A friend of mine, a writer, back woods recluse, and alumni of the Governmental Dark Arts Society, David Evans, recently sent me a story about a girl who worked in her father’s typewriter shop and met Lou Reed one day when he popped in one day as a customer.
Well, I ask you, who the hell doesn’t have a Lou Reed story?
Steve Rosa, lived on Kline Boulevard in Berkeley Heights, N.J. and was a childhood friend of mine. Steve’s brother, Myke Rosa, was the drummer for the rock band the Myddle Class – sometimes referred to as “the best band that didn’t make it”. When Steve first told me his brother was the drummer in a rock band, I didn’t believe him. Rock bands were magic, the people in them were famous, how could your friend’s brother, living in our little neighborhood possibly be famous? That just didn’t happen. I was sure Steve was bullshitting me until he showed me a promo photo showing the band wearing “Beatle boots” that were so frickin’ cool back then. It wasn’t the photo, it was the boots in the photo which convinced me the rock band was real. Only members of a rock band could be cool enough to own Beatle boots. Steve even showed me the actual boots, pointed toes, zipper up the side, midnight black – I had never seen anything cooler and I tried to put them on. Though Myke was considerably older than me, he was a small guy, my feet were large … they didn’t fit.
The manager of the Myddle Class was the scandalously gifted, notoriously difficult, journalist Al Aronowitz who lived four doors down from my family in a battleship grey, suburban ranch house directly across from our grammar school. Al, at one time wrote for all the big-time New York magazines and newspapers and is considered by some writers as the first rock and roll journalist. Unfortunately by the end of his life Al had been blacklisted by all the magazines — as I said, Al was a very difficult man. Al is a whole ‘nuther story in itself. At the time Al was good friends with Bob Dylan and among other things Al and Bob were the ones responsible for turning the Beatles onto pot. Late in his life Al and I crossed paths and for years Al would call me every week, then every month, and in his barely understandable, gravelly voice Al would bitch-on about the world, the people he knew, his relationships with his kids and republican politics. But Bob Dylan was often the target of his ire. Once during a long, teeth rattling rant about Bob he spit out “Trevor, never let your wife get in a car with Bob … ‘cuz he’ll fuck her.” Not expecting that, and not quite sure how to respond, I finally reassured him I would do my best not to let that happen.
Anyhoo, back to Lou.
In 1965 ,” ” was on its way up, Carol King and her husband, Gerry Goffin, were the producers behind them and had released several 45’s – which Al proceeded to pass out to kids in our neighborhood to “build an audience.” He told kids to “Play them for your friends.” Talk about grass roots marketing.
The Myddle Class recorded some great original songs as well as good covers – their discography includes “Free as the Wind,” “Gates of Eden,” “Don’t Let Me Sleep too Long (“Wake Me Shake Me”), “I Happen to Love You,” “Don’t Look Back,” “Wind Chime Laughter,” ” Wake Me Shake Me.” You can still find digital recordings of some of their stuff on the internet – Google ‘em, they were a great 60’s band.
Al was hauling the band and their equipment all over the Tri-State area in his new station wagon and booking gigs where ever he could. The Myddle Class was going to hit the big time and Al was going to get them there. Al got them a gig as headliners at Summit High School in Summit N.J., a town just down Springfield Avenue from us. And who opened for the Myddle Class that evening? A little-known band who had just changed their name to The Velvet Underground and their front man was an unknown guy named Lou Reed. That evening the tiny flame of rock and roll fame was lit in the gymnasium at Summit High school. So there is my Lou Reed story, I told you I had a Lou Reed story, I didn’t say it was a great Lou Reed story.
Unfortunately for music history … and Al, it all came to an end. One of the guitarists for the Myddle Class was murdered, Al’s station wagon bit the bullet, personalities clashed, contracts didn’t happen, and things fell apart. Lou and The Velvet Underground went on to rock and roll fame and the members of the Myddle Class were “Free as the Wind” and scattered to various places. Some met fame through other bands, but the potential of the Myddle Class evaporated. To this day I’m disappointed that my feet wouldn’t fit in the boots that had shared the stage with The Velvet Underground which ended my “sole” brush with rock and roll fame and four degrees of separation from Lou Reed.
The last time I saw Myke Rosa he was tending door at the Academy of Music in NYC. I think he moved to Florida and played with a few bands but never really resurfaced in the music world. And my good friend Steve? He was one terrific guy, kind, funny, handsome. He enlisted in the military and died of a heroin overdose while in Germany. As I recall the obit listed Steve’s official cause of death as double pneumonia, but I have it on pretty good authority that it wasn’t.
There are no great take-a-ways from all this, just small circular connections while growing up in a nondescript town in America. Stories you can tell after a couple too many beers.
In the happenstance of life, the world lost a good band, Lou Reed got famous, I lost a good friend, and Al went to his reward still pissed at Bob Dylan.
That’s the way things go sometimes.
Image Credit: this is a promotional image for the band, The Middle Class (fair use).