Vagrants – I Can’t Make A Friend 1965 – 1968

January 01, 1970

(Light In The Attic)

 

www.lightintheattic.net

 

Born in
the same Queens neighborhood that gave us Simon &
Garfunkel and The Ramones, The Vagrants of
Forest Hills are one of the great lost treasures of New York rock in the 1960s.

 

Inspired
by their frequent trips to Brooklyn’s Fox Theater for Murray
the K’s Motown-packed revues as well as the opportunity to catch the Beatles’ pre-Shea show at the Forest
Hills Tennis Stadium on August 18, 1964, band members Peter Sebatino on
lead vox, organ player Jerry Storch, drummer Roger Mansour, bassist Larry West
and his guitarist brother Leslie (who famously went on to form NYC hard rock
institution Mountain) began practicing in the basement of the West brothers’
apartment building. Occasionally they were joined by future Warren
Zevon/Jackson Browne associate Bob “Waddy” Wachtel. The group prided
itself on being the second rock band – in Queens,
at least – to employ the use of the Hammond B-3, following The Young Rascals’
lead.

 

It was a
revolutionary and unique sound that soon enough helped inspire a number of
other area acts as well, including The U-Men (who would become The Good Rats),
Billy Joel’s first band The Hassles and The Pigeons, who later changed their
name to Vanilla Fudge and helped take the electric R&B template to a whole
‘nother level by adding heaping spoonfuls of tube distortion to the mix. But
nobody sounded quite like The Vagrants. 
If nothing else, the combo’s scrappiness and fuck-all attitude help
shift the currents of history by motivating classmates John Cummings and Thomas
Erdelyi to start their own garage band The Tangerine Puppets; if those names
sound familiar, their stage names should sound even more so – a decade later
Johnny Ramone and Tommy Ramone would play crucial roles in permanently changing
the face of rock ‘n’ roll.

 

Soon
enough, The Vagrants found themselves gigging at such heralded venues in the
city as Ungano’s, The Cheetah and The Rolling Stone, a club on 48th Street owned
by legendary New York DJ Scott Muni, where they served as the house band and
saw such acts as The Dave Clark Five and the Righteous Brothers show up and sit
in with the group. Later, the boys found themselves collaborating with local Queens hero and future Mountain man Felix Pappalardi and
opening for The Who at the Fillmore East before rampant in-fighting and drug
abuse broke up the band in 1968. And while The Vagrants never recorded a proper
full-length in their short time together, this latest compilation from the
folks at Light In The Attic is the very first to tell the complete story of
this most criminally underappreciated pillar of NYC rock.

 

Updated
from the 1987 Arista Records release The
Great Lost Album
and a rather slapdash and shady 1996 compilation that
shares its name , I Can’t Make A Friend
1965-1968
collects all 12 studio tracks the group laid to tape in their
short time together, predominantly their string of singles for both Vanguard
Records and ATCO, including their minor hit in this compilation’s title track, their
scorching rock version of Otis Redding’s “Respect” (it landed them a
prestigious spot on Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets anthology)
and the Zombies-esque “Oh Those Eyes”.

 

The
inclusion of any kind of live material to beef up the running time of I Can’t Make A Friend would have been
very welcomed, particularly their slowed-down rendition of The Beatles’
“No Reply” that was a staple of their set lists. But any fan of
obscure garage rock, especially that which emerged from the Tri-State area, will
certainly cherish this most definitive – albeit brief – overview of a band
whose time for reassessment regarding their place in the history of punk rock’s
evolution has been long, long overdue.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Oh Those Eyes”,
“I Can’t Make A Friend”, “Respect”, “A Sunny Summer
Rain” RON HART

 

 

 

 

 

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