Tag Archives: The Discontent

Tom& Rob

DownTown Blog – Rock’n’Roll Romantic: Tommy Mastro

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

In the last blog entry I wrote about one of the musicians involved in the making of Rock’n’Roll Romantic who I owed a debt of gratitude—Garry Tallent from The E Street Band. In this blog entry I want to talk about someone not as famous as Garry, but just as important to the making of Rock’n’Roll Romantic—Tommy Mastro.

Tom& Rob

Tommy & Robert

I first met Tommy when he was playing drums for a band called The Discontent. This was in my previous life as a Manager. It was obvious from the get-go that Tommy was clearly the best musician in the band (I don’t think any of them would disagree) and he played a big part in my decision to manage them. It wasn’t just his muscular playing with “old school” feel that impressed me like Kenny Aronoff (drummer for John Mellencamp & John Fogerty), but perhaps even more importantly, his attitude and personality. He loved to laugh and kid around and was there to be a cheerleader when necessary. His positive vibes were very contagious and many times lifted the band up whenever challenges arose. As a manager, I can’t tell you how important it is to have a guy like that in a band!

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I was either lucky or dumb to have 2 bands recording their projects at the same time in different studios. It kept me busy shuffling between the 2 and it also got my juices flowing to record my own songs again. I had always wanted to produce and make records as an artist, but I let go of that dream to start my own company Sha-La Music. However, I started working more and more in the studio with The Discontent and that’s how I met studio engineer Ben Elliott, who the band was working with at Showplace Studios in Dover, New Jersey. Funny thing, the Showplace used to be a club and my band had played there 15 years earlier opening for acts like Robert Gordon and Elliott Murphy. Now it was cut in half, divided by a wall with a GoGo Bar on one side and the recording studio on other side, where the stage used to be. I could usually find the band in the bar when there was downtime in the studio. 🙂

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Besides managing The Discontent, Sha-La became the band’s label, releasing their 1st cd societydidit. When it came time to work on new material, I decided to take the band into the studio to record some demos. It was also at this time that I decided to record some of my own songs. I’d been watching Tommy play drums and I could see how solid he was. I had recorded with some real pros like “Mighty” Max Weinberg. The drummer is the engine that drives a band, especially in the studio. The basic track is really all about the drums. A great drummer can make all the difference in recording a great track.

I could see that Tommy had that ability too. I saw and heard what he had done on societydidit. The Discontent played punk with a metal edge and Tommy would put a groove in that you don’t usually hear in those kinds of songs. I began to wonder what he could do with my more “old school” songs and was looking forward to making that happen. So when the time came to go back to Showplace Studios to cut some demos, I asked Tommy and the bass player Eric Hoagland, if they would be interested in cutting some of my songs before their session. Both were enthusiastic and one night after a Discontent rehearsal we ran down the songs and it was off to the studio.

Tommy & Eric

Tommy & Eric

It was very cool for me to be making music again and recording with Tommy and Eric made the experience even cooler. I could see Tommy was a bit of a “head case” when it came to playing in the studio. He would stress himself out. I told him not to over think it because he was a great drummer and just needed to let his intuition guide him when playing. He would start to relax and lock in the groove. When it came to playing rock’n’roll he was a natural. He kept it fairly straight but he played with such power locking in on the groove. It really allowed me to enhance the rhythm. I think the 1st track we cut was Turn Around And Go. You can hear how he attacks the track but keeps the groove together.

We cut 6 tracks in that session that I could work on at my leisure when I had some down time. I was also very impressed with what Tommy played. He knew who I had worked with and wanted to impress me. He also knew what I wanted and he knew how to make the songs rock. I started calling him “2 Take Tommy” because we would be doing the 1st take and at some point he would stop. Then he would nail the 2nd take! 🙂

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Little did I know at the time that these sessions would be the start of what would become DownTown Mystic. Looking back I have Tommy (with an assist from Eric) to thank for that. As I became more involved with working on the tracks, I decided I needed a name for my project. As it would turn out, The Discontent would indirectly help me find one. On a trip up to Providence, RI for a gig with the band I saw an old wooden sign on the side of the road that read “next exit Downtown Mystic”. Presto! I had my name for the project. On all our trips up to New England I’d never seen it before. Never saw it again. 🙂

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Tommy would eventually leave The Discontent, but I stayed in touch and never hesitated to call him to play on my DownTown Mystic sessions. His playing is all over Rock’n’Roll Romantic, playing on half of the album. One of the tracks, Dead End Space, was written with The Discontent after he had left the band and we cut my version with just the 2 of us in the studio. I’ll always remember that session because it was late at night and the only time I was set up with my acoustic guitar in front of the mixing board in the Showplace control room. Tommy was set up with his drums in the studio so we could see each other through the control room glass as we cut the track live to tape. After the 2nd take Tommy was beaming. I could hear him say (in true Tommy fashion) through the glass, “that was so coool”!!

That was Tommy, a true Rock’n’Roll Romantic. 🙂

 

DownTown Blog – 50 Years of REVOLVER

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

On August 5, 1966 The Beatles released their 7th album—REVOLVER. I bought it the next day when it was released in the US. It was a somewhat odd time for a Beatles album…in the middle of summer. Making it a bit odder was the fact that all we had been hearing on the radio was the single Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby. We had pretty much forgotten that Paperback Writer/Rain had been released months before to herald the coming of their next album.

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Adding to all this was the fact that Capitol Records had just released in June, arguably, the best Beatles album to date called Yesterday And Today (the Butcher album). So when I got my copy of the album with the cover of the black and white drawing of The Beatles, I was a bit underwhelmed. It definitely wasn’t as good as Yesterday And Today. Why not? Every Beatles album had always been better than the one before it. How could this be?

About the only thing that I remember about the REVOLVER album in 1966 was my friend showing me the import Revolver album from England he had just got. I had never seen an import album. What was different about it? As it turns out, there was a lot that was different. For one thing the record company was called Parlophone, not Capitol, and there were 14 songs on the album! 14 songs?? We only got 11 songs on a Beatles album! Plus 3 of the songs that were on Yesterday And Today were also on REVOLVER…WTF??

We had no idea that Capitol had been trimming down the UK releases so that they could create an extra release that the band had nothing to do with. I mean on one hand it was great. We here in the US could not get enough of The Beatles. So the more albums, the better!! But it all kind of came to a head between the band and Capitol Records with the release of Yesterday And Today. Again, IMO, the best album the band ever released in the US. It would also be the last US-made album from Capitol.

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Yesterday And Today became known as the infamous “Butcher Album”. Capitol really did a number on the band with this album. The Beatles started to get serious, entering their artistic phase with the release of Rubber Soul in 1965. This was the album that Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys had credited with inspiring him to create Pet Sounds. How would you feel if you had created the best album of your career and the Record Company in the US decided to cut off the 1st track of that album? Amazing, right?

So now Capitol Records wanted The Beatles to shoot a new cover for their made up album, Yesterday And Today. Famously, The Beatles did a photo shoot wearing butcher’s coats, holding various cuts of raw meat mixed in with parts taken from toy dolls’ anatomies. It was bizarre, to say the least, especially in 1966. Even more bizarre, a cover shot was chosen and went out on a 1st run of the album before the company stopped the presses on it. That album is worth some $$ if you have a copy.

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That “Butchers cover” made its point to the executives at Capitol and Yesterday And Today would be the last US-made Beatles album. Starting with the next album, Capitol would only issue the albums that The Beatles gave them. But Butcher’s album was totally correct. To create Yesterday And Today, Capitol had taken Drive My Car and If I Needed Someone off of the UK Rubber Soul as well as I’m Only Sleeping, And Your Bird Can Sing and Doctor Robert off of Revolver, which was still being recorded when they did it!! You can see why Revolver, as released in the US by Capitol, was a bit underwhelming missing those 3 songs.

It really wasn’t until they released all of The Beatles UK albums on CD in the 80s that REVOLVER started to get the well-deserved acclaim it had been missing. Now you could hear the 14 songs the way The Beatles had recorded them together. Today it is considered to be their best album. Next year will mark 50 years of Sgt Pepper, which got ALL the acclaim, but Sgt. Pepper was not a ROCK album. It was their best POP album.

As a young teen it took a bit to get into REVOLVER. The songs were very different from anything the group had put out before. Even the sound was different. It was clearly The Beatles, but there was something different about them. John Lennon called it their Guitar Record. That was the message that the Paperback Writer/Rain single was meant to send to the fans. You could expect to hear more guitars like never before and rock’n’roll like never before. REVOLVER delivered on its promise.

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The #1 song that has always represented REVOLVER for me has been the last track on Side 1—She Said, She Said. It was also the last song to be recorded for the album. This was John’s track about an LSD trip in LA with George and Ringo, along with David Crosby and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, who brought along actor Peter Fonda. It was Fonda who kept telling George that “ he knew what it was like to be dead” because he thought George was having a bad trip, Of course nobody knew that was what the song was about. Clocking in at a tick under 2 minutes with the odd time signatures and the odder lyric “she said I know what it’s like to be dead” was very weird for a Beatles song.

For me, She Said, She Said has always been one of John’s hippest songs. So one day when Ozzie Caccavelli, who was playing lead guitar at the time with The Discontent, said that he had a killer arrangement for the song I had to hear it. #1, because Ozzie didn’t strike me as a Beatles kind of guy and # 2, I couldn’t imagine what he would come up with. What he played me was a straight ahead rocking version that kicked ass! Ozzie’s arrangement was actually more commercial sounding than Lennon’s version and it showed John’s creative genius for writing hit songs, even when he wasn’t trying. I knew we had to record it and so we did!

Earlier this year DownTown Mystic released the recording of Ozzie’s arrangement of She Said, She Said as an exclusive video single on YouTube as a tribute to honor the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles greatest album—REVOLVER.