Jon Macey's musical evolution began under the influence of his grandfather's western band in upstate New York. He was exposed very young to the likes of Hank Williams, and that type of 'real' singer/musician became ingrained in Macey from the start. His city relatives on his mother's side were first generation Italians and the classic song-smiths' tunes came to Macey through Sinatra and other crooners. These formative, and decidedly non-rock influences, have stayed with Macey all through many musical incarnations.
The first era of Fox Pass lasted from 1972 to 1978. Formed while Jon Macey and Michael Roy were still in high school, the original concept was Bob Dylan-styled folk music played with a Mothers of Invention influence. The Mothers influence set the stage for FoxPass as performance art (thus the cheeky reference to “faux pas”), most likely a confounding aspect of the band for both fans and for some of the band members.
The first shows were played as an acoustic duo. By 1973, Michael's brother John Roy had joined on bass, and a series of drummers came and went. Early gigs were notable for the quick evolution towards the New York City sound of two swirling rhythm guitars, epitomized by the Velvet Underground.
The chaotic pounding and 'Sister Ray' guitar jams drove drummers away, as it was not the typical Boston night club fare. In 1974 the line-up solidified with the arrival of drummer Ricci LaCentra, who brought an empathic understanding of this new sound. The band tended toward an art-pop Boston version of the Velvet Underground; but the main inspiration for the sound came from the Modern Lovers, who were role models for FoxPass in the early days, especially for Jonathan Richman's heart-on-my-sleeve approach to rock music.
Michael, Jon, and John all sang leads, allowing for interesting stage interactions.
Dressed in black and supported by a large gay and artsy cult following, Fox Pass was “punk” before punk came to the musical fore. Other influences around this time were 1960s bands such as Richard and the Young Lions and The Seeds. They had the aura and drive of a New York City band during an era when local Boston clubs wanted cover bands or blues bands. The fertile Boston music scene of the late 1970s was just beginning to flourish underground, but none of the bands had a central focus and there was no real sense of common ground. The NYC new wave/punk scene started catching fire, with Boston following suit around 1975. But by this time, the FoxPass was discouraged and turning away from their formative influences, as it seemed that neither the general public nor the record industry was interested. The internal pressures of the struggle had eaten away at FoxPass; John Roy and Ricci LaCentra ended up leaving the band, which then got a professional manager, turned up the volume, and landed in the burgeoning 'punk rock' scene in Boston.
Click on the thumbnails below for photos of 1973 - 75 Fox Pass.
The departure of John Roy and LaCentra opened the door in early 1975 for a new rhythm section. Drummer John Jules and bassist David Godbeywere well known locally and they brought a harder sound to the rhythms, which fit with Jon Macey and Michael Roy’s move towards power pop, influenced by the like of the Sidewinders and The Who. The band became flashier and more theatrical, with Macey adopting a glam stage presence a la Bowie/Ferry/Reed. Gone was the wistful, innocent Dylan/Velvets/’60s veneer of the early line-up. Local entrepreneur Bruce Miner became their first real manager, bringing a new level of professionalism to FoxPass. Bookings increased and their profile rose in the Boston music world.
The band released its only single in early 1976: "I Believed" b/w "Prized Possession". At that time, radio stations routinely played tapes of local bands (most bands had tapes rather than records), and FoxPass had many songs on key New England radio stations. Press followed airplay and the band was soon packing houses around Massachusetts and playing regularly in NYC. But FoxPass and Miner resisted the "punk" label, perceiving it as a negative career track, and they made statements and gave interviews that distanced them from the scene. Major record companies flocked to the sold-out shows, but only smaller labels offered punk deals and FoxPass turned them down, hoping for the big prize. Though FoxPass was one of the biggest of the “Rat bands” (infamous local legendary rock club, The Rathskellar), their decision not to appear on the seminal Live at the Rat LP was a huge mistake. One of the pioneers of the Boston music scene may have missed out on major record deals because of their refusal to be lumped in with the other Rat bands. Also in 1976 Macey suffered serious injuries in a car accident, leading to unlimited access for painkillers and sedatives, increasing his existing proclivity for chemicals.
In early 1977, David Godbey was replaced by Max Camfield and the band hired their first keyboard player, Steve Couch. Macey was an early lover of ABBA, and the new band could perform the more sophisticated Macey pop songs. FoxPass reverted to the multiple lead singer format, with four part harmonies. This new sound confused their audience and flew in the face of the punk-new wave trend just as it finally was gleaning record deals for some of the bands that followed in FoxPass' footsteps. Though still popular with the media, FoxPass lost ground in the race towards new wave stardom. They played a lot of New England gigs and enjoyed increasing popularity on the suburban college circuit. Airplay and NYC gigs continued as well, but they could see that they were being left behind, and that had they packaged themselves as punk, they would have ridden the trend along with other east coast bands.
Feeling defeated, they fired manager Bruce Miner and hired a manager with more lucrative agent connections. Within a year this line-up fell apart, leading Macey and Roy to reunite with original members, John Roy and Ricci LaCentra; Bob Toomey joined on piano. The band played a series of farewell shows over the last six months of 1978, reprising their early 70’s sound. Ironically, these last shows were some of the most successful gigs in FoxPass history. They packed the Inn Square Men’s Bar, sold out the first Boston Rock Revue at the Paradise, and the very last show was broadcast on WCOZ from The Club in Cambridge. They put the whole audience on the guest list for that show, 12/27/78. But Macey and Roy had decided to move to NYC and they did so in early 1979, joining Tom Dickie and The Desires and ending the FoxPass era. They finally got the big record contract and a couple of hit songs, but success sometimes comes at a price.
The thumbnails below are photos, promo stuff, and press from 1975-1978.
TOM DICKIE AND THE DESIRES & The Early 1980s
When Fox Pass passed from existence at the end of 1978, they were already weary veterans, though the oldest member of the band was only 24 years old.
Jon Macey and Tom Dickie had become friends during the peak of the Fox Pass era. Tom Dickie’s band, Susan, was one of the top bands in Boston at that time, and had performed on the Live at The Rat album. Though Fox Pass and Susan were dissimilar bands, Macey and Dickie had a lot in common: a love of songwriting craft, Dylan, Lenny Bruce, and most importantly, ABBA.
Susan relocated to NYC in the late 70s and released an LP for RCA Records. In 1979, after the demise of both of their bands, Macey moved to NYC to form a songwriting partnership with Dickie. Michael Roy followed a few months later. They auditioned a series of drummers, settling on Ronnie Ball. Macey switched to bass guitar during the gestation phase of the band, and he ended up staying with that instrument for the life of the band. The Dickie/Macey songwriting team modeled itself after Bjorn and Benny, Frey and Henley, Lennon and McCartney, and the 1960s bubblegum teams like Cordell and Gentry. Pop was a huge undercurrent, but the actual sound of the band was NYC rock, with the psychological edge from Fox Pass influencing the new songs. Vocals were a strong suit, with accomplished singers in Dickie, Macey, and Roy, and they exploited this advantage in song arrangements. This particular aspect set them apart from many of the bands they played with at Max's and CBGB's and allowed them to integrate the harmonic sensibilities of pop music.
Tommy Mottola was a powerful and well-connected figure in the music business, best known for managing Hall and Oates. (The song “Native New Yorker” from Saturday Night Fever was written about him.) Mottola had managed Susan and he also managed the new band, initially called The Tom Dickie Combo. With Mottola's clout, they toured with many national acts. Starting with their first New York City gigs, record labels scouted the band, and soon A & R man Peter Lubin signed them to Mercury Records. Personnel changes around this time included a new drummer, Peter Charles and keyboardist Gary Corbett. Mottola’s people christened them Tom Dickie and The Desires, after the 1950’s tune “That’s My Desire.”
Once the deal was inked, Lubin nixed Peter Charles, and brought in Mickey Curry on drums for the recording sessions. Many producers were contacted (including Bjorn and Benny!) and they ultimately hired British producer Martin Rushent, of The Stranglers and Buzzcocks fame. The Desires recorded their first album, Competition, at Electric Lady studios in December 1980. Released in March of 1981, the LP yielded two radio hits, “Downtown Talk” and “Competition”, across various US regions. “Competition” was released as a single in the US and Europe. Boston radio stations played both of these songs, with WBCN pushing “Downtown Talk” and “Competition” hitting #8 on KISS 108. The album charted in Record World and a promotional tour was scheduled. However, after a few shows with Hall and Oates, Mickey Curry left to join Hall and Oates, a gig that would pay off big time for him. Chuck Sabo was hired to play drums for the tours and the videos the band recorded for both songs. The band’s biggest tour was highlighted by huge arena dates in the Midwest, opening for Cheap Trick.
The band faced many stumbling blocks. One key issue was that they were being promoted as 'New Wave' by Mercury and subsequently viewed by the critical intelligentsia as latecomers to the party, aping Costello, Petty, and the Cars. This hurt because the truth was that Macey, Dickie, and Roy all had been doing this since the early 1970s, but the biggest self-defeating factor for the band was the reckless drug abuse engaged in by Macey and others. With all these forces bearing on the situation, the later tours were fraught with internal tensions. The band really had no support system apart from one another, and the strain on them made it impossible to maintain a united front.
By the summer of 1981, it was time to plan another album. When Martin Rushent declined the offer, Ed Sprigg (who had worked with John Lennon) was enlisted as producer. The band had developed a dynamic concert act, but back stage they were falling apart. The songwriting partnership of Macey and Dickie was fracturing even as they cooked up a new batch of songs and did pre-production with the band between tours. In November 1981, Macey fell ill with a life-threatening case of hepatitis and progress ground to a halt. Throughout the first part of 1982, Dickie and Roy handled overdubbing on the basic tracks with Macey a ghost during the sessions. The album, aptly titled The Eleventh Hour, was released in the summer of 1982, just as Macey abruptly quit the band. Tom Dickie and The Desires played some more gigs and tours, but the label and management quickly abandoned them. The early promise of the band, to merge sharply-crafted lyrics to the elusive power pop sound, lay in the dust of misfortune as the band dissolved. Their legacy is on the two released Mercury albums. There is enough recorded material for a third Tom Dickie and The Desires album, but decades later, it remains in storage.
Thumbnails below are photos and other items from 1979-1982
MACEY'S PARADE Mid-80s to Mid-90s
Macey’s Parade existed from 1989 until 1994, although the story really begins around 1985. After the debacle of his ruinous drug addiction and the demise of Tom Dickie and The Desires in NYC, Jon Macey moved back to Boston in the mid-80s. He struggled to make music but his personal problems made it difficult to pull together and sustain a band. He formed a band called The Score in 1985, with notable members such as Michael Scott and Jeff Mayo, both currently active in Los Angeles. It was band mate Mark Highlander who actually coined the name ‘Macey’s Parade’, which Macey himself dismissed at the time. FormerFoxPass drummer Ricci LaCentra joined, along with Macey’s then-wife Kimberly Stephenson on keyboards. The Score played a number of gigs around Boston and did some recording sessions. But Macey could not overcome his all-consuming drug habit, and each promising song or gig turned into nothing. Not wanting to become a caricature of the junkie poet has-been, Macey simply withdrew from music.
In 1988, a series of mishaps and disasters broke Macey down to the point that he was able to seek help and begin to salvage his life. He met British expatriate Steve John (a singer and conga player) in recovery meetings and the two of them started to write songs together, mostly about their common experiences with drugs. They soon contacted Joe Martino, the multi-instrumentalist who had played with Tom Dickie and The Desires, and they had the core of a new band. Steve John christened the band ‘Boys Make Noise’ and, with drummer Steve Arnold and bassist Steve Leonard, they started playing the local Boston/Cambridge circuit in 1989.
Neither Macey nor John were particularly mentally stable at this juncture, due to the shock of being totally conscious for the first time in years and, although they drew crowds in the bars, the band could not hold together. Steve returned to England as his drug habit reared its ugly head again; Macey and Martino got Ricci LaCentra (yet again!) and Rich Doherty on drums and bass. The band was now officially called Macey’s Parade and went through various incarnations, sometimes changing from gig to gig. Martino was in and out of the band, Steve John returned with his congas, Charlie Cirrone played flute(!), Jane Elizabeth sang back up, John O'Toole played lead guitar, and even local producer Joe Harvard played guitar for a stretch.
In mid-1991, Macey finally assembled the Macey’s Parade line-up that lasted the longest, with Tom Hostage (guitar), Bill Mello (bass), and Steve Lytle (drums). The band was professional and tight, playing many successful shows, but the aftermath of his addiction and related health problems, caused Macey to doubt his vision and subverted his ability to lead. Macey was finally able to use all of his talents and his career-long tendency to constantly write new songs and explore new styles gave the band a vast repertoire, but created a state of affairs where neither the audience nor the band could ever get a fix on their sound.
Steve John’s drug problems finally drove him from the band (and the country) permanently. (He eventually died of AIDS in England in the late 1990s.) Joe Martino returned to the band in the middle of the prolonged recording sessions for their album, under the production guidance of Barry Marshall. The many harder-rocking tracks the band had recorded prior to the Barry Marshall sessions were shelved by Macey, as he wanted to move more toward the folk and country/rock sound that appealed to him at that moment. The drug-related chronic health issues had worsened, sapping his energy and enthusiasm for loud rock music. The result was a three guitar line-up, with Hostage on lead electric guitar and acoustic guitar, Martino on multiple stringed instruments, and Macey predominantly on acoustic guitar.
The album took over a year to record due to financial limitations (this was the dawn of the digital home recording era and that option was not yet common.) The final product, "Too Much Perspective," was eclectic, but not truly representative of Macey's best songwriting of this era. Due to the lengthy recording process, some newer songs were not included, and by the time it was released Macey had lost interest in many of the older songs. Steve Korba replaced Mello on bass.The CD achieved immediate media recognition with many newspaper, magazine, and television notices, almost all praising the record. The notices tended to overplay Macey's drug addiction and downfall which made him feel like a one dimensional music business cliche and overshadowed the more universal aspects of the music.
The band did not fit into the alternative rock trend of the moment so, even as the Macey's Parade public profile increased with bigger and better shows, they could not get a big label to take the album. They kept playing the Boston area club circuit, headlining the Orpheum Theatre on Dec. 31, 1993 in a triumphant concert, but Macey could feel that the end was near. During 1994, they played all the hot clubs and also recorded 20 more songs as demos for a second CD. Macey went to Los Angeles for two extended trips in the Spring to shop the CD but he was tired of struggling and started to lose hope. In September 1994, with little fanfare, Macey called it quits. The last shows were certainly their best shows, and he wanted to stop while the music was great. Many songs remain unreleased, leaving the door open for another Macey's Parade CD to complete the story.
Click on the thumbs below for Macey's Parade photos and press clips
JON MACEY in The Modern Era
Right after the end of Macey's Parade, Jon Macey hooked up with local star Sal Baglio, of The Stompers fame, to form The BitterSweets, along with bassist Stephen Gilligan and drummer Lenny Shea (both also ex-Stompers). A few concerts were played, and an entire album recorded, in 1995. Abruptly the band split and the album remains unreleased. Then Macey became co-writer and guitarist for singer Agona Hardison for a spell. By 1996, Macey had decided to go to school and was working in the public health field. He played the occasional fundraiser but having built a professional home studio, he was focused on writing and recording his own songs.
In 1998, he reconnected with Michael Roy (who had moved to Cape Cod) and John Jules. They and a handful of other musical friends contributed to the recordings that became Macey’s first solo CD, Actuality in Process. Released in 2003, it was a comeback of sorts. Wanting to play as a band again, Macey, Roy, and Jules enlisted Steve Gilligan on bass, and The Score name was revived. Jon Macey and The Score played a series of well-received shows around Boston. It soon became clear that this band was playing for keeps and needed to record. Since the core of the band was Fox Pass, the decision was made to revive that name. After 30 years, Fox Pass recorded its debut album, produced by Barry Marshall, and released in November 2005.
Universal praise followed the release of the CD. Timing being everything, they finally got it all together just as the sale of recorded music plummeted, the market was flooded with social networking websites and getting the attention of the general public was nearly impossible. Locally, Fox Pass had a strong following, playing the major clubs in town and always pulling big crowds. Jules, however, became disenchanted and resigned his drum stool in late 2006. He was replaced by Tom Landers (cousin of the late Ron Doty, an enigmatic associate of Macey and FP since the mid-1970s.) In June 2011, Landers was replaced by Lenny Shea on drums, merging the BitterSweets into Fox Pass.
The release date for INTEMPOREL, their long awaited second CD, was calculated for world wide release on the palindrome date of 01/02/2010, featuring many new songs plus a selection of immortal Fox Pass hits from long ago to answer the requests of their fans.
“Intemporel” is French for “timeless, not of this world.” It also translates as ATEMPORAL in English 'independent of time.' Intemporel was conceived as a classic double album: four distinct sides of music. The songs showcase the clever word play and the layered, existential themes that have become the hallmarks of Macey’s songwriting. Intemporel is the sound of a band at the top of its game, offering up music unaffected by trends, technology, or temporary culture.
While busy reviving the Fox Pass sound, Macey also partnered with Steve Gilligan in a side project directly influenced by Macey’s upbringing and original exposure to country and hillbilly music. They released an acoustic duo CD in 2007, Everything Under The Sun. Macey also participated in a number of folk/acoustic performances around Boston in search of a context to record another solo album.
November 11, 2011 saw the release of Intention, Macey’s cinematic, expressionist song-cycle. His collaboration with co-producer Lynn Shipley on the album has also led to the formation of an artists’ collective paving the way for future projects, concerts, videos and albums. Coming soon….