The smoke inside of the car was a mixture of Rick‘s always burning Cool brand cigarettes and the joints that his girlfriend, Debbie, kept passing to me from the backseat. It was just the three of us, driving through the street of Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. This was a time before the freeways rendered all these internal neighborhoods invisible to most people. The local population was largely black and white working-class and they kept to themselve during the long winter months. Waiting patiently for those precious summer weekends to get outside for a barbecue and a bit of fun. That’s whenRick, Debbie and I would pack into the Dodge Charger and travel the city. The streets of Joseph Campau and Dequindre coming alive with activity for three young people and our pure Detroit Muscle Machine on an warm August evening.
Mind you, we were not out just for fun. There was business that needed to be looked after. Beginning with a trip downtown to Rick’s pot-dealer who seemed to live in an abandon apartment building near the (Detroit) River. Then, after the appriotrate greetings and gestures, a very business-like transfer of cash was made and the exchange was complete. A large brown paper bag containing about a pound of prized “Colombian Gold” was placed inside the car and off we went into the neighborhoods to sell the wares; loose joints, nickel & dime bags and the occassional half once. (please make appropriate adjustments if you are using the metric system). There was a suprising amount of happenchance to our activities as we drove to various houses, apartments and parking-lots to selling the contraband. I’m not sure how but everyone seemed to know of our arrival at each of our stops. Typically, we were greeted by the smiling faces of consumers very pleased to make a purchase. And it didn’t hurt that Rick was a big guy and a serious character when it came to business. Very few people ever fucked with him twice.
In-between the deals and the joints and the cigarettes, we would listened to the radio, drink cold beer and talk. Back in those days, Detroit radio was still very much an independent operation. The in-between years before corporate ownership of media robbed local radio of any community personalitiy and independence. Local DJ’s still had the autonomy on song selection. WABX, WRIF and W4 all playing a mix that was singular to the Detroit audience. (Or so we thought). But there was still a chance to hear some amazing music that didn’t feel test marketed and sold. And if you were lucky; hanging out with your older cousin and his girlfriend on the street of the city, you could find yourself in a 74 Charger, selling pot to strangers and listening to a radio set list that went something like the one below; (as best I can remember). That’s about 35 minutes of damn fine music. The sounds of the city on one particular summer night as the three of us listened to that Detroit station,”our lives saved by rock n’ roll”.
The Torpedos began life as a bar band in 1979 featuring Jim Banner on bass, Johnny Angelo as vocalist, Robert Gillespie on guitar, Ralph Serafino on drums and Tom Curry on keyboards and sax. Cutting a deal with Four Winds Records and release an EP that featured Pop Star that same year. A song said to be a tribute to the late Johnny Thunder of the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers.
The song and the band are very much a reflection of the sounds of the Detroit music scene in 79-81. They even had some support from local radio. The original EP and singles are nearly impossible to locate today, but there is a nice alternative. The good folks at Motor City Music have release a brilliant CD called The Torpedos No Refills that gathers together the bands studio material with a number of worthwhile live tracks. Keep an eye out for it. The music could save your soul