My Thoughts for Johnny’s Celebration of Life.
Orlando, Florida, November 2004
On October 11, 2004, the day Johnny passed away, the two rock radio stations in Philadelphia made announcements of sympathy. Such was his influence on the Philly rock scene that 16 years after his departure, Johnny Sacks still deserved the limelight.
An Obituary writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer while running a scan of past publications noted that she wasn’t finding much under Johnny Sacks. I had to explain that you probably wouldn’t. Johnny Sacks was a bass player. A monster bass player. He played back line, therefore she should concentrate her search on the bands he helped create.
I’m told that John’s first original music band was Red Weather. In 1974 Red Weather is credited as being the first rock band to play a little old man’s bar on South Street called JC Dobbs, a club that became the national stop-in for touring acts in Philadelphia.
From 1977 – 1981 Johnny played with Kenn Kweder and The Secret Kidds. The Secret Kidds were unique. Free form Dylanesque Who amped up Kinks related, The Secret Kidds almost single-handedly breathed life into the Philly rock club scene in venues such as The Bijou Café, Stars and The Hot Club.
This is when I met John. I was in awe of his playing. He didn’t just hold it down. He stood on it. And then he had these Taurus Bass pedals that tore your face off.
In rock circles, that’s a good thing. Over time we became friends.
Around 1980 a couple of us, Greg, Jerry, Johnny & I, started thinking about putting on a real rock show with themes and costume changes. It was to be a little side project. We would all write the music. We would record it, do a show or two and see where we were.
So I changed costumes to portray the songs and John morphed into The Penguin of Batman fame and the guitar players, Greg & Jerry became twins.
It turned out we liked how we sounded, we liked the costumes and we liked each other.
We discovered playfulness in the music and in ourselves. The audience picked up on this. Then in 1982, we got some regional airplay.
For the next three years it was eat, sleep, drive, play…eat sleep drive play oh yea and party. We played 5 nights a week covering all the large and small cities of the Mid Atlantic States. We packed rooms. We had people singing our songs. We had radio & newspaper interviews, we were given gifts, free food, free beer and after parties every night. We did everything but make money.
Through it all John was my partner, my confidant, and my buddy.
Johnny Sacks was Quality Control. From inception, he could gauge an idea’s merit, shepherd it along and most importantly, he would make us complete the song. He made sure songs had seamless transitions and he insisted that songs have crafted beginnings and endings. My boy was the consummate professional. He liked thing’s to be just so.
In 1985, Beru Revue was slotted as the opener for Culture Club with Boy George at Philadelphia’s Spectrum. This was big gig for us as it would be over 16,000 people.
Countless times we rehearsed the set we were to perform. As always there was some fancy beginning that was to be queued on 3. For a week, we hammered it home on 3, on 3
When we were introduced, of course I when out and counted 1, and gave the Que.
I’ll never forget the look of horror on John’s face. We’ve laughed about it for 20 years.
After over 2000 gigs together we laughed about a lot. Like the one and only gig we didn’t make because an ice storm made the roads impassable. Not that we didn’t try. John had picked up his brand new car the day before. Route 30 was closed so brain surgeons that we were we tried to get there on much smaller Rt. 10. Later that night please picture John, Buzz, and myself trapped at the bottom of an ice covered hill unable to get out and every 10 minute a new vehicle appears on the crest, is unable to stop and careens down the hill and smashes into John’s new car. After a while, it was hysterical.
Even then John was most concerned with how to make the gig. That was John.
In rock parlance, John was the shit.
Of all the Beru offerings, John might have been proudest of The Angry Young Judges. The Judges were our alter ego band. Our band within a band. It was a metal band that had come to render rock judgement. We wore powered wigs and judge robes and used bar stool covers as hats. Lots and lots of smoke. The Judges had a fun yet frivolous hard edge approach, with a dash of queen.
A sample….Get me high or get me out of here
I want to die I want a great big beer.
It just didn’t get any better. We had a lot of fun. Sometimes we had to remind ourselves we were grown men.
Last year we, the fellas had the great good fortune to get together for a few rehearsals.
We were planning a reunion gig. I am happy to report that the music still lifted. The whole was better than the parts. We were still silly and we still laughed out loud.
It was a wonderful blessing that we got to touch it one last time.
On behalf of Beru Revue, friends and fans.
Thank you for taking care of and loving our friend Johnny Sacks.
We miss him very much.