Sunday, July 13, 2008

Interview with Billy Stark - Founding Member of the Blessed - Part 1

Interview with Billy Stark - Founding Member of the Blessed - Part 1

ME: How did The Blessed start and were you a founding member?

BILLY STARK: You want the long version or the cliff notes? A lot of things led up to us meeting each other-being @ the rightplace/right time and striking when the iron is hot etc.,bit I liken us to a story I read once that around 1910 where there were only two cars in all of the state of Kansas and they both crashed into each other. That analogy perfectly describes The Blessed.

Ok this is how The Blessed started.I had begun being pen pals with this Kid from Connecticut-who was into the Sex Pistols-and my age plus he was from Connecticut where I was born so we had a bit in common. I didn’t know anyone my age who either had heard of them or even LIKED them-This would be Arthur ‘DarvonStaggard’ Brennan(Darvon Staggard was his pen name) this would be late ’76 early ’77-Arthur is often referred to as ‘The Fifth Blessed Member’ for reasons explained later. We were going to start a band-he was learning guitar-Guess who was going to be the singer? So we wrote song titles and lyrics to each other during our correspondence-eventually we just moved to talking on the phone-so me being in NYC it was really up to me to seek out a Bassist and Drummer. Age didn’t matter we just wanted to get a band together.

I was hanging out a Bleecker Bobs for hours almost everyday, the one right off 8thSt. Anyhow having befriended the workers and Bob I let it be known that I was looking for a Bass player and Drummer for a band I was starting. One day these two guys (kids) come sauntering in-obviously about my age, one in his Johnny Rotten-type suit all ripped and torn and safety pinned w/ crap hanging all over and the other a slight scrawny kid with a beat-up Leather coat w/ stuff spray painted and written all over it. This would be Jahn’X-Cessive"Bonfiglio and Nick ‘Berlin’ Petti- no one had their stage names yet. Later I told Arthur about these two guys I had somewhat met so the next step was to find out if they play anything-Specifically Bass and Drums. Back at Bob’s I asked one of the workers if had seen those guys who came in and next time tell them I am looking for them and he said ‘Oh yeah, they came in and said the same thing-that they are looking for you’ Finally we met up and without skipping a beat we walked up to each other and announced we each were starting a band and what did anyone play? Testing My Mettle I asked X-cessive ‘Well if I was in a band what do you think I would do? To which X-cessive replied ‘Well you look and seem like a Lead Singer!’ and I said ‘Yep! That’s what I do-I AM the frontman’ X-cessive said he was a Guitarist and Nick was supposed to be the Singer in their outfit but X-cessive said about me ‘Well, he really does look more like a Lead Singer’ and it was decided that Nick would play Drums.

Now with Arthur the reality of him leaving school and moving to NYC was proving not to be feasible and I think he understood that I was going to go with these guys. Now, all we needed was a Bass Player .We were hanging out @ X- which was in the West Village –McDougal. One day the three of us ( X-cessive, Nick and I) were heading towards the East Village and we kept seeing this guy-another one of us(Aliens-Different-Planet) also about our age who looked cool and I mentioned that he looked like someone I knew from a few years back when I used to go and sell @ Phil Seuelings(RIP) Comic Book conventions. So when we decided to talk to him it was decided that I should do the talking since ‘I sort of knew him’. We spot him about to cross Third Ave towards us and he seemed like he knew we were going to talk to him so when we meet up & I asked him something along the lines of ‘Hey didn’t you used to go to Suelings Conventions?’ and he said he did. We told him we’re starting a band and do you play anything? He said ’I’ve got a Guitar and I’m learning to play’ and I said ‘Well, I’m the Singer-He’s the Guitarist (motioning to X-cessive) and he’s the Drummer (motioning to Nick) and we need a Bass Player so he said ‘OK then, I’ll play Bass’-Of course this was Howie (not yet Pyro) and the beginning of his career as a Bass Player.

One day we were hanging out @ X-cessives Apt and he had all these great underground comics from the 60’s and I was reading one Called " Binky Brown" something or other it was called and in one issue I was reading there was a sentence that started ‘The Blessed….’ We were still searching for a band name so I said ‘Hey, how about The Blessed’? We went to CBGB’s that night and wrote the name EVERYWHERE in the club. There was not a spot where the Blessed could not be seen so now it was a keeper.

Eventually we all went with Howie to get his Bass. We started rehearsing. I think the first songs we wrote were ‘No use Trying’and ‘Bound and Gagged’. We actually had tapes of these rehearsals but unfortunately they have been lost. And yes, I was a founding member.

ME: How old were you?


ME: How old were you when you played your first show andwhere was it?

BILLY STARK: I was 16 and it was Dec 25th. 1977 @ Maxs Kansas CityMy B’day is Nov 28th (take note –lol) so I was 16 for a little over three weeks

ME: When did you first know you wanted to be in a band? Why Punk Rock?

BILLY STARK: I decided I wanted to be a Rock’n’Roll Singer when Iwas 11 years old. This would be about ’72 . I had two older Sisters who were Teenagers in the 60’s so there was always music around. Motown One had a ton of 45’s from the 50's and 60’s and the other I remember The Who’s ‘Tommy’ and ‘Janis Joplin’ and‘Beatles’ Etc The first things that perked ME UP and wanted to get my OWN records -Alice Cooper-Ziggy-Stones(Exile was new)LedZep –The Who- and whatever was happening Glamwise-T-Rex-(Bang –a- Gong was huge)and The Sweet (They had their big hit ‘Little Willy at this time-so, Late’71-’72 whatever was going on vis-à-vis my discovering Creem and Circus Magazines. I moved to NYC with my father in 6th grade. So, having moved to NYC I also discovered Rock Scene Magazine and my Father always got The Village Voice so I was discovering what was going on THEN- The Dolls-Iggy-Lou Reed (Rock and Roll, Mott The Hoople-Aladdin Sane-Suzi Quatro-LOVED HER –lol- I also remember liking Deep Purple-‘Smoke on the Water’was huge at this time and of course old stand by Alice! My Fathers Studio at this time was in the West 20’s near Herald Square.

Now here’s a true story I have always wanted to tell. I went one day to Korvettes to buy some records (they had the best selection out of the three)this was ’73 and ‘Raw Power’ had just comeout- so, I’m looking around for it and finally asked a worker and he laughed at me and said ‘What you do you want?’ so I repeated it and he calls another worker from the back and when the other worker comes out the first guy says to me‘Tell me again kid, what is it you’re looking for’? So I think I rolled my eyes and repeated it a THIRD time and again they laughed and the first guy said ‘You don’t want that Crap-here buy this’ and he pulls a‘Foghat record from the bin I said something along the lines of ‘ICK-I don’t want THAT crap" and went looking again and finally found ‘Raw Power’ Now I always thought I’m probably the only person who paid full retail price for ‘Raw Power’ before it hit the cut-outbins-so, my 2-cents royalty to you Iggy.

So I was following things as they happened between Creem and Rock Scene Mags. And The Village Voice and the Club ads and watching things develop-Patti Smith-The Ramones-Blondie and reading the CBGB ads with the aforementioned and TuffDarts-Poppees-Orchestra Luna –The Shirts Heartbreakers etc.,but just reading not hanging out yet. Now when Sept came around naturally I had to start school. One year there were these two High School girls-older than me- who were into going to the clubs and all. We became friendly and used to chat and what bands I was into etc., and one night the Dolls were playing The Hippodrome-the infamous Red-Patent Leather Show) and invited me to go with them and I didn’t ! I actually told them ‘No, I’m too young to go!!!???’ Now later on that became a pivotal statement that haunted me and influenced me and eventually became a driving force behind the mind set of The Blessed-Intentional or not.

Part 2 coming soon

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