It was decided that the grand gesture we needed to wake up the sleeping assembly masses was a triumphant ride down the assembly hall steps—down, down to the stage, exhaust roaring—hell, flames shooting out of our tailpipes if at all possible—and fists pumping. I had a bike, Peter had a bike…we could do it!
Sadly, Peter (who was always the practical sort), refused to take any part in this madness. His Yamaha 200 already had weak front forks, and his parents wouldn’t allow him to ride it to school anyway. This left me, and I was determined.
The day before the fateful assembly, I drove my bike to school and walked to the top of the steps in the assembly hall. I looked down them, and was suddenly struck by the unacceptably low payoff-to-danger ratio of my concept. But I would ride my bike into the performance—I must! Scouting around the stage area, I noticed a door to the left of the curtain. Sure enough, it led outside, and was just big enough for a gangly 16 year old on a dirt bike.
The big day arrived. Bertie was nervous, Kang was distracted, Ski was high, and Peter was focused on the task at hand. Headmaster Dick “Mass” Eyeington (who was later brutally murdered in Somalia by Al-Qaeda, believe it or not) made a few announcements, and the curtain opened. As it opened, I kickstarted my Yamaha DT 175 into sputtering action, gave the engine a couple of hesitant revs (man was it loud! Am I gonna get in trouble for this?) and engaged first gear.
What I hadn’t anticipated in my 16-year-old rock and roll fantasy was that it’s awfully hard to get to bugs-in-your-teeth, wind-blowing-back-your-hair speeds when the distance from the stage door to the other side of the stage is about 24 feet. And anybody who’s ever ridden a bike will tell you that the first 20 feet—especially if you’re nervous—are the slowest and the wobbliest. So the net effect of my Big Rock Gesture was: Vroom, cough, sputter, click-wobble, roll, idle, waitaminnitIgottaputthekickstanddown and then a degrading walk back over to my side of the stage to don my guitar and switch the amp on. While the rest of the Flunk Punks waited with beads of sweat forming on their noses.
What happened next is lost in the dim recesses of my panicky memory. Kang screwed up his bass part, nobody in the audience got the joke, “Rock and Roll Damnation” kicked ass, and then Peter’s bass drum pedal broke during a laughably un-rockin’ version of “Ice Cream Man.” We occupied ourselves in the post-mortem with conspiracy theories about who might have sabotaged our drum set to ruin our performance. Strangely, I was never singled out for my lunk-headed motorcycling contribution to the fiasco.
My, I seem to have rambled, haven’t I? Do I win a booby prize for longest RTH post ever?
Thanks for letting me relive some treasured memories. One of these days I’ll transcribe the yearbook story I wrote during this era about our band—or, rather, a later incarnation called, uh, “Warhead.”
Hey, I was only 17, man!
UPDATE: PETER HORN CHIMES IN!
I think I was so traumatised by the foot pedal coming off that other memories are overshadowed. So unfortunately I don’t have much to add, but I will check with my brother Martin in the New Year because he probably witnessed the whole debacle!
UPDATE: DAVID “BERTIE” BERTRAM CHIMES IN!
The one thing that I can remember is that we understood the idea of how to get an audience behind you and in order to do this we employed the services of a number of rather rowdy, beautiful, outgoing groupies who went mad in the audience as soon as we appeared. Once they started screaming the rest of the rather skeptical attendees fell into line and screamed and cheered along with them.
I know that there were two separate shows. The first was an assembly and the second was during a ‘talent’ show. I know that during the talent show we were unable to get any sound out of the amps at the time of the rehearsal and (English teacher) Robin Malan who was sort of directing the thing was threatening not to allow us to go on until he had seen what we were going to do. In any case his threats came to naught and we performed an appalling rendition of Johnny B Goode (I still cringe when I hear what it was meant to sound like) – but all things considered it was loud enough and our ‘groupies’ were good enough that we passed the event more or less unscathed. I remember being really depressed at the end of the show and I was backstage having a cigarette and my parents came to find me to congratulate me and to my eternal shame I was very rude to them–but they forgave me as all good rock star parents should forgive their wild ones.
THIS captures the true meaning of Christmas, or rock ‘n roll, or…something. Thanks for sharing during this special time of the year, HVB, and thanks to Peter and David for chiming in with their recollections. The part about the groupies rallying the audience and covering for many of your Rock Sins is a most-important lesson for future generations.
Growing up in the 70’s is often overshadowed by the Peace Love and Flowers of the 60’s, (which I tried to hang onto but was difficult when AC/DC ruled the airwaves) but, we rocked the decade as best we could, and this story sums it up perfectly. THANKS for sharing!……….
Goddamn I love that story.
And to think that I came to know you only a few years after this spectacle/debacle, when you had matured into a complex, sensitive singer and guitarist who would go on to… much greater heights? Is that how to put it?
This is a classic on par with It’s A Wonderful Life and Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special. Thanks for sharing with us, it always brings a smile to my face.
BTW, Mod — you’ll notice I was rockin’ the Rory Gallagher Look with casual ease. That was no coincidence. Rolling my sleeves up to the elbows allowed me to hide my incredibly scrawny, girl-frightening biceps. Now you know why RG means so much to me!
Greatest story ever told. And truest to the real history of rock.
P.S.: I can’t believe that it didn’t occur to the rest of the band to start playing BEFORE you wobbled onto the stage.
Wait, actually, yes I can.
I always get all misty-eyed when I read this.
Wow, Bakshi looks like a young Nick Lowe there. Great story.
I played for 26 years in a band called “The Spontanes” featuring “Harley Hogg and the Rockers” (our alter ego). We always opened with “Born to be Wild” while Bill (sax player) rode his Harley onto the dance floor but not onto the stage (except for Dollywood). Sometimes others would join with their Harleys. I don’t know how people didn’t asphyxiate from the exhaust. It all ended after the tragic “Great White” fire in Rhode Island.
If you’re interested, the Harleys come in at about :50.
That’s quite the endorsement from Percy Sledge. Bravo! I’ve always said, if you’re not having fun with what your playing then what’s the point.
Great story. I’m sure many of us have great war stories to share like that of a guitarists ill-fated decision to stand on a bar table during a climactic solo or 6’5 bassist accidentally putting a hole in the ceiling with his Gibson Thunderbird. Good times…
I played sax briefly in a 1950s revival band during the 1970s. Though we didn’t use motorcycles, our gimmick at the beginning of the show was to roll the lead singer onstage astride a piano.
That’s a good one.
And here’s a little something for you -one of my recent finds -shit hot garage from the Enfields :
Your motorcycle showed up in a dream of mine last night. Further evidence of the great archetypes that your story portrays.
I hope I’m not the only one who wants Pubes’ brother Martin to be nicknamed Merkin.
A true RTH Holiday Classic! Thanks for re-telling it HVB
I like that guitar – has a nice homespun ‘Wonderboy’ quality to it…
This always puts a big smile on my face. Merry Xmas, RTH!
Man, can you write! Thanks for reposting the story!