A few weeks back, Angelo Ranzini walked into that wonderful nightclub, The Famous Bar. While enjoying a series of Bloody Mary’s with a friend, the conversation about great, old St. Louis bands came up, and maybe because Ranzini was in the bar, I determined that A Perfect Fit was the top St. Louis group that I’d love to see reunite for one show. Because I’ve been vaguely intimidated by Ranzini since I was about 17, for no particular, realistic reason, I passed on the opportunity to talk to him about my idea. After all, it was a quiet night at the Famous, he was in conversation with the bartenders and, hey, I’d probably come unglued just saying “hello.”
High-school-induced social anxiety disorder. My longest-running malady.
Anyway, I’ll go ahead and hang onto that notion of an A Perfect Fit reunion, though it’s now an impossibility, due to the death of drummer Joe Longi, who passed this weekend. In the modern way of things, I was first alerted to his death via text; it was then confirmed with some back-and-forth on Facebook instant messenger. It’s been years since I’ve seen Joe; gosh, could have been a decade since we really talked. But I remember him well, in my own, admittedly-dated fashion, as both the kit drummer of APF, and, later, as the percussionist of Funkabilly. Certainly, he did other things in life and his closer friends and family will remember a different, more current person; but I’ll be forever locked in on the younger Joe Longi, with his spiked hair, intense, on-stage facial expressions and sliced tee-shirts.
Back in high school and into college, I had a set of drums and played them with (essentially) one band, before letting go of the dream, at an early enough age to spare the embarrassment of getting cut after auditions, or dealing with the post-adolescent angst of band break-ups. And so musically illiterate! I never could figure out the worship of certain drummers. In the late-’80s, you couldn’t talk drumming or percussion without Fish, Larry Mullen Jr., Stewart Copeland, Bill Bruford, and Neil Peart coming up again-and-again.
My drum heroes lived on my block, like Jack Petracek of the Painkillers. Or they lived around the corner, like Peter Lang of Corporate Humour. Or they went to Webster U., like Richard Bach of the Stranded Lads. Or they played in the rock royalty of Webster Groves High School, like Jeff Herschel of the Urge, or Longi, with APF.
Joe had a special place within that sub-group thanks to his kit. He was the first drummer I can recall (though it might’ve been Peter Lang…?) to play an electronic set and he worked in eye-catching pieces like Roto Toms and Octobans. His kit just looked a bit more contemporary and cool than everyone else’s and that added to his appeal. When the Urge and APF would play VFW Halls and small, local clubs, I could’ve just watched the drummers, with Herschel’s left-handed set-up and Joe’s new wave kit always impressing; their taste in gear was just as sharp as their playing.
I can distinctly recall catching those two groups at my first “hall party,” at a VFW joint in some corner of St. Louis County. And, if faulty memory serves true, I seem to recall being very moved by the scene, this simple idea that kids from my high school were igniting other kids from my high school on a weekend night, with the vague notion that even more excitement was happening on the parking lot, or at post-show parties somewhere deep in Webster Park. Existing on, at best, the outer perimeter of any particular clique at WGHS, simply being at those hall parties was unbelievable, though, a much-needed release.
Local bands like the ones mentioned above changed my life; far, far, far more than the Beatles, or Zeppelin, or Pink Floyd, or R.E.M., or Fishbone, or any of the college radio bands that served as gateways to the world of rock’n’roll for so many teens of my era. The local bands were the ones that hooked me, for good.
Thanks, Joe Longi, for playing a role in all that.
Owe you one.