Zenophon, The Cambridge Music Complex & The Band Boston
I was 15 years old in 1975. Like many teens at that time, I had been learning to play a musical instrument and hoping to be in a band. I really was obsessed with learning and striving to be as good as I could be at music. At the age of 14, I landed myself in the drumming/lead singer spot for a local Somerville band called "Zenophon". The band was myself, Steve Cox on guitar, and John “Plaz” Pladziewicz on bass. We were an OK band to be honest. At least for our ages and limited experience anyway. We did well in our local area and got kind of popular.
One of our close and extremely smart friends wanted a hand at managing us. Hey we needed as much help as we could get. Frank Azzolino, our new manager, was ready! He indeed went to work for us.
If I remember correctly it was probably 1974 or 1975 that my band Zenophon took a huge step forward from practicing in our bass player John Plaz’s attic on North Street in Somerville, to moving into what I believe was Boston’s first, professional rehearsal complex. Our new manager Frank was responsible for this bold move by our band. And an awesome one! The Cambridge Music Complex was created and run by local guitar shop owner, Jack Griffin. Jack's guitar shop was called “The Record Garage.” The Cambridge Music Complex was situated in a huge building located at Fresh Pond, Cambridge, Massachusetts. New York and Los Angeles had the likes of SIR (Studio Instrument Rentals) and other pro rehearsal complexes long before we caught up here in the Beantown area. None of that mattered. This was pro. Now it was our time.
You had to have witnessed it in person to get the full effect but let me try to explain. Jack took this warehouse sized building and created different sized rooms to accommodate bands, duos, single artists, etc. There was a labyrinth of halls that encircled the entire warehouse connecting all the rooms as well. It was like one of those English Hedge Mazes. Each room had two giant eye screws on its door, a chain and padlock. You did not get a key to keep for your rehearsal room but instead had to check into the front desk and ask whom was ever on duty to grab the key to your room’s padlock off the hotel front desk type wall board of numbered, hanging keys, then walk you to your room unlocking the room for you. Most of those on duty there at the front entrance were musicians that rehearsed there earning a welcomed few extra bucks to be gatekeepers. Usually guitar players, always with axe in hand, or someone even stranger!
Walls Of Oatmeal...I Hope?
This has been a subject pondered and fought about for years throughout the entire complex alumni. I have a feeling that this argument will live on after we that experienced it, are long gone. What in GOD’s name was that stuff they sprayed on ALL the walls and ALL the ceilings in the hopes to “soundproof” the entire place. This stuff was thick, oatmeal like, pulpy, dusty, brown aggregate of who knows what. Obviously Jack made a deal with someone to come in and “spray” the entire place, rooms, walls, and ceilings with this stuff. You could grab and rip off chunks of it like it was the innards of a giant loaf of unsliced bread. It really didn’t soundproof much but at that time no one gave a shit. WE were at The Cambridge Music Complex and we were on our way!
This “Complex” was open 24/7 if I remember correctly. So imagine you being some young teen or young adult, still living at home, having this cool place to hang whenever you felt like it. Personally, I felt like I had my own apartment. I didn’t even have a license yet. You came in the front entrance, showed your official ID, and were let in to adulthood. The place really became a community of “who’s who?” in the Boston music scene. There was kind of an unspoken, polite, hierarchy there. We got to share the place with the likes of many up and coming local bands as well as many bands that were signed to record labels. Acts such as The Cars and Boston secured rooms to rehearse before going on tour.
Boston And Brad Delp
In 1976 the rock world was indeed given a new gift with the release of Boston’s debut album. Boston sounded like no other band. A guitar sound that no one had really heard before and vocals that were indeed some gift of God. At least that’s how it hit me and millions of others. And it indeed hit me hard!
Brad Delp, the lead vocalist for Boston, was a local singer from the North Shore of Boston. His voice had all the qualities of a screaming rocker but yet the beauty and smoothness of a torch singer. And his vocal range was ridiculous! These songs from this album really changed my entire mindset on being a musician at that time. I was a drummer/singer. A better drummer than singer but I really wanted to try to sing some of these tunes in my cover band. Ahhh youth! There was no way of learning to sing like that. You are either born with the gift or you are not. Brad was born with the gift. I was not.
Back then we had record stores everywhere. There was no internet that we knew of or any form of digital music available to us. It was all vinyl albums and 45’s, or 8-track tape cartridges. Besides independent record stores our local department stores always had big record and tape sections. For me it was Bradlees. This is where I purchased all my music and posters of my favorite bands. Oh, I hasten to add that I also bought my “Farah Fawcett” poster there too. I got the Boston album at Bradlees as well as an official 8”x10” promo shot of my new heroes. BOSTON!
***Shameful Admission. I bought the Boston album (and Farah poster prior) but stole the Boston promo shot on the day I purchased the Boston album. It really is not of my nature but I had to have it right away and the funds were just not there for both.
One day after a rehearsal with my band I ended up chatting with the main manager there at the complex about this and that. Ronnie O’Dwyer, or “R. O.” as he was referred to, told me the exciting news. The band Boston had secured “The big room” at the complex and was scheduled to come and rehearse there. But when?
With my purchased Boston album and stolen promo photo of the group both stored in my band’s tiny rehearsal room, I would wait endless hours to see or hear anyone or anything come out of Boston’s room which was VERY close to ours. A glimpse of the band would be GREAT! An autograph on my album or hot promo shot would be incredible. Day after day I waited. Nothing. Not a band member nor a sound to be had or heard.
One afternoon I finally saw some action when road crew members were wheeling in a ton of "B O S T O N" stenciled road cases into the blessed rehearsal room. I did my best to look nonchalant as I walked past the open doored room rubbernecking best I could at least twenty or thirty times. Just crew members. I recognized no one whose face I had memorized from the back of the album and looted promo shot. And still NEVER a sound coming from that room.
Time passed and one afternoon I was alone in our rehearsal room when I thought I’d grab a soda pop out of the machine that was located in a small room immediately adjacent to our rehearsal room. I’m a bit of a quick mover and exited our room fast and to the right with abandon. BANG! I smash into this guy. “Oh shit! I am so sorry!” I said. It was HIM! Brad Delp. There he was. Yup. The guy pictured on the back of the Boston album and lifted promo shot. The God gifted singer. The guy who sang all those Boston songs! Brad immediately replied, “Oh, sorry, my fault.” A few years later I would come to find out that this was indeed a true example of Brad’s personality. He should have immediately told me, “Jeeeees, slow down moron!” but instead apologized to me. What?
I think it proper to explain here that a kid such as myself involved in music as I was (and still am) looked up to these iconic, music mentors the same way a kid who was into sports would look up to their idols. It indeed was surreal. In the flash of an instance I exclaimed as calmly as I could, “You’re Brad Delp!”. Brad smiled and replied, “Yeah, hey what is your name?”, as he extended his hand to me. I immediately shook his hand and replied, “My name is David Stefanelli. I am a drummer and a singer. My band rehearses here. Brad, I am a huge Boston fan. Your singing is amazing!” I knew my voice and level of excitement were escalating so I did my best to remain cool. Yeah, right. Brad smiled and replied, “Oh Outa’ sight!” For you youngsters that phrase is a classic “hippy” reply meaning “That’s great!” I would come to learn Brad used this phrase a lot followed by a power fist extended or a hand clap and his ever present smile. We chatted a bit about music and I expressed how exciting it must be to be experiencing what Boston was experiencing right then. In true Brad form he seemed more interested in what I was doing musically. What a sweet man. God bless him.
I noticed Brad had a packet of photos in his free hand and he saw me look down at them. “We just got back from our first tour and I took a bunch of photos while we were out. Just had them developed. Hey, would you like to see them?” Brad said to me. What? I just almost knocked this guy to the ground then started blabbing to him not unlike Ralphie does in the movie A Christmas Story when he was finally asked what he wanted for Christmas. Brad Delp just asked me if I would like to look at his photos of Boston’s first tour?
We stood in the tiny refreshment room there at the complex and looked at Brad’s photos of the Boston tour. Of course he narrated. It was crazy good for me. As Brad spoke about each photo I had to constantly make an effort and concentrate on what he was saying. My mind kept wondering how the heck this mild mannered, soft spoken voice could belt out a vocal like the one on the Boston song, "Smokin'"? He spent about 20 minutes with me. Twenty minutes I will NEVER FORGET.
After we looked at the photos Brad said he had to get going. I thanked him and as he said good bye he turned and also said “Hey David! See you around rehearsal.” That indeed WAS Brad Delp.
Years later I would end up playing in the band RTZ with both Brad Delp and Barry Goudreau. We were good friends. They were amazing times. Sadly, Brad is gone now. I told this story of meeting Brad as a eulogy at his funeral. I do hope he knew how many loved him and how he changed the world for so many through not only his gift of singing but by his friendship. I love and miss you Brad. YOU were the one who was “Outa’ sight!”
Drum Tracking On Your Music
"Be sure to follow the "Tracking" link if you would like to have me record drums and percussion on your music." ~ David