In the tiny high school that Andyr and I attended, there was a guy name Chris who was 1 year ahead of us. Chris emerged, around 1979, as our high school’s primo rock hero. Word had been getting around that the loner with the long, stringy blond hair and army jacket was an amazing guitarist. A handful of those much cooler than Andyr and I had already seen his Southern Rock-style band play a party. As his band’s upcoming school assembly concert approached, the word on the street was universal.
“Amazing!” said the guy in our school who could play the unaccompanied guitar solo in Led Zeppelin‘s “Heartbreaker.”
“Amazing!” said the other guy in our school who could play the unaccompanied guitar solo in Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker.”
“Amazing!” said the guy who played flute and styled his Look after that of Ian Anderson.
“Amazing!” said the big asshole in Chris’ grade who could drum a little and who was beloved by the cool kids for god knows what reason.
“Amazing!” said the hippie girl I’d occasionally realize I had a little crush on.
The big day finally came and the Southern Rock-style band led by Chris and his Hammond organ-playing brother (who went to another school) really were amazing. Although they played a combination of Southern Rock classics and Southern-fried originals, music that I’d happily avoid listening to under usual circumstances, this band could really play, both individually and as a unit. They ended their set with a note-for-note cover of “Whipping Post,” a song I couldn’t stand when done by the Allman Brothers but a performance, on this day, that dazzled me as done by this silent loner in the army jacket and his long-haired, accomplished, teenage bandmates.
Even after establishing himself the unparalelled rock hero of our little school, Chris finished out his high school years in his private sphere, wearing that same army jacket. My music friends and I heard reports of his inroads into a professional music career. Any time his name came up in conversation the word “amazing” was sure to be spoken. A few years later, as he and his bandmates made their way deeper into the Philadelphia music scene, they fell under the management of the same guy who took The Hooters to national success, Then they got ’80s haircuts, wore slick clothes, and changed their band name. They no longer looked and sounded like Southern Rockers. It was disappointing, but I guess that was a reasonable way to go if you wanted to make it as a bigtime rock musician with a bigtime rock music manager in the mid-80s.
To this day I think this guy Chris is still making music and helping others make music as a producer and sideman. I’d love to track him down and see what he’s learned from the journey. I wonder how he feels about “Whipping Post” today. Man, you could tell he and his mates loved playing that song!
Did your high school have its own rock hero or heroes, a kid or an entire band that was way ahead in their rock development? Was it you? Don’t be shy. Did you ever keep tabs on these high school heroes?
Mine was Brian Setzer. During high school, he hated Rock and preferred Prog bands, ironic considering he made his bones playing Rockabilly. He once won a battle of the bands playing Lark Tongues In Aspic, Pt 2. Though a major asshole, he’s still one of the finest guitarists I’ve ever come across.
Wow, a full-blown Prog background for Setzer! Who would have guessed, although I believe his punk-era band (I’m blanking on their name at the moment) had Roxy Music leanings, right? That’s a great high school rock hero story, snuh. Thanks for sharing.
Amazing! The band’s name that Mr Mod was referring to was “Cyd” – get it, huh?
Here is what I could find about Chris on the internets
“Chris is an accomplished songwriter, recording engineer and producer. He wrote several country hits for Clay Walker, and after a songwriting career in Nashville, went on to open his own recording studio in Pennsylvania. Chris spends his time engineering and producing current and upcoming recording artists in Nashville, Tennessee and London, England, as well as in his PA studio.”
Very cool, Andyr. Thanks for the research. I’ve been trying to track this schoolmate down.
Bloodless Pharoahs is the name of the earlier Setzer band that I couldn’t remember a few minutes ago, right?
Mr. Mod, the Bloodless Pharoahs was the name of Brian Setzer’s early band.
The closest thing that I have to a High School Rock Hero was a substitute teacher who was in a New Wave band called the Upstarts that put out a 45 and a 12 inch EP & participated in the WBCN Battle of the Bands. He’s now in real estate & I still see him occasionally.
One of my many regrets in high school is that I didn’t get a band together w/my friend John, who looked like a combination of Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust w/Jagger lips. He would have made a great front man. I think the band would have been like the New York Dolls, making an inspired racket while confusing & confounding the rest of my high school.
I’ll avoid re-telling the story about my band making its triumphant entrance into school assembly… on motorcycles!… and instead go back four or five years to junior high, and focus on an older kid whose name I don’t remember, but who played guitar — a *stratocaster*; I mean a *real* one — and who brought his amp and strat in to school one day to demonstrate the scientific principle of the feedback loop. He and Chris Peters’ older brother (whose name I also don’t remember) had a band that we all thought was amazing. Well, we thought the fact that they *had* a band was amazing. Supposedly they actually played, you know, *shows*, opening up for local Costa Rican prog rockers “Dracula” and others. (That’s pronounced “drah-KOOL-ah,” which makes the name even funnier.)
My buddy Bryan idolized this guy, going so far as to imitate his lantern-jawed, look-you-in-the-eye confidence which, it must be said, was mated to a down-to-Earth, friendliness we all appreciated, being four years younger than the guy.
His bandmate — Chris Peters’ older brother (CPOB) — in contrast, was an asshole smart-aleck “older kid” with an acne problem and teardrop sunglasses who *still* managed to score the ace poon in the school — that being turbo-hottie Chris Bickford, who we were sure was actually doing, you know, *it* with the guy. All because he was in a band! Rumor had it that Bickford had gotten caught in flagrante delicto with CPOB, and we were all appalled and jealous at the same time. (This was a school where most of the kids were missionary brats.)
Anyhow, though I was not in a band at the time, I feel like I got the best action out of that whole scene, as I get to treasure the memory of my interminable slow-dance with Chris Bickford’s buck-toothed, but prematurely chesty, sister Diane. But that’s another story worthy of a thread or two. Young and innocent days!
I believe Bryan’s guitar idol went on to become some kind of hot-shot biochemist or something — which probably means he had Kentonite leanings when it came to music, though I was much too young to appreciate that at the time.
I seem to have rambled.
I’d like to read the motorcycle entrance story.
No real rock musical talent at my high school. I think the best we ever had was a couple of guys who played an admittedly decent version of “Paradise City” at some assembly, but I remember being disappointed because nobody blew a whistle at that part in the opening when they blow the whistle. Come on, the whistle is the best part.
I’ll try to find that motorcycle story in the Comments from an old post. Maybe Hrrundi has an idea when he wrote up that story. It’s awesome.
For those of you not sure if your own high school rock hero merits mention here after snuh probably blew us away with his Setzer story, don’t worry: if this person was a high school rock hero to you at that time, he or she or they are worth reporting here. It may be the first props they’ve gotten for that old dream in years.
I tracked down my sad motorcycle story in the archives. Here it is for those who didn’t get to read it the first time ’round:
Many of you already know that I went to high school in Africa, in a small mountain kingdom called Swaziland. Swaziland was a wonderful place to be a teenager for all kinds of reasons — wide open spaces, little in the way of “rules” (though the everybody-knows-your-parents-personally Mayberry vibe of the place kept things healthily in check), no real way to fuck yourself up other than booze and some godalmightyblowyourheadoff pot, and… motorcycles. *Everybody* in the 16-18 age group had a bike of some size and shape, though almost all were off-road or dual-purpose jobbies.
The off-road capabilities of these bikes were very important, as Swaziland didn’t have too many roads back then. Plus, the preferred method of driving out into the countryside to get loaded was to organize a caravan of dirt bikes, with one of us borrowing a pickup truck (a “bakkie,” borrowing from nearby South African slang) to actually transport the crates of Castle Lager required to achieve the desired effect.
But I digress. (Ah, sweet memories! Strange that I’ve forgotten the skull-crushing hangovers, and ommitted the stories about Adam Elliott pissing all over my bike in a fit of drunken pique about something, or Goff Haw waking up with his head on a vomit-encrusted pillow, moaning woefully, “I’m swimming in puuuuuuke!”)
The point here is that I may be the only RTHer who ever actually pulled a Rob Halford move on the rock stage.
See, as a pimply-faced 16 year-old, I managed to bring together four or five of my closest music-loving friends to form a band. The cast of characters was an odd one, by virtue of the fact that there just weren’t very many people to choose from. Nobody could afford to be a member of a “subculture,” since we had trouble enough finding a roomful of people to agree on a culture to begin with. There was Peter “Pubes” Horn (drums) — five feet tall and so upset about his height that he grew a five-inch pile of hair on the top of his head; Alan Kang (bass), budding computer genius who mooned hopelessly after school hottie Dawn Sherper; Richard “Ski” Zwierczowski (piano), who smoked so much dope that his hair *and* his teeth turned orange; David “Bertie” Bertram (vocals), who once famously totalled his mom’s Citroen in a drunken stupor, then polled the dudes in the back seat as to whether they preferred to go home or haul the unbroken bottles of beer back to his house for a party; and, of course, me (guitar). I suppose my claim to fame in this bunch was that I was the jive talker, the guy who usually got us into trouble and was the first to talk his way out of it. Thus, I was occasionally known as “Con.”
Together, this band of losers was known as, uh… well, when we played school assembly, we were called, um, the Flunk Punks. Hey, we were 16, and living in Africa, for fuck’s sake! We didn’t know from cool!
Anyhow, the school assembly gig was fast approaching, and we were in conceptual disarray, as always. Bertie, who eventually went on to join the Merchant Marines and now works for a shipping concern in Durban, was concerned about his Look, and dubious about the jumpsuit we urged him to wear as frontman. Kang, who eventually *did* become a computer genius, and now teaches the subject in university somewhere, was apparently genetically incapable of being funky. Kang’s job was to lull the audience into thinking we were going to play one of the school favorites of the day, “Another One Bites the Dust,” after 30 seconds of which the rest of the band would roar into our stirring, proto-rockist anthem, “Disco Is Dead!” (c) Bertie/Con Music, Inc. Unfortunately, whenever Kang played *anything* on the bass without a band behind him, it came out in 3/4 time. Imagine the opening bass notes to “Another One Bites the Dust” played as a waltz, and you’ll get the idea. Ski, who, I think, eventually went crazy, had just discovered the wonders of “jimson weed,” some kind of naturally ocurring hallucinogen, and refused to play anything other than AC/DC songs. He could not be budged on this point, so we had to add “Rock and Roll Damnation” to our set list to appease him. He agreed to sit at the piano and appear bandly during the other numbers, though he would not play. Peter, who eventually grew up to be a six-foot accountant, was impatient. And I, who eventually grew up to be an underemployed composer for film and TV, needed to come up with some kind of galvanizing focus for this impending disaster.
Enter the motorcycle.
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, Pubes 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 confused, 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 metting 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!
04/20/07 @ 11:21
Hrrundi, you’ve locked up RTH’s Flashback Comment of the Year. Thanks!
The telling of the motorcycle story should become an annual RTH holiday tradition. I get all misty-eyed thinking about it.
I’ll second that suggestion, BigSteve. It can be our Alice’s Restaurant.
That’s fantastic. I wish I could claim to have been in a band with a guy named Peter “Pubes” Horn.
Hrrundi, that was GREAT. It was just GREAT. If there’s a word to describe that story, I think “GREAT” would be that word.
I’m glad you re-shared this It’s a great story.
There are actually a lot of talented musicians in my school, currently (and, armed with my trusty new Tascam 8-track recorder, i consider myself one of them!). Though, there has yet to be a definingly awesome moment.
There has been a definingly awful moment though, which i’m sad to have missed. There was an open mic at a school last year, and several kids decided to form a supergroup (there were like, six guitarists), and play Sweet Child of Mine. They didn’t really have time to rehearse, and so when they performed, each guitarist was out of tune with each other, the bassist could not be heard, and the singer / pot dealer numero uno sang in full falsetto for the duration of the performance.
It pretty much made them a laughingstock, and the very shy, socially awkward drummer was so embarassed, that he gave up on the instrument, and hasn’t played since.
God, i can’t wait until I’m old enough for the medical condition known as nostolgia. it sounds so neat.
hissingfauna, I can tell you that nostalgia is *awesome*. Seriously, it’ll change your life. Just remember: whatever doesn’t kill you gives you stories to tell.
That performance sounds perfectly dreadful and wonderful at the same time. My first-ever live rock performance featured me and my buddy Adam on guitar, no bassist, and Peter on drums, performing an extremely inept *instrumental* cover of “Back In Black.” I’m surprised I ever played again. Yeesh! I remember cutie-pie Melissa Opie being in the audience; I was so hoping it would impress her. Maybe that’s why I never got to second base with that chick. Man, did I have a crush on her.
Our first ever gig, way so long ago, was a Very Special Arts thing that my bandmate’s wife was a part of. You know how we got the gig. It was a great cause and took place at a local junior college.
Needless to say, we were dreadfully under-rehearsed. My bandmate, Danny, had run through about 7 or 8 originals and we knew about 4 or 5 easy three-chord covers. Our drummer, Rusty, didn’t feel the need for rehearsal. He would simply show up to the gig and wing it. While I had complete faith in Rusty’s abilities on the throne, I also knew that Danny writes lyrics to meter (I just “shoehorn” lyrics rhythmically into whatever bar ad time of the song I’m writing.). In other words, there may be a 3/4 bar stuck in the middle of a verse. Danny was apprehensive about our drummer situation. I just blew it off and assured him that it was all okay.
After we set everything up and was about to lauch into the opener, I looked at Danny and asked, “What note does this start on, again?” I thought it was funny, but I’m really lucky to have made it out alive.
Auspicious beginnings for a couple of guys that are still making music.
Not nearly as funny or great as motorcycles or the guitar orchestra, but certainly nostalgic.
We had no rock stars at Pearl, but I always thought we should have had a group called Pearl Jam. Rusty, our “drummer”, played in a cover band called The Disco Mofos. They played “Wherever I May Roam” at a pep rally. Rusty didn’t rehearse with them either.
Danny, however, did go to school with The North Mississippi Allstars, but I wouldn’t say those guys were exactly “academic.” I guess being Jim Dickinson’s kids and growing around Alex Chilton and the like can have that sort of influence. One of their early bands was called DDT and they played quite a bit around Memphis before gaining glory as The Allstars.
This reminds me of our Townspeople’s backgrounds and ages. My high school rock band jammed on Metallica. Fauna’s classmates were rocking the G n R. Hrrundi played AC/DC. I’m bringing this up because I am reminded of a story I heard about the young Dickinsons and their early musical careers.
Nowadays, they seem to have made a name for themselves by carrying on the mantle of Daddy Jim. Those kids had the luxury of growing up and being exposed to some serious legends in the Memphis music scene. But before all that, they played music in a band that sounded like The Red Hot Chili Peppers and grunge music. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there was probably no way those guys were going to gain any respect with their peers by playing R. L. Burnside. No matter what your exposed to, when you’re in high school, you’re very likely to just sound like a mishmash of the rockin’ hits of the day.
Sorry for being so rambling there…