Xav, Jerry, and a Pedal

Richie, Brian, Wayne and Robin all left at around 3 o’clock. We left the drum kit set up and pushed the giant amp up against the wall. Richie and I agreed that we should do it again tomorrow. We both had a great time playing together. He said he wanted to keep on playing and maybe bring Xav and Jerry around in a few weeks. Xav and Jerry were the bassist and keyboard/vocalist of Richie’s band, The Cogs. We both agreed that I wasn’t ready to audition for the band, but maybe in a few weeks I’d be able to get my skills up and take a crack at some of their tunes. He said they covered ‘Is She Really Goin’ Out With Him’ by Joe Jackson. I wasn’t familiar with the tune, I told him. He seemed surprised. “It’s easy!” he shouted. “You can totally learn it!” He said they also did a parody of ‘Wild Thing’ by The Troggs. It was called ‘Prune Juice’. Then of course there was their original “hit”. It was called ‘I’m Bi(sexual)’ it went like this:

I’m Bi!


I’m Bi!


Bi Sex u al That’s me


That’s the way I want

to be!

Are you Bi?


I like women I

like men too

I’m Bisexual

How ’bout you?

Are you Bi?

and so on.

“It’s easy!” he exclaimed. “I’ll get Xav to come over and show you the tunes. You should check out that Joe Jackson song! I know you know it. You probably just don’t know it from how I’m singin’ it”.  We all agreed that it was cool and that we’d meet at the schoolyard later that evening and hang out.

When my parents got home from work, they asked how it went. I told them it was great. Actually, I probably raved about how much fun it was. I asked if we could leave all the gear set up and keep on rehearsing in the basement. They looked at each other and shrugged. “Sure.” they agreed. So awesome. “If the neighbors complain, you’ll have to take it somewhere else, but yeah, yous can practice down there.”

That night, just after dusk, Brian and I made our way to Edmund’s and the heavy metal staircase to hang with the heads. Richie and Mark were there along with a bunch of other people. Some I knew. Some I didn’t. Richie grabs me and pulls me over toward a smaller set of steps off to the side. A few more dudes and girls were sitting around smoking. One of the guys had long, blonde heavy metal hair, but with one side of his head shaved off. The other guy had a college rock/skateboard hairdo.  Both of these guys looked like adults, like 20 or 21. One of them was wearing spandex bicycle shorts, which I thought was perverse. This was the summer of ’88. Popular videos in (almost constant)current rotation on MTV (which we now had at my house!!!!!!) included Cult Of Personality and Glamour Boys by Living Colour and Paradise and Yankee Rose by David Lee Roth’s new band as well as several videos by the hair metal band Poison. All of these videos had a lot of dudes in spandex as well as Body Glove neoprene wetsuit type surf(?) clothes.  I thought it was pretty bad looking on TV. Here at the schoolyard, it was absolutely mortifying.  In fact, when I got there, the guy with the long blonde/shaved hair who I would soon find out was Xav, was yelling at the other guy(Jerry). They were actually talking about the shorts as I arrived. Xav said “You’re not, are you?!? You’re not even wearing underwear!!” “You’re not supposed to!” Jerry hollered back at him,”That’s the whole point of these things. So that girls can see the essence of your schlong!” He thrust his groin in the direction of a girl who was sitting nearby. She shook her head. “The ESSENCE of your SCHLONG!!?? HAHAHA What the fuck maaaan?!?! If I squint, I can see your dick hair!! go get some underwear!”

I was laughing my ass off, but I was glad this conversation was happening away from the larger, more traditional group.  I mean it was obvious that Xav and Jerry were established members of this scene, but still I felt a bit uneasy as it was, not havin long hair and maybe being too “alternative” for this crowd. These guys were behaving like caucasian Milli Vanilli and I wasn’t about to be demoted by association. Eventually the hubbub died down and Richie introduced me. “Can he play?” Xav asked Richie as he shook my hand. “Yeah”, Richie said, lying. “Needs some work”, he said, truthfully, “I have my kit set up at his house, over on Saul st. You should come by, check it out” “Well alright”, he said, much the way Matthew McConaughey does nowadays. With that he bid his crew adieu and skated off to some girl’s house. Jerry was friendly, but I could tell he didn’t have much hope for my talents or the potential future for me as a Cog.

That night, when I got home, I went down the basement and surveyed the gear. It looked cool. The drums and the amp. we had even set up the mic stand and the microphone even though there was nothing to plug it into. It just looked good. I started looking through the cables, and adaptors and the 2 pedals that Richie had left. From what I could see, You were supposed to plug the guitar into one side, then run a cable out the other side to go to the amplifier, thereby sending the guitar through the pedal. I plugged my guitar into the flanger and plugged it into my little Gorilla amp. I was confident that would be quiet enough to not disturb my parents. I didn’t get any sound at first and the light didn’t come on. I figured it probably needed a fresh battery. I grabbed the 9 volt out of the basement smoke detector and stuck it in the pedal, the first of hundreds of life safety devices I’d disable in search of a good sound. That did it. The flanger glistened to life and my guitar now sounded like a slowly swirling metallic robot, or like it just did a whip-it. All of psychedelia and new wave were now available to me. I turned the knobs and changed the speed, depth, and regeneration (whatever that is) of the signal, and suddenly, everything I played sounded cool.

For the next month, my daily ritual became this: 6:30am wake up. I was setting my alarm, but I barely had to. I was so excited to begin another day, that I sprung out of bed with an ease that I hadn’t ever before and haven’t since. I would go downstairs and have breakfast with my dad and mom and then drink coffee with them until they went to work. Then I’d watch MTV for about an hour even though it was the same every day: Wild Wild West by The Escape Club, Roll With It by Steve Winwood, Fast Car by Tracey Chapman, The Flame and Don’t Be Cruel by Cheap Trick, Shattered Dreams by Johnny Hates Jazz, Every single song from Kick by INXS, and of course, the never ending, relentless onslaught of DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince who unlike me, seemed to have parents that just didn’t understand. Then I’d get a shower and get the basement ready. Around 9:30 or 10 they’d start to show up. I’d just leave the front door open and the gang would peek in the screen door and walk in. Richie would get there on the early side, followed by Brian and Wayne and sometimes other Wayne. Mild Mannered Mark would come by sometimes. Richie and I would be playing music by 10AM. We played Paranoid, Born To Be Wild, Iron Man, Rock & Roll by Led Zep, War Pigs, Tune #1, and Tune # 2. We jammed on the riffs to Day Tripper, Satisfaction, and Devil Inside by INXS. Then, just before noon, all the summer school kids would start shown’ up: Christian Rock would come by, O’Fee & Dianne, Robin and Judy, Eric Midgett would be there. Eventually, my whole house was full of heads watching hot box cable while Richie and I worked to become functioning Rock & Roll unit downstairs.

We’d stop playing at about 2:30 and clean up the house. Everybody would split and I’d watch a movie and then eat dinner when my parents got home. Then I’d walk to Edmund’s and hang out all evening with the crew. I had to be home by 10:30, so I’d come home, listen to records and fall asleep.

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