This is a story I just have to tell, it's about the first bassist of Reagan Youth, Andy Apathy. Andy Bryan, his real name, was from Rego Park, Queens and he was one of the most amazing people I've ever had the pleasure to know. So allow me to tell you a story of one of the coolest people ever to have graced this planet.
Dave Insurgent and I were already playing in a punk rock band called PUS back in junior high and by the time we went to high school, we had already met our first drummer, Charley Bonet. Charley looked a lot like Marky Ramone and played a lot like Tommy Ramone so he was a perfect fit. But we had problems finding a bassist. After running through a few guys, Charley knew a guy from his side of Rego Park (the north side of Queens Boulevard, Dave and I were from the south side), so we decided to give him a try. When I first met Andy he was a guitarist, not a bassist, and when he was approached about joining our band he told me "Why I don't join the band as a second guitarist instead of bass and me and you could be like Jimmy Zero and Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys". It sounded cool but it still wouldn't have solved our 'bassist problem'. Eventually we heard that he traded his Gibson S.G. and got a Rickenbacker bass and so finally he became a member of the band.
Andy was already established on the punk scene in New York city. He had somehow got himself in John Holmstrom's Punk magazine, and you can see him standing beside Joey Ramone and Debbie Harry in a picture where those two punk legends are supposedly getting married. Andy was credited as Andy Zap: ring bearer. Andy was so far ahead of the curve when it came to other things as well. While we were losing our virginity, Andy was already having threesomes. Andy was doing the best drugs while we were trying drugs for the first time. He was hanging out with cool people from Manhattan while we were hanging out with Jewish American princesses in Queens. He was basically living the punk rock lifestyle better than we could have imagined.
Back home in Queens, we'd be hanging out and Andy would tell us that he knew the exact basement which the Ramones sang about in their song Basement ( y'know... hey daddy O, I don't wanna go, down, to the base). We'd go into this basement and it wasn't anything special except it was really easy to get into. We'd be rolling joints and opening quarts of beer as we sat on the washers and dryers. Funny enough, no tenants, let alone police ever came to bother us. We'd bring a boom box and crank punk songs all night long as we got wasted. Andy also took us to the building Joey Ramone grew up in. He took us to a building on Queens boulevard and we'd walk into the lobby. he showed us a buzzer with the name Hymen next to it. "That's Joey Ramones' real last name." he'd tell us, "Y'know, like a girl's pussy, the hymen." and we'd laugh because it was funny and we were way stoned (I know this sounds so stupid, but when you're young stone that's what you are, is stupid). What was really cool to us was that the Ramones had gone to the same high school we were going to, Forest Hills High. Andy was no longer going to that school because he was way to cool for that shit.
Andy was the one who hooked up our first gig at A7, opening for Butch Lust and the Hypocrites. The Hypocrites had, as their bassist, Screaming Mad George, formerly from the Mad, a great early New York city punk band. Andy knew him personally. The hypocrites also had an amazing guitarist in Lenny Steel but I digress. Well right before we played that first gig we decided it be best to change the band's name for the childish PUS to the more profound Reagan Youth. It was our first gig and it went over just fine. We started playing more gigs and we quickly gained a following.
With the band becoming popular, Dave Insurgent was now becoming obsessed with being a perfectionist. One of the first things Dave felt needed changing was Andy's punk name, which was 'Zap'. It didn't seem to matter to Dave that Punk magazine had no problem with crediting Andy as 'Andy Zap'. Dave said it was a stupid name that didn't mean anything. Andy didn't grouse or anything and changed his name to the more politically orientated Andy Apathy. Our drummer, Charley, also had a punk name. He called himself Charley Tripper. When Charley was asked about his punk name he told us it was given to him because he always acted all goofy like John Ritter's character on Three's Company called Jack 'Tripper'. I remember Dave asking Charley "So the name has nothing to do with tripping on acid or anything like that?" and Charley answered how it was a "Threes Company thang". Talk about a punk name that had it's origins in something so unpunk. Now Dave never insisted Charley change his name like Andy had to, and I am sure it was because Charley was not way more popular than Dave was at that time, like Andy surely was. To be honest, Screaming Mad George and his wife (I forget her name) had a talk with me about how swollen Andy's head had become since the band had become popular. I'm sure it also drove Dave crazy. And so the band continued to play gigs around the city and things were going great. That's right about the time when Dave told me he wanted Andy out of the band.
Sure there was a lot of bickering going on between Andy and Dave. In all fairness to Dave, Andy did things that were questionable. Andy would do things like tell Dave he wrote a song, a Public Image Limited type song and then Dave would tell me to go over to Andy's place to check it out. I would go over there and Andy would play, on bass, P.I.L.'s Low Life as if it was his new song. I would say "Andy, that's a Public Image song, Low Life, what the fuck did you write?" and then he'd admit that he'd written nothing at all. I'd have to go back to tell Dave that Andy came up with squat and then I'd end up playing for Dave my new idea for a Public Image song which would end up being One Holy Bible. Yeah, we had a new song to fuck around with but it just made Andy look like some kind of idiot. So I guess Dave had enough with his nonsense and his popularity and we began to argue about whether he should get another chance. In the end, Dave as the leader of the band, had the final say and so it was time to give Andy the heave ho. Of course it was decided that it would be me that would tell Andy the bad news so this way Andy wouldn't kick Dave's ass..... literally.
Of course Andy didn't take the news all that well but he was a man, not some little boy, so he accepted the news like a man. The band would try out a bunch of bassists and would settle on Al Pike, who is, without a doubt, the best bassist Reagan Youth ever had. Andy went on to form a new band, a heavy metal concoction called Mega Nex. It had something to do with Aleister Crowley and the band covered Set Me Free by the Sweet. We played a gig with Mega Nex in Queens. Mega Nex didn't last but Andy later found his way into a new band called Urban Waste. Andy and Mega Nex' guitarist Jeff Bensaul co-wrote, what I believe is their best song, Police Brutality. At the end of that song you can hear Andy's voice, crystal clear, saying "Police brutality" in only the way Andy could say it. I recently played it for Stephanie Plungis and I was so happy when she recognized the song and especially the ending when you hear Andy say "Police brutality" like it was some kind of sexual act that you'd really want to have happen to you.
Charley did not take the news of Andy getting kicked out very well. Eventually, during one of our rehearsals, Dave had Charley and I play the song Anytown over and over and over again and each time Charley sounded worse and worse. Charley finally snapped and stormed out saying he was leaving the band. Now we were on the prowl for a new drummer and finding a new drummer was a lot harder than finding that new bassist. Charley came back later on to record with us and said he'd be willing to rejoin the band. Dave told me "Well I guess we're gonna have to take Charley back" and that's when I told Dave "So we could kick out Andy, even though his base playing was good but you want to take Charley back even though his drumming sucks?". Well Dave couldn't argue with that logic and we never took Charley back and thank God for that because he was eventually replaced by Steve, who was easily the best drummer we ever had. We didn't call Steve "Keith Moon's ghost" for nothing y'know. As for Charley, he went on to play drums in a band called the Abused.
Even though Andy was no longer in Reagan Youth he still came to all our shows, and he would always be right next to my amp, driving Dave and I crazy. Andy would always be fucking around with the knobs on my amp, changing the settings on the volume, the treble and bass, shit like that. Dave would be yelling at him to stop but he'd just keep on doin' it. And even though Andy was no longer in my band, he was definitely still my friend. I could honestly say that out of all of my band mates that were in Reagan Youth, Andy was the only one that was truly my friend. After I no longer played with Charley, Al, Steve, Rick, Vic and Javier, I no longer kept contact with any of those guys, but Andy would always remain my good friend.
When Andy and I would get together and hang out, we'd partake in his favorite activity: smoking angel dust. We'd take the 4 or 5 train up to 125th and Lexington avenue and go cop Crazy Eddie, the best dust in Harlem. Andy didn't just smoke dust with me, he'd smoked dust with Johnny Blitz, the drummer from the Dead Boys. Andy, always one of the coolest mother fuckers around. Later on we lost touch but we'd always get together every now and then and of course when we did, we'd get high. It's what we loved to do.
Later on in my life I had become addicted to heroin and Andy found out. He immediately called my mother and told her I was shooting needles into my arm. This idiot once told me "And you count this guy as your friend after he did that?", as if it was bad thing for Andy to contact my parents and tell them I was killing myself slowly. I replied "That's what a real fuckin' friend does you fuckin' moron".
The years continued to roll by and I would see Andy sporadically. He had moved to Florida and had remarried. He also became a chef but continued to play music. Then one day, out of the blue, he contacts me. "I booked us to play at CBGBs". I asked him what the fuck he was talking about and he explained that Jack Rabid, from the band Even Worse, had booked two nights at CBGBs for the 20th anniversary of the New York City punk rock compilation record. Even though Reagan Youth wasn't on that compilation, Jack Rabid said Andy and I could play under the name 'Paul and Andy from Reagan Youth'. He also told me he was now calling himself Andy Zapathy, hence, the title of my blog. So the very next day Andy shows up, from Florida, and he's at my apartment and he's with his old Mega Nex' drummer, Michael Argo. Andy explains to me he could get Charley to play but that Mike was way better on drums. I said "Fine, let's do it". We then go drive to the city and so I can buy him heroin. I had offered him some of my methadone but he refused. He said "Nah, I want that street shit". I was in the process of getting clean at the time and I hadn't bought heroin in the longest. When we were young Andy would always have to buy me my drugs because he knew the connections. When I became addicted later on, things changed, and it was I who had to cop for Andy. So I went and bought him some stuff, from the streets of the Lower East Side, my old stomping grounds. I knew it wasn't going to be really good but I had lost all my old connections so what could I do? Andy actually said after sniffing some, "The shit you got for me last year blows this shit away".
The next thing I know we're back in Queens, at the Guitar Center and he's talkin' about buying me an amp... and also a guitar! I had a Stratocaster at the time but when Andy and I played together back in the day, I used a les Paul (neither the Stratocaster nor the Les Paul were real by the way), so Andy reasoned that I should be playing a Les Paul for the upcoming gig. He told me how he was opening a restaurant with the help of his friends who were gonna be the investors. Andy was going to be getting a big amount of money from his investors and on Friday, he was gonna take some of that money and definitely buy me the amp...and probably the Les Paul too. I got real excited because one thing Andy was not, was a bullshit artist. When he said he'd be buying you an amp you were gonna get an amp. So we plug some guitars and Andy asks me to play the song Reagan Youth along with him. I tell him "Sure, but check this shit out first" and I begin to play a song called In The Beginning that I had written along with Dave Insurgent, for our new band, House Of God. Andy and Mike listen to it and are impressed. I tell them "We'll play this gig but afterwards, let's start a new band, one where we play real music, like this" and I continue to play some of my neo-classic rock. Then I make him happy by playing Reagan Youth, Andy on the bass and me on the guitar, just like old times.
Afterwards, Andy takes us out for dinner. He tells me I can work with him in his new restaurant. He asks me "Do you wanna be a waiter, or a sous chef and work under me? Or do you want me to send you to bartending school?". He even tells me that he'll pay me off the books so I can keep collecting unemployment. The conversation then turns to baldness and he tells me to take off my baseball cap. "Y'know the hairclub for men, well I'm not just the client, I'm also the vice-president". He said it backwards and it was funny as shit. Oh my God, now he's talking about paying to put hair on my head, Andy was like no other, let me tell you. We're wasted and laughing and feeling good and I explain to him. "Y'know, we could have done some great shit in the past but egos got in the way. You're great with money and getting shit done, but you can't write a song to save your life. And I'm all about the music but I suck with money. So can't we just do what we're good at and make this shit finally happen?". He agrees with me and we shake hands on it and then Andy tells me how we have to rehearse the next day. Mike drives us back to my place and I give Andy A Collection Of Pop Classics. I tell Andy and Mike which songs to learn for the CBGBs gig. Andy tells me he'll call me tomorrow and we say good night. It would be the last time I would see Andy alive.
The next day, which was a Wednesday, I don't get a call from Andy. I wait all day but nothing. I'm hesitant to contact him as I believe this means his restaurant investors are pulling out and it's all falling apart for him. I say to myself "Let me leave him alone until he sorts this shit out" but I do get a call later that evening, from my friend Mortali, who used to be a singer in Andy's band. Mortali tells me "Did you hear what happened to Andy?" and at that moment I just knew he was dead. Mortali tells me "He had a heart attack and died." I had already yelled out "FUCK!" and began to cry. I yell at Mortali "This really sucks" and he replies "Tell me about it". Mortali then gives me the details concerning his funeral. It's on Friday, the day he was supposed to take me to Guitar Center to buy me an amp... and probably a new guitar too.
I go to the funeral and I meet his widow right after I kneel at his coffin and kiss it. She asks me "What happened? He left me in Florida just fine and tha next thing I hear is he's dead?! "What happened? You were with him that day, right?". How can you tell Andy's widow that Andy left me that night and went to stay at some cheap motel, somewhere in New Jersey, in a neighborhood with even cheaper crack cocaine. He had just come from Florida and being a chef, he had put on some pounds from all the rich food he'd been eating. He smoked some crack cocaine and had a heart attack. Instead of helping Andy the local scumbags took his wallet and his Hamer bass and whatever else they could. He was found dead. At his age, and in the shape he was in, a blast of crack can do you in like that. A cocaine induced heart attack did him in. This guy, who used to drive around on his black motorcycle, wearing nothing but black engineer boots, black leather pants, a leather jacket and a black motorcycle helmet. I mean completely black from head to toe, and his headlight on his black motorcycle was out. He'd drive around, dressed like that, on that motorcycle, at night no less, dusted out of his mind... and he never died, not even a scratch. Um 'fuckin' believable, just Um 'fuckin' believable.
At the funeral, the Rabbi spoke of how Andy was such a bright light and the brightest lights burn out the fastest. It made perfect sense to me but I still felt gyped. The rabbi asked if anyone would like to say some words about him and I was the only one. I spoke about how he hooked up the gig at CBs, how he was gonna hook me up with a job, how he was gonna buy me the amp, and the guitar. And how he was the only friend I ever had who, when he told you he would do those things, you knew he meant it. When Dave "Insurgent" Rubinstein died, you had to be blind not to see it coming. But with Andy, you just assumed he'd always be there. Lordy, do I ever miss my ole bassist, my ole friend and one of the greatest human beings I ever knew.