STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — November 20, 2012. It’s said, “Home is where the heart is,” and on Sunday so many of this reporter’s former bandmates and old friends turned out to raise money for Staten Islanders who have been left heartbroken by Hurricane Sandy that it literally was ““old home week.”
After Hurricane Sandy visited destruction on Staten Island, musician Joe O’Brien put on his organizer’s cap and went to work. O’Brien contacted musicians from a circle of people who have played together in various projects since the 1980s — some of whom this reporter had played music with back when, a number of whom I hadn’t seen in well over a decade. O’Brien didn’t have to twist any arms. Everyone turned up.
After college, life gets complicated: work, family, bills, and, dare I say it, middleage. Some of my old colleagues had moved to other towns and other states but when their hometown needed them, they stepped up. And when the dust settled the bands had raised $5000 for hurricane victims. What’s more, the money went to two local organizations that guarantee all donations go right to those in need: the William Mooney Memorial Foundation (who paid for the public address system) and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
Karl’s Klipper, a restaurant and bar in the St. George section of Staten Island, hosted the rockers’ fundraiser. The narrow dining area was transformed into a night club for a special Sunday afternoon. Tommy O’Callaghan and Patsy Lonzello played some straight ahead rock, the Richmond County Pipe & Drum Corps marched down the aisles with their bagpipes in full throat, A Band Of Rogues performed their brand of high energy Irish folk-rock, an impromptu O’Callaghan grouping that featured a Klipper bartender (doing both jobs on Sunday) performed classic rock anthems, The Recruders played some loud and fast surf punk, and, The PocketCox did a set of Iggy and the Stooges standards.
Iggy and the Stooges standards? I had my doubts it could be pulled off. I saw Iggy in 1974 at the Toledo Sports Arena (Raw Power tour – paying an astounding $4.50 for the Stooges, James Gang and Slade), the Motor City Roller Rink in 1980 (Soldier tour), and New York’s Pier in 1988 (Instinct tour). Each and every performance was beyond superlatives. Iggy is a true original and for this lifelong fan it was tough to imagine anyone doing the legendary Jimmy Osterberg justice — or even coming close.
But I was wrong. With “Happy Donutz” (who bears a striking resemblance to my old friend Rudy Bacich) igniting his Gibson, and architect Tim Boyland burning down the house on bass, Chris King channeled Iggy and nailed the part. The Stooges material — including Loose, TV Eye and I Wanna Be Your Dog — never sounded better. Two songs from the Bowie / RCA years, Lust For Life and The Passenger, sounded equally impressive. The set, and the show, ended with Search And Destroy from the Stooges best known recording: 1973’s Raw Power. Audience members joined in as PocketCox tore it up. My old bandmate, and ex-CNN cameraman, guitarist Mark Peters, grabbed the mike to sing a verse as the crowd screamed along: “I am the world’s forgotten boy…”
My ears were bleeding as I walked home after the gig — with a grin stretching from one wound to the other. It just doesn’t get any better than this: seeing old friends, a host of “forgotten boys” (but not by me!) donating time and talent to help the “forgotten borough” heal. If the so-called superstorm brought out the worst in people — and by all accounts the looters were very bad news — it also brought out the best. Staten Island is an inverted triangle resting due south of Manhattan. I like to think it’s shaped like a heart.
“Anyone who ever had a heart — they wouldn’t turn around and break it.” — Lou Reed