It was just after Halloween 1983. I was working day shift at a local restaurant when my manager summoned me to the phone – a personal call.
It was Valerie Seeley, the booking manager for the Cleveland Agora. Our conversation was short but sweet – the second guitarist for Jimmy Zero’s band was sick, and the group wouldn’t be able to open for Stiv’s Lords of the New Church that night at the Agora. Would we, the terrible parade, be able to do the show?
I thanked her and said I would get back to her by the end of the morning. As I hung up the phone, I knew the clock was ticking. The first thing I would have to do is contact our drummer Paul Strachan, an amiable sort who could flip a switch and become a ferocious rock dynamo. Paul was a student at a nearby college at the time; I knew that trying to catch him in his room on a beautiful autumn morning would be like trying to catch a wave upon the sand (apologies to Rodgers & Hammerstein).
I was in luck – Paul picked up the phone and said he could be there. I then rang up our bassist Frank Pesuit, the most “rock star”-ish member of the band and conversely a noted homebody, who also said he could do the show – success! After ringing Valerie back to accept her offer, I made one last phone call to our cantankerous sound engineer Keith Busch, who lived in Kent. Keith was running JB’s down, and had a fine rep for not only booking great bands there but making them sound as good as anyone could. He would soon hit greater heights playing guitar in Kent group the Ragged Bags, but like the 45th floor in the Hudsucker Proxy, that was another story…
Keith said he could be there; having our own sound engineer would be important that evening as opening acts notoriously got the short shrift on the attention it would take from the house sound men to sound good. However, Keith’s presence would loom larger as the evening went on.
Our “fleet” of somewhat shaky automobiles (we were not called the terrible parade for nothing) managed to make it from all different directions to the Agora, which at that time was located on East 24th street north of Chester. With the help of our good friend Marky Ray (who was soon to join the band) we loaded in.
Our set went off without a hitch; Keith had the monitors sounding just right straightaway and I could tell from the enthusiastic response to our first song that we were sounding good out front.
In a blink we were finished; as we loaded our gear off of the stage two of the Agora crew members told us that we couldn’t leave our amps and drums backstage, we would have to load out into our cars. This was a dicey proposition; we knew it would be just as likely to find that our gear had been stolen as not.
Keith stepped in – he knew Stiv from earlier days and went backstage to let him know about our plight. Stiv had earned the reputation for being as gracious as he was adventurous; he invited us to store our gear in their band room. He introduced us to his parents and family, and invited us to partake in the prodigious spread of food and drink the Agora had provided.
The Lords of the New Church (which also featured Brian James from the Damned) had achieved worldwide recognition from having a hit played repeatedly on MTV (when they did that sort of thing). As someone who (from the tales of his exploits) always seemed to be living in the moment, one could tell he sensed and deservedly reveled in this one.
Addendum: Some years later (more than I care to say out loud), I googled “the terrible parade” to see what would turn up. Amongst the group of references there was a website of someone who’d recorded a number of shows at the Agora and other northern Ohio venues. In his listings there was a recording of that night at the Agora. I contacted the fellow who had taped it and he sent me a cassette copy of our set – the sound quality overall (thanks to Keith’s presence) and performance on some of the versions were good enough to release as a part of the “El Grande” series of digital releases (2007-2012). That particular release was called “back to square one”, a nod to Keith Busch’s solo guitar with rhythm box project “bak22one”; one of my favorite parts of this recording is hearing the conversation between the fellow who taped it and his two friends, which alone makes this worth checking out…