Category Archives: 1980′s
For me, college was only a stepping stone towards reaching that goal. As far as I was concerned, as soon as the president of Atlantic Records showed up at my door with a contract for me to sign, I was gone.
Today’s entry deals with one of the best days of 1987 for me: the day I received my very first student loan check. I know what you’re thinking: “How can one of the best days of your life be about taking on a financial obligation?”
The truth is, words can not fully express how happy I was when I received the little white envelope at the Bursar’s office at Penn State. For you see, at the time it was money that I had very little concern or intention of ever having to pay back.
I found this entry particularly nostalgic when I re-read it again (and also a bit prophetic). First, it was written on the very first day of school in Easton; the first day I was no longer a student in the public school system. It reinforced the notion that I was indeed on my on again.
I also found it to be a sign of things to come. In the last paragraph, I mention the need of having someone “help” me when I become a rock star because I’ll waste all of the money I’ll be getting. In reality, I needed that “help” immediately. I wasted quite a bit of the money I received in student loans on such things as concert tickets and guitars. Loans that eventually took me nearly twenty years to pay off. A lesson well-learned.
Dear Diary: Well, here I am: Psychology 002 again. I’m really not in the mood for this today. I want my bed. Today, I’m going to once again find out if the refund check came back. (Notice that I didn’t say anything positive like, “I hope it’s here” because whenever I do, it isn’t). So I don’t get to get all worked up for nothing, I’m approaching it with an open mind. If it’s here it’s here, otherwise I just want a sure-fire date of when it will be.
I just thought of something: today is the first day of school in Easton, and the first year I don’t go there anymore. That’s weird to say. Weirder still, I can stay home on a Thursday and Mr. Jones (the principal) won’t call. And I won’t get lost in Mr. Milisits’ music theory class anymore! I don’t even need a little yellow excuse. Radical Man!!
( a short while later)….
The check is HERE!! It’s out in the car and I think it’s only one of many: $1444! My knees were shaking. All that money at one time is really scary.
I swear, when I make it big as a rocker they’d better keep any cash in the thousands away from me. Sure, I want it, but I’d waste it. All I need is reliable equipment, food, a roof over my head, a car and maybe a couple of hundred to party or for clothes!
Twenty-Five years ago today I officially began adult life by starting college at Penn State Allentown. This was the first time I had ever gone to “school” without the comfort of seeing familiar faces and teachers. Everything was new to me, but I was also excited about the possibilities. Fortunately, I kept a semi-regular journal about my experiences, including one about this monumental day.
As I read this entry again, a few things strike me as funny. First of all, the mindset I had at the time. I was already making plans with what I was going to do with the LOAN money I was going to receive. You see, I had big plans for those funds; the least of which was actually using them to pay for school expenses.
Funnier still, I wasn’t concerned at all about the obligation I had to pay it back. The way I figured it, that was somewhere “down the road” and by the time I got there well, not only would I have a degree in music, but I’d also be a rock star millionaire.
In my post high school world: Rock and Roll Stardom was the only goal. How I got there didn’t matter and the rest either I (or someone the record company hired for me) would have to figure out later.
August 26th, 1987 was also the very first time I began to realize that I was out on my own. Not only had I received a high school diploma a few months earlier, but I also received my independence from such things as curfews and attending classes.
There would no longer be Mom and Dad to drive me around or write excuse notes for me when I was “sick” anymore. Sink or swim, everything was all on me now.
Here is the entry I wrote in my diary on this day, twenty-five years ago.
August 26th, 1987 – Dear Diary: Today is the first day of Penn State. All I have left is Poetry and I’m off for home. To bring you up to date, here’s what’s been happening:
1. I’m a Freshman in college.
2. I think there is a loan coming by which I’m moving to Allentown, buying a piano, taking lessons, getting a job up there and a pet cat.
It’s weird being in college. I mean, I don’t have to go to any class if I don’t want to and don’t even have to call off sick. If I don’t feel like going, I just don’t go. Yes, I could flunk, but now the responsibility is mine. There is no band yet, but I’m trying.
Well, gotta go. I’ve got Poetry in 12 minutes.
I have to admit, back in “the day” I kind of looked forward to the first day of school. Sure, it was the end of summer, but it was also the time for a fresh start and new beginnings. A chance to see many of the people I hadn’t seen in a long, long time (hey, two months is a lifetime to a kid).
But this coming school year is extra special. For this year marks the first year that I was officially out of K-12 program and began “college life”. Looking back on it now and thinking about the feelings I had at that point in my life is surreal to say the least.
I’m sure some of my fellow classmates will probably tell you that at this point they already had their post high school lives planned out to the finest detail. Everything from which college they were going to attend to what fraternity or sorority they would pledge.
But me? Well, I hadn’t even had given a thought about it. I was more concerned about when my grandmother was going to make her famous sausage casserole for dinner again.
Yes sir, frequent readers of this blog are already well aware of my procrastination and laziness post high-school. In fact, I didn’t take my SAT tests until the very last-minute, and even then just waddled my way through them. I sure as hell wasn’t going to stress myself about studying. I think that the only thing that I was even the slightest bit concerned about was making sure that I registered with Selective Service before I turned eighteen (does anyone else remember that)? Somehow though, I wound up getting accepted into Penn State.
Looking back now, I really lament not taking it more seriously. I spent the first two months at Penn State Allentown and quickly decided to drop out to become a working musician. The extra money I received from Pell Grants and student loans I used for personal things and not for tuition or books. Heck, I figured I had six months from the time I left school to start paying it back, and by then I’d be RICH; or so I thought.
Over the next several years, I was in an out of bands (and becoming a transient college student) before finally coming to the realization that I had made a mistake and needed to enter the work force. Having now started to find “my place” (and with a steady paycheck), I was eventually able to obtain a post high school degree thirteen years after I had graduated and, in 2005 FINALLY paid off the last of my student loans. Better late than never.
Which leads me to this: next week my little girl will start sixth grade and once again I am left to ask the question, “Where does the time go?”. I know it won’t be long before she’ll be faced with the same uncertainty and stress about what lies ahead for the next phase of her life that most high school graduates face. The feeling of needing to find her place.
I think one day I’ll have to sit her down and tell her my story and why its important for her to forge her own path and take her education seriously. Maybe we’ll discuss it at dinner one night over Nan’s sausage casserole. I think I have the recipe for it somewhere…
Loverboy, the Canadian rock band whose songs “Working For The Weekend,” “Hot Girls in Love” and “Queen of The Broken Hearts” have become staples of classic rock radio, have released Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival, a new album of re-recorded hits and new songs.
The band is on a massive nationwide tour supporting fellow veteran rockers Journey, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo.
I had the chance to speak with guitarist Paul Dean about Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival as well as his current guitar setup and the origins of some of Loverboy’s biggest hits.
GUITAR WORLD: What made you decide to re-record and put together Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival?
The album started off with “Heartbreaker,” a song outline sent to us by acclaimed producer and good friend Bob Rock. Bob and I go all the way back to 1980, when he was the engineer on our first self-titled album. The first time I heard the song, it was instant for me; I could hear Mike Reno singing the bejeezus out of it….
Read the rest of the interview here
Have you ever stopped to consider the importance of Friday? I’m not talking about “the day that comes after Thursday and before Saturday” Friday… No, I mean FRIDAY!!
When you think about it, there’s absolutely no day of the week that’s greater than Friday. Not only does it mean the start of the weekend but just think of all the really important events that always happen on Fridays: Getting your paycheck, checking out new movies that premiere, high school football games. It doesn’t even matter if it happens to be raining out – it’s STILL Friday, and that’s cause for celebration!
For me, tonight (coincidentally, also a Friday) begins a nine-day break from the rigors of work that will also coincide with an excursion to Ocean City, Maryland. See? I told you Fridays were awesome!
But, while Fridays as an adult are pretty cool, they don’t even compare to the Fridays I experienced while growing up. So, in celebration of the final day of the work week, here are the three things I loved the most about Fridays growing up:
3. School’s Out: Ah yes, absolutely nothing compared to being a teenager and Friday rolling around. For, in addition to a two-day reprieve from all of the pressures and drama that go along with being a teen, Fridays typically meant no homework and even more importantly, a chance to stay up late and sleep in on Saturday!
2. The Mall: If it was Friday night, you know a non-essential trip to the Palmer Park Mall was in order. The mall was THE place to be seen; especially on Friday.
My neighbor’s mother would always chauffeur the kids around in this big blue station wagon with the sounds of Survivor’s “Vital Signs”; Night Ranger’s “Midnight Madness” or The Hooters “Nervous Night” albums blaring through the Kenwood stereo. Ah, life was good.
You can read more of one of my favorite Friday memories here.
And the number one thing I loved most about Friday growing up:
1. The Incredible Hulk: The television show that starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. I would literally be sitting in class ignoring the teacher while daydreaming of that night’s episode. “Will David Banner cure himself of the Hulk tonight?” I’d ask myself; already knowing that the answer was “No”.
In fact, I was so naive that for the longest time I even believed that Bill Bixby and The Hulk were one and the same. I actually believed Bixby really changed into the Hulk; “hiding” his true muscular physique until necessary. I even remember seeing Lou Ferrigno’s name appear in the opening credits and think: “Who the hell is this guy? I’ve never seen him in any episode.”
Although my siblings seemed to be more interested in watching the Dukes of Hazard on Friday nights (and who could blame them, Daisy Duke was pretty hot) when 8pm rolled around at the Wood household, I laid claim to the 19″ television. At least for the next sixty minutes.
There you have it, the three things I loved most about Friday! Here’s hoping your Friday is just as great! And feel free to comment with your own favorite Friday childhood memories!
Sitting down at my computer early in the morning and drinking a cup of coffee is a ritual that I follow religiously. Browsing my habitual news and entertainment websites each morning not only gives me the chance to catch up on what’s currently going on in the world, but this “alone time” also allows me to reflect on what today’s agenda holds for me.
Today, that agenda includes mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, paying bills and maybe, just maybe if time permits, fixing a loose faucet. You know, grown-up stuff.
But this morning, I can’t seem to get myself focused. The news websites and celebrity gossip just doesn’t interest me at all. Rather, I find myself looking at the dozens of Facebook posts and pictures from yesterday’s 25th high school reunion picnic that I attended.
Yesterday. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were all sitting in class together? Each of us spending as much time as possible in our own little clicks: the jocks, the cheerleaders, the geniuses, the geeks, the stoners, the in-betweens. (I’ll leave you to figure out which of these clicks fit me)
As I watched the attendees (my classmates) arriving one by one, it was as if time stopped. People I haven’t seen since the days of Pac Man and Members Only jackets seemed to appear out of no where. Although we are all now long since grown, I found myself feeling more youthful than ever just being around them.
Handshakes and hugs weren’t just a means of saying “Hello”. For me, the feeling behind each was much more than that. Imagine losing something that you valued for a quarter of a century and then suddenly finding it again. That’s what each reunion felt like.
“Do you remember the time….” seemed to be the five words that started many conversations.
I could write a novel on all of the wonderful reunions I made personally (and who knows, maybe some day I will), but for now, let’s just say that we talked a lot about yesterday, where our journeys in life have taken us and what our hopes and dreams are for the future. Each of us had something different and interesting to say and the hours quickly flew by.
At one point during the day, the heaven’s opened up and it began to rain steadily; forcing us all under a pavilion. In retrospect, it was probably the best thing that could have happened, because it drew us all closer together. It literally was the perfect day.
Truth be told though, I was a bit worried only about one thing: I figured at some point during a discussion with a classmate, sooner or later, someone was going to say something to me that would hit a nerve and the joyful emotions inside would make me have to walk away somewhere lest I become a quivering mess right in front of them. Not cool. I came pretty close a few times but was able to hold it together and was beginning to think I’d make it through unscathed.
But as daylight turned into dusk, I noticed a girl, well now a woman, sitting at a picnic bench making small talk with her friends. A person who graduated with me and someone I remember mostly not from high school, but rather from attending third grade elementary school together. A school that was subsequently torn down in 1979 and caused many of us to separate and transfer to other schools for a year.
Her name is Beth and we both took clarinet lessons after school thirty-five years ago. She and I had both spent many an afternoon in the school’s basement together with an ornery teacher who berated us every time we played a note incorrectly. It’s funny how all of these years later, that one particular memory still sticks out in my head.
Beth and I were never “friends” in high school. We were more like two people who might have just said “Hey” to each other in passing on our way to biology class; on a good day. I haven’t seen her at all since graduation and, quite honestly was a bit apprehensive about going up to her. (Someday, I swear I will outgrow this shyness). But, the thought of this being my only chance to ask her about clarinet class was all the incentive I needed. I went over, sat down next to her and we immediately reunited. She remembered me and we quickly caught up on what we’ve been up to.
And then it happened…
“Do you remember when we used to have clarinet class together in elementary school?”, I asked.
“Porter School!!”, she replied. “Yes, I do remember being in clarinet class with you! I loved Porter School.”
Now, I don’t know if it was the emotion of the high school reunion finally hitting me, Beth saying the words “Porter School” or the way she talked about the school we both attended and loved when we were 8 years old that triggered it, but something inside of me at that very moment said: “Prepare for waterworks!” and I soon found myself having to tell her that I’d be right back.
I spent the next few minutes alone in the bathroom composing myself. Of all things, talking about a silly clarinet class at a high school reunion triggered it.
I shouldn’t say “silly” because I was actually glad that it happened. I think we all need to feel emotion like that in our lives to remind us that we’re human.
This week will be interesting. In just a few short days, I’ll be attending my 25th high school reunion.
The last time I was in the company of many of these people, the world was a much different place. Back then, it was all about sneaking out of restricted study hall at lunch to head over to the nearby Burger King.
It was a time when the only thing that really mattered was getting through the week so we could all go hang out at the mall on Friday night, drink Orange Julius and play Dragon’s Lair.
For me, it also included choir trips, endless hours of practice on my black Gibson Explorer guitar, the longing for unattainable love and of course, a heavy dose of hair metal. I’m actually tearing up right now just thinking about it; the hair metal part that is.
But, I’m looking back now, a quarter century later and am feeling pretty good about how I turned out. Especially when you consider what my original goal was.
Back then, my dream was almost laughable: In a “lather, rinse, repeat” cycle all I wanted to do was write music, record and tour. Pretty much in that order. If I had to sleep on the floor in some stinky tour bus on the way to Small Town, USA or pan handle on the streets for money to buy guitar strings I didn’t care. Music was going to be my life. I wanted to be the opening act for Bon Jovi; at least just long enough until he became the opening act for me.
It wasn’t until the day I woke up in my college dorm room; a twenty year old man with literally nothing but the black guitar and $1.37 to my name that I had an epiphany. And thus began my entry into the work force.
Don’t get me wrong, over the years I was still able to live the dream: I was part of several bands that achieved great things; even playing in front of crowds of 6,000 people. But, there are times that I still think about what might have happened if I had stuck to my original vision.
If things had worked out as planned well, you all would have seen me on the cover of Rolling Stone at least a few times by now. I probably would have also “guest starred” on Adele’s Grammy winning album and who knows; it might have been me in the judges panel on American Idol instead of that guy from Aerosmith…what’s his name again?
Anyway, as I’m typing this entry, over to my right; still hanging on the wall is that very guitar. The same one I put all those endless hours on. The one that contains all my feelings and the one constant that reminds me continually of those days and that dream. It’s still as great as ever 25 years later. I think we all are too!
I believe things happen for a reason. And I’m looking forward to hearing how everyone else’s dreams turned out at the reunion.
Once upon a time, back in the 1980′s if you really must know, there were three kids who used to hang out together on the south side of Easton: James, Michael and John.
For the most part, these three friends would spend summer days playing Dungeons & Dragons, reading comic books, shooting basketball or occasionally, making Spiderman home movies.
Music was also a huge part of their lives. The boys loved buying the latest albums, wearing out the vinyl while playing state of the art video games on the Atari 2600, and attending concerts. Sometimes in pairs but rarely as a trio.
As time wore on these three people (let’s just call them “The Trio”) kind of lost touch with each other and went their own separate ways. Michael started college and entered the world of finance, John put down his imaginary +2 sword in favor of an army rifle and James entered the health care field and continued to play guitar on the side.
Through fate, and the social networks, the three of us were able to reconnect a year or so ago. We had always talked about getting together for a drink and reminiscing, but of course talking about something and actually doing it are two different things. Work, families and other commitments tend to get in the way. Days quickly turned into months and although I’d see John at the gym every so often or receive a text message from Mike when our football team was playing, we never pulled the trigger and made The Trio reunion happen.
Then one day, a few weeks ago something really cool happened. I was offered concert tickets to see Lita Ford at Penns Peak. Now, readers of my blog already know of my admiration for Lita. Heck, I walked for miles in the summer heat with my guitar to lesson to learn how to play her songs. But, as I thought about the opportunity of seeing Lita some more, a huge smile came across my face. What better way to reunite The Trio than with the one thing we all had in common: our love of music?
So, instead of texting Mike I decided to do it “old school” and actually call him. You know, just like if it were the 1980′s. Mike and I had seen plenty of concerts while teenagers back in the day. From the first concert we both ever saw: The Scorpions and some new band named Bon Jovi to REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Cinderella, RATT, Poison, Night Ranger, Ace Frehley… the list goes on. Mike checked his schedule, and it was a go.
Next, a quick message to John, who also was also immediately on board. “Dude” he said, “I haven’t been to a show with you since we saw Stevie Nicks and Frampton back in ’86. You KNOW I’m there!”
Wow! I knew John and I had seen Stevie Nicks in Philadelphia, but had completely forgotten that Peter Frampton was the opening act. But that’s what’s cool about seeing concerts with friends; they help remind you of these things.
At approximately 6:10 pm on July 12th, 2012 The Trio were officially reunited in the parking lot of Penns Peak. The first time the three of us stood together in probably 25 years. In between handshakes, hugs and pats on the back was a bit of sadness too. How was it possible that the three of us all still lived within 30 minutes of each other and never got together?
My self-imposed depression was short-lived as we made our way to the bar (yes, it’s good to be an adult sometimes). It was there that we ate, drank and talked about how great it was to be together again and do something we all loved.
As we watched the concert, much like we always did back in our heyday, Mike and I would constantly look over at each other, nodding in approval of Lita’s performance. It was just like the days of yore and the three of us basked in the glory of metal. Lita was supporting her brand new album and never sounded better.
After rocking together at the show, we actually had the opportunity to meet Lita backstage. Of course, I already know that she’s the “Queen” so it was one of the coolest things ever for me to meet her personally. But for some reason, having the three of us there together at that moment bumped it up a notch in cool.
As we stood there for a group picture, another smile came across my face (this now seemed to be a recurring trend). I kept thinking that Lita was part of something really special and had absolutely no idea about it.
Afterwards, we made our way out into the late summer night, the last ones left in the now empty parking lot. We stood there for fifteen minutes absorbing what had just taken place.
“Jimmy, I KNOW you want to wait here and follow her bus!”, John said. I laughed out loud thinking that was probably something he would have said after we saw Stevie Nicks, and in both cases my answer would still the same: “Hell, yes!”
After a final handshake, high-five and promise to keep in touch we all went our separate ways again. Brothers in music, hoping the time between now and our next reunion isn’t quite so long.
Here’s a little writing prompt. Would love to hear your thoughts:
It’s Wednesday afternoon and I’ve just gotten home from another ruined day of high school. By ruined, I mean having been told in the lunch line that “Johnny Marzetti”, the name given to a Hamburger Helper wanna be, was replacing pizza as the main entree.
Pizza day was something high school students looked forward to. When you saw “Pizza” on the lunch menu you knew that it was not a day to ditch school or go out for lunch. Pizza was THAT important. And being told at the last-minute that it would not be served was equivalent to telling a child there was no Santa Claus.
After dropping my books onto the kitchen table, I slowly made my way upstairs to my bedroom, a ritual I’ve been following since my scholastic career began.
I sit down at the foot of my bed and untie my sneakers, my white stocking feet now relishing in their new-found freedom. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the black electric guitar sitting on the stand in the corner. The only thing that has been the outlet for my teenage angst during senior year. The instrument I’ve put so many hours of practice into and one that will eventually lead me to bigger and better things, that being: rock stardom!
It was going to be a few hours before my brother got home from work and invade his half of the bedroom, plenty of time for me to work on guitar scales and the Mel Bay book. But first, there was another matter that needed my attention.
I opened the top drawer of my dresser and shuffled behind pairs of socks and underwear until my fingers felt it, the spiral bound notebook. The secret journal I had been keeping all year, this most important final year of school. The last year of my high school career and my last chance at any kind of romance.
You see, when you’re going to be eighteen and have yet to find any semblance of true love, writing is the only therapy you have. I’ve never so much as gone on a date, let alone kissed a girl, so almost every day since last November, I’ve been writing.
It’s not that I never wanted to find love or anything like that. It just, well, it just never happened for some reason. And the strangest part of all was, I would write about anything and everything that was going on in my world, everything of course, except for the one thing that wasn’t: Love.
My writing ritual was always the same: right after my brother fell asleep and before my own head hit the pillow I would write about my day. Nothing long or drawn out, just something to remind me of what was going on in my life. And the entries would always be the same too: A quick refresher on what was going on with me musically followed by an update on homework assignments, car trouble or some other teenaged obsession.
Certain details of my day I always kept hidden, even to myself. Some things were better left unsaid. But today would be different. Today, aside from the fact that I was going to be writing in broad daylight, was the fact that today’s entry was going to be a doozy. One for the books. So with pen in hand I feverishly began to write:
I’ve gotten close to three hours of guitar practice in yesterday and hope to accomplish the same today. Pit band rehearsal at school seems to be going well. I’m going to master that part of “Leader of The Pack” even if it kills me. Not too much else happening….
There was a pause. Actually, there WAS a lot happening. My hand began to shake and my heart began to beat faster. What I was about to write was going to be something I’ve never written about before. Oh sure, I’ve thought about it many times but never put it down in words. And for a moment, I began to think about the consequences of my actions if my brother were to ever discover the journal and the words that would soon adorn the page.
You see, there are a two unwritten rules every boy follows on his journey to manhood. The first being never, ever keep a diary or a journal. Those things are for girls to draw rainbows on and write down school crushes. Boys should be more concerned about Michael Jordan and Ozzy.
The second, but just as important, never, EVER show your sensitive side. The fact that I was about to break both commandments at once should have raised the red flag for me. I was risking eternal ridicule, but in the end, I knew this was something I had to do:
I’m still after her. Yep, I think just sitting two tables away from her at lunch and moving my chair near her in choir class isn’t enough. Even though I know she looks at me and smiles, there are times when that Bon Jovi lyric comes to me:
If only she would look my way (Hey Hey)
But, “She don’t know me. She don’t see me
She can’t hear me. Heaven help Me!”
Somehow I wish she would notice me. Deep down, I know she’s right for me. In all of my seventeen years I’ve never felt this way before. Maybe time will tell.