NO ONE REALLY KNOWS how legends get their start. They just do. In music, some bands become legendary during their active career. Others become so with the passage of time. It can start as a consensus among an elite few, perhaps because their music affects everybody differently, or perhaps because no one can seem to describe what sets them apart.
I first heard the Rising Storm at their 1981 reunion in Boston. It wasn't until I listened to their first album, Calm Before, that I recognized they were unique. I still can't put it into words, but if you compare this album to others released in the mid-'60s, there is no mistake: the Rising Storm are the best. Perhaps it's because they dared to record originals at a time when most bands relied on cover versions of well-known songs. Perhaps it was the chemistry of the six band members. Certainly it was the times. Maybe it was all of these things, possibly none. All that really matters is that the Rising Storm existed, and left us a brilliant LP that continues to be cherished more than thirty years after its release.
Their saga began at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, one of the many prep schools that dot the New England Landscape. During the '60s, Andover was home to many bands that provided the music for the "mixers" where the Phillips student-body would socialize with girls from neighboring prep schools. Many of these groups released LPs as a keepsake of their days at Andover - a tradition began in the early '60s. The Torques, the Apostles, the Satans, and the Invictas all chronicled the popular songs of the day on albums consisting mostly of instrumental and frat-rock covers. The Ha' Pennies, who graduated in 1966, cut an album that was slightly more progressive. They too, recorded cover versions, but picked their material from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and other mid-'60s artists. Unlike those before them, they dared to include an original song, "Love Is Not The Same" on their album.
Into this backdrop, in the fall of 1964, came the Rising Storm. They were Bob Cohan, Todd Cohen, Charlie Rockwell, Tom Scheft, Tony Thompson, and Rich Weinberg. They began like most bands, a few friends jamming on borrowed equipment, playing songs like "Wild Weekend" or "McCoy." But even in their infancy, they were experimenting with original music.
In the spring of 1965, they began to play at a few mixers under the name "The Remnants." Then, fearing that their moniker too closely resembled another more popular Boston band's name, they changed to "The Rising Storm," a term taken from their American history syllabus used to describe the turbulent period before the American Revolution. Thus, a band was born.
1966 - 1967, their senior year, they acquired a reputation as a good live band scoring extra points with their peers by extending the slow dance numbers. During spring break, they followed the tradition of previous Andover bands and recorded an album. They chose Continental Recording Studios in Framingham, MA on a recommendation from the Ha' Pennies, who had recorded their album there the previous year. For $1000, they had the studio to themselves for a week and received 500 copies of the resulting LP. When the record was released, they sold for $3.00 apiece - a far cry from the price tag affixed to that album these days.
The following year, the band went off to college and the Rising Storm was no more.
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