The Police, A Leopard and the Case of the Missing Microphones

There was also a leopard.

September 13, 2018
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The Hullabaloo in Rennselaer, N.Y. was a music club owned and built by a carpenter so its interior was largely unfinished wood. It smelled like a saw mill and in the days of cigarette smoking, you couldn’t help but feel that you were watching music in a tinderbox.

The Hullabaloo had a working relationship with Q104, the first radio station that paid me to work. We played a lot of new music early so The Hullabaloo made some savvy early bookings of Dire Straits, Steve Forbert, Joe Jackson, and some other late 70’s recording artists on their first tours.

There was an expansive second floor green room where bands would hang out with friends of the club and local dj’s. There was also a leopard. The owner had a full grown leopard on a leash. It hung out to the right of the staircase. Everyone who walked up to the second floor nearly had a heart attack when they realized the leopard was real. I walked by that leopard a hundred times and although it seemed pretty docile, it always made me uncomfortable.

The Police released their debut to little fanfare on November 2nd, 1978. A few months later on March 28th 1979, their poorly financed first tour brought them to the lair of the leopard, The Hullabaloo in Rennselaer. Some friends of mine in a band called The Units (Later known as I.R.S. Records act Fear of Strangers) were the opening act.

The incipient buzz in our neck of the woods revolved around a song called “Roxanne.” Slotted in critics’ circles as a punk band, The Police played more like a progressive rock band in punk clothing. Their musicianship was on a much different level than, say, The Dead Boys.

At the end of the show, the band took off for their next destination and Dave, the Hullabaloo sound man, saw me and said “That $#$&! band stole our microphones.”

I didn’t believe him. I mean, come on. They have a record in record stores. They have a recording contract.

“There’s no way the band stole your mics. You're out of your mind. Some druggie probably grabbed them."

Dave was furious. “They stole 'em.”

I just figured that the lax general attitude that allowed people like me to wander into the green room resulted in the wrong person gaining access to some of the club’s equipment.

So imagine my surprise. 35 years later I’m reading an interview with The Police where they confess that they were so destitute on their first tour that they pilfered whatever they could (including microphones) from town to town.

The Hullabaloo is long gone. Reparations are not likely. But there is a lesson here. Always listen to the sound man.

Enjoy our Friday Feature with The Police and John Mellencamp.