GALO: Where do you think your gift of melody evolved?

MC: I really can’t explain it. It’s all a mysterious and fortunate thing. I don’t know why I can do, what I do, but I’m glad that I can do it. I love music and it was always that way from the time I was a child. It’s just the way it is.

GALO: Did you ever have a transistor radio as a kid?

MC: In the first place I had these two older cousins Carol and Marilyn. They helped raise me, you might say, we’d spend as much time over at their house as we would at our own house. They were 12 to 14 years older than I was, so when I was a little boy, they were teenage girls and big rock ‘n’ roll fans; they bought 45s every week and so it was initially their records that got me going. We didn’t have a record player ourselves. Our family didn’t have one till I was about 12-years-old. So I never had any records of my own, but I would badger people who did have records. I think I did have a transistor radio at some point.

GALO: One of the first records I remember, and a cousin of mine had it too, was Party Doll by Buddy Knox.

MC: Oh my God, absolutely, that was one of the real critical ones for me — Party Doll and Black Slacks by the Sparkletones and everything by Buddy Holly. I saw Buddy Holly on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was five-years-old. All those kind of poppy, rock-a-billy ones were [there] — that was my sound when I was a child. I love that stuff.

GALO: You picked up the guitar when you were ten-years-old?

MC: Yeah, I was ten when I started playing the guitar. I played with my cousin Chuck Schaub. He came over to my house one time and found a guitar that had belonged to my dad and started fooling around with it. And then I had a guitar too, so I got it out because I wanted to hang around with him. He was four years older. I started playing guitar with him and he came up with this funny way to tune the guitar. He tuned both of our guitars to an open chord, but a really weird open chord. It was A, A and E and then A, A and E again. It was fifths.

We’d put the guitars down on our laps and play them with our thumbs. One guy would play the rhythm and one guy the melody, and we’d play the hits of the moment. There were a lot of rock instrumentals on the radio then. So that’s how we started. After about six months, he showed me how to tune the guitar the right way–and I was competing with him. That was when I was ten-years-old.

In the beginning, it was family and just fooling around on my cousin’s front porch, and the top 40 radio.

GALO: So then you just learned songs like everybody does?

MC: But I always had a really good ear; a really good memory for records. I mean to this day I can still think of a record I know and recall it in detail — all the parts and all the licks. I have a good memory for that, for some reason.

GALO: Did you hit Max’s Kansas City, CBGB, The Ritz, and those other clubs in the 80s?

MC: After I quit Beatlemania in February of 1980, I started going around to places in the city. I think though, the first time I was in CBGB, was when I played there for the first time. But then we played there a lot, so I was there a lot, you know, in the middle of whatever was going on at the time. I didn’t see Television or the Ramones or any of those bands at CBGB. But it was one of my favorite places to play and I think we held an attendance record there for a little while. We had the place packed from wall to wall by the end of it. That whole moment in time, and what I saw of the New York scene during those years, was thrilling. And we really conquered it for a minute. We really had that whole thing in our back pocket for about a year-and-a-half and we were a big draw in the club scene in New York. And I loved it.

GALO: I don’t ever recall seeing a shot of you with long hair. You never did that?

MC: I did. But it was way before I ever got to New York. By the early 70s, I decided I didn’t like FM rock radio anymore because it was racist. I didn’t like that whole rock culture thing anymore. I cut my hair short in 1975, before punk rock. I was too old for punk rock. I was about five years too old for it. And I wasn’t really temperamentally suited to play it. It wasn’t my idiom. But I liked it. I liked it as an observer. But that’s not what I did. I couldn’t really convincingly make punk rock.

When punk rock and new wave came along, one of the many reasons I dug it was, because there was this kind of retro-futuristic strain that ran through it. They took a lot of their inspiration from early rock ‘n’ roll and that really spoke to me. It’s a combination of everything looking forward, and looking backward, all at the same time. I mean everywhere you looked back then, in the whole new wave and punk thing, you saw flashes and images of 50s rock and mid-60s rock too, which I also love. I love stuff from 1965 especially. There were a lot of people who were recycling their own childhoods as far as their musical inspiration went and that’s what I was doing.

GALO: Did you like Tommy James?

MC: Kind of, I mean I liked his stuff better when I got some distance from it. When those records were new, like Hanky Panky and that stuff, I didn’t like them very much. I like them more now than I did initially.

I grew up in the Detroit area, so a huge part of what I grew up with and really took to heart was R&B. That was a big part of it. It was always on the radio. When I got to New York, for a while, my main radio stations were WKGU and WBLS. I also liked the R&B scene at that time, and this was just as a listener. I mean, you would never mistake our stuff for R&B, but it’s always there in the background, and a big part of my listening and my thinking.

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