Boys Life – Man I Once Was – Person I Wanted to Be CBGB’s 01-29-82

Jack CBGBs

So it was January of 1982, just a few months after my disaster partying with Iggy down at Spit/Metro.
By then, I’d been going to AA for several months trying to stay clean and sober. On August 5th 1981 I was mixing Iggy’s opening act, The Dark. What happened after the show was historic for me. Iggy and I broke out together and were each involved in separate car accidents on the way back to his hotel from Landsdown Street. Iggy’s accident was minor; mine was not. I totaled a Hanley Audio company van, almost killed myself and another person, and got charged with Driving Under the Influence. Because I already had two open cases resulting in Probation, this spelled BIG legal trouble for me. Now The Neighborhoods and some other friends had done a benefit for me down at The Rat a year before, a “legal benefit” to raise funds for our lawyer to represent me. My lawyer stuck with me on this new case, but my old friends did not. Spit offered me a date for a NEW legal benefit, but I had to find a good headliner if I was going to be able to pay my good, but expensive, lawyer enough money to stay out of prison. This was no joke. My lawyer actually collected the money right off the Spit door with John Tasse, Jerry, and Tommy Nicoletti.

But before all of that could happen, I had to find a headliner. That was when 18 year old John Surrette called me up and offered Boys Life up to headline IF I would do a show with them up at some High School in New Hampshire a week or so before. Of course I agreed; Boys Life was getting pretty popular. Then John told me that if things worked out, they just might be able to use me as their regular Soundman. Now THAT really insulted me. What BALLS I thought! I remember replying with something like; ”What makes you think that a sound guy of MY caliber would even CONSIDER working regularly with a bunch of kids like you?” His quick comeback hit me like a sledgehammer right between my eyes. He said; ”Listen, Jack, the word on the scene is YOU’RE all washed up. You totaled a truck, you’re a drunk, you can’t stay sober, and no one on the scene wants anything to do with you anymore. Now we don’t drink, we don’t do drugs, we’re the only totally SOBER band in Boston. And quite frankly, working with us would probably be your last fucking chance at Rock and Roll!” After I recovered from his brutal honesty, I humbly accepted his offer. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The Dark and The Phantoms rounded out the bill. My lawyer saved my ass for the third time, I never went to prison, I eventually kissed goodbye to three Probation Officers, spent several years working with Boys Life, and I’ve been 100% clean and sober since August 7th of 1981. Fact is, I don’t know if I had been able to do it without Boys Life AND our young roadie, my then little brother, John Bionelli, those first few years. Even if I HAD managed to stay clean and sober, I probably could not have stayed sober working in Rock and Roll. I will be forever grateful to those guys.

Anyways, this recording is of my first trip down to CBGBs as soundman for the boys of my then new life. I mixed and recorded it at about five and a half months sober. As we were loading out in Malden, Johnny B told me about a new song John wrote called The Man I Once Was. He told me John wanted me to know the song was about some drunk he and his girlfriend met in a move theater. I preferred his song Person I Wanted to Be instead, so I’m including both.

I’m also including a pic someone took of me behind the CBGBs board drinking a huge mug of coffee. I drank a LOT of coffee in Rock and Roll bars back then. After 31 years I noticed something in the picture I never noticed before. There is a sign on the wall saying it would cost you $5 to record your set there. That house soundman at CBGBs must have seen me coming; he always charged ME ten!

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