Willam Alcolea: bass
Humberto Pina: guitar
Julio Rey: guitar
Juan Carlos Noa: drums
It’s been twenty years since I had the bright idea to release a home-made 7″ EP of some of my songs in 1982, called Unrehearsed Walk. The story behind this EP and the events leading up to it has never been told, and it may be of value to some of you amateur Christian punk historians, since the EP itself is one of the earliest Christian alternative rock releases ever. This was the culmination of the first phase of my musical “career.”
I had been playing in a church youth group band, Genesis 1:1, the two previous years. I hooked up with them because I placed a classified ad in the local music freebie (The Rag) in the fall of 1980, stating that I was a Christian guitar player looking for people to jam with. I left out that I was interested in punk rock (huge Clash fan) because I actually wanted responses. The responses were not too encouraging. One guy was into Rush and laughed at me because I had never been on the road (I had only figured out the guitar a few months before). Another guy got mad at my mother when she asked who was calling, and lived about fifty miles away. But the third response was from a girl who sang with a church band from the youth group at Coral Way Methodist Church, located next to the Palmetto Expressway on (duh) Coral Way. I was going to Wesley Methodist church at the time and had seen the group at at one of our events.
The band consisted of a director, (a nice lady with a musical degree who eventually put up with a lot of crud from me because I wanted to rock and she was more the choir director type–shapes of things to come), a few revolving members who sang, and a guitarist, bassist, and drummer. I met with the last three at the guitarist’s house. His name was Humberto Pina, the bassist was William Alcolea, and the drummer was Juan Carlos Noa. They liked Rush and Styx. I was 20 and they ranged from 16-18. We jammed. I got in.
My first concert with Genesis 1:1 was at a music festival the church in October 1980. We played a few church events, our sets consisting of material in both English and Spanish. We didn’t always do Christian stuff either. I remember doing “The First Time” (Styx), “Tom Sawyer” (Rush), and “Call Me” (Blondie) at different events that were held in the church that had no strong Christian emphasis. Latin Christians didn’t tend to have the hangups that the Americans seemed to have with secular music. The Christian stuff? A B.J. Thomas tune (“You Gave Me Love”), and a few Spanish numbers. We also did a sped-up “Guantanamera” which was closer to “La Bamba” in feel. I always played with full distortion on my beat-up 50-watt solid state amp (which featured a 12″ woofer and a separate tweeter alligator-clipped on; the original speaker having been blown two years earlier), and I seldom played chords. It was mostly little embellishments and solos a la Robbie Robertson. An adult bystander once said of the sound, “that sounds terrible!” and I loved it. The highlights included trips to West Palm Beach in 1982 and a Labor Day 1981 overnight trip to Tampa, and an all-day youth retreat down on Quail Roost Drive. That was the first time I ever got to perform one of my own songs live. It was “Hurricanes and Earthquakes” which was eventually performed by the Lead. The old people seemed to be really impressed that I wrote songs.
I was able to introduce some of my songs because the guys were real receptive to them. Juan Carlos, especially, was a wonderful drummer (left-handed and a Neil Peart freak) with an innate instinct for the feel of any song. Most of my songs were 4/4 Clash/Ramones bopisms, so it was easy for him to drum along with them even if he had never heard them before. I could use body language to signal an impending break. We made some wonderful cassettes of some of my songs (one tape was later accidentally erased by his successor in the Visitors, William Herrera, when I lent it to him for him to learn the tunes-I still grieve that loss). Humberto, the other guitarist, was a 16-year-old who could sight read some. The thing about him was his penchant for going out and buying tons of musical gear, such as a Gibson Marauder (whose humbucker was eventually attached to another friend’s hollowbody guitar which I used on the EP and for the Visitors), a Mesa Boogie head, a Morley fuzz-wah (also used on the EP), and a Portastudio (on which this 7″ was eventually recorded). Humberto knew his electronics and was able to fix two broken pickups on my Ibanez Strat so well that they work to this day. William, the bassist, was the youth group leader, and a novice at his instrument who at first had to be told exactly what to play, in the grand tradition of Stu Sutcliffe and Sid Vicious.
In early 1982, the four of us instrumental guys (egged on by me) decided to do some rock sets at house parties (I recall actually doing “A Day In The Life” at one of them!). We were trying to build enthusiasm among the singers, because the church gigs had tapered off a bit since the Tampa trip in 1981. This led to a full show at the church in the summer of 1982, where we billed ourselves as Disciple. I designed posters and a lyric sheet. I played out all my fantasies. It also was a breakthough in that we did an all Christian set, including songs by Larry Norman (“Let The Tape Keep Rolling”) and Resurrection Band (“I Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind”), both of which I sang. Humberto wrote a song called “Star.” My songs were the aforementioned “Hurricanes and Earthquakes,” “Devil In The Airwaves” (rap song about backward masking), and “Love Games” (garage punk song about the opposing gender). All were to be eventually performed by the Visitors. Humberto and I also did solo songs in the middle of the set.
The show came off really well, but the four of us would never again play alone. I certainly tried to encourage it that night after the set. I even got mad when I didn’t get an agreement (more shapes of things to come). But it was not to be. I played one more gig with Genesis 1:1: the trip to West Palm Beach. By then I had copies of Unrehearsed Walk pressed.
It was in the weeks after the Disciple concert that I decided to try to press on and make a record. I was committed to the DIY ethic of punk in a big way. I had everything I needed all around me, and I had friends that were willing to put up with me and my ambitions. Humberto was willing to record the session on his Portastudio in his room, and to play bass (I regret not just using the four of us, but, as usual, I wanted to record entirely new material and didn’t want to delay things trying to teach William the basslines). Juan Carlos, the key musical element in all this, agreed to play drums. So we convened one Saturday in Humberto’s room and knocked it out in one afternoon, recorded and mixed (I had never worked a sound board before and it showed). The drums were recorded with one overhead mic. The bass was played through an amp and miked. My guitar was played though Humberto’s Morley pedal and through my beat up amp and tweeter, with the mic stuck right in the tweeter and enclosed by a pile of books for separation (this accounts for the transistor-radio distortion on the tracks). I overdubbed vocals later, which I recorded through a guitar amp to get reverb. I mixed it mono. I sped up the tracks after I mixed it to make it faster, making me sound a few years younger than 22. I ignored any and all suggestions, sometimes angrily (yet more shapes of things to come).
The end result was, depending on your perspective, either a classic of DIY garage punk or a piece of garbage. Unfortunately, being a sheltered church boy, I had no contact with the local punk scene at all (maybe I didn’t even want to at the time–I was always more comfortable providing alternative entertainment to Christians as opposed to trying to sell Christianity in the clubs), so all the people who heard the project were of the latter opinion. This didn’t stop me from taking the cassette master to a local pressing plant and getting 150 copies pressed. I designed and put together the sleeve (using photos taken by future musical collaborator Al Valdes). I never promoted it much (not having a band to play out in its support didn’t help–and where would we play anyway?), so I had copies in my possession all the way until 1998, when I sent the lot out to Scott Busbee at GMG (I was trying to support him in any way I could before he folded). Last I heard, they were available through Mark Hodges’ !LOUD! Distribution–but they folded. So they are lost like the Ark of the Covenant. By the way, people in the Miami punk scene who I came in contact with three years later when I was part of the Lead did have some good things to say about Unrehearsed Walk. Anyway, I got over my complex as soon as I heard the Jesus and Mary Chain.
Despite all the technological flaws, the performances and songs still stand up, in my opinion, mostly due to Juan Carlos’ drumming. “Sing It Out!!” was a punk anthem about joy in the midst of turmoil with the guys yelling “Hey!” in the background and having a laugh about it. “I Can Testify,” believe it or not, was musically inspired by “Fooled By A Feeling” by Tanya Tucker. It was aimed at those who were turned off by the Jerry Falwellisms of the day. This was the only song to have a guitar overdub, and the mic was not stuck right in the tweeter either, so it sounds the most tame of all the band songs. “Le Miserable” was my Dylan-styled introspectve folksy tune recorded solo with a cheap Casio keyboard added way under the mix. I did not speed this one up. “I’ll Never Know” was one where I wanted the big guitar sound of Give Em Enough Rope by the Clash. So I pushed up the guitar in the mix and ended up with something akin to White Light/White Heat by the Velvet Underground. Silly me. Its lyric was typical of what I wanted to get across in my music at the time: extremely positive and happy to be a Christian, yet definitely all-out rocking. The song was recorded the following year by The Visitors and put out on that band’s only single. It was also the first song ever played by the Lead in concert two years later.
I quit Genesis 1:1 soon after Unrehearsed Walk was completed. I really wanted to get going with a real rock band, and those guys were not willing. I found my new bassist in Peter Lopez, who was going to Wesley with me at the time (and also didn’t know how to play, in the grand tradition of…) and Juan Carlos agreed to play the drums. This was the beginning of The Visitors, and stuff for another story.
Juan Carlos Noa stayed with me in The Visitors until his marriage in mid-1983. He remained the drummer in Genesis 1:1 though the late ’80s. Humberto Pina went on to play the Christ character in a slide presentation organized by Coral Way Methodist Church, as well as remaining in Genesis 1:1 as guitarist along with William Alcolea on bass.