"The ELECTRAS' .....great interview with a great band!
Thu Nov 11 13:59:23 EST 2004
Electra-fied John Kerry's election loss screwed us all, but at least he has the Electras to fall back on. BY GARRET KAMPS
Karma Electras: The band's former bassist would eventually get his comeuppance for this haircut.
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Every band has a story. The Electras are no different. The group, formed in 1961, was composed of prep school students Andy Gagarin, Jack Radcliffe, Peter Lang, Jon Prouty, Larry Rand -- and former presidential hopeful John Kerry. For two years the band played versions of classic garage and surf tunes at parties, dances, ice cream socials and the occasional ballyhoo and/or sock hop, ultimately recording a full-length album in the band room of St. Paul's School in New Hampshire.
Though only 500 copies of the LP were originally pressed, recent events have sparked renewed interest in the material. The months leading up to the election saw two different versions of the album: Republicans Gagarin and Radcliffe put out their own at www.johnkerryandtheelectras.com; the remaining Electras, all Democrats, donated proceeds from their reissue (www.electrasrockandrollband.com) to the Kerry campaign.
With the album finally available and Kerry's election hopes dashed, an Electras episode of Behind the Music is being rushed through production. Using unedited transcripts from interviews for the show, I have compiled this brief oral history of the Electras. Enjoy.
Andy Gagarin, maracas: We formed for the same reasons any band forms -- to get chicks, you know? Pussy, beaver. Wait, do me a favor and don't use that last part, OK?
Peter Lang, drums: Well, we weren't originally called the Electras. We were ... lemme think ... it's been awhile.
John Kerry, bass: The Pussy Chasers. It was my idea. But Radcliffe wouldn't go for it. Fuckin' Radcliffe -- a great piano man but kind of square.
Jack Radcliffe, piano: I'll bet Kerry called me square, right? Look, I've got nothing against him, but you've gotta remember, this was 1961. The world wasn't ready for a band called the Pussy Chasers.
Kerry: These days, bands have all kinds of lewd names. What's a Limp Bizkit, anyway? All I'm saying is, I was ahead of my time.
Jon Prouty, guitar: Did we use drugs? Some of us did. I don't want to name names. But let's just say that those of us who did knew what it meant to inhale.
Lang: Our first show, I suppose it went off pretty well. I mean, I don't remember most of it, so that's usually a good sign, right? Let's see, it was a house party. We only knew four or five tunes. And Kerry played with his back to the audience, I think. Come to think of it, Gagarin did, too, which is weird. I mean, Gagarin played the maracas.
Gagarin: A lot of people think the maracas are easy. Not as much as you'd think. It takes timing, rhythm. Those guys never appreciated what I brought to the equation.
Larry Rand, guitar: Gagarin? He brought beer most of the time. That was important.
Lawrence Ackersly, St. Paul principal: Oh, I remember them. It's hard to forget a group of young men who had nearly every parent in the school banging down my door. Rabble-rousers, they were. Ruffians. Scamps.
Chuck Berry, musician: Did they invent rock? Shit. I wax 'em. We had a saying: You bake the cookies, and I'll eat 'em. I think it's fair to say they baked a lot of cookies. Makin' sense?
Keith Richards, musician: Sheet. [laughs] I been thinking -- [laughs]. 'Cause ... I mean ... the Electras? Sheet.
Greil Marcus, rock critic: Their sound was a whole new America, a sound as big as the room, and when they'd play "Ya Ya" or "Shanghaied," they'd play the hell out of it and own it and make it their own.
Lang: We had a solid run. Better than you'd expect from six guys dressed in turtlenecks [laughs]. And I gotta tell you, there's nothing like that feeling you get when you're onstage. It's thrilling. I went on to become a doctor, and I've spent years working in ERs -- sewing limbs back on, treating gunshot wounds -- but man, compared to the thrill of playing a song like "Greenfields," with an audience of teenage girls throwing their poodle skirts onstage.... Thing is, though, I think we just lived too fast. I think ... [pauses] ... I think we just flew too close to the sun, you know?
Col. Jack Jackson, CEO, Really Good Records: Of course I thought about bringing 'em into the studio. We all did. There was so much talent there. But you've got to understand that inviting the Electras into a proper recording studio at that time would have been disastrous. That bass player could drink you bankrupt in under a week, plus I didn't have the facilities to record maracas.
Bob Dylan, musician: I get a lot of credit for introducing the Beatles to, you know, the Mary Jane. But let's give credit where credit is due.
Kerry: That  was when things really went south. The reefer, the sex. Shit, one night Prouty and I nailed half the glee club and the entire front line of the St. Paul's field hockey team. We were getting away from what really mattered -- the music, you know?
Prouty: There was one show, some clown-and-pony deal in the parking lot of a Ford dealership, we were in the middle of "Guitar Boogie Shuffle," which was one of our more popular songs, and I look over and Kerry's cock is sticking right out of his pants. It's just poking out of his zipper, and he's got the biggest smile on his face. And of course I'm like, "John!" And he looks at me like, What?
Lang: The parties were wild, man. I remember one -- my parents were in the Poconos that weekend. I was on the roof, bombed out of my gourd. Prouty and Gagarin were in the kitchen, tag-teaming Annette Funicello, and there was Kerry, dropping two 'ludes and throwing a Kennedy into the pool.
Radcliffe: We had a meeting, August of '62, I think it was. Everyone looked bad. Kerry wasn't around. Some model-U.N. summer camp, his parents told us, but we knew what was up. We decided right then and there to break up the Electras. I mean, really, what can you do when your bassist is in rehab?
Gagarin: I told 'em, "Guys, I can play bass. I can do it." But they wouldn't listen. Once a maraca player, always a maraca player, I guess. Bunch of dicks.
Prouty: Next winter, we tried to get the Electras back together for just one more gig. Everyone was in. Kerry was waffling, though. I think he was on break from Yale, and he just seemed ... different. He spent 45 minutes talking about pros and cons, and finally, after, like, two hours, he said yes. The gig was a total disaster. We got panned in all the papers. To this day, Kerry swears he never wanted to do it in the first place.
Kerry: I actually did vote for the gig before I voted against it. I was misled.
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