Going Deep; Legendary Worcester band going strong with CD release.
If Worcester's rock scene has a royal family, Jimmy D'Angelo, Al Gallo and Dave Balcom would all certainly be sitting at the head - or should I say head-banging - table.
These three veterans of the rock 'n' roll trenches have been playing together under the Code Blue and Deep 6 monikers for close to 25 years, and that doesn't include the lifetime in rock years they have spent performing in other bands.
The secrets to their longevity together are their shared love for the music and the fact that, somehow, they all get along.
"I don't think we ever had one fight, one disagreement. We never had anything but fun," D'Angelo said, "We think alike. We don't fight. I have had nine wives that fight with me more."
"When we wrote our first music together, it clicked like that," Balcom added. "We were in Jimmy's trailer. I wrote the drums playing on my knees and (D'Angelo) had an acoustic guitar. Chemistry-wise, it was like instant, and it never dropped off throughout our career."
From tales of the infamous "Sugar Cruller" backstage ritual to bizarre mathematical equations that only D'Angelo can decipher, Deep 6 and its precursor, Code Blue, have plenty of rock 'n' roll tales to tell. But, when all is said and done, it always comes down to the music.
Besides being the closest thing Central Mass. has to Eddie Van Halen, D'Angelo is a legendary guitar virtuoso in his own right.
Despite a few missed opportunities, including being courted by Atlantic Records and being personally asked by Steven Tyler to join an up-and-coming band called Aerosmith (and refusing), D'Angelo isn't bitter. In fact, he says he has lived a happy life and has had a lot of fun along the way.
D'Angelo - who cites his older brother Joe, who currently teaches guitar lesson at Clemente Music, as well as Jimmy Page, the aforementioned Eddie Van Halen and himself (which he says only half-jokingly) as his guitar heroes - started his rock 'n' roll career alongside his brother in the Joneses in the late '60s. From there, the D'Angelo brothers fronted Mad Angel in the early '70s, which opened for Jeff Beck, Mountain and Bad Finger, followed by the younger D'Angelo breaking off on his own and forming the short-lived Pretty Poison.
Then came August, arguably the greatest rock 'n' roll band ever to come out of Worcester. From 1978 to 1986, August was packing them in the area clubs and sharing the stage with such big name headliners as Cheap Trick, Richie Blackmore's Rainbow and Spinal Tap.
"When you love music, you just want to play it," D'Angelo said. "Plus, you see the limelight that comes out of it. It doesn't mean you're gonna get it, but you're gonna try to get it."
Balcom's musical heroes include John Bonham, Neil Peart, Alex Van Halen and Danny Carey of Tool. The powder-keg drummer's first legitimate band experience was filling in behind the skins for Esmeralda at a gig at the old Leicester Airport.
"Unfortunately, the one thing that they made me learn was 10 Rush songs and, as a drummer, that was extremely excruciating and painful, but it proved my drumming dramatically in a rapid pace," Balcom recalled. "It was a great way to start."
Thunderous bassist Gallo, who cites his influences to include Geddy Lee, John Entwistle and Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott, started his rock 'n' roll odyssey with Mandrake, a '70s rock 'n' roll trio that regularly played at the Blarney Stone in Worcester and the Depot Lounge in Northbridge, as well as once opening for August.
In the early '80s, Balcom and Gallo played together in the band Jericho and in the short-lived Black Sabbath tribute band, the Valor. Then, Gallo took a short break from music while Balcom was providing the backbeat for Pandora, which was fronted by two females.
While playing in Pandora, D'Angelo approached Balcom to join him in what would be the last incarnation of August, which would play a legendary gig opening for Quiet Riot.
"When we did play with Quiet Riot, Dave was on a bender for three days, sleeping all (expletive) day. We're ready to go on at 8 o'clock. We're doing a sound check. We can't find Dave. He comes in five minutes before showtime and goes, `Hi, I'm ready.' And we're all sweating (expletive) bullets whether or not he's gonna make it," D'Angelo recalls. "Dave was late, but he was never too late."
"It was the '80s," Balcom sheepishly explained.
When August disbanded, D'Angelo formed Code Blue with Balcom. When they needed a bassist, Balcom suggested former band-mate Gallo, and the three have been together ever since.
"Since '86 on, it has been the three of us," D'Angelo said. "Til death do us part."
A decade in the making, Deep 6's self-titled debut (which is available at Clemente Music, Union Music, at Friday night's gig and soon at Newbury Comics) is chockfull of "audience tested" crowd favorites from the band's dynamic live show.
You can feel the stinging bitterness and salty tears on the open wound opuses, "Broken Vow," "Doin' Time" and "Homeless," based on D'Angelo's personal life. Not only does D'Angelo sing his heart out, the song harkens back to the glory days of crunchy and cathartic hard rock.
"I love playing these because they pour out my (expletive) feelings that I never got to pour out," D'Angelo said. "By the way, I lost three pints of blood doing these songs. I had to go to the hospital to get re-pumped."
Gallo lightens the mood but not the mojo on the energetic, heavy-duty party anthems, "Love Affair" and "Thank God I'm High."
"One of the things I like to do is being able to scream and not being arrested for it," Gallo said.
"Back to School" has nothing to do with the band members returning to their respective high school alma maters (which are: D'Angelo - Burncoat; Gallo - Worcester Trade; and Balcom - Wachusett Regional) but is a Robin Trower-like, runaway train barreling down the tracks. The album closes with a pair of Code Blue nuggets, "Daily Grind" and "Fast."
Deep 6 with Mullethead and Promised Eden
When: 10 p.m. Friday
Where: Lucky Dog Music Hall, 89 Green St., Worcester
How much: $6
CUTLINE: Deep Six members, from left: Dave Balcom, Jimmy D'Angelo and Al Gallo.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN
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|Title Annotation:||ENTERTAINMENT & LIFESTYLE|
|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Sep 2, 2009|
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