||So said Lord Rockingham in a
March 1996 article
explaining the birth of the Upper Crust. Exactly when this Archimedean event
occurred can only be guessed at. However, based on published accounts, we are
able to piece together this rough timeline. Mind you, this version of events
differs considerably from the official biography
of the band.
In a hurry? Jump on down to your favorite year: 1995,
1996, or 1997,
1994Spring or Summer: Local Boston band
The Clamdiggers -- five Boston rock veterans described variously as "A New
England version of the Beach Boys" or "surf rock with a nod toward
Satanism" -- are returning home from a gig at Cape Cod's Beachcomber club.
Drummer Jim Janota and bass player Marc Mazzarelli, having indulged in the
liquid portion of the band's pay, somehow hit on the idea of a band composed of
faux nobles. Egged on by bandmates Ted Widmer, Dave Fredette, and trust-fund
beneficiary Nat Freedberg, the Upper Crust begins to take shape.
January: On the 14th, The Upper Crust perform at the Middle East
in Cambridge. The concept has been carried out to the extreme: the band play in
powdered wigs and velvet knickers, and their songs depict the difficulties of life
at the top. The members of the band have adopted stage names better suited to this
new combo: Lord Bendover (Freedberg), Lord Rockingham (Widmer), the Duc d'Istortion
(Fredette), the Marquis de Roque (Mazzarelli, a/k/a Marquis Mark) and Jackie
Kickassis (Janota). The Boston Globe reports "they rock like the
February/March:The Crust play more gigs in Boston
(at Venus de Milo) and in New York City (most likely at Brownies). Conan O'Brien,
a Harvard classmate of Lord Rockingham, catches the New York show. This leads to...
April: The Upper Crust appear on Late Night with Conan O'Brien
on the 24th (along with Penn & Teller and Larry Holmes). They are one of
a handful of unsigned acts to appear on a late-night talk show.
Summer: The Crust continue gigging to packed houses, including an
appearance on the third stage at the Massachusetts Lollapalooza show in July,
another show at Brownies on June 16th, and an appearance at a street fair in
Central Square in Cambridge. They are also featured in a layout in Vogue.
Meanwhile, they record their debut CD, Let Them Eat Rock, and shoot a video
for the title track.
September: Let Them Eat Rock is released on the
part of the Rounder records group. The
band also receives a proclamation (30k) -- and
the key to the city -- from the Mayor of Cambridge! The Crust also perform live on the
Pipeline radio show, though most
of the songs they do aren't on the new album. However, a goodly number of them later
turn up on the second release a couple of years later.
October: A record release party for Let Them Eat Rock
is held on Friday the 13th at the Middle East. The Boston Herald
reports that the evening includes a "posh pit:" a cordoned-off area
with plush easy chairs and brandy snifters into which only those with the
appropriate pedigree and attire are admitted. The Crust play at Brownies the
following night, arriving in a horse-drawn carriage according to Time Out
January-February: The Upper Crust embark upon a scattershot national
tour, visiting such locales as Philadelphia, Washington DC, Raleigh, Tuscaloosa,
Austin (appearing at the annual SXSW indiefest), Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis
and Portland (Oregon and Maine!). The Upstart records press release
described the event thusly:
The Upper Crust Present:
An Evening Of Rock
The tour culminates in what could only have been a regal homecoming with a gig at
Boston's legendary Rat at the end of February. It is interesting to note the
absence of the Marquis de Roque in the press release above. While it was most
likely an innocent oversight, it proved to be prophetic.
Consider yourself lucky to be invited to such an extravagant display of
power chords and powdered wigs. In a most gracious fashion, Lord Bendover, the
Duc d'Istortion, Lord Rockingham, and Jackie Kickassis have deigned to grace
your miserable little town with their magnificent presence. The philosophy of
the Crust is simple. As Lord Bendover puts it, "The upper classes have
done everything better for so long that they can certainly rock 'n' roll harder
and more steadfastly than the lower classes, due to superior breeding and
education." To those who say the rich cannot rock, we say balderdash!
March: On March 22nd and 23rd, two nights of rock
celebrate the release of a two-CD set featuring
numerous Boston-area bands' live performances (including the until-recently unavailable
Crust track "Ne'er Do Well") on a long-running college
radio show. The shows took place
at the Middle East and T.T. the Bear's in Cambridge. According to a report in the
...the Upper Crust's set offered, shall we say, a new dimension in audience
participation: a bout of fisticuffs between Nat "Lord Bendover"
Freedberg and some audience members. A repentant Freedberg declined comment last
week, but the Upper Crust's label reports that he's apologized to all concerned
and promises not to beat up any more audience members.
In the wake of this brouhaha, bassist Mark (Marquis de Roque) Mazzarelli leaves the
April: A new bass player is found practically right under the
upward-pointing noses of the band: Chris Cote, co-founder of Upstart, joins as Count
Bassie and makes his debut at a few gigs
of the border. The Count also performs vocal duties on Minuet and Gold
Plated Radio in the absence of Lord Rockingham, who is not able to make the trip.
The previous month's dust-up, however, apparently convinces Boston-area club owners
to declare the Crust rabble rousers, ne'er-do-wells, and personae non grata.
(In New York, of course, they would have immediately been asked if they were
available next weekend.)
June: The Boston Globe reports the departure of the
Marquis de Roque. Furthermore, Nat (Lord Bendover) Freedberg says the band has been
on hiatus. The article adds that "the Crust intend to make album No. 2, with
or without the backing of Upstart, their Cambridge-based label."
July: Signs of life from the Crust, as they again play at
Brownies in NYC and are said to be recording tracks for a new album.
September: The Upper Crust headline two -- count 'em -- shows
at Brownies on Friday and Saturday, the 20th and 21st. Both shows are packed
with peasants, or "ill-bred persons" as Count Bassie puts it. On a
personal note, these are your web serf's first Crust shows.
December: The Crust return to Brownies on the 7th. Despite
the fact that it's Pearl Harbor day, no Rickshaw jokes are forthcoming.
January: Leaving the comfort of Brownies behind, the Crust
play two NYC-area shows on the 11th and 12th. The Friday show is on the
Pan, a rusty old ship turned nightspot. (Coincidentally, one of Nat
Freedberg's earlier bands, The Titanics, covered a Captain Beefheart song
called "Out Of The Frying Pan." However, the song is not
resurrected for this evening's performance.) The next night's show is at
Maxwell's, across the river in Hoboken, NJ. T-shirts are on sale with
art (42k) by one Stephen Fredette (the Duc
A brief article appears
in the Boston Globe's Calendar section discussing the Frying Pan
show and relaying some other tidbits, such as the fact that the band has had
few (if any) Boston gigs since the Middle East conflict. Lord Bendover doesn't
sound especially homesick, however: "We're celebrities in New York City.
They're hungry for glam-rock, which is what they think we remind them of."
Bendover finds the Boston fans to be "a bunch of yahoos in baseball
caps." [Memo to self: don't wear baseball cap to future Upper Crust shows.]
In keeping with these views, it's rumored online that Lord Bendover has actually
moved to New York. The Globe article does not address this, but
according to one source Bendover is spending about half his time in New York and
half in Boston.
The Globe does mention that the second album is
"in the can" (but there is no indication of when or by whom it will be
released), and that the Crust will be featured in the March issue of English
music magazine Mojo.
On the 25th, the Upper Crust play their first Boston-area show in months at
O'Brien's in Allstonia --er, Allston.
band's international fame grows as the March issue of Mojo appears on
newsstands in the U.K. and elsewhere. The band appears in a suitably decadent
photo with half-naked women and a bearskin rug. Under the headline "The
Rakes' Progress," the article is favorable in tone and concludes with this
mission statement from Lord Bendover: "Rock'n'roll should be funny and
stupid. I should like to be in the position where I could bless the entire
world with music. The poor struggling masses should not have to suffer longer
without our shining gift." The article and photos will be available here
In an unrelated development, the newest Upper Crust website formally
March: The month comes in like a royal lion as the Upper Crust
once again roar in to Brownies on the first of the month. The club is packed,
and one latecomer reports that the line to get in extends to the end of the
block before the show is officially declared a sellout. Inside, the Crust
bring the house down. By the time they get to the encore, though, an unusually
obstreperous Lord Bendover is unable to fully recall Rock & Roll Butler,
stopping twice in mid-song to regroup.
In the days and weeks following this show, word filters in from various parties
that there was a pretty messy fight within the band immediately following the
performance. At the very least, strong words were exchanged and there was pushing and
shoving. Some punches may have been thrown as well, though I can't say whether
any of those punches landed.
The following day, the Crust (sans Lord Rockingham) head for the
hinterlands of Brooklyn to tape the intro for a
Comedy Central special called
"Town Hall". The show premiered on March 12; the Crust wrote and
performed the opening theme (featuring an all-too-rare lead vocal from Le Duc)
and appeared briefly in pre-taped segments before and after commercial breaks.
April: An ominous development: a gig scheduled for the 25th of
this month is cancelled, and rumors of the band's breakup are swirling. Maybe
it's just a matter of semantics, but breakup or no breakup it's clear that
the band hasn't settled the argument(s?) that broke out following the March 1
show. One positive note: a tape of a new Upper Crust album is floating
July: Mysterious and not-so-mysterious e-mail received by your
weblord confirms that a new Upper Crust release is indeed on the way, hopefully
in the fall.
August: Official confirmation that the new Upper Crust CD will
be released by the Emperor Norton label sometime in October. Meanwhile, Lord
Rockingham gave a solo recital on August 2 at Brownies. Unfortunately your
weblord was out of town and is unable to provide a review. (Did you go?
September: First word of the first Upper Crust
gig since the March kafuffle comes by way of an e-mail schedule received
by a visitor to this site. The
Middle East in Central Square, Cambridge, lists a November 1 Upper Crust
"record release" show. New York City shows are tentatively set for October 30
and 31st. (No word yet on whether the Crust will dress as commoners for Halloween.)