The Redcoats Are Coming!
Part Two: An In-depth '60s Garage Band Biography
Thanks to Steven Rappaport, The Lance Monthly was able to contact the Redcoats' rhythm guitarist, Zack Bocelle. Though originally approached to participate in an email interview, Zack's first submission was so interesting and entertaining that we thought it best to print exactly as written. Zack's story is being told in nine monthly installments. This is number two. Meet the Redcoats - FINALLY! [Editors' note: To read part one, please click onto the archives link at the top of this issue.]
John and Mike were waiting for us to come home from school that Friday. We loaded up our amps and guitars and headed off for Wildwood. The Spirt household is a story in itself. I will say, that for all their strange quirks and idiosyncracies, they took us into their home and treated us like family. They were loving parents who were ready to do anything they could to help see their son John's dream come to fruition.
John had his drums set up in the living room. We set up our stuff and decided to play a song with which we were all familiar. A simple song: "Twist and Shout." We didn't have a PA system, but John had a reel-to-reel tape recorder, so we sang into that. As soon as the song ended, John came around from behind his drums to play it back. It was very rough. It was very raw. But it was also very magical. We sounded like the Beatles. Randy and Mike were both excellent guitar players, but it was decided, that because Randy's roll in the band would be that of Paul McCartney, he would play bass. There were no arguments. There were no clashing egos. There were only four young kids on a mission. John was thrilled. He put on another tape and started playing songs that he and Mike had written.
We immediately went about the business of learning the material. The first song we learned was, "Love Unreturned." It had an Everly Brothers quality to it that Randy and I were quite comfortable with. John and Mike helped us with the most troublesome part - the accents. I had already done some acting so it was easier for me. Randy had some problems with it at first, but eventually he got it. And the fact that Mike actually WAS English helped a lot. John wanted us to speak in English accents all the time. So we did. I can remember going to the diner and everyone thought we were really English. It was funny.
Wildwood is basically tourists. Nobody really knew us. We'd go up on the boardwalk, and John would be goofing off like Ringo Starr. Randy was our Paul McCartney and Mike our George Harrison. And me? Well . . . I was lucky enough to play the part of John Lennon. I always loved John Lennon anyway. Hey! I still love the guy! And very soon we would be introduced to our fifth member. Our Brian Epstein. His name is Steven Rappaport.
John explained that Steven would be our producer. Randy and I didn't even know what a producer was, but it sounded good. He came to John's to hear us, and saw something in us. He too believed in the dream.
We spent the next few weekends working on John's songs. Steven was always there to offer advice, make suggestions, and help us in any way he could. The five of us were growing closer everyday. We were becoming like brothers. Brothers united in the same quest. Steven's help was always greatly appreciated. He was then, and is now, a very dear and true friend. He is also very talented in his own right, and he has a GREAT ear for music.
Spring break came, and Mr. Spirt took us all to Manny's Music in New York. Randy and I were in awe to say the least. We'd never seen anything like this before. We weren't there very long. John already knew exactly what we needed. We needed amps. Not just any amps. They had to be Vox amps. The guitars had to be Rickenbackers. It had to be a violin shaped Hofner bass. Everything had to be perfect, and it was. Mr. Spirt even bought us a PA system and microphones. We were excited as anyone could ever be. We couldn't wait to get back to Wildwood to hear ourselves with all this new stuff. It was like Christmas at Easter time.
We spent the rest of spring break practicing. We played from the time we got up in the morning until the police would come at night and tell us we had to stop. For all the inconvenience and embarrassment they surely must have felt, never once did Mr. or Mrs. Spirt ever complain. They were very supportive. Even the cops who came by would listen to us for a while before making us quit. And even after they left, there would always be something musically going on. Always. John and Mike would go into the other room to write; Randy and I would work on harmony parts. Always something. We had become like dedicated little music machines, all united in the same dream. John's dream was now our dream, too.
Steven came to us with wonderful news. He had arranged for us to have a live audition with a record company in New York. We picked out the songs that we would do, and practiced them until we could play them in our sleep. We were getting better all the time. I don't know if it's okay to mention the name of the company or not, but it was Laurie Records. They liked us a lot, but said that we were too heavy for them; we were too much like the Beatles. They were looking for someone more along the lines of a Herman's Hermits. We were very disappointed.
The ride back to Wildwood was pretty depressing. Steven assured us that something else would come up. Mike was downright angry. Randy and I were sure that after spring break was over, the dream would be dead in the water - maybe even out of the water - who knew? John Spirt knew. He didn't say anything all the way home. We thought he was just depressed like the rest of us, but he wasn't. His wheels were already turning.
It was very late when we got back into Wildwood. We were exhausted. Normally, John Spirt never got out of bed before noon. But the next morning, he woke Randy and me very early. We thought he was sick or something. He called Mike and told him to come over right away. It seemed he'd stayed up and written a song he wanted us to learn right away. He sang it for Mike, and Mike picked out the chords. He said it was called "The Dumb Dumb Song." Randy and I thought it sounded pretty stupid, but John was our fearless leader, so we went along with it. Again Mike, Randy and I were very young, and it would not be until very recently, that we finally came to the understanding that John Spirt was a musical genius. But that's what he was, and is. An unrecognized musical genius.
Well . . . John sang all our parts for us, and we learned this song. We practiced it and played it, and changed it until John was happy with it. Then he told me to sing it like Peter Noone. "WHAT? Like who, John?" "You know," he chuckled. "The guy from Herman's Hermits." We recorded that song live, on his little tape recorder, right in his living room.
Spring break was now over. Randy and I got back into the routine of going to school during the week, and spending weekends in Wildwood. Steven would take that tape to Laurie Records, and they would love it. Soon summer would come and it would be a summer we would never forget. (to be continued)
THE REDCOATS ARE COMING!!!
To experience a bit of Redcoatmania yourself, pick up "Meet The Redcoats - Finally" on Dionysus Records (http://www.dionysusrecords.com)