By David Caolo
My high school garage band was so bad they tore down the garage.
We landed zero gigs, except for that time we played a jr. high school auditorium. Which was empty. There were no followers or fans.
And it was the most fun I’ve ever had.
My friends and I formed a rock band when we were in ninth grade. I had an old set of Ludwig drums that I bought with my paper route money at thirteen. I couldn’t tune them, and my first private instructor—a long-haired thirty-something who I thought was the personification of cool but eventually stopped giving lessons after getting stabbed in a bar fight—couldn’t either.
Instead, he taught me to tighten the heads until they were “good enough,” and then apply weather stripping to the underside of each one to stop all that pesky vibration. The bottom head we cut with scissors. For you non-drummers, that’s not the textbook way of doing it. Each stroke with the drumsticks produced a dreadful WUNK that was not unlike striking an empty oil truck with a rubber mallet.
Our singer, Don, had a booming baritone voice which was completely unsuited for the Journey, Sammy Hagar and Van Halen songs we liked to play. Imagine Johnny Cash singing “Separate Ways” and you’ve got the idea.
Mike, the guitarist, was the best looking and solely responsible for the two or three girls who showed up to our rehearsals. Kelley, who would eventually become Mike’s wife, was interested in Mike. The others had succumbed to a morbid curiosity about what types of horrific acts would produce the sounds we were making.
But those horrific acts and dreadful sounds gave way to magic. After many months of playing together, brief flashes of brilliance began to happen. We’d end a song in perfect unison. Pow, done. Same note, same instant. Eyes met. Smiles appeared.
That felt good.
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