Lots of people who saw the band back in its heyday say we played ’em just like the records. But I gotta tell ya, every now and then when listening to those songs we used to play I fail to hear a bass riff or a drum roll or a guitar lick that I was sure was there—but never was. I guess what it comes down to is that sometimes we played ’em even better than the records. After our 40th or 50th rendition, we’d add a little something here or there in a song like “Sunrise” for instance, which opened many of Snerd’s shows, and make it our own. Musically, we were rather exceptional for a bunch of dopey high school kids.
Sometimes when I listen to an old tape of a live Snerd performance I’m mesmerized by just how good we were. How in the hell did we learn to play a song like “The Knife” when most other local bands were struggling through three chord KISS tunes or “Jumping Jack Flash?”
There were lots of bands in Sayreville and the surrounding towns and municipalities, but none seemed to be able to capture the hearts and minds of audiences the way we did. And every time I chance upon one of the songs we used to play on the radio that nobody else played back then, let alone listened to, like “The Real Me” by The Who or Ian Hunter’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” I find myself thinking, “Hmmm. I wonder if the program director was a Snerd fan?”
When Larry started playing the drums, I started playing the drums. Well, I suppose I would have except for the fact that a band only needs one drummer. So, I chose the guitar.
Larry Bogush was the first person I ever met that wasn’t a member of my family. I was just a couple of years old and my dad was taking me for a walk around the old Wilson School, just opposite my childhood home on Hart Street. Larry, who lived a block away on Whitehead Avenue was on a similar outing with his dad. We were friends from the day we met. Little did I know that fateful day that Larry would become my de facto older brother—someone I looked up to and emulated for the next fifteen years. When Larry started to collect comic books, I started to collect comic books. If Larry liked a certain TV show, I liked that TV show. When Larry started playing the drums, I started playing the drums. Well, I suppose I would have except for the fact that a band only needs one drummer. So, I chose the guitar.
Our first band was pretty amateurish. We liked to practice in Larry’s garage because when he opened the doors, and we turned up real loud we felt like we were our own radio station broadcasting to at least 50-60 residents of the surrounding area. I remember lightning striking the day we discovered that instead of playing every song using single notes on the guitar that the guys on the records were playing more than one note—they were playing chords! Our set list, which included classics like Cream’s “White Room” took on a neat new twist—they really started sounding pretty good.
I met Tom Zebro on my first day in junior high school. Tom was writing “Black Sabbath” on his desk and that broke the ice. Tom was the most talented musician I ever met. Sure, I could learn complicated guitar parts by simply listening to the records (there was no guitar tab back in the ’70s), but Tom knew what the scale I was playing was named! He can probably still tell you what notes to change to create a diminished chord—something I don’t believe I was ever able to memorize. One more thing about Tom’s playing is that he rarely, if ever, made mistakes onstage. We got to talking and the next thing I know I was lugging my Fender Twin Reverb amp down Tom’s cellar stairs for a jam session. A short time later, Tom, Larry and I started playing together. Then Tom brought Mark into the band.
Mark Merriman played keyboards, but that’s not what we were looking for when we asked him to join the band. What we really needed was a singer. And Mark could sing. Good Lord, could he sing! All of a sudden, we were propelled like an Atlas rocket into set lists that included songs by bands whose hallmark sound revolved around great singing: Robert Plant, Paul Rodgers, Freddie Mercury—we were on our way.
I’m not sure when we started calling ourselves Mortimer Snerd, but I do remember how cool it was when somebody spray-painted it in 6-foot-high letters on the back of Krauser’s on Washington Road. The store had it quickly painted over, and it just as quickly reappeared, which was further confirmation that as far as local bands went, we owned Sayreville! Jon Bon Jovi was watching us back then, but I guess he had the last laugh in the end!
On Chasing Rainbows
After realizing that I wasn’t going to set the world on fire as a rock and roll guitar god I turned my talents to art and got a job at Marvel Comics as an inker where I worked on titles like “The Mighty Thor” and “Conan The Barbarian.” It was a cool job but didn't pay much. One day a friend of mine called and told me that I could make more money drawing if I got a job at an advertising agency. I was in! And before long I had traded in my ability to draw Captain America for technical drawings of women holding hair dryers. Needless to say, that ended up being a great career move! I am currently a creative director at a New York advertising agency where I co-created the highly acclaimed ‘Got Milk?’ celebrity milk mustache campaign. I wrote two books on the popular ads, The Milk Mustache Book (a New York Times Best Seller) and Milk Mustache Mania. Over the years I have also developed a close personal friendship with singer/songwriter Eric Carmen, who was the founding member of ’70s power pop band Raspberries and who later wrote the mega-hit ballad “All By Myself.” I run and maintain his website at EricCarmen.com and have written an internationally acclaimed biography, Eric Carmen: Marathon Man, named one of the “Best Books of the Year” by Great Britain’s Record Collector magazine, as well as a commemorative photo book covering the triumphant Raspberries reunion titled, Raspberries TONIGHT!
Favorite Bands Then
I was shuffling through my iTunes Music Library the other day when it occurred to me that I’m basically still listening to the songs that we used to play in Snerd three decades ago. They were all there: Bad Company’s “Can’t Get Enough,” “Rock Steady” and “Ready For Love;” David Bowie’s “Suffragette City,” “Space Oddity” and “1984.” Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” and “Burn;” “Watcher of the Skies” and “The Knife” by Genesis, “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull; “Strutter,” and “Firehouse” by KISS; Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of The Holy,” “The Ocean” and “Stairway To Heaven.” Mott the Hoople’s “All The Young Dudes,” “All The Way From Memphis” and “Roll Away The Stone;” “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Liar” by Queen; and “Sunrise” by Uriah Heep. We played all those great songs and many more.
Favorite Bands Now
Of course, I also still love the Beatles and anything with a jangly guitar and great hook from Raspberries to Jellyfish to Butch Walker. Oh, and I guess you could say that I’m a sucker for a great ballad and consider Eric Carmen’s Boats Against The Current the best album of all time!
Life after Snerd
I now live in Delaware—near the beach. My only official return to music was to play guitar on an Eric Carmen track titled “Never Say Die” in 2004. I currently have a Gibson Les Paul Custom and a Bogner combo amp that does a great job of emulating the sound of my Marshall Super lead from back in the day and still find myself plugging in at home when the mood strikes. A few years ago, at a business dinner a client asked if I played baseball or football in high school. I smiled and replied, “No. I played guitar in high school.”