Okay, so now you get the picture, my brother and I are setting up our equipment in Ben’s new studio over at the Kaufmann-Astoria movie studios (yes, we have a movie studio in New York) and as I’m plugging in my guitar amp, one of Ben’s assistant engineer’s whispers in my ear, “You guys are NUTS recording demos here!” That assistant was none other than the legendary “Bobby G!” Bobby was a talented engineer who had worked at the famed “Media Sound” recording studio in Manhattan. His recording credits included the ROLLING STONES and that hit single, “FLY ROBIN FLY.” For those of you who may not know Bobby Gordon, let me just say that - never more animated a human being ever breathed air. Bobby is a living-breathing caricature of himself! His movements are more animated than Bug Bunny’s and his inherent paranoia (Bobby is one of those “whisperers” – you know the type that covers his mouth with his hand and talks in whispers, even when there’s no one else in the room with you and him, and he’s only telling you about the movie he saw the night before). Brooklyn spawns a lot of “whisperers” …it’s a mob thing. Well, Bobby was from Flatbush!
When I asked Bobby why we were nuts, he whispered that we couldn’t talk there but that he could save me and my brother about $100 an hour if I met him in the city the next day. I decided that a c-note an hour was worth the price of the toll to Manhattan, so I agreed. I met Bobby at his home up on 64th St. and York Avenue the next day and he told me that he and his “partner” Nicky had just opened a small studio and that they only charged $50/hour instead of $150/hour, which was how much Ben’s studio cost.
The day I met Bobby it was a blizzard, like a foot of snow and still coming down! It took me about an hour to slide from 64th and York to someplace in Queens (thanks Nicky, for the correction), to pick up Nicky. Needless to say the drive was nerve-racking and stressful and what were Nicky’s very first words to me as he opened my car door? “YOU’RE LATE!” Not only did I pick him up in this blizzard, but Bobby wanted me to see their “studio” …that was out in HEMPSTEAD, LONG ISLAND! For those of you who are not familiar with New York, Hempstead, Long Island is about an hour from Manhattan on a nice sunny day – in a snow storm, it took me more than twice as long to get there! …and do you know where their studio was …in the basement of Nicky’s parents' home!
Now, two nicer people you cannot meet than Mr. & Mrs. Kalliongis – except of course for the vice-like handshake from his dad (my right hand is still deformed from our first handshake). Picture two of the nicest Greek people greeting you with reservation, in a house that smelled like the best Greek restaurant! I was starving about 2-minutes after I walked into the house – but I’m off topic – back to Nicky!
So, we go down into the basement and there it is - a small control room with all of the studio equipment and another room with a mic. Next to the mic was a cot – this apparently was Nicky’s bedroom! That assumption became fact, when, as Bobby was letting me listen to the sound system in the control room, Nicky proceeded to strip down to his underwear and socks and then walked into the control room and announced, “Keep it down, I have to get some sleep, that drive was BRUTAL!” Bobby almost had to restrain me from strangling Nicky in his underwear and socks!
The real weirdness began about an hour later though – and from then on, whenever Nicky and I were together – weird things happened! As I was trying my best to “quietly” test out their studio equipment, Nicky walked back into the control room, still in his underwear and socks! He went over to the drum machine and started showing me its capabilities. Then he started demonstrating the rest of the equipment. I almost thought it was his twin! What a surreal experience, having Nicky Kalliongis, A&R man for ARISTA RECORDS showing me how nice his DX-7 keyboard sounded, standing there in his underwear and black socks. If that all wasn’t weird enough, Nicky ended our first meeting with the fateful words, “You and I are going to be friends!” I just said, “Yeah …sure we are,” like you would to any escaped mental patient.
By the time I got home, I almost thought it was some odd, twisted, blizzard-induced hallucination, but then my phone rang …it was Nicky! He said, “g, it’s Nicky, come with me on Saturday, I’m going to buy a car!”
Come back next time to hear the legendary story of the “Orange Maserati Marek!”
You can’t make this stuff up!
(Continued… Part III will appear on Thursday, March 04)
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Dean Wesley Smith