BGN- When was your first
Johnny Angel- December 15th, 1977. I remember because I was vomiting blood prior to it I was so nervous.
BGN - And you first practice?
Barb Kitson - My old boyfriend wanted to get a band together so he asked Johnny & 'J.D'., John Donovan and 'Mack', Bob Mackenzie and we did it out in Sherborn at Mack's house but my boyfriend left for New York before we did it.
JA- I was gonna play bass 'cause I played bass for Tracks a couple times and JD was gonna be on guitar and Mack on drums. So Barb comes along and I was wondering what the hell SHE was doing there!
BK- I hated him SO MUCH then!
JA- You could tolerate me by that point. Anyway we all tuned up, in a manner of speaking, and we decided to try "Blitzkrieg Bop". It was the only thing we could play! Barb & I were the only ones who could keep the beat. The other two just couldn't play with each other. JD got really frustrated and went into the first three chords for "Sonic Reducer" at full volume! Then he kicked over his amp and smashed his Gibson Les Paul Junior over it. The feedback was awesome!! The house was shaking and I was sitting on the front steps laughing.
BK- So Johnny and I decided we'd get a band together.
JA- But I was gonna play guitar from now on.
BK- So the guys from Tracks ; Wild Johnny and John Shriver, knew we wanted to do shit so they asked us to play with them at The Bird Cage. We went down and wrote up a set list of all the songs we could possibly do and I didn't know the words to any of them. I had the words written out on envelopes and stuff.
JA- It was wretched!!
BGN - That was the biker place down in The Combat
Zone. The Hell's Angels hang out there, right?
JA- Not The Hell's Angels but The Disciples and The Emeralds did. It was awful and later I said to Barb "We can't play with those people or just keep picking up bands. We ought to audition people." So we put an ad in The Phoenix and the first two people to answer it were Mike and his friend Jeff Sousa. We did "Blitzkrieg Bop" and it was lunacy. We tried it again a few days later and we asked if they wanted to stay and they said "Sure." So we did it. The first song we learned together was "Rave Up" which we open up sets with to this day.
BK- They left in February. Mike couldn't afford to come up from Swansea, his home town. We were only doing two gigs a month on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so we obviously couldn't support ourselves. So then John and I took the first two people we could find 'cause we had a gig with The Stranglers booked way in advance. That's when we got Keith Kane and Steve….I can't remember his last name. We did a few dates with them.
JA- There were four of us with heavy egos in the band all going at once. Right after we lost the Battle of The Bands at The Inn Square Men's Bar I realized we couldn't go on like this. Merle and his brother, GG Allin, had an ad in The Phoenix as a rhythm section in Vermont. I called up and they played me a tape over the phone and it was great! That night they were coming down and their car broke down. I was so desperate to change the way things were that I drove all the way up there with Mack and HE sang Barb's parts! We did a few songs and I thought they were great. They were so loud and wild and I thought "This is like Thrills again!" Merle was ecstatic but his brother wasn't 100% sure so Merle said he'd move down when we found a drummer. So we did; Kenny Wood. We auditioned fifteen drummers! We were going crazy!! So Kenny joined and Merle moved down.
BK- Woodie was good but there were a few problems. First off he couldn't take the arguing and he would treat every gig like a party. We wanted to be as good as we can. We played a gig at The Mad Hatter that was our last gig with him.
JA- He got really looped and was playing everything at triple speed!
BK- It was so disastrous I just walked off stage and said "I don't know about the rest of you guys but I'm not playing with him anymore!"
JA- Well, I couldn't sleep that night. I was so fitful, at 7:30 A.M. I said "I gotta……
Mike Collins - Did you call my father that night?! He said "Who the hell was that?!"
BGN - What was it like two in the morning or something?
MC- Yeah! I've been trying to get you to admit that for so long!!
JA- I admit it, that was me. I did it!
BK- During the last few gigs with Woodie,Mike used to come to all of 'em and bang on the tables and dance.
MC- I would be dancing and Johnny would be pouring beers on me!
JA- Finally I said "The hell with Woodie" and asked Mike if he would come back. He said sure. The first gig we did together was The Wellesley Youth Center and that, I think, was the worst response we ever got.
BK- There was one person left at the end of the night. They all went outside.
BGN - Was that the gig with the nun?
BK - It was Halloween at The Jewish Country Club. She wasn't a nun, she was a friend of ours dressed up like a nun.
JA- We couldn't take it seriously. I jumped up on this banquet table and was kicking drinks in peoples' faces….and they loved us!! 70 year old people were up and dancing!!
BGN - After you came out of all those personnel
changes you really changed sound-wise. Speeds are down to about half.
JA- Yeah but it was deliberate. The songs are different now. I try to make them interesting.
BGN - Originally you had a really punk image.
BK- Yeah, our dress was really punk back then and I wore more and bigger chains and my make up was heavier and stuff like that.
BGN - People called you Ramones
BK - That's only 'cause we were the first band to do it. If you listen closely there are bands around who sound much more like The Ramones than we do.
BGN - Well, Johnny you LOOK like Dee
Dee and Johnny
BK - Alpo, of The Real Kids, has his hair the same way too but it's blonde. If he had black hair everyone would say the same thing about him too. So shut up!!! We like The Ramones! There's nothing wrong with that! They fucking inspired a lot of energy in us!
JA- Same thing with me, I used to like Fox Pass, Reddy Teddy and Thundertrain then I saw The Ramones and that was that! They didn't compare anymore. I've seen them fifteen times in a year and a half. To me, I don't' know why anybody would even take drugs when The Ramones are around.
BGN - OK, so you can play all the clubs in town
now, so what's next?
BK - We want to go to New York. We're waiting for our record to come out. I think that will open a lot of doors for us there and other places.
JA- We're putting it out on our own label, Decibel Records, named after our most loyal fan Decibel Dennis.
BK - It should be out by the beginning of April. Granny (The Rat soundman-ed) produced it and Matthew Mackenzie was there to help out with the guitar sounds.
BGN- Is your single commercial?
JA- Yeah, it's real light sounding.
BGN - But it can't be AM commercial.
BK- We just want it to be played on the radio. We don't care if it's a fuckin' hit!
JA- If just one 15 year old kid heard it instead of the dreck that they're hearing and said "Hey what the hell is that? I like it!" that would be the whole fuckin' game.
BK - It's a fucking calling card! Look at Human Sexual Response's "Jackie-O". It's as far away from commercial as anything but that song got the Humans a lot of publicity. That's what we want ours to do. To just say 'HI! Here we are! This is what you got!"
BGN - Doesn't Barb get a lot of attention, picture-wise?
MC- Yeah, the attention she gets, we get.
BGN - Well, the guys in Heart are pissed off….
JA- How pissed off are they? They're eatin' now. Three years ago they weren't eatin'. They're happy to be eating and to be playing in front of twenty thousand quaaluded-out no-minds every night from coast to coast!
BGN- And wouldn't YOU love it!!
JA- Damned right!! I wanna see my name on bathroom walls from coast to coast!
BK- "Johnny Angel sucks it big!!"
BGN- So Johnny, what about your playing guitar? How'd
ya come up with the country-western licks like in "Face In The Crowd"
on the record?
JA- I always liked country-western.
BK- Jesus!! What am I doing in a band with HIM???!!!
BGN- How come you don't play with a pick?
JA- The person who taught me how to play didn't use a pick either and he never said it was important so I never bothered. It impedes really emotional playing. I like the response in my fingers.
BGN- So where do you pick up those licks? And your
JA- Roger McGuinn. I always admired him.
Other band members- PPPPHHHHTTT!!!!! (chuckles)
JA- See, they're all cracking up. They expect me to say "Duuuh…I liked Iggy Stoooooge." But when I was growing up I thought Iggy sucked!
BGN- How do you show them your songs?
JA-(laughing) With a gun pointed at them!
BGN- Your song writing is never political…just emotional.
JA- Yeah, who cares about politics?
MC- That's what I think. I wouldn't be in this band if we had a meaning.
JA- Some songs are about other things, things that antagonize me.
BGN- "New Breed"?
JA- That's about kids these days being fucking pussies!! "When You Gonna Quit?" is about people who never take no for an answer. They just go on and on even when people say "Boy, you suck!" And "Summer Street Massacre" is about the Black Friar shooting where five guys died. I just thought it was a particularly amusing incident.
BGN- So Barb, what is this about the singing
training you've had?
BK- I had some training when I was in high school and my first year of college. Some classical shit. I really like classical music.
JA- And you make fun of me for liking country!!
BGN- when did you come to Boston?
BK- About five years ago, from New York City.
BGN- To go to school? At Emerson College?
BK- (pause) Yeah. It's not anything I'm proud of! I just went to school because there wasn't anything else for me to do!
BGN- You were on The Sperm Bank Babies album?
BK- Yeah, I was working at WERS while I was going to school there. No one knew I was on the radio 'til then.
BGN- When did you go to England?
BK- Right after school. I didn't want to work so I went to England. I didn't know what was going on over there. I'd heard about The Sex Pistols from The Ramones. I went over and it was really crazy! I only went out at night and I never left London. I never saw Buckingham Palace. I'd get up and go out to the clubs at night.
BGN- Then you came back and worked at
The Rat and
The Rat Record Store?
BGN- Then you worked up at WBCN?
BGN-Merle, where are you from? Maine or Vermont?
Merle Allin- Yeah, up north.
BGN- Did you start out by playing bass?
MA- No, I bought a guitar in ninth grade and I played for a while and put it down and didn't touch it for a year. I played a while in high school then got out and just hung out watching soap operas. Then I got a jopb in a factory making shoes, by this time I was playing bass.
BGN- Why pick up the bass?
MA- It was more fun for me than guitar. I wasn't goin' anywhere. I was playing in a Top 40 band for a year and I never had to work because I was making such good money.
BGN- So why join these losers??!!
MA- I didn't want to live in New Hampshire anymore and I had seen The Ramones and that was it!!
BGN- Mike, where are you from?
MC- Swansea, down next to Providence, Rhode Island. I started high school playing snare drum in a marching band.
BGN- Who's your favorite drummer?
MC- John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. When I was in this other band we used to cover Mahavishnu and I'd learn it note for note. But we used to cover like, Snatch from New York too. That band was called The Mannequins.
BGN- Do you think you'll ever be making any money?
BK- If we make a lot, fine. If not, well fuck it!
MC- As long as I get three bucks so I can buy something to eat 'til the next night.
JA- At least we can live with ourselves.
BGN- Johnny what about your funny stage moves?
JA- Merle really goes as crazy as I do now. I just feel like doing it so I do it. Anyone whoever saw me dance before I was playin' would know.
BGN- Yeah, Jack Lalane of punk dancing. What about
when you bang your head with your hand while you're playing?
JA- I only do it occasionally. It's just to emphasize a point or a phrase in a song. It's Yiddish!!
BGN- Barb, was this your first band?
BK- Yeah, I'd never done anything like this before. I guess when I was in England that's what did it to me. I saw so many shit bands over there and I knew by the time it hit over here every Tom, Dick and Harry was gonna get on stage so I figured "why not give it a try?" I knew I could sing a little, but I'd never sung Rock.
BGN- Do you ever feel like you need another instrument?
MC- I've never played in more than a three-piece band in my life!
JA- My favorite bands are The Ramones and The Who and they're three piece and they do alright. They get to play a lot louder than we do. Sometimes if it lacks balls we make up for it by going a little wilder. I could never play with a rhythm guitar player. As far as I'm concerned……maybe there's just something they don't have to play in this band. I couldn't think of anyone who could pound hard enough.
BK- So obviously it would have to be someone who knows all our stuff and what we're tryin' to do and could really have something to offer us.
JA- Ha! I'd like to meet the guy!
BGN- Should you have won the Battle of The Bands
at The Inn Square?
JA- No! We sucked that night! You have to put something in the interview about Jimmy. He's the first competent roadie we've ever had!
BGN- You don't have to tell him what to do because
he doesn't do anything?
JA- Yeah, the man has raised laziness to an art form!