Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

My Old Blues

Me and Matt Tahaney used to drive into The City to see this band. They were called Beyond Blue, and they played The Bottom Line on Bleecker Street right down from where a guy named Bob used to sell records. We had terrible fake ID’s, but this was before magnetic strips and holograms, and the bouncer didn’t give a shit, anyway.

We knew the guitarist, Steve. Everyone called him Smiley because he always looked so serious when he played. The lead singer’s name isn’t coming back, but I can still see him on the two-foot tall stage: his hair was perfect. If you saw him on the street, you’d say, “That guy’s a lead singer;” he had skinny legs and cheekbones; his shirt would be unbuttoned by the third song, and off by the fifth. The bass player looked like Jon Lovitz, and they’re jammed together, all eight of them, into a tiny space built for comedians and folk singers. There were eight of them because they had a horn section.

Heaven’s got a horn section. Something about a horn section, especially in a small room made of brick

The sax player wore a yarmulke and had curly hair. He looked like a rabbinical student, possibly because he was. The trombonist was the band’s clown: he would fuck around behind whomever was soloing and do silly little goat dances while he shook his maracas. His name was Gary, and he sung the closer. Same closer every show. Goofy 12-bar that sounded like something Louie Armstrong and his Hot Five would have tossed off on a Tuesday in Tulsa.

The lyrics started like this:

Ruby, Ruby
Roll me a joint.
Roll is as big as a spliff.

And they didn’t get much smarter, but after only one chorus the entire room could sing along. They did. We did.

Beyond Blue played mostly originals, but they did covers, too. All horn stuff, and the section could blow. Late In The Evening by Paul Simon, and the three of them would hit their entrance after the line about stepping outside and smoking a jay. It was a fine sound.

And just about every show, the keyboardist would hit a few chords–not even chords, parts of ’em, little clusters of 9ths and 13ths and all the jazzbo bullshit–and then we’d get a story about white boy problems, about safety schools and rich kids and the Upstate New York that painters used to jerk off to. The guitar solo only sounded right on a Stratocaster and the horn section would chirp in behind the lyrics and the harmonies; it would all bounce off those tight brick walls and we would cheer loudly when California crumbled into the sea.

This is how the original went:

There’s no tape of Beyond Blue doing it, none that I can find, so it’s gone just like Walter Becker is.

Play it loud.


  1. Murray

    Back in my record store days I worked with a stereotypical crew. Jack was the best of the middle age lifers. Hailing from Nutley, New Jersey he played in a couple of also-ran bands in the late 60s / early 70s, getting gigs up and down the shore and in the city, most notably at Kenny’s Castaways. He’d never hesitate to share a tale (or a photo, or a flyer, or a joint for that matter—before joining a Program) about opening for the likes of Springsteen, the New York Dolls, and Steely Dan. Regarding the latter, “They were the loudest fucking band I’ve ever heard. More punk rock than the Dolls ever were.”

    Here’s a version of “My Old School” from around the same time, recorded in Glendale, CA.

    I’ve always believed Steely Dan’s lyrics are mostly about themselves, two over-educated East Coast hipster wannabes, finding themselves in Southern California, hating it, and coping with the one-two punch of nostalgia and substance abuse.

    • Same guy as last time

      Except for when they were writing about Owsley. Is there gas in the car? Yes, there’s gas in the car.

  2. Chino and Daddy Gee

    I was smoking with the boys upstairs when I heard about the whole affair.

  3. saladman8283

    Bleecker Bob’s. Loved that store. And loved the Bottom Line.

  4. Gary Shevell

    It was a trip to read this…thanks!
    Gary Shevell
    Trombone-Byond Blue

  5. Sky

    Hey yeah those were the good ole days . I loved that band too never missed any of their gigs. Where are they now? well… hope they comeback for a reunion or something. I love their originals songs I still listen to them some times.. I loved their crazy horn section.. especially the sax player.. well good to hear from another beyond blue fan

  6. Steve Mazzarella

    Hey it’s Steve from Beyond Blue. Thanks for the great post! I think it was mostly the Bitter End where we played regularly. There were probably 20 venues throughout the city at some point though. I do have some footage and recordings I could share if you get in touch.
    Most of us are still playing music – and I’m hoping we can get together for a reunion show in the spring.
    Stay tuned….

    • Thoughts On The Dead

      You must be keep me updated

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