(Via Worcester Magazine by Walter Bird Jr.)
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: Yes, Erick Godin knows the Rolling Stones played Sir Morgan’s Cove one fateful night in 1981. More than 30 years later, he gets that the show is still the one folks talk about most when it comes to the popular Green Street nightspot he now owns, and which for almost 14 years has had the moniker The Lucky Dog. But did you know Clarence Clemons also played there? Or Joe Cocker? And how can any “Sopranos” fan forget that none other than Christopher Moltisanti himself (his real-life name is Michael Imperioli, by the way) played a gig there several years back with his band?
The 43-year-old Godin grimaces as he talks about how some people still call his venue “The Cove” and how the Stones somehow always seem to come up. It isn’t that he can’t appreciate the historical significance of what was supposed to be a private jam session for Mick and the boys that ended not being so secret – he does. But there’s much more to The Lucky Dog than the Rolling Stones.
“[Cocker] always gets the short end of the stick on that one,” says Godin, who in addition to running one of the city’s biggest rock institutions also fronts the ’80s band Flock of Assholes. The band has a busy week coming up: On Wednesday night, Thanksgiving Eve, The Flock plays JJ’s Bar and Grill (formerly JJ O’Rourkes) in Northborough. On Thanksgiving, the band plays its annual Turkey Day show at The Lucky Dog. And on Friday night, Godin is back on stage at The Lucky Dog, this time going back a decade into the ’70s with a different cover band, Afternoon Delight.
We sauntered over to The Lucky Dog on a wet and raw Tuesday afternoon, where Godin, who is also an artist and likes to cook, met us and did the obligatory photo shoot before grabbing a stool at the bar in the rear room off the dance floor. Across the bar, on a shelf against the wall, a picture of late local music legend Scott Ricciuti served as a poignant reminder of the talent that has passed through the Lucky Dog. It is those singers and bands that provide Godin all the motivation he needs to keep opening the doors to his bar day after day, even in an economy that has dealt a severe blow to business. This summer, he concedes, was the worst ever. He is hopeful that the last couple months of the year will even things out. Gracious and humble, Godin opens up about everything from those shirts for sale that hang on a rack near the back bar (they are real, used work shirts) to his favorite Flock of Seagulls song. Yes, he has one.
What’s the best thing about owning a bar? The worst? Some of the hours involved is the worst thing. I don’t shut this thing down in my head, hardly ever. I go home and start thinking about the next move. You have a good night–and you think that’s awesome- -and then you realize you don’t have a band booked for the following week. Time flies in this business.
Why not keep the name Sir Morgan’s Cove? Everything that was historically recognizable about Sir Morgan’s had some negative impact as well. It was definitely time for a change. People still call it The Cove. I think we’re actually surpassing the amount of time Sir Morgan’s was in this building.
Is it safe to say you wouldn’t mind if people never mentioned the Rolling Stones again? I would be totally fine with that. I understand the importance to this city, to history for God’s sake. It happened. Every once in a while I’ll try an anniversary of the Stones playing here. This year I booked The Blushing Brides for the 30th anniversary. It was like half full. Some day it’s going to finally outlive itself.
Christopher Moltisanti played here, for crying out loud, right? Boy, was he pissed. I figured it was a big deal that he was coming here. It’s not like his coming in had anything to do with “The Sopranos,” but I had posters with him as Christopher on “The Sopranos.” I had advertised it. He shows up to load his equipment and sees the posters and rips them all down. He threw a hissy fit. Christ, we sold the show out. The Haiku ended up inviting him and his band there, and they put them in the back and gave them whatever they wanted. When he came back, he had calmed down, and when he was done playing he said it was the best set he has ever played and that the place was fantastic. We had very attentive listeners that night. I would have expected the exact opposite. But the ads and the posters are what got them here.
What is the worst experience you’ve had with a band playing at The Lucky Dog? There’s plenty of them, when they think they’re drawing more people or think they’re getting more. There are times we’ve had guaranteed contracts with a band and we didn’t make it up at the door. We have booze and door receipts to put toward the final night’s bill, that’s it. There’s no food or anything else to put toward the band. There aren’t many places in Worcester where the bathroom is part of the attraction, but here it is. The men’s room is all done with prints from my personal Betty Page collection. It’s all covered in laminate. A lot of people have tried to pry them off. We just redid the ladies room over. I don’t know how many Facebook messages I got saying, “Thank you so much!” The guys are fine with the ladies on the wall. I don’t get it.
Finish this sentence: “I went to the Lucky Dog and all I got was …” The best live entertainment in the city.
Does Worcester need more bars, a larger concert arena or a mid-sized hall? I don’t think they need more bars. I think a lot of the bars are masquerading as live music venues. They have to have the quality. We need maybe a mid-size, maybe another large, but even a place like the Palladium, they’re having a bitch of a time. The DCU, bands will play in Boston and in outdoor venues. I think we’ve got to try to make it happen here, by getting the bands to come to Worcester.
How? I don’t know. I really don’t know.
What is your favorite Flock of Seagulls song? My favorite? Well, there’s “Space Age Love Song” and “Wishing I Had a Photograph of You.” That one is it, “Wishing I Had a Photograph of You.”
Is it a requirement to spray your hair with Aqua Net and wear a skinny tie to a Flock of Assholes show? We always love it when we see people coming out and getting into character and wearing costumes. We encourage it, but we don’t demand it. It just makes the night that much better.
What was your favorite show with The Flock? This is really fresh, but this past Saturday at Sakura Tokyo was just amazing. It was truly one of our favorite shows ever. It was at capacity right when we hit the first note. There was a line out the door. But the restaurant was smart, they served people drinks as they were standing in line in the hallway.
Another sentence to finish: “If I didn’t own a bar I’d …” I would do a couple things. I would try to do more artwork and possibly pursue professional cooking.
OK, so what’s the story with shirts you have for sale? Are those real business names and real people’s names on the front? Yes. They came from a place in Philly. They sell me the blanks with the patches on them. I had a local artist, Derek Ring, design the backside with our logo. We had it printed and screened locally by Brilliant Riot. Thanks to Duncan Arsenault we now have a new website up and running. The shirts will be available online soon.
What is it about The Lucky Dog that keeps people coming back for more? I do think it’s the attention to the live entertainment, but also the attention to details with sound, with the people that work here. It’s friendly and you get a lot for a little.