Sainte Anthony’s Fyre interview with Bob Sharples
Sainte Anthony’s Fyre are the most heavy underground rock you will ever hear. They released only one album and thanks to Rockadrome there is a brand new reissue of it. Bob Sharples, the drummer told the story.
You were from Trenton, New Jersey. Who were your major influences?
To start with I was born the U.K. (bow to the Queen!) and when we came here, we would always go back, so I was already moving around. At age ten I was on the BBC playing my trombone and would listen to the radio in the a.m. It sounded like shit, haha. Years later ended up in Trenton, New Jersey, I mostly grew up in this country, but as a child I always listened to my father’s albums (he was a drummer in England). Thelonious Monk, Chet Baker, Gene Krupa, Charlie Ventura, lots of jazz and traditional jazz. Also listened to the first albums by the Beatles and the Stones, now I had to choose between the Stones and the Beatles… love songs to 13 years old girls… or R&B, I chose the Stones especially after seeing Mick Jagger spit on the stage on national TV! That was decadent and to me that’s what rock & roll is all about. At age 12, in N. Bergen, I saw a kid wearing Cuban heeled boots as I did, and started a band. As a young teenager I listened to the Blues Magoos, The Shadows Of Knight (“Gloria”), The Real McCoys, Searchers, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service… So many influences. As my mother woke up… I was playing “Freak Out” by Frank Zappa (“Help I’m A Rock”) and scarred the shit out of her.
“I chose the Stones especially after seeing Mick Jagger spit on the stage on national TV! That was decadent and to me that’s what rock & roll is all about.”
Were you or other members in any other bands?
Pre-Fyre band we were all in different bands. I was in so many bands ie. the Statics, the Orange Invasion, the Tins, D.D. and the Dive Bombers until at age 15 I auditioned for this really weird guy… a young Tom Nardi!! Later on he would record an album called The Marshmallow Way, bubble gum music to the max, on the cover of the album was a giant bubble gum machine with him inside of it… we used to break his balls about it, sooooo funny! Tom and I hooked up with this Radio guy from Philly who did live shows every Saturday night for high schools, auditoriums, and churches (The Third Degree), playing loud psychedelic music until one show at a church, Tom wanted to do the Who as the last song… I remember Tom kicking his Dana Electro amp off stage as I demolished and flipped over all my gear, there was smoke, chaos, cymbals hitting the floor… that was the end of that gig and band. I didn’t see Tom Nardi for some years. Greg was in a band called Peters Precious Soul and they were good.
Can you elaborate the formation of Sainte Anthony’s Fyre?
“We excelled in improvisational long solo type music.”
Ahhh…this is a great question! This is the birth of Sainte Anthonys Fyre. Years later we would have non stop jam sessions in a friends large building, way in the back of his mother’s property. All my music friends would hang out in black light and very psychedelic atmosphere, we would sleep there. We were always high on grass, amphetamines, acid and lots of wine, but were always jamming. Greg had made a bit of a name for himself, I had started hanging with him and he came to jam with us on rare occasions. Then I didn’t see him for quiet a while. Things continued that way (in the psycho building) until one day I got a call from Greg. He had hooked up with a rock promoter having great success with her #1 band… ‘Betsy Jean and The Gems’, you know with a horn section, Hammond organ and Betsy on vocals. Promoter was Jean Francis and wanted to put together more Motown bands. Greg was in touch with her and and I was to be the drummer. When I showed up in her basement, there was this weird guy on bass, Richy Helmke. Her plan was to start out with guitar, bass and drums, get a horn section, keys and a front man. While we waited for this to happen we would, as per Jean, have to start learning her song list. We waited and waited all the while developing a good chemistry and started jamming on this new guy… Jimi Hendrix, she would come down from her 3rd floor office and make us stop and get back to her music. We had to wait for her to leave. Meanwhile, and I got a real kick out of this, we were getting louder, then Greg showed up with his 1st Marshall stack and Richy followed suite and blew her out of her office, but that was OK with us, we said fuck her shit and split that scene… and that’s how Fyre was born plus we had a small song list including Cream, Hendrix, Doors so on and so on. We excelled in improvisational long solo type music.
We tried the club seen with all the au-gogo dancers but always got thrown out while playing…trying to break the boredom, Richy and I would play out of time, complicated bass and drum rhythms the dancers couldn’t dance to and got down or out of there perches pissed off…haha! We were breaking all the rules and it was fucking great. I remember playing at this psychedelic place in Philly, Greg was always trying to be innovated and nailed treble horns to some old cabinets, right behind me so when he hit high notes they would scream, making my eyeballs go up in my head… hence Marshal stack #2. We just couldn’t come up with a name we all agreed on but Greg was reading and very much into a book by Fuller “The Days of Sainte Anthonys Fire”. We hated the name but Greg was stuck on it, so we just went with it, and for a long time before we played, Greg would have us take a concoction of speed, amphetamines and acid to enhance our performance… I was breaking a lot more sticks, and skins!!
What do you remember from early rehearsing? Did you use a lot of psychedelics?
Early basement rehearsals were always difficult because it was hard to find a place to rehearse. When my parents weren’t home we would move all the furniture to another room (split level) and have at it. Greg would bring some new songs and we had to get it down the way Greg wanted it. There were always fights or Greg walking out. Greg had a best friend… Harry Wolski who taught algebra at a high school, but choose to live in a shithole, in a row house in the bad side of town, but Greg would scramble a practice at Harry’s house… a row house with loud amps. Chaos, booze, and all kinds of LSD flourished! I must mention that we always partied with Harry anyway. One time I got so blasted I fell down the stairs, and while I lay on the bottom step… help came in the form of Greg with a magic marker wrote “FUCK” on my forehead! In the morning I tried to wash it off but it stayed on my forehead plus I had to catch a bus. Yeah we were using ‘psychedelics’, everybody was getting into Hendrix or Cream, anything psychedelic. We…per Greg, had just gotten a new manager…Dickie Diamond who also kept Patti La Belle and the Blue Belles busy along with Kool and The Gang. Somewhere in here is where we lost Richy to the military…so remember that old bass player-Tom Nardi, well he was on board.
What do you remember from recording your album? Where did you record the album? What gear did you guys use? And what can you tell about Zonk Records?
Before we went in the studios to record our album, Dickie Diamond had us recording in CBS studios along with Patti LaBelle, payment for doing this was to let us put down some tracks for ourselves (more missing tracks). Recording our Fyre album was a trip. I remember at times staying in the studio, 5 days and nights non stop, the guys in suites spread out piles of speed all over the console. Greg didn’t like his sound and came up with opening these double doors which led to a hall way, at the end of which Greg set up a Marshal and put studio mikes by those doors. This studio was L & H just outside of Philly. We were upstate NJ for some reason, but someone had the brainy idea of popping into ALL Platinum Records a Motown, soul studio where instead of amps, they would just run you straight through the board! And Greg was pissed and walked out…haha, then we were booked for Electric Ladyland studios. By now we were up to 3 Marshal stacks, and Nardi went nuts with Sunn Cerado Cabinets and heads, with all lower cabinets loaded into our new (60,000 at the time). Our new management, Bob Balerna and Frank Kelly owned a chain of hippi clothing stores the main one in down town Trenton, after hours when the doors were locked we would all get blasted or Zonked. I forget how many records were pressed and released, but I think maybe between 5,000 and 10,000. I wasn’t supposed to think about that, they were strict. We would rehearse in the basement of the ‘Hip Pocket’. Now in those days they also had a sub basement in which I found my way into and discovered air raid supplies, which to me were shit, until I found that bottle of “Pheno-Barbital”, I was mia for 2 days until they found me…haha.
Would you share your insight on the albums’ tracks?
Random note: about the band, Tom, Greg and myself, we had rituals like the music 1st, (always) being driven to gigs, to make sure we were all accounted for, do our sound balance (check) then we were ready. I remember doing sound checks for drums with Mick Fleetweed….Fleetwood and he would gab with me! Just think, 2 Brits=2 drummers, very polite indeed. When I was young my father told me “if it wasn’t for Paul Revere, he might of been the Duke of Jersey.” Now most bands play and go home, not us, we would always rally at Greg’s chicks house, Harry’s or most of the time my house where we would try to come down by drinking, downers or Quaaludes. I remember Greg’s favorite was booze and ludes and we always took care of one or another…even our wives and ladies took care of us. I’m just going to put this in here… at my house after playing our balls off, we were very, very out of it and I had to use my bathroom after being in there for a few minutes the fucking door opens up and it’s a very ludded up Greg wanting to see if I was alright and starts motor mouthing me, I said please, then noticing our absence in comes Nardi and it was so funny…we ended up having a band meeting which invariably turned into a wrestling match! Greatest times ever!
We would get airplay by underground radio stations, especially if Mountain, or Blue Cheer were coming to to town. The first thing I did when I got my drivers licence was to go see Blue Cheer at the Electric Factory in Philly, and they were as loud as us, and there claim to fame was that they were the loudest band around. Remember they had to record there 2nd album outside on pier 54 (Outsideinside)…phasing. One of our problems that fucking Motown records couldn’t handle, or MIX until 40 years later!
“Love Over You”
Listen for Greg’s 2nd ‘ghost guitar’ interwoven through out the song and you’ll hear it after the song stops. It’s weird (and done in the hallway, there were offices down that hall, and when Greg started adjusting his levels, all those people had to split…haha). This song was 100 times better live-in cocert…oh my mistake, leave that in there..COCert haha…ever been to one? Also note Greg’s classical piece within his solo. Greg played classical violin when he was young.
This was a fun song to play, a meaty begging on Greg’s cue he would say “get it” and onstage sparks would fly, listen to Greg’s ending riff, he made no mistakes.
Ah yes, I always thought that if you added a flute and mouth organ, it would sound like Canned Heat, what with the drum shuffle and so on. I don’t know where he came up with this song, but I do remember, as groupies go, there were these 2 transvestites who came to see Greg everywhere we played until one night, Greg already fucked up on Quaaludes, kid-napped him and took him off to somewhere in Pennsy, where I was living. About 3 in the a.m. I get this call from Greg to PLEASE come get him, given directions I proceeded, and when I found him and got him he was dressed as a women, make up, jewelry and I did like his lipstick…told me never tell anyone, but a day or 2, he starts going over this new song… “Summer Fun”.
Kind of a funk song with 3 separate instrumental solos in a row, all connected, discounting my solo, the others were great. When Greg’s solo starts…it’s all dynamics…smooth transition into his solo then after these solos are done listen to the 3 of us playing, jamming, just getting into it. A much better live song. I was funny in those days about drum solos…I guess a head thing but they usually lasted 20 min. And I would get a standing ovation sometimes. It wasn’t long ago (in those days), I saw Cream’s Ginger Baker with two bass drums and his solos put the Zap on me. Yeah, I remember I was 16 when I got my 2nd bass drum.
“Lone Soul Road”
This song was always in demand and played on underground radio stations. I mean this is riff city, what can I say rhythm, blend of instruments and 2 bass tracks, reg. and fuzz bass, we knew all of our changes…blind! I was stuck in the drum room with a small glass window, I couldn’t see anybody, I was left all alone…hehe. Sometimes a tech. Would come in to make a mike adjustment or whatever and he would bail…post-haste, to much wine and beans=purple stinky haze…or call Nardi in to see something and he would puke!
“With Your Beau”
Lot’s of strange overdubbed guitar solos, which Greg would try to duplicate live playing that chord melody thing.
“Chance of Fate”
Hm, let’s see, well this was one of our older songs, and nothing to do with ethnicity, I love our little intros, bringing Greg’s guitar solos in, and when he was there…just close your eyes.
What are some favourite memories from performing live?
We would play as opening act for so many people like Grand Funk Railroad. My favorite Fleetwood Mac, Patti Labelle, James Gang with Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter Group and all the soul acts with Dickie Diamond. I have so many favorite memories of playing live, I have a hard time singling them out… Just playing live was what we wanted. Management didn’t want us loading or setting up gear up anymore, that was up to our road guys and tech. That was fine by me! I think most of our funny times was with (a mention to) our road guys, they were so dedicated. There was always Big Jim Cerand, he was almost 7 feet tall and wider than a door opening and lots of scarves. I used to look at him talking to my mother…so polite until he got me out side, then the fun began…you know…wine chugging competing, along w/ cheeba, and oh yes…”hey Sharples how does the wine taste, cause I just put a tab of acid in it”. Then there was tri cornered hat…Gary Sampson and ‘little John’ who was being vetted for the Breed M.C. gang, so the Breed started to follow us around and you couldn’t tell them to sit down or move over!
What happened next?
After the demise of Fyre, in 1973 I had an invite to move with my 1st. wife to Arkansas. One of the better bands in Ark. were auditioning for a drummers, so now I was in “SASS” who played original music, got along and opened for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. After SASS, I tried out for and this was funny….an Elvis impersonator band in which we threw him out and just played country music at this private club in El Dorado, Ark. not far from LA. We played there every weekend, Thur. Fri, Sat, and Sunday night. The club was called The Rathskellar Club, and we or our wives would take the door money and come early Monday morning. We each made a shit load of money. I flew back to visit my mother and tried to locate Greg, they told me he was in the hospital, so I went to see him…nobody told me what to expect… He was completely yellow and bruised with cirrhosis. He died the next day!! Yeah I know he drank himself to death…but I know what killed him…
What happened after Fyre, was I got out of Dodge and I heard years later was Nardi this shit head drummer George Miller, was always when I was back in town for a visit, ego tripping about him being the drummer for Fyre and that was total bullshit and I let him know with much attitude. What he really was talking about was Nardi, George and other musicians formed a band called “Shock Troop” staring a very drunk Greg Onusko (OHM)… they should of taken care of Greg! I had other good bands up in Kansas, Okl, Texas. You see I had a very good time doing that country stuff, but I divorced, after 7 years, a very good wife and ran off to Kansas chasing this road lady, Tina, who became wife #2… that lasted 6 months. In a court house in Ponca City after that divorce, I needed some papers notarized and this very, very beautiful long haired paralegal I had been talking to (with my big cup of whiskey in hand) told me to stop by her office and she would notarize my papers. We became famous friends… and I married her, she was from Texas…wife #3…we had a son, Rory, after Rory Gallagher. She spent a shit load of money on new gear (drums) for me and they set in the living room. I auditioned for this band in Kansas…Driver, a techno monster band and off I went playing everywhere…mostly colleges, punk clubs that were rare, in Wichita, by know I was a full blown alcoholic…”ocean going”. We would drink, fight and make up. But while I was away, her family came and took her to Texas. I never got over that and along with my drinking I was in and out of hospitals…even given my last rites once, but stayed with Driver in Kansas. Mention to my very best friend Jeff Thomas, whom we were always getting arrested on a regular basis…and so on!
Rockadrome recently reissued your album.
Enter, 40 years later….Rockadrome Records finally mixed an unmixed old record and I had no idea how GREAT the reissue and release would be!!!! I had been breaking Dennis’ balls for 2 years, but he came thru big time, even sent me a big box of samples, vinyl and CDs. To be honest I went 4 days until I gave it (new records) a listen……..WOW!!!…It’s amazing. I mean how did they do that! I’ve had many people wanting to know where and when they could get a hold of the new, official Fyre release. Years ago they were selling it in N. Korea, Japan, Europe and even a Swedish website, maybe it became a cult classic.
Are you still in contact with band mates?
Those old band mates are gone so no contacts with them, but I still talk to other musicians that still remember the good old days. In those days we were not popular with a lot of the other bands, ya know…we are to kewl to talk to us, with all that magical mystery shit, or bar bands. Two brothers….The Van Eaton Brothers, got signed by Apple Records but for what, they don’t talk to me, not even on Facebook, which my son Patrick set up for me under Savona Sharples (friend an old hippi), a lot of women found me…haha. Oh yeah I moved back to Jersey in 1980 and spent a a lot of time in and out of rehabs, but what really straitened me out was my 4th wife (female Stalin) of now 29 yrs. She inadvertently got pregnant (in our 30s) and on my birthday… Jan. 16, gave me the son I had lost sooo many years ago, and didn’t drink as of 1990… isn’t life weird? But as my mentor Kieth Richards said “There’s always alternatives”…where as a photo journalist, my doc. gave me a bottle of cough syrup w/ codeine. And then pain killers for over 10 years. Well I’m off all that shit now.
What currently occupies your life?
Taking care of my wife, my old Tabby cat who does not leave my side, watching my long…long beard grow, I live in the Adirondack mountains so I guess with my skull cap and cheap sunglasses, I look like Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top and scare these hayseeds…hoho “Would you like some candy”?
Someone lately gave me one of the biggest buds I’ve ever seen, so here and there I sniff it and get China eyed. I’ve got an acre of ground so I have to watch for animals like bears and Bigfoot.
What was the main inspiration?
Our main inspiration with Fyre was all the attention bands like Cream were getting for improvisational music, while we out of boredom, were already doing in that Jeanne Francis promoters basement only to be thrown out. Wherever we would rehearse or play the crowds were getting bigger and bigger as we were good at it. We didn’t have to watch one another for cues to changes, we had our eyes closed and just FELT what was coming next…Greg’s music stand on stage with a road map on it…what a trip seeing those people getting into it. A big plus here was later on with management, if we didn’t have any big bookings, we always and you could count on it, played colleges up and down the east coast, my favorite one being Douglas University…all female college where they always wanted us back. To think, that at that 1st day at Jeane Francis, out of all the drummers Greg could of had in Trenton, he called me.
Thanks a lot for taking your time and effort. Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine readers?
I’m so amazed to be called upon by “It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine” by Klemen Breznikar, what an honor!
To people who read It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine…It’s kewl to keep this style alive, have some fun with it, and for musicians, try going into different types of music because it stays with you inside. When I 1st. moved here I jammed around, when you do this word gets around and I came up with my new Hammond/bass player who took me to his friends cookout with only as I was to learn metal guys. When I mentioned Green Day they made fun of me. These guys hadn’t even played out of state, so I just left, and I love most metal music, but I’m trying to make a point here, what if they had to move somewhere with no metal music, would they quite playing? Remember me moving to Arkansas and running out of rock bands to play in? I didn’t piss and moan I joined whatever…so it was country music, as it turned out I came up with my style of drumming…decadent country music fueled by lot’s of money (Conway Twittys kid), The Jessica James Gang Nashville style…oh yeah staying on road buses. Well I don’t mean to piss off any metal guys, but I guess I loose track of all the styles in metal…speed metal, thrash metal..oh I don’t know….dick metal, Tit metal, turd squash metal it’s all right though…but because at a young age I played classical, Jazz, real R&B, even some good Polka music, don’t laugh at me just cause you can’t!! I better shut up know!! And I don’t care much about mainstream country.
Send me a message to email@example.com………………………or women to Snogginu@aol.com
– Klemen Breznikar