Eighteen and in my first band, a Richmond, VA. cover band that played the same frat house circuit that made Dave Matthews and Hootie famous.  Our name?  M.F. Rattlesnake.  Our drummer stole the name from a band in Ohio.  BTW--the band did not revolve around me.  I was the lead guitarist.

My first original band was called The Rage, formed with my two best friends from high school.  This pic was taken in a photo booth on a visit to NY.  I’m smiling with my mouth closed because I have braces.

Following this Rage gig at Richmond’s “Hard Times” bar, a man handed us a business card that said Sunshine Records.  After he left, we snickered and tore it into tiny pieces. Turned out the man was a millionaire real estate developer whose support led to major record deals for two other bands.

Yep, that’s Aimee Mann shakin’ it up at an early Rage gig.  We’re both proud alums of Richmond’s Open High School.  Years later, after my first CD was released, I got backstage at her show in SF and gave her a copy.  “I can’t wait to hear this!” she beamed.  “Your number’s on here, right?”  I waited and waited and never heard a peep. Oh, well. A few years later, armed with this very photo to get past security, I snuck into her soundcheck at another SF show and gave her a copy of my CD, Save the Day.  “Wow! I can’t wait to hear this!” she gushed,  “Your number’s on here, right?”  A chill ran down my spine.

           Why am I showing you this?

           Or this???

I would kill to have my ’63-65 Jaguar back.

The biggest thing in Richmond, our young heads swollen to pumpkin-size, we were playing a warehouse gig when we met a dapper Englishman who told us we’d be fools not to move to LA, where he knew everybody

Note to young bands: 1) When a total stranger tells you to move 3,000 miles while blowing smoke into the deepest recesses of your colon, exercise caution. 2) When your bass player puts down his Fender Precision for the last song and picks up a cheap piece-of-shit (see left), everyone in the whole joint will know he’s about to smash it.

So we did it!  We listened to the charming stranger, said our goodbyes, packed up our lives and headed west. Somewhere in New Mexico, we stayed with a distant relative of Peter’s and found a whole box of hoedown gear.  We did some rompin’ and a-stompin’ as Jimi tried desperately to pass.  Our trip to LA was infinitely better than actually being there.  Years later I wrote a song called, “Going West”, about how sweet it was to be young and dumb and bound for glory.

Once in LA, we had a hard time getting booked, partly because there were at least two other bands in town who thought they were The Rage! Then our equipment was stolen and our cars all died. Posing behind Peter and me is the ’64 Chevy van we bought to carry us back to Richmond, only ten months after our arrival. It died two hours into the Arizona desert.


Back in Richmond, our bassist Peter Bell had an idea to make our big return gig a smash: Become transformed into a New Romantic band!   Genius!  Drummer Jimi Gore, to his eternal credit, refused to wear the ridiculous costume Peter had sewn for him.  I was not so strong.  Nor was my costume -- the pants split half-way through our opening number.  The Rage split up three months later.

After the breakup of The Rage I moved to New York, where I took on the music publishing industry, eventually discovering that in order to successfully write songs for Joan Jett and Pat Benetar, you have to actually  like Joan Jett and Pat Benatar.  Or at least stomach listening to them.  My spirit beaten down by my job as a busboy in a Chinese restaurant, I returned to Richmond to form a new band.  

The band was The Late Show, which gained some industry interest and opened for Modern English, Suzanne Vega and, uh, Til Tuesday.  But then I started playing solo-acoustic shows, which had previously seemed terrifying.  I loved the fact that people could finally understand my lyrics.  Shortly thereafter, I set out for San Francisco.

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