#1........the name of the group:
At the time, the assassination of President Kennedy was still a pall over the nation, and the Vietnam War was raging. Lots of ominous feelings all around, and I wrote Trilogy for the Masses in the middle of all of that. But I had no band, just my music and lyrics, and my guitar, which I had played since I was 8 years old. Previously, when I was in college in Boston (I was from the New York area originally), I did a lot of music in my spare time and along the way I had met up with a band called Joyful Noise. They were very popular in the Boston area, playing the college circuit, etc. I was very impressed with them, and a few years later I returned to the Boston area looking for a band to perform the music I had just written. They needed original material, and so I played my music for them and they loved it. As I taught them my songs, I became an integral part of the band also. We then decided the name of the band had to change, because my songs were so dark and ominous. We named the new band after the place where Lincoln was shot (dropping the 's from Ford's Theater, and changing "Theater" to Theatre.)
#2........the concept of the second album:
Well, the first album was a concept also, obviously; in fact, one of the first real concept albums of the time. The tracks, except for the last song "Postlude," were recorded live in the studio in 2 takes, from beginning to end, as a continuous performance, just the way we did it live in concert. Then vocals were added. Later, after Bob Thiele signed us to ABC Records, we brought the tracks to New York and added strings to "Theme for the Masses."
The second album was a very loose concept. Bill Szymcyzyk, our new producer (who's very next rock album was "Yer Album" by the James Gang; our album was his first) wanted to hang my new songs onto some kind of theme, or at least the feeling of a theme, or story. It was really just a collection of my new songs, but at the time, we tried to make it flow together like a story signifying nothing and quite stoned out in spirit. We did it at the original Hit Factory in New York, a studio that Bill helped build (for owner Jerry Ragavoy.) (Bill went on to produce more James Gang, Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, Eagles, etc.)
#3......what happened to the band:
After the first album was recorded, we went on the road, performed dates with Big Brother, Iron Butterfly, Procol Harum, and others. The album was getting great airplay in some markets, but we found this out later, and when we did, we also found out that records were not available when and where we did have airplay. But that's another long story. Basically, we disbanded after struggling for a few years, and went our separate ways.
#4.........general response, critical acknowledgment, when
I didn't realize the albums, especially the first, are acknowledged nowadays. (I'd like to know more about that, by the way.) The response to our live performances of "Trilogy for the Masses" was excellent and had a kind of hypnotic effect on audiences. As I stated above, the record got some very heavy airplay on what was then the fledgling progressive FM radio format. But we found out about most of that when it was too late to do much about it. We were pretty much on our own at the time; ABC wasn't yet geared up for working our kind of band. Soon after the second album was recorded, our producer went on to much bigger things, with James Gang breaking, etc. And we really never got the chance to develop beyond that. The second album did not take at radio, so we were dropped.
"Trilogy..." was released in the summer of 1968. "Time Changes" was released in the fall of 1969.
(I think these dates are correct; I'll check and let you know if I'm wrong.)
#5 &6........previous experience, history:
As stated above, the original band was called Joyful Noise. The 4 members of that band (James Altieri, Arthur Webster, Robert Tamagni, John Mazzarelli) grew up together in Milford, Massachusetts and played music together since they were kids. I played guitar since I was 8 years old, had a number of bands in high school and in college. Joe Scott was added to the group after I joined and we felt we needed a strong vocalist to perform the new songs. Joe was also from Milford, Mass.
#7.........what happened to us:
Jim Altieri has continued to play all these years in the Boston area with various bands. The other guys still live in the Milford area; some of them still play also. Bob Tamagni, the drummer, also teaches at Berklee School of Music in Boston. I don't know what happened to Joe Scott. I came back to the New York area and produced other bands and artists, then went into the business side of things and have spent the last 25 years as an executive for various record companies.......Polygram, Atlantic, BMG, Sony. I just retired from Sony (and corporate life) and am now working on a few projects on my own. I'm in touch with Jim Altieri all the time. He can be reached at Altieri999@aol.com. Jim has a great memory of band-related issues and is another great source of information about those early days.
Wally was a musician/music teacher in the Boston area. He helped me write "Theme for the Masses," and since he had classical training he arranged the song for strings. I wrote all other music and lyrics, but I gave him general co-writer credits on the album liners.
#9 & 10........tour info, help from others:
We played a lot in the Boston area, on our own and also opening for acts like Procol Harum at the Psychedelic Supermarket, etc. We went on the road in the summer of '68, driving our own schoolbus to St. Louis to perform in Kiel Auditorium to an audience of 10,000 people. We were on the bill with Big Brother and the Holding Company and Iron Butterfly. Our album was being played on the big station there (KSHE) in extremely heavy rotation in its entire length. But there were no records in St. Louis at the time. And so on.......
#11.........why we have not been released on CD:
First of all, since we didn't chart, I don't think we hit enough radar historically to garner interest from those people who put together retrospectives of the 60's and hope to sell substantial quantities of CD's in so doing. However, I was approached a couple of years ago, when I was at BMG, by producer Alan Lorber, who produced a number of Boston bands back in those days (Orpheus, Beacon Street Union, Ultimate Spinach.) He was trying to put together a series of releases and compilations of bands from that period, and he asked me to participate. I didn't follow up with him at the time, partly because I thought he was trying to convince me to get BMG involved in the series (which I didn't think would sell well enough), and also because he was only interested in one track from Ford Theatre, "Theme for the Masses," which had received quite a bit of airplay in Boston back then. The concept didn't excite me at the time, and I did not pursue it further.
.........on Chet Gierlach:
If i remember correctly, Bob Thiele introduced me to Chet, because we needed publishing taken care of when we signed with ABC. Chet made a co-publishing deal with us, and then when the band days were over, he expressed interest in working with me on other projects. So he invited me to use his office facilities, and he set me up to meet other label execs in an effort to get deals for Euclid, Kenny Paulsen, Nektar (all with Charlie Dreyer, among other artists i was working on with Charlie), Orville Stoeber, Peter Thom, David Nichtern (Midnight at the Oasis), Peter Myers, Melissa Manchester and other artists i was eventually working with. He also helped me get some of my other songs exposed, resulting in Bob Thiele having his wife,Theresa Brewer, record one of them (can't remember the title right now, but a really good pop ballad i wrote.) Dick Broderick, former VP of International for Decca, later MCA, who founded Tara with a few other guys and worked out of Chet's office too, got me to send my Orville demos to Russ Regan, who had just signed Elton and went wild when he heard the demos. And so on......all of these things resulted directly or indirectly from my friendship and working relationship with Chet.
Chet was a great guy......always there when i needed him, and one of those good "old school" music guys. Great memories.......