Imagine you’re 19 years of age and it’s 1988. One of your first club going experiences is Racer X at The Stone in San Francisco.
So, as I remember, it was a four band bill, with Vicious Rumors, a band I had never even heard of, in the support slot. Set times: first two bands, half hour sets. Support, 45 minutes, and headliner would get an hour plus.
So, first two bands went on, had pretty good guitarists. By this time in my life I was very much into the Shrapnel label, George Lynch, Gary Moore, EVH, Vivian Campbell, etc. I could differentiate between good and bad playing, and I knew what I liked.
Out comes Vicious Rumors. Man, you would have thought THEY were the headliners!!! These guys were awesome!! They’re described as power metal. I’d even call it High Energy Metal. The band consisted of two guitarists (both lead players) and an absolutely kick ass vocalist, who had the vocal gruff of Ronnie James Dio, but with the range of Geoff Tate. All the boxes were pretty much ticked. Drums / bass combo were cool as well, holding that shit DOWN. The drummer had a pretty cool presence.
Vicious Rumors (as it turns out) were a Shrapnel band. Vinnie Moore used to be in it. Well, the guy I saw (Mark McGee) was on par with Vinnie, easily. Long ass curly hair, moved around lots, provided backing vocals, this guy was my inspiration!! Every now and then I forget, but he was, and there’s no denying it. Racer X hadn’t even come out yet and I was ready to leave (glad I didn’t, as they were fucking nuts as well). Ahhhh, what a joy to be there. I loved that gig and I’ve seen YouTube footage of that era for both Racer X and Vicious Rumors. For the people who post those gigs, a trillion thanks.
(Mark’s second from the left, and his site is HERE, and I have Dave Starr the bassist as a Facebook friend. Cool!!)
I had seen VR quite a few times, and eventually had the balls to walk up to Mark and tell him that he was awesome and I loved him very much, ha ha. I even gave him a steel pick during one of our post gig meetings. He was always nice, and he told me how much he loved the band Heart. I thought that was cool. Variety.
Half a year later or so Vicious Rumors were headlining The Omni in Oakland. I was wayyy into Siouxsie and The Banshees at that stage, and I was wearing this pretty gothy Siouxsie shirt, that had her black and white face on the front:
Carl with my shirt, possibly? A dude who read this blog posted this photo in the comments section below. If this picture was taken at The Omni in Oakland, then this is most definitely my shirt. If the sleeves are cut off then this was definitely my shirt and I am drunk in the audience. My one regret was that I didn’t let him keep the shirt. I should have at least traded for a VR shirt. But 21 year old boys will be 21 year old boys. Read on!!
Very cool if you’re a goth (which were called ‘mods’ in the late 80’s). And I was letting the world know that, yes, I am a metalhead, but I love other shit, too. Well, the singer of VR, Carl Albert, saw my shirt. Before they went on, he comes up to me and goes, “Dude, that is a killer shirt, let me wear it for the gig, we’ll trade shirts..” I go, “okay, but I want BEER.” He takes me backstage into their room, we trade shirts, and he shows me where the beer is, and I start a chuggin’. I was in Heaven!! Not only am I seeing a rippin’ band, but I’m drinking their fucking beer backstage!! Loved it. And no, I wasn’t driving so I was fine, thanks.
They played a great set, Mark had a guitar solo, which of course was nothing short of bad ass, and after the gig, Carl and I traded shirts again. In hindsight, I probably should’ve told him to keep it. I think I was going to, but while that was spinning around in my head, we were both taking off shirts to re-swap.
Many years later I found out that Carl had died in a car accident. How utterly upsetting. This guy’s voice was fucking incredible, and to lose a talent like that would’ve been absolutely horrible for his band, fans, friends, etc. The world lost a great singer. It still makes me sad.
Cheer up!! The music lives on!! Check out VR’s Digital Dictator and Vicious Rumors, and thank me later. Mark? You are an inspiration! You took the time out to talk to a 19 year old kid who had never even gigged by that point in time, and you treated me as an adult, and not a kid or a ‘fan’. Cheers for that.