Nice Boys (Don’t Play Rock n’ Roll)

In anticipation of my CD release (released April 2nd!), I thought I’d post this piece about my very first band audition. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent.

First bands are never easy. The members are usually very young, don’t know each other and are musically and socially ill-equipped. As was the case with my band.

I was a young, sullen teenager and revolution was in the air.

Or, at least, it was in my bedroom.

I had a borrowed Japanese knock-off electric guitar, which I had to play unplugged. This didn’t matter. I knew three chords – which meant I could play along to at least two songs from the latest U2 album on my sister’s record player. As Bono himself so eloquently put it: ‘All I need is a red guitar, three chords and the truth.’ My guitar was a tannish- brown, but I had the three chords and I was about to embark on the mystic journey for the truth.

I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a rock star. I had always written stories and imagined that one day I might be a writer. Then, one night a local DJ played ‘Thunder Road’ by Bruce Springsteen and that was that. I didn’t, however, have any desire to play the guitar at that stage. I just wanted to stand in the spotlight, stage front, and recite grand speeches, like the one that prefixed ‘The River’, which I soon learned word for word. The guitar playing came later. Born of necessity.

At this time I happened to meet a drummer by the name of Mark. Mark had played drums since he was born, apparently, and was phenomenal. He told me he was in a band that was looking for a singer. I knew Mark’s musical preferences were similar to mine, so I figured I’d try out. I should, however, have asked what the other band member’s musical preferences were.

The band, it turned out, consisted of Mark, a bass player named Robbie and a guitarist named Paul. Robbie had a worrisome love of heavy metal and all its clichés. I liked The Smiths and U2. Robbie liked Norwegian death metal bands whose names I couldn’t even spell. His bass strap was a leather belt with metal studs, a la Iron Maiden, and he had a habit of bending over while playing and wiggling his tongue out in finest Gene Simmons tradition.

The guitarist Paul was a short, clean-cut little guy who, despite his appearance, also had a fondness for loud wailing guitars and pyrotechnics. Or so he said. To be honest, Paul wore the permanent look of someone not quite sure where he was, and he might just as easily have had a stack of Rick Astley LPs under his bed.

As musicians, Robbie and Paul couldn’t have been further apart. Robbie’s bass playing was the aural equivalent of a herd of irate buffalo stampeding across the plains. This style pervaded whether he was playing an obnoxiously loud song or a tender ballad. Paul, on the other hand, was a master of minimalism.

Paul only ever played two strings on his guitar.

Ever.

Unfortunately, as opposed to being some form of innovative guitar style, this mode of playing seemed to be born out of the fact that his fingers couldn’t shape a full chord. Paul would eventually be the reason I learned how to play guitar.

And so it was, one warm summer’s evening, I met with Mark, Robbie and Paul for our first rehearsal. After we had dispensed with all the pleasantries, Robbie turned to me and asked: “Do you know ‘Rock You like a Hurricane’ by The Scorpions?”

My spider-sense was tingling. I had to admit that, no – despite my love of German rock – I wasn’t familiar with that chestnut.

“How about ‘Since You Been Gone’ by Rainbow?”

This continued for some time until we reached ‘Summer of 69’ by Bryan Adams, which must have been quite a comedown for Robbie. His next suggestion probably would have been Perry Como. ‘Summer of 69’ I knew, despite having long since crossed the line between Bryan Adams being cool and Bryan Adams sucking. That had happened somewhere between the ages of twelve and thirteen.

It’s a funny thing about ‘Summer of 69’. For a very long time in discos all over Ireland, young men and women – who weren’t born in 1969, never went to a drive-in or played a six-string – were punching the air and mouthing all the lyrics. Even now, somewhere in the world, an Irish person is asking a cover band to sing ‘Summer of 69’.

And hopefully that cover band is doing a better version of it than we did back at my first band rehearsal.

 

(Image: Click the pic for credits)

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17 comments on “Nice Boys (Don’t Play Rock n’ Roll)

  1. Thanks for sharing! Life is full of those litttle adventures. It is so enjoyable to read about them when they are written well.

  2. sharonbuchbinder says:

    Thanks for posting this, Derek. You are not only a talented musician, but also a gifted writer. I felt as if I was in the garage with you and that first band. 🙂

  3. Derek Flynn says:

    Thanks Kelli and Sharon. With all the CD release buzz, just want to remind people I write too! 🙂

  4. Very enjoyable, a lovely read and made me smile, thanks!!!!!

  5. Paula Dennan says:

    Great post Derek, I can picture you all at that first rehearsal 🙂

  6. justinbog says:

    Absolutely hilarious, Derek . . . and churns up so many musical memories.

  7. Cliona says:

    Gas, can just picture ye’s all. Great post/story Derek. 🙂

  8. Emma says:

    “Summer of 69”. Don’t know why but it resonates with us Irish every time.

  9. Anne-Marie says:

    Ah, I enjoyed this! Laughing out loud at the dude who only ever played the two strings. Great piece Derek – though I take it you won’t be treating thd hordes at Derekfest to any Norwegian death metal covers?!

  10. adam says:

    Very well written. You have a gift, sir. Well, more than one!

  11. Awesome post, my friend. You totally named every band or singer I loved over the years. Maiden, Scorpions, Rainbow, Adams, U2, even Astley. With regard to the Boss, I was more of a “Born to Run”/”Rosalita” fan, myself. Very cool. *laughs* You think I’m kidding… I also loved your writer’s voice on this. Might there be more of these tales from your youth to follow?
    I could talk music all day. Can you tell?

    -Jimmy

  12. Ha! “the line between Bryan Adams being cool and Bryan Adams sucking”… worlds are created in this void in space time. Quantum musical direction.

    You really were born too late into a world that doesn’t care… Aren’t bands wonderful, confused, misguided, transcendental things??

  13. Great post Derek – v. entertaining and one of your best. But what I really want to know is which one are you in the photograph?

  14. Summer of 69 – I passionately loathe that song. Nice post tho 🙂

  15. Amy Eyrie says:

    LOL. What a hilarious memoir of your rock & roll rite-of-passage. Bono was right, you had all of the qualifications, even then.

  16. jamhenry says:

    Great post Derek. Sorry I’ve been off the radar. I’ve been away in Israel on a trip of a lifetime. Blogs to follow. I loved this post. It was very funny. I’ve never been in a band but I do love music and enjoy nearly every group you named in your post. Loving two-string Paul. We all need to thank him since he brought your musical talent to fruition 🙂 one final thing…will you play Summer of 69 for me lol 🙂

  17. jamhenry says:

    Great post Derek. Sorry I’ve been off the radar. I’ve been away in Israel on a trip of a lifetime. Blogs to follow. I loved this post. It was very funny. I’ve never been in a band but I do love music and enjoy nearly every group you named in your post. Loving two-string Paul. We all need to thank him since he brought your musical talent to fruition 🙂 one final thing…will you play Summer of 69 for me lol 🙂

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