A good high school friend of mine, Danny Odescalchi, had been a guitar player in his younger days but his back had been broken in a car accident and he was left with limited movement in his left hand, not to mention serious difficulty with walking. As a result, guitar playing had became an impossibility for him so he took up the keyboards. In the late Summer of '83, we began jamming in his parent's basement with a large assortment of local talent. It was a relaxed atmosphere that was more set on having fun recording originals than performing live. This group, dubbed "Midnight", consisted of the late great Jeff Close on drums, Mike Riley on vocals (previously of "Minstrel", another of Danny's bands), Danny on keys, myself on bass and a revolving door of guitarists, however the most consistent guitarist was probably Paul Viani. Danny's brother Dominic would also fill in for Jeff on occasions. Mike Riley of Midnight.
Mike Riley of Midnight.Towards the late Fall / early Winter, Danny bought his own house and began building a professional studio, which would later turn into a legitimate business - "Electric Reels Studios." Danny's house/studio became a sort of commune for wayward musicians and party animals. It was actually quite the den of decadence and debauchery. There were many great parties and long crazy nights - too many stories to begin to tell, and some of them way too incriminating to tell. At any rate, the band evolved into "Arena" during this time and Harold Gale (of my first band Scorpio) moved back from California to join the group.
Arena personnel: (during the building of Electric Reels Studios)
Also newly inducted into the group was George Mercer on vocals. I only have vague recollections of George but I do remember he had red hair cut in a huge Rod Stewart-esque shag that made him look not unlike the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. A very talented local drummer, Joey Criffo, also joined the band at this time. Harold didn't work out and was replaced by Evan Balzer when Harold moved back to California. This version of Arena did numerous recordings but never played out. By the Spring of '84 however, we had a solid fully functional version of the band that now included Jeff Schick on vocals (the same Jeff Schick from IBM who Howard Stern regularly mentioned on his show), Eric Simonson on guitar, Dominic Odescalchi on drums, Danny on keys and myself on bass. With this lineup we won the 1984 Arlington Battle of the Bands performing songs from Van Halen, Motley Crue, etc. A highlight of the show for me was when I put down my bass, had Danny play the bass part on the keys, and I sang an obscure Alice Cooper tune called "Dance Yourself to Death." (Everyone wants to be a singer.)
Jeff Schick of Arena
at the Arlington High School Battle of the Bands with Arena.
influence of my early years; Twisted Sister.
Jay Jay French and me.
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza (a monster bass player whose talents have never been fully appreciated) and me.
During the Summer of '84 while Arena was auditioning vocalists, we met Eric Espinosa, a smooth Vince Neil sort of character. He had much more of a heavy metal bent, which was more my style, so we talked of forming a new band. I knew Phil was the best guitarist for this project and I told him about Eric and my idea to get a new metal band going. Despite some rough times, I never lost my respect for Phil as a musician, and I think I was one of the only ones who sort of understood him. We would continually drift back together over the years in a sort of cyclical pattern of ups and downs. This band came together as a four piece, including the late Jeff Close on drums. We called the new group, guess what?... Towerhex! We couldn't get enough of that name I guess. The band had a lot of potential and the sound was rock solid as we performed an assortment of Crue, Accept, Priest, etc. We rehearsed at some guy named Buddy's house in Fishkill, NY where we played an incredible Halloween party that year. This party produced one of my favorite groupie stories, but that's another story for another time.
(Mach III): Myself, Eric Espinosa (kneeling), and Phil "Mad Dog" Roberts.
This band was very tight and had great potential, great musical chemistry but bad personal chemistry. Unfortunately, Eric and Phil didn't get along after a while and the band broke up when Eric split during the Winter of '84.
From the Spring through the Summer of '85, Phil and I tried getting something together rehearsing at a Boy Scout camp hall in Hyde Park, NY. We got one of our old Towerhex roadies, Mike Lewis on drums, and a guy named Frank on vocals. A later version of the group had Jeff Schick on vocals but the project ultimately didn't go anywhere.
Band friend Eric Page, singer Frank, Phil, and Mike Lewis.
...or click through the years listed below...