Jon Macey Interview
Jon Macey's accomplishments helped create the Boston
punk scene. Yet they were so long ago that most current listeners of Boston
punk aren't aware of them. As the leader of Fox Pass
in the first half of the seventies he brought a more aggressive music
to the local clubscene. This was absolutely the beginning of punk. Nobody
was saying thank you. He had to fight for gigs. Eventually as people slowly
came to acceptance he worked to secure important high profile gigs that
advanced the cause of Boston punk.
Although they only put out one 45 single (one reason they're
not more known today) it was one of the first and as such was inspiration
for other bands in the very early days.
In 1975 he anonymously issued the first Boston
Groupie News that resulted in many bruised egos and eventually....well.....this
web site. Miss Lyn took up the banner after that first issue, but the
concept was all Macey.
Jon was a leader not a follower.
The whole Boston scene developed with his music, ideas and energy. When we interviewed him we could see that those qualities were still the most prominent.
PL- Well, we HAVE to start with the Boston Groupie News. Tell us what happened with that.
ML- Let's premise this with the fact I did not write the first issue of the BGN and that years after the fact you finally came out and admitted that you wrote the very first
Boston Groupie News.
JM- The funny thing is, Willie (Alexander) inadvertently had something
to do with this and he doesn't even know it. My girlfriend at the time,
Kim Stephenson and I were talking to Willie on the phone
saying that if everyone started their own little newsletters, like the
Third Rail Newsletter and Willie especially was mailing things
out all the time, I was doing the Private Lives of Fox Pass…
PL- Marc Thor had Sleaze.
JM- Yeah, and we were talking about how we had to make this into a scene. Kim and I were sitting there, she had a typewriter and I said "OK what we do is you put out something that
slags everyone in the whole scene and that'll piss everyone off and it'll become a scene. We were high on Placidyls and totally looped out and we decided "We'll call it the Groupie News". So we just started tearing people apart.
We knew some things about people,
I had just been in a car accident so I threw that in there to bury myself in there so it wouldn't be too obvious. So we took Matthew (MacKenzie
of Reddy Teddy) and Ed Hood and just everybody we could think of and just ripped 'em down. But you notice, Willie is the only one who got something positive said about him. I worked at Copy Cop by the old Paris Cinema so I had them printed up and the idea was to put them on yellow paper coz it was 'yellow journalism'. Right next door there was a record store and I went in there with about a hundred of these things and stuck 'em on the counter. Then we went to a couple other record stores and just threw 'em on the counters.
PL- You didn't put them in The Rat or anything?
JM- Just record stores. I think Fox Pass played that weekend at The Rat and I remember people were pissed.
Matthew was PISSED.
ML- You mean because you talk about how he left The Club with a twelve year old girl?
JM- Yeah, and everyone was just like "What is THIS?!" Ed Hood was the one who made all the extra copies!!
ML- OH! I remember being in his apartment, we lived in the same huge building, and I was looking through his books. I picked out this big coffee table
type book and it opened to a stack of BGN's in it!! I said "Wow! So you're the one who did this!!" and he was all outraged; "My dear, why would I do that and say such terrible
things about myself?"
JM- Remember Third Rail used to play in that church in Auburndale all the time? Ed Hood was always around and one night he stormed the stage
with a pile of these Groupie Newses, ranting about it and throwing them all over the place up there and I was thinking to myself; "This is SO weird!"
ML- So you never admitted it to anyone?
JM- I was afraid to! I thought it was funny and I never expected to keep it a big secret. So Willie clearly had no memory of our phone conversation or he would've figured it out because two weeks later this thing was all over town. And at that point we were afraid to tell anybody because what we thought was funny had some people really pissed off! Now, how long was it until you did the second one?
ML- Yours came out at the end of '75 and mine, Issue #2, came out in February on '76. The thing is for me it was Willie too!! I was kinda seeing Willie at the time and he was at my apartment. We were talking about the Groupie News and he said "You should just do it because everyone thinks it was you anyway." I thought "Whoa, that's a great idea." So I did it! And at that point I was so madly in love with Willie I would do anything to impress him. I thought "Oh, this will impress him and he'll…you know…love me or something!!" So I did it.
JM - So basically Willie is really the culprit.
ML- YES! It's all Willie's fault!
PL- Jon, did you ever think of doing a Number Two?
JM- No! I was hoping it would all go away because people were so pissed!
ML- So what did YOU think when a Number Two came out?
JM- I thought "This is just outta control!!"
PL- Well it's funny that you say you wanted to start a scene because as soon as you did it, it was talked about and written about, like in The Phoenix by Jimmy Isaacs. It was the right thing at the right time.
Now did you resent Miss Lyn for doing the other ones?
JM- NO!! I thought it was great and I was astounded! Then The Groupie News became so BIG! It became huge. And I thought "Wow!"
and then of course I made my other famous faux pas of not going on The Live At The Rat album so I just wrote myself out of the history of Boston Music in one fell swoop!
Talkin' about the Rat
ML- Why did you decide not to be on Live At The Rat??
JM- We were around longer than most of the bands on there. And we had already had a number of years of struggling. So when The Rat got
really popular we didn't feel that much attachment to it musically. We had our eyes on the big record deal and our manager, Bruce, thought that being on
Live At The Rat would make us look too…local. Nobody knew what was gonna happen. As soon as it happened we realized
it was a huge mistake we had made so we actual did record for Live At The Rat II. I would love to have those tapes since it never came out.
PL- With Live at The Rat, you didn't know what was gonna happen. It seems obvious now but at the time, who knew
what he was gonna do. Was he really gonna follow through with it…
JM- I had a funny relationship with Jimmy Harold. I felt like Fox Pass
was one of the first bands to pack that place, and we were. And Harold screwed us a bunch of times on the money….well screwed us, they screwed everybody!
PL- Was it Jimmy or was it the doorman?
JM- Oh I don't know. I had it out with Jimmy a few times over stuff like that and that's one of the reasons I didn't want to be on Live At The Rat.
I thought "Oh screw him!" Once again…if I could have looked into a crystal ball and see the future I would've maybe done things differently.
PL- Well Live At The Rat didn't help Sass. It didn't help Susan.
JM- Then the other key error I made back then was that Jelly Records,
who put out Thundertrain album, wanted to put out a Fox Pass Record, I said "No."
So then there was mistake number three: The Cars had put out their first album
their manager Fred Lewis wanted to manage us after I fired Bruce Minor
and I said "No." Because I didn't want to be second banana to The Cars,
I was pissed that they were big. I felt like they came along and stole everybody's riffs!
I could write a book on how to destroy your music career in 2 ½ years.
PL- Well, you had a big attitude, or ego or something. You were touchy that way.
Some one else would just slog on but you took it all as a personal umbrage.
JM- I kept getting pissed off. I kept seeing that we had always just missed the boat. I couldn't figure
out how or why we did it. It's easy to see in retrospect though. I changed Fox Pass from the original
Velvets inspired version to almost like The Beach Boys and blew everyone's mind.
I was seeing myself has an angry person and was sick of it and decided I wanted to sing bright pop music!
Of course I did it at the absolutely wrong time! grew my hair long when everyone had theirs short…I went from dark clothes to light clothes,
ML- Oh yes, the lime green leisure suits!
JM- Right! And it was all…it was theatrics…..I was doing whatever I could NOT be like everybody else.
We were wearing all black, and doing all that stuff, two or three years before everybody else. I mean,
The Talking Heads opened for US. So to me it was like "We've already done all this." And we were trying to….go forward.
ML- So you truly lived out the name of your band; Fox Pass, which is a play on the
French term faux pas meaning mistake, error.
JM- It's true, I did. It was a combination of being young and all the drugs, too. I was only 20, 21 at the time.
And it's a little heady when you're playing The Orpheum and Paul's Mall and we have national press.
It looked like we were going somewhere. We were getting on the radio and we became Maxanne's pet band
And of course we had a manager who thought he was Colonel Tom Parker. I'm not knocking the guy either,
he was a good guy and he believed in us but he was also going around and doing things like hanging up on people
and acting like a big-shot manager. So he would do stuff like tell us to sit in the dressing room and not talk to anybody….'cause we were…..stars.
PL- Oh yeah, that Orpheum gig was with Roxy Music. That was a big deal.
It was high profile, you got reviewed all over the place and you got noticed big time.
JM- Yeah, that was in '76. That's when the whole "Disco Sucks" thing started. We were doing the song
"It's Rock" at that show and the whole disco thing was just starting. It was just an off the cuff thing, an aside.
I was on Quaaludes and dancing around on stage and it just came out! "Disco Sucks!!" People started screaming.
PL- For you or against you?
JM- For me! So that was it. It was the Spring of '76. The single had just come out and we did that show
and the "Disco Sucks" tag got stuck to us. Then Mach Bellpicked up on it and it started going from there…
PL- You guys did had it more together than a lot of the other bands at that time. You had songs that were refined; you're a great songwriter.
The band was superb. That was one of the amazing things about Fox Pass, you had it together in '74 and '75.
You were ahead of everybody else mentally and musically. While putting together our Gig Lists, I'm staggered by the amount of gigs you guys did.
ML- Well, they did it differently back then, remember? You'd do 4 nights in a row.
If you were the headliners you'd do all those nights and have like a band from New York,
say on Friday night. Thursday would be someone like Willie, Wednesday would be The Boize and Saturday would be another band.
PL- And two sets a night! And when we were first putting The Gig Lists together Lyn gave me a list
of Fox Pass gigs from '74 and I said "Are you sure?? '74??" But of course you go past that and back even further!
JM- We played the very last Cambridge Common Show. The funny thing was the bands opening for us were
Harlow which was John Sholtz who was in Boston and Richard and The Rabbitswhich was the beginnings of The Cars with Ocasek
and Orr…and they opened for us, Fox Pass headlined, it was 1973. In those earlier years there was no place for bands like us to play. No one wanted to hear it and there wasn't really
a "scene". We were playing shithouses in Revere Beach and dumps like The Boutonnière in Charlestown. Bands like Thundertrain
and us would have to play places like Katy's in Kenmore Square…
PL- When you had your earlier gigs what was the audience like? Would they not understand what you were doing?
JM- Well they used to say about Fox Pass that during the first set we would clear out half the audience.
PL- You know, they were listening to Linda Ronstadt and Peter Frampton and your playing like The Velvet Underground stuff and that audience wasn't ready for you.
JM- Right! First off those people didn't want to hear originals and they didn't want to hear music like ours because it wasn't like The Allman Brothers or whatever that '70's thing was.
PL- So when you're in that kind of situation
when the audience does not like you and they are leaving…doesn't that
make you question what you're doing?
JM- At first I didn't even care about the music business. I played music
because I always played music. I played since I was a child. It wasn't
about being a rock star or making money. But then when you start playing
all the time it's different. And it was very different being a musician
back then than it is now. There weren't a thousand bands, there were twenty
bands. It was a lifestyle, it was a full-time commitment. If you were
gonna be a musician that's all you were, you weren't something else.
Now people are something else and a musician, it's a very different thing.
And nobody played for free back then either. You got paid to audition!
There was money because it was a profession and there was a lot more respect
for musicians. But we started trying to make a living at it and that's
when you start questioning the people walking out on you. Then you start
listening to agents and managers.
PL- We talk about how you are a contrary person but you don't burn your bridges with the
people, the musicians around you. In fact they seem to really stick with you!
JM- Yeah I mean obviously they went off and did other things when I moved to New York. Mike came with me to play with Tom Dickie and The Desires. That's another reason why Fox Pass lost its place in history because the real explosion came in the early 80's. We were gone. I was then a bass player writing songs and trying to wind my way into the music business as a songwriter.
PL- You did very well with Tom Dickie and The Desires. They had a couple albums, a couple hits.
JM- We toured all over the place.
PL- Then you went from Tom Dickie and The Desires to Macey's Parade?
JM- Yeah macey's parade was when I came back to Boston. I felt like Rip Van Winkle at that point but I was only
in my mid-thirties. I really saw once and for all how I had missed the legacy of Boston music.
When I came back I saw it was obvious that certain people like John Felice and Willie Alexander had their standing in Boston music,
their history or legacy was clear and mine wasn't and I was right there with them in the beginning.
ML- It must have been frustrating.
JM- It was weird. Of course in Macey's Parade I was doing a country rock,
folk rock thing in the middle of Nirvana being big. And of course it was before the whole local alternative country rock scene started.
PL- You had that great song "On The Clinic."
ML- Hey yeah! I want to talk about the drugs! Everyone here in Boston has always talked about Macey being in NYC
and being a junkie. Do you want to talk about that?
JM- Yeah, that's what I was, a junkie.
ML- You were like a totally full blown junkie and finally decided "This sucks." Or something?
JM- Well in 1988 I had been reduced to a total junkie life. I didn't even have a guitar.
Kim who typed the BGN with
me and I got married and she became a junkie too. And it was just the two of us scrambling away.
I actually moved back to Boston and I was totally…gone. I never went out to clubs, no one saw me I was just
shooting dope and I was also on methadone. I was lost. Completely lost. Music had nothing to do with my life. I pawned all my instruments.
The guys in Fox Pass, like Mike,
poor Mike wouldn't talk to me anymore. I stole stuff from him. I did all that. I did all the things that junkies do and everybody
just pushed me away. Which is what they should've done. Because they couldn't be around me anymore. Then we got arrested a bunch
of times for forging 'scripts and Kim tried to kill herself. She took a bottle of Xanax.
Fortunately I found her and got her to the hospital. She almost died. It was very, very close. The state stepped in and put
her in a mental institution. She lost all her rights because it was a real suicide attempt. When that happened…she was the
only thing I had…except for my two cats. I always have cats. So Kim got straight and
I got really pissed off 'cause I felt like she'd abandoned me and I was left alone. I ended up going to a nut house…it was
a struggle. It's not like, snap and all of a sudden you're straight. But basically now it's been 14 years I've been straight.
ML- What is it that you do now?
JM- I work at a hospital. I write grants, I do needle exchange programs, I put people in methadone clinics. I
work in the Public Health field. First of all after doing Macey's Parade I realized
I wanted to be more of a producer. So I decided I was going to get myself a straight job where I could actually make money.
The only thing I knew how to do had to do with addiction 'cause I was an addict in recovery so I started looking in the
addiction field. So I started building a studio 'cause I had some money. This was my plan but I didn't think it was gonna
take this long. It's been ten goddamned years! I thought it was gonna take two or three years.
So that is how I made the new CD. I started making it a while ago but I was sick all along.
I got Hep C when I was in NYC and when I came back to Boston I was getting sicker and sicker,
working in public health, trying to learn how to become an engineer to produce music. I was on interferon and
it didn't work, I was still sick. I was very sick, it was scary actually, it was really bad. I built the studio
little by little and that's how I made my latest CD; Actuality In Process. That's why
there are so many different people on it. I recorded with all my different friends and Michael.
I got much more friendly with Michael and with Jules.
We all got back together. And Sal Baglio, who I actually knew from way back, even before the Stompers.
So I made this album and thjat's why I have such a big smile on my face on the cover. It's like "After all this…I did it!"
PL- This photo on the CD cover, is it Boston?
JM- It's in the South End right near Boston City Hospital. I worked down there for years and one day I saw the fountain.
I don't know why but it just said something to mew so I took a bunch of pictures in front of it at all different times of the year. So it took a lot of time,
I didn't have the money to master it, then I didn't have the money to put it out. Everything took time and I didn't want to start gigging until the CD was out because
I didn't want to get sick of the songs. So these songs are very fresh to me.
Now I've got Tom, Mike and me so I got the three guitar thing going on.
I've got Steve Gilligan playing bass now, he was the Stompers bass player, he's got that
old '60's bass style. And I have Jules on drums. So our first gig should great! We're gonna do I Believe,
we're probably gonna do more Fox Pass songs as time goes on. I want to do a lot of songs from this CD
and The Clinic from Macey's Parade.
I'm kind of doing the highlights from my different musical periods for this show.
PL- So you're not going to call this an official Fox Pass Reunion?
JM- I'm certainly not against doing a Fox Pass show. I want to do songs from this CD so that's not Fox Pass.
But I think a Fox Pass show is certainly a possibility.
ML- Do you still have the leisure suit??
JM- No, but I'm looking for pictures of me in the leisure suit! I saved tons and tons of stuff from the old days and it's all in my
parents' house still. Now that I have my website; www.jonmacey.com. I'll have something to do with it all.
PL- You have 3 Fox Pass songs on the site too which is really cool to hear; It's Rock, Sex and Amtrak.
JM- Those came of a video made of Fox Pass back in 1978. We did a live TV show on Warner Cable.
Otherwise all the Fox Pass stuff I have is on reel to reel.
PL- Yeah it's crazy that of all the Fox Pass songs you only have that one single that ever came out.
JM- Yeah, we have tons of stuff, at least a couple albums worth.
PL- What are your plans after this first gig?
JM- What I want to do is try to put together shows, kind of like way back when. I want to put together shows of people, bands that are similar. Not just people
I know and people my age but who are compatible. I want to try to convince some of these clubs, or bigger venues too, to let us put together some shows.
PL- So you are looking to get something steady going?
JM- Like a scene..
ML- Jon, you can start another scene!!
JM- Yeah but it's more conscious now than unconscious.
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