April 17, 2016


I first heard “Stacey” back in the early 1990s when The Lyres from Boston covered it. The song was a live staple and recorded on one of their singles. But since I never paid much attention to the words, the full effect of the song never hit. It wasn't until Tim Warren of Crypt Records started quoting the pharmaceutically-incorrect lyrics (with much hootin’ and knee slappin’!) when he passed through the Northeast on a 2014 U.S. road trip that I revisited the original Hangmen version. And sure enough, underneath a clean, bouncy melody — about the furthest thing from mind-altering psychedelia as you’d get — lay a veritable who's who off of Nancy Reagan's naughty list.

Singer and guitarist Mike “Zel” Zelich claims the monumental “ground zero” moment of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show prompted neighborhood pal Mike Montanaro to call him up the very next day saying, “Let's start a band!” The two Mikes previously played folk music together, but had no experience with rock and roll. Montanaro’s parents had friends whose son played drums, so they arranged for him to get together with Rick Castaldo. Rick, in turn, had a friend who played bass, John Denike, and now all the components for a full-fledged rock and roll band were in place. The Hangmen’s first gig was a dance at Fairfield University, and they soon went on to other venues including Sacred Heart University mixers, regional music festivals, and also an opening slot for The Strangeurs (with pre-Aerosmith Steven Tyler) at a local teen club. They concentrated mainly on British Invasion-era covers with some originals mixed in.

From left: Mike Zelich (lead vocals, lead guitar), Richard Castaldo (drums), Mike Montanaro (rhythm guitar, 12 string), John Denike (bass), and last but not least, the “Fifth Hangman,” Louis Castaldo (master linguist, financier).
Rick's older brother Lou wrote “Stacey” for the band, with verse after brilliant verse about a chick more addictive than any combination of illegal substances you can match her up against. Lou financed the record, which was recorded in New York City, and pressed it up on his own High Castle label. The flipside, “I Don't Want You Around,” is a moody monster written by Zelich and opens with Montanaro’s ringing 12-string guitar and features vocal harmonies by Zel and Rick.

“Zel” at the helm during an Andrew Warde High School dance.
Zelich left the band in 1967 and hooked up with other local musicians including former Mojo (The Mojos “Love Does Its Harm” 45) Matt Lewis. He spent time in The Fun Band, whose “Welcome To The Circle / It’s Good” 45 was released on the ABC label in 1968, with Zelich again writing the b-side. Members of The Hangmen continued to play together in different configurations in the southern Connecticut and New York City region.

In the 1980s, during the height of the “televangelist” phenomenon, Mike Montanaro and Rick Castaldo whipped up an updated version of “Stacey” with the lyrics changed to “Jesus.”

We'll leave you with the twisted genius of Lou Castaldo!

To heck with pot and LSD too
I’d rather take a trip with you - Stacey

Goodbye to shots of white cocaine
You have put them all to shame - Stacey

I’ve sniffed glue right from a bag
Compared to you it’s really a drag - Stacey

Stacey - You’re quite a child
Stacey - You drive me wild

Lovin’ you is really in
You’re better than Coke with aspirin - Stacey

I’ve heard of the high from Dexedrine
But you’ve got a kick like a 20-mule team - Stacey

I don’t need tea or the poppyseed
Cause with you I can do the good deed - Stacey

Stacey - You’re quite a child
Stacey - You drive me wild

Some go far on magic mushrooms
But with you I’m first to the moon - Stacey

Trading your love for a million bennies
Is like selling New York for a few pennies - Stacey

People go nuts from taking goofballs
But after you I’m climbing the walls - Stacey

Stacey - I shoulda had warning
Stacey - You’re habit forming

Thanks to Mike Montanaro for help with the lyric deciphering.

Stacey / I Don't Want You Around
High Castle 

1 comment:

  1. The Hangmen were a great band. Their rendition of the Hollies' "Look Through Any Window" was the first time I heard the song. I immediately bought the Hollies single. Also recall a follow-up band called (I believe) NAIF (North Atlantic Invasion Force) which I think Zelich joined after The Hangmen