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Night Ranger’s Jack Blades and Brad Gillis Talk New Album, ‘Don’t Let Up’

Photo by: Ash Newell

It’s been 35 years since Night Ranger released their guitar-driven debut, Dawn Patrol. The album ushered in the band’s hook-laden, twin-guitar sound—a sound heard on songs like “Don’t Tell Me You Love” and “(You Can Still) Rock in America.”

The band also helped define the Eighties with songs like “When You Close Your Eyes,” “Sentimental Street” and, of course, “Sister Christian.”

Today (March 24), the band released a new album, Don’t Let Up, and it’s an obvious next step for a crew that’s been rocking for more than three decades. Songs like “Somehow Someway” and “Nothing Left of Yesterday” conjure that blistering, dual-guitar attack—now featuring trade-offs by Brad Gillis and new guitarist Keri Kelli—while “Comfort Me” and “Truth” offer hope in uncertain times.

In the end, Don’t Let Up reflects exactly what Night Ranger continues to be: a kick-ass American rock band. Night Ranger is Jack Blades (lead vocals/bass), Kelly Keagy (lead vocals/drums), Brad Gillis (guitar), Eric Levy (keyboards) and Keri Kelli (guitar).

I recently spoke with Blades and Gillis about Don’t Let Up, gear and a lot more.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of Dawn Patrol. What goes through your mind when you look back to that era?

BLADES: A sea of emotions. It’s interesting to think that it’s been 35 years because sometimes it feels like 35 days. When you start out, you figure you’re going to be in a rock band for a while and then hope for the best. Who would have thought we’d be here now, 35 years later, talking about a new Night Ranger album? We’re one of the survivors.

GILLIS: What goes through my mind was how exciting the Eighties were and the Cinderella story of how I got the gig with Ozzy Osbourne and toured the world. Then taking everything I learned from that experience and carrying it into Night Ranger. I think about how Ozzy’s Speak of the Devil and our Dawn Patrol were released on the same week in October 1982 and then jumping right into a major Night Ranger tour. It was a great era, and to still be doing it 35 years later is pretty amazing.

What’s it like having guitarist Keri Kelli in the band?

BLADES: Kerri’s great and is a perfect addition. He brings in a unique groove and Stones-ish feel to the band. He’s the guy who pulls everything all together and fits in perfectly with Brad. They get along great, and he and Eric Levy are very in tune to the history of Night Ranger and the music we’ve created. They bring ideas and an attitude that’s really worked out well.

What was the writing process like for Don’t Let Up?

GILLIS: Basically, we started out by going to Kelly’s home in Nashville with the nucleus of the band [which consists of myself, Jack and Kelly] and wrote about six songs in a few days. Then we came back to my place and wrote a few more, and then flew to Jack’s to do a few more. Then we brought in Keri and Eric to put the icing on the cake and round out the record. We stuck with our format of big choruses and the dual-guitar assault with different styles of soloing.

BLADES: The process was laid out like we’ve always done: Let’s get in there and jam. That’s exactly what we did.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Jack Blades and Brad Gillis Here!

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Revolution Saints: Jack Blades Talks New Album with Doug Aldrich and Deen Castronova

RevolutionSaintsConsidering their resumes, which read like a who’s who of hard rock and metal, calling Revolution Saints a supergroup is something of an understatement.

The creative trifecta of Deen Castronovo (Journey, Bad English), Jack Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees) and Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Burning Rain) has put together an inspired collection of songs packed with monster vocals, driving rhythms and (of course) a blistering guitar attack.

Their debut self-titled album, which will be released February 24, also features appearances by Castronovo’s fellow Journey bandmates, Neal Schon and Arnel Pineda.

I recently caught up with bassist Jack Blade to talk about Revolution Saints, Night Ranger and more.

GUITAR WORLD: How did the Revolution Saints project come together?

It was actually the brainchild of the head of Frontiers Records. He really wanted to give Deen a platform where he could be the lead singer. He talked to Deen about it, and then Deen called me up and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. I was immediately on board. Then someone mentioned Doug Aldrich. I’ve always been a big fan of Doug’s. He’s such a great guitar player. Boom! There it was!

The new album has elements from all of your other bands, yet has its own unique freshness. How would describe the new album?

It’s pretty hard rocking. Good, classic hard rock with balls is basically what the whole thing is about. I think when you have individuals like us, you can’t help but be who you are. It is who we are in all of those bands we’ve been a part of. But Deen’s voice is so pure and clean on this album. It’s just wonderful.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Jack Blades by Clicking Here!

Guitarist Joel Hoekstra Discusses His New Gig with Whitesnake

JoelHoekstra2Whether he’s performing as part of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages, touring with Trans-Siberian Orchestra every fall or jetting around the country for sessions and shows, Joel Hoekstra is one of the hardest-working guitarists you’re ever likely to meet.

And now he’s taken on another challenge.

It was recently announced that Hoekstra would be leaving his gig with Night Ranger to become the new guitarist in Whitesnake, replacing departing guitarist Doug Aldrich.

Hoekstra’s seven-year tenure with Night Ranger included three critically acclaimed albums and tours, not to mention being part of a killer one-two punch with guitar great Brad Gillis.

With Whitesnake, Hoesktra finds himself in a band whose ranks over the years also were filled by guitar royalty: John Sykes, Adrian Vandenberg, Vivian Campbell, Steve Vai, Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach. Hoekstra will join a Whitesnake lineup that includes David Coverdale (vocals), Reb Beach (guitar), Michael Devin (bass) and Tommy Aldridge (drums).

I recently caught up with Hoekstra and asked him about the new Whitesnake gig and also got a sneak peak into the band’s next album. I also asked him what he’ll miss most about his time with Night Ranger.

GUITAR WORLD: How did you first hear about the Whitesnake opportunity?

Oddly enough, Doug [Aldrich] and I are friends and were texting the night before the news came online. He didn’t mention anything about it to me at the time. All he said was there was some news coming. The next day, I woke up to hear Doug would be leaving Whitesnake.

How did you wind up getting the gig with the band?

I think it was a combination of me putting out some feelers and some people recommending me for it that led to me going out to meet with David at the end of May to hang/audition. That went well, so the next step was to go back in August to play on material for the upcoming Whitesnake album and to make sure it was going to be a good fit for both sides. At that point, I started to realize this was really happening.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Joel Hoekstra by Clicking Here!

Night Ranger Provides Music Therapy at New York City Show

NR -BBSOk, I’ll admit it. The last time I saw a full Night Ranger headlining set was back in 1985 when the band was touring on the success of its third album, “Seven Wishes”  — Does anyone else remember bassist/vocalist Jack Blades rising out of the genie lamp to begin the night’s festivities?

Although I’ve seen Night Ranger many more times over the years, its always been when they were teamed up on a bill with two or three other bands. And for as much as I will always love hearing their biggest hits, I lamented never having the opportunity to hear some of the earlier material that always appealed to me. Album cuts that never quite made it mainstream. But Night Ranger’s performance last night at BB King Blues Club in New York City was a trip through three decades of rock and for me personally, some much needed therapy.

Opening the set was the fitting “Touch of Madness” – a single from the band’s monster album “Midnight Madness”. Next, the band immediately took us thirty years into the future. Performing “St. Bartholomew” (from the band’s brand new album “High Road”) for the very first time live. Blades would go on to joke about “sneaking” that one into the set, but the fans enthusiastic response indicated they knew otherwise.

From there, Night Ranger took us on a whirlwind journey through time and quite a bit of their early catalog. Performing nearly half of the “Dawn Patrol”, “Midnight Madness” and “Seven Wishes” albums as well as tracks from Blade’s days with Damn Yankees.

The band also brought us forward into the new millennium with “Lay It On Me” from 2011’s “Somewhere in California” as well as the title cut of their current album, “High Road”.

There was no doubt that the band would also include their biggest hits in their New York City set and the songs “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”, “Sister Christian” and “When You Close Your Eyes” were met with equal adulation.

Night Ranger (BB Kings New York City)

Night Ranger (BB Kings New York City)

Bassist/Vocalist Jack Blades is the quintessential showman. Whether he’s introducing a new song or asking the audience if they’d like to come out on the road with the band, Blades is in his comfort zone when he’s out front.

You’d be hard pressed to find a better drummer/vocalist combination in music than Kelly Keagy. Seeing him hit the high notes for “Sentimental Street” or “Sing Me Away” while continuing to keep an infectious beat is still mind boggling.

Keyboardist Eric Levy was absolutely brilliant in staying true to the band’s classic sound and has become a staple of Night Ranger.

Guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra (a New York City native) are a force to be reckoned with. The duo trade off guitar leads with ease and perfection. Gillis laying down the most flawless, tasty licks while Hoekstra literally felt right at home. Firing up the crowd with his own guitar prowess and the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. He was glad to be there, and so was I.

Night Ranger

I’ve been a Night Ranger fan since the band’s early days and can still recall the first time I heard “You Can Still (Rock In America) on my neighbor’s cassette recorder. For me, it was a game changing moment.

Much the same as last night’s show at BB King’s.

Night Ranger Set List (BB King Blues Club NYC)

Touch of Madness
St. Bartholomew (Live Debut)
Four in the Morning
Lay It On Me
Coming of Age (Damn Yankees cover)
Sentimental Street
Seven Wishes
Sing Me Away
High Road
Night Ranger
High Enough (Damn Yankees cover)
Goodbye
When You Close Your Eyes
Don’t Tell Me You Love Me

Encore:

Penny
Sister Christian
(You Can Still) Rock in America

 

Guitarist Brad Gillis Talks New Night Ranger Album, ‘High Road’

BradWhile several Eighties rock bands have gone the “human jukebox” route — touring behind their catalog of hits without releasing new material — Night Ranger continue to buck the trend.

For the band’s new album, High Road, which will be released June 10, Night Ranger take us back to their roots — a time when inspired songwriting, huge guitar riffs and harmony solos and vocals ruled the airwaves. It’s a formula that never gets old.

High Road will be available in two formats — standard CD and a deluxe version, which includes a bonus instrumental track and a DVD featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the album, plus video clips.

Night Ranger is Jack Blades (bass guitar, vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums, vocals), Brad Gillis (lead and rhythm guitars), Joel Hoekstra (lead and rhythm guitars) and Eric Levy (keyboards).

I recently spoke with Gillis about High Road, his early years and his biggest career highlight. I also got an update on his upcoming solo project.

GUITAR WORLD: How does a Night Ranger album project begin?

There are three factors we look for whenever we make a new record: big vocals, the sound/song structure and the harmony guitars and vocals. I think it’s great for a band to stick to their roots and what made them famous instead of always trying to delve off into too many new territories and confusing their core audience.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Brad Gillis by Clicking Here!

Guitar World: Joel Hoekstra Update on New Night Ranger Album

Joel Hoekstra and Brad Gillis of Night Ranger

Joel Hoekstra and Brad Gillis of Night Ranger

Whether he’s performing as part of the hit Broadway musical Rock of Ages or jetting around the country for Night Ranger recording sessions and shows, Joel Hoekstra is easily one the hardest-working guitarists you’re likely to meet.

In addition to his aforementioned commitments, Hoekstra finds time to tour every fall with Trans Siberian Orchestra.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Night Ranger’s monster 1983 album, Midnight Madness, and Hoekstra and the rest of the band — Jack Blades, Brad Gillis, Kelly Keagy and Eric Levy — are excited to celebrate it by recording a new album and performing more headlining shows.

I recently caught up with Hoekstra, who told me how Night Ranger’s new album is coming along and his other musical projects.

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You can check out the rest of my Guitar World interview with Joel and watch videos of him working his magic by Clicking Here.

Brad Gillis Talks Night Ranger, ‘Midnight Madness’ and His Time with Ozzy Osbourne

Gillis3Thirty years ago, Night Ranger were transformed from an opening act to a headliner with the release of their album Midnight Madness. The 1983 record became a smash hit within months of its October release, thanks to tracks like “Sister Christian,” “(You Can Still) Rock in America” and “When You Close Your Eyes.”

For Night Ranger guitarist and founding member Brad Gillis, the time between then and now seems like a lifetime. Over the years, in addition to recording and touring with Night Ranger, Gillis has released solo albums and written hundreds of songs for the ESPN network.

Although his greatest fame came with Night Ranger, Gillis is also remembered for replacing Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band immediately after Rhoads’ death while on tour with Ozzy in 1982. At the time, Night Ranger were still unknowns, whereas Osbourne was a star. Eventually, Gillis would be forced to choose between staying with Ozzy or continuing with Night Ranger.

Guitar World recently caught up with Gillis to talk with him about Midnight Madness, his tenure with Ozzy and his and Night Ranger’s forthcoming albums.

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Read my interview with Brad Gillis by Clicking Here!

Some Final Thoughts on The Grammy’s

I’ve got some final words to say about this years Grammy Awards. Truth be told, I haven’t had much interest in watching them anymore.

Now you would think that as a musician The Grammy Awards would be something always on my agenda of things to watch. To see the best of the best get their due. But sadly, the ceremony, much like the AMA’s, CMA’s and any other “MA’s” I may have missed, seems to have become nothing more than just a lackluster showcase for the music industry to pat itself on the back instead of awarding real talent.

Don’t get me wrong, this year Adele easily deserved to sweep everything. She is a true diamond in a sea of the same old same. But outside of her obvious and most deserving win, every year the awards seems to turn more and more into something that can’t be taken seriously.

Consider the way Chris Brown was graciously accepted back onto the stage again and won a pair of awards after his most recent shenanigans. Or the way Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters was blatantly cut off during his acceptance speech when he started telling the truth about how music should come from the heart and not a computer. And lets not forget the fact that a group of “old men” (The Beach Boys) schooled everyone who hit the stage before them with true vocal harmony.

But I’d really like to focus the meat of this blog on the list of artists from the “Rock Performance” and “Metal” categories. Because, you know me, it’s all about the Rock and Metal.

First, here’s a list of winners from thirty years ago:

Record of the Year: Rosanna: Toto
Album of the Year: Toto IV
Song of the Year: Always on My Mind: Willie Nelson
Best New Artist: Men at Work
Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female: Pat Benatar-“Shadows of the Night ”
Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male: John Cougar Mellencamp -“Hurts So Good”
Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal: Survivor-“Eye of the Tiger”
Best Rock Instrumental Performance
: A Flock of Seagulls – “D.N.A.”

And now, here is a list of Grammy winners for 2012:

Record of the Year: “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele
Album of the Year: “21,” Adele
Song of the Year: “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth
New Artist: Bon Iver
Pop Solo Performance: “Someone Like You,” Adele
Rock Song: “Walk,” Foo Fighters
Rock Album: “Wasting Light,” Foo Fighters
Rock Performance: “Walk,” Foo Fighters
Hard Rock/Metal Performance: “White Limo,” Foo Fighters

Look at the variety of artists from three decades ago. All with hit songs and all deserving. Where is that variety today?

Please don’t misunderstand me, I love the Foo Fighters. Really, I do. But three different songs winning Grammy awards? And one Grammy for Best “Metal” performance? The Foo Fighters aren’t “Metal”.

It really upsets me that there seems to be a lack of true nominees in these categories whether by accident or deliberate intention. Every time you see the list of nominations you pretty much know who is going to win. And why is it that groups you’ve never heard of always seem to get a nod and bands that have Grammy history and new albums get ignored?

Consider artists like Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger for example. Ok, I agree that it’s been years since any of them had songs that topped the charts. But all of these bands have released albums of brand new music, most of it very good and all within the time frame of nomination, but their body of work wasn’t even acknowledged by the academy.

Now I’m not saying any of these artists should win. Hardly. All I’m saying is that wouldn’t it be nice to at least recognize the efforts of bands that have stood the test of time and continue to deliver music for their fans? But instead, true musicianship gets over shadowed by the need for computer generated beats and auto-tuned vocal performances.

I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised though. I mean lets face it, this is the same awards show that gave the very first Grammy in the Hard Rock/Metal category to Jethro Tull instead of Metallica.

And don’t get me started on that whole Milli Vanilli incident.

The Album Experience

A few weeks ago I was perusing iTunes looking for songs to buy on a gift card I received. I chose a few Foo Fighters songs from their most recent album (I didn’t really care for the previews I had heard of the whole thing) and the Bon Jovi anthem “It’s My Life”. I’m not even sure which record that track was on. My guess is it’s probably on several of them but I just wanted the song for when I do cardio at the gym so it didn’t really matter.

I mean, you can’t play Eye of The Tiger consecutively for thirty minutes straight while on the treadmill. Well, I suppose you can but I like to mix it up a bit.

Speaking of Bon Jovi, I read an article not too long ago from Jon Bon Jovi himself. He made the outrageous claim that Steve Jobs and iTunes had single-handedly ruined the music business. This coming from a guy whose band has made millions of dollars off of it. Including quite a bit of it from me over the years I might add and more than enough money for him to one day become part owner of a billion dollar NFL team. A guy who still continues to sell his music on iTunes and profit off of it. Just who is he trying to kid anyway?

But the more I thought about it and looked at the receipt for my downloaded songs the more I realized….he’s right. The entire “experience” of getting and listening to new music is gone.

Back in “the day” if you heard a cool song on the radio from a band you loved you had three choices…

One:  Call the radio station 24/7 and beg them to play it.
Two:  Try and find the 45″ single of it somewhere.
Three: Buy the album, which was always readily available.

In my case, the choice was easy. I would always buy the album because I LOVED the experience (ok, and also because I didn’t want to sound like a sissy calling the request line).

When you first heard the new “hit” from the band on the radio and the brouhaha that followed you knew the countdown to the new album was officially on. It was almost like Christmas was coming.

There was nothing quite like getting that new album (or CD) and taking it home for the first time. Especially if you’ve waited the habitual two years since your favorite group’s last record. A literal lifetime when you are growing up.

My ritual was this: I would get the album, lock myself in my bedroom, tear open the shrink-wrap and put new vinyl on the turntable. Always first song, first side (or first track on a CD – I’m not THAT OLD). I knew the “hit” was always about the third song in and I didn’t want to just skip to it. I wanted the build up.

As the first notes of the record started I knew ‘the boys were back’ and I’d  begin to immerse myself in the liner notes. The smell of new ink would invade my senses and the troubles of the day would soon fade away.

Even though the guys in the band had absolutely no idea who I was (at best just a little dot in the 23rd row at their last concert) it felt like a reunion with old friends. Friends that had inspired me, comforted me and consoled me with their music.

“Boys, where have you been? What’s new?”

I’d read all about the musicians and where the album was recorded and who any “special guest” musicians that had played on the album were. The thank-you notes would always include references to God and family and as a musician myself I’d always think that maybe some day I’d have the opportunity to make these same decisions for my own album.

But most important of all, I read the lyrics.

I loved reading about the pain, heartache and reckless abandon the band felt when creating this record. I tried to relate what I was going through in my own life with what I read and listened to. By the time the “hit” started playing I was already in some distant utopia. (which coincidentally, was the name of the store in downtown Easton where I bought a lot of my records).

When the record was over it was almost like you had just gotten off an amusement park ride. Sure, some of the songs weren’t as good as I had hoped but there were always some gems on there. I liked to guess which song would be the next one released to radio and I’d start wondering just how long it would be before these guys came to town and I could go see them again. The whole thing was indeed an experience.

Now, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I had the whole music experience. I too find myself falling into the same routine that everyone else does. Getting the quick-fix by downloading the one “hit” song. Quite frankly, I even believe most artists these days are perfectly happy with just getting the 99 cents for that one song and ignoring the “album”. But taking Jon’s advice, I decided to pass the digital quick fix and try the album experience again. I chose to buy a physical album from a favorite band whose records spent many months on my turn table growing up and one who coincidentally had just released a brand new album: Night Ranger’s “Somewhere in California”.

I sat there in my office, put the CD into the computer, fired up the media player and started playback on the first track. It was so easy to fall back into the groove, read the liner notes and get lost in thought. And although there were some really great songs on there I know that in today’s music business not a single track on this album will ever get airplay. But the experience of listening to an album from start to finish was as wonderful as I had remembered it to be.

So Mr. Bon Jovi was right in a way. I guess iTunes has changed the game. And sure, I’ll probably take the Night Ranger album and throw it on my mp3 player to take with me. Will I listen to it day and night? Probably not. But favorite songs aren’t meant to be just some digital file on an iPod.

They’re meant to stay with you for a lifetime.

 

Extra: Be sure to check out my other Night Ranger blog article here

Friday Night At The Mall

Long before Katy Perry sang about dancing on table tops and getting kicked out of bars I was mastering the art of Friday night. And there’s one particular one that I’ll always remember.

It’s a Friday night in the early 1980’s and my friend Mike and I are hopping into the back seat of his Mom’s old blue station wagon and being chauffeur driven to the Palmer Park Mall. Thirty years ago, being a teenager at the mall on a Friday night was on par with going to the “Dip-and-Dances” at the Palmer Pool in the summer or hanging out with a bunch of classmates after a school event at Penn Pizza. Even if you weren’t popular, if you made it to the mall on Friday night you were part of the in-crowd.

You see getting dropped off at the mall and left alone by your parents moved you up three notches on the coolness meter. Personally, it was also the perfect opportunity for me to showcase my chiseled teenage abs and Sylvester Stallone looks. My red Members Only jacket and my Jordache jeans. Ok, I made up that last part. I really didn’t wear Jordache jeans.

But a typical Friday night excursion to the mall was always exciting for me. It was a chance to see all the kids from school outside of the element. No teachers, pencils or homework assignments. More importantly, it was also a chance to see the hottest girls from school too. Oh sure, I’d always see a few of them here or there roaming the halls all week but in the mall environment they ALWAYS gathered together in some kind of sorority. And although I knew my shyness would inevitably hinder any chance I had at any real conversation with those of the female persuasion, I’d still be polishing up my “Hey Baby” lines as we’d pull into the parking lot.

It wouldn’t be long now before the smell of pizza and feel of Orange Julius running down my arm would put any thought of romance on hold as there were more “male” dominated matters to attend to. Mike’s mom gave us the usual time and rendezvous point to meet up with her for our journey home and at this point, the entire mall was ours.

With no I-Tunes or Internet access of any sort, unless you consider the useless modem that I had for my Commodore Vic-20 computer, being at the mall was the only chance I had to stop into the Listening Booth record store and seek out new music. On good days, today being one of them, I had extra money and with that, the opportunity to buy my very first record album which I eagerly did.

With new music now in hand, Mike and I made our way down around the furthest corner of the mall. Well past The Gap, Pearle Vision Center and Waldenbooks store. A place that was always dark and mysterious. Kind of like some seedy back alley. One of those places where there might be a bunch of people playing an illegal poker game in some smoke-filled back room and you needed a special knock just to be allowed entrance.

Only one thought came to mind as we approached: My pockets have gone through six days of pregnancy with quarters and it was now time for delivery.

I could not wait for the chance to open a can of whoop ass on Mike again playing Space Invaders or Pac-Man. I was feeling particularly lucky this evening which wasn’t a good thing for Mike. Tonight was going to be a good night. I pictured my initials being emblazoned upon all of the top spots of the machine. I was more than ready to place my quarter on the console while someone else was playing and reserve it. You see, there’s a certain unwritten rule about strategically placing your two-bits on the machine that even the meanest of children abide by. It’s the customary thing to do to indicate to the kid currently playing that: “Dude, once your ass is dead, this machine is mine!”

As we slowly entered the darkened Fun Attic arcade it sounded like a scene right out of The Empire Strikes Back. Machines beeping and flashing as far as the eye could see. Teenage Boy Nirvana. Nothing but kids congregating with each other around machines in an attempt to dominate at Pole Position or vanquish the evil Donkey Kong once and for all.

I was always conservative when it came to my video games. Although most kids were now on to bigger and better things I relished being one of the last old school players who much preferred dominating on mindless games like Space Invaders. So you can imagine the shock when I discovered that the Space Invaders machine had been replaced. Apparently, the brilliant minds at Fun Attic had decided to take away the only game I’d ever love.

But that’s when I saw it: Dragon’s Lair.

It sat alone in the middle of the arcade, right where Space Invaders once sat. Beneath a single spotlight that I’m sure was always there but some how never noticed before. It was almost as if it were the Hope diamond on display in some museum.

The machine read “50¢ a play” – fully DOUBLE the cost of three lives on a traditional machine. But as I stood there in awe watching the movie preview enticing me to dump Mario and Ms. Pac-Man to save Daphne the princess and defeat the dragon, I realized I had no choice.

I spent every last quarter I had on that game and loved every minute of it. As I progressed through the levels I took notice that a gaggle of girls from the Palmer Mall Sorority were now lining up around me to watch and cheer me on. Something that never happened while I was playing those “other” games, or at all for that matter.

It didn’t take me long to realize that in addition to this game being the coolest thing ever, it was also a chick magnet. I felt like a rock star maneuvering through the catacombs of the dungeon to the delight of those observing.  Even Mike, my loyal compadre, who normally would have beckoned me over to play pinball by now still stood by my side: my wing man.

When the last of my quarters was gone without rescuing the princess and the girls went back to doing whatever it was girls did my life suddenly had new meaning: I needed to defeat the dragon and impress the ladies.

We soon met up with Mike’s mom at the rendezvous point and were en route back home. And although I had originally planned to just listen to my new music all weekend I couldn’t help but also think about how I needed to double my quarter intake in six days.

Because next Friday night, we were going to do it all again.

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