Rock ‘n’ Roll Memories
When I was in my twenties, I played in a rock band. I sang, played guitar and wrote all the songs. I took the band very seriously, as did every other member. There were plenty of shows where band members outnumbered audience members, especially in the early days, but we had many great shows, too. The drummer and I have been playing together recently after a few years off, and talk of possibly playing shows again is bringing up memories. Here are a few.
- I remember when my band played my college while I was a student there. It was our first show ever. I remember being so nervous right before going on that I felt I could not control my limbs. When we got onstage and I looked out at everyone looking back at me, an odd calm covered me, and we played just fine. The next few weeks at school were a bit uncomfortable. People I did not know suddenly knew me, and I was constantly stopped in the halls with questions and congratulations. I noticed my band’s name written in marker on girls’ Converse Hightop sneakers. That was cool, but then there were a lot of people I did not know who suddenly hated me. I got shoved frequently. I got a football thrown at me. My car got scratched. I much preferred being invisible.
- After my band released our first CD, we were doing well in the local clubs and could count on a good amount of people we did not know to show up. Then we took some time off to record our second CD. During our performance hiatus, I received a phone call from some girl I did not know, crying on the phone, telling me that my band meant everything to her, begging us to play again. I was not flattered; I was creeped out. I kept thinking, “Next time, we have to use a PO Box instead of my phone number on the CD.”
- After my band released our second CD, it did OK on the national college charts. We started playing tours up and down the East Coast. I remember playing CBGB and looking out into the crowd and seeing three rather attractive girls I did not know each wearing my band’s T-Shirt. I strolled over to them after our set, feeling at that moment every bit like a rock God, bestowing his presence upon his followers. Then one of them said to me, “You look much better when you’re singing.” Thud! Back to Earth!
- One time, my band played an outdoor gig with Sophie B. Hawkins. (She mentions The Rolling Stones in one song, so I always liked her for that.) I remember sitting on stage behind her on a milk-crate during her set (I always do that when I can), watching her play. She was barefoot and had dirty feet and sweaty underarms and had the crowd in the palm of her hands. All I kept thinking was, “She’s fooled around with Madonna.” She was very nice when we chatted backstage after, but she was a bit ripe. (I probably was, too!) I remember that during that show I played guitar with another female singer that did a cover of “You Shook Me All Night Long.” I was drafted to play the guitar solo. I remember standing there on stage during the song, feeling like a moron until the solo. Was I supposed to dance or something?
- During one tour, we found ourselves onstage at The University of Pennsylvania playing an outdoor gig for Amnesty International. It was a beautiful late spring evening. Stars peppered the sky. I could see my breath as I sang. Before the last song, receding adrenaline and lack of sleep suddenly hit me. As the bass player played the song’s opening repeating pattern, I closed my eyes and involuntarily tilted my head back, spread my arms and swayed back and forth. My mind was a million miles away. I was lost in a moment of peace and over-exhaustion. During that time, I was not on stage, I was completely alone. After a while, I slowly opened my eyes and let my surroundings back in. Everyone I could see had their head back, their arms spread, and was swaying back and forth. My private withdrawal was being mimicked. I freaked out. I felt like everyone had read my thoughts. I blew all the lyrics, fumbled through the guitar solo, and left the stage. Later, backstage, I sat slouched in a corner on a chair. I saw the bass player push through the crowd straight toward me. He leaned down and said, “If you make me play that intro for that long again, you’ll have to have a bass removed from your ass,” and started laughing. I started laughing, too. Ah, rock ‘n’ roll.