You may remember earlier this year when I penned a little post about the notion of Bryan Gregory and Lux Interior of The Cramps both being employed at two separate record shops in my old stomping grounds of Yorkville on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. According to “Black Postcards,” the memoir of Luna’s Dean Wareham, Bryan worked at King Karol on East 85th, and Lux might have worked at the Music Maze (or, possibly, Musical Maze) on East 84th. Don’t bother looking for either of these shops today, obviously, as they’re long, long gone -- as are, quite sadly, both Lux and Bryan.
I spoke at some length in that earlier post of the significance of King Karol to me. Sure, it was a fairly middle-of-the-road record outlet, but as a little kid (prior to discovering downtown), it was a fairly crucial address. Music Maze, however, is a little foggier.
I do have two vivid memories of Music Maze. I remember going there with a friend from grade school named Billy and buying the then-newly-released Rock ‘n’ Roll Over by Kiss for some now-absurd price like two or three dollars. While doing so, I remember thumbing through the Kiss section and suddenly spying all these albums by the band I’d never heard or seen before. As it turns out, these were bootleg live recordings. They probably sounded like shit, but I didn’t buy one, so I’ll never know.
My other memory of Music Maze involves a poster I feverishly coveted. It hung on the south wall of the place: a huge promo for the then-newly-released Point of Entry album by Judas Priest, featuring a shot of the band manfully brandishing instruments that were literally on fire (how METAL!!!) It’s actually an outtake from the heroically ridiculous video for “Hot Rockin’.” I was mentioning it earlier this week to my friend Eric of Light Bulb Head, and he instantly located the image for me. Here it is below. Righteous, eh?
Anyway, shortly after that, Music Maze became a Crazy Eddie. If you’re not from New York City, the name Crazy Eddie probably doesn’t mean much to you, but its advertising campaign is New York City to the very bone. As I mentioned in this recent post, allude to “Crazy Eddie’s” to a native, and they’ll invariably go bug-eyed, grab you by the lapels and dutifully inform you that “HIS PRICES ARE INSAAAAAAAAAANE!”
In a nutshell, Crazy Eddie was a chain of audio outfitters that had outlets peppered all over the New York City area. If ya needed a boombox or a pair of headphones or a new Walkman or a receiver or something like that, Crazy Eddie was a pretty safe bet. But along with hardware, they also carried software. I was particularly fond of the Crazy Eddie on East 57th, as they had an ass-kicking selection of import LPs by loads of British punk, metal and new wave bands.
So, circa 1982, Music Maze became a Crazy Eddie, and they totally changed up the layout. It looked less like a stoner’s paradise with black light posters and more like a proper stereo retail outlet. During my first visit there – on a mission to procure the brand new 7” single of Devo’s “Peek-A-Boo” – I met this guy Brian.
Walking to the counter with both the Devo single and the LP of the debut album by The Lords of the New Church, I was accosted by a guy with a big mop of spikey black hair (not unlike Johnny Thunders on the cover of So Alone). He introduced himself as Brian and complemented me on my selections, although he opined that while he respected the Lords’ pedigree (featuring members of The Dead Boys, Sham 69, The Barracudas and The Damned), the album didn’t quite measure up to his expectations. As it turned out, Brian worked at Crazy Eddie. The mere fact that I was meeting a dude who even knew (let alone cared about) the bands I was into was huge. Too many of my friends at the time were listening to indefensible bullshit like The Eagles and Michael Jackson (yeah, you read that right…indefensible bullshit. Do I stutter?)
Anyway, in short order, this particular Crazy Eddie’s became a regular stop for me, and Brian routinely hipped me to the good stuff. It was one thing to find this sort of fanboy dedication in a culty mom’n’pop shop, but for a big chain store like Crazy Eddie to have an avid acolyte of comparatively esoteric music was practically unprecedented.
Being obviously a few years my senior, Brian and I never hung out outside of the store, but he was always super friendly. As it turned out, he was unsurprisingly in a band himself. I remember him proudly showing me this punk compilation LP his band (at the time) was on. In the ensuing years, I have searched long and hard for the compilation in question, but I’ve never found it. All I can tell you is that it has a red sleeve with a skull on it (yeah, that really narrows it down, eh?)
If memory serves, Brian was also immortalized on a postcard. Some photographer had shot a series of portraits of NYC punks (and not cartoonish models pretending to be cliché-ridden punks, but actual, bona fide punks), and Brian was one of them. I recall his leather jacket sporting a KISS belt-buckle, which was a rather bold move at the time and a small bit of punk heresy (although being an unrepentant KISS fan myself, I saluted it).
Sometime around `84 or `85, however, that Crazy Eddie location closed and moved two blocks to the north, relocating on East 86th between Lexington and Third Avenue (but a stone’s throw from the iconic Papaya King). That space was bigger, but there was something missing: Brian didn’t move with it.
Regrettably, I lost touch with the guy, although I never even knew his last name. By this time, however, I’d largely forsaken the Upper East Side, and was now spending most of my free time exploring more interesting areas of Manhattan, specifically downtown.
So why am I blathering about all this now? Well, a regular reader and friend of mine name Chris wrote me in response to my recent post about forgotten and vanished record stores, prompted by my fleeting invocation of Crazy Eddie’s Brian, and had this to say:
I too befriended Brian who worked at the Crazy Eddie on 84th and 3rd. That's the same spot that used to be the Musical Maze, one of the more awesome shops that ever lived in the city. So I went in there to check out the new chain store that had replaced it and saw this guy in a DK's shirt. I must have talked to him for an hour. I was prob 13 at the time. He was the drummer for Genocide, a NJ band. A couple years after that I ran into him at Second Coming, the original location. He had his hair dyed black and told me he was the new drummer for the Misfits. If you read the American Hardcore book, they detail his single gig at Irving Plaza with them, where he got too drunk to play. But he was a cool guy, (not that we were great friends or anything like that.) Died of liver cancer.
This revelation just about blew my out of my chair (and this isn’t the first time Chris has surprised me with a tidbit about our strangely parallel pasts). In any case, this was indeed the same Brian “Damage” Keats.
I did a bit more research, and the band he was in during the Crazy Eddie years was New Brunswick’s Genocide. Not sure how long he stayed in their ranks, though, before joining Verbal Abuse and later accepting his star-crossed tenure in the final gasps of the Danzig-era Misfits.
Beyond that, Brian went on to play with a dizzying array of bands. Upon initially reading Chris’ update about him, I immediately thought it was be fun to get in touch and re-connect,…only to read the end of the paragraph. Brian “Damage” Keats sadly succumbed to cancer in January of 2010, and died at only 46 years of age. Here’s the obit Blabbermouth composed.
Anyway, rest in peace, Brian.
ADDENDUM: I did a bit more searching around, and I traked down that hardcore compilation Brian Keats appeared on, although it wasn't red nor had a skull on it (so much for my crystalin recollections). It was called Hardcore Takes Over. Here's the shot of Brian's band from the back cover.