Reprinted with permission of author Carlos de Paula
I decided to lighten up a bit. So much for recession, Iraq, election, immigration and all that jazz. It gets tiring, so let’s go to the silly stuff.
I was recalling the other day the great cover bands I saw in New Jersey, during my college years, 1978 to 1982. I also lived in the state, plus went to Rutgers in New Brunswick.
These were transitional years. At the time, you either were a disco person or rock person. I was more of a rocker, and somewhat despised the disco thing. So I used to go all over the state watching great cover bands.
A band I saw quite a few times was called Cats on a Smooth Surface. They were well known for their covers of Bruce Springsteen songs (which made them very popular in New Jersey, it figures), including a rousing rendition of Rosalita. They mixed oldies, Bruce material, plus a number of other things. They started losing their way when they began incorporating new wave material. They simply did not sound or look new wavish, and the last time I saw them they were no longer very good and did not look comfortable with their material. The keyboard player carried around an acoustic piano to the gigs, so I guess their roadies were not very happy!!!
One of the guys from Cats went to Holme, another famous band at the time, which used as their logo an imitation of the New Jersey Parkway logo. Holme adapted better to New Wave, and I am quite surprised to find out that both Holme and Cats still exist, although I do not recognize any of the faces on the few pictures I have seen on the Internet. Either the guys did not age too well, or the lineups have changed immensely during the course of almost three long decades, perhaps the grandchildren are playing in the bands now… Or a mixture of these two.
There was a band called E.Walker band, or something to that effect. The eponymous lead singer was very tall, kind of looked like Joey Ramone, sort of menacing, and as I recall, he used to perform shoeless. There is little I recall about the band’s actual music, but as far as I remember, it seemed to concentrate on Led Zep, The Who and bands of that sort.
I cannot say that about Prophet. What a band! They played only classical rock, such as Yes, ELP, Genesis, and did it very well, sometimes sounding better than live performances by the bands themselves, certainly better than their live records.
Here and there, some of these bands recorded albums, which is the case of Sam the Band, altogether a different kind of act. They released two albums on Casablanca, which was known for disco releases (one of which I still have), and their music was a mixture of rock, pop, swing and disco. They were also theatrical and comical, as far as I recall. They did not make it big, but this is not the only mention of this band on the Internet; they obviously had a following.
Towards the end of my Jersey tenure, one of the hottest bands were The Watch. What made The Watch different was the fact they had a very good female singer, who did a few numbers, then left the rest to the guys. Those were the days when women new wavers were happening, such as Pat Benatar, Joan Jett and the Go-Gos, and the band captured (and played) well the spirit of the movement.
Although I was not much of a Doors fan, I also witnessed the last performance by a Doors specialist, a band called Crystal Ship, which actually sounded better than the Morrison/Manzarek ensemble. They regrouped later and still exist!!!!
I don’t remember most of the club’s names, although I recalled Towpath, which was in the middle of the boondocks, up North, and of course, the Stone Pony, where I saw Cats once. No cameo appearance by Bruce Springsteen, though… The Pony still stands tall. Plus Dodds, where I went a few times. There was a club next to Rutgers where I saw the Watch a few times, but cannot remember the name for the life of me.
By the early 80’s I moved to New York, where the scene was totally different, mostly original bands trying to break into the limelight. Nowadays there are so many old (recording) bands that I believe life for cover bands is not what it used to be. Except for Cats on a Smooth Surface and Holme.