Are you still awake? Sweet Dio’s crucifix, I started rambling about junior high school nine months ago and you have sat there the whole time, patiently staring at my record collection while I jabbered. Your butt must be numb and your legs asleep.
But listen, before we put junior high school behind us I want to mention a few songs that didn’t make the cut. There just wasn’t enough story behind them; regardless, they were meaningful to junior high me and I would feel bad if I didn’t give them a shout out. Here they are in no particular order:
“Wasted,” Def Leppard: I introduced a kid named Chris back in #40 (http://wp.me/p1caRd-bu) whom I expected to become a fairly significant character. His good traits were a significant influence on me, and his bad ones were equally critical as cautionary tales. For whatever reason the character never really developed. Hey, it happens.
Chris came to school one morning with Def Leppard’s On Through the Night tucked under his arm. “Have you heard of these guys? They’re teenagers and they kick ass!” We thought that they were extremely cool because they rocked, talked about getting wasted, and were only a couple of years older than us. Two albums later they would blow up, and The Guys In Black Tee Shirts Who Jam were required to hate them. Sigh.
“Crosstown Traffic,” Jimi Hendrix: Chris was good friends with a kid named Joel who was the funniest, kindest, stupidest pothead you could hope to meet. He was every Steve Zahn character — he was also a great guitarist. Joel’s band’s name was Crosstown Traffic, which I thought was really cool. “How did you come up with that?” I asked. They looked at me like I’d farted in church and said “Jimi?” at the same time. Embarrassing.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that it forced me to expand my Jimi knowledge, and was my gateway to funk.
“Too Much Time On My Hands,” Styx: I spent a lot of weekends in my oldest sister’s college dorm, and I spent most of that time crushing on her room-mate. Styx’s Paradise Theater, REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity and Rick James’s Street Songs were in heavy rotation — unlike me, who never got the room-mate and spent entirely too much time on my hand.
“Flamethrower,” J. Geils Band: Back in junior high I dreamed of someday being a professional freestyle Frisbee player. I guess I thought Zuni basket weaving was too commercial or something. Anyway, I practiced relentlessly, usually in the make out basement to my sister’s Off the Wall album.
My buddy Matt’s little brother was having a birthday party, and being the kind people that they were they asked me to do a freestyle demo for the kiddies. I worked up a routine to “Flamethrower” and practiced, practiced, practiced. The party was like a little carnival in Matt’s backyard, and they even invited my girlfriend, Melody, who wore a straw boater and passed out tickets for the party games as if she were a carny.
My big moment arrived. The kids gathered around and sat criss-cross-applesauce. I hit the play button on the boom box that I borrowed from Lee G and launched into my routine. It was absolutely terrible. Matt’s mother prompted the kid’s to clap anyway, and then Melody and I went and made out next to Matt’s pool table.
Sadly I can’t find a “Flamethrower” link, so you’ll have to deal with the always pleasant to watch “Centerfold” video.
“Dixie Chicken,” Little Feat: This was one of those jams that separated the men from the boys. Everybody knew Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, Blackfoot, The Allman Brothers, but being hip to Little Feat was like having your Guys In Black Tee Shirts Who Jam bona fides.
“Start Me Up,” The Rolling Stones: I mention this one for a couple of reasons. First, Tattoo You was the last time anyone other than Rolling Stones uber-nerds cared about a new Stones album, and it really is a great album. If it’s not in your playlist you have a gap. And secondly, my only real competition in junior high as “the writer kid” was a girl named Lisa, whom I mentioned here: http://wp.me/p1caRd-3K . She spent a good chunk of ninth grade, which was junior high in my school district, singing songs off of this album, carrying it around, and pointing at people and saying “tattoo you.”
Enough. High school beckons.
Related “Why It Matters” pieces: https://jamesostafford.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/9-the-cutout-bin/