So, now we venture into the world of Jamie’s childhood. Prepare yourself. We’ll focus on one endeavor at a time. The first, you ask? My rock band.
Yes. I had what could loosely be described as a “rock band”. (Loosely described by me).
It was 1986. MTV was at the height of popularity (Martha Quinn, anyone?) and still showed music videos. Jem was Truly Outrageous. I, being the epitome of ‘cool’, decided I needed to be on the forefront of this rock n’ roll phenomenon.
I gathered my nearest and dearest friends and told them we were forming a rock band. No tryouts. No arguing. No search for real talent. Done.
So what that no one played any instruments other than me? (I played the piano and sang lead vocals). Luckily, I had a Casio keyboard (thanks Santa!) and could choose from “beats” that would play in the background as we worked through a song. Pages of old lyrics feature scrawl at the top that says stuff like “Bossa Nova in G” and “16 Beat”.
I was also the fortunate owner of REAL maracas with classy palm trees painted on them from a family trip across the border into Mexico. (Nikki usually got to play the maracas.) I had one of those cheapy wooden flutes from some theme park. You know, the one with four or five holes that filled up with spit faster than you could say “spit”? This was pawned off on some band member each time we met for practice. Rachel would bring her Dad’s acoustic guitar – that she didn’t know how to play.
We were a force to be reckoned with.
We were “The Lightning Kids”. I have trouble remembering if this was because lightning was cool – or if it was because lightning was easy to draw and I wasn’t much of an artist in the pen-and-paper sense. I have blueprints (blue construction paper) with a lightning bolt drawn with chalk – our “would be” back drop if we ever had a gig… And no. No, we did not.
I wanted to break off and go solo at the fifth grade talent show, singing lyrics from a song I had written with the Casio playing behind me, Samba in B-flat. The song was “Your Place”:
“I’m on a case of love / I wear a detective’s glove
I found a clue / And, baby, it is you…
Let’s go to your place / Brighten up my face
Let’s go to your place / Figure out this case”
I was 10!
I assure you, I had never been to anyone’s “place” – unless you count smootching behind a shed with Lance during a round of “Truth or Dare”. I assume I picked the phrase up from TV and thought it sounded risque. When I expressed my desire to sing “Your Place” in front of God, my peers and the Principle, my mother looked rightfully mortified. She diplomatically encouraged me not to perform the song, which she said was a bit ‘mature’ for the crowd. (By the way, Mom – THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!). I would’ve lived with the reputation of 10-year-old slut for the rest of my formative years in small town Oklahoma.
Incidentally, we figured out the case and the song ended with me throwing away the detective glove…but I don’t have these lyrics copyrighted. I would be a fool to publish this gold here and have Miley Cyrus steal the lyrics for her own profit…sneaky little bitch.
Ruth was in charge of choreography. Much to my chagrin, she was a better dancer than I was. I admit, I was petty and jealous and convinced I should be the best at everything. This led to me challenging her to many a dance-off. She always won.
Ruth would practice Janet Jackson moves in her room at all hours to the album “Control”. Years later, she could do “Rhythm Nation” blindfolded. She wrote songs including “Teddy Bear Heart”, which erupted into an argument when I didn’t think a song about a guy having a teddy bear heart really fit into the edgy “Lighting Kids” image. She came back with not every song having to be about “detective gloves” or a “heart being stabbed like a knife,” or some such absurd argument. (Bands fall apart every day due to creative differences – “The Lightning Kids” were no different).
Truthfully, I trusted Ruth and left everything to her in my will. My will was handwritten and stuck in a Manila envelope behind my dresser. It contained photo copies of The Lightning Kids songs and our blueprints. She also got my hamster, Tuffy, should something happen to me…
Lucky for all of you, I’m still here!
The second time we got approached about doing a talent show was in sixth grade. One of my teachers, Mrs. Korn, heard that I had a rock band and was stoked. (She failed to ask how many of us played actual instruments. Poor Mrs. Korn.) We were having a talent show for our “group” of classrooms at the end of the hall. Ruth, Rachel and Nikki’s teachers at the other end agreed to excuse them to perform.
We practiced “Time Goes By” for several days leading up to the talent show.
“Time goes by
Like a rocket shooting into space
Yeah, time goes by
But it doesn’t make me want to eray-ray-ray-ray-rase.” (erase)
The “erase” effect was plagiarized directly from Duran Duran’s successful deployment of this effect in “The Reflex”. I know a good idea when I hear one.
At the last minute, we completely chickened out. Our faux instrument skills were revealing major holes in our plan, and we didn’t want to ruin our social lives for the next six years by sucking.
We convinced Ruth to choreograph a dance/lip sync for us to perform instead.
I will never forget Mrs. Korn’s face when Nikki hit “play” on the boom box and “Nasty Boys” (by Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty) came on. We gyrated and mimed sitting in a movie show thinkin’ nasty thoughts. Her eyes were like saucers, her teeth were clenched – she was probably envisioning calls from pissed off parents. There were snickers in the back of the room. Someone wolf-whistled. We nailed it.
The boys of sixth grade showcased their talent, as well. They played “Heard it through the Grapevine”, donned sunglasses, and conga lined in like the raisins in the “California Raisins” commercial.
To be fair, putting sunglasses on correctly was probably a challenge for some of them, so this was no small feat. But to declare them the winners!?!? My nasty comrades slunk back down the hallway to their classrooms, heads hung in shame.
One of my favorite things to do is to get out a bottle of wine after a tough week and pull out the yellowed folder of our old songs. Soon, I have tears rolling down my face and wine spit-up on my chin.
Our rules for songwriting were simple. Four line verse, four line chorus, four line verse, repeat chorus, four line verse, repeat chorus twice. And, scene. Another rule? Everything must rhyme. Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense. As long as it rhymes, you are a brilliant lyricist.
I’m going to end with some memorable verses, Miley-be-damned:
Recurring theme 1 – phone calls:
I need to hear your voice / Aren’t you gonna make a choice?
You better dial that number / Or you’re gonna be choppin’ lumber
Other songs had a sense of quiet desperation, like this one by Rachel:
“Call Me Up”
Will you call me up tonight? / If you don’t I will not call you
My phone number is 339-8081* / Yes oh yes, call me up!
Please don’t forget to call me /Oh please don’t forget to call me
If you need someone, call me / If you need me, call me
*Rachel’s real phone number
Recurring theme two: killers mingled with love
“The Killer Strikes Tonight”
It’s twelve o’clock at night / The stars are somewhat bright
The lights have just gone out / And there is a killer about
Yes, the killer strikes / He’s the killer of love
All these nights / He’s the killer of love
Recurring theme three: Bovines
“Magic in your eyes”
There was magic in your eyes / The night the moon was full
A silent glow of lies / A red-colored bull
“What About Love”
What about love (count 2) / you say you love me (count 3)
What about love (count 2) / you say you love me (count 3)
Just pretend that I am your cattle
Just pretend that I am a target for you