Fred Cole’s long rise began in late 1979 with the formation of the Rat$. That trio represented the perfect accommodation between Fred and New Wave. His main bands have followed the basic Rat$ formula ever since, through Dead Moon into Pierced Arrows. Playing drums for the Rat$ was Rod Hibbert, a VietNam vet who’d been to a lot of punk shows that year. Rod seemed alright even if he acted a little shy. At least he had his look down. He’d never played drums before but Fred was used to training people from scratch, and hiring greenhorns was still chic. Rod Rat never did figure out how to sound like a regular drummer, but neither did Nick Knox in the Cramps.
Fred’s master stroke was teaching bass to his wife Kathleen, AKA Toody Cole. Girls enhance any band’s punk credibility, but that’s not why Toody mattered. What set the Rat$ apart was the way Fred Cole plowed through life like a homesteader, a 19th-Century throwback who coped easily with challenges because his family was large and strong. Whether it was time to fell some trees or build a house or start another band, Fred could always count on blood kin, or Toody’s brothers, or people like Greg Shadoan, a teen-age runaway the Coles took in and raised until he was big enough to shoulder a bass and join Zipper. I’ve been in half a dozen buildings they’ve raised from the ground, and four or five bands with Fred plus various relatives, and I’m impressed. They’re the closest thing I’ve seen to a genuine urban clan. Fred has relied on all of them, and in some inscrutable way, they’ve all relied on him.