The Deck Shuffles
In Norfolk, Doug Keefer had to move The Taj Mahal experience out of it's original location on Little Creek Road into the back room of a country and western bar at Ward's Corner, Laredo's. Unlike the Taj, the new place completely lacked any atmosphere at all except for when you had to walk through the front room to reach the rear. Actually, the place was so deadbeat that rarely did anyone even bother to look up.
The back room was a dark cavernous box with poor sound but the dance floor was much larger than before and the low stage provided us with more elbow room (not to mention, our roadies no longer had to haul equipment up and down the fire escape!) Besides that, beer is beer.
At the new Taj, we got to debut some new original material including "Hit and Run", "Memory Lane", "We Don't Want To Die", "Just A Kick" and "Dulltown." All of which later appeared on the album we released the following year X-Raves.
There were also more bands in town playing new music, the most effective of which was The Iritations, who had moved here from Gainsville, Florida featuring Ralph Box (vocals), Kim Burdick and Scott Carlisle (guitars)... Scott and Kim later went on to form The Swingshots and even later, Scott became featured guitarist in Left Wing Fascists. The Iritations were a quality act that offered a real alternative to the X-Raves with a completely different songlist and their own sense of theatre. We all welcomed them!
Other acts included Channel One featuring the Miller brothers (Jeff and Robin - on keyboard and guitar, respectively) and Bill Gaunce (bass). Robin and Bill much later formed The Barflys, a staple at The Sunset Grille in Virginia Beach. Actually, somewhere in the interim years, I played with the Miller brothers for a short time in a band called Never Never, doing a few gigs at the King's Head Inn. (Boy, could those two guys argue with each other!)
Also, The Jailtones were estasblishing themselves as a rockabilly act featuring Bruce Gray (vocals), now with Big Fun, and Rick Winters (guitar) an old high school friend, with whom I recently shared the pleasure of playing in The SUPERHEATERS, a rhythm and blues band.
As for the X-Raves, we were doing a lot of one-nighters on the road, mostly in Richmond and the college towns of Virginia. In those venues where we were known, the turn-out was usually quite good. Whereas, exploring new territory was often a very frustrating experience. (Many thanks to those who took it upon themselves to help promote the band when the clubs failed to.)
Eventually, one night in Charlottesville it all became too much for Buddy. He didn't return home with us and within days announced his imminent departure. As a double blow, Jimmy had decided that he had had enough as well, and said he would be leaving at the same time. In hindsight, it should have come as no surprise that they would leave because our act was more focused on raw energy and attitude than other more "musical" elements. Remember.... harder and faster.
Bottom line, Kelly and I had to find some suitable players, and fast! As it turned out, we really couldn't have been more fortunate. We quickly tapped into two local bands that were in a state of flux at the time, finding the energy we needed to sustain the X-Raves juggernaut.
On drums, Billy Harrell came to us from the aforementioned Daily Planet. His self described "boom-tap" style was elegant in it's simplicity and power, while his un-erring sense of "what rock 'n' roll is all about" was truly a god-send. He had lived in New York City for a couple of years and the experience was evident. Billy also proved to be a very thoughtful, sensitive human being possessing the funniest dry sense of humour imaginable.
On keyboards, young Mac Quayle from The Naros shared a sense of the "party atmosphere" Kelly was so intent on generating during our live performances. Being at least 10 years our junior, his natural exuberance was constantly refreshing, as was his naiveté (which Kelly enjoyed toying with from time to time). Mac's fresh approch to everything certainly kept us on our toes. A very good thing indeed!