Good Rats Album Cover
The Good Rats have toured or played with prominent acts such as Aerosmith, Ozzy Osborn, The Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, Kiss, Journey, Heart, Styx, Meatloaf, Rush and many others -- including the legendary fret wizard Tommy Bolin (their collaboration jam, which includes Carmine Appice on drums, on a blazing extended version of Billy Cobham's "Stratus" can be found on The Tommy Bolin Archives, Inc. recent release, "Bottom Shelf, Vol. 1").
This Long Island, New York band has performed all over the world, including Madison Square Garden, the Philadelphia Spectrum, the Nassau Coliseum, and the Hammersmith Odeon in England. The Good Rats have released approximately 9 albums over the past 30 years. Recently, they have re-issued some of these as CD's. Their new release, "Tasty Seconds", has been getting airtime and positive reviews in the States and overseas.
The new line up includes founding member Peppi Marchello on vocals, his sons Gene (guitar/vocals/songwriting) and Stefan Marchello (drums/vocals) and Denis Perry (bass). The original line-up was Peppi Marchello (vocals, songwriting, bat), Joe Franco (drums), John "The Cat" Gatto (guitar/vocals), Lenny Kotke (bass/vocals), and Mickey Marchello (guitar/vocals). Peppi created "The Good Rats" in 1968, after being inspired by the Beatles. "I instantly knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to make music."
The Good Rats are known for their stage presence, which includes marathon jams, and Peppi's trademark "baseball bat swingin'"! The band is known to throw rubber rats into crowds, (ala Florida Panther Hockey Fans throwing rubber rats onto the ice in 1996)!
Some of their albums are hard to find, but CDs can be found. Here's an unofficial discography:
The Good Rats recently performed a reunion gig in Rochester, New York on October 23 and 24, 1998. Scott McIntosh reviewed the concert:
This 25 year reunion gig was held at "The Penny Arcade" in Rochester, NY on October 23 and October 24, 1998. Greg Sullivan, the owner, confirmed that the Good Rats have been performing there for 25 years. This was the first time since their 20th anniversary, however. The "Penny Arcade" is a cross between a rock-n-roll showcase bar, and a biker bar, and is located right near Lake Ontario in the Charlotte area of North Rochester.
The openning band, both nights, was the "new" version of the Good Rats, with Peppi on vocals, his son Gene on guitar and son Stephan ("The Weasel") on drums, and Denis Perry on Bass. Peppi writes all songs he sings on, but Gene does some writing and singing too. They sound more like Rush or Journey than the original Good Rats, but have been known to play mostly original Good Rats tunes if the crowd is mostly traditional fans.
The Original band members then did one nice long set and, in my opinion, completely dominated the show and blew away their younger counterparts. Peppi is an awesome singer, sometimes sounding more like Jeff Cook on the bluesier tunes, and sometimes sounding like Getty Lee on the high notes!
Both guitar players were outstanding, and it's no wonder that Tommy Bolin was a fan of this group. He no doubt liked their attitude, and their song-writing accomplishments, but these guitar players are definitely in the Tommy Bolin vein. Jon "The Cat" Gatto ("Gatto" is Spanish for "Cat") has a brighter, faster style, while Mickey Marchello has a heavier, spacier-sounding, funkier style. Together, they play together amazingly well -- each soloing frequently.
Here is a partial Set List:
Many people in the crowd knew the words to every song, and even though this was the first time I'd ever heard them (except for "Stratus" with Tommy Bolin), there was a certain familiarity about their sound and the structures of their songs. Definitely a '70's quality (I mean that in a GOOD way) -- maybe like Grand Funk Railroad, or Bad Company, maybe mixed with a little Golden Earing. The guitars frequently had an "Alman Brothers" quality, in that there was a lot of tight two-part melodies and the trading of solos between two kick-ass guitar players. Joe Franco's drumming was top notch, as was Lenny Kotke's bass and backup vocals. The band really didn't show any weaknesses! In fact, they totally had the balls and the stage presence of a legendary band -- oh yeah, they ARE!
Visually speaking, let me add that they are SOOO Italian, you want to just puke spaghetti! I mean that with affection. One of the T-Shirts they were selling says, "Music so loud, it gives you Agita". For you non-Italians, "Agita" means heartburn, like after eating too much stuffed artichoke! If you are Italian, Mickey looks like one a favorite uncle.
During the last songs, they were throwing rubber rats into the crowd. Lenny threw one RIGHT at me, and it bounced off my damn fingers. Peppi had whined about not having enough beer on stage, so I bought a Labbatt Blue and took it up to the stage. He promptly shook it up and spewed it over Jon "The Cat" Gatto, and then on himself! Peppi would often whip out a baseball bat and play air-guitar with it. He can accompany himself by doing many interesting noises with his mouth.
Peppi, Mickey, and Lenny have an excellent three-piece harmony that was showcased often, as evidenced on tunes like "Fireball Express" -- a tune which was performed immediately before the legendary "Stratus" jam with Tommy Bolin on November 22, 1974 (according to the very rare bootleg of excerpts from that show).
Speaking of Tommy Bolin, this reviewer OF COURSE asked each member of what it was like jamming with Tommy Bolin in the '70's. Apparently, Lenny Kotke (bass) was a friend of Jeremy Steig, and that's how Tommy was first introduced to the band in Long Island. Sound familiar Cobham fans? Tommy liked them so much, that he had the management of "Ebbits Field" in Denver hire them. Carmine Appice had also been performing that night in 1974, and was "fucking around" there as well -- which is why he's on that "Stratus" jam.
Peppi and Lenny also confirmed with me that they had jammed with Tommy Bolin in Los Angeles later that same year. Finally, Mickey told me that Tommy "Came out to the house" in New York about 2 weeks before he died. They all spoke very highly and very reverently about Tommy.
Peppi stated, "It was one of the great priveledges of my career to have been able to play with Tommy. [What happened to him] was a real shame. He would have wanted to be around now."
When I asked some of them if they would be interested in doing a Tommy Bolin Tribute Concert in Denver, they said "Yes"! So, if you see Johnnie Bolin or Mike Drumm, pass the word! (They should contact Peppi for this directly.) This is a HOT band, with CHOPS, and it's too bad they don't tour regularly -- but getting them to Denver would be AMAZING! If you ever get a chance to catch them, DO IT!
Information sources: http://www.lirock.com/goodrats.html (© Richard Arfin 1991, 1995), Encyclopedia of Popular Music Copyright Muze UK Ltd. 1989-1998, and http://www.goodrats.com (© The Good Rats, 1998)
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