Damn, I love the internet! A few months ago, I had the opportunity to write a retrospective article on seminal Boston garage-punks DMZ for another online publication. During the course of my research for that article, I spent some time corresponding with both DMZ front man Jeff Conolly (who went on to form the Lyres after DMZ) and DMZ rhythm guitarist J.J. Rassler. My conversations with Rassler led me to do an interview with his current band, Downbeat 5, which appeared in issue #28 of Razorcake.
Once my DMZ article got posted on this other online publication, it took on a life of its own. Somehow, it came to the attention of the folks who run the Soundflat Mailorder website in Germany. They linked to it as part of their sales pitch for DMZ’s Live at the Rat LP. From there, a fellow by the name of Ivan Andreini stumbled across it from his PC in Brussels, Belgium. As an old fan of DMZ and personal friend of Rassler, he was pleased to find that they’ve not been forgotten – at least not by the rock’n’roll geeks I hang out with (in this case, by “hang out,” I mean “post on the same internet message boards”). He sent me an email to say how much he liked the article, and asked me if I’d ever heard of his band, the Nervous Shakes. I said I hadn’t, but that I’d check them out.
Well, it took me another month or so to get around to ordering the Nervous Shakes Separate Beds? I Don’t Think So, and then another week or so for it to get shipped to me. But when it did arrive in my mailbox, it seemed even the postman was dancing. Not ballroom dancing either, more like the Boogaloo mixed with the Swim, and an occasional pogo. So now my interest is really piqued (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence. That’s another thing I can cross off my “Things To Do Before I Die” list.). I ripped off the plastic wrapper, cracked open the jewel box, and slapped that slab of digitally encoded plastic into my stereo. And, frankly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Honest to goodness, genuine, groove-filled, hook-laden garage/punk, just exactly the way I like it. I started asking around, checking with my fellow r’n’r geeks, but nobody had ever heard of the Nervous Shakes – not even the guy in Germany or the other guy in Holland.
How can this be? The CD’s been out for over a year. It’s available through No Fun Mailorder here in the U.S., as well as the aforementioned Soundflat in Germany. And it’s exactly the sort of thing my friends and I all like. How did it escape our attention for so long? I don’t know. But I do know that I am now making it my personal crusade to bring it to the attention of as many people as possible, and that means YOU, which is reason number two that I love the internet, because that’s the only way I have to reach you. Plus, it allows me to communicate with you without actually coming in contact with you, which is good because I didn’t shower today.
Just imagine, twenty-five years ago this story would not have been possible. In fact, twenty-five years ago, the only way Ivan Andreini and I could have gotten in touch with each other is if I’d happened to be outside the Rat in Boston’s Kenmore Square the day he arrived there in search of his musical heroes J.J. Rassler and John Felice (pronounced fa-LEES here in America, but pronounced fa-LEE-chay by Ivan, and probably by most Europeans). Here he was, a young kid, first time in America, traveling alone, fresh from a successful search for Irma Thomas in New Orleans, arriving in Boston without a single friend or connection. But he knew about the Rat, and that was enough. Back in those days you were sure to run into someone worth meeting at the Rat, if not a Boston musician like Felice or Rassler or Kenne Highland or Mach Bell, then at least some out-of-town rockers like Stiv Bators or David Johansen. And sure enough, he met more than one of these luminaries, making enough of an impression on Rassler, at least, that Rassler gave him a song he’d just written called “Number One.” A song Ivan has been singing ever since, with a variety of bands, most recently the Nervous Shakes.
See how it all fits together? And all because of two of my favorite things in the world: the internet and rock’n’roll.