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Staying Connected

It’s Only Rock & Roll and We Liked It

Fond memories of live music on campus.

By Rick Hartt ’70

One of today’s most successful student traditions is the “Battle of the Bands.” Students flock to see their peers battle it out for best campus band in a yearlong competition. Back in the earlier days of programming, we didn’t have those “battles” but there was certainly a lot of music on campus. As director of the Rensselaer Union since 1983, I have received many phone calls and e-mails from alumni asking, “Do you know where...?” It has usually been a question about Blotto, Alabaster, or Monolith from the ’70s and ’80s, or about the annual performers of over 15 years of McNeil Room concerts, the Bermuda Triangle Band (aka Roger, Wendy, and Sam). I usually give a fun factoid to the baby boomer alum who is getting nostalgic at this point in his or her life, as I am.

One of the ultimate fraternity party bands was Monolith, with its roots in the Rensselaer student body. The group featured Delta Phi brother and drummer Roger Mike ’70 and keyboardist Mick Dawidowicz ’70, now in Switzerland. Roger, a successful entrepreneur and a leader of Rensselaer’s Alumni Inter-Greek Council, hasn’t picked up the drumsticks recently except on Thanksgiving. In later incarnations, lead guitarist and WRPI DJ Joe Musolino ’73 took the stage. Joe still has six great guitars and is a programmer/analyst for the health services organization JSI Research & Training Institute.

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Alabaster featured Class of 1970 grads, bass player and now doctor Craig Williams and once again Roger Mike on drums. The Deadhead, Airplane, Quicksilver, and California sounds of Alabaster graced many fraternity basements and small clubs in the area.

Blotto played many McNeil Room dates and was a GM Week finale closer. The video of their hit “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard” was shown on the first day of MTV broadcasting, Aug. 1, 1981. They gained popularity on the Dr. Demento radio and Uncle Floyd television shows before they disbanded in 1984. The mystical millennium brought them together again, most recently with They Might Be Giants at the Troy Riverfest concert. Rensselaer grad Paul Jossman ’70 continues to ply his guitar and vocal trade with Blotto, while honing his engineering skills in the “real world.”

Now onto the main attraction... Whatever happened to Roger and Wendy Beckett and Sam Scherer, aka the Bermuda Triangle Band? Many remember their 15 years of performances but I had not heard from them in years. I “googled” Roger and Wendy Beckett and got nothing. Then I “googled” Bermuda Triangle and got more than 1,000,000 hits, just not the right ones. Then, out of the blue this summer, I received an e-mail from Roger Penney (Beckett was a stage name used by Roger and Wendy for many years) asking if we had any archived photos or tapes from their shows at Rensselaer. Roger and Wendy’s home was partially destroyed in a fire and they lost their scrapbooks and live tapes.

Their performances were always fun, never the same, and always original. Roger moved like Peter Townshend, playing his autoharp with the same energy and vertical leaps. Wendy mesmerized her fans with her voice and her long blond hair. And who could forget the kazoo symphony? After more than 3,500 concert performances, Roger and Wendy stepped back in 1993 to see what it would be like to have a home all their own.

In the last 15 years they have re-centered themselves in Colorado, while continuing their artistic journey. They have become darlings of the European and Japanese music scene with its interest in the folk-rock genre. Their CDs include the 2006 release R&W Penney One Day at a Time, the 2007 reissue of the original Bermuda Triangle 1977 album, the reissue of their Euphoria album from 1969, and the new-ly issued Missing Tapes album, which is never-before-released material. If you have original vinyl, it has recently sold for $750 on eBay.

I spoke with Roger in October and he remembers the students at Rensselaer and how devoted they were to producing a great concert, and providing the best in sound and lights for the McNeil Room. He said, “you had great energy and were open to different kinds of music.” The Web site is filled with great pictures, music, and fond memories of Roger and Wendy.

Do you remember Joe Salvo ’74 and his bands, the Basement Blues Band led by Rob Goldman ’81, or the Ralph Pascucci ’70-managed Millhouse with Norman Millian ’71, Dave Smith ’71, and Mark Lubell ’70? Drop me a line at if you have any information or insights. It’s only rock & roll...but we liked it.

Rick Hartt ’70 is director of the Rensselaer Union and a diehard music fan.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.