Renegade – 1978 to 1979 – Chapter 7 – Youth Group Show

The Jets were a punk band that practiced in the basement of a church in our neighborhood. I think Larry knew them. We went to check them out one day and were asked by someone at the church if we wanted to do a concert for their youth group.

We were down.

I remember the night of the show I was super nervous. Stage fright is about as close as you can get to what having an anxiety disorder feels like. But with anxiety it can strike at anytime. But that’s what it feels like most of the time. Can you imagine having to walk around feeling that way every day? That was my life. So the stage fright hit and I just identified it as anxiety and dealt with it by not eating before I went onstage for fear of throwing up in front of the entire audience. Not going to happen on an empty stomach. Besides, we’re not the Sex Pistols.

Here’s how low rent our band was: Someone wrote the band’s name on a chalkboard behind us. My friend Michael had a silver reflective artificial Christmas tree in his attic. We had no use for the tree but there was a little lamp on a stand that you pointed at the tree. On the lamp was motor attached to a color wheel. It rotated the wheel and made the tree appear to turn different colors. Red, yellow, blue and green. So we took that lamp and put it in the corner of the stage and it bathed the walls in different colors while we played our set. My other friend Steve was backstage and he would work the other lights onstage. Which was basically flicking the switches on and off for effect.

My other pal, Jimmy was a wiz with gadgets. He was the only kid in the neighborhood who had business cards. He worked kids birthday parties as a magician and got paid for it. He was the most entrepreneurial kid I ever met. He had two magic persona’s The Great Hundini and Jimbo the Clown. He could play either character and was awesome at doing makeup. He built his own tricks and once built a wooden go-kart that was amazing. He wanted to make some effects for our show. here’s what he did. He took a soup can or a coffee can and cut a hole in the bottom of it. He ran an electrical cord through the hole and then filled the can nearly to the top with plaster. When the plaster dried the two metal point of the plug were the only part stick out of the plaster. The cord and an off an on switch on it. Jimmy ran a wire between the two poles on the plug-in the can. Then he took a small sheet of flash paper. (Flash paper is a paper the magicians use. When touched with fire or heat it bursts into flames but leaves no ashes. So it’s just a flash of flame and then it’s gone.) He put some gun powder in the wad of flash paper and attached it to the wire between the plug poles. He placed the can at the center of the stage at my feet. The gadget is wired to a battery. So when we hit the stage and opened with our first song, Jimmy throws the switch. There is a small explosion and a flash of fire that shoots up out of the can in front of me and I start singing through a cool cloud of smoke. Genius right? He wired it up for a second go when we performed God of Thunder by the band, Kiss. Jimmy loved Kiss and had all of their albums. You’ll soon find out how much he loved Kiss in another post.

My dad was probably down the shore doing his thing and my mother didn’t attend the show either. When I later asked her why she told me she didn’t want to witness if we fell flat on our faces. Meaning: if we failed or got booed or fucked up the songs or whatever. I didn’t really care and I understand. When ever I played music it was always for me. People enjoyed what we did but the music was always for the guys playing it. We just got off on making music. I loved doing that show. Playing live in front of people and them and hearing them cheer and clap was wonderful.

This is a backstage pic of my buddies Stephen and Michael

I also loved that my sister Janice was there. A guy she had gone to school with since first grade was also there. (She always loved him) He was President of our high school and quarterback on our championship football team. He was tall and very good-looking. Just a beloved student at Frankford. I sat across from him in art class and found out he was a super cool dude. Even though he was a jock, he was sensitive to the arts as well. Just a true renaissance man. The guy you wished you could be but happy to have as a friend. Because of him I got to eat at the cool kids lunch table. Yea! Huge!

As renegade blazed through their set onstage, he turned to my sister and said the following words: “When I’m on the gridiron I’m never alone. I’m surrounded by a dozen big guys that all have my back. What your brother is doing takes real guts.”

I never forgot that he said that about me, the meek and mild kid at school trying to make his way. For him to say that about me gave me such an incredible boost.

The show went well and we had everyone on their feet by the time we closed with the song Train Kept a Rollin’. I’m glad my friends and Sister were there to bear witness to what was the band, Renegade.

It was an incredible night and now I’ve immortalized it on the internet forever.

Sadly by the time school let out for the summer my family would be moving to the shore. I wouldn’t graduate with my class at Frankford. I would have to quit my band, and leave all of my friends in Philly. Janice would go off to college, and Me and my other two sisters would go to school in Wildwood, NJ.

I would have a glorious summer just like always, but when Autumn fell on the island, everything would just stop. I was about to enter a dark time in my life.

But maybe the light at the end of the tunnel would be me!

 

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Renegade – 1978 to 1979 – Chapter 3 – Dog Food & Drummers

Mike Carlin on the drums!

It was fun to be in a band. I knew it would be. There’s a real comraderyand respect between the band members. You didn’t choose these guys as friends, but sometimes you just hung out with them and went to the mall. It wasn’t just a group of friends strolling to the Orange Julius, it’s the band Renegade.

Sometimes during practice to break the tension of developing a new song, jokes would be fired back and forth between members.

Chaz: “Maybe I should open this shirt another button when the girls stop by again.”

Jerry: “Nobody wants to see that hairless baby chest of yours.”

Chaz: “Oh yea? Well I’ll have you know Gerald, that hair doesn’t grow on steel.”

Jerry: “It doesn’t grow on Jell-O either.”

Shut me down!

Or the time Jerry first met my younger sister April. He would say, “Oh there’s my wife.” It was bizarre and eccentric. She was only 11 years old! We all knew that it was just a funny bit he did, and in no was it meant to be lascivious in any way. It was just weird.

Sometimes Jerry would go into the cupboard in the kitchen when he would first come over and start eating the dry dog food right out of the box. I think he just did it to shock people. It was all very funny and he was a great guitarist.

One time I noticed that one section of the hair on the right side was darker.

“What happened to your hair?”

“I put hydrogen peroxide in that section.”

“Why did you do that, Jerry?”

“Because I wanted to have one little blonde patch in there like Joe Perry. But instead of making it lighter it made it darker.”

“Okay…”

 

The band was coming along. We were working on a few songs by then. But something was off. It was the current drummer, Jack. He just didn’t fit with the band. He also wasn’t very good.

One day somebody brought over this guy Mike. It was just Me, Jerry and Larry hanging out and working on some new material. Jack wasn’t around for whatever reason. Maybe he bailed on practice or something. This other guy Mike gets behind the drum kit and we decide to let him jam with us.

We run through a few numbers and this guy’s tight. He’s also a good-looking guy. I remember my sister Janice coming down the basement and acting a little extra friendly during their greeting.

We decide we want Mike to replace Jack. But we don’t want any drama or Jack losing his shit. I tell the boys I’ll handle it. They’re happy about that because they don’t want to deal with it.

The next day I call up Jack and tell him the bad news. Jerry has quit the band to focus more on school and with no Jerry there is no band. He seems frustrated but accepts the reality of it. Without the lead guitarist who knows all of the songs and all the solos, there’s no Renegade. He says he’ll be by tomorrow to pick up his drums.

I think it was a Saturday because we were all off from school. Jack is packing up his drums. “Tell Jerry, next time he wants to start a band to make sure he’s SURE about it.” I sensed Jack’s frustration. I also felt bad about lying to him. But I had high anxiety back then and didn’t want to face the drama and rejection of it all.

As Jack pulled out of the driveway and drove down the street, I stood on the sidewalk watching him turn the corner. A station wagon down the end of the street started it’s engine. The wagon pulls into my driveway and Mike, Jerry and Larry get out.

“Pretty slick guys.”

“Yea, we wanted to get started as soon as possible.”

“What did you tell Jack?”

“Umm… I just told him his timing was off and he needed to work on that. He agreed, and I said that we’ve auditioned some other players and we’ve decided on a specific candidate to be his successor in Renegade.” (A bold-faced lie. I didn’t have the balls to do that.)

“Wow, man. That took balls. Good job!”

We start unloading Mike’s white Ludwig drum kit. We all carried pieces of it and he gets it all set up.

About a half hour later we’re running through the set list and the band is sounding as tight as a crab’s ass. (That’s water tight)

We’re happy with Mike and I think we’re all set. The usual gaggle of teenage girls wander down the back steps and park in various parts of the basement around the band.

Life is good. Once we were all just targets of bullies. Outcasts. Weirdos. Victims. But now we play rock and roll and everything has changed. The boys that hang up at the corner don’t fuck with us anymore. We are a band. We play songs they like. No longer will they hurt us and especially me. I have created something. It has taken me to the next level. They sit on the corner and play street hockey. I make music with strangers from another school in my basement.

One of the bigger guys one day pulls me aside and tells me that he thinks it’s cool that I’m in a band and the music is good. He thinks it’s cool that his girlfriend and her friends want to hang in my basement and check out my band. He asks that I keep an eye on his girl Patty while he’s at football practice. He knows I’m harmless and it’s a cool place for her and her sisters and friends to be while he’s busy with the boys.

I have become a refuge for the bullies of my neighborhood. I’m happy with my new alliance with these animals. I look at Ray and think about Ryan O’Neil. Dear close friend to Lee Majors in the seventies. Lee was so busy shooting the hit TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man, (A show I worshipped) he asked his buddy Ryan to look after is wife Farrah Fawcett when he was away. Ryan said what I said to Ray that very day.

“I’ll look after like she is my own.”

Ryan O’Neill ended up clipping Farrah and making her his girlfriend and they had a child and he loved her until her untimely death.

I didn’t think of any of this at the time because it hadn’t happened yet, but we were a collection of misfits that suddenly had access to a lot of pretty girls that would show up at our practices for no reason. It was alien to us. But we loved it. None of us were accustomed to being around pretty girls. I think Larry was especially freaked out, and it seemed like Jerry didn’t care. Mike dug the attention, and I just loved that we had an audience.

I was NOTHING before this moment.

Something was happening, and I liked it very much. (Second from the right… Oh my)

The pimple faced, bespectacled, greasy haired loser was emerging as a singer in a tight rock and roll band. Skin cleared. Braces were off and swagger was starting to happen.

The girls liked the songs and we were doing something no one in the neighborhood was doing. The world was opening and for the first time, I really felt alive!

I loved playing the song Cold Gin by Kiss, even though back then I was a closet Kiss fan becuase as great as they were live, a lot of people thoought artistically they sucked. But it’s a great song an I adored playing it with the boys. At that time I had never even tasted hard liquor. I just dug the jam.

 

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Tales of Rock – Pink Floyd Unleashed A Giant Inflatable Pig On London

“They commissioned a gigantic helium-filled pig and strapped it to London’s Battersea Power Station, because nothing drums up publicity for a progressive rock record like a giant inflatable pig.”

In 1977, Pink Floyd were under tremendous pressure to ensure that Animals — their long-awaited 10th album — was a commercial success. The answer was simple: They commissioned a gigantic helium-filled pig and strapped it to London’s Battersea Power Station, because nothing drums up publicity for a progressive rock record like a giant inflatable pig.

However, in a turn of events that would provide yet another footnote to the adage “props are a musician’s worst enemy,” the 40-foot-long pig — nicknamed “Algie” — broke free from its moorings and escaped to sow (pun intended) a rampage of confusion and mild public endangerment. After it floated above London’s Heathrow Airport, authorities were forced to ground every single flight to avoid any sudden collisions with an enormous pig-shaped balloon. At this point, the Royal Air Force had to be deployed to try to bring down the errant porcine.

The balloon eventually crashed in a field in Kent, where it scared the shit out of some cows. Oddly enough, Pink Floyd had anticipated that Algie might break free of his moorings and had actually hired a sharpshooter to watch over the giant pig and take it out in case it escaped. Fortunately for history, the sharpshooter didn’t show up, leading to the incident that we’re amazed nobody called “The Great Pig In The Sky.”

 

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Duncan – Concentrated Dosage – Part 2 – Saturday

“We keep getting older, but they stay the same age.”

I wake up on Saturday morning, and after a day of drinking and activities on Friday, I’m a little banged up. Duncan and I were supposed to go to breakfast at 10am but that wasn’t going to happen.

I rolled over to the Ritz Carlton around 11am Saturday. Duncan was chilling in the lobby. We decided to head down to the movie theater. It was a little cold, but not too bad. Duncan was freezing because he lives in a warm climate and can’t take the cold winters of the Northeast anymore. (Fuckin’ wimp!)

Philly is an incredibly walkable city and we decide to walk all the way down to Columbus Blvd. to the movie theater. It’s right on the Delaware river. (Hence the name, Riverview Stadium) It probably took us about forty minutes to walk down there. The nice thing about walking around Philly is, it gives you time to look at all of the sights and just talk.

I love my time with Duncan this weekend. We’ve really reconnected as friends and as men. He’s been in my life for twenty years and I want to keep him there.

We get to the theater and there’s a line for tickets, but people are in line for everything playing and there. I decide to leave Duncan in line and try the kiosk, because there’s always that person that’s in front of you that is making it their life’s work just to by a couple of tickets to see a movie. That goes for everywhere I go in life. I’m always behind that person that is digging through a coin purse at Rite Aid, or making international transactions at an ATM, or just basically doesn’t ever have their shit together when it comes to doing anything in regard to a retail transaction. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this.

So I hit the ticket kiosk and swipe my card for two tickets to see Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, and I get them! I pull him out of line and we go in. Duncan’s happy that I came through in the clutch because we’re cutting showtime pretty close. The tickets were twenty something by I don’t care. I know what’s going to happen next, and I’m all set.

The theater is huge, and we take the escalator upstairs. We hit the snack bar and Duncan is on the case. He orders a bucket of popcorn. Mistake. No one can eat that much fucking popcorn. Then he gets our drinks. The girl upsells him to the large size because she says we can get free refills. Mistake. No one can drink that much fucking soda. Maybe a couple of dudes that just walked of the face of the Sun, but no human can hold that much liquid in their bodies in one sitting, but I admire her upsell. He gets a box of M&M peanuts for himself and I take the popcorn over to that machine that literally drenches the bucket in butter. It’s probably not even butter, but who cares, it’s delicious. I tell him I want a tray of soft pretzel bites with the spicy cheese sauce and we’re all set. The snacks came to somewhere around thirty-five dollars, and I’ve won. Duncan just bought me a deliciously gross breakfast and the tickets I bought were less that what he paid to feed our sorry hung over asses.

We get into the theater and there aren’t that many people in there. I like that. We take a pair of seats in the back and get situated. We watch a bunch of previews which I love. I’m starving and start ripping into my pretzel bites and the popcorn. The sodas are so enormous I feel like the sheer weight of them will pull the chairs over. My fingers are soaked with butter and I can’t even get a grip on the barrel sized cup in the built-in holder, so like a little kid, I have to go to the straw, rather than pick up the tankard of diet coke. As silly as this is, there is something nostalgic about being a kid at the movies and having all of these treats. It’s breakfast for a couple of men, who are about to watch a new Star Wars movie. We’ve loved them since their inception in 1977.  I’m happy, and I don’t even care that like always, I have dribbled the spicy cheese whiz down the front of me.

We watch the film and it’s glorious. Better than I expected. I’m a film guy, so I won’t reveal a thing, and you’ve all probably seen it. It’s a story that takes place before the original Star Wars movie. It’s a little slow in the beginning but way better than the ones made by George Lucas before this. So if I had to rate the Star Wars pictures I would rate them as follows:

Star Wars: Episode 4 – A New Hope

Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode 6 – Return of the Jedi

Star Wars: Rogue One

I have left off the first 3 prequels Lucas made, because they basically suck. Here’s a classic example of an artist losing sight of his art and original vision. It’s fine. I don’t care. This happens over and over in music, film and art in general. I know the fans are screaming and go wild over the failure of the creators making sub par art and letting them down. It happens. You have to embrace and enjoy how their art made you feel in that moment when you first fell in love with what they did. If you expect the artist to keep making the same art and making you feel that initial rush again at the level you first felt it, it’s just not going to happen.

Look at the band Aerosmith. I LOVED Aerosmith in the seventies when I was growing up. My sister, Janice brought their first record home, because she was hanging out with a band that did their song Dream On. She wasn’t that into Aerosmith, but liked the band that was covering their work. I on the other hand as a fledgling rock guitarist fell in LOVE with Aersmith. It was 1975 and the song “Walk this Way” was playing on the radio from their third record, “Toys in the Attic”.  Their first album is great because like any band, they had their whole lives to write it. But then the studio pushes them for another record and it’s just not as good. The band is great, but the material just isn’t there. They work hard and tour and have a special talent so then they make ‘Toys in the Attic” and it’s a great record. They’re all poor and touring their asses off and doing shitloads of drugs. The lifestyle is changing them and killing them.

People love the song Walk this Way (A nearly perfect FM rock song) and a lot of people buy the “Toys in the Attic”

Then in 1976, Aerosmith puts out a record entitled “Rocks.” A black cover with just the name of the band and the word ‘Rocks’ and picture of five diamonds. It is absolutely one of the most perfect hard rock albums of the seventies. Every song is magnificent.

I love Aerosimth. I wore out the Rocks album. I listened to it everyday and learned how to play every song on that album on guitar. I wanted to be Joe Perry and Steven Tyler rolled into one skinny blonde kid with a guitar.

But you can’t expect them to keep making Toys in the Attic and Rocks every year so you can get your rocks off. Things happen in an artist’s life to change, alter, grow, or fail in some way. So you have Lucas trying his best to make something but the fire and hunger just isn’t there anymore. The heavy metal band Metallica are all wildly rich men. Do you think they can make the powerful angry music they once made? No way. Neither can Aerosmith or George Lucas. Just wrap yourself up in the memory that their art gave you in the beautiful moment of your life and leave it at that. Other people will rise up and take the helm and get you off in a different way.

I’m guilty of this too. Maybe my problem is I keep trying to go back and get that love rush I did when I was younger and I keep dating younger women. It always ends badly, because they want to go forward and get married and have kids and I’ve already done that. Maybe I just need to wrap myself up in my beautiful memories and be done with it.

But Disney has Star Wars now. I don’t listen to Aerosmith anymore except for the old stuff. Marvel Comics is making great films and Star Wars is definitely on the upswing creatively, because someone else is doing it. So for now, I’m going to stick with what Matthew Macoughy said in the film Dazed and Confused, “We keep getting older, but they stay the same age.”

I know it’s wrong, but I want to date a girl that makes me feel like the original Star Wars movie again.

Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion…

 

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