Five Firsts: Steve Cohen of Fear of Strangers

Steve Cohen
Steve Cohen

NAME: Steve Cohen
BAND AFFILIATION: The Units/Fear of Strangers
INSTRUMENT: Bass and vocals

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … “Something New” by the Beatles. Their third US release circa 1964, when Capitol Records for some reason thought that the US record buying public couldn’t accept the records as they were configured in the UK. I saw it in Alexander’s in the Bronx and threw a bit of a fit until my parents agreed to buy it. They put their foot down at the collarless, iridescent green Beatle suit, however.

2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … A weird collection of mid-’60s pop bands, again in the Bronx (of course), headlined by the 1910 Fruit Gum Company playing their big hit “Yummy Yummy Yummy, I’ve Got Love In My Tummy.” Only later would I realize the true implication of those lyrics. I believe the Blues Image was on the bill as well, although this was long before “Ride, Captain, Ride” came out.

But the first concert I went to once I was past puberty was the Grateful Dead, Buddy Miles Express and Savoy Brown at the Fillmore East in June, 1969. The theater was so empty, the Dead being a completely “underground” band at the time, that the ushers came around and asked us to move up front. At a certain point, Jerry Garcia said, “Hey man, we’re playing a free concert in Central Park tomorrow,” so, of course, I went to that, too. It was ‘packed’ with around 1,000 people. I saw them 25 times over the course of a few years, including a show at the Fillmore with the Allman Brothers as the opening act, and, of course, Watkins Glen with the Band and the Allman Brothers. By 1973, I’d given up on the Dead, however. I moved on.

3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … A Baldwin upright piano. I never liked that thing. It just didn’t feel right.

4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … I played the oboe solo in some song from the Broadway musical “Mame” with the Junior High School 127 Orchestra. I just don’t remember the song. The next year it was “Fiddler On The Roof,” and I think my solo was in “Tradition,” but it’s all a bit foggy at this point.

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … Trek. I was a freshman at SUNY Albany. Our motto was “Dance To the Music of Trek.” (Unfortunately, some people called us “Dreck.”) We gigged all the time, mostly at fraternity and sorority parties. I looked like a total hippie, and it was interesting hanging around all those frat guys. I told my good pal Jeff Doctorow, who was a high school senior at the time (and will be playing with the Units at the upcoming J.B. Scott’s Reunion show) that I was making $50 a show and on that basis he applied to go to SUNY so we could start a new band together. And we did! An interesting comment on culture and economics – I made more money per show back then than I do now. Fortunately, I don’t rely on gigging for a living any more.

These days I’ve been working on a second CD with my band Ol’ Hoopty. Check it out. I write some of the songs and sing some as well. The next record will be a big improvement over the first. We plan to spend $400 this time, instead of the $300 we spent last time. Sometimes I play with cover bands at weddings and in bars. As long as the players are good, I’m there. And of course, I manage people for a living. I’ve been doing that for 25 years. Oh, the stories I could tell…

Steve Cohen straps on his bass once again to reunite with his bandmates in Fear of Strangers for the J.B. Scott’s Reunion at Michael’s Banquet House in Cohoes at 6pm on Saturday (May 5). Other bands slated to perform at the reunion include the Charlie Smith Blues Band, Alison Jacobs & Matt Mirabile, the Ernie Williams Band, the Last Conspirators, the Lazers, the Penny Knight Band and Blotto. Tix (which include dinner) are $33 in advance; $40 at the door.

  1. Tony Jones (Bassist-PKB) says

    Steve … always dug your playing!

  2. seymour says

    My late father talked much of Albany of the 70s and bands such as Blotto and Fear of Strangers (and venues like JB Scotts). Cohen is kind of a living time machine, a glimpse into music in a long ago, far away place. Fascinating.

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