In the winter of 1983, a 20 year old Jahn Xaviar was at the height of his career. His band, The Nitecaps, was signed to Sire Records, their debut album was just released in the States, and they opened for U2 on the War Tour for six weeks in the UK. Critical buzz at critical mass level , the six year journey- from 14 year old getting kicked out of his own band, The Blessed, two weeks before their first performance, to breaking free of the cult-like New York punk scene- was completed. Except it wasn't.
30 years later, Jahn sits in a diner on 2nd Avenue, his gravelly voice so perfect for his soul rock songs, explaining how things weren't as they appeared: "It was Michael Rosenblatt and Kim Kushnick, who were running A&R at Sire at the time who were our champions; we were very fond of them. But it was one of those unfortunate situations where right before the album came out they both left the company and we ended up with an A&R person who… our release date got pushed back to January 3rd, which is a great shopping week.
"Then we went on tour with U2 for a month and a half in the begining of 1983 , when the record was already out in the States and we should have been there and Sire didn't release the album or a single in the UK till 2 weeks after we left the tour in England, till we had left the biggest tour of that season."
Jahn's trip doesn't end there, but it seriously derails there.
It starts when his father, a married Italian bartender who had worked at top establishments like "Peter Luger's" had an affair with a Russian Jewish woman. Jahn knew his father while growing up in the Bronx, but his father didn't divorce his wife and marry Jahn's mother till Jahn was 13 years old.
By this time, Jahn had moved from the Bronx to Queens to the Village and was settled on a Macdougal bristling with music and energy. Jahn already played drums and guitar at the time, music seeping through the concert halls of NYC.
"My Godmother, who was like an Aunt to me -she became a booking agent at a place called Premier Talent, which was then the only rock-exclusively agency in the US. run by a man named Frank Barcelona.
"They were the first people to bring in Jimi Hendrix and the Who. Barcelona is in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame as the man who basically set up the headlining rock and roll tour. Where bands had formerly done Murray The K, rock and roll shows with a few minutes here, a few minutes there, when we was working with The Who, he decided this was not the way to present the acts. He was the first guy to say 'We were gonna have good sound wherever we go, we will either make them get sound or transport them.' Because he saw the beginning of what we noiw call FM Radio. Premier's roster was the who's who of rock in the late 1960s.
"My Mom worked there as well. Soi they started taking me to shows at the Filmore East. when I was five or six years old. 1967, 1968. "
This is a golden age for rock in NYC, and one of the greatest rock and roll houses ever.
At a very early age, Jahn graduated from Herman Hermits to The Who: "The first record I ever fell in love with was Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter, but immediately they began bringing me home records from work. So the first real album I fell in love with was The Who Sell Out. It was a great album for a kid, it was full of commercials and jingles and it was a perfect soundscape. So I became a pretty diehard Who fan, loved that nobody knew who they were. A pretty snobby seven year old. And then Tommy came out…
"But I remained a fan, so much so that a few days before my eight birthday, my Aunt… I had already seen the Who a few times and they kinda knew who I was because my Aunt was booking them, and I was the only kid who was backstage, She tells them that 'Jahn knows the words to all your songs' and they go 'Fuck let's hear it' and back stage at the Metropolitan Opera House when they were doing the last performance of Tommy, in June 1970, they made me stand on a table back stage and sing 'Acid Queen' and 'Go To The Mirror Boy'. I still have the albums they autographed and Keith (Moon) was going 'We're taking him on the road with us' and Peter Rudge, who was their tour manager, was like 'oh we're taking him' and I'm looking at my Mom and my Mom's going, 'like the fuck you are. Ain't gonna happen.'
"I grew up in that kind of atmosphere. That kind of story is indicative. The bands I got to see back then, the bands from the Filmore, I got to see great shows, the ones that resonate for me, I was there for some of the nights when the Allman Brothers recorded…"
The Filmore East was a home away from home for the child.
"Bill Graham was so nice to me. He and my Aunt would fight but it was professional. They would fight and then love each other at the end of the day. I think that's how it was with Bill with everybody. My mother and Bill loved each other. When they were naming the street after him on 6th street. In New York City the naming convention is 'so and so way'. Charlie Parker way. Joey Ramone way. In Bill's case his friends lobbied so it would have an apostrophe in it would read 'Bill Graham's Way' because they said that's the only way he really did things. '
"But the bands that I remember the most… I loved Mountain, they were so good to me and so friendly. And the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs And Englishmen nights were something that every time I listen to the records I almost get tears in my eyes while thinking about being there. Hearing them say things on the radio that I remember them saying on the album that I had heard in the audience like 'don't get too hung up Easter'. But there were so many bands there and later at the Academy Of Music that didn't get big that I loved.
"Every night it was a triple bill, that you didn't expect to see. Maggie Bell and Stone the Crows. Ronnie Hawkins with the King Biscuit Boys on harmonica. Les Harvey!! The last nights of the Filmore East and I went to see the Allman Brothers and I knew who they were, but opening was Albert King and the J Giles Band. Two that ended up having a huge influence on me. That was about a month before my ninth birthday. By then I had around three or four years of shows under my belt."
But how many times can you go to the fair before you wanna try some of the rides?
"I was playing drums. I started playing drums at about 7, 6 or 7, got my first kit when I was 8, started fooling around in bands when I was around 12. I had already started learning guitar by 12 but I was probably the only kid living on Macdougal Street to commute to Glen Cove every every weekend to play with a garage band and I was trying to turn them on to the Ramones and stuff and they were not having it."
A couple of blocks from CBGB's and the scene Jahn was involved with was changing radically. But it was still a couple of years before Jahn would become part of the great rooms welcoming committee. "CBGB's was open long before then but I wasn't going to CBGB's. I was still well underage.
"I became aware of that scene in 1976. Again, through the Filmore East. Mary Lou Capes, who used to run the front office at the Filmore East, she later ended up working at Premier Talent, and then she worked at Atlantic records, and we remained friends. She used to babysit for me over the weekends and take me down to the village. She was the first person to expose me to the Village as a youngster, took me to all the shops that used to exist. 8th Street Bookstore and places like that, they were magical to me. She ended up working with ABC Records, and one day I walked into the office at ABC and…
"Let me backtrack, Sire Records had a can called Neckar, which was a German Progressive rock band and I had heard of them so when I walked into her office and heard "Blitzkrieg Bop",I thought oh they'd signed some other German band. And then I looked at the cover, The Ramones, and I thought they were some German band and I was already at 14 a bit of a musical snob, so I was like 'they suck'.
"I told Mary Lou 'they suck.' She said 'do me a favor, take this record home, and listen to it and give it a chance.' I trusted her. So I played it the next day for all my friends 'Listen to these guys, they suck', put it on ten times 'Listen to this it sucks. Doesn't it suck?' Everyone who came over, because my house on MacDougal Street, people were in and out all the time.I played it all afternoon till I realized I really liked it.
"A week or two later I saw them on the cover of East Village Eye or New York Rocker, and those were the two papers that statrted exposing me to what was going on down there. At that point I despaired of rock and roll's future- The Tamer, Fleetwood Mac and Styx and Kansas, things that I didn't relate to. I was going to Grateful Dead gigs because I was 14 and that was the best way to meet girls. But even that wasn't appealing to me very much. And I had started already listening to old soul music and jazz because I couldn't relate to anything that was going on. And suddenly I had something vital at my back door.
"It was amazing to me and i would immediately run out and get whatever was on Ork Records, like Little Johnny Jewel and Marbles and the first Richard Hell EP which changed my head because it was obvious that they were playing- that these were all guys who could really play. But the Ramones were good, It was like the first time I heard the Stooges as a kid, it scared me. Until i got it. And I like records that scare me to this day.
"I started listening to the English scene as soon as I started reading about it, again, New York Rocker. Went out and grabbed my copy of "New Rose', the first one that made it over here.And I got "Anarcchy" and that was it. We lived in "Bleeker Bobs" and "Golden Oldies" on Carmine Street and "Discophile" on 8th street. And we would just wait, every week, like what came out and we would just buy it. I bought some truly awful records 1976-1977.
"But I. had always been a pop freak and a soul man as well. I have all kinds of deep dark secret records. I used to hide my prog rock records from my punk friends.For instance at Golden Oldies on Sullivan Street, December 1976, I remember buying Spiral Scratch by the Buzzcocks the same day I bought Living Thing by ELO.
"Spiral Scratch was one of those changed-my-life-records , more than The Ramones- I felt like I could do that. The band that me and my friends started to put together in the middle of 1977 for something to do, called The Blessed, those were our touchstones. I liked that Howard Devoto could just go out and sing 'ba dum ba dum" and make it a lyric- it opened up a world for me. Like, 'wow, we don't have to be technically proficient, to get the enjoyment out of it.'
"I started hanging out at CBGB's in mid-1977. I was 15 years old. And I was so intimidated that I actually made a joke with all my friends who worked there, who were really only a couple of years older than me- but when you're 15 and they're 20 that's a big difference. Now my daughter is older than some of their kids. I actually made a reservation to get a table… And there was this great waitress there, she walked up to me at the table that night and she we are about to order drinks and she goes 'yeah, uh huh, no. Cokes?'
"And then I spent the next couple of days, grabbed my friends bass, and practicing bass parts to Blank Generation- the whole album- and walked in ready .
"It was a big pain in the ass for Richard to take a then sixteen year old in his band, take him on the road. There was trouble with clubs, there was trouble at after parties, the police would come and I'd have to hide, because I was underage and I would have got everybody busted- that's number one. Number two, he always paid me an even share of whatever they made when he could have very easily paid me a salary. Number three, I got to spend a year on the road, playing in the studio with Ivan Julien and Bob Quine which was a musical education that you could not ask for anywhere else. Number four- years later, no matter what got released, no matter what got recorded, no matter what compiliation, if there was anything I was performing on, a lot of demos, a lot of live tracks, Richard Hell hunted me down and gave mne money that he didn't by rights have to give me.
"Jake had given Richard a lot of money, 5Kto record some demos which was a lot of money in those days, and Richard showed up with $1500 left which pissed off Bob to no end. The demos were insufficient as a result, they were kinda half assed and Richard, he was losing interest in the band. Drugs? I can't speak to that. I'm not being obtuse, I really don't know if that was the case because he ended up just not being interested playing in a band anymore.. He had already lost interest playing bass, that's why I was there and little by little he was losing interest in the grind of it. Dropped from Sire, the one single on Radar, there was the promise of the album but Jake had heard the demos and there wasn't going to be an album, and Quine was really dissatisfied with Richard at that point. I think Ivan and I would've probably just cruised along, it was fine, but Ivan started forming the Lovelies or the Outsets or Mad Orphan or whatever."
-Conitnued On Following Post-