They’re Still Doing It, Yeah They’re Still Doing It…
I’m a New York City native who spent some of his wonder years on Long Island (pronounced: lawn GUY land), and being of a certain age I grew up watching one of the greatest bar bands in rock history. The Good Rats almost grabbed the brass ring for a nanosecond but instead watched lesser bands get the adulation and sales. That didn’t stop them. They just kept blowing some of the name acts off the stage and putting on one entertaining rock show after another while cementing their legend.
Had they started in the age of the Internet and You Tube they would be a household name, but they were too much too soon. Or too good. Or too hairy. Who knows? They headlined some arena shows in the NorthEast and even got a bit of airplay, but they just didn’t explode like they deserved to. No one I knew could figure it out, since we were complete Ratheads and converted anyone we dragged along to the shows. They were always on the verge or being huge and to this day people still can’t figure out what happened.
Maybe you had to be there.
I remember sneaking into clubs as an teenager to see them play, then partying like a madman on college visits…years later even managing a club that booked them on occasion. These were blue collar rockers, regular guys who loved their audience almost as much as their audience loved them. Peppi Marchello would carry lead guitarist John Gatto on his shoulders, play a trashcan for percussion, fling rubber rats into the audience, and might have been the first professional air guitar player, although he used a baseball bat for his fretwork. (Take that John Fogerty – no strings!). Wherever they played, that’s where the party was. I’m here to report that not much has changed in forty years.
Tonight I saw the Good Rats play an outdoor show, just one set, almost a “Rats greatest hits” performance. The crowd was huge, from babies to bikers (much like the annual Ratstock) and they hit the stage without a soundcheck but nailed “Fireball Express” to set the levels. Playing as a four piece does have some limitations – one listen to Ratcity In Blue will tell you these guys should always be a two guitar band – but they pumped out the classics like “Tasty”, “Taking It To Detroit”, “Does It Make You Feel Good”, “School Days”, “Yellow Flower” (complete with dance), “Injun Joe”…pretty much everything I hoped to hear except “Reason To Kill”. Not that I couldn’t have rattled off twenty more requests, I’m a fan! But if these song titles are foreign to you, allow me to introduce you to the Long Island Legends.
Tasty was released thirty five years ago. Peppi will be sixty-five this December yet he fronted a power trio tonight like a man half his age; on the last song he held a note for twenty seconds. He might complain of a sore back on occasion, but his vocals are amazing – he sounds almost as fresh today as he did in his youth.
Tomorrow night they’re playing a club gig, so the show will be three hours long. Yeah, I know it’s not Springsteen, but here’s another guy who understands what he’s got, and is grateful to rock and roll for a living. Or, as Peppi says, “I thank God every day, because being able to be a rock and roll guy as a job is a gift. I probably wouldn’t have liked that whole gynecologist thing, anyway”.
The original band has long since gone their own ways and several people have passed through Rat lineage (including future Kiss axeman Bruce Kulick). For a while Peppi toured with two of his sone, but only bassist Stefan remains in the current lineup – they still kick ass, though. If you’re a purist, the Original Good Rats started getting together the last couple of years, and their gigs around the NYC area have been poular sellouts.
The Good Rats were inducted into the Long Island Music Hall Of Fame in 2008. But they were inducted into mine way backin the early 70s.
Keep rocking, Peppi.
Get your merch from the Good Rats website.
Good Rats MySpace site.
Good Rats discography.
A pretty accurate Wikipedia entry.
Yeah….they’re still Tasty.