June 13, 2021

INFINITY'S END (Salem, NH)

Dance hall at Chase's Grove on Big Island Pond in Derry, N.H., where Infinity's End played on Friday nights for two summers. From left: Curt MacKail (bass), Bob Burke (lead guitar), Tommy Burke (drums) and Doug Seed (rhythm guitar, lead vocals). Courtesy of Doug Seed.

Infinity's End were a young band aged 13 to 15 from Salem, N.H., who would have remained virtually forgotten for, well, infinity, had they not chosen to record a couple of tunes over the border in Methuen, Mass., at Pat Costa's Eastern Sound Studios. We'll now turn this over to singer/guitarist Doug Seed, who provides us with anecdotes galore!

The very beginning was me, Gary Russell and brothers Bob and Tom Burke. We went through a big ordeal to come up with just the right name. Unfortunately we chose "You, Me and the Other Two". Because my grandmother's business gave out matchbooks, naturally I ordered matchbooks to advertise the band... just like any normal 14-year-old would! I remember agonizing over the words we would print. We settled on $8.00 And Under for Parties". Remember, we were aged 12-15 and had absolutely no experience. We soon changed our name to something more 60s rock & roll. There's a little newspaper article from 1966 captioned, "Ready to jive are the sensational 'Chaynes.'"

Gary's dad worked in public relations at Raytheon and he had a professional photographer come to take photos of us in his basement. I still have that 8" x 10" of us wearing matching polka dot shirts, me singing into a tape recorder microphone, Tommy Burke sitting behind his snare drum and 10" cymbal and Bobby and Gary standing there with their six-string guitars.

Gary and Bob Burke switched off playing bass and lead on their six-string guitars! It was an innocent time and we were just little kids who wanted to be Beatles.


Our first-ever gig was at the teen coffee house called The Jug at my church in Methuen, Mass. I remember my mother taking me to Lafayette Electronics in Lowell, Mass., to spend $3.00 on a microphone and get a stand. The first song we ever played out was "Get off Of My Cloud" by the Rolling Stones. Our first ever paying job was at the grand opening of a car dealership in Nashua, N.H. $15 bucks, total … and we got interviewed on the live remote broadcast of a local radio station. We were clearly headed for the big time! (Bob and Tom's dad got us that first gig … and I think he drove us there in his big, green Pontiac Bonneville, too.

I don't even think any of us could drive. Bob was the oldest at 15 or 16, I was 15, Curt was 14 and Tommy was 13! My older sister, Katherine, used to drive us to Chase's Grove in the family station wagon on Friday nights.

Eventually, we had to replace original member, Gary Russell, because he was only 12 and his parents wouldn't let him stay out late enough to play gigs. After Bob Laroche joined, we came up with the name Infinity's End and I spray painted cut-out lettering onto paper for Tommy's bass drum. Bob had an honest-to-God Gibson Kalamazoo bass guitar which made him infinitely qualified — whether he could play it or not! (Which he could.)

We played in a couple battles of the bands, and we weren't very good … but we did it! Bob Laroche remembers that I was freaking over what to play at the Salem High School Battle of the Bands and we finally settled on "I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone" by the Monkees.

In way over our heads, we got the opportunity to play at The Commodore Ballroom in Lowell, Mass., on a Friday evening. This is one of those venues where, for 40 years, big stars — from Benny Goodman to Vanilla Fudge and Cream … and everyone in between played. My grandmother knew the owner, Carl Braun, and got us the gig, sans audition. What a mistake for him and for us! We were out of our league and it showed. The audience threw pennies at us, trying to get us to leave the stage! Better than tomatoes, I suppose! In preparation for this big event in our lives, it was time to graduate from the polka-dot shirts to tan blazers with gold turtlenecks, which we bought the previous Saturday at North Shore Shopping Center. Man, did we look like a professional band! I don't think any of us ever wore those outfits again.

In the beginning, Bob Burke had the Sears guitar that had the amp and speaker right in the case. I was jealous of that. Gary had an actual guitar amp. I had a Teisco, sunburst electric guitar and 5 watt amp that I bought at a store called The House of Hurwitz on Washington Street in Boston. I think the guitar was $35.00. Most of my future guitars came from Sears at the North Shore Shopping Center and were in the $69 - $89 price range. I had a fake Vox Phantom, and a Blackjack violin shaped 6-string which I bought at Lechmere Sales in Somerville, Mass. Later, Bob Burke got one of those more substantial grey-colored Sears amps that had a separate head. They were kind of a Fender Bandmaster wannabe. His dad wouldn't buy it for him until he proved he'd stick with guitar playing.

I built three of my amps with absolutely no knowledge or understanding acoustics or electronics, and they all worked to some degree. The first, and coolest was built into a blue plastic, Samsonite-like suitcase. I dismantled my parents' old 1940s RCA radio/phonograph and mounted the amp and 12" speaker into the suitcase. Just for fun, I also mounted the radio tuner - knobs, art deco ivory bakelite bezel and all into the end of the suitcase... and everything worked! The next one was an old Bogen public address amp blasting through two wedge shaped Radio Shack wall speakers that I hinged together so they closed into a cube for transport. I upgraded and built my own Bandmaster-like speaker cabinet of 3/4" plywood. The sides were finished with woodgrain Formica by my dad and me. It had blue paisley cloth covering the four 12" Jensen speakers. Unfortunately the cloth wasn't sound-transparent. The whole thing was an unbelievably heavy, muffled, horrible mistake. I finally saved up and got a real Fender Bandmaster.

At some point, Bob Laroche left the band and Curt MacKail took over the bass spot. Curt was the one who first hit the equipment big-time, when he surprised us by showing up at a high school dance gig with a Vox Essex bass amp. VOX????? The BEATLES use Vox amps!!!

I have the receipt (ed: see bottom) for our recording session at Pat Costa's Eastern Sounds Recording Studios in Methuen, Mass. We were one of his earliest customers. I think he was 18 when he built the studio in his parents' basement. (Ampex 2-track.) We recorded two songs, of course. The record was played by me, Bob Laroche, Bob Burke and Tommy Burke.

The A side was "Hey Lenna," written by a friend of the group, named Don Anderson. Don was a prolific songwriter and a whole bunch of his songs were good. A couple were great. Unfortunately for him, he was having US do the songs rather than getting them to bands with real potential … which we definitely weren't! The B side was a crappy, boring song I wrote called "I Don't Like The Way You're Talking To Me." It made it onto the record because I was the guy paying to have the records pressed!

(Side note: Onyx spelled the band name wrong and put the incorrect date of 1968 on the labels! Per the actual recording receipt, it's from Jan. 19, 1967.)

We were so young and all could barely even play. We had no business being in a studio except that I was dying to record. More ridiculously, can you believe I walked into Roulette Records in NYC with that record? I actually had an appointment there!! Priceless. I took it to Roulette and got rejected (very nicely) there! The most mobbed-up record company ever and I walked in to an appointment with their A&R guy, Fred Baylin in 1967, with my dad waiting in the hall.

Infinity's End always ended a set with Sgt. Pepper. A week after The Who smashed their guitars and amps on TV, we were going to be playing the Football Queen dance at our high school. I spread the word around the school that at the end of the Friday night dance, I was going to smash my guitar. About 10 minutes before the end of the last set, I saw my dad out in the hall, talking to the cop who was on duty. OH NO! I can't smash that guitar with my father watching … he'll kill me! For some reason, he disappeared from the doorway as we went into Sgt. Pepper. Honest to God, the kids in the audience started to crowd around the staging we had brought in from the auditorium. I wanted to be as high up as possible when I chucked the guitar to the hard cafeteria floor. I raised my hands up until my knuckles hit the ceiling … the crowd screaming for me to throw it — and I did. No kidding, I'll never forget how they swarmed onto that guitar as if it actually belonged to a rock star. Funny though, for a red, solid body Sears electric guitar, the bugger was pretty strong: it barely cracked! The kids starting fighting over it and it was THEM who broke the thing into pieces. Well sort of … the strings were stronger than the kids, so it only ended up in a few pieces. But, amazingly, 40 years later, I had someone come up to me and say that they were there that night and still had a piece of that guitar!

The summer of 1968 saw a name change from Infinity's End to American Depression, and a lead guitar and drummer change from the Burke brothers to to lead guitarist, Paul Norgren and drummer, Joey Ciarella. I was a Top 40 pop kind of guy and the new guys liked heavier stuff like Vanilla Fudge, Dylan, Hendrix and some stuff I was barely familiar with. If Dale Dorman wasn't playing it on WRKO, it was pretty much off my radar.

Come August 1968, at sixteen, I took up skydiving and lost interest in the band. Skydiving quickly consumed my interest and after that last night at Chase's Grove at the end of the summer of '68, I dropped out and the other guys went on playing as a Cream-like trio called Blue Plague. They no longer had to play my top 40 stuff… I'll bet they were relieved about that! I sold off my electric guitars, organ and Bandmaster amp to raise money to purchase a Paracommander parachute. That's the "jumping version" of the Parasail they tow vacationers behind a boat today. Musically, I bought a 1968 Gibson J-50 and went acoustic, playing duo harmony stuff through the 1970s with friends Norry Follett and Phil White. I'd like to mention that Phil's country-rock band, "The Treebeard Band" won the New Hampshire finals of a national contest called the Dodge-Wrangler Country Showdown in 1983, and got to compete in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry. The finals show aired on the Nashville Network.

Here’s a note from our original bass player, Bob Laroche:
I can remember when I hooked up with the band it was late 1966. I had bought my first bass, (1965 Kalamazoo), from Bruce Marshall, and an Ampeg Reverborocket amplifier. We practiced mostly in Bob and Tom's basement, with a lot of powwows at Doug's house on Main St. I remember painting my Kalamazoo with an American flag. Remember playing several gigs including the Battle of the bands at the French Social Club on Lowell St. in Lawrence, and the famous Salem Grange gig. But my all time favorite memory was recording the songs at Pat Costa's Eastern Sounds Recording Studios. I ended up selling my beautiful Kalamazoo to Curt MacKail when I left the band, and the rest is history.

Doug: "The guy in the light shirt is Gary Russell. He was only 12. His parents wouldn't let him stay out late to play gigs (like after 8:00 PM!,) so we had to replace him with Bob Laroche who had a snazzy Gibson Kalamazoo bass. Back right is Tommy Burke, front left is Doug Seed and front right is Tommy's older brother Bob Burke. When we started, Bob had the black & white masonite, sparkly Sears guitar with the amp in the guitar case. I had a $35 Teisco electric and Tommy had a minimal starter drum set." Courtesy of Doug Seed.

February 1968: “We were playing a party in the banquet room of the Howard Johnson's motel in Methuen, Mass.” Above: between sets in the dressing room (from left: Doug Seed, Bob Burke, Curt MacKail, Tommy Burke). Middle and bottom: “I made the drum head cover with a psychedelic poster and colored markers or pencils.” Courtesy of Doug Seed.

Receipt: $110 for the recording session and 6 acetates!



INFINITIES END [Infinity's End]
Hey Lenna / The Way You're Talking To Me
Onyx
(ES85979 • AU-4961)
January 1967

No comments:

Post a Comment