The Best of Shadowbox Live 2013
The Worly Building
By Rick Brown
Click Here for the Review
Lake Erie Psychedelic Sunset # 7
Illusions of Grandeur
About the time I started getting curious about girls, I began to realize that I was probably not going to attract many with a trombone. Freudian as the instrument may be, the advent of the Beatles and the British Invasion had changed the rules of cool for teenagers of the 1960s. After seeing the Fab Four on Ed Sullivan everything changed. Coincidentally I saw them the night before us 6th graders had a science project of “building” a musical instrument due. Some of us boys had already tasted the sweet thrill of strumming cigar box guitars with rubber band strings … singing … “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to the girls. And there was no going back from there … trombone or no trombone.
One of my very best pals at the time was Donny … soon to be simply Don as we all began dropping the “y” from our names in an effort to “grow up”. Donny’s older brother Denny was in high school and had a band that played mostly Beach Boys tunes. They even dressed like the Beach Boys. Donny and our other friend Jeff were both drummers in the school band with me. But like his brother, Don ached to play guitar. And much to our amazement, Denny and his band mates let us PLAY their INSTRUMENTS at sleepovers and after school … whenever they weren’t practicing.
So the three of us recruited Sammy, whose dad played guitar in a country and western outfit. Sam would bring his father’s ax over and the four of us … me on bass (sort of), Jeff playing drums, and Sam and Don on guitars … “jammed”. Donny’s parents must have been very patient people because we were really hacks. The first song we “learned” was The Four Season’s “Walk Like A Man”. Really. None of us considered WHO was going to SING this … and no one ever did. We called ourselves “The Apollos”, not because we thought ourselves to be gods … but after the current NASA space program. And even though we NEVER played a gig … never even got out of Donny’s basement … we were on some level “Slam Book” gods to our 6th ... then 7th grade schoolmates. The Apollos were on top, despite the fact no one ever heard us … uh …play.
For my 13th birthday my father bought me a 1964 Gibson Melodymaker and a Gibson Skylark amplifier at a place called Grabowski’s … something ethnic like that. And for a short time life was good … even though I still played trombone. But The Apollos were running on fumes by 7th grade. Actually, that’s all the band … if I can call it that … ever did. It just took Don, Jeff, Sam and I a while to figure it out. The crushing blow came when Don (who unlike myself had actually learned to play guitar) quit the Apollos and join a band with HIGH SCHOOL GUYS!! NINTH GRADERS!! My 14-year-old heart was broken.
I took action. I began taking lessons … first learning actual bass lines. Never mind I was playing a regular six-string guitar! I recruited a guy named Jay to play drums. This was a great find for me because he had charisma. (I had a smidgeon as well even if it wasn’t apparent to me.) Jay’s family was from Scotland … as were some of my ancestors. His dad was a local preacher at the Community Church. My family and his were kind of on equal economic footing … at times the lack thereof.
Then I swallowed my pride and did the junior high unthinkable. I asked a couple SEVENTH GRADERS … boys 18 months my junior … to play guitars in my new band. Dave and Todd both said yes enthusiastically. Both had cool Hagstrom guitars and Gibson Kalamazoo amps. I still had the biggest, most powerful amp … making me bandleader … even though Dave knew and taught us all the songs … all uh … 5 or 6 of them. The male anatomical/amplifier metaphor escaped all of us at the time.
We practiced. And practiced. Dave played lead guitar, Todd was on rhythm, me on “sort of” bass and Jay on drums. We decided to be an instrumental surf band. This was an easy choice since we had no microphones. We bought matching white Levis’, maroon penny loafers, and madras surfer shirts. And we named ourselves “The Illusions”.
Dave taught us the Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run”, Lonnie Mack’s “Memphis”, The Chantays’ “Pipeline”, The Surfaris’ “Wipe Out”, The Marketts’ “Out of Limits”, and even a tune titled “No Matter What Shape” recorded by the T – Bones. This song … and I am not kidding you … was the theme from an Alka Seltzer commercial! Finally, we had a song I can’t remember the name of. But it went:
Dah dah duh dada dah
… then the music stopped and there was a silent four count until The Illusions went back into playing the instrumental riff. It obviously was our “throwaway” tune … one that we whipped out only after we had run through the other 5. And since none of these numbers lasted longer than 3 minutes that didn’t take much time. Without a microphone there would be no “between song patter”. Not that any of us at this point in our young lives were capable of doing this.
Still … The Illusions were ready for a gig. Fortunately, there just happened to be a Olmsted Falls Junior High School Talent Show right around the corner. I signed us up. And we practiced, trying to hide our nervousness from each other.
When the day came we were given a 2-song limit. Again … onstage for a whopping 6 ½ minutes!! But at least we didn’t have to perform the “throwaway” tune. And since we had “equipment” and the fact that not one kid in the audience had probably ever SEEN a rock band live before … we were given the last spot in the show. I’m not bragging ... well … yes I am … but that was a wise decision on the authority figures part.
Again … I am probably bragging … but on that afternoon … as The Illusions watched from the wings … I honestly thought we were better than the barbershop quartet. We were better than the tap dancers. We were better than the geeky boy pounding out “Get Me To The Church on Time” on the schools’ blond upright piano.
When it was our turn the cafeteria hushed as we carried out our amps and guitars and set them in front of Jay’s drum kit. And we stood at first woodenly in our band’s “surfer uniforms” … loosening up after the girls screaming and boys clapping began. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to ANY of us. Even the principle came out and did a sort of Ed Sullivan impersonation asking the crowd if they wanted to hear “one more?”!!!
Obviously The Illusions took first place. I have no recollection of winning anything in particular but we didn’t care. All four of us were elated.
We were already thinking about our next gig.
Now on Friday nights back then in Olmsted Falls, Ohio there was something called “Teen Canteen”. Don’t ask me why. It was held in the fellowship hall of the Community Church … where Jay’s father was the minister. Basically, young teens hung out, played four square or Skittles, listened to 45 records and chewed a lot of bubble gum. I guess it was to keep us out of trouble … and apparently force us to listen to Andy Williams sing “Moon River” or Lorne Greene’s “Ringo” … or both … week in and week out. Anyway some of the high school guys’ bands were starting to do a set at Teen Canteen so I enlisted The Illusions. The only problem was that our gig didn’t really give us enough time to practice our current material and learn new songs too.
After the big talent show win I celebrated by marching into Olsen Electric and buying a microphone stand and arguably the shittiest microphone money could buy … all for about 11 bucks! It was a high impedance (of course) thing that looked kind of like a radio studio mic that was shrunk down for a 14-year-old boy. When I plugged it into my amp along with my guitar it squealed loud enough to peel paint off the walls. So I had to turn my amp down, making my guitar hard to hear with the band. I decided it wasn’t worth using, but looked cool enough to have in front of me onstage.
But at our final practice before the Canteen gig I discovered on the “Dah dah duh dada dah” song with the 4 silent beat breaks, that I could quickly turn my guitar down, and switch on the microphone. I was just screwing around really … but when we came to the break in the song I turned my guitar down and quickly switched on the mic. I leaned closely into the thing and said in a the lowest voice I could make … “OH YEAH!”
Everyone in the band immediately stopped playing and proclaimed how GREAT that was! Pretty soon I was booming “OH YEAH” every silent break and Dave shouted, “We’ve got ANOTHER SONG!!”
I thought … “Uh Oh”.
When the Canteen gig came a few days later everything went fine. Although the show certainly lacked the intensity of the talent show we were well received. After all, we weren’t in school. Everyone was being cool on Friday night at Teen Canteen. But after we ran through all five of our songs and got halfway through them a second time Todd said, “Let’s do ‘OH YEAH!’ now!!”
I’m not sure I’d ever been so nervous in my young life.
At the first 4 count I turned down my guitar, switched on the mic, leaned in and said “Oh. Yeah”.
Everyone … especially the girls … stared at me.
The second time I turned down my guitar, switched the mic on, leaned in and emphasized a bit more, “OH YEAH!” And everyone began smiling and clapping.
The third time I had gained confidence. I turned my guitar down, snapped on the mic authoritatively, leaned in, and shouted “OOOOOHHH YEAH!!”
The girls squealed AND screamed!
I would have most certainly taken this adulation as enough. But when the song was finished 7 or 8 girls were STANDING ONSTAGE next to me, squeezing my arm, batting their eyes and giggling!
Excitedly all of these girls were hopping up and down, chattering “Play ‘OH YEAH!’ again!! Play ‘OH YEAH’ again!!! PLEASE play ‘OH YEAH’ AGAIN!!!”
The Illusions must have played “Oh Yeah” at least three more times. And by the final rendition Todd, Dave and Jay had had about enough. Maybe it was because by my final version my swagger was as such that the song could now be titled “WHOOOAAA!!! YAY UHHHHHHHHH!!! HOT DAMN YAY UUUUHH WHOOOOOWHA YAAY YUH” That shitty little microphone must have looked even smaller next to my BIG head.
Summer break soon followed. And the magic of those two musical moments … the talent show and Teen Canteen faded. Jay’s father moved his family back to Scotland. We got another drummer. But it was never the same again. For one thing Dave and Todd got amps BIGGER than mine. Jim was a nice enough fellow … and a good drummer. But I realized Jay’s personality helped keep the chemistry behind The Illusions positive and fun. Like most music groups we all learned that it’s a sort of marriage. We changed our name several times … argued about what songs to play.
The usual stuff that comes between people … even those who care for each other. We never played another gig together as The Illusions … or any other name.
Everyone eventually drifted apart.
The Apollos and especially The Illusions hold a very special place in my heart. I wish I could get girls to flutter around me like back then. But like it or not we all grow up … at least those of us who refuse to look stupid trying not to. So when I look back on these memories … The Apollos playing in Donny’s basement … The Illusions winning the junior high talent show. … and especially the Teen Canteen gig … I smile to myself and say out loud for anyone to hear,
Burlesque: Behind the Curtain
The Worly Building
By: Rick Brown
Click Here for the Review
Explaining the Mysteries
dos pasos de la pobreza
C. Mehrl Bennett
Toward the Canonization of Philip K. Dick
By Dennis Toth
In the shadow of
That High Tower
We still abide,
Between a Roman wall
And Earth's green fields
And otherworldly spires.
Pray for us, St. Dick,
Pray for us all
As we ponder every vision
From every Revelation
You had received
(Which, oddly enough, were
More theologically precise
Than the average
Half-sentient though we be,
For consciousness is a slippery thing
As we stumble through life
Like fleshy machines
With programs surely fried
By conflicting wants
And pinpricks of desire.
Cogito no ergo sum,
Ergo ego zoom
Vast are the hymns of
Longingly sung to such
Infinite wisdom and
Infinitely is the answer,
Which is why the questions
Are more profound.
book, Best Bites is available at:
Lulu.com & Amazon.com
Hmmm # 62
Hmmm # 63
a brief visit
The Non Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
Hot Dog Race!
Scene: Huntington Park, home of the minor league Columbus Clippers, Section 7 along the first base side of the diamond. Rick and his wife Yvonne are sitting on the aisle halfway up Section 7, stage right. They are with a group of friends. The section is filled mostly with families and their small children. The fifth inning has just ended. The Clippers have yet to take the field to begin the sixth.
Announcer – Is everybody ready for the HOT… DOG … RACE?!!!
The crowd screams enthusiastically and there is the sound of clanging cowbells.
Announcer – Pick your favorite!! Whooooooo will win the great HOT DOG RACE?!! Will it be KETCHUP?!!!
There is a small cheer smattered with boos as an image of a guy in a hot dog suit with a red shirt reading “KETCHUP” appears on the Jumbotron above the home run wall stage left.
Announcer – Hooooooow about MUSTARD?!!!
More cheering, booing and cowbelling as a guy in a hot dog suit with a yellow shirt reading, “MUSTARD” joins “KETCHUP” on the giant screen.
Announcer – Or wiiiiiiiiiiiiill it be RELISH?!!!
Again, cheering, booing and cowbelling as the trio is completed by a guy in a hot dog suit with a green shirt reading “RELISH”.
The three “hot dogs” preen and prance around acting macho until a pistol shot is heard starting the “race”.
A cartoon of the 3 “hot dogs” racing appears on the Jumbotron.
The crowd cheers wildly and cowbells ring enthusiastically.
Announcer – AAANNNND HEEEEEERE THEEEEEEY COME!
Suddenly a door flies open in the right field wall and three “real guys” dressed as “real hot dogs” KETCHUP, MUSTARD and RELISH run out together, heading for the finish line at home plate. Young girls, dressed as cheerleaders, wave pompoms along the first base line.
The frenzied crowd continues to cheer and ring cowbells frantically.
As the three approach the first base bag, KETCHUP brazenly runs ahead of RELISH, abruptly gets down on all fours and RELISH violently trips and falls over him.
MUSTARD waltzes to the finish line, crosses it and begins schmoozing with the cheerleaders acting like a REAL hot dog.
Rick (indignantly) – THAT is SOOOO WRONG! What kind of lesson does that teach kids? I mean … is that supposed to teach them good sportsmanship?
Yvonne – It’s not real Rick…C’mon.
Rick – I don’t CARE! It’s ridiculous!
The Clippers take the field. On the very first pitch the opposing batter bunts the ball along the first base line. The first baseman scoops up the ball with his bare hand. The runner lunges towards first base. The first baseman dives at the runner. They collide. The runner is tagged while seemingly touching first base simultaneously with his outstretched hand … at the exact … same … spot where KETCHUP tripped RELISH just minutes earlier.
First Base Umpire (emphatically) - YOU’RE OOOUUUUUT!!
The visiting team’s manager is foaming at the mouth livid, running out to the scene screaming and waving his arms in protest. He is kicking up the dirt around first base. He is pointing wildly … and repeatedly … at the spot the runner was tagged and touched first base …the exact … same … spot where RELISH was deceitfully knocked down by KETCHUP.
Rick and Yvonne look at each other … surveying the situation.
Rick (dripping with sarcasm) – Hey MANAGER!! THE HOT… DOG … RACE … ISN’T REAL!!! ITS NOT REEEEEEEEEAL!! NOOOOOT RRREEEEEAAAL!!!”
Section 7 laughs.
Announcer – his hidden, apparently real on some level self
Ketchup – his/her cheating unreal self
Relish – her/his unreal accomplice self
Mustard – his/her prancing, preening victorious unreal self
Batter – his out but possibly safe self
First Baseman – his stinging barehanded self
Umpire – his emphatic self
Rick – his sardonic self
Yvonne – her eye rolling self
When I was a boy growing up in Olmsted Falls, Ohio … a village 20 miles southwest of Cleveland … I was an intensely loyal Indians fan. Don’t ask me why. After the 1959 season they pretty much stunk up Cleveland Municipal Stadium … as well as every other ballpark in the American League. And usually there were few witnesses to the losing. Still … I was loyal to the team to a fault.
Maybe it was because my brothers Jimmy and Donny were huge Browns fans. Jimmy Brown was the star … my brother’s namesake along with James Brown. (Jimmy did a dead on impression at age 10, “Baby Baby BAYYBBBEEE!!”) But it was easy to be a Browns’ fan. They won most of the time. They were NFL Champions in 1964. The Tribe hadn’t won a World Series since my parents got married in 1948. But most game days, and sometimes well into the night in my bed, I’d be clutching my bright read Philco transistor radio listening to Jimmy Dudley announcing Cleveland Indians Baseball.
I accentuated the positive whenever being ridiculed for being so loyal to a losing cause. “Ohhhh yeah?? Maybe they lose a lot, but they lead the league in DOUBLE PLAYS!” Or, “ HEY! Daddy Wags is batting .276!!”
I remember hearing the game against the Los Angeles Angels when Woodie Held, pitcher Pedro Ramos, Tito Francona and Larry Brown hit consecutive home runs. I felt I was there when Al Luplow caught a would be home run … then fell over the fence into the bullpen … with the ball securely in his mitt in Boston’s Fenway Park. Both happened the summer of ’63. And I was there … saw it with my own ears.
You can see I was a very troubled … yet devoted youngster.
I didn’t go to a lot of games. I was young … they were DOWNTOWN and my father instilled a fear of such places at an early age. You took your life into your own hands by going to an urban area … at least according to Snook. And he was certainly not much for sports himself. So by the time I was 13, I’d been to maybe 4 or 5 Indians games. And amazingly, I had never seen them lose in person.
In the early spring of 1965 the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Tribe ran a promotion to get people to games called “Grandstand Manager’s Night”. This idea had been originated long before I could remember, by the P.T. Barnum of baseball, Bill Veeck. Veeck had owned the Indians during their golden era of the 40s and 50s. And despite his reputation for carnival - esque schemes, (He once had the manager of the St. Louis Browns … later Baltimore Orioles … pinch hit a “little person” then insensitively called a “midget”.) he also signed Larry Doby, the first African American player in the American League. He quickly followed by signing Satchel Paige a little later.
The newspaper ran simple questions fans (Grandstand Managers) could answer and get FREE general admission tickets to certain games. The short survey I sent in simply asked whether the Indians should move the home run fences in closer or leave them put. The old stadium was so HUGE inside this was actually an option. But even at the tender age of 13, I figured it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. The visiting team could easily hammer shorter homers, just like the home team, could they not? I have no idea how I answered. I didn’t care then and don’t now.
For my trouble I was mailed FOUR FREE TICKETS to see the Indians play the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night, June 22, 1965!! That’s all I cared about. My dad cautiously … and reluctantly … agreed to take my two brothers and me. He grumbled about it being a work night. But hey … it wasn’t costing him that much.
The Tribe has had this weird quirk Clevelanders are all too aware of. When they have not been contenders … and that is … was … and might always be most of the time … the team has a tendency to be close to … or perhaps even IN … first place early on. Then, after say the All Star Break in mid July, all hell breaks loose and they finish well out of the pennant race. This is just one of a myriad of frustrating truisms (read: jinxes) concerning Cleveland sports teams. Books have been written about this.