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Extremism Is No Vice for NRBQ : Pop music: The band, playing at Coach House tonight, is eclectic mix of musicians who have worked in obscurity for more than two decades despite grueling tour schedule.


As a treat for some fans, 1,000 copies of "Honest Dollar" have been randomly packed with dollar bills individually signed by all the band members, a process Ardolino wouldn't especially care to repeat.

The band members used to share a house, but now all live scattered in different states, a possible reaction to so much time spent together on the road. Ardolino seems not even to have a fixed abode, staying sometimes with a girlfriend in New Orleans, sometimes in the Washington, D.C., area and sometimes with his parents in Springfield, which is also where his record collection resides.

In his scant time off the road, Ardolino has compiled one of the strangest reissue projects ever waxed, titled "The Beat of the Traps."

"Remember those ads in the back of tacky magazines that read, 'Hit song-makers need your lyrics? We'll put them to music and you could be a millionaire!' You'd write to the company and it turned out that if you wanted them to record your song you'd have to pay them. They'd press a few up and send them to you.

"Well, I collect those. I always look for them in thrift stores. It's some of the sickest stuff you ever heard. But sometimes it's just beautiful, because no one really knows what they're doing and the way it turns out is just great. So I put this album of them together, and I can't believe it. It's getting great reviews. I'm working on Volume 2 right now."

While NRBQ may be scarcely more known to the public than those would-be kitchen lyricists, they don't want for famous fans, which led to a dream come true for Ardolino. Along with such folks as Raitt, R.E.M. and Dave Edmunds, members of Paul McCartney's band are also big NRBQ fans, and flew the group to Chicago to see the last show of McCartney's 1990 U.S. tour.

Ardolino, a big-time Beatles fan, said, "They were having this party. I just went to this little table on the side and was sitting there, and suddenly Paul and Linda come and sit there and we just started talking, and they were so nice and real. I have these good Beatle dreams, you know, about once every three months, and this was just like one of those. I think that was the best day of my life."

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