So Spring finally springs and I’m weaving through Williamsburg, desperate for a parking spot so I can take a leak. From my window I see Hassidim halting on the sidewalks, gawking at me like I’m from another planet as my car woofers are at full tilt blasting out the Good Rats. Eventually, I snag a spot between a rusty Desoto and someone’s leased Camry, but I hold the piss back for a third go-round of “Love On the Beach.” I’ve had the Tasty Seconds CD for 17 long years and still didn’t recognize the track, which strikes me as curious, but here’s the dileo.
Like you, when I dig a band, I play them. And when I love a band, I play them more. But either way, I end up hitting the same tracks on the same LPs again and again and again. If I want the Beatles, it's the White Album. The Doors, LA Woman. Same goes for the Stones, the Who, Tull, and even the Rats.
I mean, I love the fucking Rats. I don’t hold out Peppi Marchello as the greatest underrated singer/songwriter of his day. Shitcan the qualifier. Peppi was top ten in a parade that included John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend. He was the genuine article. The Rats were progressive and heavy and witty and fun; they danced on the head of a pin locating the precise juncture between trash and art. Like Zappa. Or Robert Crumb. Or Quentin Tarantino.
But even for a Rat fan like me, there’s the stuff you play and the stuff you skip. It has more to do with nostalgia than quality. You fast-forward to the songs nearest your heart and skip the rest. It's instinctive.
Which brings me to “Love On the Beach.”
I can’t recall what I expected during the summer of 1996 when I bought “Tasty Seconds,” the first Rat droppings in more than a decade. The title alluded to their classic “Tasty” LP, which aficionados regarded, at that point, as one of the band’s two or three most significant offerings. But we all know what sequels are like. Regardless, if I anticipated anything like their 1974 watershed, my expectations were soon dashed. “Tasty Seconds” was a new band whose backbone was no longer built on brother Mickey and John “the Cat” Gatto but rather on Peppi’s sons Gene and Stephen. The maestro's voice had matured. His songs were heavy, almost violent, a new sound for a new era, and some were instant classics to this long-time fan. I eagerly looked forward to live renditions of “Evil Little Boy,” “Crazy, Wild and Angry” and, more than any other, the driving, mournful biographic “Thunder Rocks My Soul.”
But I never made it to “Love On the Beach.” At least, not until this morning. With four thousand oifgekochte men in furry hats ready to bludgeon me for disquieting their morning with my goyishe music.
The point? (There has to be a point?) Well, this then: If you’re a Rat fan, you might want to flip that favorite Rat single to its neglected B-side. More, you might want to check out some of the less-known Marchello compositions that are begging for your attention on dusty CDs sitting in your own collection. And, if you want this humble author’s educated opinion, you might consider refraining from blowing ten bucks today, or whatever your local lottery ticket pusher is charging for scratch-offs, and invest in the current congress of Rat rondos: “Blue Collar Rats: The Lost Archives.”
Even a die-as-hard-as-you-can Rat devotee like myself finds it hard to break old habits. But the payoff is worth the effort.