October 06, 2017

50 years later and still rocking

The Rising Storm reunite for Reunion Weekend
by Rita Savard

Reunions are often marked by nostalgic playlists, but the Class of 1967 got much more this year: a live rock concert by classmates in The Rising Storm who performed songs from their cult-hit album Calm Before.  

Gathered inside Paresky Commons, friends and fans grooved to the music that was penned at Andover 50 years ago and has since become a phenomenon among top critics and serious record collectors alike—an unopened copy of Calm Before commands a present-day price tag of more than $7,000. 

Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Tony Thompson, lead guitarists Bob Cohan and Richard Weinberg, bassist Todd Cohen, keyboardist Charlie Rockwell, and drummer Tom Scheft met in late 1964 and embarked on a relatively innocent journey of putting together a high school band. Dubbing themselves The Rising Storm, the group carved out time to practice every day, even “sneaking into Graves Hall after dark to play music,” recalls Thompson.

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From left: Richard Weinberg, Tom Scheft (drums), Tony Thompson, Bob Cohan, and Charlie Rockwell. Photo by Matt Cosby.

The Rising Storm reunited with the Class of ’67 for a rockin' 50th reunion inside the Mural Room at Paresky Commons. Photo by Matt Cosby.

Dr. Bob Tuttle ’67 cheers on the band. Photo by Matt Cosby.

The band enjoying time together rehearsing in Kittery, Maine. Front row, from left, Tony Thompson, Richard Weinberg, and Tom Scheft, and back row, from left, Charlie Rockwell, Todd Cohen, and Bob Cohan. Photo by Matt Cosby.

The band at Phillips Academy in 1967. From left: Todd Cohen, Tom Scheft, Bob Cohan, Richard Weinberg, Charlie Rockwell, and Tony Thompson.

“We loved the camaraderie,” Thompson says. “We ate our meals together, did everything together—we had a purpose.”

After three years of practice, the band, whose members were all 17, decided to make an album in March of their senior year.

“By that time we had really developed our own style,” Thompson says. “We were just high school students who did this for fun and we were trying to do the very best job we could do with the time we had.”

After making their album the six friends, who never had aspirations of rock star fame, disbanded after graduation. But they stayed in touch over the years—throughout college, careers, and raising families—and made a point to reunite regularly, plug in their amps, and jam.

The band’s 500 copies of Calm Before, never meant for distribution, became a distant memory, says Thompson—until 1982 when a German collector shelled out $400 for an original copy that sold for $3 in 1967. Bootleg copies made in Europe seemed to breathe new life into the music. Soon collectors and critics alike were hailing The Rising Storm’s unique mix of original songs and obscure covers as the crown jewel of ’60s garage band rock. 

We were just high school students who did this for fun.

Decades later, the album’s momentum is still going strong. A film crew accompanied The Rising Storm back to Andover last year for a documentary that is currently in the works, and on Oct. 6. Sundazed Records of Nashville re-released Calm Before on vinyl. While the band is grateful that their music is recognized and appreciated by a whole new generation of fans—their 50th Reunion concert at Andover in June received a write-up in the New York Times) Thompson says the music they made at PA is the force that binds them after all these years.

“We know each other’s families, secrets, the good side and the bad side of each other—we’ve seen it all,” Thompson adds. “So long as we have the ability to reach a consensus and continue to laugh together, I think we’ll go until we can’t go any further.”

Learn more and listen to the band’s music at rising-storm.com.

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