WILLIE "LOCO" ALEXANDER'S 1970s SCRAPBOOKS
Boston’s Willie “Loco” Alexander is a true living rock legend. Making music in Boston since 1962 as a drummer, percussionist, keyboardist and vocalist, he was in the pioneering post-Beatles-invasion group The Lost from their formation in late 1963 until the band parted ways several years later. After stints in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s with groups including The Bagatelle, Nonie’s Blues, The Listening, Bluesberry Jam, the later days of the Velvet Underground, the Radio Hearts and others, he officially launched a solo career in mid-1975 with the release of his single “Kerouac” / “Mass Ave,” on his own Garage Records label.
In the early 1970s, besides making music, the un-matriculated art student started compiling scrapbooks from the ephemera that he had been saving over the years. His first (and largest) was a compilation of various items going back to the early 1960s. From then on, he would compile his scrapbooks on a timetable closer to “real time,” from 1975 throughout the decade. To this day he still, as he says, “squirrels away” all manner of found photos, magazine articles and other pieces of inspiration and pastes them together into works of art. His top floor “man cave” at his house in Gloucester has these collages pasted everywhere there is space, from floor to ceiling.
Willie’s amazing 1970s scrapbooks are incredible time capsules of Boston during the 1960s and ‘70s. They include glimpses into Willie’s own life – personal and musical – but they also cast a wider net, documenting his social circle, from family events to happenings by musical peers like Jonathan Richman, Third Rail, Mickey Clean & The Mezz, Reddy Teddy and many more. The books are also a “high school yearbook” of sorts for hugely important clubs like The Rat and Cambridge’s The Club (later known as Nightstage).
As Willie told me, “Everybody was sending me stuff and everybody was doing stuff. We'd send each other stuff. Third Rail [group leader Richard Nolan], he was one of the first guys who put up posters on the street, even before the copy shops came in. During 1975, when ‘Kerouac’ came out, I was putting out promo sheets at a rapid rate. I would hang out with people and they would become my photographers, and my partners in crime. There was a lot of craziness.”
During this mid-‘70s era another figure appeared: Willie’s promotional alter-ego and never-seen-in-public publicist: Al Lorenzo Drake. He explains, “Lorenzo would write [my] promo sheets. He would write three lines about his band and then talk about his friends to fill up the rest of the page.” When pressed about why Willie needed a fake publicist, he says, “Somebody's got to do the dirty work. Not the rock star shit, not the eating your caviar and writing your songs. Somebody's gotta get out there and go to the copy shop and get the promos and stick them up all over town. Lorenzo Promo Services were established in 1975. He never charged anyone for his services.”
Repurposing found accounting and other office ledgers as his not-so-blank canvases, these backdrops add even more texture to Willie’s fertile and artistic mind, as he laid each page out in his own inimitable way – sometimes just a photo or flyer, and sometimes many different images and articles jammed onto a page, with handwritten notes.
Whether he realized it or not at the time, these scrapbooks are Boston punk rock and indie rock’s baby pictures, unfolding one page at a time.
Willie is still making art and performing amazing music today, based in Gloucester, MA, where he has lived since the 1990s. Check out his most recent album on Bandcamp at https://willielocoalexanderandthefishtones.bandcamp.com/releases and his always awesome “Fisheye” videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/willieloco13/videos.
The slideshows on this page show merely a glimmer of the full majesty of the books (to wit: Willie’s Scrapbook 1 has almost 300 pages on its own), but you get the idea.