There are so many great rock and roll records that have been released over the past 50 years that sadly have gone unnoticed by the masses. Everyone knows Led Zeppelin II, Pink Floyd Animals, The Beatles Revolver and all those classic records. Nonetheless, there have been some incredible rock and roll records that have never gotten the credit they deserved. We’re not just talking rock and roll records. There are some incredible bands that enjoyed successful careers as local heroes but failed to resonate on a mass cultural level. Most of the time it was no fault of the bands. It was usually just people working at record companies making stupid decisions and not putting the money behind tours or promotion that so many great artists truly deserved.
The Good Rats are a band that comes to mind quite easily when listening to great Rock & Roll groups that should have become bigger than they actually became. Hailing from Long Island, New York in the 1970s, The Good Rats were immensely popular in the New York area. While we have already looked at the history of the band and listed 15 of their best songs in another article, in this piece we’ll look at what we feel was the band’s greatest musical achievement. In our own subjective opinion and quite possibly the opinion of many other Good Rats fans, that great moment was found on record in an album called Ratcity In Blue.
The Good Rats Ratcity In Blue. album was released in 1976 on the Platinum Records label. It was an album of 11 songs composed by Good Rats bandleader Peppi Marchello. The album was produced by Stephan Galfas who would go on to work with artists such as the Allman Brothers Band, Meat Loaf and Cher.
I purchased the Good Rats’ album Ratcity In Blue when I was 15 years old at a record store called Sam Goody’s in the Smith Haven mall. The Good Rats album Ratcity In Blue got just as many plays on my turntable as Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal, Springsteen’s Born to Run and of course every single Led Zeppelin album ever released. I guarantee you that any other rock and roll fan who owned the Ratcity In Blue album was playing it on their turntable just as much as they were any other record they owned.
Every song on the Ratcity In Blue album is great. There was not one clunker among the 11 great tracks. Of course, we all had our personal favorites but there were a handful of songs on that record we all agreed stood out among the rest. The first would be the album’s great opening track “Does It Make You Feel Good.” Those guitars riffs at the intro of the song were simply to die for. The magic really begins on the song when Peppi screams baby I’m starting to think you don’t like me. Boom! Go to the chorus we go.
The killer guitar solo by John Gatto at 2.17 kicks in for a good thirty seconds before returning the mic to the great Peppi Marchello. Joe Franco lays down a groove that Lenny Kotke on bass and John Gatto on guitar surround with the power of a rock and roll band that learned how to play their asses off in some of the toughest clubs on the Island. This is rock and roll at its finest and god dammit not enough people know about it!
The album’s second track “Boardwalk Slasher,” was a perfect follow up to the raging album opener. The song countered with a groove quite the opposite of “Does It Make You Feel Good.” This one had a much darker feel from both a musical and lyrical standpoint. Like many of Peppi Marcello’s great compositions “Boardwalk Slasher,” was a twisted cinematic adventure. It’s surprising that no one has ever attempted a develop a film or television series based on this song’s story.
The album is filled with so many more cleverly written songs performed by a group of musicians who were at the top of their game. You don’t get signed by Warner Brothers Records if your not producing high quality well written and incredibly performed rock and roll.
If we had to choose the track that stood out the most from the rest of the album, it would probably be the ballad “Advertisement In The Voice.” The song’s lyrical story of woe and longing resonates so deeply. No one could sing like Peppi Marchello. He had one of the most unique voices in rock and roll.
“Advertisement In The Voice.” was a great example of the local hero syndrome that followed the Good Rats. The “Voice,” that Peppi Marchello was referring to was a legendary local New York City paper called The Village Voice. The paper had one of the largest classified sections in the New York area. Anything you wanted, jobs, merchandise, massages and more, musicians to jam with and of course the personals was published in the Village Voice. This is not the place for a complete history of the Village Voice but it played an important role in New York culture and life Peppi Marchello’s use of it in his song was just one more example of how the band was so connected to New York culture.
If you’re reading this and have never heard of the band the Good Rats, we hope that you have at least took some time to listen to the three videos we included. If you have, we have no doubt that your ordering a copy of the great Ratcity In Blue album. It is one of rock’s most unheralded gems.