Wildwood Daze – I Need a Moment

Readers…. I need a moment to conclude the story of my time in Wildwood, NJ. It was an incredible time and left such an indelible mark on me. I just need a moment to tell the story of me from Wildwood correctly.

It’s been a busy year with many changes. All good! But I want to lay out the final chapters of this story properly.

My time at the shore in 1980 were so amazing I need to step back and take time to write them.

I have spent so much time getting content ready for 2019, that I’m struggling to get this last story out.

I appreciate your patience and will do my very best over the next couple of weeks to pull this tale together.

Summer 1980 was so amazing I don’t even know if I can capture it properly. but I’ll try.

Please enjoy my usual content until I can move through this little block.

I assure you I have a story to tell and it is rich. But there is so much here I’m just trying to gather all of these feelings together.

Thank you for your patience.

 

Once I break through this block, I’ll write the rest of the Union Jacks series and then we’re off to California!

UPDATE: Writer’s block broken. I wrote one final piece last night. If there are any more stories to be told about the Union Jacks and Wildwood in general, I’ll feature them in the future. Maybe like a flashback to the Wildwood Daze. Like a nostalgia piece.

I need to move forward with my writing trajectory for 2019 and I don’t want anything impeding the creative proccess.

 

Thank you.

 

 

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Wildwood Daze – Dirty John – Part 2

Living at the shore always brings you to the beach. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. If you live in a city you go meet up in a park or a bar. If you live at the shore when the shit hits the fan, you head to the beach.

I go home covered in puke and my mom is cool with the rock and roll lifestyle.

“Is Jim okay?” My mom was totally fine with my best friend/lead guitarist blowing chunks all over me.

I’m in a working rock and roll band, and we have had a an incident with our youngest underage member.

“I think he’ll be fine.”

“Let’s get your clothes into the washer.”

I loved that my mom was always on board to dispose of the evidence.

But I just loved that mom was ready TO make it all go away.

 

I hadn’t heard from Jim and prayed he was still alive

It was a real growing step in this new band and I was fearful about what could happen to us going forward.

I knew in that moment I would need to form a new band with Jim and we would have to go to LA but he liked music that wasn’t so so furious so I would miss my friend.

As much as I loved Jim and the band, I knew I needed to go to LA an create something new.

But I’ll hang here because I love you.

 

A day passed and I spend the day worried about my friend.

There were was no email or text social media back then. You either get a call or somebody shows up at your door.

I get a call on my land line from Jim.

It was 7pm.

24 hours after my best friend had lost his shit.

 

“What happened last night?”

“Lets meet up and I’ll tell you the full story.”

We meet up and Jim seems fine. He’s just young, and confused. Nothing like this has ever happened to him, and that has to be jarring.

Your first blackout can be frightening. I’ve been there many times and it never gets any easier. I never let it happen anymore. I totally manage my shit now.

 

I meet up with Jim and we go to the beach.

Living at the shore always brings you to the beach. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. If you live in a city you go meet up in a park or a bar. If you live at the shore when the shit hits the fan, you head to the beach. There’s just something about the power of the sea and it’s timeless intimidating beauty.

It was night and off-season, and Jim and I were no strangers to wandering through this resort/retirement island community in the off season.

There was a beauty to Wildwood that no one knew that belonged to us. The natives.

As fucked as we were as teenagers in a resort community that didn’t own hotels and boardwalk stuff. We found our way.

Instead of falling into the usual drugs and teen pregnant rich kid boredom we had our band. We were going to break out of what everybody else was in this town. Usually rich kids from prosperous seasonal business owners. We were just regular dudes. Jim and I were tight.

I will be grateful my entire for life for meeting Jim. He is a wonderful man and father and husband. I just really dig him and wish I could see him more. Because we actually share something unseen that is really special and belongs to only us.

I miss him.

Wildwood in the off-season is quiet and dark.

If you live in a place that is away from city lights, you’ll understand what the sky looks like when you look upon it in a rural or remote area.

City light drown out the sky, and I live in Philly and I’ve seen all the skies I need to see, but let me describe what a night sky looks like when you’re away from city lights.

I was on the beach in Wildwood with my father one night. We were fishing.

He said, “Look at the sky, son.”

I of course did as he said.

“What do you see?”

“I see more stars than I’ve ever seen.”

“You can’t see that in Philly.”

“It’s beautiful.”

Then my dad said this…

“It’s like a thousand diamonds scattered on a velvet pillow.”

I loved him so much in that moment.

The beautiful, charming, elegant being he had become through all of his pain and suffering to raise me an my sisters into who we are today.

 

These thoughts fill my mind as I meet my best friend I’m glad isn’t dead like Bon Scott on the beach that evening.

There were umbrella stands on each block of the beach. They were these wooden boxes on legs that were used to store umbrella rentals during the summer, but were empty during the off-season.

Jim and I meet up and head to the beach.

I’m so happy to see him and I’m so happy he survived. I was so scared after the Dirty John incident and I know Jim hates when I tell the story, I was genuinely grateful he was okay. I love Jim and it was the first time I thought we’d have a rock and roll tragedy on my watch. I couldn’t lose him and I was scared the whole time.

We walked together along the shoreline.

People come to the shore and do their thing every summer and enjoy the beach. But what people forget is the mystery of how all life rose from the sea.

As my only friend and I walk along the shoreline, every step we take lights up around our feet.

There are iridescent animals that react to contact and illuminate when struck.

So imagine this people… Every step you take on a night beach, there are lights around your feet with every step you take.

Yea, the beach is so much more magical than you know.

We saw and experienced all of that.

I loved that we were in a band together. Rocking out and living our little dreams, but still be moved by the magic of life itself.

That’s why I always loved Jim. He was and will always be one of the greatest men I’ve ever met. A bright and beautiful artist who I had the honor to jam with and most of all have in my life as a friend. I miss him and think of him often.

 

We find an abandoned umbrella stand/hut and climb inside it.

The beach is completely desolate and there is no one around. There are no umbrellas so the boxes are open. Jim and I climb inside of the box and chill.

“What the fuck happened last night?”

I describe in great detail to my new lead guitarist what happened and he is appalled.

I tell him how I turned his head to the side so he wouldn’t end up like Hendrix or Bon Scott.

I think we’ve both learned from this experience. I love Jim so much that he can vomit on me anytime and we can still go forward and rock out!

He is and will always be one of my best friends in this world.

 

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Wildwood Daze – The Union Jacks – Dirty John – Part 1

“Okay, He’s freaking out like a retard. Put him in his bed and we’ll go.”

I had been to the restaurant where Brian our drummer worked part-time as a busboy. I don’t remember, but I had been there to meet up with him once for some reason. I do remember Brian telling me the bartender there liked my “friend with the big eyes.” (Me.) I don’t remember that person and quickly dismiss it in my mind.

One night Brain wants to bring us to the restaurant where he works for drinks. We get there and the band sits at the bar. Brian introduces us to the bartender, Frank. Or, as Brian calls him, Frank the Fag. Now I get it. Frank fancies me. It’s a compliment, but I’m straight.

We all order bottles of beer. Frank is being Frank but he’s nice as could be. We’re all just chilling at the bar and it’s nice to all go out and have a drink as a band. It’s like we’re somebody now. People recognize us when we’re out and I like it.

We’re sitting there for about an hour chatting about music, when Frank presents me with not one, but two large tumblers filled with a frothy pink liquid.

“What’s this?”

“It’s called a Dirty John.”

“Thank you, but I never drink hard liquor. I just don’t do it. I’m a beer guy only.”

“I’ll drink it!”

Jim is the youngest and newest member of the band. I think he wants to show that he’s a bad ass that can hang with the older guys.

“That’s really not necessary Jim.”

“No. I want to.”

Jim proceeds to chug the drinks.

We settle up and walk outside. Brian and Mark say they’ll bring the car around. I’m smoking a cig waiting with Jim. Brian doesn’t allow smoking in his car so we wait.

“I gotta take a piss.”

“You could have gone in the bar, Jim. Actually, I gotta go too. Beer goes right through me. There’s some tall hedges behind the restaurant. Let’s go back there.”

We walk back and are standing next to each other as if we’re just a couple of students pissing in the urinals in the Boys bathroom at Wildwood High. I suddenly hear this rustling noise and a thump. I glance to my right and Jim has vanished. I zip up my fly and go to the spot where he was.

There’s Jim, face down in the next yard. While pissing he literally just collapsed forward between the hedges. What the fuck was in that drink? Whatever it was, it hit him like a sledgehammer.

Brian and Mark pull up in his yellow ’77 Ford Mustang II.

“What the fuck’s up with Wolfie?” (Brian sometimes referred to Jim as ‘ Wolfie’ because the way he brushed his hair back, it resembled Lon Chaney’s monster.)

“Guys get over here!”

Brian and Mark scramble from the car and run over. We get Jim to his feet and he is just gone. Slurring and stumbling and we get him to the car. It takes all three of us.

“He went from buzzed to black out in a matter of seconds!”

Brian’s driving. Mark’s riding shotgun, and of course I’m in the back with drunk boy. He’s really out of it. Conscious, but super fucked up. More drunk than I’ve ever seen anyone ever in my life.

Brian’s driving him back to his house. “He better not fuckin’ puke in my car! I swear to god!”

We get to Jim’s house and I’m about to get him out and he pukes all over me. He doesn’t even know I’m there. Now I’m wearing the Dirty John meant for me.

Thankfully his parents weren’t home when we dragged our new guitarist back into his house.

We carry him through the door, in front of at least a half dozen siblings. They all look on in utter horror. I assure them their brother isn’t dead. He’s just sick and we’re taking care of him.

The kids know me from school. I’m the kid that comes and waits for Jim each morning and lets my glasses steam up while watching the Today show waiting for my friend so we can walk to school together.

 

It’s a mess. The little kids are clueless. We are simply a group of guys bringing their older brother home because he’s sick. Everything’s fine. Just like in any household in the 70’s. It didn’t happen.

We bang Jim up the stairs to his bedroom. When I say, bang I mean he was dead weight and me, Brian and Mark did the best to get him to his room.

This is all new ground for all of us. We’re new musicians, but we don’t know anything about but extreme behavior even if it’s accidental.

My best friend is so sick. I am wearing his puke. We try to run his head under the shower to revive him. He cries out like a molested child so we withdrawal.

“Okay, He’s freaking out like a retard. Put him in his bed and we’ll go.”

Brian was always so pragmatic.

“Turn him over on his stomach.” (I say) Put his face at the edge of the bed.”

“Why?”

“Umm… Bon Scott….” (See: Tales of Rock – Bon Scott) 

“He’ll be fine.”

” Dude. Hendrix died choking on his own puke.”

“He’ll be fine.”

We leave our lead guitarist in his bed and all go home. It’s bee a fucked up night.

My best friend got poisoned by a drink meant for me. What was Frank’s plan? Get me drunk beyond recognition and take advantage of me? That’s kind of evil.

But the worst part of it is… Was Brian in on it?

 

 

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Wildwood Daze – Spring of 1980 – The Union Jacks – Part 2

Look at Chaz in his black outfit, with his ’79 Black Ibanez Iceman, rocking out for the kids. Baby steps.

 

We get our first gig at Margaret Mace Elementary and Middle School. We’re going to play for the kids in middle school. 12, 13, 14 year old kids.

Jim went to this school, and knows the faculty. He was good student, but my dear friend is an older man in high school now. He’s in Wildwood High now with me and Mark the bassist.

Incidentally I will add this side note. My Uncle Jack was valedictorian from the first graduating class of Margaret Mace. My father told me he never cracked a book. Just a brilliant charming dude.

Love him forever.

I wish I were his son. Just neglect me and let me play rock and be in the music industry.

I think family genetics get mixed up but great creativity came from pain and oppression so I’m fine with where I came from.

All the best art comes from the oppressed. Under Jack I may have just ended up a privileged asshole so I’m fine with where my soul landed.

I’m terrified to do our first show. But it’s a bunch of young kids in an auditorium. I can’t eat before the show for fear of throwing up. No one in the band knows about my severe anxiety problem.

They’re ready to rock these kids and take this band for a test drive.

I’m terrified, but we’ve rehearsed everything and have our whole set list ready. Brian would write out the set list and tape it to the floor in front of every one of us so we knew what was going to happen. I always felt comfort in that, so thank you Bri.

If I just could get through the first song I’d be fine. We got this. We always opened with Freeway Jam, I think by Jeff Beck. It was just a cool song we could run licks on and warm up to get the audience going.

It’s funny because almost every blues act does the same thing. They come out and jam for a bit and then get into their real shit with singing and hits. We did the same thing as a fledgling band automatically. It just worked for us so we could warm up and get to the songs.

We hit our groove, and Brian is always the constant professional showman we need to carry us forth.

He’s just great. He is clearly the leader of this band and we let him have the reigns. He carries us through our show with tight drumming and great vocals and showmanship.

Brian is clearly the leader of this band, but he can’t do it without me, the creative songwriter, cute, rock star one, Jim, the sizzling lead guitarist, and Mark, his flexible tone deaf puppet, carrying the rhythm.

It’s Brian’s band and it’s always been Brian’s band, but today he’s a little outnumbered. The audience has me and Jim rocking out on our guitars in the front.

Thats who the audience adores.

I’m just trying to hold it together and hit all of the right notes.

However, I’ve brought several guitar picks with me and I am throwing them out to the kids in the audience.

I’ve lived this exact scenario as a kid. If there was some rock band playing and I could be a part of it, I would attach myself to that in a second. I knew that even though I was playing rock at a middle school I had to go full on rock star. Because that’s what I wanted to be.

I bought tons of guitar picks before the show and threw dozens into the crowd knowing the result. The kids went crazy. Brian picked up on this and tossed drumsticks into the audience and they fought over them.

Back in 1979-1980 the song by JJ. Cale that became a hit by Eric Clapton had become a hit. It was all over the radio. It was called Cocaine.

Huge hit. We covered the song because it was wildly popular that year. People loved it.

Should we have played Cocaine to a bunch of 13-year-old kids? Probably not. We didn’t even think about it at the time. It was just a hit. But to play that for a bunch of kids in middle school, we probably should have deleted from the set list.

I can tell you that we did the chorus…. “She don’t like, She don’t like, She don’t like…..

The kids would shout: COCAINE!

We had know idea.

Union Jacks were already a dangerous band. (We were just playing what was popular on the radio. (Should we have reviewed the set list before playing in front of a bunch of kids….yea probably)

We’re nearing the end of our set. (The kids are going wild) The Vice Pincipal walks onstage and tells us we’re done.

Brand new young lead guitarist Jim and former alum literally pushed him off the stage…

“We’re not done yet.”

He launches into “My Generation” by the The Who, which to me is my favorite song Jim ever performed with our band. It just seemed so arrogant. It just seemed to embody my best friend.

We close out the show and I think maybe Jim busted up his Strat for show.

We never fucked around with our equiptment but because I spent $500 of my busboy money on my sweet guitar I always treated like my best girl. But Jim beat his Strat into the bass drum that day. It was a pot CBS Strat so I knew that bolt on neck would hold and could be fixed.

 

We promise to meet up later to review and revel.

By the end of the show I had a headache from not eating/not puking/anxiety/ I walked home and sat at the kitchen table with my mom.

“How was the show?”

“I should probably eat something.”

“PBJ rock star?”

“That would be lovely, mom. I think we did good but we may have played some songs that not everybody liked.”

“Well you have to expect that in rock and roll. You think Elvis cared?”

I knew my mom cried when Elvis died, but in that moment I knew my mom, even though she wouldn’t go to my shows, was proud of me.

She got it.

She just was so afraid of watching me fail.

I didn’t care. I was just happy I didn’t puke on stage because of my anxiety.

I did it. I made it.

Knock at the door. Mark and Brain are there.

One Bufferin and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich later…

“Hey guys. Thanks for bring my gear home.

Mark: “I feel like a fuckin roadie.”

Chaz: Welcome to real rock and roll. We just played a real gig and rocked the fuck out. I know it was to a bunch of kids, but we’ve got something here an got paid! ”

Mark: “Some kids recorded the whole concert on tape recorders.”

Chaz: ” Really? We have to hear them!”

Brian: “Yea. We have more gigs coming up.”

Chaz: “Cool man. We’re going to the top!”

Brian: “Oh, these are for you. Looks like you’re pretty popular.”

He hands me a stack of slips of paper with girls names and phone numbers on them.

IT’S STARTING….

I have finally arrived.

I read them all and can’t believe that after all of this time of being a loser this is happening now.

A bunch of 11, 12 and 13 year old girls want to meet me.

I throw them all in the wastebasket in my bedroom.

Because all of these lovelies are minors. Sadly this is something that will haunt me my entire life.

 

 

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Wildwood Daze – Spring of 1980 – The Union Jacks – Part 1

“Thanks to my dad, (the classical music enthusiast,) ‘Tommy” was properly released to the world.”

I went to my dad and ran by my band name dilemma. I don’t know why but the more I thought about it the more it made sense.

They never got me guitar lessons and gave piano lessons to non-musical sister Janice for two years. I discovered music and rock on my own. Forced my way into bands and made my own way. Bought my own killer guitar with my own earned money. They in turn bought me the finest amplifier on the island to speak my voice. (Actually to roar the voice of the unheard louder than anyone on the island with that Marshall amp.)

All is forgiven and awesome in the same breath.

My dad’s brother Jack had always worked in the music industry all his adult life. Columbia Records. The real deal.

My father loved classical music and opera. Jack knew nothing of this and would give my dad dozens of great records every year. My dad could understand them and tell Jack what was good and what was sub par.

My uncle Jack worked with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Andy Williams. He was a major producer, but I never thought of him as a person that could help me make it, just a bit of guidance.

Once My uncle Jack was working with a rock band that was very popular in the sixties and seventies. They wanted to do a concept album. A rock opera, which was unheard of then. Even the Beatles hadn’t of thought of that. (Well, Sgt. Pepper)

They submitted their work to then producer Jack for some input and he had no clue about opera. He only understood popular music, the business, production and vocalists.

He turned to his brother, my father with the concept of a ‘rock opera’ by a popular rock band.

“Well if their serious about making a rock opera then they need a libretto. Every opera has a libretto.” My father said to his brother.

li·bret·to
ləˈbredō/
noun
 
  1. the text of an opera or other long vocal work.

 

My uncle Jack went back to Pete Townsend of The Who and told him they needed to make a libretto that must be included with their finished work.

Thanks to my dad, (the classical music enthusiast,) ‘Tommy” was properly released to the world.

One of the greatest creative achievements by The Who.

That is some real shit right there.

So I go to him and tell him what we’re doing. I need to come up with a cool name for our band.

“It sounds like you guys play plenty of British music. Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Stones. What if you call the band, Union Jack?”

My dad was always a deadly marketing guy and could have killed it in the ad business.

“What’s that?”

“The British flag is called the Union Jack.”

“I like that. I’m going to take that back to the boys.”

_________________________________________________________

Two nights later everybody is making their pitch for what the new band should be called and I explain why we should be called Union Jack.

Everybody loves it except Brian.

Why?

Brian is in love with John Waite and the a band called the Babys. I get it. I love that band too. They are terrific and horribly underrated. They just ironically came out with an album called “Union Jacks.”

He wants the band be called, “The Union Jacks.”

Jim agrees with me that ‘Union Jack’ is enough but we yield to Brian’s might.

We are now The Union Jacks.

But… thanks dad. You fucking rock.

As the band Nazereth would say: “Close enough for rock and roll.”

I had acquired a drab green army jacket and had the Union Jacks put on the back of it. Jim followed suite and had the name of the band put on the back of his denim jacket.

It was cool to be part of a cool new band and felt the name gave us an identity as a musical entity.

One night Jim and I were walking down the boardwalk together in Wildwood, and this group of teenage girls were like, “Hey Union Jacks!”

We just smiled and waved and enjoyed the fame.

This little blonde shouted, “You’re the guy with the black guitar!”

I think I had a Lief Garret moment right then. (google it youngsters)

 

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Wildwood Daze – Winter of 1980 – These Fucking Guys

Karma’s a real thing.

I’m busting my ass to work with this band with no name. I’m trying to fit in. I don’t know what Brian the drummer’s deal is. He’s a great singer, showman, and tough leader and we need direction. Jesse is a super talented guitarist way beyond my knowledge. I’m just trying to keep up and happy to be here and learn. Mark’s family owns the practice space and they have money. I just know it. This is successful restaurant that only needs to be open three months a year. I’m sure they’re doing well.

Mark has great equipment. Obviously not earned like me and my dear friend Jim. I’m sure his parents hooked him up with good gear because they’re rich. There’s a difference. I don’t care. I’m just happy to be rocking.

I slowly begin to discover that Mark is tone-deaf.

Our fucking bass player is tone-deaf. How is he a musican? I suppose we should all be proud that he’s a musician. Being tone-deaf means you can’t distinguish between notes in music. What the fuck dude? That IS music, motherfucker!

But you own the space and I’m still the Ronnie Wood in this band so I’ll be cool.

But another thing I learned was there was night I called Brian to see if there was practice and he would say no. I started to get suspicious.

I talked to my dad about it and he said the following:

“just go up to the restaurant one night when there’s no practice.”

I did this one night and walked in on them auditioning another guitarist to take my place.

This was a shocking and heartbreaking moment for me. I knew Brian was a controlling fucker, Mark would go with whatever the majority was and super talented Jesse was just a pussy puppet.

That was this dysfunctional family. A distrustful mess.

I walk in and I see some cunt playing through my Marshall and I’m pissed and hurt. I’ve abandoned my dear friend Jim. I betrayed him and now it’s me that’s getting betrayed.

Karma’s a real thing.

“What the fuck Brian?”

I think back in that moment how me, Larry and Jerry ran Jack out of Renegade to make way for Mike Carlin. We’re all little pieces of shit so I need to be cool.

“You just seemed too mouthy and wanted to take over the band with your opinions and songs. ”

“I’ve been always been honored to play with you guys. I left my best friends band to come play with you guys. I’m sorry if I came on to strong. I was just so enthusiastic to jam with you guys and join your band. I can scale it back.”

Brian looks at me with those blue eyes. Gives me the thousand yard stare. The loser guitar packs up and get out of there knowing there is a domestic about to happen.

“You auditioned these dicks behind my back and let them plug into my amp?”

“Sorry about that man. I just thought you came in here and thought you had too much control.”

“Brian, that has never been my intention. I just am so happy to play with you guys.”

This is the moment I learned that a band is like a marriage and a shitty family all in one. You would think I would have learned this valuable lesson and carried it forth into my future married life.

“Okay. I’m sorry.” (Brian was good like that) “You’re in.”

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Things were great after that. We grew as a band and were tighter than a crab’s ass. (That’s water tight!)

We bonded as a band. We made great music. I was happy. I would hang out and get pizza with Brian. He was a tough customer but a great singer and an amazing drummer.  I almost felt like we should get a drummer and he should be the lead singer of the band. I loved my role in the band. I just played rhythm and they let me do my original songs that I would sing. They actually liked when I would write a new piece and introduce it to the band. We were rocking!

There were nights I would hang with Mark. As fat and gross as he was he had a hot girlfriend. We as a band were all amazed by this, but well done, sir.

At a Styx concert when the band played their hit “Lady” Mark punched his girlfriend in the face. He didn’t mean to he simply thrust out his fists in joy that the band was playing the song and caught her in the nose.

Mark had a car. It was an enormous puke green station wagon that was great for hauling our gear. It had th frostiest air condioning I’ve ever felt. I don’t know what make or model that monstrosity was but it was a great car, It had faux wood paneling on the sides of it, that’s how horrible it was. But I will tell you this: It had a great cassette player in it and I was turned onto the lovely Pat Benatar in that car and have enjoyed being transported to shows not sweating my ass off.

But I do remember some tender times between Mark and myself. Brian was a gruff motherfucker but I was the sensitive Beatle. There were so many nights Mark and I would hang out in his car and just talk about life.

If he was struggling with something, his girl or whatever, he knew he could come and pick me up and we would listen to Joe Perry’s first solo album and had it out in his car. I knew Mark was sensitive and I think when I joined the band he had somebody he could talk to finally. Brian. Prick. Boss. Jesse. Great guitarist and moron.

Mark loved music and reminded me of Larry from Renegade, Guys that made music  just because they loved it so much. We all had different goals. It’s weird … you’re all in the same band but you all want the different thing. I can imagine a band that all wants the same things. What can that be like? Led Zeppelin? Aerosmith? I want that so bad, but that is hard to find on this little island.

We’ll just have to figure it out and make our way down here on this shitty little town.

We’re really good and I love this crazy band. But I’m worried. I feel there is a fragility to this group that could tear it apart at any moment.

————————————————————————————————————————————

“What?  Jesse is quitting the band? ”

“He wants to watch more TV.”

“Are you fucking kidding me, Brian?”

“No man. He’s out. But I will tell you this.”

“What?”

“You know that hatchback Izuzu he drives?”

“Yea. He’s had that for years.”

You know how the whole back door is a glass window?

“Yea. So what?”

He quit the band today and packed up his shit. He put his amp in the back of his car and slammed the hatchback shut.”

“So?”

“The amp is square and it shattered his whole back window when he left today. It was fucking hilarious! His car’s back window is gone because of his stupidity. I couldn’t stop laughing. Stupid fucker!

I laugh with Brian over this crazy mishap but instantly have anxiety about the future of the band. Jesse had all of our songs and all of the leads.

We’re fucked.

“Hey man. Jesse was a piece of shit anyway. I fuckin’ hated him. Do you know anybody?”

My mind reeled at the loss of the greatest talent of my band suddenly gone. But in a few minutes I realized I did know someone.

“I have a guy, Brian.”

“Well, fucking bring him in for an audition because we’re short a lead guitarist. We’re going to have to start from scratch again.”

“I’ll give him a call.”

 

 

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Wildwood Daze – Winter of 1979 – Instant Band (with No Name!)

That’s me at age 17 playing my new Ibanez Iceman guitar.

 

I have abandoned my initial effort to start a band with Jim and Chris. I met this clown Ron in art class. He knows of a working band that need a rhythm guitarist. I want that gig.

I meet with them. The bass player Mark’s parent’s own an Italian restaurant up on New York avenue. It’s a good spot in the summer but closed in the

winter like every thing else in this god forsaken town that I now hate.

Mark Piro playing a blonde Fender Precision Bass

I enter the restaurant with my new guitar and meet the guys. They seem cool, and I’m thinking here I go again. Me inserting myself into an already established group. They tell me they just want to fatten their sound.

The furniture and tables in the dining room have been cleared out and there’s a great space for us to jam. There isn’t anything around us neighbor-wise to disturb so we can rock out. We chat and I get to know the guys. Jesse is the lead guitarist. He seems like a sweet, nice kid. Tall with brown hair. Goes to Wildwood Catholic. Mark, the bass player, whose folks own the restaurant and he lives in Wildwood Crest. So he’s from money and attends Wildwood High like me. He’s a year younger so he’s a junior. 11th grade. Brian, the drummer is clearly the leader of this band. He is a little tough Scottish dude. Apparently his mom is a sweet woman who works at the library here in town and my dad knows her. So that’s an in.

They play a few songs for me to show who they are.

I am amazed.

This band is light years ahead of anything I did with Renegade back in Philly. The songs are tight. The playing is spot on and the solos are exact.

I can’t believe I’m standing in the same room with these guys.

Mark                                                                                                       Me                     Brian 

But their stuck. They need something else. I tell them I write songs and they like that. I dig that they are receptive to that because that’s what I want to do.

Mark                                                                             Me with a bad haircut

I jam a little with them and it sounds good. I throw out a few licks from some Zep songs I know that they aren’t currently performing, It makes an impression with them. I knew it would. I have been practicing songs non stop ever since I picked up the Silvertone back in Philly. I’m so hungry. I think Brian takes a shine to me because I’m sweet and nice. I am not a person that threatens his authority. I could sense that was a thing with him. Little man syndrome is rampant in all walks of life. I get it and I’m a good diplomat. He’s a little than the other boys. He’s 21.

Brian Smith

I see a nasty gouge/scratch on Jesse’s Guild guitar.

“Wow sorry man. How’d that happen?”

Brian speaks: “I was trying to talk to someone and Jesse wouldn’t turn his amp down.”

I turn away from Jesse to Brian.

“What happened?”

He wouldn’t turn down his fucking guitar, so I threw a drumstick at him.”

“Okay….”

“He got off easy. I was aiming for his face.”

Jesse said nothing.

 

Brian gives me a set list. It’s great. Cool songs, and this band already rocks without me.

“Learn these songs.”

“Okay.”

I remember going home and locking myself in my room with my records and nearly breaking my fingers to learn all of the songs, chord changes, and time signatures. It was the hardest homework I had ever been assigned in my life.

I came back in a couple of days and we started jamming. It was glorious. Better than anything I could have ever imagined. Here I was exiled to this shitty summer resort/ prison and I was now playing with a band that was awesome!

This group was so many steps ahead of Renegade. We were playing songs from the past that were amazing but we were also working on stuff that was on the radio NOW! I loved that. This band was relevant. I was honored to be here.

Only about nine months out from actually picking up a guitar for the first time and here I was jamming with a bunch of pros! I knew I was born to create and make music and now I was finally able to go forward and rock out! I was scared and ecstatic for the first time. I was stressed because I had to learn so many songs to catch up but I wanted it so bad with these guys I worked my ass off to catch up, This baptism by fire made me a better musician almost immediately.

     Mark                                                                                                                       Me

A leap in evolution. That’s how it happens. You have to adapt to survive. I got better on my new axe and I could feel the surge of great energy happening.

Here we go. Now I’ve got something to live for here in the winter of ’79. Thanks guys!

It was tough but so fun. I would go to school all day, and then come home, do my homework, eat dinner and then head out to practice. It was great. I had purpose again in my life. My mom was happy I wasn’t on drugs, drinking or getting into trouble. I was doing well in school and had a hobby. (My dream!) I don’t remember where my father was during this time. He seems invisible to me.

But my father knew what was going on and was probably happy that I had come out of my cage of depression that he couldn’t understand.

So for Christmas that year he got me this:

 

I nearly came in my pants.

Marshall Amplification is an English company that designs and manufactures music amplifiersspeaker cabinets, brands personal headphones and earphones, and, having acquired Natal Drums, drums and bongos. It was founded by drum shop owner and drummer Jim Marshall, and is now based in BletchleyMilton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

Marshall’s guitar amplifiers are among the most recognised in the world. They are known for their Marshall “crunch”. This signature sound was conceived by Marshall after guitarists, such as Pete Townshend, visiting Marshall’s drum shop complained that the guitar amplifiers then on the market didn’t have the right sound or enough volume. 

After gaining a lot of publicity, Marshall guitar amplifiers and loudspeaker cabinets were sought by guitarists for this new sound and increased volume.[3][4] Many of the current and reissue Marshall guitar amplifiers continue to use vacuum tubes, as is common in this market sector. Marshall also manufactures less expensive solid-state, hybrid (valve and solid state) and modelling amplifiers.

Kids had Fenders, an Ampegs and Peavey’s. NOBODY had a MARSHALL amp. Marshall is the premier rock star amplifier in the world. My dad got me one. No matter what I’ve ever said about my father in this blog means anything against this moment.

“I’ve been trying to get you worked about something for years, son.”

“Oh my god, dad. I can’t believe it. Thank you. (crying) This is the greatest amp in the world. This what all of the rock stars use. Thank you!”

It was a 100 watt Marshall combo with twin 12 inch Celstion speakers. It was tube driven. No transistors. I know most of you don’t know what that means, but let me put it in terms we can all understand: This Fucking Amp ROARED. Super scary power. Weight. Clarity. And most of all organic mad distortion. This coupled with my pedal would be a force to be reckoned with on this island. Power chords would be played, walls would crumble.

A Marshall is that powerful.

It changed my life.

I’ve now got a rocking band and the best and coolest equipment in the industry. Stardom can’t be far off!

Thank you dad! I love you!

We played this song spot on! Jesse nailed the solo note for note! Wonderful!

Jesse Dean playing a brown Gibson SG

 

We murdered this song too! Again I was amazed listening to Jesse killing the solo. I loved being in this band with no name! But feeling alive again!

 

 

At least I was making music again and further along musically than I’d ever been. I need to survive this ordeal.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish everyday at 8am  & 12pm EST.

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