Ruby Topaz

Buy Tee ShirtsBuy Tee ShirtsBuy Tee Shirts

Returning Soon!

 

 

 

 

Ruby Topaz

Photos

sounds

AS220

gear

studio

crystal pick

Home

 

 

 

Teen Topaz

 
Historical Background
 

As far back as I can remember music, movies, TV and vampires (especially Barnabus Collins in Dark Shadows) have been a big part of my life. I remember sitting on the floor in February of 1964; I was five years old and watching the Ed Sullivan show on a Sunday night. When the Beatles took the stage my life was changed forever.

I started singing in local bands at a very early age. I was captivated by Paul McCartney and wanted to play bass guitar and sing. As usual parents don't get it. I asked for a bass and got drums. After learning to play the drums a bit, I asked for a bass and got a guitar. When I was eleven years old, I was in a professional local production of "Oliver!" playing the Artful Dodger, where I met Mark Smith. He played guitar and he had a bass. He drew a picture of the bass neck with all the notes and I studied it. He let me borrow his bass while he taught me Beatles songs. I joined his band, sang the Paul McCartney parts and played the bass on all of the Beatles songs. He also had Beatle-like original songs and taught me all of his bass lines. This was very influential in my learning song writing.

In 1968 or 1969 my cousin went to a club in Boston, called the Boston Tea Party, where she sat on the floor and saw a new band that she thought I would like. She bought their album and gave it to me as a gift. I put the record on. As I was lying on the bed listening to it I was so impressed by the soaring vocals. I could not believe the sounds I was hearing came from a guitar. It blew my mind. I decided to change my vocal style and teach myself to play the guitar. That album was the template for the beginning of my guitar playing. The band was Led Zeppelin. The album was Led Zeppelin's first album.

Actually, the first band I ever saw was Herman's Hermits when I was nine or ten years old. The opening act blew me away. They came on with very flashy clothes, played hard-driving rock and at the end destroyed all their equiptment in a big puff of smoke. The band was The Who.

That was the beginning of my realization that you could marry theatrics with rock. Although I was influenced by many bands in that era, the next big step in that direction came when I was thirteen years old and went to see a relatively new band at the Palace Concert Theater in Providence RI (now the PPAC). As I sat in the dark in anticipation, I noticed through the blackness a huge drum kit and a backline of Marshall half stack amps. While it was still dark I saw flashes of white and glitter as the band took the stage. The band started to play. A thin ray of light pointed to the corner of the stage and this "thing" walked out. Was it a man, was it a woman, was it a monster? It shook its beer and sprayed everyone in the front row with it. It started to sing the song "Eighteen". The band was Alice Cooper, just starting the Killer tour. It was the perfect marriage of theatrics, monsters, androgyny and music. I had a new direction. David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust cemented that direction.

There were many other bands, most notably Queen and people that took me in a jazzier direction, such as John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck and Frank Zappa.

Here are some pictures documenting the theatrical Mark through the years.

Click on images to enlarge
Little Dracula Saw Her Standing There First Guitar New Drum Set Barnabus Collins 1 Barnabus Collins 2
Artful Dodger with cousin Jill Figuring Out Led Zeppelin III Loaned Hagstrom Day I met Alice Cooper Teen Vampire  
 
 

In 1970, until November, I was 12 and Steve was 13

These are the Topaz Teen Years. Here is a quick Time line of the band lineup.

Dates are approximate (it was a very foggy time).


SHIR (pronounced sheer): circa 69-71

Mark-Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals

Steve D’Andrea-Drums

Jeff Barone-Bass


SHIR circa 71-72

Mark-Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals

Steve D’Andrea-Drums Backing Vocals

Mark Smith-Bass, Backing Vocals

Mark Taylor-Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals

Then

Mark-Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals

Steve D’Andrea-Drums, Backing Vocals

Ron Allard-Bass, Backing Vocals

Mark Taylor-Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals

Then

Mark-Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals

Robbie Johnston-Drums

Ron Allard-Bass, Backing Vocals

Mark Taylor-Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals

This is when the name changes to Ruby Topaz (probably 1972)

 


Ruby Topaz- circa 1972-1976

Mark-Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals

Jimmy Zisiades-Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals

Chris Hallam-Bass, Backing Vocals

Robbie Johnston-Drums

Click on images to enlarge

 
14 15 1973 Practicing 1972-73 Outdoor party 1973 mark circa 1974 New Univox 1 New Univox 2
New Univox 3 Chris Robbie 75 Ruby topaz Live 1975 Chris Jimmy Mark 1975 Logo on rehearsla wall  
  A concert for the opening of Trinity Square Repertory Company circa 1973- 1975 (not sure what year it was).

 

Trinity 1 Trinity 2 Trinity 3 Trinity 4 Trinity 5
Trinity 6 Trinity 8 Trinity 9
Trinity 11 Trinity 12 Trinity 14 Trinity 15  

Ruby Topaz circa 1976-1978

Mark-Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals

Jimmy Zisiades-Bass, Backing Vocals

Robbie Johnston-Drums

Pictures posting soon

 

Ruby Topaz circa 1977-1979

Mark-Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals

Jimmy Zisiades-Bass, Backing Vocals

Steve D’Andrea-Drums, Backing Vocals

 

 

Ruby Topaz in Connecticut

Click on images to enlarge

mark and Jimmy Mark and Steve Mark Mark Steve and Jimmy

The Brookfield Saga

First of all, there will be a lot of drug references in here. Know that I don’t do any type drugs anymore (legal or otherwise) and  I don’t recommend it to anyone. I haven’t done any type of drug in over 30 years, but this story takes place in an era where it was part of the culture and I am recounting actual events. Being a Martial Arts teacher, and therefore very interested in remaining as healthy as possible, I don’t advocate drug use. What you do is your business, but that is where I stand on the matter. 

In 1976 or 1977, not long out of High School, I was rehearsing with my band, Ruby Topaz, in the basement of my bass player’s (Jimmy) house. A friend of ours, John, who owned a pottery studio, and who we used to get high with, brought over this weird, lanky guy with a slightly subdued intenseness (which I would later find out stayed subdued only part of the time). He reminded me of Donald Sutherland in the movie M*A*S*H. His name was Dan. He listened to us play and was blown away. Afterwards, we were smoking a joint and he asked me: "If you needed X amount of dollars to realize your dream, how much would you need?" I said: "An unlimited amount." He liked the way I thought. He gave us each $100.00 and told us to quit our jobs. He said that he was moving us to Connecticut to develop us and get us ready for the big time. Being young and impetuous we agreed. The ride up was nothing short of frightening. We were in a van speeding along hilly roads, very stoned! I asked him if, maybe, we could slow down. He pointed to a picture of an angel that had been cut out of a coloring book, and told me that it was his Guardian Angel. I should have gotten a clue right then and there.

We got to this big house in Brookfield, right near upstate New York. It was huge, with a circular driveway. We went inside. From the foyer, you could see the in-ground pool through the picture window in the huge formal dining room. Beyond the pool, you could see the hills with all the other beautiful houses dotting the landscape. To the left of the foyer was the winding staircase, with the hand rubbed banister, leading to three bedrooms upstairs. On the first floor was the master bedroom (mine, of course) with sliding glass doors that led to a deck outside, the living room, formal dining room, kitchen (with slate countertops), and the mud room leading to the garage. The room with the picture window was where we were to rehearse. It was a huge room with a fireplace that we would later sit around, naked, in the morning, smoking joints and drinking hot chocolate before we played.

Conn./N.Y. was culture shock for me. We got all the N.Y. TV stations, I'd watch the news and hear about the murders, and they'd show things on the news that you wouldn't see in Rhode Island. I saw one of The Flying Walendas fall from a high wire between two skyscrapers. The sound of him screaming, as he fell to his death, stays with me to this day.

We played, had sex with our girlfriends, got high, hardly ever got dressed, and had parties where we would wake up and there would be a keg in the pool. We played some gigs in Connecticut and at The Showcase, in Maopac, N.Y., a club frequented by Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter. We never paid for anything; Dan took care of that.

One day, Dan came in and was distraught. He said that there was no money left. He told us that this College professor in Jacksonville, Florida, (who shall remain nameless to protect any living relatives) who was sending him the money, had died. He locked himself in his room and didn't come out for three days. Needless to say, we were worried. He had gotten real squirrelly on us. After three days, he emerged from his room with the most beautiful hand made silver jewelry that he had crafted himself. Bracelets with a circle on them. Inside the circle was black, and on that black was a silver lightening bolt. He also had Zodiac rings. He said that he was designing a line to sell, so that we would have money. We went to sleep that night and when I woke up the next morning, my bass player, Jimmy, and Dan were gone. I woke up Steve, my drummer, and asked what was up. He told me that Jimmy and Dan went to Florida. That's when I put my fist through the wall. Jimmy called from Florida a few days later and said that he couldn’t find Dan and was coming home. When he came back the story unfolded.

Dan wormed his way into the college saying that he was there to establish the (the professor’s name) fund. They let him in, set them up with a place to stay, and an outlet to sell the jewelry. Dan made some money from the jewelry, and decided to buy pot, sell it, and quadruple his money. He almost got caught in a parking lot by the police, and turned into commando man, crawling on his belly under cars and finally retrieving the pot that he had thrown away to avoid getting busted. That's when we found out that he had been a paratrooper in Viet Nam. He disappears for a few hours, and when he came back, he was with this hot girl and an obviously Gay southern boy. Jimmy thinks to himself that Dan scored this hot chick...No, he scored the guy! Come to find out, Dan was Bi-Sexual (not that there’s anything wrong with that-Seinfeld). He was This professor’s toy boy. When he was going to college there, the professor would cook gourmet meals for him, and Dan would let him perform oral sex on him. Who knew? All those times we were playing, naked, I wonder what he was thinking?

This young guy was from a very wealthy family. He lived in a gated community that you had to sign in with a security guard to get in. They ate at this restaurant there. The young guy says in his most prissy, refined southern accent: "Everybody order, Everybody order. And Jimmy, order something exotic like steak or lobster. Nothing cheap." They were all eating, drinking and dropping acid. At the end of the meal, which cost over $1000.00 (a lot of money in the seventies), he just signed for it. His father was some rich ambassador and he paid all his son’s tabs.
     

Dan disappeared again, but this time he didn't come back. Jimmy wired his parents for money, for a plane ticket, and flew back. We were broke. We had no money, and no way of getting any. I suggested that, since we were so close to New York, we should stay, get jobs, and try to make it. Steve opted for the safety of home, and being young and intense, I didn't speak to him for eight years. Jimmy and I had our equipment held by the guy who owned the house and we had to get a lawyer to get it back. We returned to Providence, with our aspirations slightly bruised, got a new drummer and had great success through the 80's with that incarnation of Ruby Topaz.

After a time, it bothered me that Steve and I weren’t speaking, so I drove by his house a few time (hoping I would see him), and one day I did. We patched thing up and started jamming. Steve would sit in for Jamie from time to time and when the band started disintegrating, Steve returned as a full time member of Topaz.

Ruby Topaz from 1979 to early 1990s

Mark-Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals

Jimmy Zisiades-Bass, Backing Vocals

Jamie Rizzo-Drums

Ruby Topaz Early 90s on

Mark-Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals

Steve D’Andrea-Drums, Backing Vocals

Various Bass Players

Most Notably:

Mike DiPippo, who still fills in with Topaz from time to time

and

Chris Hallam, who is back in the band after all these years and is the current Ruby Topaz Bass Player

 

[Mark's Gear][Equipment Demos] [Mark's Studio ] [SoundClips][Crystal Pick II][Parker Fly][Ruby Topaz][Photos][Amistad] [AS220 Live]

[Index][Links]

  Top