It occurs to me that my memories of bands usually involve moments that have little to do with their music, but more of the times that was spent hanging out together. Here is a quick tale about Bobo Sablack and Duke. I was in my truck, leaving the Cleveland Underground. I was, as usual, 'hammered' and didn't want to drive with any beer in my vehicle. I had one full can left, and so, stopped and hollered to a group mingling by the clubs front door, "hey, who wants this beer?" Sablack and Duke broke into a sprint towards me (insert Chariots Of Fire theme here), about a 20 yard dash. At the last second, Bobo shoved Duke, causing Duke to stumble then fall head first into the side of my truck. Dukes head left quite a dent. Sablack grabbed the beer, popped the top, and took a long chug. Duke, from the ground, called up "fucker! save me some". Them two always were like brothers.
I got into Punk Rock/Hardcore while I was living in San Antonio, Texas. I traveled up to Austin on the weekends to check out shows. They were great shows. I saw every hardcore band from San Francisco and LA, as well as the local Austin bands, over a 4-year period.
I came home to Cleveland and caught the Dead Kennedys at the Engineers Hall, summer '82. I was amazed at the amount of people there. It wasn't until I returned home to live in Cleveland that I realized there weren't that many local punks at all the shows.
During the DK show I met a good friend of mine--Alex Strouhal. I think Alex thought I was insane because I was wearing an MDC (Millions of Dead Cops) t-shirt I made that had little stick men on it with blood shooting out of their heads. I slam danced for two hours straight and was wearing an army cap with a newspaper clipping safety pinned to the brim that said, "Politics As Usual." Alex said to me after the show, "Dude you're not from around here are you?" We chatted, and I told him I was from Cleveland originally and living in Texas.
Snip, snip and fast foreward a bit. . .
After returning to Cleveland, I met up with Alex again at the Pop Shop during a Circle Jerks show. He invited me stop by his apartment to jam and get high.
We got very high-I played a little guitar for him and he suggested we start a band. I agreed. That was the beginning of Pestilence. Hopefully, Alex and I will put together a band bio/story on Pestilence soon.
Anyway, I played guitar in Pestilence with Alex on vocals, Mike Zubal on bass, and John Skully on drums. Then they kicked me out (well, I was offered the choice of showing up to practice, or else). I tend to lose interest, and preferred getting high to any other activity known to man. So, I was out.
Alex and I were still friends and went to shows together. One night he told me I should come to the Lakefront to see Plague. In the short amount of time I was back in Cleveland I hadn't heard of them, nor seen any of their gigs. I asked Alex what their bag was, and he told me that Plague were definitely one of the harder bands in town. Enough said for me.
I liked the Lakefront-from the time I saw my first show there to when I was playing with Pestilence. That night in October '84 the usual crowd was there, well if you can call 30 people a crowd. Plague was getting ready to play. . .
I remember this wall of sound coming from this three-piece-and that the singer/guitarist sounded like Darby Crash (only ten times better) on vocals and that he had a "Hardcore meets Punk Rock meets Metal" guitar sound. It was hot and I thought to myself that they were indeed a hard fucking band. As Alex and I absorbed the music, it occurred to me that the said guitarist looked familiar. I screamed into Alex's ear, "What's that guy's name," as I pointed to the singer/guitarist. He replied that his name was Bob Sablack.
It hit me then-I went to high school with Bob. And this was very cool to me because no one I knew from school was into Punk/Hardcore (I left that high school after two years). I hadn't seen Bob in about 8 years at this point-so seeing and hearing him jamming and tearing it up was great. And I mean they were "on" that night; tight, hard, loud, mean, and pissed. I really liked what I was hearing.
After Plague finished I waited for Bob to began circulating; I approached him and said, "Dude, that was a hot set, I really enjoyed that." He thanked me and then I asked if he remembered me. He did right away, and we went over all the old shit. We laughed when we discussed how we used to write out guitar chord diagrams to songs while we were in HomeRoom and passed them back and forth to each other, and how I used to fuck with big jock types-busting their balls. Interestingly, none of them ever tried to kick my ass.
At this point in my meager Punk Rock career, I had decided I wanted to sing in a band and not play guitar; Bob had decided he wanted to play guitar and not sing. So, we chatted about the possibility of me joining Plague. Plus, I had instant roadies included in my entourage-my cousin Tom Mancini, and the illustrious and ever "down with the party," Dave DiVincenzo.
And so it was. I joined Plague and we played out with me on vocals, probably about 6 times. The last show was at the Cleveland Public Theater. Some of the high points of that show were when I found out that the Communist Party was making money there selling refereshments-I announced this to the crowd as soon as I got on stage. I didn't think Communists were interested in making money, or that they should make any under the guise of being nice to punks. They accomodated the show so I guess they had a right to sell stuff-but I wanted folks knowing to whom their hard earned "Punk Rock" money was going. A few minutes after my announcement, two underfed looking comrades began dogging me from the edge of the stage. They were posturing like I had a good old KGB beating coming to me. However, my passage into the bowels of the Moscow dungeon never occurred.
We played a hot set-featuring our favorite cover, The Meat Men's, "Lesbian Death Dirge." That song also created some friction with the lesbian contingent, which threw beer cans and cups at me for the rest of the night.
In closing-I was removed from the Plague shortly after that show. I snorted enough coke nightly that when I woke up in the morning I could scrape out the inside of my nose, chop the snot on a mirror, and get high all over again. I was pretty much unavailable.
That time was murky for me-but I remember being informed by Romana Strouhal that I had been replaced. I didn't even receive severence pay! Bob and I remained friends over the years and our guitar playing together evolved-we started another band that never took off, 22MC. It featured Bob and my cousin Tom Mancini on guitars, Tom Madigan on bass, and myself on drums. It was cool and we should have continued.
My final statement, and I have said this before to Bob, is that Plague should have never added me, or subsequent additions to the band--they were a great three piece. If you've never heard their first recording, you should, because it is hot! It is everything that the music intended to be at that time.
I had a lot of fun with Duke, Johnny, and Bob-we busted balls and laughed our asses off everytime we were together. And the music was good-and THAT my little Droogies, is priceless.
Don Piccirillo aka, "That guy who gets kicked outta bands."