The Rat (1974-1997)
Part One

New England Music Scrapbook


Down in Kenmore Square

All the bands play there

At the Rat...

-- Willie "Loco" Alexander



Once Boston had a little establishment that was operated under the name T.J.'s. We take that to be its moniker and milieu when (ten years later) the August 24, 1984, Boston Globe called it "a quiet neighborhood bar in the heart of Kenmore Square." Evidently it was back in the summer of 1974 that the club was restored to its 1960s name, the Rathskeller. Members of a garage band (if ever there was one), Mickey Clean and the Mezz [Michael Cleanthes, Asa Brebner, Jeffrey Wilkinson (1950-1993), Scott Baerenwald, I believe], approached management, and made an impassioned plea to let them play the club, not with the usual cover tunes, but featuring original music. Oddly, management said yes. By 1975, T.J.'s/the Rathskeller had mutated into the Rat, the central station for Boston's growing punk-rock community. It was a "quiet neighborhood bar" no more...


In the '70s, most clubs booked bands who played cover tunes. We always had to play a Doobie Brothers hit or an Eagles medley. The Rat was one of the first places where we were allowed to do our own thing, even encouraged to. It gave my band a home. -- Mach Bell of Thundertrain, Boston Globe, August 23, 1984





Various artists
Live at the Rat (2 LPs, Rat Records, 1976)

Boston, since the early sixties, has played a vital part in the making of the music scene. This album is a current reflection of what can be considered a continuance of that theme, as well as a progressive look at what the future holds.

-- From the Live at the Rat jacket notes






Of all the various figures who have helped guide the course of the Rat perhaps the most interesting is the man who's in charge of the sound and electrical corner. Granny, as he is known, is a veteran of three full years of Rat rock and roll including some pretty amazing moments of musical history. Granny, who rarely speaks while working (a good habit to pick up--saves wear 'n' tear on the vocal chords), mixes the sound and supervises the set changes. There are few musicians in the city who haven't met him and if you frequent the Rat, you've seen him 'cause he virtually lives there. -- Carter Alan, Boston Rock, October 1980, Issue 4


... I started right when the Live at the Rat album was being done. Before that I used to play here ten years ago when the place was called T.J.'s. -- Richard Weideman ("Granny"), Boston Rock, October 1980, Issue 4


THE RAT


My first time ever at the Rat was for a sort of NY "battle of the bands" (called [CBGB] ... )* between two new groups, the Cars and Mink de Ville. It was great, and from what I recall, Mink de Ville blew the Cars off the stage. I remember thinking what a great show it was overall. -- Charles Laquidara, pioneer rock radio personality at WBCN-FM, e-mail message, August 14, 2002

* Miss Lyn, too, of Boston Groupie News thinks she may have attended this show. There may have been more acts involved in this CBGB "battle of the bands," though memories are hazy. If you know about it and remember some details, please get in touch. This is very interesting.

-- Alan Lewis






In 1978, I found out that Pere Ubu was playing the Rat and met up with the band at a sound check. I was living in Brighton with Clint Conley and Roger Miller and we invited them back to our band house in Brighton Center for a chili dinner. Guitarist Tom Hermann and singer Crocus Behemoth took us up on our offer and we hosted a small, intimate pre-gig party. I personally drove Crocus back to the Rat which was a thrill since their 4 Hearthan singles and The Modern Dance LP were musical staples at our abode.

During their set, I got swept up by the pandemonius and jumped on stage while they were in the midst of "Sentimental Journey." I started shouting the lyrics "It's a house, it's a home..." into a mic which really, really pissed off Crocus. He came after me with a vengeance (all 300+ pounds of him) and I quickly jumped off the stage and found solitude by the bar. -- Erik Lindgren of the Moving Parts (known, in part, as a forerunner of Mission of Burma), Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, etc., e-mail message, August 6, 2002






The Rat. Wow!! We started playing the Rat in Early 1978. Jim Harold gave us Monday nights, every Monday night. I remember having one of our first Mondays cancelled because of the Blizzard of '78. After a while, once people started hearing about the band, we began to pack them in on Mondays. We asked Jim to give us a weekend and he refused at first. He was no dummy. He was making $$ with us on Mondays, usually a dead night. -- Stephen Gilligan of the Stompers, e-mail message, August 5, 2002





At the Rat ... bands play original material, from new wave to old hat, seven nights a week. Two to three bands play a couple sets each night and the weekends are usually served by the top talents in the area: Human Sexual Response, the Neighborhoods, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, Unnatural Axe, the Rings, Thrills and Luna. -- Thomas Sabulis, Boston Globe, September 13, 1979


You work the Rat and those types of clubs and they want fast song after fast song. Being writers, we have a lot of fast songs. -- Steve Cataldo of the Nervous Eaters, Boston Globe, August 15, 1980


[T]he semi-dinginess is actually almost endearing. -- Steve Morse, Ernie Santosuosso, and Jim Sullivan, Boston Globe, September 11, 1980





Once there was glory in it. I remember, in the days of Woolco jewelry and spiky hair, playing triples with bands like the Dead Kennedys, The Neighborhoods, The Rentals. Then the pervasive stench of the Rat had class. You could go no lower. You had arrived. -- David Lenson, [Western Massachusetts] Valley Advocate, February 24, 1982

As a revolt against techniqe as a musical value, Punk posed the democratic principle that rock belongs not to the talented and beautiful, but to anyone with enough audacity to climb the stage. It was, above all, a revival of rage and passion as weapons against the market musician. It tried to win back rock and roll for the poor. -- David Lenson, [Western Massachusetts] Valley Advocate, February 24, 1982





One visit here and my world changed. I was a musician, writing and playing in a band. I realized everything I knew was wrong. -- David Minehan, Boston Phoenix, November 20, 1997





1979 Rumble at the Rat

Wednesday night was no ordinary night at Jimmy Harold's underground rock club in Kenmore Square. Aside from being our nation's birthday, it was the evening of final competition in the WBCN Battle of the Bands, the culmination of nine nights of exhilarating grass-roots rock that pulled this city's new wave music scene together like a rallying peal from the Liberty Bell. -- Thomas Sabulis, Boston Globe, July 6, 1979





The Hoodoo Barbecue

[M]ore than anything else it was the Hoodoo's opening, in 1980, that restored the Rat to its position at the forefront of Boston's rock culture. It had held that position from 1975 to 1977, but then the underground music scene dispersed to other places... -- Doug Simmons, Boston Phoenix, March 2, 1982


Boston Globe: Is there an image problem that comes with operating a restaurant over an establishment called The Rat?

James Ryan: No, not at all, because we intermix with a lot that goes on downstairs. A lot of my staff, and myself, are involved in the music scene, so it tends to mix pretty well.






[B]ands will play under any conditions just to have a gig. The first "condition" is not getting paid, or getting paid so little that it is more humiliating than not getting paid at all. ... The fourth and worst [condition] is paying full price for drinks. -- David Lenson, [Western Massachusetts] Valley Advocate, February 24, 1982


the rat ... ok, mitch the man brought his tenor sax out and sat in with us ... nice memory ... a typical end of night dialogue went like this (mitch holding small piece of paper) 'ok, 14 people paid to get in, thats $28, minus Granny the sound man, that leaves $3, you drank 42 beers, here's the figure you're interested in' (pointing to the little piece of paper) 'wow,really we made $52 bucks!' 'nope says mitch that's what you owe us!' -- Sal Baglio of the Stompers, e-mail message, August 6, 2002





Ah, the Rat: funky, grungy charm, a top-notch jukebox, terrific food, and, sometimes, great music. -- Jim Sullivan, Boston Globe, August 29, 1984


Where the Beacon Street, Commonwealth Avenue, and Brookline Avenue delta begins, there you'll find the Rathskeller, Boston's punk birthplace. If you visit just one club this year, make it this one. -- Sally Cragin, Boston Phoenix, October 2, 1984





Yes, the Rods and Cones played many times at the Rat from 1982 to 1988. We were good friends with the house soundman, Granny (a.k.a. Richard Weideman), and he went on road trips with us to do sound.

The Rat always had the best rock sound, that deep, satisfying pounding sound that didn't kill your ears. I recall that under the stage was several tons of sand--Granny was rather proud of that idea. And the lights were good (very hot on stage)... -- Jim Duffy of Rods and Cones, e-mail message, August 6, 2002



NEMSbook




Clearly a lot of New Englanders love thinking back to their Rat days. Everyone should have a response rate like our Rathskeller query brought. This project has been so successful, in fact, that our file has grown way beyond the size rating of the Geocities editor. So, I have divided this page into two halves. To see quite different Rat memories and a couple great photos, click on


Part Two


Part Two also includes information about the 1960s incarnation of the Rathskeller. A table of CONTACT LINKS
appears near the bottom of Part Two.



New England Music Scrapbook News




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