In summer of 1986, Marcus and I thought we’d give it one more try and embark on an adventure. We went to London for a month or so to shop around a cassette tape of our latest and what would be final recordings as Acrylix (see Music tab for all, and here are two: Blonde in Black Leather and When Worlds Collide). As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, my boss gave his OK to go even though I didn’t have enough annual leave saved up, saying “Ken, you’re going to have to decide if it’s going to be music or this job.”
We stayed at the pad of a friend of Geoff Robinson’s (Pressure Records) in New Barnet, north of London (see article, below). We walked that tape to burgeoning indie labels all over London, but no bites. We even played a gig in a pub in New Barnet, with a drum machine and a Dutch guy playing keys. We hung out, got on a pub schedule, and learned how to read the specific gravities for the local ales, smoke hashish in cigarettes, and eat Scotch eggs. Once, we went to a party out in the country and ended up jamming with veteran British Pub rockers; I somehow found myself trading guitar licks with a (non-Robin Trower) former guitarist for Procol Harum. The crowning glory of the trip was working for a vendor serving Coca Colas on the floor of Wembley Stadium at a Queen/INXS/Alarm show. Andrew and Fergie got Royally married that summer, and Patty arrived at the tail end of the trip for what became our (commoner) pre-wedding honeymoon. We took a trip to Devon on the coast, where our daughter Melissa Devon was conceived. We returned to home to DC, found out Patty was pregnant and hurriedly made plans to marry.
We got married in October - or, as Johnny Cash would say, in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout - at Mt. Vernon women’s college on Foxhall Road in NW DC. It’s now part of the George Washington University campus. We threw that sucker together in a little over a month: string quartet playing Handel’s Water Music and Pachelbal’s Canon in D, Jesuit priest and a rabbi, photographer, invitations (including to my side of the family on the Left Coast) followed by that tense moment of waiting and hoping that not everybody would respond yes, and a reception at the Bethesda Marriott. There should be a magazine called Bridal Shotgun Edition for when you have less than one entire year with weekly goals to plan.
In the end, Marcus and I got just enough done in London (with just a bit of hubris) to warrant calling the next few gigs back home our "Return of the Refugee" tour (see below, art by Marcus and screenprinting by Patty). Acrylix played at our wedding reception, but it was more of a reunion because the band was beginning to fray, and by the end of the year Shelly left the band. It was a friendly split, but the original soul of the band left with her. We changed our name to Shocko Bottom, which was named after the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood in Richmond, VA. There was nothing strategic at all about the new name; one time we were passing through as Acrylix and thought the name sounded cool. We added a new drummer (Gary Crockett) – a perfect fit. How did we find him? I forget. He was so very tight, so very good and in the pocket. We also added a second keyboard player (Andrew Wallace), who turned out to be a great complement to Jim. Andrew had connected with us via our old friend Tony Piazza (currently with Claudia Neuman as Sister Ex); Andrew had played drums in Tony’s band Radio Silence. Tony in turn had met Marcus back in 1982 at DuPont Circle and later directed a video of Acrylix at Montgomery College for a class project. Alas, that video is lost. Andrew was a cut-up, like once arriving a little late for practice and apologizing to us all because he neglected to allow time for his wife’s multiple orgasms.
To fill out the large band, we got a bass player, Chris, a software engineer, (Dammit, what was his last name?) so Marcus could concentrate on vocals, and two “girl” backup singers - Nanna Ingvarsson, a well-regarded DC actress and Amy (Dammit, what was her last name?). Jim, Marcus and I were still the heart of the band in terms of continuity of spirit, and our experience and the additional people just made everything “mo’ better.” We were very, very solid and the two keyboards were transcendent. Our first new song was Time For a Change (Es Tiempo para un Cambio), featuring a salsa flavored riff Andrew and I came up with. I recall being petulant and throwing tantrums – at age 33, mind you - because I was struggling to find a niche, my own private frequency, in the new wall of sound. Typical guitar player immature dweeb shit, worrying about being left behind and no longer being the guitar god. Of course, I found I could contribute plenty.
We began rehearsing as a band in Feb or March of 1987, in Andrew’s parents’ basement. After his parents and their neighbors formed a torch bearing mob and kicked us out of the basement, we moved to a rehearsal space on Flower Ave. in Silver Spring owned by old-timer Walter Salb in the summer. This was a block away from where Patty and I lived at the time. Our daughter Melissa had been born in April, 1987, so this made it a little less complicated for me. The cicadas were roaring that year. Then, Chris No Last Name left to get rich in tech stuff and was replaced by ace bassist Jimmy Crenca, a veteran of the music scene who arrived wearing an MWWW T-shirt, Mike Reidy’s (originally of Razz) band Mick Way and the Wrong Ways.
There were more gigs, more flyers (see below). In late 1987 at the Roxy/Club Saba on Connecticut Ave., we opened for the late Root Boy Slim. Root Boy was all over our backup singers backstage after our set. Marcus was really coming into his own as a performer (with that new bass player, he was freed up to prance around the stage). He would stride on stage with a juju stick, a la Screaming Jay Hawkins or Dr. John. It just fit him, with his love of funk and soul and the concerts he used to go to at the WUST Music Hall. Here’s a video of us in action, playing the song Desire.
We soldiered on. We played at Jim Landry and Nicki Burton’s wedding on February 14, 1988. Amy and Nana left that summer to pursue acting. We added singers Jane Alexander and Kristina Johnson. On December 30, 1988, we opened at the 930 club for Flock of Seagulls. After that, Andrew had to call it quits due to tinnitus. In 1989, we added a conga player who had played with James Brown for gigs at the infamous Grog and Tankard (renowned for stiffing musicians out of money) and the Bayou. By 1990, however, the band was finished. We did manage to record some great material at the studio of composer Chris Biondo (biondomusic.com) - he had worked with local Go-Go man Chuck Brown, and the recordings came out much funkier and more complex than Acrylix. But they were simply very good demos and we never released anything. Well, until now; it’s all posted on the music tab, and here’s one: Tight Squeeze.
And so, with a thud, the 80s were done done. It wasn’t from our lack of trying, though - not quite the breadth of Hamburg to the rooftop of Apple Corps headquarters, but we did it....our wayyyy!