God Gave Rock and Roll to You: Part 1 - Restless Youth

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In the year 1998 a small, quiet town in rural North Dakota was the place that I called home. I was about to enter the seventh grade and my life revolved around three things; sports, girls, and church… probably in that order. I spent my days in school, and my evenings either at practice for whatever sport was in season or walking around town consuming vast quantities of Dr. Pepper with my friend Henry. My nights were spent listening to music while reading or drawing.

I had been raised on oldies radio. I used to make mix tapes late at night recording songs off of the local “Good times. Great oldies.” station Cool 96.7. The Jackson 5, the Beatles, the Supremes, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, The Mama’s and the Papa’s, the Temptations and countless others. I knew hundreds of songs by heart. My dad used to play Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album every time we drove to visit my grandparents in Linton, North Dakota. I can still sing every word to every song from that album. He also had a “greatest folk hits of the 60’s” tape with such classics as “Green Green”, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”, and “Little Boxes On The Hillside”. It was all great music and I embraced it.

I had learned to play along with “Jailhouse Rock” on my first drum set as a sixth grader…  But now I was a seventh grader. I was a teenager. I knew everything, mom and dad knew nothing. I was coming into my own and I wanted to move that dial on my radio a couple of clicks to the right. I wanted “Q98”… I wanted hard rock.

At some point during that year it happened. The dial shifted ever so slightly, and the frequency which had so faithfully remained tuned to “Dave’s Diner” at 96.7 locked in to “Scotch and Dewey In The Morning” at 98.7. Who would have ever guessed that two completely different worlds could exist so very close together? It may be the perfect analogy for the move from childhood to adolescence.

Gone were Simon and Garfunkel. I became immersed in the sounds of Metallica, Green Day, Rage Against the Machine, the Offspring, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Bush, Korn, Nirvana and other such angst-filled musical fair much to my delight… and my mother’s chagrin. I recall being grounded for a week when my folks found a copy of Ozzy Osbourne’s greatest hits album hidden in my bedroom. Then there was the time I was grounded for 2 weeks when Henry and I got caught trying to smuggle some of our “devil music” in a pizza box out to the shed we were painting for my dad.  These incidents and others did nothing but fuel the fires of what I thought of as my “new-found passion for the creative arts”… which my parents so crudely referred to as my “total embrace of the hormonally-imbalanced and irrationally-rebellious teenage lifestyle”.

Notice the acne within the unibrow.

Talk started of forming a band. Henry had just picked up the guitar as had our friend/local musical prodigy Lenny B. We got together for some jam sessions. The excitement was total as we hauled our gear up the steps to Henry’s attic bedroom. For some reason we taped a poster of a scantily-clad Jenny McCarthy to the front of my bass drum. There was just something rebellious and rock-and-roll about it. Somehow it added to the whole aura of the experience. We started rocking out and were totally stoked. We really had no idea what we were doing, we just jammed.  In retrospect we totally sucked. But at the time it was epic.

Our first jam session was also quite memorable for the reason that it ended. We had been playing for an hour or so when all of a sudden we thought it would be cool to add some mood lighting. Henry went over to turn on his lamp only to realize that it was burnt out. He ran to get a new light bulb and upon his return began to remove the old one from the socket. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, I just remember hearing a blood-curdling shriek and seeing a bright blue electric flash. We turned around to find Henry getting up off the floor holding his hand and repeatedly muttering a certain choice “F” gerund under his breath. We quickly learned two valuable lessons. The first being; “Don’t stick your finger in a light socket”. The second (and probably more important of the two) being; “Always be prepared to load out in a hurry”. To this day that may have been the fastest I have ever packed up my gear and hit the road. For some reason we just didn’t want to be around when Henry’s folks got home…


A little something for your listening pleasure from Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ album. Seriously great song.