About Me

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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Road To GOLDMINE, Part 2: You've Got To Pay Your Dues If You Want To Write Reviews

I freelanced for Goldmine magazine for twenty years, with my first GM reviews published in November of 1986. Thirty years later, I'm taking a look back at my road to Goldmine, remembering my life in Buffalo 1982-1987. I recommend you start reading with Part 1: Approaching The Minefield.

Boost Buffalo, it's good for yoooooooooou...!
Brenda and I were married in 1984. We'd been together since 1978, our second year in college at Brockport, and we'd gone through the highs and not-so-highs a happy loving couple goes through. We moved in together when I graduated in 1980. After two more tumultuous years in Brockport, we moved to Buffalo to start over in August of 1982. I was moody, and subject to occasional depression that could careen into giddy, boyish effervescence, and then plummet right back down into the murky depths of arghh. Swing low, sweet Cheerio. I was frequently clueless, hapless, confused, and confounded by the simplest of situations. I was not anywhere near being, or becoming, the guy I wanted to be.

The transition to this new life in Buffalo in '82 was intimidating; we were alone in an unfamiliar environment, a city where we didn't really know anyone. We claimed to be married, fearing discrimination from prospective landlords; we rented a place in a rattrap old building with four other apartments. Brenda got a job at a day care center, while pursuing graduate studies at the University of Buffalo; I snagged a part-time morning shift at a McDonald's, and looked for something better.

"Better" was an arguable description, I guess, but I wound up as an assistant manager at Mighty Taco beginning in January of 1983. More responsibility! More money! Adulting! It was a disaster. The hours were terrible--Mighty Taco was open until 5 am, catering to the bar crowd--so I would frequently get home from work, reeking of hot sauce and failure, just as Brenda was heading out to the day care center. Hi. Bye. Mighty Taco's customers during the wee, wee hours were often drunk, belligerent assholes; one of 'em, dressed in a three-piece business suit, went wee-wee at the counter while waiting for his order. One night, a customer threw a napkin dispenser at me; I saw red, and stormed out to the lobby and started punching him. The jerk grabbed a fistful of my hair and pulled it out; that spot of hair never grew back, earning me a widow's peak at 23. I remember coming to work for a morning shift once, and seeing Patti Rogers, the overnight cleaning girl, still cleaning blood off the wall from a fight that had broken out the night before.

(I was still young enough--or so I thought--that I could burn the candle at both messy ends. Radio station 97 Rock started a weekly series of free live lunchtime concerts, and I made it to most of them. This meant coming home from work around 6 or 6:30 am, air-kissing Brenda as she went off to start her work day, and grabbing a couple of hours sleep on our mattress; we couldn't afford a bed. Then it was off to the club for the noon show. The first such show, starring Red Rockers, was outdoors at The Tralfamadore Cafe, which required travel; subsequent shows were at a recovering former disco in University Plaza, a mere half-mile or so walk from our apartment. The situation saved me from having to make an unwanted choice one evening, when both The Searchers and The Lords Of The New Church were scheduled to play in Buffalo on the same night. Nooooooooo!! But the Lords added a 97 Rock free lunchtime show, so I caught them during the day and then saw The Searchers at the Tralf that night. Serendipity!

And yeah, I might have had a beer or two at those lunchtime shows. When I lived in Bufalo, it is possible I may have been drinking a tiny bit more than I should have been.)

Brenda lost her mother in 1983. It was not unexpected, but it was devastating. We went down to New York for the funeral, and I tried to be a comfort. Afterward, Brenda's father and older sister remained on Staten Island, while Brenda and I returned to our responsibilities in Buffalo. A year later, when the tombstone was unveiled, Mighty Taco would not allow me the time off to attend the ceremony. Brenda had to go without me. I should have quit that goddamned job right then and there.

In '83, I realized I was ready to marry Brenda. We were still too young, really, but it was time, and neither of us could think of a good reason to wait any longer. After a July '84 wedding in Syracuse and a honeymoon in Toronto, we returned to the tenement apartment we shared with the rodent squatters, and we tried our hands at being Mr. and Mrs. Adult.

And, in October, I lost my job.

It wasn't a great job by any means, but it was my only real income. Luckily, I found a new job within a month: working at a record store! It was a management-track position, I was eminently qualified, so this was a match made in Cheektowaga. The store was a chain called Cavages. I trained briefly at the Seneca Mall store, and was transferred to the Thruway Mall location in time for Christmas. At Thruway Mall, one of my co-workers was a terrific guy named Fritz Van Leaven; Fritz and I have remained friends ever since, and he keeps track of our playlist statistics for This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. We can't do a year-end TIRnRR Countdown Show without Fritz.

After Christmas, Cavages needed me at its Main Place Mall location in downtown Buffalo, so I spent most of '85 working there. The atmosphere at an urban mall was decidedly different from the suburban outlets: looser, funkier, more chaotic. Rules? HA!!! I didn't create that environment, but it would come back to bite me nonetheless.

In the '80s, I became a passionate devotee of garage/psychedelic rock 'n' roll, in both its original 1960s form and its then-current Paisleyfuzz revival. My co-workers at Thruway Mall gave me a Chocolate Watchband LP as a birthday gift. While still at Seneca Mall, I bought The Vipers' Outta The Nest! album just because I liked its cover graphic; a co-worker showed it to me, laughing, Who would ever buy something like this?, prompting my immediate response: I WILL!


And that interest in garage is what got me into Goldmine. In 1985, Goldmine partnered with the ROIR label to produce Garage Sale, a cassette-only compilation of '80s acts trying to pretend it was 1966. The cassette was only available to Goldmine subscribers. I became a Goldmine subscriber.

But the minefield was still stretched out in front of me.


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