The Fibonaccis Song List

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Lennon died, and then…

by John Dentino

Ron Stringer•guitar|Magie Song•voice|Joe Berardi•drums|John Dentino•keys

More band history and other former members' musings coming. Tom Corey, who was the last to join the band, died in 2001. Read Tom's obituary by David Kendrick from the L.A. Weekly. For now, here's a brief memoir:

Meeting Ronny

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Fibonaccis performance is coming up next year on June 6, 2006. Does anyone still care? Do I? I suppose it’s as good a way as any for a 53-year-old man to while away his time, cataloguing the past and reminiscing about another life as an “art” rock musician.

The Fibonaccis were a band that Ron Stringer, Magie Song, and I started in the winter of 1980 in Los Angeles (Joe Berardi joined later). Stringer [who has since been film editor of the L.A. Weekly] and I met each other sometime in 1978 at Brendon Mullen’s second punk rock venue, The Other Masque, an echoey cavern near the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vine. I had hung a potato around my neck in homage to Devo. Stringer approached me in the middle of a loud set by the punk group Fear. “You know," he yelled in my ear, "who Lee Ving looks like?" I hadn't a clue. "Leo Gorcey!” He followed that with a dozen other allusions to film stars with punk rock doppelgangers. At the time, he tended to stutter with every other sentence, so there was a general edginess that caught me and Magie Song, whom I'd been living with, off gaurd. We speculated only half in jest that Ron was the much publicized, uncaught Hillside Strangler. His nearly empty apartment seemed bleak. Only a mammoth record collection of jazz, new wave, and punk covered one wall, and a card table stood in the center of the main room, over which hung one light bulb. Ron's father was Ronny Graham, a comedian and crony of Mel Brooks best known for his Tonight Show appearances in the sixties and his role as Mr. Dirt in Mobil gasoline commercials. Graham had helped Ron get a job writing jokes for the Newlywed Game, so strewn on the card table were 3x5 cards with lines for the show.

Lost New Wave Weekend

Stringer and I became friends fast. I was a college boy and a relative country bumpkin who marveled that with my new friend, there was never any lack of things to do. He was a city boy from New Jersey who’d grown up in a show business family, been to prep school, spent time in New York city trolling R&B clubs, and smoked DMT in the sixties with the singer from the Left Banke. I remember us charging out of his apartment in Los Angeles with the enthusiasm of true tyros, then ending up at seedy beer joints surrounded by loud punk rock girls teetering on the verge of throwing up. Ron was the first person I had ever met who carried a whiskey flask around in his inner coat pocket for furtive swigs. I followed suit and nursed a bottle wherever I went as well. We went to the Tropicana motel one night because we’d heard that some well known English band was having a party. I remember a lot of skinny, cadaverous Englishmen, each yelling louder than the next about whose band sucked the most. Sometimes we'd go to Main Street Santa Monica to hang out in fern bars and nurture illusions of picking up tanned secretaries. We found ourselves on the periphery of a music scene whose insiders were people such as Darby Crash (Germs), Belinda Carlisle (Go-Gos), Brendan Mullen (The Masque impresario), John Doe and Exene Cervenka (the band “X”), Mary Woronov (painter, writer, and Warhol Factory member), John Pochna (of the Zero One club), and Claude Bessy (editor of Slash magazine). This era in L.A. rock history has been covered by Brendan Mullen in his book Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs, as well as numerous other places.

John Lennon was killed around the same time that we were soaking up the club scene. I was substitute teaching in far flung high schools around Los Angeles, and in the teachers' lounges everybody who had lived through the Beatles' time was shell-shocked. I remember coming into a house full of new wave rockers at Craig "Bunky" Kirscheimer's house after hearing the news on my car radio and being greeted by singer/writer/producer Jane Cantillon with the question: "Your hero is dead. Are you going to cry now?" In those times, it was a standing challenge to reject the past and go forward blindly with a slight sneer into the new pop culture.

Musical Arguments

I had an upright piano at the time that I'd been banging around on, and Stringer and I started playing music together. He bought an old Les Paul copy and a small, tinny amp. I played busy parts that frustrated Stringer: "You're playing everything—there's nothing left for me to do." I found it difficult to thin out my parts, and in frustration, Stringer develped a musical language of antipathy and counterpoint to try and drive a wedge through my rather baroque (emphasis on small "b") piano stylings.

With Ron's intuitive lead parts intertwining with my piano parts, a certain style was born. The two of us started performing at parties without a singer. At Janet Cunningham’s C.A.S.H. club in Hollywood, we performed as SmellBrain and tried out some lyrics with Magie Song singing. We used words like Manichean. People were either non-plussed or wryly amused. A performance artist friend, Priscilla B, invited Ron and I to accompany her quirky, indecipherable act at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. An hour before we were to go on stage, Ron had an attack of stage fright. “This is the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. Every famous rock act in history has played here. I saw the Doors here. We have no business going on that hallowed stage.” We had to carefully reason with Ron that we had a place in the same universe as the Doors so that he would acquiesce to playing.

One night Ron and I went to the Palomino Club in the San Fernando Valley to see some country act I didn't have any desire to see. While we waited for the band, we threw around possible band names. I came up with "The Fibonaccis" and it stuck. Later, the Village Voice, whose Robert Christgau ignored “art” bands, deigned to vote the name "The Fibonaccis" one of the top five best band names for 1982.

Our first performance as the Fibonaccis was at Al’s Bar on, I believe, June 6, 1981. (More to come….)

* "Elevator music from hell" was how the Fibonaccis' first 1982 EP release was described by Los Angeles music reviewer David Chute. In the same review, he decried the "Hawaiian restaurant muzak" sound of the record.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fibonaccis

Posted at 10pm on 02/07/2006 | comments are closed Filed Under: The Fibonaccis

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