The first album he bought was Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The first concert he saw at the Garden was Peter Frampton. The guy sitting in front of him turned around, said ‘How you guys doing!” before pulling out an envelope stuffed with joints. R2-D2 came out onstage to do a duet with Frampton but was broken or had laryingitis.
Next he saw Jethro Tull. The opening act was James Taylor’s brother Livingston. The crowd began to boo right away. “It was getting to be a loud roar of hate,” Mike recalled. “By the end of the third song it was the ‘fuck you’ chant. ‘Fuck you! Fuck you!’ The whole Garden’s going ‘Fuck you!’ to one man on an acoustic guitar. That’s pretty impressive. Someone comes out and taps him on the shoulder, like, dude, you gotta go. So he turns around, walks off, and he gets about two-thirds off the stage, so everyone starts applauding. He turns around, comes back out, goes to the mike in says, ‘Oh, so I guess you really want me!’ and just starts playing again. It got violent. There was some hate in the air that night.”
In junior high, they made Mike take some tests and said he’d be a good architect.
He said, “What the fuck is that?” They said, “You build buildings.” He said, “I don’t want to build buildings. I mean, it doesn’t sound like fun.”
In college he took bowling as a class. His grandpa always used to say “learn a trade!” so he majored in communications, deejayed at the radio station and did security at concerts. After Dizzy Gillespie played an afternoon show, Mike volunteered to drive him and the band home. On the way, Mike was told to stop at a bank. The teller wouldn’t cash Dizzy Gillespie’s paycheck without ID, so the great man puffed out his cheeks. She didn’t recognize him. He just happened to have a picture of his large erect penis in action, said “that’s me!” and she screamed. Back in the van, everyone laughed and fired up joints.
Eventually, Mike landed a job at Combat Records, and was soon promoting metal bands like Venom, Slayer, Exodus, and Megadeth. And partying. “I did cocaine in the ’80s once for seven years,” he admitted. “It’s a funny statement, but at some point, yeah, I was on a fucking tear. Yeah! Smoking, drinking, snorting, popping, uhhh running around going nuts.”
So he got it out of his system?
“Yeah! The last time I ever ingested cocaine was February 1987, and it was one of those things where, ‘This is horrible, I feel miserable.’” He started doing it again for a few months and stopped again. He did it one more time and said never again.
Next he went on tour with Megadeth. One of Mike’s jobs was to keep the band from beating the crap out of each other. At the end of a show in Philadelphia, the band’s leader, Dave Mustaine, spat on drummer Gar Samuelson, who returned fire with a drumstick. After Mustaine hurled his guitar into the drum set, everyone went backstage and began screaming. “Come on pussy, what are you gonna do?” Samuelson asked Mustaine, who was waving a broken tequila bottle around, with Mike in between them.
Then they went out and played the encore. “They killed it,” Mike recalled. “The nice thing about this band was they played angry music, so it just added to the intensity of their performance.”
Mike had other pleasant memories of the six-week tour: “At some points it was so peaceful and beautiful, seeing rainbows over mountains, and I remember watching Alf a lot. Every Monday I ended up sitting in a hotel room with Dave smoking weed and watching Alf.”
In 1989, Mike went to work for Epic Records. He managed the Cycle Sluts From Hell, sent tapes of brand-new bands like Pearl Jam to influential people, and mentioned the Ozzy tickets he’d scored for them. After an appearance at Tower Records, the Prince of Darkness took a whiz on the manager’s office door while Mike kept a lookout.
In 1994, EMI Records lured Mike away with a ton of money and a fancy title. Right away he didn’t like the vibe (“horrible”), and after the first label meeting, he thought to himself, “What have I gotten myself into? I’m not happy. I fucked up.” One of his big projects was doing A&R for a band he signed, the Fun Lovin’ Criminals. When someone else at the company put a song of theirs on a sampler tape and sent 20,000 copies to record stores, Mike was psyched … until he listened to the cassette. The song didn’t start at the beginning and sounded like shit, so he blew up at the guy: “I said, ‘You wanna know what I think of this tape?’ and I threw it against the wall. I just fucking lost it. I started screaming and yelling ‘You’re a fucking idiot!’”
Although the first Fun Lovin’ Criminals album sold a million copies worldwide, Mike’s two-year contract wasn’t renewed. He fell into a funk, and people stopped returning his calls. “I was bitter and angry and pissed off and not afraid to share it, and it didn’t do me well,” he said.
Mike went from “vice president of rock” to roadie. Former colleagues laughed when they found out he was now driving punk bands to concerts. “People were like, ‘Really, you’re a roadie?’” he recalled. “I go, ‘Yeah, but actually I was happy today.’ I never laughed as much as when I was on the road with the guys in Murphy’s Law.”
Mike took an office job at a music company but got sick of it fast. He preferred deejaying, which he’d been doing part-time, and hanging out at Amy Sacco’s first club, Lot 61. “She was wonderful and always nice, and we stayed friends ever since,” he said.
“It was kismet when we first met,” she emailed. “He is just ALL THAT and more?! I never asked him even one question, he was just ‘Uncle,’ gentle, ethereal, all knowing and a musical magician; with an essence of paco-rabane and an air of mystery …”
Mike became a full-time deejay not long after Ms. Sacco opened up her second club in 2001.
“It was a collision of great people and great circumstances that made for one-of-a-kind nights of fun,” he said of Bungalow 8. “It was a wonderful experience to be able to be there and play music for people and see people be happy.”
The other night at No. 8, a very attractive young stylist approached DJ Uncle Mike. “So what’s your story?” she asked.
He started laughing, and then replied, “Talk to George in about a month. He’ll be able to tell you. It’s a long story, man.”