Jupiter: The Story of a Suburban Garage Bandby slash "handman" brommell
For various reasons -- both, legal and otherwise, only the first names will be used in this document, but for those of you who remember... this is what happened.
The Band that Killed Disco?Circa 1977 three southern California musicians Jay, Tim and Lorenzo, formed a power trio named Jupiter. Originally a cover band they entertained at numerous venues such as, fraternity "beer busts," local nightclubs, beer joints and numerous other dives... Though a cover band, their cover music never quite sounded right -- it was ragged and rough -- a style of music often referred to as "garage." Indeed their garage characteristics seemed to surface in any type of music that they played.
Some of their formative performances were at numerous beer bashes for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Long Beach State -- this is the fraternity that became the "Animal House" of the University -- at one point placed on probation for lewd and lascivious conduct in their neighbors' yards...
Another formative Jupiter venue was the Hard Rock Saloon, Long Beach's notorious hardcore biker bar with some of the pastiest and gooiest sawdust floors in California. The crowd was "hardcore" and not easily entertained -- only when the band played the bikers' anthem, "Born To Be Wild" would the grease coated denim and leather crowd start acknowledging the band -- what a bizarre sight to see -- bearded road warriors, complete with chains and bowie knives dancing like teenie boppers. It turned out that these potentially lethal riders from hell had their moments of civility and were actually quite appreciative of the band for playing their themesong. "Born To Be Wild" was requested (er - demanded) mulitple times by various leather and greasy denim clad "Grizzly Adams" characters. For reasons of personal safety, the band satisified their requests. A friend of Jay's named Mike (Mikey) -- a budding photographer began showing up at these shows and started to capture the band on film. He soon became a fixture with the band, and later along with Jay produced the really bizarre "Summerfest" shows out in the desert near Hemet.
A truly bizarre musical genre' for Jupiter to attempt was disco. Though not a disco band, Jupiter, driven by demand and desire to find paying gigs attempted to play disco, but what came out was truly unique -- too fast, unfunky and LOUD. At the "Point After," a famous valley disco club Jupiter stunned the crowd with their rendition of disco, which was anything but enjoyed by the hardcore, flamably attired disco set, however, a booking agent, Bobby M., who looked like a character from an old Bogart film saw them and decided that they would be perfect for entertaining at military bases, thus began another weird chapter in the Jupiter story. By this point Jupiter had temporarily become a foursome -- adding Tony to the band on keyboards.
A thousand drunk soldiers...Bobby's first booking for Jupiter was El Toro Marine Base. The band showed up and was somewhat taken aback to find that their audience consisted of 1000 drunk male Marines. Only two women were there, serving drinks. The crowd was not especially pleasant -- at one point Lorenzo had asked if anyone ever danced at these little suares... the reply came back from a tough looking soldier in the crowd proclaiming. "Sir we're Marines, we don't dance, we kill sir!" This turned out to be one in a large number of unusual venues.
Original MusicBy 1979 the band had grown weary of the cover scene and began creating original music. Around the same time a new music scene was beginning to emerge in LA. The music was the forerunner to today's "Alternative" and was diverse and heavily influenced by the simplicity and attitude of "Punk" and the POP sounds of the 1960's. Some called it "new wave," others called it "punk," yet others called it "pop." It was also raw, rough and unrefined -- very similar to the garage sound that Jupiter had almost perfected. Tim was extremely excited about this new music scene because of it's 60's characteristics -- since most of his original material had 60's style chord progressions and a definite 60's feel. Lorenzo was an odd wheel -- insisting on playing a Rickenbacker 12 string that sounded like a "buzz saw with a twang" through most of the 70's and possessing an unusual stage arrogance -- at last there appeared to be a genre' that would allow easy adaptation of his happy twangy "Rick." Jay, with his huge white double-bass Camco drum set, and always a fan of theatre saw this period as an opportunity to explore the mingling of theatrics and rock. He also found a way of introducing some of his more original rythmns. Jay, Tim and another and another Mike, also a friend of Jay's who was known for enjoying unusual antics and loved being the center of attention soon came up with some bizarre senarios to give the band a different character.
The "Multiple Choice" Album...The band began recording "Multiple Choice" in 1979 -- it was funded mostly by Lorenzo's dad and it was an ego trip for Lorenzo. The album contained 10 songs. Six were written and sung by Lorenzo -- "Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay," "Call Of The Wild," "Megalomania," "And You Know," "Bandit," and "Visions Through An Empty Glass." Tim wrote four songs. He sang: "Lies" (co-written by his friend Wes), "You're A Dancer," "Get Down Woman," and one "Cactus Fruit" was sung by Jay. "Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay" erroneously, was the main promoted song of the album -- the album version was quite lackluster even mediocre but live it became the centerpiece to the soon to come "Kill Disco" show. "Lies" by Tim was an absolutely beautiful ballad that featured a short but elegant impromtu solo by Lorenzo. Lorenzo's "Call Of The Wild" would have been a much better choice to promote the album. It featured good vocals, a snarling power guitar rivaled by Jay's thundering drumming and Tim's eclectic bass licks. "Cactus Fruit" was Jay's moment to come to the front vocally. He out-Elvised Elvis and exuded a cool, smooth persona that dovetailed nicely with some of the other material. Followed by "Megalomania" the doomsday song of the album, "Cactus Fruit" was perfectly performed and placed.
The first song on side two was "You're A Dancer," sung by a heavily inebriated Tim. Tim had over indulged the evening of the recording and was not really in the proper physical or mental condition to perform the song properly. The performance was coaxed. It was not up to his potential and contrasted sharply with the flawless "Lies." The next song was "And You Know." It was written by Lorenzo and was almost more notable for allowing him to really let the "Ricky 12" scream than for its content which was based on an Orwellian/"Big-Brother watching" paranoia. The following song was "Bandit." "Bandit" was one of Lorenzo's older songs and sounded extremely 70's. The best part of "Bandit" was the "Flight Of The Bumble-Bee" guitar playing and a strange feedback effect that Jay produced -- the rest of the song was ok but seemed out of place on this album. Cut number nine was the cringingly annoying "Get Down Woman" -- a song that was anything but subtle and again Tim's demeanor at the time of its recording did not make it any better. The final song of the album was Lorenzo's lofty "homage" called "Visions Through An Empty Glass." Though the lyrics were original a good portion of the music was definitely "inspired." As was sometimes the case, Lorenzo emulated a group that he admired -- Pink Floyd (Breathe). The middle licks of the piece could be traced to Uriah Heep. To make a long story short, the song was "ambitious," and because of the re-creation of beer joint sounds in the intro (very similar to Sublimes' "Bad Fish" intro many years later) and Jay's background sounds and noises the song were extremely interesting (NOTE - The ending was later remastered by Jay and the current versions are much closer to what Lorenzo originally envisioned it to sound like). The album was still quite a feat since none of the involved parties had really ever completed a studio work before -- and it was accomplished with only 72 hours of studio time!
Promoting the album...The album was completed and pressed. The front cover was very simple -- reminiscent of an early Beatles album -- a thick strip of white across the top with Jupiter written in black letters. Underneath was a black background with cut out photos of Tim, Jay and Lorenzo placed diagonally from the upper left corner to the lower right corner. The back cover was a collage of photos, all shot by Mikey. Mikey also became the performer of the fabricated "world renowned" bon vivant critic "Max West" who wrote the liner notes, and who would later be followed by the "world renowned" tete a tete "MAX WEST"tm -- the band (another story). Not affiliated with Max West the baseball player for the Angels.
The band did not have a clue as to how to promote this album and soon learned many hard lessons. Acquiring radio play was nearly impossible on an independent label. Large record chains would not allow the albums in their stores -- only Tower Records was open-minded enough to allow them in all of their stores. Independent record stores were accessible as well. Distributors would not touch the album and record companies returned all promotional copies unopened.
"KILL DISCO SHOW"At the same time that the album was being recorded the band began promoting it. Theatrics began to play a part in the show. Looking to make a point Lorenzo had written "Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay" which was an attack on the artificial and formulaic method with which disco music was produced. It also railed against the anti-live quality that the genre' promoted -- indeed for a period, the "YOWZA, YOWZA, YOWZA DJ's" became more popular than live bands -- for a while it had become almost impossible for bands to get paying gigs. The song proclaimed the longevity of Rock & Roll, and the soon to come, demise of disco. Many disco fans erroneously thought that this was an attack on them but it was not -- it was merely survival for live musicians -- that was all.
Jay saw this as the perfect opportunity for theatrics and developed a violent introductory skit to the show. It featured Mike(#2 not Mikey) as a disco dancing, white suited, Travolta-like character. A recording of the disco song, "Ring My Bell" would start playing then Mike all decked out would start his disco dancing -- gyrating and humping air. Lorenzo would be on stage and at the proper moment he would strum LOUD power chords at which point "Disco Mike" would convulse. Suddenly Jay and Tim would rush him and start beating him violently. After the beating, "Disco Mike" would fall to the floor and Tim would rip open Mikes "guts" which was actually a raw steak sown into his shirt. He would then begin eating the "guts" (steak) -- Tim liked his steak rare so he considered this part of the pre-show snacks. One show was particularly memorable. At Club 88 as "Disco Mike" lay on the floor with his entrails hanging out, a skinny stray dog wandered into the club and feasted on the seemingly ripped dancer. The audience loved it.
Other show features were a thoroughly original arrangement and performance of "Gloria" by THEM. The Jupiter version would break into a frenetic sex-like experience with Lorenzo panting and moaning while Jay's drumming would build up and Tim would be stroking the neck of his bass erotically. When the climax was reached Tim's bass would squirt out a big wad of toothpaste or shaving cream into the audience.
AirplayKROQ radio was the key to getting a following in LA. The band started hounding the morning D.J. The Insane Darrell Wane until they finally got some mentions. Eventually Jupiter co-headlined a KROQ Halloween bash at Gazzarri's on the strip. They started running commercials on KROQ and ultimately received reluctant airplay -- their following started growing. Lorenzo once said that "if bribery is necessary to get airplay just point out the person that needs to be bribed...the problem is , in this town anyone will take a bribe ..."
They started receiving limited airplay and interviews on KWEST, KNAC and the Long Beach State radio station KSUL. With the minimal airplay they were eventually able to fill such venues as the Troubador and Gazzarris and the "Cuckoos Nest" the Costa Mesa punk club. On one night at the Troubador they orchestrated their audience members to ener just as they (Jupiter) were about to take the stage and they pre-arranged for them to leave "en masse" after the performance, leaving the following band with an empty house. By this point "Disco Mike" and the "Kill Disco" show were gone. "Disco Mike" had now become "Danger Warning" the group's understudy drummer who would appear at each show pretending to be a completely wasted band member/"roadie." He would appear at the mid-point of the show and would start heckling the stage and the crowd very loudly. He wore an old beat up motorcycle helmet and would remove his dental plate revealing three missing front teeth. His "wasted" appearance at the shows was so convincing that people would come up after the show offering their advice on substance abuse and even going so far as to say that they thought that "Danger Warning" played well in spite of the fact that he was so "drunk."
Bigger Venues, Jealousy and the Sound System from hell...Lorenzo had been attending Cal State Long Beach prior to the band forming and continued studies in art and history. Long Beach State regulary featured live entertainment at the university and he had managed to get the band booked there. What a "coup!"
Since the venues began to get larger and some were outdoors the sound requirements were enormous. The band started calling in favors and eventually managed to assemble components that would provide the necessary sound power. The output was approximately 2000 watts. Tim the ever-frustrated "electronics genius"/"mad scientist" and Tony now in the roll of "soundman" would link it all together. Sometimes it worked -- sometimes it failed. Variations of this new and tempermental sound system would be a fixture with the band.
The Long Beach State show proved to be one of those great shows. Everything went right... Lorenzo had become very at ease in front of large crowds and often careened and skidded across the stage on his knee pads while playing his solos. His facial expressions and his other antics led many of the spectators to believe that he was using mood enhancing substances. Like "Danger Warning" concerned individuals offered their professional counseling services. The irony was that Lorenzo didn't even drink!
At the Long Beach State show Lorenzo's perfomance was more exagerrated -- he apparently wanted to be the center of attention, however, Jay, fronting the band for one song, stole the show with his bizarre acrobatics during his rendition of "Cactus Fruit." The next day a huge photo of Jay graced the cover of "The 49'er" the Long Beach State newspaper. Lorenzo was livid. He then incited Tim and they vowed that from that moment on Jay would never be left alone while fronting the band. In their next appearance at Long Beach State as a special guest of KSUL campus radio, Lorenzo and Tim literally attached themselves to Jay during "Cactus Fruit" so that photographers could not get a clear shot of Jay without the other two. This time the next issue of the 49'er ran a photo of all three -- Lorenzo felt vindicated.
There were a slew of other campus shows including Cal State Fullerton, Cal State San Bernadino, Universty of California Irvine... Some of the shows were hugely successful while others were just flat out bad.
At UCI the band played to a good crowd. However, that turned cold when they played one of Lorenzo's newer songs "Suburban Girl" which was a satire about Tim's self-centered ex girlfriend. The feminists in the crowd were not amused. The UCI show was also notable for its remote location which required an electric generator to power the stage. Because of the occassional power surges the some equipment exploded providing a pyrotecnic aspect to the show. Tim's eccentric electronic wizardry was required to keep the show going. In spite of all of the negatives, UCI turned out to be another great show.
The costuming was becoming more bizarre -- Larry Gigolo was outfitted in a red and white horizontal striped tee-shirt, grey knickers, red and white striped knee-high socks, skateboard knee pads and white high top PF Flyers. Peppy Gomadz outfit was black and white horizontal striped shirt, black knickers and tennies. "Mr. Piston" was decked out in a skin tight button shirt tied at the waist, short shorts, black fish-net stockings, huge black platform boots all topped off by a silver colored metal bowler/derby hat. At their penultimate Troubador show the costumes resulted in one weird vignette -- even by Santa Monica Bl. standards... That night the band had brought a cassette recorder with them to record the show. They had received unofficial approval to record from the club's sound man but at the end of the show they discovered that the club manager had confiscted the tape. When Lorenzo found out, he went ballistic and stormed down to the ticket booth. He had not changed out of his striped outfit and proceded to throw a major fit outside the booth. The sight of this "Ronald McDonald-like" character screaming at and threatening the club and its management was actually quite humorous to everyone accept Lorenzo and the manager. He lost the fight and later ended up buying the tape back from the club for an undisclosed amount.
Tragedy and a PartingA few monthes after the Troubador show "Disco Mike" committed suicide. He was despondent over custody issues. This tragedy marked the beginning of the end of Jupiter. With "Disco Mike" gone, it left a void. Though he was not really a band member he had become a fixture with the band. It took everyone by surprise. Jupiter had begun recording their second album "Rich and Famous." The studio effort was being funded equally by all three members but it wasn't long until personal responsibilities started to pull the project apart.
A huge disagreement ensued resulting in Tim's withdrawl from the "Rich and Famous" project and the band. Lorenzo and Jay continued the project under the new name of "MAX WEST"tm. That became another project and another story...
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Special Thanks to Mikey for the picture archives.