Although they have been around for 20 years, I only very recently learned about a band from Newfoundland called Great Big Sea. I had an opportunity to see them in concert last week in Stowe, and thought they were phenomenal.
As I was leaving the show I mentioned to a fellow concert-goer that I planned to catch another Great Big Sea concert in the future. He informed me that this wasn’t going to be possible as the group would be breaking up next month at the end of their tour.
At first I was crushed. But then a thought occurred to me; like any good band, they would have to break up in order to get together again and have a reunion tour.
This got me to thinking. I used to be in a high school rock band back in the 70s. Maybe it was time to get the boys back together.
The difference between most band reunions and the one I was contemplating is that most bands at some time or another used to be good. The name of our band was “Rude Awakening,” and it would be fair to say we were true to our moniker. People travelled from all around to hear us play. And once we started playing they began traveling again, usually towards the exits at a high rate of speed. We were an interactive band. If you arrived expecting to hear good, recognizable versions of popular songs you experienced a Rude Awakening.
We were bad. But we sure had fun.
I remember when we first made the decision to start a band. My older brother Bruce played guitar, and I was a drummer. After several talent show fiascos as the duo “Alburys — No Nuts” we determined that, in order to fill out our sound — as well as the seats in the audience — we needed more instruments. So we began to recruit new members. We set our standards very high. First and foremost you had to have an amplifier. The bigger the better. Secondly, it really helped if your dad had a station wagon we could use on weekends to haul these amps the size of trash Dumpsters to various gigs.
We found a keyboard player and second guitarist quickly and were down to choosing a bass player. There were two finalists. One was in All-State Band, his father was a professional musician, and he had eight years of lessons.
The second candidate recently picked up a bass guitar at a yard sale, had been teaching himself by playing along with a Smoke on the Water record for about three weeks, and worked Friday and Saturday nights, when we were going to practice, at Kentucky Fried Chicken, where every day he worked he was allowed to take home a large bag of chicken.
It really was a no-brainer.
So every Friday and Saturday night starting at 10 p.m., we would suck down several pounds of fried wings, breasts and thighs and practice into the wee hours of the morning. We compensated for our collective lack of talent with sheer volume. Whenever something didn’t sound quite right, we would walk over to the amps, crank them up a little and keep playing.
I’m exaggerating a bit here. We practiced for hundreds of hours, and I would like to say that we were actually quite good. But I can’t.
As a little aside, I did a lot of background singing. My fellow band members gave me a wireless microphone — the only one we had. I only found out recently that wireless microphones weren’t invented until years after the band broke up.
Anyway, we had an ambitious friend who worked as our manager, and he arranged a slew of gigs. The band played at high school dances, battle of the bands contests, a dance-a-thon and even a Bar Mitzvah. We played at plenty of places, but for some reason, never at the same venue twice.
It didn’t matter. We were legends in our own minds, and had a blast. I needed to get the band back together. I was determined to make it happen and wasn’t going to let anything stand in the way of this effort. I would be enjoying camaraderie, music, and good times with my band mates in the very near future, and it would take my mind off of all the problems in the world. Nothing was going to stop the Rude Awakening reunion.
I picked up the phone and gave my brother a call.
Me: Bruce, we need to get the band back together.
Bruce: What band?
Me: Rude Awakening.
Bruce: I don’t think so.
Me: You sure?
Me: All right. Never mind.
Sometimes it’s best when a band knows when to call it quits.
Mark S. Albury rocks out in Northfield Falls.
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