The Boys in the Band
Forget John, Paul, George and Ringo. In 1967 the hottest band in the Crescenta Valley was “Mother’s Complaint” whose members consisted of Rene, Kevin, Dennis and yours truly.
In spite of the fact that I’ve made a living as a writer most of my adult life, I won’t be surprised if during my welcome interview at the Pearly Gates I’m asked, “So, didn’t you know you were supposed to be a drummer?!”
I had enough clues. From banging incessantly on the copper bottoms of my mother’s Revere Ware with wooden spoons, to scouring the used drums for sale ads every week trying to build my dream drum set – a double bass Ludwig kit with a five-inch, chrome-over-brass Sonor snare and full rack of hand-hammered Zildjian cymbals. Yep, the drumming gene was strong in me.
Contrary to the stereotypical “garage band” label, our group rarely parked in anyone’s garage. Since my dad was loath to inflict anything even remotely rock-music-related or loud on our neighbors (unless, of course, it was running a big snarling V8 engine that he was working on “uncorked” painfully early on a Saturday morning). He more than frowned on my band rehearsing in the garage where the sound could waft throughout our neighborhood. In fairness, we did have one terminally cranky neighbor who seemed to have the CV Sheriff on speed dial and would call to report my brothers and me or any of our friends for perpetrating even the slightest perceived infraction of a parking, noise or some other imaginary ordinance. And so, our band practiced in our own living rooms, rotating homes each time so as not to annoy the same parents and siblings too often.
Memories of those marvelous, magical, musical years came flooding back to me this past weekend when former band-mate (and fellow La Crescenta native) Dennis Cant sent me an email with pictures attached of our former band. Along with a couple snapshots of us playing at some St. James Catholic school function (where our two other band mates were students) and at a Battle of the Bands in the gym at Rosemont Jr. High (where Dennis and I would soon attend), he sent a priceless picture of our band posed for the camera in our coolest rock star outfits – matching white short-sleeved dress shirts, skinny Beatlesque ties and wildly colored, paisley patterned homemade vests sewn by – you guessed it – our mothers.
We stayed together as a band from fifth grade through our senior years in high school – changing a member or two every couple of years and changing our name to “Dr. Livingston’s Experiment in Flower Power” and then “The Millennium Odyssey.” (Alright, so I wasn’t a writer yet, okay?) I spent considerably more time designing and creating our various band logos that I mounted on the front head of my bass drum than I ever did on any homework assignment. (Sorry, Mom & Dad.)
As our band’s members graduated from high school and moved away to college, the band finally broke up. I grew from goofy teenager into a goofier young adult and soon realized that the only thing I wanted more than a career in music was a wife and family. So sometime after college, the late nights at clubs, gigs every weekend and holiday, and the pathetically puny musician’s income were gradually replaced by more sensible, sustainable pursuits. In theory, at least.
Granted, writing hasn’t always been a career path that allows for much (if any) financial security. Or exotic vacations. Or many other things, for that matter. But I’m more than okay with that. Because, unlike what life would likely have been had I pursued my passion for music, I’ve had the blessing and privilege of being home and available for the better part of my marriage and our kids’ lives.
And that, dear readers, is music to my ears.
I’ll see you ’round town.