BOSTON, Sometime in the 1980’s – When Limbo Race won the 1982 “WBCN Rock-n-Roll Rumble,” it was a shock to everyone even the band. After all, they had such little notice in the club scene that they weren’t even originally slated to compete.
They were the “alternate” that only got in the race when another combo unexpectedly broke-up.
Over the year or so previous, the band had been steadily forming into an intensely angular and propulsive groove engine with slanted slices of hard bop beat sax provoking a feverish dream state. With pen-in-heart words and purged-from-the-soul vocals by band leader Randy Black (nee Steckevicz) the band that was an afterthought won the whole thing by virtue of grit and determination.
Besides cash and recording time, one of the prizes that the band won, was an all-expenses paid trip to NYC for an on-air interview at a new network called MTV.
Six young, intensely curious, provocative and insanely hopeful miscreants got in a van and drove to New York City.
These six were, of course; the original trio, the slightly new sax player, and the even newer keyboard player, Gurl Twenty Three, Catherine Coleman. Oh, and the bands sound person, your humble narrator (YHN), who had been an early fan and advocate since the Underground. (Read: 1978 Acid Parties, The Underground, and Jari Georgia Gurl Four of “52 Gurls” ).
Previously, Catherine had been performing in a female drums and keyboard band called Petit Mal. They were a dizzying clash of Yma Sumac, Monochrome Set, Moondog and Guillaume Apollinaire.
Months previous to the “Rumble,” Randy had produced and YHN had engineered a session for the band when they recorded one of his songs in the studio.
That collaboration had led to a new song with her keyboards providing the disquietingly cinematic arabesques that many judges of the “Rumble” said won their vote.
Prior to all of that, Gurl Twenty Three had exposed YHN to a level of thinking and being that was frightening by mistake and seductive by nature.
The first time a visit was made to her lair, all of the bluster and 66.6% of every preconception formed about women by repeating images of Brando, Dean, Wayne and all the rest of YHN’s youthful avatars was crushed. Ground into wistful dust and magically replaced with something better with no more effort than a whisper. Except for the Peter Lorre parts, of course, she left those for future use.
Books all over the place written by writers you know you should know but totally don’t. Oddly and elusively crafted images that spin your notions of perception and, a great stereo.
She asked if Lesley Gore wasn’t one of the great, musical masters of the 20th century, who else is? As the medication kicked-in she provided proof for her contention in ways both mental and physical.
She read from poets either long dead or, longing for death. She spoke of ideas that when spoken aloud seem like a dream because the deep, new thing inside you rings in a resonant burst of recognition and relief.
She asked if you knew the meaning of the “best” song on the first Velvet Underground album and provided the insight to understand why you should.
To a callow youth with a passing acquaintance of art and pretty much ignorant of everything besides trendy music and the basic toppings of pizza, she was a powerful cross between Minerva and Morgan Le Fey.
One afternoon, while lounging, languid as Harry and Carresse Crosby and looking at fin de siecle images and longing for absinthe she said wanted something to eat. Before a carefully researched list of nearby delivery joints could be verbalized, Catherine dashed into the kitchen.
There was a minor symphony in noise as pots clanged and doors thumped. A whisking and utensil movement agitato, a canting of seemingly medieval curses, a chorus of mmmmm’s and she burst back into the room.
She put her favorite new album on, spun back into the kitchen and just as quick, glided back in.
A bowl of something that looked familiar and smelled of delight, comfort, and cheese was in each hand. It tasted of everything real and good. When asked what the name of this magical dish was, the look that Catherine gave remains still to this day as vivid as the day it was cast.
“Linguine Alfredo” she said in a voice usually reserved for telling certain people the earth is round.
Looking back, it is astounding that she, like so many “gurls,” is so giving of her gifts and free with her insight and inspiration to such complete and utter dolts.
It was pretty clear during the Petit Mal sessions that Randy and Catherine were clicking on a level beyond anything YHN could grok.
On the ride down to NYC, we had a grand old time exploring the old Parkway routes, looking for dives and feeling young. At one rest stop, in front of a few families and a bus load of Geriatrics returning from a shopping trip, we had a “Dear Penthouse” moment and visions of coming experiences in the thrall of the city that never sleeps fueled YHN’s imagination.
Upon hitting the city, Randy and Catherine split to go see some stupid art exhibit. They said they would take care of checking us into the rooms and that the rest of us should go and take a big bite of the apple.
Returning to the plush hotel at the respectable hour of 3 AM or so, it turned out that the room that was supposed to be shared with Catherine was now being shared with John the bass player.
The ride back was kind of uncomfortable. Everyone knew about the transfer of interest that had occurred.
It was made bearable by somehow magically tuning in a radio station playing Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and the new way of looking at things that Gurl Twenty Three had given me.
No pasta was left un-sauced in the making of this dish.
YHN, Denis Stone, is a character from “Crome Yellow” and was a callow youth who thought that he could enter the world of a woman far his superior, in every way imaginable, with horrible attempts at verse and erudition.
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