"Every micro-generation demands one overweight middle-aged man-child spokesperson (Frank Black, Bob Mould, Buster Bloodvessel, Mama Cass, etc.) and now we have ours: Ross (the Boss?) Shapiro!” wrote Bob Gaulke in The Rocket, on the release by Bar/None of the Glands' magnum opus, Double Thriller. Sadly, Ross Shapiro passed away in March, 2016, but he's remembered fondly by everyone in the Bar/None family. One of those who knew Ross best was fellow Athens, GA native and producer/musician Dave Barbe (Sugar, Mercyland, Drive By Truckers,) who mastered Double Thriller.
Dave Barbe: Ross and I were both from Atlanta and we both wound up in Athens for college. He played in a band called the Pretty Flowers that I remember the existence of, but I really don't have a cognizant memory of ever seeing the band. Ross at the time was really into the Dead, so I have a feeling that Pretty Flowers was probably pretty much your standard Grateful Dead jam band. Ross worked at Gyro Wrap, which is this gyro joint that's been in downtown Athens forever, and my college roommate and the guy who drummed in my band worked there too, so I'd always be going down there to hang out. And so I knew Ross from way before the emergence of the Glands.
Ross would always talk about this record he was making, which was Double Thriller. But Ross, with his dry, sarcastic sense of humor, I just had no idea if first, if he was serious about making an album at all, and secondly, if he'd really call it Double Thriller. And I don't know what I thought it would sound like, but at the time, in Athens, all these guys we were friends with and all the guys at the Gyro were in bands that played this super-heavy noisy rock, just inside of metal. Great stuff but just super heavy. So I just assumed that's what Ross' record would sound like.
Well, Double Thriller came out the first time (self-released) in '96, maybe '95, and Ross brought me a copy of all the mixes and asked me to master it at a local studio, where I used to work before I had Chase Park. And I popped in the DAT tape to listen to it, and the first thing I heard was "Double Zero," and the second thing I heard was "Pretty Marina."
And I was just blown away by how GREAT it was. And also equally blown away by what it was, that it was this incredible record with all these 60's and 70's pop influences but with this weird twist on it. You know, as long as I'd known him, he would have been a great poker player because he always kept his cards pretty close to his vest. I had NO idea this is what the Glands would sound like. I remember that day well and being completely blown away by how great this thing was, and I felt like it came completely out of left field.
After I listened to it a bunch, I thought about all these influences. He and I were born one day apart, and he had a picture of Thurman Munson hanging up in his apartment. We grew up loving the same music, and listened to the same Top 40 radio stations. And the more I thought about it, the more Double Thriller made sense, given what we had grown up with. But what he did was not what was going on here in Athens at all at that time. That record was a lifetime of listening to 60's and 70's pop and just keeping an open mind. He probably would have fit much better in Hoboken, so it made perfect sense when Bar/None came along and wanted to re-release the record.
|The Glands (Ross is second from right)|
One of Ross' great strengths as a person is that he was always his own man. I think there are a lot of people around the college-rock scene that really want to fit in, and will do things that fit into the existing sound and structure of your local scene. But I don't think Ross ever thought like that. He was always pretty happy to be his own man.
The other thing people should know is that Ross was a really cool visual artist. There was a memorial in Athens for him recently and in addition to a slide show of pictures of Ross and the Glands and his life in Athens, there was also a lot of his artwork on display. And his paintings ranged from several paintings of a local homeless guy to a touching portrait of Lou Gehrig. Ross was a big baseball fan. His artwork is like him, no two images exactly correlate. He was a pretty interesting guy, just a very unique human being.
SouthernShelter.com has a free recording of Ross fronting the Glands in 2014.
The Glands on Bar/None.com