Thursday, October 28, 2010

RIP Billy Ruane

Beloved Boston rock fan/impresario Billy Ruane passed away the other day. Of the many tributes to Ruane to be found online, one of the best and most heartfelt comes from local frontman Al Janik, reprinted here by permission:

"they say the day you die your name is written in the clouds
billy ruane died last night ... the sky is gray with clouds and the rain is falling here in boston ...

nothing in the world is any good unless you can share it
i don't think it is possible to describe to folk outside of boston what people like mikey dee and billy ruane meant to the local rock scene here ... everyone has their stories and they will be told ... but the thing these two guys had in spades was a FANatical compulsion to share what they thought was good and fun with everyone they met ...

you're like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another
i had moved here from chicago in the early 80s, got a job in a harvard library, and took my time stumbling into the boston music scene ... eventually, i began to head out to the middle east upstairs once a week or so with my buddies ronnie and dave ... we didn't even care who was playing ... we knew one band would be crap, one band okay, one band fun, and another band revelatory ... and you would never know what order on the bill they would fall ... but it didn't take too long to notice a certain lunatic squealing and whirling and "dancing" and wildly applauding randomly up in front of the stage ... one day, someone took me aside and told me that was billy ruane and he worked at widener library at harvard ... i was never so proud of my "profession" as i was that day ... anyway, as ronnie and i expanded our musical adventures across boston to other clubs, we never ceased to be flabbergasted by the presence of billy ruane wherever we went ... there were nights we would even hit two or three clubs a night to hear certain favorite bands and inevitably bump into billy at each one ... he became the no-doubt-about-it "we ARE in the right place" signal any night out on the town ... and he was never just making the scene ... he WAS the scene ... he WAS what rock and roll was supposed to be--wild and out of control ... sometimes the bands had no idea who the hell he was and why he was jumping around on stage with (or ON!) them ... he was a one man mosh pit before there was such a thing ... sockless with sport jacket sprayed open over a mostly unbuttoned white shirt ... drinks were spilled and stuff was knocked over and all of it was good ... it was billy man, it was cool ...

let's go down to the bar. we can cool off while we try to impress each other
so i had a band called rattle heatre that had a good run in a somerville joint in boston called studleys ... or the kirkland cafe if you will ... or club bohemia if you insist ... anyway, the people that came to hear us seemed to have a great time but most folk did not really ever "get" us or what we were doing ... two major local scenesters did ... mikey dee who even brought us in to WMFO's "On the town" for a live set ... and billy ruane, who called me up and asked if we wanted to open for minneSOHta's the honeydogs at green street ... now neither of these gigs were real BIG time, but they were both FAR more than i ever dreamed of and i'll always be grateful for the breaks ... one more thing ... when these guys believed in something, when they caught something they loved, some times, they understood it even better than the band--billy ruane called me once after hearing one of my first silly polka shows celebrating saint stanislaus day at the kirkland cafe ... it had been one of those bizarre nights of entertainment that joe hernon and mickey bliss let bands like ours and slide get away with on a regular basis at that venue ... billy wanted to book the polka show as a month long residency at the middle east bakery ... now i guess i should not have been surprised since belly dancing was/is a regular feature of that corner ... but i was equally parts astounded to be invited, and scared shitless of performing polkas in the hippest club in town ... i did not bite ... and i was SO wrong to not do so ... since then, my polka show has become an annual event that brings musicians, hipsters, polka fans and children together in a communal celebration that would do billy (AND mikey) proud ... and billy KNEW it was gonna be cool before anyone else (including me!)

"oh, jeff, I don't want to die!"
"neither do i, baby, but if i have to i'm gonna die last"

another thing billy ruane held in common with mikey dee was a love of movies ... the quotes for this reflection are all inspired by a facebook quote from billy lifted from the film "out of the past" ... he (and i) were regulars at film noir mondays at the brattle (in many ways, billy WAS a black and white film if you think about it) ... but while others mumbled their complaints as billy stumbled into the brattle street theatre balcony five minutes after a movie started, i just wanted to whisper "it's billy man, it's cool" ... he hollered comments and hooted loudly at scenes no one else thought hilarious and it never bothered me one bit ... billy was in the house and i KNEW i was no-doubt-about-it-in-the-right-place ...

"that's not the way to win"
"is there a way to win?"
"there's a way to lose more slowly"

and so first mikey dee left us, and now billy ruane exits stage left ... we all wait our own turn and shake our heads sadly in the meantime ... i weep for our loss yet the tears fall harder when i remember the joys of seeing either of them any time any where ... they saw what was good ... they saw what was fun ... and they shared it with everyone they met ... and that sure is a damn good way to lose more slowly ...

that's al folks

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