Thursday, September 29, 2005

My Happiest Moment In The Subway

(Note to aspiring writers: The first sentence of this piece is what is known as a "compelling lead". It promises excitement and adventure. It entices the reader to begin, assuring a superb return for his or her investment of time. You should always use something similar in your own stories.)


This may turn out to be the most dreadfully boring thing ever written, but I'm going to write it anyway.

When I was 17, I was in a band. The name of the band was World's End, which should give you some idea of the type of music we played. Think Black Sabbath, but not quite as cheery. And when I say "music we played", that's a bit of poetic license. You might want to read that as "re-creation of the sound of a burlap bag full of cats being hit with a baseball bat which we inflicted upon the general public while calling it music".

The band had five members, two of whom were drummers. That's right - five guys and we had two drummers. Make that a burlap bag full of cats being hit with two baseball bats. The only guy in the band who could really play was one of these drummers. I'm not going to say which one, since the other drummer might be reading this and I wouldn't want to hurt his feelings. However, the good drummer died many years ago, so that sort of gives it away.

We thought we were THE NEXT BIG THING!, but we sucked harder than a Hoover factory. The guitarist had one asset - a wonderful cherry-red Gibson Les Paul. However, never in the history of music has such a beautiful instrument been made to produce such god-awful noise. This guitarist sometimes played with both a slide and a wah-wah pedal. When he did so, the result was... well, imagine a fire engine whose siren has had a potato jammed into it. The band included four different bass players during its run, and they encompassed the full range from competent to uninspired. And then there was me. I was the singer/keyboardist and I was the worst of the lot.

I'll give you some idea of how dedicated I was to my craft. We practiced once a week - if everybody wasn't doing something else important like going to a movie. Since I lived in Dorchester, and rehearsals were in Malden, and my keyboard weighed about 60 pounds, between rehearsals I usually left my keyboard at the house of the two guys who lived in Everett. This is why I am now a bass player.

The two guys who lived in Everett went to Malden Catholic High School, which was actually just a couple of blocks from their house. Somehow, they convinced the school to let us use one of the classrooms as our rehearsal space. We'd go there on Saturday morning, set up, and proceed to annoy the hell out of the neighbors for two or three hours. Then came the highlight of our rehearsals. That was the break, when we would smoke a bone and go to Papa Gino's to gorge ourselves on pizza.

(I am still amazed at how much food I was able to put away in those days, stoned or not. I'd order a large pizza for myself and accompany it with a plate of pasta with meat sauce. And bread and butter. And a couple of large Sprites. I weighed about 145 then. And I stayed that way well into my 20's. Now I weigh 190 or so and two slices makes me feel like I swallowed a small anvil. Whuhthefuh?!? However, I digress.)

After pizza, we'd go back to the school and listen to the tapes of what we'd practiced during the first part of rehearsal. This was so we could all yell at Duane, who was the guitarist. "For God's sakes, Duane, we've got two drummers but you can't hear anything except the guitar. You've got to turn it down a bit." To which Duane would reply, "Huh?"

We actually played quite a few gigs - high school dances and whatnot. How we got these gigs is still a mystery to me. I was never one for the business end of things. I was too busy believing I was a rock star. After all, I was the singer and I wrote the lyrics to our original tunes. Here's the first stanza of "World's End", from which we cleverly took the name of the band:

Now the time has come
World's become undone
Fire rains down and there is hell all around
Powers above black out the sun
Split into trillions of crystals
Heat rising from the core
Man is burning - Burnt away!
The Earth is no more!

I was full of all kinds of bright sunshiny thoughts in those days.

I can only recall two or three gigs where we didn't either get stuff thrown at us or otherwise hear the (righteous) wrath of the crowd. One was our first show ever, at Brookline High, April 26th, 1974. I've still got a ticket from that dance at home somewhere. It says, "Come Dance To The World's End!", which was also on the posters advertising our appearance. Amazingly enough, this blurb drew a crowd of 400 or so. This was the early 70's, though, and anybody heavy enough to contemplate death in their music was, like, profound, man!.

I know how we got that job. I was sleeping with the girl who booked the bands for dances. She fancied herself a singer. In exchange for booking us, she got to sing on one of our songs. That was fine. We were both using each other for our mutual benefit. I think the band got paid something like $60, split 5 ways. And four of us had to pitch in for Duane's gasoline, since we hauled all the equipment in his dad's station wagon.

We opened with an original tune called "Feed Your Head". Can you guess what that one was about? I bet you can! Aside from the originals, we did whole bunches of really bad covers. Mostly Clapton and Allman Brothers, for some reason. It didn't really matter who the songs were by, though, as they never sounded anything like the originals when we finished with them. If we didn't announce beforehand which song was coming up, for all anyone knew it was another one of our own compositions.

Despite the execrable nature of our performances, I truly believed that we'd get a recording contract. How we were going to get it, I don't know. Looking back, I think we would have had to have mugged a real band.

I vividly recall another night when we played at a high school in Malden. After the first band finished their set (yes, we were the headliners...) we took the stage. About halfway into our second song, a lit cigarette flew past my head. Then another one. Then a beer bottle hit Chuck's bass drum. I calmly took charge of the situation. I made motions to the guys to stop playing. I grabbed the mic and said, "Alright, you cocksuckers, that's enough. You want to fuck with me? I'll kick all your asses!"

That's what being (or thinking you are) a rock star will do to you. You weigh 150 or so soaking wet, but you truly insanely believe that you are the center of the universe and you can fight an auditorium full of drunken football players and gang members. Thankfully, there was a police detail on duty. As soon as the word "cocksuckers" was out of my mouth, the two officers had stepped in front of the stage and they then literally stopped the crowd from charging and killing us. They dispersed the angry mob and made us wait for close to three hours inside the auditorium before they thought it was safe enough for us to pack up our equipment into Duane's dad's car. Meanwhile, I fumed the whole time because my genius wasn't appreciated. I don't think I even said "Thanks!" to the cops. What a friggin' dope I was.

Hmmmmm. It doesn't appear that I'm getting anywhere close to the title of this piece, eh? Well, I will, but it will have to be later. I've got a buttload of work to do and I can't waste any more time reminiscing about my idiotic youth. See you soon!

Go to Part Two for more of my adventures in teenage wasteland.


Lyn said...

Thanks for the heads up regarding your post (at the Carnival of Comedy - ) I have to admit, I skipped the couple of paragraphs where you dropped the f-bomb :-) so will put a PG-13 rating on your entry. (Admit it, you skim read too!)
Have a great week and thanks for visiting the Land of Ahhhs! lp's weblog - for bloggin outloud

miriam said...

A good story.

Actually, the song you wrote wasn't too bad, if you like gloomy.