Hats Without Work

Columbia University, NYC, January to May, 1984

Personnel

Tom Adelman – acoustic guitar, vocals
Mark Lerner – bass, vocals, some keyboards
Mike Marubio – drums
Dave Robinowitz – keyboards at one gig

Folks, I’m diving deep for this entry. Deep into the world of shame.  Join me, won’t you? Let’s begin with a band introduction that sort of says it all:

By the middle of my second year at Columbia University, it became clear to me I wasn’t going to stay there. As I’ve already written, I had big plans with my pal Dan Eilenberg to become the next Difford and Tilbrook (or Taupin and John). My dear friend Tom Adelman was also planning on leaving Columbia. His future plans included a career in the lucrative world of poetry and an early marriage (because those always work out, right?)

So with one semester left, we decided to play some music together. We thought we could take Tom’s LA-punk/glam/poetry mess and combine it with my love for pop music and have something listenable. Tom had no electric guitar at the time, but we figured, hey: Violent Femmes! Turns out that’s hard to do well, and my approach (overplaying the bass, with utterly horrendous tone) didn’t help matters. In our defense, we didn’t have serious or high hopes for the band. It was a way to kill a semester before we both left for what we hoped would be greener pastures.

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The Oswalds

1988 and 1989, New York City

Personnel

Tom Adelman – vocals, acoustic guitar, songwriting
Mark Donato – drums and vocals
Stephen Lewis – guitar and lap steel
Mark Lerner – bass, mandolin, vocals

After Oswald Year One, new folks were added:

Henry Hample – fiddle and banjo
Charlie Shaw – drums (replaced Donato)
Laura Cantrell – vocals

Early on, we had some help from Bill Fink and Frank Randall (guitar).

Earlier band adventures with Tom Adelman (in college) and Stephen Lewis (in junior high and high school) will come up at some point in this blog (why am I doing this out of order? I forget), but suffice it to say that 1988 began with Tom finally arriving back in NYC so we could make the band we’d always talked about. For the prior couple of years, I’d been recording elaborate home 4-track collections with Tom whenever he’d visit. He was a gifted and prolific songwriter, and while we searched for a drummer, we started playing some shows as a duo right away, open mic nights at ABC No Rio and a space called Cafe Bustelo on E. Houston St., in a scene that was more about poetry and the nascent antifolk movement than the rock and roll we wanted to play.

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