Next in the series of the Tedrock Fund shows is our Boston Bands Night 2 on October 20th at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain, featuring the psychedelic and roots rock bands that Ted so enjoyed playing with. This will be a special night of feel good music that we can all sway along with as we celebrate another facet of Ted’s rock filled life. Come on out for some psychedelic pandemonium, grooving out to the following lineup:
Ship of the Sun – John Scotti (lead guitar, vocals), Mike Verge (guitar, vocals), Jim Zavadoski (bass), Caronine Killoh (keyboards), Greg DeGuglielmo (drums) – This Grateful Dead cover band is full of stellar musicians, and was always a favorite. Ted rediscovered his complete love of the Grateful Dead music in the past few years and was thrilled to find such a talented group to perform it with. Ted used to say that when he heard Jerry sing, it felt like he was talking to a friend. Such a feel-good vibe carries forward when Ship of the Sun plays live, and will infuse into all of us at this show.
Highway 9 – Stan Day (guitar and vocals), Seth Goodman (bass), Chris Coughlin (keyboards), Larry Rice (drums) – A banner Doors cover band that not only plays Doors classics with precision and skill, but the lead singer Stan Day effectively channels the spirit of Jim Morrison in a way no other band out there has accomplished. It’s quite an impressive performance, and one you won’t want to miss.
Rotary Prophets – Damon Vrettos (lead guitar), John Maloney (guitar, vocals), Ray Boyce (bass), Dave Coughlan (drums) – Playing all original roots rock inspired tunes, this band brings a lot of energy and heart to each performance. A driving rhythm section provides the perfect backdrop for Damon Vrettos’ amped guitar leads that resound throughout the songs and make your hips shake. Always a fun and lively, this headliner will be sure to make you smile.
Boston Bands Night 1 – Midway Cafe – Photo by Jim Vaiknoras
When life hands you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade. Jen Collins has done so better than anyone I know. As the founder of the Tedrock Fund (tedrock.org), she’s dug down deep and decided to honor the memory of her far too soon deceased husband, Ted Collins, by establishing a fund to help provide music education for underserved kids. At its inaugural “Boston Bands Night,” three bands that Ted had played with came together at the fabulously divey Midway Café in Jamaica Plain on September 29th. Kruller opened the show, and set the mood for the evening. As I walked in they were taking the stage, and I was immediately transported to a time when Friday nights were for live music, hanging out with friends at the bar, and wondering who was buying the next round.
Next up was Bob and the Dickheads. I knew Ted, but never saw him play with B&TD. Ted was no dickhead, but I could easily picture him on the stage with Bob and the gang. Driving guitar, vocals by Bob himself, and a tight crew of dickheads brought it to the next level. The night was progressing nicely. Songs about drinking, girls, jobs, and drinking … everything that rock is about.
And, then there were The Figgs. A friend who had never seen The Figgs play previously said to me, “that’s the difference between seeing good musicians and artists,” and he couldn’t have been more right. There’s not a weak spot in this trio. Virtuoso guitar. Truly, I was amazed at the quality and breadth of sound produced by Mike Gent’s “in the zone” playing. I was surprised when bassist Pete Donnelly said early in the set that the band hadn’t been together for a couple of months. I’d have thought they’d been in rehearsal for weeks. I suppose that’s what comes when a band is celebrating their 30th anniversary. You could have fooled me with that, they have more energy, and play with more feeling, than many bands 30 years their junior. If you have an opportunity to see The Figgs live, keep your eyes on Donnelly … rock bass takes on a whole new meaning. And, though drummer Pete Hayes literally didn’t miss a beat all night, he brought the house down when he came to the front and, in honor of Ted and Jen, he sang a solo, a cappella version of The Kinks’ “Better Things.” I swear, I’ll never hear the song the same again.
No doubt Ted was smiling down on us as we enjoyed the music. Wait, did I just say “enjoyed the music”? WRONG! We ROCKED OUT, drank, danced, made new friends, and honored Ted Collins.
Ted had three records by Warren Zevon and a number of other releases on CD. A quick bit of research revealed to me that Zevon studied as a young teenager with Igor Stravinsky, and was the keyboardist for the Everly Brothers for a few years before breaking out on his own. Some fun facts! Also, he passed away on 9/7/2003, so it seems fitting to put up this blog post today.
Condition: record cover – good, vinyl – good
Record starts off slow with two boring Americana-ish songs that make me wonder what it is with guys and their obsession with the old wild west of gold mining times. Ted, as a huge Clint Eastwood western movies fan, must have loved that. Next, the record kicks into the title track “Excitable Boy” followed up by “Werewolves of London”. Both banner tracks. Zevon has a particular type of cynical humor that could really go either way depending on your sensibilities. But Ted dug it. Especially the lyrics from “Excitable boy”. It’s obvious to me that Ted found the simplicity of his piano playing appealing, and he also really liked the song writing style. Much in line with Randy Newman (another favorite of his) in his obvious and predictably structured songs, Zevon adds a twist by incorporating interesting bridges that are unexpected. I noticed this technique was peppered throughout the record. A bit monotonous overall, the songs are relatively catchy. None of the players are stepping all over each other, with each part coming through clearly. I’m sure that was another thing that appealed to Ted. Keyboards are not buried in the mix, nor are they front and center like an Elton John song.
Side two starts out a little disco, and then returns to the reminiscing about gun slingers from the early 19th century again. I am thinking that Warren was a big history buff? If so, I’m a little more sympathetic to his waxing nostalgic about Woodrow Wilson. “Lawyers Guns and Money” is definitely the best track on this side.
Bad Luck in Dancing School
Condition: record cover – poor, vinyl – good
I went into listening to this record, expecting more catchy tracks like on Excitable Boy. Unfortunately, this just was not the case. This record continues the monotonous vibe from the earlier record, but the songs are now decidedly lacking in unexpected hooks. Really, the songs are just very repetitive. A great example is the collaboration he did with Bruce Springsteen on “Jeannie Needs a Shooter”. While I get that the lyrics are poetic and the story telling is adept, the structure of the song is just tedious. But once again, the songs are well produced, not too busy and the players all really stand out acoustically. Zevon is one dark mofo. His themes are of betrayal and rage and heart break. It’s clear he is writing from experience. I am sure this is something that appealed to Ted, as he was never reluctant to embrace all aspects of the human condition as expressed through music.
Condition: record cover – excellent, vinyl – excellent
Price $4.99 (highway robbery!)
I am thinking this record didn’t see a lot of action. I can only imagine it is because the first and title track “Sentimental Hygiene” is really horrible. Bad 1980s synthesizer sounds and more redundant riffs. But, I will say, the record improves continually if you stick with it. Later, on side one, “The Factory” with Bob Dylan is a real toe tapper. On side two, “Bad Karma” is another song that is as catchy as the flu. Once again, I’m underwhelmed by the musicality of the songs, but impressed by the lyrics. I am sure that was what Ted liked too.
Overall, this guy is not my cup of tea. It’s his voice. This can make or break a band that on paper is really good but I just can’t connect to because of the vocals. Also, Zevon suffers from writing in his time as a victim of 1980s production values, in particular the bass sounds and later the synthesizer sounds. Not many people could really make those production values work for them, outside of Prince, who I swear, if he was reincarnated today and started putting out records in 18 years, would use the same Yamaha DX-7 for his signature sound. But hey, that’s me being snarky and opinionated. There will be other examples of this as I go through the collection.
Ted Collins played in several bands over the years, and his band mates have joined forces to produce a series of Boston Band Nights that are being hosted by the Midway Café in Jamaica Plain, Boston. This idea was born from Ted’s desire to have not just one, but ALL of the bands he was currently playing with perform for his 50th birthday party that was being planned by his wife. A tall order, it was decided to “think it over” and make a final plan the following weekend. That weekend never came.
When Ted’s band mates learned of this desire on Ted’s part, the plan was hatched to have a big party at some point down the line for the multiple bands to perform and remember Ted. With the generous offer of the Midway Café to host a series of nights to benefit the newly formed Tedrock Fund, we’ve put together several nights of rock to celebrate Ted’s life:
Boston Band Night 1 – Friday, September 29th, 8:30 PM, Midway Café, Jamaica Plain
The first of the Boston Band nights features bands that Ted played with over the past 20 years, including:
Kruller: – Greg Hall (guitar/vocals), Seth Goodman (bass), Mark Bennett (drums) – Formed in the early 1990s, this band brings a lot of energy to original songs that can only be described as “rock anthems” that take the listener on a musical journey, and a thrilling one at that!
Bob and the Dickheads: Bob Veidis (vocals) Tom Heneberry (lead guitar standing in for Ted), Marty Veidis (second guitar), Seth Goodman (bass), Dennis Grabowski (drums) – The irony of this band name becomes apparent if you’ve ever met them. This band is straight up “beer drinking rock and roll”. They play driving punk rock inspired originals, such as “Child Proof Lighter”, “Never Leaving Home” and “Sending Gold Records into Outer Space”. Known to delight their audience with their exuberant performances, it will be a real treat to see this band back together again for the night.
The Figgs: Mike Gent (guitar/vocals), Pete Donnelly (bass/vocals), Pete Hayes (drums) – Formed in the 1980s, and legendary for having stolen Pete Hayes away from Ted’s college band Cement Bunny when still a bunch of teenagers, The Figgs have been writing driving power pop ballads for over 30 years. A true favorite band of Ted’s, he was thrilled to be asked to play tracks on their past few records, and to have the opportunity to perform live with The Figgs over the past several years. For Ted, getting to play with the Figgs was much like getting to go to the prom with your kindergarten crush. He was very proud to contribute to their sound, and was always psyched for their next live performance. This is sure to be an amazing set.
Well, this entry will be pretty short, as there is only one record in the collection: Degüello, released 1979
Condition: record cover – good, vinyl – excellent
Okay, first of all, I really would have expected Ted would have Tres Hombres in the collection, as the track “Beer Drinkers, Hell Raisers” is as classic of an American rock anthem as it gets. But no such luck, so I bought it. But I’ll stick to the only record by ZZ Top that Ted had picked up: Degüello. Not a bad record at all. In fact, it’s pretty ripping for a stripped down three piece. There are tracks with some keyboards, but for the most part, it’s just Billy Gibbons demonstrating classic blues guitar sensibility, all over every song. If I had to guess why Ted picked up this record, it was most likely he bought it to practice the songs “Automobile” and “Cheap Sunglasses” that were frequently performed by the band The Barn Owls whom Ted played with for several years. This was a band of older guys who had been playing together for over 30 years by the time Ted joined up with them to play keyboards. The lead guitarist (who happens to be my dad) and the second guitarist/singer had such chemistry. They really were almost psychic in their hand offs of leads that were relentless throughout the songs they played. They did all covers of straight up rock and old blues songs, by artists like Zappa, Savoy Brown, Stevie Ray Vaugn, John Lee Hooker, and Chuck Berry. They were big time Leonard Skynard fans, and thought Neil Young was a pussy. Ted started playing with the Barn Owls and quickly fell in with the vibe of pure unadulterated rock that was driving and full of attitude. The band was a bit of a social club, like all bands seem to be, and one that could get a bit raucous. But if you got to hang with them while they were playing, it was a sonic treat. Ted loved it.
So after giving Degüello a listen, I will interject that my favorite tune on this record is “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” for the mere fact that the main hook is just that. Some may find it gimmicky, but I’m a sucker for such cheap thrills.
Tedrock Fund is proud to announce our first flagship concert, featuring one of Ted’s favorite performers, Robyn Hitchcock. Demonstrating true compassion for the loss of our dear friend, Robyn committed to performing for a memorial show that will take place on the anniversary of Ted’s passing, this coming February 17, 2018 at the Firehouse Theater in Newburyport MA. This intimate evening with Robyn will be opened by Mike Gent and Pete Donnelly of the Figgs. We are thrilled to produce this show in Ted’s honor, and will be forever grateful to Robyn Hitchcock for his consideration and commitment to the mission of the Tedrock Fund: To produce rock shows to raise funds for music education programming for underserved children.
I started this blog to catalog Ted Collins’ record collection. It’s a decent sized collection that was curated with care and discrimination over many decades, starting with his first Led Zeppelin IV record that he picked up around the age of 8. In addition, it is damn tasty. Every record for the most part was chosen deliberately for some aesthetic value that he wanted to hear more of. Granted, there are some duds in there that he might have picked up because he wanted to hear one track on the entire compilation. But for the most part, he chose it for his collection because he either really dug the record, or was a fan of the band and wanted as many of their records as he could find for a decent bargain. Ted was a cheapskate when it came to buying records. This has become very apparent as I comb through the collection and notice the price tags ranging from $1.99 to $3.99 on many of the worn out covers. An aside, it would appear that record stores suffer from the Norelco razor syndrome, selling everything at a value.99 cents….
But back to the collection, another quality of it is that you can trace the lineage of bands and their influences, if you want to dive into that. Ted spent a lot of time reading about bands, their back stories, their influences, who they toured with, who they were friends with, what bands they formed after another had disbanded… there was always a rock history book that he was in the middle of. So if you care to, you can read up on The Flying Burrito Brothers, and how they were a spin-off of the Byrds, and how Graham Parson met up with Emmy Lou Harris later on to do back-up vocals on his first solo record, and then you can listen to all of these records and hear for yourself all of the influences and inspirations that were gleaned over the course of a band’s or artist’s creative ark. This collection is a veritable encyclopedia of rock, all be it a limited one, focused on what Ted liked. The collection is very rockin’ rock heavy. This is not to say that you won’t find multiple Nilsson records or some jazz artists in the mix. But for the most part, Ted really stuck to bands that ripped it up, and good for him! He had it figured out!
I decided to take on the project of listening to his entire collection initially because I was missing my best friend and wanted to keep a connection to him musically, as this was a point of intersection that we shared and enjoyed. Hours, days, weeks… months and years really when I think about it… were spent sitting on the couch listening to music and banging our heads. The “rocking head of Ted” was legendary amongst our friends. If Ted’s head was nodding, then the band was rocking. It was like a barometer of good taste and one his buddies enjoyed being in the presence of. Also, Ted was the DJ of my life. There was always music playing in our household, either recordings or live as he practiced piano or guitar. Longing to fill that quiet space, I started playing his records continually. This might annoy him quite a bit as he was so protective of the vinyl and would frown upon me handling it. But hey, too bad Collins!
Since his passing, I’ve found a lot of comfort in playing his records and thinking about what he probably connected to the most on particular songs, or what he appreciated about the feel of the entire compilation as a whole production. It helps me keep a conversation with Ted going, which I am grateful for. I decided that I would listen to each and every record in the collection with this goal in mind; to understand why he bought it and what he liked about it. There’s something to be discovered from each record, and much like a mystery detective, I’ll understand a little more about Ted and his musical tastes if I sit and listen to them. It’s a challenge as there are a lot of records to spin! Being practically minded, I figured I should just go through the collection alphabetically. I talked to my friend Mike about this, deliberating on which direction to go. He gave me the best advice: “You’ve got to go from Z to A so that you can get back to the beginning again”. ZZ Top it is!