The Jets were a punk band that practiced in the basement of a church in our neighborhood. I think Larry knew them. We went to check them out one day and were asked by someone at the church if we wanted to do a concert for their youth group.
We were down.
I remember the night of the show I was super nervous. Stage fright is about as close as you can get to what having an anxiety disorder feels like. But with anxiety it can strike at anytime. But that’s what it feels like most of the time. Can you imagine having to walk around feeling that way every day? That was my life. So the stage fright hit and I just identified it as anxiety and dealt with it by not eating before I went onstage for fear of throwing up in front of the entire audience. Not going to happen on an empty stomach. Besides, we’re not the Sex Pistols.
Here’s how low rent our band was: Someone wrote the band’s name on a chalkboard behind us. My friend Michael had a silver reflective artificial Christmas tree in his attic. We had no use for the tree but there was a little lamp on a stand that you pointed at the tree. On the lamp was motor attached to a color wheel. It rotated the wheel and made the tree appear to turn different colors. Red, yellow, blue and green. So we took that lamp and put it in the corner of the stage and it bathed the walls in different colors while we played our set. My other friend Steve was backstage and he would work the other lights onstage. Which was basically flicking the switches on and off for effect.
My other pal, Jimmy was a wiz with gadgets. He was the only kid in the neighborhood who had business cards. He worked kids birthday parties as a magician and got paid for it. He was the most entrepreneurial kid I ever met. He had two magic persona’s The Great Hundini and Jimbo the Clown. He could play either character and was awesome at doing makeup. He built his own tricks and once built a wooden go-kart that was amazing. He wanted to make some effects for our show. here’s what he did. He took a soup can or a coffee can and cut a hole in the bottom of it. He ran an electrical cord through the hole and then filled the can nearly to the top with plaster. When the plaster dried the two metal point of the plug were the only part stick out of the plaster. The cord and an off an on switch on it. Jimmy ran a wire between the two poles on the plug-in the can. Then he took a small sheet of flash paper. (Flash paper is a paper the magicians use. When touched with fire or heat it bursts into flames but leaves no ashes. So it’s just a flash of flame and then it’s gone.) He put some gun powder in the wad of flash paper and attached it to the wire between the plug poles. He placed the can at the center of the stage at my feet. The gadget is wired to a battery. So when we hit the stage and opened with our first song, Jimmy throws the switch. There is a small explosion and a flash of fire that shoots up out of the can in front of me and I start singing through a cool cloud of smoke. Genius right? He wired it up for a second go when we performed God of Thunder by the band, Kiss. Jimmy loved Kiss and had all of their albums. You’ll soon find out how much he loved Kiss in another post.
My dad was probably down the shore doing his thing and my mother didn’t attend the show either. When I later asked her why she told me she didn’t want to witness if we fell flat on our faces. Meaning: if we failed or got booed or fucked up the songs or whatever. I didn’t really care and I understand. When ever I played music it was always for me. People enjoyed what we did but the music was always for the guys playing it. We just got off on making music. I loved doing that show. Playing live in front of people and them and hearing them cheer and clap was wonderful.
This is a backstage pic of my buddies Stephen and Michael
I also loved that my sister Janice was there. A guy she had gone to school with since first grade was also there. (She always loved him) He was President of our high school and quarterback on our championship football team. He was tall and very good-looking. Just a beloved student at Frankford. I sat across from him in art class and found out he was a super cool dude. Even though he was a jock, he was sensitive to the arts as well. Just a true renaissance man. The guy you wished you could be but happy to have as a friend. Because of him I got to eat at the cool kids lunch table. Yea! Huge!
As renegade blazed through their set onstage, he turned to my sister and said the following words: “When I’m on the gridiron I’m never alone. I’m surrounded by a dozen big guys that all have my back. What your brother is doing takes real guts.”
I never forgot that he said that about me, the meek and mild kid at school trying to make his way. For him to say that about me gave me such an incredible boost.
The show went well and we had everyone on their feet by the time we closed with the song Train Kept a Rollin’. I’m glad my friends and Sister were there to bear witness to what was the band, Renegade.
It was an incredible night and now I’ve immortalized it on the internet forever.
Sadly by the time school let out for the summer my family would be moving to the shore. I wouldn’t graduate with my class at Frankford. I would have to quit my band, and leave all of my friends in Philly. Janice would go off to college, and Me and my other two sisters would go to school in Wildwood, NJ.
I would have a glorious summer just like always, but when Autumn fell on the island, everything would just stop. I was about to enter a dark time in my life.
But maybe the light at the end of the tunnel would be me!
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