Mind you, I did actually make it through the gig….. barely. It would’ve been really funny if I’d fainted during a song. Let’s face it, in a rock band if the drummer stops you’ve got a problem.

The band was FREEWILL. I played with them from early 1986 until sometime in 1988.

Jason Moscartolo sang and played lead guitar. Jeff Gilman played bass. I was the drummer.

During our time together we also became great friends and pushed each other musically at a time when we were all coming into our own as players. We were probably the most well rehearsed band in history. We jammed constantly and played shows as often as we could.

We’d somehow secured a gig in a fraternity house at Yale University. I’m guessing but I think it was probably the fall of 1987. I had just turned 21, was living at home and working as a driver for a vending machine company called American Food and Vending in Waltham.

The week of the show was the week from hell for me at work. My usual route consisted of two or three stops on Route 9 in Framingham and Natick in the morning and then the entire campus of Babson Collegein the afternoon. However, that week one of the stars of the company, who did four million stops per day, was out for some reason. I forget his name so let’s call him the “Vending Ninja”! Anyway, a part of the Ninja’s vast route included filling the machines in several floors of The Prudential Building. I was tasked with covering those as well as my usual route. In a normal week all of us drivers ended up doing lots of overtime but in the vending world I was “Grass Hopper”not the “Ninja”. It was pathetic. I can remember arriving back at AFV after the sun had already gone down and the owner Jim Roslando, a sweetheart of a guy, greeting me with a “What the hell happened?” look on his face. He’d see me off with a “You’ll get ‘em tomorrow” pep talk though. I liked him. Then I’d be off to Roslindale and Jeff’s father’s printing shop where we rehearsed. We’d jam all night getting ready for the Yale gig.

I believe the day of the show was a Saturday….. my last day filling in for Vending Ninja. I finished in the mid to late afternoon and went straight to Roslindale in my work clothes to meet the guys, load the van and drive down to Yale.

Our band van was my 1977 Dodge Tradesman 200. It was painted flat black, had captain’s chairs, and not much else. It shook rattled and rolled but it had a cassette player to crank tunes and plenty of room for gear. I bought it for $400 off of Vito Fulciniti of Fulciniti’s Italian Food Mart in Waltham where I was a frequent visitor. He’d used it for catering.

So… it’s raining a bit as we’ve loaded the van and started driving down to Connecticut. The time is tight, I’m pretty tired already from my week of vending and rehearsing and I’ve eaten nothing all day. I’m driving. As always we’re enjoying each other’s company and having a few laughs even though the rain has turned from showers into a torrential downpour. Then, near the State Police Barracks on The Mass Pike….. the exhaust system drops and is scraping the pavement. I pull over and get out. The muffler and all of the pipe on the exhaust system are hanging on by a tiny bit of metal at the manifold. I have to disconnect it because the clamps and hangers are rotted out. So there I am, lying in a river of water in front of a State Police facility with gloves on, wrestling the white hot exhaust system off of my van. It breaks free and I leave it on the grass next to the breakdown lane. To the Highway worker that had to pick it up….. I apologize.


One doesn’t really notice it at high rates of speed but when a 1977 Dodge Tradesman 200 has no exhaust system…. it’s REALLY loud. So we’re laughing hysterically as we get off the highway and drive through the quaint, birds chirping serenity of the Yale campus sounding like the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club.

We set up in a cool little hall with a stage and play all night. The place is packed and we’re well received. In hindsight my body was saying “uncle” but my mind was obviously unaware. It’s time for our last song, “Next To You” by THE POLICE. If you’re not familiar with the tune, it’s very up tempo and we used to play it even faster. Halfway through the song I notice that Jason and Jeff keep looking back at me. Jeff , especially, has his head cocked to one side with a “What the f#ck?” look on his face. I don’t know what the problem is but we finish the tune with a big cheer from the crowd and Jason says, “Goodnight!”. I stand up to wave to the crowd and like a TV channel that doesn’t come in, my vision starts getting snowy. From the sides at first, and then……… lights out!

Jason said I was there and then I was gone. Evidently, I’d fallen backwards onto the floor behind my drum set. I came to when Jason, just like in the movies, splashed water on my face. He and Jeff came slowly into focus. I was totally weak and couldn’t stand up without help. I remember them and some folks from the party carrying me up a long, wide, wooden staircase that slowly turned upstairs to some sort of classroom or lecture hall that was our “dressing room”. Jason called his mother, Delphia, who was a nurse. She told him that I was probably having a blood sugar crash. They got me a soda. Quoting Jason : “You came slightly back to life. I asked what you wanted to eat to refuel and you managed to eek out the words “…..meatball sub”, very quietly.” That’s right, “meatball sub”. I probably said that with all the passion and emotion of a dying wish. I love me a meatball sub!

I remember eating that sub and feeling the molecules in my body regenerating. It was like I was the reverse Hulk, going from green to pink and coming back to life.

When I once again had my wits about me the guys informed me that I had turned “Next To You” into a ballad.

Stephen Hart.

p.s. This was the first story i ever wrote. Thanks for the inspiration, Jason!

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