, so if anyone can help, again, please let me know.
One thing I'd be very interested in knowing is: had the band moved into Dix Hills yet when they auditioned and signed for Columbia in July 1971? That would be very useful dating information to know...
The annoying thing about gigs being played at this time is that there's no documentation, just vague recollections to which I can only pin tentative dates in order to be able to list them in any sort of chronological order:
Aug 1971: Southampton Breakfast Club, Southampton, LI - all nighter shows
Sep 1971: Slovak Center, Catasauqua PA - Mentioned on Eric Bloom's site
Oct 1971: We know the first LP was recorded in October, and that they played a gig(s) at The Bedroom, Youngstown OH in this time frame.
It would be useful if I knew which of the above gigs took place whilst the band were in Dix Hills - presumably the September and October gigs definitely were?
As we approach 1972, we start to be able to pin actual dates to gigs: on 30 Oct 1971, BOC played a gig at the Village Barn in Uniontown PA.
Nearly three weeks later the band embarked on their first tour, sandwiched between the Mahavishnu Orchestra and The Byrds. The tour consisted of 7 NE college dates and ran from 18 November-11 December 1971.
One of the dates was at Clarkson (9 December), and must have felt strange but very fulfilling for Albert and Donald, and the last night of the tour was at Stony Brook.
One of the first big shows that BOC ever did was at Stony Brook University.
It was the Byrds, BOC, and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Besides Patti Smith, Richard Meltzer and Roni Hoffman were also there.
We drove in a caravan of vehicles to Stony Brook from the band house in Dix Hills.
January 1972 saw the release of the first LP, although I don't know of any gigs in January - but I'm sure there must have been.
Now - there was a certain party that took place in this sort of time frame - Albert thinks it was in May, whilst others think it might have been earlier. Here's the evidence I have so far:
Sandy Roeser tells the following tale of a great press party the band held at their Dix Hills house:
Here's the tale of the incredible press release party that was held in the Dix Hills house.
There were many famous rock writers there, including Lillian Roxon who wrote a column called "Top Of The Pops," Robert Christgau and Lester Bangs. These folks, and a number of others, were bussed to the house from NYC for a night of schmoozing, music, potent brownies and a lot of merriment.
It was a glorious night for the band, who set up their instruments and played on the lawn directly behind the glass sliders to the kitchen.
It was a night when the sound they created and the songs they played was dubbed "the music of the spheres." It was the night that officially launched the start of a thirty year career.
And the rest, my friends, is rock and roll history.
In the struggle to pin a date to this party it would be useful to work out what was the reason for hosting it - album/single or tour launch maybe...?
It was after the first album was out, maybe as we were working on the second album.
It might have been the night Patti Smith gave me the lyrics to Vera Gemini which was close to my birthday, May 24th. That was quite a party.
We had a Hammond organ and Leslie in the living room. We might have played an early version of 7 Screaming Diz Busters.
I seem to recall that we played inside and the people listened on the lawn. Joe would probably have the most reliable memory.
Albert says he thinks it was close to his birthday - if that's right, it has to have been after his birthday on the 24th as BOC spent the previous month supporting Alice Cooper - the last known date was Tifton GA on the 23rd May.
The tour went well, so maybe this press party was to celebrate that tour?
Yes, the famous press party. It was wild. I thought we played in the living room of the house, but it might have been on the patio. I'm not sure.
There was a full sized bus parked in the driveway and bunch of press people. I don't remember specific names at that time, but everybody seemed to be having a grand time.
What I remember the most from the whole night was the band wanted to make a dramatic entrance. So Eric said let's all pile into my car, a souped-up Chevy Camaro.
So the five of us squeezed in his car and he gunned it across the lawn, making all kinds of noise. There was dip in the lawn and the car bottomed out on a small hill, but we kept going. Jumped out of the car and went right to the bandstand and played our usual manic set.
As far as the specific date goes I'm think spring of 72 is about right. It was after the first album was out and we were rehearsing what became the Tyranny album. I wrote Dizbusters and Hot Rails and Wings Wetted Down in that house.
In the Martin Popoff book, it again mentions the birthday party for Albert idea:
"The Revenge Of Vera Gemini" was the first song that Patti Smith ever gave to me, for my 25th birthday, May 24, 1972. She gave me this lyric and said, 'This is for you.'
She actually gave it to me; we had a little birthday party for me at our band house in Dix Hills. We even had people from the record company come out, and we served them hash brownies. Everyone got so stoned. It was a total disaster.
So she gave it to me on my birthday and said 'This is for you, for your birthday. You should make it into a song. Chop it up, do whatever you want!'
And I said, 'Oh, is this about me?' And she said 'No, Bob Dylan has the same birthday as you.' And I said 'You're kidding.' I didn't know that at the time.
And she had actually written it about Bob Dylan, something about getting snubbed by him at a party. It was about how she was going to get her revenge. And so I wrote music to it, the next day, actually.
And I played it for Donald and he said, 'You got a lot of nerve, just stealing this song of Bob's, Positively Fourth Street.' And actually he didn't say it, he sang it, (singing like Bob Dylan) 'You've got a lot of nerve, to steal his song!'
Anyways, I said, 'Oh, sounds like that, huh?' Yep. So I went back to the drawing board, pulling it out every six months or so, trying to make it not sound like Positively Fourth Street. Anyways, it took me pretty much four years to write it!
I was there for that press party. It took place in that living room I was telling you about. It was packed! I don't recall when it was, but it was when I was living there.
If the party was to celebrate anything, it was probably the release of the album.
So that might help to pin point when it was.
The theory that it was Albert's birthday that was the raison d'etre for the party seems a bit too grand - bussing in journalists in coaches from NYC, a gig on the patio etc etc - all this just for a birthday bash?... it just doesn't seem likely to me...
Of course, it's very possible that Albert's birthday may have been an added factor in the celebrations, of course, and the pary was to celebrate the Alice Cooper tour (either before or after it)...
Anyway - my current best guess for this shindig has now coalesced into early Jan 1972 (at the latest), as a result of coming across the following retrospective on Lester Bangs by Nick Tosches:
Lester [Bangs] and I met in early 1971, right after he had moved from California to Walled Lake, Michigan, to work for Creem magazine. I was hacking out a living as a paste-up man for the Lovable Underwear Company at 200 Madison Avenue, and I was writing on the side. He called me one night and asked me to write for Creem.
By the time we encountered each another in the flesh, later that year at a party on Long Island for the Blue Oyster Cult, I was on the verge of quitting my job at the underwear company, which I did in January 1972.
Lester visited New York again in February and March of that year, and it was then that we began to get acquainted. We had a few things in common: Neither of us had college degrees to fall back on, and we were both drunks.
Lester Bangs: Jook Savages by Nick Tosches 
Gigs I know about are:
08 Feb 1972: My Father's Place: Roslyn NY
25 Feb 1972: Rockpile, Island Park LI
26 Feb 1972: Rockpile, Island Park LI
3rd March 1972, BOC travelled to Worcester MA for an "audition" gig with Alice Cooper to try and land a slot on the Alice Killer tour (replacing Redbone). They passed...
Other gigs I know about are:
04 Mar 1972: Rockpile, Island Park LI
05 Mar 1972: Rockpile, Island Park LI
17 Mar 1972: Cold Spring High, Cold Spring Harbor, LI
24 Mar 1972: Rockpile, Island Park LI
25 Mar 1972: Rockpile, Island Park LI
I was at at the Cold Spring Harbor gig and I was also at one of the Rockpile shows.
Edgar Winter was also on the show and Paul Simon was standing next to me in the audience. He was with Columbia Records, as were Winter and BOC, so we thought he was checking out his new stable mate.
You are missing a show. They played at Wesleyan University in Middletown CT. It must have been in March because Phil King gave me a ride back. They played in the Student Union.
I wish I knew which of the Rockpile shows featured Edgar Winter, February or March...?
April 1972 gigs:
01 Apr 1972: Sunshine Inn, Asbury Park NJ
03 Apr 1972: Golden Nugget, Rochester NY WCMF-FM broadcast
04-09 Apr 1972: The Fun House, Rochester NY - Residency
During the Fun House residency, a very shocking event occurred - the untimely death of the band's booking agent, Phil Friedman (aka King) in Farmingdale:
When police found a SWU business card on his body with a phone number on it, they rang the Dix Hills band house and passed the terrible news onto David Ramage, who took the call.
David in turn had to then ring Eric in Rochester, where BOC were playing a residency at the Funhouse... Obviously, this event gets a name-check in "Deadline"...
Check the history section for some personal testimonies from BOC band members as well as Phil's own sister, about this awful, tragic event...
Another subsequent event very soon afterwards formed the inspiration for "Hot Rails to Hell":
1277 was the number of a subway car I rode in with Bill Gawlik coming back from NYC after a jazz concert. And indeed it had "KING" sprayed in red paint on the inside of the train car. Graffiti was rampant in those days.
Pretty scary sight when Phil King had only been murdered only a few days before.
So if Joe's coming back home with Gawlik after a concert in the city, then that would suggest they were sharing the Dix Hills house at that time.
If Phil King only died a few days before, then that would date this subway trip to around 10-12 April 1972, (and this is also useful because it gives a date for the inspiration for Hot Rails...)
I wonder what was the jazz concert they'd been to see?
Incidentally, the Dix Hills house was also the place where "7 Screaming Diz-Busters" was written:
I did much more work here than with the other collaborative songs. I remember staying up most of the night reworking Sandy's lyrics. Just rearranging the order of things so they were more singable.
The next day I went down to the living room in our rented Dix Hills house and wrote most of the music on our Hammond B3 which was conveniently set up in the center of the room.
Albert and Donald made a few suggestions and developed the jam at the end, but this song is a lot of me. I always took heat for ripping off an Allman Brothers riff, but it came out cool in the end.
14 Apr 1972: University of Virginia: Charlottesville VA [ with Alice Cooper ]
This was the first gig of the Alice tour that I know about...
May 1972 gigs:
03 May 1972: University Of North Carolina, Asheville NC
06 May 1972: Memorial Auditorium, Dallas TX [ with Alice Cooper ]
07 May 1972: Hofheinz Pavilion, Houston TX [ with Alice Cooper ]
09 May 1972: Atlantic Christian College Wilson NC
May 1972: County Hall, Charleston SC [ with Alice Cooper ]
13 May 1972: Coliseum, Greensboro NC [ with Alice Cooper ]
14 May 1972: Unknown Venue,"Louisville KY [ Did this happen? ]
15 May 1972: Arie Crown Theatre, Chicago IL [ with Chase / Spirit ]
19 May 1972: Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis TN [ with with Chambers Brothers / Alice Cooper ]
20 May 1972: Memorial Auditorium, Fayetteville NC [ with Chambers Brothers / Alice Cooper ]
21 May 1972: Municipal Auditorium, Birmingham AL [ with Alice Cooper ]
22 May 1972: Municipal Auditorium, Mobile AL [ with with Chambers Brothers / Alice Cooper ]
23 May 1972: The New Woods, Tifton GA [ with Alice Cooper ]
28 May 1972: Unknown Venue,"Indianapolis IN
29 May 1972: Student Center, University of Tennessee ?, Knoxville TN
June 1972 gigs:
02 Jun 1972: Ft Homer Hesterly Armory, Tampa FL [ with Big Brother & The Holding Company / REO Speedwagon / Spirit ]
03 Jun 1972: Warehouse, New Orleans LA [ with Aliotta, Haynes & Jeremiah ]
10 Jun 1972: Donald marries Sandra Nasci - R. Meltzer is guest of honour... well, sort of... Jun 1972: Unknown Venue,"Schererville IN [ with Big Brother & The Holding Company ]
Jun 1972: Catholic High School, Niles IL [ with Big Brother & The Holding Company ]
Jun 1972: Romeoville Roller Rink, Romeoville IL [ with Big Brother & The Holding Company ]
14 Jun 1972: Willowbrook High School, Villa Park IL [ with Big Brother & The Holding Company ]
15 Jun 1972: Hersey High School, Arlington Heights IL [ with Big Brother & The Holding Company ]
18 Jun 1972: Overton Park Shell, Memphis TN [ with Hydra / Spirit ]
23 Jun 1972: Jai Alai Fronton, Miami FL [ with John Hammond / Alex Taylor / Allman Brothers Band ]
24 Jun 1972: Jai Alai Fronton, Miami FL [ with Alex Taylor / John Hammond / Allman Brothers Band ]
27 Jun 1972: Constitution Hall, Washington DC [ with Quicksilver Messenger Service ]
July 1972 gigs:
22 Jul 1972: Atlanta Municipal Auditorium, Atlanta GA [ with Black Sabbath ]
25 Jul 1972: Richmond Coliseum, Richmond VA [ with Black Sabbath ]
26 Jul 1972: Sheboygan Armory, Sheboygan WI [ with Wedgewood ]
27 Jul 1972: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, Long Island NY [ with J. Geils Band / Black Sabbath ]
28 Jul 1972: Cole Field House (UMD), College Park MD [ with Black Oak Arkansas / Black Sabbath ]
29 Jul 1972: Ritz Theatre, Staten Island NY [ with Cactus ]
30 Jul 1972: Providence Civic Center, Providence RI [ with Bedlam / Black Sabbath ]
The full gig list will be included within the body of the text in the pre-history main section.
Regarding whereabouts on Vanderbilt Parkway this house was, Eric Bloom initially said he thought it was around number 475, but as that was at an intersection, I've had to re-think that.
David Ramage has helpfully offered me a few clues, and here's my current best idea of the house location.
A lot has changed since we lived there. Because both of those Courts you can see on the map (Vandercrest and Pinnacle) were not there when we lived there, it is really hard to figure out where everything was.
The house was definitely a 2-story Ranch with the garage and driveway on the right from the front.
It was really rural there, with woods behind the house and a trail through to a wide cleared area for high tension power lines. The property was several acres and the house was quite large.
On the map - if you can see where the Dix Hills Park Fitness Trail hits Vanderbilt Parkway (County Road 67 on the map), I believe the house was right across from the Park entrance, although, in those days it was not a road like it is in the street view from the linked map.
Now go to "Street View" right in front of park road and look south. There are two adjacent driveways. Our house was the one on the left. You can't see the house because of the foliage and because the driveway is long.
The one on the right was owned by the landlord's parents.
The houses themselves are clearly hidden behind the foliage, but if the left one is the band house, that would make it 516 according to its white mailbox as seen in Street View. The landlord's house on the right is 512.
Therefore, my current best guess for the address of the Dix Hills band house is 516 Vanderbilt Parkway - if anyone can either confirm of deny this, please let me know.
I'm including this one just for the sake of completeness as it falls outside the target timeframe for this page (BOC were already pretty well established when they used this as a band house...)
Also - as I don't know when the Dix Hills tenancy came to an end, I don't know when this started.
But thanks to an article by Robert Christgau in the 25 March 1973 edition of "Newsday" (kindly provided by Rob Reich), I have at least that base-date for the tenancy. Here are the relevant parts of the article:
The five members of the Blue Oyster Cult are working in Eaton's Neck on a song by drummer Albert Bouchard called "My Love Can Burn," and as usual Donald Roeser wants to play his guitar good."
... Most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with no recording or performance scheduled, the Blue Oyster Cult convenes in a subleased, one-story ranch house in Eaton's Neck. Lead singer Eric Bloom, the group's only bachelor, occupies the headquarters.
Guitarist Donald Roeser (a/k/a Buck Dharma) lives in Melville and bassist Joe Bouchard (Albert's brother) in Centerport. Pearlman lives with his parents in Smithtown. Albert Bouchard has a longer trip, from Glen Oaks, in Queens. Allen Lanier does a reverse commute all the way from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he lives with poet Patti Smith.
You may recognize Patti Smith's name if you keep tabs on Esquire's Heavy 100. She made it this year, and so did Blue Oyster Cult: "The last underground band, but signed with Columbia so have probably gone legit. Bizarre critic R. Meltzer writes lyrics."
But if anybody in Eaton's Neck is aware of the semi-famous neighbors, the semi-famous neighbors don't want to know about it. The few inquisitive kids are not encouraged to come around, and the band protects surrounding ears and sensibilities by never practicing past 7pm.
In their pre-legit days, they knew everyone near the house in Great Neck where they lived and practiced. They also spent crumby weeks touring late into the night. Now they're family men, with salaried positions. It's a business. The business is taxing and not especially lucrative as yet, although they love it. But it is a business.
That's a helpful piece in that it pins a date to the timeline and tells us where all the band members were living at that moment in time, just after "Tyranny and Mutation" had been released.
Not relevant to this page's topic, but interesting nonetheless, is the fact that the band were working on a new Albert song called "My Love Can Burn" - this was post-Tyranny, so maybe intended to be in the running for "Treaties"...?
The Eaton's Neck house (can't recall the address): again I was the only band member living there. It was a 9 month rental.
The main highlight was a burglary while we were on tour and all my records and tapes along with a few instruments were stolen. I believe some kids broke a window, took stuff and ran. I lost a Fender Stratocaster and I think Joe lost a bass.
I wrote the licks to ME-262 and Subhuman on the old upright piano that came with the house.
Maybe the kids who broke in were the same kids mentioned in the Newsday piece above who were "not encouraged to come around" - at least, whilst Eric was home...
Another song written in this location was "Astronomy":
"Astronomy" was written from scratch to fit Sandy's lyric. The "clock strikes 12" lyric was a later line in the poem that Sandy wrote. I moved it to the opening line for obvious reasons.
The melody came to me as I was walking on the beach near our house we rented on Eaton's Neck Long Island, NY.
I stayed in Eaton's Neck after Eric rented his house in Port Washington around the end of the rental period.
Until I saw the "Newsday" piece above, I'd always assumed the following quote from the 30 March 1974 edition of the NME referred to the Eaton's Neck bandhouse:
The white house is by a Long Island marina, right next to a boatyard full of dry-docked luxury yachts. It's a rare sunny day and the large second-floor living room, bare white-walled and shag-carpeted, is brightly lit. There's a pile of drums in one corner and the rest of the room is occupied by the Blue Oyster Cult.
However, this was a minimum of two storeys, and Newsday has stated that the Eaton's Neck bandhouse was "a subleased, one-story ranch house."
So this is obviously somewhere else - clearly just a rehearsal room, and not the actual (final) bandhouse itself.
As Eric has said Eaton's Neck was a 9-month lease, and we know they were already established in there in March 73 (Newsday), then the latest the lease would have run out is December 1973, but probably rather earlier than that. Like I said, in March, they'd clearly been there a while already...
OK - I don't yet know which road it was in, but I have a few clues which might help to narrow it down.
The beach Joe mentioned in the last section is the same one that featured in this photo taken for the above-quoted "Newsday" article (25 March 1973):
Martin Popoff's book gives some clue as to the location and the type of house it was:
That's another song where I got the lyrics from Sandy, and I felt pretty good about it. At that time, we moved our house again, out to Eaton's Neck (ed. a small cottage, rented for the writing of the album - Eaton's Neck is near Northport).
We were like 50 yards from the beach. And it's corny, but it's actually true: I used to walk down the beach, and one time walking down the beach, I started thinking up that melody. So it came from one of those rehearsals there.
So - the Eaton's Neck house was 50 yards from where the above pic was taken. So where was it taken?
Helpfully, we can see 3 of the partially-constructed Northport stacks in a line off to the left in the distance, partially obscured by a headland - Duck Island - that juts out between the beach and the stacks.
Because we're more or less at a 90 degree angle to those stacks, it's possible to say the beach must be situated near here, either on Beach Road or Clam Shell Lane: