Renegade – 1978 to 1979 – Chapter 5 – The Sears Silvertone

Jerry arrives the next day with the Sears Silvertone and the amplifier that came with it. It’s a cheap red and black small solid body guitar that is cheaply made with its solid state transistor amp with the little 8 inch speaker in the amp.

I absolutely love it.

I strap it on and Jerry proceeds to show me the three note thing I need to do during his solo on the song Draw the Line.

I am ecstatic.

He’s such a great guitar player and I’m nothing but a teenager that got the chance to sing with these real musicians and have a band, I’m just so happy. Things are really progressing. We’re building our repertoire and now I’m learning guitar.

He teaches me how to hold my fingers and do the notes to carry the rhythm. The guitar feels so good in my hands. A slender light electric starter guitar I can handle. It’s full of mystery and promise. This is what I’ve wanted my entire life. Why couldn’t my parents see this? Why did they waste two years of piano lessons on my sister Janice when I was the child who loved and craved music?

Maybe I needed to go hunt it down like the Keith Richards, Jimmy Pages, and the Paul McCartney’s before me. I want to walk in their footsteps. I’ll find my way like they did.  Rock and roll isn’t born from sitting day after day taking piano lessons to please your father. Rock and roll is a little bastard sprung from anger and frustration and the blues. The blues rose out of slavery, rape, kidnapping, murder, hatred, oppression and a people who had rhythm in their souls long before there were white people. We just took it and made it our own.  The Rolling Stones, Elvis, The Beatles, all listened to black artists that really lived and breathed music and got it.

I was a weak, anxiety ridden mess that was always a victim. Picked on at school, and at home. Just a pimple faced, braces wearing, greasy haired loser that couldn’t throw a ball or even do well in school. School bored my creative mind. I hated it. School was a place I had to go by law that was nothing but torture for my mind in my formative years.

But music… Oh my love. You always please me. You sound like my soul. You know me. I feel your fury. I will learn how to harness this instrument and feel better. I want this guitar so bad. When I hold her she’s like a sweet extension of myself. I can for the first time express myself with sound. I love music. I’ve drawn pictures, I’ve sculpted things out of clay.

But now I may have a chance to have a voice. A voice I’ve never had in this life. A weak frightened loser. I don’t fit into school or the neighborhood. I have few friends, and sadly they all look like me with our sad faces. Broken by our teachers, bullies and worst of all our fathers.

But now I have this lovely instrument in my hand.  She has finally come to me. I will learn how to caress her and love her, and I know I won’t be the fastest gun in the West like Jerry, or Page, or Hendrix, or Eddie Van Halen. I just want to learn how to make her sing in my arms.

I just want to dance with her.

Most of all I want to write songs with her. That’s my 2nd goal. Learn how to play a bit, then create. That’s it. That’s my mission.

 

When we play Draw the Line, I love to put her on and do my part. It’s feels better than a black and white milkshake on a hot day to just riff with the band. To be a guitarist in a band. It’s so little but it’s so big to me to play with this band. This is me emerging from a pit of shit was my life in puberty. I’m coming out. There is a solution. Things can get better. Your life isn’t just a series of fear and failure.

“Hey, Chaz, you like the guitar?”

“I love it Jerry. I’ve been listening to my records and I got my sisters piano books and I’m studying chords and I think I’m coming along.”

“I see that, and that’s good. But here’s the thing.”

“Oh fuck. What?”

“I have to buy a Valentine’s present for my girlfriend and I don’t have any money.”

“Go on…”

“You can have the Silvertone if you give me $15 so I can get Rachel something.”

“Can you throw in the amp?”

“Yea. No problem the guitar and the amp are yours. I have to get her something and I don’t need that piece of shit anymore.”

I didn’t even check with my mom, I just went up to my room and go the money from my little safe stash. I worked as a busboy at the shore so I had a little bit of cash lying around and also in my savings account.

“Thank you! Rachel will be happy, thanks to you.”

“Thanks Jerry. This guitar IS my Valentine this year.”

“Well it’s yours now.”

 

This little Sears Silvertone would be my axe for the next year as I practiced relentlessly to learn how to play guitar. My friends would want me to come out of the house to hang and I would stay alone in my room, practicing the guitar and listening to my records, learning songs and getting better.

I even went to a little music store down on Rising Sun Avenue and bought a better amplifier. It was badass little amp that had a 10″ speaker in it and it had some cool effects on it like tremelo and reverb. It was made by a company called Marlboro. I look back on it now and I’m sure it was a shit amp but it was only $100 bucks back then (A fortune for a teenage boy in 1978) but it did the job. I even bought a pre-am box for it to make it louder and more distorted. (Love it!)

I even eventually bought a Univox superfuzz pedal just like Jerry’s. I wanted that heavy distorted sound he had. I didn’t know it at the time but I was writing songs and shaping a sound that would later be adapted by bands like Metallica. But I missed that boat… (More about that later when I go to L.A.)

This was a watershed moment in my life and would shape who I was in the years to come in Jersey and L.A.

 

We used to play this song from Aerosmith’s second record and I loved it so much. I liked it because it was by my favorite hard rock band, but it was sad and gentle.

Just like me.

 

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Tales of Rock – Aerosmith Not Done With Mirrors

“Jerry Garcia says that we were the druggiest bunch of guys the Grateful Dead ever saw. They were worried about us, so that gives you some idea of how fucked up and crazy we were.”

It may come as a surprise to those whose awareness of Aerosmith began with its commercial hits of the late ’80s and early ’90s, but the band was once a sleazy rock band known for its hardcore drug use—enough to shock the likes of the Grateful Dead. In a 1990 Rolling Stone article on Aerosmith profiling its clean-and-sober comeback, Steven Tyler relayed this anecdote; “Jerry Garcia says that we were the druggiest bunch of guys the Grateful Dead ever saw. They were worried about us, so that gives you some idea of how fucked up and crazy we were.”

Amusing as this might have been, it came at a cost. Sedated in the ’70s, Aerosmith was still unbeatable over a six album run, but as the ’80s dawned, its abilities sagged considerably. The band lost both its guitarists for a dismal album before reuniting for the half-baked Done With Mirrors. Like a lot of Aerosmith album titles, this had a double meaning; they were supposedly going clean. But they weren’t actually done snorting coke off mirrors or any other surface available, and it took a stint in rehab for the entire band to get Aerosmith’s commercial comeback off the ground with the ironically titled Permanent Vacation.

In the documentary The Making Of Pump, Joe Perry describes the difficulties he faced in returning to making music not high on “China White.” Speaking to Rolling Stone, however, Tyler had a different perspective: “I’m still bummed that I didn’t get all the pussy I could have had in the ’70s. We were more interested in the finer blends of cocaine from a shipment of dates that came in on the back of some camel with the stamp of a half-moon on it and the star of Lebanon, which by the way was laced with opium. We were real connoisseurs. That was much more important to me than some girl with big tits.”

It’s hard for me to imagine a more tragic commentary on potential wasted by drug addiction.

I will write more about this band in the near future. They are my favorite rock band of all time.

 

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Tales of Rock – Edgewater Hotel Incidents

The Edgewater is a hotel in Seattle, Washington that is located on a pier over Elliott Bay. It is currently the only hotel in Seattle that sits over-water. In the 1960s the Edgewater became a popular destination for famous rock stars. Some of the bands to visit the hotel include the Beatles in 1964, the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, and Led Zeppelin. The Edgewater is unique because in the past it allowed customers to fish from their rooms on the north elevation.

On July 27, 1969, Led Zeppelin performed at the Seattle Pop Festival and stayed at the Edgewater. The band was known to have wild parties and was often joined by groupies. According to Zeppelin’s road manager Richard Cole, during one incident, things between a fish and a sexy red head got a bit intimate. On the day in question, Cole was in his room fishing with drummer John Bonham when they were joined by some women. Cole and Bonham had caught a large collection of sharks, at least two dozen, stuck coat hangers through the gills and then left them in the closet. The hotel room was also scattered with various types of smaller fish.

As parties go, one thing led to another and people began to lose their clothing. One particular woman in the crowd with red hair found herself with Cole. She made a unique request, so he decided to reach for a fish and the shark episode was born. Cole was later quoted: “Let’s see how your red snapper likes this red snapper.” It was the nose of the fish and the girl liked it. There was nothing malicious or harmful and Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge filmed the whole thing. After the story was published by the media a large collection of rumors began to circulate, but many were exaggerated. The band received bad press so they stopped talking about the event.

In 1973, Led Zeppelin returned to the Edgewater and the band was officially banned from the hotel after it was discovered that they had caught some 30 mudsharks and left them under beds, in closets, elevators, hallways, bathtubs, and all over their rooms. They threw stuff out the windows into Elliott Bay, including beds, TVs, mattresses, lamps, drapes, and glassware. Since that time Robert Plant has been welcomed back to the Edgewater. The mudshark incident remains one of the most popular rock stories from the 1960s.

Here’s a version of this song I’ve never heard before. It’s a rough mix. Interesting imagery by Brandy and Coke.

 

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