The Vandals

The following recollections by Joe Tarantino are reprinted, with permission from the band, from The Vandals Reunion website. As a result of printing recollections by Barry Lewis of The Hedds (printed in last month's updates), we received an email from Michael Gallette, promoter of The Vandals, offering additional information on the band that recorded the classic Wet & Wild and Mustang Georgie promotional songs.

While they were contemporaries of The Hedds, The Vandals were a much more successful group. In addition to releasing several singles, the group was also prominently featured in ad campaigns and, to this day - as evidenced by their sold out reunion perfomances - are still highly popular in their hometown. Talks are underway for another possible reunion concert, and the band has released all their 1960's singles, as well as the 1993 reunion concert, on CDs available via their website. Hopefully, we haven'y yet heard the last from The Vandals.

Special thanks to Michael for providing permission to reprint Joe's recollections.

Joe Tarantino Recalls The Vandals

Much of my youth was spent playing in the streets and playgrounds of North Beach and taking guitar lessons at Joe Brattesani's School of Music. With my younger cousin Fred Bustos on rhythm guitar, we'd crank out one Ventures song after another in my Chestnut Street basement and at Salesian School variety shows.

When I got to high school in 1964, one of my classmates said he had a friend named Curt Mallegni who could play Wipe Out on the drums. Could it be the same Curt who used to crack me up in the fifth grade and then transferred to St. Vincent De Paul? It was. The three of us won a Moose Lodge "Stardom Stairway" talent show as The Interludes, playing Sleepwalk and Walk, Don't Run.

Curt was friends with Nick Paolini, a talented accordion player. Nick expressed an interest in joining the band. I told him what we really needed was a bass player, so he went out, bought a bass, and learned how to play it (well). Not only did he play bass, but he could also sing lead, which allowed us to become more than just an instrumental band.

Fred left the band to start his own group, The Times Four. In order to have a more versatile sound, we thought it might be a good idea to add a keyboard player instead of another guitar, so the word went out to all the schools in the area. One cold, rainy night I answered the door, and there stood Ned Bawden, an excellent piano player who practiced about eight hours a day, chain smoked nonfilter Kools, and slept under his piano. He was a proficient song writer as well. Ned bought a Hammond organ and had it delivered to our first gig at St. Bridget's. We really destroyed that organ as we carried it from one teen club to another, half hanging out of Nicks' old Plymouth, rear end loaded down with all of our gear nearly scraping the street. Enter the Vox Continental organ, which gave us that "British Invasion" sound. With our new sound, we decided that "The Interludes" sounded like an act on The Lawrence Welk Champagne Hour, so after hours of deliberation, we chose to be known as The Vandals. As our reputation grew in the teen-club circuit, we landed a prized two-night gig at the Winchester Cathedral nightclub, where some band named Sly and The Family Stone played after hours. We even bought new microphones for the occasion. Friday went great and we didn't even have to take our stuff home! Saturday didn't go as well because our new mics had been stolen. (Sly is currently in seclusion, probably feeling a little guilty.)

In 1965 it got to the point where we needed a kick in the ass. Nick wanted to concentrate on his bass playing and not sing so much. He said his next-door neighbor, Cosmo Violante, was a hell of a singer, and would like to join our band. Now, with all the pieces in place, we continued playing high schools and proms, getting tight. We played a variety show at the Salesian Boys' Club as the featured act. Little did we know that the Beau Brummels, who used the Boys' Club as a rehearsal space, had also agreed to do a few songs. Laugh Laugh was on our playlist for that night. I asked Sal Valentino if it was OK with him if we played their song, and he said fine. It was thrill to be able to play their song with them in the audience! We nailed it.

In January of 1966, Don Wehr's Music City had a battle of the bands. Our dreaded archrivals The Hedds were expected to win. Each group had ten minutes to perform, which meant probably three songs. At rehearsal, we couldn't decide which three songs to play, so we came up with a tight ten-song medley that blew the doors off of everyone, including the judges! Don Wehr couldn't believe it as he read our name as the winners. The first prize was a Vox Phantom 12-string guitar. Finally! From then on, Ticket To Ride sounded just like the record.

Later in 1966, the San Francisco department store H.Liebes was having bands play Saturdays in their teen department. One of their teen models heard us at St. Stephen's Teen Club and recommended us. We got the job and recorded the Dave Clark Five's song, Can't You See That She's Mine, for the radio spots. Excited by our first real recording-studio session, we decided to concentrate on our original material. Nick wrote a song about his girlfriend, Sherry. Although we never recorded the song, I think Nick 'got lucky'. Ned was writing songs that were way too complicated, reflecting his classical and jazz background. We finally got him to keep it simple, and he wrote I Really Want To Want You, which got a great response from the crowd whenever we played it.

With about ten originals under our belt, we set up an appointment to record a demo for Fantasy Records, a jazz label that was branching out into the local rock scene. The session went well. We recorded all of our originals and some covers live to 2-track. One week later we got a call from Fantasy. They said they really liked us, but had decided to work with another group, The Golliwogs (Creedence Clearwater Revival). At the time, I didn't know that someday I would be working for Fantasy Records and Creedence Clearwater Revival would be paying my bills! Not knowing where else to turn, I approached my longtime friend, Joe Brattesani, who had sold his music store to Music City. Joe had a record label, Golden Gate Records, so I asked him if he would like to release our first single. He agreed.

On May 10, 1966 I Really Want To Want You was recorded. We chose Nick's A Reason for the flip side. Since Golden Gate was a small label with limited distribution, once we received the pressings from the plant, it was up to us to get it played on the radio. We recruited friends to call all the local stations and make requests. I was constantly flipping through the dial. One night, I swear I heard it played on KLIV (San Jose), although I could barely hear it on my transistor radio. Somehow, it got on a playlist at a station in Redding and got to #7 on their charts. A local promoter asked us to do two shows for him in Redding and Marysville that summer.

Our first road trip was a little less than glamorous. All of us crammed into one non-air-conditioned car with our equipment in tow. Redding was the hottest place on earth. The shows went good. It was a great feeling to have the people respond to us like we were stars! One more road trip to Monterey, the highlight of which was my first visit to a Denny's restaurant, and the I Really Want To Want You tour was over. Back to the teen clubs. Our gray suits could stand up by themselves. In 1967, because of our success at the H. Liebes in-store performances, Macy's decided to use us as the featured band for their It's Like Now campaign. This included playing shows at all the Macy's stores in northern California, an appearance on a TV special that aired on KGO channel 7, and making a promotional record to be given away at each performance. Not to mention all the "groovy" clothes we got to wear and keep!

With Cosmo having met the love of his life, he decided to leave the band for a more normal existence. The remaining four of us began what would be The Vandals last hurrah. In May, we went into the studio to record It's Like Now, a rewrite of Ned's That's The Way Of The World. Part of our agreement with Macy's was to record Wet and Wild and Mustang Georgie. At that session we also recorded I Paved My Way, which was to be the last song Nick was to write for the band. That summer we played all the Macy's shows. We had a great time getting the 'star' treatment. Having just graduated from high school, none of us wanted to go back to the teen clubs, so it was time to go our separate ways. These were some of the best years of my life. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

The Vandals:
Joe Tarantino - Guitar and vocals
Cosmo Violante - Lead vocals
Curtis Mallegni - Drums and vocals
Ned Bawden - Keyboards
Nick Paolini - Bass and vocals

"Copyrighted and originally printed on by Mike Dugo".
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