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Pencil Storm & Proust, Remembrance of Bands Past, part one: 98 Colours - by JCE (intro by Ricki C.)

When I first received this piece from the best friend I have whom I have never actually met in person - JCE - his main question was, “Is a blog about a band from the 1980’s nobody has ever heard of outside of Virginia a proper topic for a Pencil Storm article?” My reply – of course – was, “That’s EXACTLY what a Pencil Storm article should be.”

My thought is: probably every 10th or 20th Pencil Storm reader has a band in their past that nobody outside their circle of friends has ever heard of. (For example: My lovely wife Debbie’s version would be The Lindley Boys, a kind-of new wave power-pop cover band that employed her childhood boy-next-door friend Jay as soundman.) (For that matter, mine might have been Willie Phoenix’s 1978 band, Romantic Noise.) Does that make that band any less important or – more particularly – any less LOVED than Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Motley Crue, Mumford & Sons, (or, in Colin’s case, KISS), etc.? My main problem with the The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is that it’s core CONCEPT is far too ELITIST. Rock & roll is an art form that ANYBODY can – and has – mastered. And the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame caters only to The Stars of the form. History is written by the winners: The Eagles, Queen, Journey, Bon Jovi and Radiohead are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; The MC5 and Mott The Hoople are not.

Myself, I subscribe more to Ian Hunter’s point of view in The Ballad of Mott The Hoople, March 26, 1972 – “Rock & roll’s a loser’s game / It mesmerizes and I can’t explain / The reasons for the sights and for the sounds.” Here’s a blog about a band you never heard, or heard OF. (From what I’m reading here, by JCE, I bet you would’ve liked ‘em.) – Ricki C. / June 3rd, 2019.


REMEMBERING THE GOOD TIMES I HAD HANGING OUT WITH A BAND CALLED 98 COLOURS

by JCE

For a few golden years around 1985-1988 or so, I spent a lot of time with a band called 98 Colours, making new friends and even being a roadie for a few days. I was living in Charlottesville, VA, where I attended the University of Virginia from 1981-1986. I was always on the hunt for good bands. Charlottesville had a pretty decent music scene, with clubs like the Mineshaft, Trax and the C&O. Bands like the The Deal and the Michael Guthrie Band, which were great power pop bands, were percolating around the area providing a good local scene along with touring acts that came through my college town. My favorite band, although far from the biggest, was 98 Colours. I became good friends with them: Randy, David & John. I want to share a few stories about the good times I had with this band called 98 Colours.

A Slow Start…

I had a college buddy that always went to rock n roll shows with me. After about a year of finding nothing but boring rhythm ‘n blues bands like The Skip Castro Band and Johnny Sportcoat & the Casuals, we started to discover some of the aforementioned bands that were more up our alley, so to speak. After seeing 98 Colours open for someone and liking their sound quite a bit, we started to look out for them. One night we saw that they were on a bill with a psychedelic garage rock band on tour called Plan 9. We headed to the C&O for the show. 98 Colours never played and we left after a couple of electric organ-drenched tunes from Plan 9. Years later, Randy still swears that 98 Colours never had that gig. I contend that they probably got to drinking that afternoon and blew it off. I guess we’ll never know for sure. So I guess you could say that my love of the band got off to a slow start.

Randy (bass and vocals)…

In my grad school year of college (1985-86) I had a friend who began dating Randy and she knew that I liked 98 Colours. She also thought Randy and I would get along. So one night, Randy put me on the guest list for a show they had at the Mineshaft. 98 Colours was the only band on the bill, so they played a couple of sets that night. Between the first and second sets, Randy came and sat at the bar with me. We had a great conversation and I found him to be a really genuine person right away. If I remember correctly I was watching my favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, on the bar TV that night. I mention this because a year later I was temporarily living on Randy’s couch and surviving on cheese sandwiches, and one night we were watching the 1986 World Series, the one the Sox lost when Bill Buckner (R.I.P.) let a routine grounder go between his legs. Anyway, LeRoi Moore was there hanging out, and he bet me five bucks the Mets would win. They did, and I paid up. LeRoi (R.I.P.) was a sax player that would occasionally play a few songs with 98 Colours. Of course he became rich and famous years later playing in the Dave Matthews Band before his untimely death in 2008. I often think about the fact that I lost a five dollar bet to a guy who, according to the internet, eventually had a net worth north of $40 million. Anyway, at this point, Randy and I had become close friends.

Little Sister… and the 98 Colours Crew…

Soon after meeting Randy and becoming friends with him, as well as Dave, his brother, I started dating a girl who I took out to Trax one night when 98 Colours was playing. I remember saying to her, “Hey those guys up there are friends of mine, they’re super nice.” She then says to me, “I know they’re nice, they’re my brothers.” That was a shock. Of course I thought right away that it was probably not too cool to be dating my good friends’ little sister. But no one seemed to have any problem with it, and we flamed out pretty quickly anyway. I went to see 98 Colours at every opportunity. There was a group of people that I got very close to. All of them grew up around Charlottesville and none attended UVA. I had gotten my undergraduate degree in the spring of 1985 and most of my college friends had graduated and left. I stayed at school to pursue a Masters degree, and I liked some of my fellow students, but I LOVED the people I met through 98 Colours. There was a crew of people around that band that I will never, ever forget.

Being the Opening Band…

98 Colours played a lot at the Mineshaft and Trax, often headlining, but sometimes opening for bigger bands. I remember talking to Randy, David & John years later and asking them about some of the bands they got to open for. The Neighborhoods were always cool, and they slept on the couches of my closest friends on several occasions. But 98 Colours agreed that one of the nicest, and best bands they ever got to play with was Jason and the Scorchers. That particular show was also one of the best sets I ever saw 98 Colours play. There was general agreement that the biggest jerks they ever had to deal with were The Replacements. That does nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for one of the greatest bands ever, but true to their reputation, The Replacements were apparently drunk, ornery, and not much fun to be around.

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Clipping from a Charlottesville newspaper – I have every demo they ever made, but

unfortunately 98 Colours never made a proper record.

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Flyer for the Scorchers show with “special guests” 98 Colours

The “Tour”… and my big chance to live the rock n roll life of a roadie…

I got out of grad school at UVA in the spring of 1986 with a Master’s degree. (editor’s note; Holy shit, Colin, were we aware Pencil Storm is employing bloggers with Master’s degrees? Are we BUDGETED for this? I think Anne Marie is our only other shot at this higher education bracket.) Time for the real world, but I decided to delay it a bit longer, as I had no desire to immediately get serious about a career. I took a job doing outdoor maintenance and stayed in Charlottesville to keep partying with 98 Colours and the crew. I got my friend, who was still Randy’s girlfriend, a job at the same company. That summer, 98 Colours manager/friend Maynard organized a mini ‘tour’ down through North Carolina. The band would play the Fallout Shelter in Raleigh, Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem and the New Deli in Greenville. The band asked me to join them for the trip. I was thrilled. On a Thursday morning (I think), Maynard and Dave took a car and John and Randy took a car and they headed to Raleigh. Randy’s girlfriend and I had to work, so the two of us left that evening. We arrived at the Fallout Shelter just in time to see the opening band pack up. 98 Colours followed with a great headlining set. After the show, we all set about the task of finding someone willing to put us up. I hit it off with a young lady attending N.C. State who had a house nearby which she assured me had a couple of couches, but by the time I informed the rest of the crew they already had been promised accommodations on the floor of a nearby apartment. Their loss, my gain.

When we met up again the next morning, John (drummer) switched to my car for the remainder of the trip so Randy could ride with his girl. John is an awesome guy to be around. I treasure the couple of days I had travelling with him, my Ford Escort loaded with drums and Milwaukee’s Best beer. Our next stop was Winston-Salem. We washed up after the drive in a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant bathroom and then went to Ziggy’s to set up and drink some (more) beers. It was a beautiful day, which was fortunate since the bands play outside at Ziggy’s. I danced some at this show and it was really fun with all of us hanging out really late afterwards. John had a hilarious drunken “dance-off” with a guy who was a Marine that was there. The Marine finally admitted defeat when John did an amazing super-speed version of a dance called the Potato Digger that just couldn’t be matched. We slept on the floor at someone’s house and got up the next morning for the final leg of the “tour.” My car had received a parking ticket which I threw away.

The final gig in Greenville was an opening slot for Southern Culture on the Skids. The venue, The New Deli, offered all of us free food and it was the best meal we had gotten since we left Charlottesville. 98 Colours played to an enthusiastic crowd of East Carolina University students. After the set, Randy, John and I went out back to the parking lot while the others stayed inside to watch Southern Culture’s set. After a few minutes hanging out by our cars drinking more cheap beer, three police cars screamed into the parking lot and gave us all drinking in public tickets. That one I paid. That was the entirety of my career as a roadie, except for one other show in Richmond, VA when I lugged equipment for 98 Colours opening for the Neighborhoods at a club called New Horizons.

Grateful for the Impact on My Life…

Randy, Dave & John all turned me on to new music, and that is something for which I am truly grateful. All of them had great taste in music. I used to feed Randy’s bird when he was out of town and he encouraged me to hang out in his apartment for as long as I wanted and sample his record collection. I recall discovering the Screaming Tribesmen (from Australia) and also the Outlets. I still love those bands. I have many, many stories related to 98 Colours and my friends that were part of the Charlottesville music scene. My wife, Janet, was away at Old Dominion University during most of these adventures, but she grew up with these guys and she knew them long before I did. We’ve been married 28 years now and I probably would never have even met her if it weren’t for the 98 Colours crew. Randy and Dave were in our wedding party. My life would be much different without them.

Thank you guys, truly.

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I skated relentlessly back then and Randy knew he had a fan when I painted their logo onto my favorite ride.

(editor’s note: If any of our other Pencil Storm writers or - even better - any of our Pencil Storm READERS would like to contribute to the Pencil Storm & Proust series, please feel free to send a submission to Pencilstormstory@gmail.com.)

Ricki C. and JCE (John, to his friends & family) first bonded over their shared mutual love of Boston's Finest Sons - The Neighborhoods - and everything extended out from that rock & roll ripple.  JCE lives in Culpeper, Virginia with his wife & daughter, and he & Ricki are STILL waiting for the long-rumored NEW Neighborhoods record to be released. Maybe in 2019.