Written by Shaun Soho (Crash Midnight)
I still remember the picture he sent replying to our ad for a guitarist. He had this jazz cat hairdo and shades thing going on (actually very Berklee School of Music now that I think of it), slouching down on a chair and striking his best “cool” pose. Alex Donaldson stepped off a plane at the end of a hot Boston summer and into a crash-course lifestyle that would become the flash point for a rock n’ roll train wreck destined to become “Crash Midnight.”
Alex had been in town under two weeks when the (now notorious) story of Bo totaling his car in a late night wreck would provide us with the name for the band. We’ve told the story so many times, it’s almost become a contest at this point to find some unique or sarcastic way to explain it in interviews. For the sake of the story…Bo was speeding home after a late night of partying, lost control of his car, skidded off the road onto a pile of rocks and smashed into a tree. You really have to understand Bo’s personality for this part. He’s just always been the guy that tries to sugarcoat things to get himself out of trouble.
Bo calls me, and I pick up the phone, half-asleep. The kid tells me that he’s got a great name for the band…and also that he needs a ride since the tow truck can’t haul his car off the rocks because it’s leaking gasoline, and sparks from dragging it off those rocks would equal massive fireballs or something along those lines. That’s pretty much the story Alex heard the following day as to why Bo couldn’t swing in and grab him at his apartment. I guess you could say it set the stage for what he was in for.
Bo, Alex, and myself had formed the core of the band and started setting about fleshing out the rest of the lineup. We all knew the exact sound we wanted…this hard blues rock thing with a punk edge to it. We just needed to find two other guys to round things out. We held tryouts, and ended up settling on a couple guys to get down our first few songs.
In the early days, we started off with songs called “Yesterday” and “Nothin’ To Lose,” which would eventually turn into favorites like “Diamond Boulevard” and (years later) “Welcome To Boston.” We wrote a song called “Made For The Money” and a little joke song called “151.”
In the early days, we didn’t have any money. We were living off of pasta and liquor; the liquor of choice was Bacardi 151. It was under $20, and the entire band could get completely ripped off of it. We’d cut it with Dr. Pepper, and it looked and tasted like jet fuel –something that would inspire the opening lyrics of the eventual song to come. At some point, we found out there was an even less expensive version of 151 made by a company called Roberto. It was actually bottled down the street in Somerville…that was a game-changer!
During his first year in Boston, Alex had this tiny-ass studio apartment right by Fenway Park, complete with roaches and a mouse we called “Professor Squeakers” on account of the backstory we cooked up for the little guy. It was something along the lines of him coming out late at night to perform experiments that left a mess all over the place. I guess for Alex, it was more palatable to imagine that at least the mouse was up to something of critical importance running around in the early morning hours while he tried to sleep.
Alex had this old lime-green Nokia phone back then. When he got really lit, he would spike it on the floor or hurl it at the wall where it would break apart into four or five pieces that he would somehow always be able reassemble later. This one night, we had some kids from a local Boston “punk” band over drinking what we passed off as a cocktail of high-proof rum. These guys were the typical “Nikki Sixx” haircut, fashion punk rockers who were “so much more punk than everybody else they knew,” but obviously lived in nice houses and were basically just playing dress-up.
So, there these guys were in the roach palace, drinking gut-melting jet fuel and hanging on for dear life. One of them finally mustered up the nerve to start into some tired speech of what “real punk rock” was all about and that was it. Alex jumped off his bed, phone in hand, yelled “That shit isn’t punk rock!” and hurled his phone right past the kid’s head into the wall, where of course, it exploded! Then he screamed, “That’s fucking punk rock!” We all started dying laughing and the guys in the other band just sort of excused themselves for the evening and headed on out.
After those guys left, we were still listening to music, drinking, and generally fucking around. We were pretty far gone and “Nightrain” by Guns N’ Roses came on the radio. I remember starting to sing over the song, changing the lyrics to stuff about 151 and us all cracking up. After the song ended, we grabbed the acoustic guitar and kept messing around with it just because it was fucking funny at the time, having no idea what that would end up starting for us. I think we thought that we were real cool, because as strong and awful as Nightrain wine is, you can light 151 on goddamn fire, so I guess we thought we were one-upping some of our heroes on the drinking front (probably not exactly a bar you want to aim to raise with a band like GnR). We started playing this bastardized version of “Nightrain,” both aptly and bluntly titled “151” at parties, and it quickly became such a favorite among our friends and fans that we started getting requests for it during those first few live shows. That was the point where we were like…“ok, I guess we should actually go back and make this thing into a real song.”
With this band, everything seems to come out of chaos or some car crash-level event. We had a name, some songs and began hitting the rock clubs like it was our lifeblood. Those early shows were wild. Even though those first performances were sparsely attended, there was definitely a “rager” happening on stage. Word started to spread. You could really see it all happening right in front of us. There were all these new faces showing up to see what we were doing. All of that momentum was what lead us to plan out our first tour that summer. Less than a year together, but already destroying everything in our paths, we put together a hastily recorded demo entitled “Fresh From Detox,” and headed out on our first tour.
Tune in next time for Chapter 3 of “My Rock and Roll Journey”: The Fresh From Detox Tour.
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