2007   MARCH 26   #085

It's Happening Here

01 The People - Don't You Know What It Is To Wait? (3:13)
02 The Avlons - Patterns of Emptiness (2:49)
03 Thorn and the Four Roses - In Sherwood Forest (2:53)
04 The Wild Things - She Put Me Down (2:34)
05 The Soul Survivors - I Need Your Love (2:03)
06 The Lost Sound - She Won't Have Me (2:25)
07 The Odds & Ends - Why Did You Tell Me (2:38)
08 Blues & Things - Lovely Achin Shakin Blues (2:13)
09 The Nightwatch - Too Long (2:08)
10 The Conchords - Magic Love Machine (2:42)
11 The Dimensions - Yesterday's Love (2:22)
12 The People - Johnny Will Have To Wait (2:16)

These gems are from a 12-track LP compilation of young, fledgling New Jersey rock bands from the mid to late 1960s, produced by Alyn Heim and Bill Neale. Mr. Heim was a noted NJ music educator, and authored many books on instrumental technique. These gentlemen magnanimously provide 11 different amateur rock bands the venue to showcase their talents and original songs on this promotional record (only "The People" get two spots, with what sounds like two completely different bands anyway). Some are just OK, some outright awful, none are actually what you'd call proficient, but all are utterly sincere. The music is unfailingly charming on a ‘locals' level, and there are actually some decent tunes and arrangements buried underneath some often brutal performances and productions. The Avlons in particular should certainly get some kind of award for crafting a rather appealing pop record out of exactly two notes.

Despite their laudatory efforts to give these young bucks some early career experience in the recording studio, one can't help but feel that Mssrs. Heim and Neale could have gone just a bit further. They certainly should have monitored the proceedings more judiciously in order to avoid such mishaps as the harmonic clashes between the bass and rhythm guitar in "She Put Me Down" (where it doesn't take a trained musical ear to detect that they playing in two different keys), the near train wreck in the instrumental section of "Patterns of Emptiness" (whew – a masterful job of righting the ship quickly!), and the painfully out of tune bass on the otherwise lovely "I Need Your Love" (The Soul Survivors get a gold star for singing unfailingly in tune despite what's going on behind them). One would think that, along with the opportunity to record and permanently document these performances for all time, some simple coaching for these youngsters might have been a good idea. Wouldn't have taken that much time, right?

But most notably, a balanced and consistent approach to the engineering would have helped greatly, rather than the murky lost-in-the-sauce vocals and often violent swings of volume in the overall mix, especially on "She Put Me Down", where it sounds as though the master volume fader keeps reducing itself and someone keeps pulling it back up throughout the tune. Surely, no compression was used in the production of this recording. A ‘warts and all' approach is somewhat understandable, but these probably could have been fixed in a matter of minutes if someone had actually been listening to the recording as and/or after it had gone down.

It sounds as though the bands were given one take, and then hustled out of the studio, which would seem to defeat the purpose of such a noble venture. Nonetheless, there is an abundance of youthful innocence and joie-de-vivre in these tracks. The true star is whoever wrote the liner notes, which make each of these bands (none of which ever amounted to anything at all) sound like the second coming of the Beatles.

Image: Front Cover

- Contributed by: Hoppy Stone

Media: 12" LP
Album: It's Happening Here
Label: Camden Recording Company
Date: mid-late 1960s

Liner notes
(NOTE: all punctuation and spelling is as it actually appears!):

IT'S HAPPENING HERE...! - A NewRoc Associates Recording
... and here are the possible hit tunes and groups of tomorrow. In the next town, on the next street... possibly next door, music is being made. Here are some of the people who are making it. New Roc proudly dedicated this album to the young in spirit who are making today's music - May they make it big! - W.N./A.H., New Roc Associates, Wyckoff, NJ

Don't You Know What It Is To Wait - The People
Arrangement and lead guitar on this number are handled by the very talented Wayne Kirby, presently a Julliard man, professional guitarist, and teacher. Jim Robyn (also a member of the Four Roses) is on organ and Bob Giampino runs the Fender Bass. Drums are by Norm Kirby, who has done recording work at National Studios in N.Y. Rhythm guitar is expertly provided by Roy Francia (who incidentally does lead guitar for two other groups). Lead vocal is by the interesting young rock and blues singer, Harris Wiener, definitely a talent to watch. Background vocals are by Nancy Brown, Phyllis Kerberg, and Gail Archer. The composer is Bill Neale.

Patterns Of Emptiness - The Avlons
This interesting song was created by John Kardell and Frank Lees. John does lead guitar honors for this arrangement and Frank (leader of the Avlons) comes in on rhythm. Tom Hemsey runs the percussion department and is a fine young drummer. An exciting original sound is created on electric piano by Pete Posloszny, and Ron Tullo keeps a rolling beat on bass guitar.

In Sherwood Forest - Thorn And The Four Roses
Turning in a fine performance on electric organ is Jim Robyn who also composed this rock instrumental. Greg Hurt fills the difficult lead guitar position in this one, and is nicely backed up by Joe Taylor on rhythm. Drummer for the ROSES is Bruce Van Brunt.

She Put Me Down - The Wild Things
The Wild Things have been seen on television on Zachary's Discoteen Show. Bass and vocal for the group are handled by Manuel Almeida who also wrote the lyrics for the tune. Music was composed by Jimmy Von Ende, lead guitarist, and rhythm guitar is by Evan McFarlane. Tony Bacalhau turns in a nice performance in the percussion spot.

I Need Your Love - The Soul Survivors
One of the best young vocal groups we have heard, The Soul Survivors feature the harmonizing talents of Ike McKinnon, Steve Long, Greg Barns, and John Mafaro. Backing up the quartet are Steve Long on drums, Greg Kurkjian on bass, and Nick Knauer on guitar. Steve Long did the lyrics for this number and Nick Knauer composed the music. The group is extremely versatile and handles a wide range of material with an exciting and original style.

She Won't Have Me - The Lost Sound
The Producers of this record met The Lost Sound under strange circumstances at a BLUES PROJECT concert. When the house vocal amplifier failed to work, The Lost Sound saved the evening by setting up an emergency system with their own amplifiers. (They were invited to audition due to their fine performance as alternate band for the concert.) Bill Turner, leader of the group sits in the drummer's chair. Bob Christopher rides the lead guitar, and Phil Nizza controls the rhythm guitar. Vocal is provided by Phil Hess, an exciting young singer with a solid background of experience. Nick Lembo, manager for the group, does tambourine. Gary Bowen completes the group on the organ and adds a nice touch to the number. "She Won't Have Me" is one of the many compositions of Bob Carnevale and Roy Francia.

Why Did You Tell Me? - The Odds and Ends
Leon Halsey handles lead guitar and vocal for this number which, incidently, he also composed. Odds and Ends drummer is Frank Ordini. Rhythm guitar is by Bruce Casazza and bass is by Art Dietz. Lou adds tambourine to the song. The Odds and Ends have an interesting sound and are known for their exciting rhythmic drive.

Lovely Achin', Shakin' Blues - Blues and Things
BLUES AND THINGS reflects the growing popularity of mondern rock-blues, and does an extremely good job with its chosen specialty. Anton Carysforth manages the drums (and the group) expertly. Whizz White helps out with extra percussion. Frank Grossi runs lead guitar and is backed by rhythm man Ken Turner. Kent VanBavel rolls out the bass line. Vocalist on this number is Steve Greenberg. Lyrics and Music are by Bill Neale.

Too Long - The Nightwatch
Here is another composition from the repetoire of the talented Bob Carnevale-Roy Francia writing team. Bob sings lead vocal on this one and also does some interesting work on rhythm guitar. (Bob prefers an acoustic guitar with electric pickup for rhythm work, due to its original sound.) Roy, also a fine classical guitarist, does lead guitar and second vocal. Bassman for the Nightwatch is Bruce Conforth, who is also a prolific poet and artist. Skip Daly creates a good solid beat on the drums.

Magic Love Machine - The Conchords
Bob Giampino does lead guitar for the Conchords and Joe Giampino turns in some nice work on organ. Bob and Joe composed this interesting number. Joe is the leader of the group. Chuck Columbo is in charge of rhythm guitar and Dave Tangora runs the bass. Les Rivers is the group's drummer. Vocal on MAGIC LOVE MACHINE is by Chuck, Bob, and Joe.

The Dimensions - Yesterday's Love
The Dimensions, an extremely popular group who have won no less than four Battle Of The Bands contests, do a lovely arrangement here of a song by Joe Pizza and Marc Ruggiero. Joe is bassman for the group and Marc is on organ. Jim Anderson, lead guitarist, joins them on the vocal. Also on vocal is Steve Mannino who aids the percussion department with tambourine. Drummer for The Dimensions is Ron Mannino. Rhythm guitar is in the capable hands of Bruce Bennett. The Dimensions, who successfully combine the Liverpool and American sounds, have been together for two and a half years.

The People - Johnny Will Have To Wait
Returning for an encore are The People, who performed "Don't You Know What It Is To Wait". The same personnel are used here with the exception of the lead vocalist, who is Lynn Rogers on this number. Lynn sings professionaly and has recorded on Golden Records. She has had extensive training and is a topflight rock vocalist. The words, music and arrangement are by Wayne Kirby, who has done much arranging work in the rock field, and is the author of a book on guitar instruction.


BRUCE CONFORTH (The Nightwatch): The recording itself would have been probably done in late 66 or more likely early 1967. Most of us were 16 or 17. A few like Wayne Kirby were in their very late teens. I remember the recording session very very well. It was made on the stage of the auditorium. The curtains were closed apparently to create a "sound" proof environment (quite laughable actually). Bill and Alan were on the other side of the curtain in the "orchestra pit" with an incredibly simple reel to reel recorder. Each group had an opportunity to do one quick run through so that Alan and Bill could get a recording level and then it was go, with almost every cut done in one track. Bill seemed quite adamant that time was of the essence and one attempt (mistakes or not) was pretty much it. (We recorded on a Saturday and the auditorium could only be open so long).

Almost all of the bands were ad hoc. Thorn and the Four Roses were a band that Jim Robyn had put together. The People and Blues and Things were groups that Bill put together as a special attempt to record some songs he wrote. Anton Carysforth (from Wycoff) drummer for Blues and Things and Wayne Kirby (a Manchester graduate and Juilliard student at that time) [also Harris Wiener, organ and vocals for The People] went on to form the band The Wind in the Willows that produced one album for Capital Records that featured Debbie Harry. This was her first appearance on any record and of course predated Blondie.

PETE POSLUSZNY (The Avlons): Wayne Kirby was Segio Franchi's musical director and had a great impact on my life at the time "I intend to work hard thru my 30's so I can coast in my forties and retire in my 50's". Motivated me for sure. Kind of worked except for being off 10 years...

BRUCE CONFORTH: Wayne was definitely Sergio Franchi's musical director and actually appeared on the Mike Douglas show directing Sergio's band while he was a guest co-host for a week... The Concords were another ad hoc band, put together by the Giampino brothers. Joe had played accordion prior to this recording and I think this may have been his first time on the organ. The Odds and Ends were another ad hoc group. So was the band I was in, "The Nightwatch." Our only performance was that recording.

The only bands that had any experience actually playing were The Avlons, The Lost Sound, The Soul Survivors, and The Wild Things [and presumably, The Dimensions]. The Avlons were from West Paterson. The Soul Survivors were an all African-American group who showed up in matching suits and looked like the Temptations. I remember hearing the Soul Survivors rehearsing and we were all blown away by their harmonies. We thought "well shit these guys are so good nobody will want to listen to us."

The bands were probably the only ones who actually bought copies of the album.

Boy, you know, I can remember the rehearsals that we had for that record like it was yesterday. See a large part of it was quite incestuous, musically (and later discovered to be in other ways as well). Wayne, Norm, Roy, Bob, Nancy, Phyllis, Gail, Harris, Skip... we all played together in various configurations at different times. I would play bass for one group, guitar for another, Roy and Wayne played guitar for a bunch, Harris sang for everyone... it was as if Bill Neale's house was a combination of the Brill Building and Hitsville. The fact that the groups appeared as they did on the album was actually quite happenstance. The lineups could have been different on any given day, and usually were.

Bill and Al were in their mid to late 30s. I think Bill was around 36 when he was killed.

PETE POSLUSZNY: Bill Neale was an English Teacher at Manchester High School, and he died in a motorcycle accident shortly after he and Al produced this record. Both of them had big hearts and wanted to promote the arts in young people. There was a great concert at Manchester shortly after Bill's death...

BRUCE CONFORTH: Bill used to have these parties at his house at least every other weekend that were called "things". He'd mimeo a rather obscure announcement and then hand it out to those of us chosen to be part of it and then actually drive down to Haledon to pick us up. We'd all bring our instruments and have a rip snorting time playing in his living room. Bill was also very adamant. No drugs, and no drinking unless you were over 21. I think most people thought he was running orgies up there but he and his wife Gay were really surrogate parents for those of us who, because of the times, couldn't speak with our own parents, or actually battled with them. Bill was killed at one of those parties in that terrible motorcycle accident just a half block from his house. We were all there.


BRUCE CONFORTH: I can't remember all the bands that played at the concert. One was the Meadowfrost who idolized The Who and were actually a fantastic band. They performed The Who's song Substitute and it was awesome. The Avlons by that time had enlisted Roy Francia as their lead guitarist and changed their name to The Potsdam Garrison. They were also very good.

PETE POSLOSZNY: We did a medley of I NEED YOU and besides the Beatles I can't, at the moment, remember the other two writers/bands that we represented.

BRUCE CONFORTH: The closing band was one featuring Bob DeCaro on drums who was kind of like the love object of most of Manchester's girls. (I can't remember the name of the band, but they were "pros"). Each band was only supposed to play two songs and since I was working backstage (I did not perform that night) when DeCaro's band launched into a third song (as I suspected they would) I screamed "get them off" and started to pull the curtains closed (I was a "tad" jealous). I had to be physically restrained. The stage had been decorated with these odd cut-out circles that just kind of hung there, and there was a large disco ball hanging over head. There was, to my knowledge, no recording made of the concert, which is too bad because it would be one hell of a document!

A funny story is our attempt at a light show. The way that light shows were done at places like Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditoriums was that the glass faces of two wall size clocks would be laid one on top of the other and in between them would be liquid oil color and water color (which of course didn't mix). This allowed you to slide the faces back and forth while sitting on an overheard projector and the colors between the glasses would become amoebic and "psychedelic" moving colors. Of course there was a danger inherent because if any of the liquid spilled into the overhead it would fry that machine. Ken Kushner was in the wing stage right and I was in the wing stage left and we were projecting these images on a screen behind the bands. It was pretty impressive and looked quite professional until we started spilling the liquid. I think we fried 4 or 5 overheads that night. I'm sure the school wondered what the hell happened to their machines.


PETE POSLUSZNY: We still remain friends with Bill's wife Gay... having many, many very meaningful times with her. She's a writer and relocated to Virginia after Bill's death. I met my wife at that time. She just came from a year in Denmark with AFS, got off the boat the day before we met (at a party at Gay's house). We fell in love and are still together... Bruce Conforth... he and I "did" acid together for the first time in my parent's basement in 1968...

BRUCE CONFORTH: Yes, Pete and I did in fact do some incredibly pure blotter acid (a 600 microgram dose which was extremely high) in his basement one Friday night into Saturday. It was, how can one say it, amazing. Walls were melting up, the ceiling and floor were rippling like the ocean, everything was pure energy. Remarkable. I'm sure Peter would agree it changed us both forever.

PETE POSLUSZNY: I started a blues band 5 years ago: The Jersey Blues Depot, we put out 2 CD's. One of our originals got international play because Michael Bourne on WBGO really liked "Jersey Blues" - me singing and on keys. I gave the band to the members about 8 months ago. Just too much: I did all the booking and PR and the audience got younger and the music more rock than blues and screw it... Time to move on if one is creatively unfulfilled.

BRUCE CONFORTH: Wayne Kirby became a Dean at UNC Asheville and now has stepped down to be a professor. Rob Carnevale is a quite well-know poet living in upstate NJ and teaching part-time I think at Drew. Roy Francia lived and worked in NYC for some time and now I've heard he opened a business in North Carolina. Harris Wiener is an attorney in St. Louis after graduating from Harvard. Frank Lee took over his father's furniture business and now, I believe, runs a limo service and lives in North Haledon. Alan Heim ran a music store and when he left Manchester I believe he tried to make it as a professional drummer. I went on to be the Rock Hall's first Curator, then a Dean at Penn State, and now a professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan.


GAY NEALE: Well, I never thought anyone would dig up that record and actually pay attention! Wayne Kirby posted me your e-mail and thought I might have something to add. Bill was my husband, and I was very much involved in the record's inception. Yes, it was produced in early 1967, and came out in late spring, as I remember. It was done on a shoestring (our shoestring) and came about because Bill, who taught at Manchester High School in Haledon, NJ, and I invited kids to our house just about every Friday, playing music and singing (this was the 60s, remember, and people sang) and getting acquainted. Kids from other schools came, too, and were welcome. It was fun. It was very clean, too, as we were down on drugs and wouldn't let the kids drink. Many little groups would play and there were some amazing impromptu results.

Bill sent out the word on the grapevine that the record was going to "happen." He had the idea and his good friend, Al Heim, who taught music, had the contacts. Various groups signed up. Bruce is right: there was one run-through and one final take per group, and they were tightly scheduled.

About a month later, the records came in, and we had a huge party to distribute them. Everyone was really blown away by the actual reality, which, when I look at it now, is pretty amateur. But it was a great thing for these young people.

Bill died in a motorcycle accident the following fall. He was 35. He was a graduate of Ridgewood High and Duke University, and was working on a Masters at Montclair State. He taught English, speech, and drama. We had two small children, Susan who was 4 and Jay, 7 at that time. (They are now wonderful middle-aged people and Susan has two little boys.) I don't remember much - hardly anything - about the memorial concert, but I was pretty much wrecked at the time, and very wrapped up in taking care of the children, so that's not surprising. I don't think it was recorded, because I'm sure someone would have given me a tape. I do have some tapes of Bill's old songs (he wrote many) and living room jams, but nothing continuous like that. The funds in the "memorial foundation" were not really impressive; after about ten years of scholarships they were pretty much wiped out. But people by that time had moved on.

Many of the guys on this record have kept up with me, notably Wayne, Bruce Conforth, Roy Francia, Bob Carnevale, Peter Posluszny, and Harris Wiener. We moved to a farm in Virginia after a few years, and they have come to visit with their families. Many of the women in that old crowd still keep in touch, too. I like to think Bill left a great legacy as a teacher and friend.

It's good to know someone is still interested.

Best regards - Gay Neale
Gay Weeks Neale has published 5 books and more than 200 magazine articles.