Rick Berlin has been in the business of making music for nearly four decades and he and former roadie Gene Amoroso have been friends for just as long. Orchestra Luna, Berlin’s first band, gave Amoroso a job in the mid-70s that would irrevocably change the direction of his life.
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It was 1974 and Amoroso had just graduated from Boston College. He was floundering, looking for any path to pique his interest. Amoroso had always been a music fan and even learned how to play several instruments, though he had never achieved proficiency with any of them. Nevertheless, his lack of success did not dampen his enthusiasm for the craft and his desire to work in it.
Always one for discovering new bands, one serendipitous night Amoroso went to Lucy In The Sky — a Brighton nightclub — to see a band called Orchestra Luna, upon the suggestion of a friend. Based on the venue, he was skeptical about the talent of the rock band. But his skepticism gave way to glee when Orchestra Luna began to perform. “From the minute they stepped out, I was captivated by the art of it all, and how unique it was…it blew me away — it was like eating at a restaurant that knocked you out to the point where you had to keep going back to try everything on the menu,” said Amoroso.
He was hooked. Amoroso began attending all of Orchestra Luna’s shows, and eventually befriended the band’s sound technician, Tom Dickie. Dickie recognized Amoroso’s zeal for the band, and gave him an opportunity to turn that passion into a job. “[Dickie] said, ‘Look, you’re here every night anyway, why don’t you just come work for us? We could use the help.’” Amoroso jumped at the opportunity and thus began his career as a roadie, working for five dollars a night.
Although he had to work other jobs — such as delivering newspapers and cleaning houses — to pay his bills, Amoroso was elated be working in music. As Orchestra Luna became more popular, the band added another roadie. Dickie decided to move on and Amoroso was promoted to road manager. He was with the band during the acme of their career: recording their eponymous album Orchestra Luna and performing at Frank Zappa’s 10th anniversary party.
He was also there at the nadir of the band. Four members quit and Orchestra Luna folded. Around this same time, Amoroso’s aspirations started to drift in another direction. It was 1976 and time for him to move on.
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These days, Amoroso works as a website developer. Where his jobs once varied greatly in the music business — assistant to the owner of a label, road manager for The Cars, marketing manager, studio manager and sales representative —he now only has one: a web developer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. And though the years have dulled his memory of the years he spent with Orchestra Luna, they haven’t dulled the lasting impact that period of time has had on his life.
Amoroso once lived his music fantasies vicariously through Orchestra Luna’s triumphs; he now does the same with his son. Amoroso’s son — a sophomore at Berklee College of Music — has started his first serious band and hopes to invoke the spirit of Orchestra Luna in the music they create. Amoroso is as proud of his son as he is of his own past. He says he will always be grateful for the opportunity Rick Berlin and his band gave Amoroso that allowed him to follow his dreams.
“I really look at them not just as a great group of artists that made a lasting impact on me with their art, but for that period in my time, it really changed the course of my life. God knows, I was kind of wandering around in a sea of confusion — they sucked me in and said, ‘There’s a life for you here, kid. Try this.’ I ended up spending a few decades making a living as a result.”
As Amoroso and I parted ways in an empty bar of the Boston Cambridge Marriott Hotel, I shook his hand and thanked him for taking the time to speak with me. He thanked me for the chance to reminisce about a exhilarating time in his life. “…And thanks for keeping the dream alive,” Amoroso said. He turned and walked toward the lobby, and out of my sight.