Glory Days

It's time for early-Eighties nostalgia, thanks to a record store's anniversary celebration of Miami's rip-roaring rock

In the beginning, the opportunities still seemed unlimited. Just after Wimmer and Gottfried moved Open Books and Records to Fort Lauderdale, they decided to move up to making albums. On two nights in January 1982 they recorded Charlie Pickett and the Eggs Live at the Button on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Hal Spector was the stage manager of those two hot shows, and knows first-hand that the Miami rock life isn't an easy one. He says, "I was like roadie/stage manager/therapist/nursemaid. That came in handy the time Charlie was supposed to play a show just after he went to the dentist's. He had to cancel because he was spitting too much blood. I think the stitches came loose or something."

About the time the Pickett album was cut, Open compiled an album featuring fifteen bands from Florida, including the Eat, the Bobs, the Essentials, Spanish Dogs, the Front, Larry Joe Miller, and Charlie Pickett and the Eggs. The result was a remarkable piece of vinyl that stands up to this day. It didn't sell diddley. "To be honest," Wimmer says with a smile, "that's another reason to have this anniversary party. I have boxes of this thing for sale. We thought back then that it would go national, but it never did."

The Land That Time Forgot is a history primer as much as it is a classic record. For the cover, Czachowski drew the state of Florida in orange on a blue background. The drawing highlights points of interest A a space shuttle blasts out of Cape Canaveral, smoke plumes rise out of Liberty City, a small plane drops bales into the ocean west of Naples. Fort Lauderdale is annotated as "Where the Boys Are," Key West as "Where More Boys Are."

Bill Ashton's liner notes, with a couple of minor changes, could be used for any of the South Florida compilation CDs being issued in 1993. He criticized radio's resistance to homegrown product and complained that Led Zeppelin was getting too much airplay. Praising the featured bands on the album for their vision and originality, he concluded: "In a couple of years, everybody will know how cool these songs are."

He was right. The songs are still absorbing, and they serve as the best reminder of just how rich and varied the musical ferment really was. On a recent morning, while opening boxes of the newly arrived Nirvana album at Open, Wimmer searched her memory and rattled off a list of the 30 or so clubs that dotted the land that time (but not Wimmer and her friends) forgot, including: Flynn's, Big Daddy's in Hollywood, Blue Waters (where a Reactions show once was halted because someone in the audience whipped out a gun), Premier AOR, PB's, the Beat Club (where Nuclear Valdez started), 27 Birds, and the Banal. Local shows were also staged at the Fireman's Hall and a few other spots. Out of all that activity there emerged a few stars who later won national fame and big-label record contracts, including Raul Malo, who is now with the Mavericks, future movie star Johnny Depp (the Kids was his group), and Bob Rupe, who became part of two major bands, the Silos and Gutterball.

Other people, besides the dozens of musicians who played those clubs, made this local rock movement memorable. Perhaps the most striking was the archetypal local manager Robert Mascaro. Joe Harris, who helped Mascaro manage the Cichlids, recalls, "When I started out with Mascaro, he'd go in to see people and intimidate the shit out of them. Then I'd go in and they were relieved they didn't have to deal with him and treat me great." The good cop-bad cop routine. "I remember once at PB's," Harris says, "when the Cichlids were leaving the stage, some guy grabbed Debbie's butt. Robert dumped his drink on the guy, and the guy went ape. Three people were trying to hold this guy down, and there's Robert at the top of the stairs taunting him. It was great."

The bands, clearly, had their champions. On several fronts, from radio shows to press coverage to club promotion, there were scenesters eager to spread the word about the exciting new music that aimed to turn upside down the safe world of Florida rock.

"It wasn't an alternative scene," Wimmer says. "It was an underground scene." The Essentials captured the Zeitgeist with a song called "Turn Off Your Radio," sometimes introducing it with a plug for a radio show the Essentials wanted everyone to hear: Eric Moss's Radio Free Living Room. Moss acquired a Monday late-night time slot on the nonprofit WLRN-FM and went on the air on August 5, 1980. "It was just a way to get what I thought was important music out to the public," Moss says now. "There was a renaissance of rock at that time, and very little of it was getting on the airwaves. I did it with a notion to publicize the local bands that weren't getting airplay, as well as English and California and New York bands that were part of a scene that was just breaking through."

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