Having Reformed the Del-Lords For An Album & Tour, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel Recalls The Band’s Classic Videos

Having Reformed the Del-Lords For An Album & Tour, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel Recalls The Band’s Classic Videos


Eric “Roscoe” Ambel lives the dream of many an East Village musician — he is the musical factotum with credibility to spare. Having established himself as a pre-eminent record producer for everyone from the Bottle Rockets to Nils Lofgren, he has also performed lead guitar duties in Steve Earles’ Dukes and was one of Joan Jett’s original Blackhearts. He is also founding member of the ad hoc supergroup the Yayhoos and records his solo albums and other bands in his Cowboy Technical Services studio, a 24-track studio he owns in Brooklyn. He ran the legendary Lakeside Lounge until its closing this year, and reformed his iconic 80s roots-rock band the Del-Lords. They put out an album, and the band is touring across America with a gig in NYC on October 10th at Sullivan Hall just prior to heading to Europe for more live dates.

The Del-Lords today with Eric "Roscoe" Ambel second from right. No, YOUR right.

The Del-Lords today with Eric “Roscoe” Ambel second from right. No, YOUR right.

We talked with Roscoe about the three MTV-era music videos he made with the Del-Lords, and learned some interesting things about Lou Reed on the way. Read on.

GAMV: What do you remember about shooting “How Can A Man…” It has an interesting prologue. Who’s idea was that, and where was it shot?

EA: The “Poor Man” video was shot on a soundstage in California. At the time, we were on EMI records and they found us a director and the whole crew. The audio for the video was re-mixed by Joe Chiccarelli at Capitol Records. It was pretty much a crazy thing with us filming for hours and hours, way more than 16 hours. The actor guy was a real old New York guy. He was great and had been on “All In the Family” and some other shows. That was all the director’s idea, as I remember. It was a very odd process that took forever, they had smoke machines going the whole time that stunk like oil and they are putting make-up on you. It was a learning thing, as in we learned we didn’t want to make a video like that again. But the good part it was out in the earlier times of MTV and we did get a lot of plays for the thing. That clip of Manny and I getting interviewed at MTV’s studios w Martha Quinn was a real hoot. (see clip below)

GAMV: “Heaven” was a video off the next record. That has some amazing shots of 1980s New York. What do you remember, and where were the live gig parts shot?

EA: This video was a lot more fun. The record company suggested this 2 woman team of Tamara Davis and Sally Norvell to film the video. We had them stay with us for 3 days worth of gigs and just film a lot of stuff. It was much more natural for us to perform/show off for these two very good-looking blondes from Texas behind the cameras. We had a gig at the Ritz, a gig at the Stone Pony in Jersey, and then we set up a gig at the now gone Tompkins Park Bandshell where we got a lot of our friends to play also. It was a very good experience as videos go. Sally Norvell played in the band Congo Norvell with Kid Congo Powers and Tamara Davis’ next video was for Tone Loc. She got very famous after that.

GAMV: “Judas Kiss” is great. How’d Lou Reed get on board for the video, and who was the girl?

EA: The Del-Lords did several months of touring with Lou Reed on his Mistrial tour. We had a good time with him and his band. Lou seemed to like us for all of our New York-ness and all. He especially liked our sort of doo-wop version of Springsteen’s “Johnny 99”. When it came time to do this video, we asked him and he was happy to join us. At the time I was living with my buddy Jack Boy Smead on 11th Street between Avenue A and B. Most of the shots are filmed there on that block, in Jack’s pad and on the roof of Jack’s building. The live band stuff was done in a warehouse in Williamsburg. 11th Street between A & B looks a hell of a lot different now, that’s for sure. Pat Benatar is singing on the chorus, but the real featured female vocal on the record is Syd Straw. The song’s lyrics are pretty sad and the “girl” is seen going downhill in the video. We didn’t know the girl. She was ‘cast’ in the video. There was some pretty funny stuff on that video though. Probably the funniest was showing Lou around Jack’s pad. When he saw all my guitars hanging in my bedroom he had to play them all. Lou is a real gear nut. When he got to my red Telecaster with the Parsons-White B-Bender, that really threw him. He played that thing for quite a while trying to figure it out. A lot get said about Lou’s music and the music of the Velvets but when I’ve heard him just play guitar the take away for me has always been that this is a guy who was totally knocked out by the Rolling Stones record “Brown Sugar”. It seems like he’s always trying to re-create “Brown Sugar”. I tried to show him the proper way to play it with the open G tuning. He couldn’t wrap his head around that. For all of Lou Reed’s dark songs, that is a guy who really enjoys a gut-splitting, knee-slapping laugh. Seeing Lou Reed laugh is one of the most incongruous things I’ve ever witnessed.

Find out more about the Del-Lords upcoming gigs here.