It was December 1984 and I had just joined Axminster in October of that same year. The band had already had a bunch of air-play and was gigging all the time and my first few shows with them were at The Paradise Rock Club with Alvin Lee and a WBCN Lunch Time show at a packed Celebrations Night Club on a Thursday afternoon. Free Hot Dogs and cheap beer! The gigs so far held promise for where we wanted to go as a band.
In the short time together, we had a written a hand full of tunes and the band couldn’t wait to get back into the studio to record. We booked time at Normandy Sound Studios with Phil Greene at the controls and Hirsh Gardner producing.
The basic tracks for Only A Stranger, Hands Wettin’ The Wheel and Hold Me Closer went down pretty fast, and Steve banged out the lead vocals right after.
It was my turn to go into the studio and lay down my solos and fills. I was well prepared and was having dinner with my girlfriend just before I was about to drive down to Rhode Island that evening to cut my tracks. Steve and Mike Lamm were already at the studio cleaning up some vocals and I was going to meet them down there at little later.
At the time, I was living with my girlfriend and her uncle. “Uncle Sam” had some mental health issues and my girlfriend and I watched out for him, kept an eye on his well being and made sure he took his psychosis meds.
Right after dinner, my girlfriend handed me my vitamins and I gulped them down just before packing up my guitars. I guess I missed the memo - because a short time later, my girlfriend asked me what I had done with Uncle Sam’s meds?
By accident…thinking they were MY vitamins…I had taken them.
At first panic set in…What was I going do? And then… they started to hit me. I was in a fog…no way could I drive an hour away to Rhode Island, never mind record!
I made my girlfriend drive me to the hospital. I told the ER folks what had happened and as the effects of the meds were now in full swing, I asked them if they could pump my stomach…. do SOMETHING!…I had a recording session to get to!
They proceeded to ask me if I was suicidal.
Then…they shipped me over to the Psych Ward to “talk” to someone.
My girlfriend made the frantic call to the band to tell them I wouldn’t be making the session. Now…I had just joined these guys, and Steve and Mike were probably thinking they had just brought in a junkie guitarist to the band!
I was out of it.
The session was moved to the following day.
I went home to “sleep it off” and the next day, I was thinking clearer, but still in a little fog. Steve came and picked me up, cause’ I still wasn’t comfortable driving and we headed down from Boston down to the studio. We made small talk on the way down, and I think I nodded off a few times on the drive.
The amps were already set-up and mic’d when we got there. I tuned up and started on working on the licks to Only A Stranger first.
We couldn’t get the right feedback, so Engineer Phil Greene had me climb up onto of the console so my guitar would feedback being so close to the monster-sized…and very loud playback speakers I was now standing 2 feet in front off.
I think Steve had to stand behind me to make sure I didn’t fall off the console. I had about a 2-foot section to balance on. Feeling like I was on some distant auditory planet, and floating along…I ripped off the solo to Only A Stranger.
The tracks came out pretty good! When it was released, the song got some solid airplay and the video aired on V-66, a local over the air station that was the Boston version of MTV back in the day. (You can hear the song by clicking the link here or watching the video we shot for it a few months later here.)
That’s just another fractured fairy tale. A page out of the journal of “Why are we doing this”?
Steve gave me the nickname “The Doctor” shortly there after.