Sonic's Rendezvous Band: The One That Got Away

THE GODFATHER OF PUNK

SCOTT MORGAN: I think that the idea was that we would put this single out and then we would get a record deal, but for some reason, it just didn't pan out that way. I dunno. Everything was cookin' on all eight cylinders there: we recorded "City Slang" and "Electrophonic Tonic," we had a really good two-sided record there. We shoulda released that. They probably shoulda never gone to Europe with Iggy, and would have been entirely different. But that's not the way it worked out. Somehow we got derailed around that period, and we never got back on track. It was just a combination of things. If Fred and I had kept the same dynamic where we were sharing the singing duties and the writing duties, we may have gone on.

GARY RASMUSSEN: I think at that time, [Iggy] was having trouble with his record company. He'd been a mess, screwin' up, and he pretty much needed to prove to the record company that he could do a good tour with a good band - it had to be somethin' special - and that he wasn't just a total junkie and all that stuff. He called up and was talking to Scott Asheton to start with, and then to Fred. We knew Iggy because he'd come through with his band and we'd go see 'em, and we'd be playing some awful place down in Detroit, in Cass Corridor or somewhere, and Iggy would be playing at the Masonic Temple; he'd come to our gig after, y'know, and come up onstage. We were all friends.

So at that point, I think he needed something like that, and asked if we would do that - come and do a tour with him and be his band. Scott Thurston was in that band...Scott was already with Iggy, so he knew all of the songs that Iggy was doing, he knew kinda what was going on, so I think Iggy wanted to keep Scott Thurston in on it, so he didn't need Morgan, basically. You don't need another singer...if you ever tried to harmonize with Iggy, you'd realize it's a pretty hard thing to do. But we didn't need another singer, we didn't need another guitar player, so Scott was kinda left out of that one.

SCOTT MORGAN: When they were first offered the job, Fred's going, "I don't think I should go, I don't think I should go," and I'm going, "GO! Come back and the record'll be out and we'll pick up where we left off." Because I was the only one who was not offered a position in this band. So I'm here, and Freddie [Brooks]'s still here, and Chato's here, so we're workin' on getting the record released while they're over there.

In the meantime, this friend of mine wants to take me in the studio and record a couple of songs. So what the hell, those guys are in Europe for six weeks, why not? It wasn't to release; it was just for kicks. We did a ballad called "Satisfying Love," and we did a version of "Cool Breeze." That was with Ron Asheton, and Harry Phillips, who played with Catfish, and Steve Dansby, a local guitar player who's really great. We never released it. We never INTENDED to release it. That's why I felt it was unfair for Fred to tell me that I had to sit here and wait and twiddle my thumbs while they were touring Europe.

GARY RASMUSSEN: We did pretty well. It was all right. [Iggy] was paying us well. RCA Records was covering everything, and we had a bus and equipment people and lights and the whole deal. In '78, Iggy was big in Europe. We were playing in theaters and outdoor venues. Nice shows, really. He was the headliner. "The Godfather of Punk."

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In London, the band had a visit from Deniz Tek, then touring Europe with Radio Birdman.

DENIZ TEK: Fred and I could talk guitars, and I guess that kind of broke the ice, because I had his old guitar, and he was real interested in that.. He offered to buy it back when we were in England. He was over there; the Rendezvous Band minus Morgan was backing Iggy Pop, so we went out to dinner with them and stuff like that, and then we went to their gig at the Music Machine in London. I think we dropped by the soundcheck in the afternoon because Fred had asked to see the guitar.

GARY RASMUSSEN: In Norway, I think there's a city called Orbro, I'm not exactly sure, at an outside festival, kind of sick situation, Iggy was the headliner, and outside, maybe three or four thousand people there. Didn't know it at the time, but found out later that there was some kind of a Norwegian organization of "Fascists Against Punk Music" or something like that. They were organized, a small percentage of the crowd. It coulda been five guys or six people or something. We went up to start playing and right in the first song, these FISH are coming up. Somebody's throwing fish, these herrings. They come up and smack you on the bass or something, these fucking herrings. And you look at each other going "What the hell is this?"

And Iggy is like...it don't take much. He starts sticking his ass out at the audience, "Hey, FUCK YOU, man, fuck you," sticking his ass out, and then people are throwing...it started out fish, and then it turned into OTHER stuff. I saw something coming through one of the big spotlights, you could see shit coming through the big beam of light, and I just caught it between my bass and my shirt, and it was a broken bottle, and it cut the button off my shirt. And I said, "I'm done!" and walked back, I turned my shit off and walked off. Finished! Not worth dyin' about. And at that point, I think 99% of the people there were there to come see the music, and they got pissed off, and they were finding the people that were throwin' stuff and beating the crap out of them. It was kinda like a mini little riot goin' on, so I just stayed backstage, but there was a lot of roadies and security people walking around with big hunks of wood and stuff. But we never did go back out and play. No way! We found out later that in that country, if somebody sends you fish like that, you got a herring on your doorstep, that's supposed to mean something. "Leave or die" or something like that.

SCOTT MORGAN: I think that [Iggy] really wanted them to give up Sonic's Rendezvous Band and become his backup band and tour the world with him. Well, they did a six week tour of Europe, and then Iggy said, "Now let's do the States," and Fred said, "No, we're done." And there was a little acrimonious, misunderstanding kinda breakup there.

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The Holy Grail: The greatest single ever pressed.

GARY RASMUSSEN: At the time, when we were in Europe doing the tour, actually the "City Slang" record was being pressed here in the States, and Fred had met Patti, and just the timing of everything... Fred had met Patti already, and I think they were deep in love. Fred probably spent all the money we made over there on the telephone talkin' to Patti! He'd be on the phone for HOURS from somewhere. I don't think money really mattered that much to him. I think Fred wanted to come home and see Patti, because it was the beginning of their thing, and we were all thinking really that we've got a record coming out...we kinda thought that this was gonna be something big for us, too. And to tell you the truth, after three months in Europe, doing that kind of a thing, we were exhausted. Hadn't quite figured out yet that you couldn't drink and everything that was there and do everything that showed up! It takes awhile before you realize, "Hey, you know what? You CAN'T do all of it!"

So after three months of that, we were tired! I think everyone was ready to come home. It wasn't really 'til the end of it that Iggy started saying, "You know what? This is a great thing, and it's a great band, and we could take over the world. We could go do Japan, and we could do this and that." Actually, David Bowie was at the last couple of gigs that we did, 'cause like the last gigs we did were in London. He came to the show and he seemed to think we were really quite a powerful band. He invited us, instead of going home, to come with him to, I think he was playing in Glasgow or someplace. I think it was the timing of it, by that time we were all thinking, "God, it's time to go home." Personally I was thinking, "Yeah, let's go!" But I think the other guys were pretty whipped, and it didn't take too much for me to go, "Yeah, okay, I'm ready to go home, too."
Fred and Patti

SCOTT MORGAN: When Fred got back, he just went through the roof that I had recorded while they were over there. I'm going, "Well, this seems a little UNFAIR! You guys just went on a six-week European tour and left me here, and you're all upset that I went in and recorded two DEMOS, not for the purpose of trying to get a record deal for myself, just for the hell of it!" So we had a big falling out about that, and finally I just got mad and said, "I don't want my song on the record." It was just one of those stupid things. It just gets out of hand, and you wish you could change it, but it's too late.

"Electrophonic Tonic" was WRITTEN to be the show opener. Because of the way the songs starts with a big power chord, and then it sorta like winds up until it's full-blast. "City Slang" was supposed to be the show closer; it ends in a big jam-out, rave-up thing at the end. I had the opener and Fred had the closer, but then I lost the opener!

I had recorded "Electrophonic Tonic" in the basement with Fred and Ron Cooke and Scott Asheton, VERY early on in the Rendezvous Band, in my parents' basement. And I told Fred that I liked THAT version better than the one that was coming out on the record, and THAT didn't help. Finally, we just said, well, let's put out "City Slang." We'll just make it a demo, and we'll find some other song to put on the flip side. We'll make it like a promotional copy -- stereo on one side, mono on the other. Well, we never DID find another song...and the other song was gonna be another FRED song, and THAT didn't help, either.

That just unbalanced things even more.

I think at that point Fred had decided that HE was gonna be Sonic's Rendezvous Band, and it was time for me to move away from the center of the stage. Plus he and Patti had started seeing each other around that time, and that changed his way of thinking also. I think she encouraged him a lot, which was GOOD, because I think he had a LOT of stage presence. You could see that from the MC5. He looked really good, he was good at talking to the audience, stuff like that. But his HEALTHY ego...as far as the dynamic between Fred and I, it started getting unhealthy for OUR dynamic.

GARY RASMUSSEN: We got back from the Iggy tour, and we were doin' some gigs with Patti, opening up for her. Not a lot of them, but I think we did the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland and the Avalon in Chicago, the Masonic Temple in Detroit. Really kinda nice places to play, and we were just opening up for them. Patti was really quite popular at that point.

SCOTT MORGAN: Actually, Patti wanted us to open for her on more dates! We did three dates with her: Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. And I think Fred didn't want to do that, because he didn't feel like he should have been opening for Patti, who was fast becoming his girlfriend. I think it's just another ego thing, probably, and I thought, "Well this is STUPID, because it'd be a great opportunity for us to get out and really get in front of some crowds and then maybe do something as a band, like get a record deal and make a whole album or two or three," or whatever.

So we just did the three dates, and they were GREAT dates; we were playing in front of big crowds with a real nice P.A., big stage and stuff, and Patti treated us really well, and we were friends with the band, and everything was going great, but then we stopped and went back to playing these crummy little clubs around Detroit, just whatever local gigs we could get, and it was like, "Why are we DOING this when we could be playing San Francisco opening for Patti?"

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Patti and Sonic - Sue Rynski photo

GARY RASMUSSEN: And sometimes she would show up at our gigs. We'd play some odd place, playing Chicago or Milwaukee or something and Patti would be there. Patti would be backstage with us and we'd go out to play, and people would be watching us play, and then Patti would come out to watch us play, and everyone would stop watching us play and they'd go WATCH PATTI WATCH US PLAY! So that was kinda weird.

DENIZ TEK: [When I returned to Michigan in 1979, Patti] was around, and they were still playing some of these rural gigs, too, but when they would play in Ann Arbor, they'd play at the Second Chance, and when they would play in Detroit, they'd play at Bookie's, which was kind of a punk...by then, punk had sort of hit and that was a punk club. Destroy All Monsters [an arty Ann Arbor band that had added Ron Asheton and a now-free Michael Davis for rock credibility] played there a lot. But the Second Chance was really a good venue...a big club, and by then, Patti was always around.. I just remember her holding onto her clarinet at the side of stage, and she would occasionally get up and play clarinet. I'm not sure why, but I just remember her clutching that clarinet at the side of the stage and waiting to come up. But I never talked to her. She was really reclusive and didn't talk to me. Maybe she talked to other people and it was just me, but my impression was that she was reclusive and didn't talk to people.

When Patti was around, she would go to these gigs and just...seem real DIFFERENT to the people. You know, these big burly Michigan hunters and fisherman types, backwoods-type guys, or auto worker types would already have consumed a case of beer and they'd come over and try to get Patti to dance and things like that...she'd CRINGE. I never really heard her say anything to any of those guys; she'd just sort of give them this look and cringe and they'd just shrug their shoulders and walk away.

I think she'd probably consider ME a hick, too, because she wouldn't really talk to me, either. When she was around, I was just this guy who would show up with my guitar because Fred would invite me to come down and just play on the song "City Slang" - that was all I did; I didn't sit in for the whole set or anything, it was just for that song, which would usually be the encore. He just liked to have extra guitars on that song, and knew I could play it, and he was a friend of mine, so he'd invite me down. I think I was told by one of the band guys, I don't remember who, that there were 12 guitar tracks on that. There were 12 guitars on that, and the more guitars the better, as far as Fred was concerned.

[Between 1976 and 1979, the band was] not much different. They had some new songs, and more of it was original. They played more originals and...actually, I was going to say better sound, but I never heard them have bad sound anywhere. They were always able to balance their sound real well. Toward the end, they had the "City Slang" single. That was their big finale. But the band itself, I don't think they changed fundamentally. Just bigger crowds. More people. When you're playing to a huge crowd, people are going nuts, it always pushes you a little bit further, and maybe some of the performances were more over the top, a little wilder. They were more laid back in the early days, because they were playing to 20 or 30 people, 40 people in a redneck bar. They were still great, though!

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Gary and Scott. Sue Rynski photo

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