Dancin’ Fools

This short video is pretty self-explanatory. Just me and my Bro K-Man acting like the “Dancin’ Fools” we are at his wedding to Sandy. They got married on my 31st birthday, and they’re still married today! We started a new wedding tradition where the groom and the best man have a dance. This would go over well in the modern era of gender bendering, I’m sure, and it appears K-Man and I were quite ahead of our time… Sandy’s Mom saw us dancing and said, “They dance like they don’t have a bone in their bodies!” Of course, that could have had something to do with the 6 beers we had already consumed by that time of day. It was almost sunset after all!

Click the YouTube or Google links below to see the video.

Dancin’ Fools 100993 – YouTube

dancin fools 100993.mov – Google Drive

And of course about halfway through the song, our good friend “Lenny” jumps in to make it a dance trio. Lenny was an ardent Deadhead, so impromptu dancing was totally up his alley!

Also, just for grins try clicking my friend Steve’s FB page link below for a funny 15-second vid of me dancing like a fool again! I’m not sure if the FB link (82) Facebook on top of the video image works for everyone, but please let me know. I’m curious…

(82) Facebook

Bad Musical Mojo–Stealing from A Church! (Or…Fun with the Police–Chapter 4)

The very first band I joined was formed my freshman year of high school when I met Dick the Drummer in “Gay Perry’s” theology class at Milwaukee’s Marquette High School in 1976.  (A side note since I know you’re wondering who the hell “Gay Perry” was…  “Gay Perry” was the well-established nickname for our Jesuit freshman theology teacher with a vibe that definitely set off your “gaydar” when you met him—Hahahaha!  I always found him to be a pretty chill dude and figured he kept his sexuality in the closet back in the day.  But in the recent spate of the Catholic church outing its priests, our man “Gay Perry” was indeed included on the list!  And to be clear—Neither I nor anybody I knew was his “sex student.”  Apparently we did not set off HIS “gaydar!”)  Anyway, back to the band and its rather auspicious origins…

Drummer Dick and I started discussing our musical tastes of course and found that we actually had a lot in common, most notably a passionate love for the Rolling Stones.  I had only been playing guitar for a couple of years, and my guitar teacher had taught me a few Stones’ tunes at that point.  If my memory serves (and it may not—Hahaha!), these included “Jumping Jack Flash,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Dead Flowers,” and probably a couple of others I can’t recall at the moment.  He also taught me some Hendrix, Lynyrd Skynryd, Cream, and a bunch of other classic rock of the day.  I probably had a repertoire of about 20 tunes I could hack my way through, and thanks again to my Mom for not letting me quit music and insisting that I take actual music lessons when I switched from viola to guitar! 

Well, Dick already had a basement band going with two guitar players (and I use the term loosely, including applying it to myself—LOL!)  One guy Kevin (not my bro Kevin) actually knew about 10 songs, and I remember his best one was Jethro Tull’s “Teacher.”  The other guy Don only knew part of one song that I ever heard him play, and that was Styx’ “Castle Walls.”  Needless to say the band had pretty humble beginnings!  Oh and before I forget, it was really Dick’s band, so he of course named it “Watts” after his favorite drummer Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones.  Sorry Rico (one of Dick’s many nicknames), you get zero points for creativity on that one—Hahaha!!

Thanks to my guitar teacher showing me a bunch of songs and continuing to teach me new ones every week, I was in as the guitar player and the other two guys were out.  Fortunately, I had also recently met another Eric on the debate team (a whole set of stories on its own!), and he was about the same level as me and actually knew some songs.  He had an older brother teaching him, and Eric’s older brother also had a bass and amp he let us use so—Voila!—The band was off and running!  The other Eric (let’s call him Eric B.) basically taught ourselves bass and took turns depending on who knew the guitar part best.  Our shy singer Bill and keyboard player John rounded out the band, and “Watts” was born. 

Of course we didn’t have a real PA system, and we basically jammed a microphone or two into a guitar amp and tried to get it done that way.  When we did the occasional gig (our first one was playing a dance for 7th and 8th graders at St. Mary’s of Elm Grove, WI—A ridiculous story in itself!), we of course rented PA sound systems for those, but we went without a rehearsal PA in the basement for the next two years.  Back in those days, a basic rehearsal PA cost more than a used car, and I was making the princely sum of $2.35/hour slinging burgers and root beer at the local A & W!  And Dick was a slacker who didn’t even have a regular part-time job—Hahaha!

Fast forward about two years when we were now all driving and I was in a carpool that met at my neighborhood Presbyterian church every morning.  The pastor and his family lived right next door to the church, and they were literally only three houses down from our house.  They had 5 kids and we all played together, knew each other well, etc.  Our neighborhood was only 11 families and the church, so needless to say, everyone knew each other!  Of course, the doors to the church were always unlocked (it was the 1970s), and we would regularly wait for the carpool to gather inside the lobby with the blessing of the pastor when it was cold outside (and that was most of the school year in Wisconsin!) 

Next to the lobby was a large event room with a stage, and at some point a complete setup for a rock band magically appeared on the stage!  It belonged to some of the parishioners (who were in their 20s, I believe), and they were using the room as a rehearsal space.  I didn’t think much of it initially but I casually mentioned it to Dick one day in class (crazy Fr. Egan’s theology class ironically), and his eyes lit up in a way I still remember to this day—Hahaha!  We had a brief discussion about the logistics of things in terms of the door being always unlocked, no people being around 95% of the time, etc., and although I knew it would be quite easy to abscond with the other band’s PA system, I really didn’t think it would ever happen.  It was nothing but a couple of high school stoners talking, dreaming and wishing we had our own PA.

My recollection is that Dick was the most motivated in this escapade, probably because he sang more than I did and he also took the band more seriously than the rest of us did at the time.  I’m guessing a few months went by as Dick kept asking me if the PA system was still “available.” I told him it was still there and at some point he became motivated enough to enlist our singer Bill in this skullduggery because his parents had a station wagon which we needed to fit the gigantic PA speakers!  I really don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to be a part of this bad musical mojo (or serious sinning to be Catholic/Presbyterian about it!), but Dick had a strong personality and was used to having his way.  I foolishly acquiesed, and we scheduled our crime during a final exam weekday so we could be at the church around noon on a weekday in December when nobody would be around. 

As we pulled up to the church in Bill’s parents’ station wagon, I started to get a really bad feeling as I looked around nervously and realized (DUH!) that I was in my own neighborhood and that every single person who lived here would instantly recognize me!  I looked around to make sure no neighbors were driving down the road but I had no idea who might have been looking out their windows.  We pulled right up to the door and I snuck in as quickly as I could with Dick and Bill.  We walked into the event room, and there it was—A beautiful Kustom PA system with the famous “tuck and roll” padding elegantly encasing the speakers and the amplifier/mixer. 

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Dick was drooling with delight as he envisioned his and Bill’s voices screaming out of the PA, and of course the irony was that we were all pretty crappy singers at age 16 and even a nice PA wouldn’t help us all that much!  We got up on the stage and moved our booty down the 4 or 5 stairs and started rolling it towards the door.  When we got about halfway across the main floor, I panicked and told Dick that we couldn’t do this, started to turn my stolen speaker around, and said that we should put it back and call the whole thing off while we still had the chance.  He gave me a look that could kill, and I think he said something to the effect of “too late now”—The PA was going in Bill’s parents’ station wagon whether I helped anymore or not.  I realized that he was essentially right in terms of me no longer having any control over what happened next short of starting a fight or immediately ratting out my bandmates when I was as deep in the shit as they were.  And I would undoubtedly be viewed as the instigator anyway because I found the “opportunity” in the first place. 

I did refuse to load it in the car in case one of my neighbors drove by and saw me, so I quickly skulked into the getaway car instead.  We did manage to get away with nobody being the wiser and we drove back to Bill’s house and unloaded the PA into his basement.  Now of course you might wonder how we would explain our sudden good fortune to Bill’s parents in acquiring a $1,500 sound system out of the blue, but Dick and Bill had that covered.  They made up a story about some other kid at school whose family had money and their kid was simply loaning us his PA for a little while.  Bill’s parents didn’t bat an eye, and I calmed down a bit when it seemed like we had gotten away with it for now. 

Well, my calm quickly became anxiety in a few weeks when the phone rang and it was our neighbor the pastor calling about the PA that had mysteriously “gone missing” from his church!  My Mom took the call and I was actually in the kitchen when the call came in so my Mom asked me to get on the phone with Reverend D. because he wanted to know if I knew anything about it.  Of course I acted as surprised and shocked as I could and said I knew nothing, and that was the end of it for the moment.  But the pastor knew I was in a band, and he also knew that our Catholic school carpool met in his lobby next to the event room so I would have been well aware of the band gear in the room.  Reverend D. was no dummy, and I think he was trying to give me a chance to do the right thing, confess to the crime, and return the stuff without involving the police.  But I was too young and dumb to see it that way, and of course I would have had to rat out my bandmates, so I stuck to my story. 

I told Dick and Bill about the call the next day at school, and we kind of agreed to just let things ride and see what happened.  Obviously nobody had seen us steal the PA, and in our minds it was safely tucked away at Bill’s house 20 miles away.  As the next thee months or so went by and we never heard anything else about it, we began to think we were home free.  Dick actually felt comfortable enough at that point to move “his PA” (in his mind—Hahaha!) into his parents’ basement with the same story and we started to rehearse over there. 

But there was one member of the band who made the moral choice and refused to sing through our stolen booty of bad musical mojo.  Our other guitar player Eric B. was much less of a rogue than the rest of us, and he was quite vocal about his vehement disapproval of our theft.  His microphone remained plugged into the old guitar amp, and even though we gave him plenty of shit, he stayed on his moral high ground.  I sometimes wonder if he didn’t say something to someone that ultimately got us busted, but the fact was that Dick got overly complacent and told a few of his friends, and all it would take was someone’s parents getting wind of our scam and dropping the dime on us. And good for the other Eric for making the choice this Eric should have made. It was one of the few times my WTF attitude led me down the completely wrong path in life.

I may have escaped phone call number one from Reverend D., but about 3 months later I answered the phone one Saturday afternoon when my parents weren’t home.  It was a sergeant from the Mequon police (our little burg), asking to speak to one of my parents.  I truthfully told him they were out, and he asked if he were speaking to Eric by any chance.  I replied that he was, and at that moment I knew we were busted.  He was actually pretty chill and told me not to talk but to just listen.  I shut the fuck up as he told me that he had heard that I might have had something to do with the church PA theft and that all they really wanted was their PA back ASAP. 

I started to stammer some lame protestation of innocence, but Sergeant Stadenko (OK—I can’t remember his real name and you old geezers get the joke!) told me to just shut up and listen to how things were going to go.  He told me that they wanted the PA delivered to the police station that day, and that the faster it happened the easier things would be on us.  If I told him I really had nothing to do with it, that was OK too, but he was going to talk to my parents as soon as possible, get the names and numbers for my bandmates’ parents, and call them directly to see if any of them had noticed a pair of 5-foot-tall speakers in their house recently and whether their kids’ voices sounded any louder through the purloined PA system!  And if I made him do all that extra work, it was going to cost all of us. 

My initial reaction that we were indeed screwed was of course confirmed since the PA system had by now been in not one, not two, but three of our band members houses and had of course been seen by three sets of parents.  And get this—our singer Bill’s dad was an FBI agent so it wasn’t like he wouldn’t have noticed “our” new PA in his basement—Hahahaha!  (OK—I can laugh at the bitter irony now and the fact that his station wagon was the proverbial “getaway car.”)  My response to the sergeant was to ask if I could call him back in 10 minutes, and he told me that would be an excellent idea. 

I immediately called our fearless leader Dick to tell him the bad news.  It didn’t take much convincing for him to understand that we were screwed, and he immediately called our friend P. J. who pretty much had 24/7 access to his parents’ Chevy Suburban.  Thankfully P. J. and his Suburban were available, and I was able to call Sgt. Stadenko back in just about 10 minutes to let him know that we would be delivering the PA within the next 2-3 hours tops.  He said that was great and that he would be there waiting for us, and I assumed that everything was cool except for one minor point.  I of course asked (with bated breath) if my speedy cooperation meant that us returning the PA this afternoon would be the end of things, and he said that it would be from a criminal standpoint. It appeared the reverend and the rather gracious parishioners who owned the PA did not want to mess up some dumbass teenage boys’ lives (we were 16 or 17 at the time) by pressing charges against them.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief and for a nanosecond I thought—”Thank you, Jesus—We escaped that debacle by the skin of our teeth!”  But my relief was quickly dashed when the sergeant said that “of course we will have to tell everyone’s parents since you guys are still minors.”  I tried pleading with him for a minute to no avail of course, and he kind of snickered as he said “we’ll see you soon” and pretty much hung up on me. 

I knew my Mom would be home before the PA was delivered and we had to all meet the cops, so I decided to bite the bullet and admit my guilt the moment she walked in the door about a half hour later.  As expected, she was both ashamed and angry and insisted on taking me to the cop shop to meet my fellow thieves and the sergeant.  I was actually glad I did it that way—I had never really felt right about the whole thing, and I was willing to accept whatever punishment meted out because I sure as hell deserved it in this case!  I can still remember Mom and I sitting down with the sergeant and him doing me a solid by saying that I was extremely cooperative and gotten the PA returned in record time, etc., but my parents were still not very impressed to say the least! 

I think I was grounded for a month; the band dissolved for a 2-3 months because that was part of Dick’s punishment, Bill was permanently removed from the band by his FBI agent father, but the worst thing was that I had to walk over to Reverend D’s house IN PERSON to confess and apologize for my sins.  I don’t think Presbyterians have confession like Catholics, but he sure got to hear one from this Catholic boy—Hahaha!  (Sure, I can laugh about it now!)  But you know what the worst part was for me?  Having our whole neighborhood know that I was the thieving asshole who stole a PA system FROM A CHURCH.  And from our neighborhood church no less…

Was there any upside to this story, you may be asking?  I can honestly say that the embarrassment and humiliation of having our entire neighborhood know I was a thieving, lying bastard made me never steal anything again in my entire life.  I am very grateful that I learned this lesson hard enough to get my attention but not that hard since we weren’t prosecuted criminally. Reverend D., the PA owners, and the police were all very kind to us in hindsight and I thank them for that. I had never felt good about it in the first place, and I learned to trust my instincts (and what I was taught by my parents of course!) for right and wrong, good karma versus bad, etc. for the next 40 years.  And I can also say that we didn’t have enough vocal talent that it made that much difference anyway.  Compromising my integrity for a little bit of extra volume, EQ, and reverb?  With mostly Bill and Dick singing?!! Seriously?!!!

Old Pics From the 1980s

The 1980s were “berry berry good to me.” (An SNL quote from that era for you youngsters…) I moved from Wisconsin to Arizona in 1983, and I had amazing times with family and friends old and new! And if you aren’t in a photo, it doesn’t mean I don’t remember you–We just didn’t all walk around with cameras in our hands back then. But I appreciate all of my family and friends from the 1980s and many of you are still with me!


You’ve already seen band pics if you checked out any of my music stories, but here’s a few for grins in case you haven’t. I did play a lot of music in the 1980s before I started my real career in advertising. It was always a hell of a lot of fun!!!

I did get to play “with” the Effects on one recording though, and here it is…

Eric Plays “with” The Effects – Eric the Fun

I moved back to Milwaukee from Arizona in 1988 for a couple of years. That’s its own story and it definitely involves a woman! But I did have the pleasure of playing in Brave New Groove, and you can hear some of our stuff in my blog story about them. It’s good stuff–Have a listen!

My Best Music–Brave New Groove AND The NAACP Says, “Back of the Bus, White Boys” – Eric the Fun

A Few Famous People Pics

As you might have figured out from some of my stories, I’ve worked with a few well-known people over the years doing commercials and photo shoots, etc. And I met some others through my musical and political adventures. Of course, it was generally verboten to pose for pics unless the celebrity offered, and here are a few for your amusement…

Miscellaneous Music (Weird Unpopular Stuff)

Back in the old days, if you wanted to record anything on the cheap without a real recording studio, you used some version of the Teac Tascam 4-track cassette recorder I had. The sound was nowhere near what a recording studio was in those days, but the cool thing about it was that it was small enough and could run on batteries so you could take it to make live recordings anywhere you wanted! And you could record live stuff in stereo and use the other two tracks for overdubs without getting involved in any elaborate mixing schemes.

Yuppie Schmuck

This was a parody of a parody that Kevin and I recorded in my “home studio,” (see above) The original song was “Hey Joe,” made popular by Jimi Hendrix of course. Shortly after it came out, Frank Zappa used it to parody the hippie culture in his 1967 version called “Flower Punk.” In 1985 or so, the “yuppies” ruled America, so Kevin and I got the bright idea to update Zappa’s parody and morphed the song into yet another parody of a parody called “Yuppie Schmuck.” I’m not sure if you’ll understand the lyrics, but I may get around to putting what I can remember up here someday. Just think back to 1985 and you’ll get the gist of it. As I recall, I’m playing drums and bass, Kevin is playing keyboards, and we’re both singing.

“Yuppie Schmuck” and a couple of the other songs on this page are definitely too outside the box to interest most people, but listen if you dare and download if you like. One interesting factoid about this song is that it did receive radio airplay (back in the day when people listened to FM radio!) during morning drive time (peak listening hours) on KSLX, the major rock radio station in Phoenix. So that means that 50,000 people have heard this weird song! On a whim, I had sent a recording to a guy named Bob Boze Bell, one of the morning DJs over there. He was the kind of guy with a WTF attitude, and he and his partner Jones played it just for the hell of it based on my letter explaining what the hell the song was. So Kevin and I had our five minutes of radio fame…

Yuppie Schmuck

Spider Walk–Phases 1 & 2

Spider Walk–Phase 1 was actually a song I wrote as part of a term paper to hand in for one of my students back in the day when I wrote term papers for a living (See “Do You Have the Term Paper Blues” if you are curious about that!) I think the paper was for an English class, and the gist of it was that the student had to describe the creative process as they created some artistic work. When my student brought this to me, I first asked her whether she was skilled in any artistic area and whether she had an idea in mind for the theme of the project. She said no, and I of course immediately thought of music, and that’s partly because I had no abilities in any other artistic endeavor. The best thing I could draw or paint was a stick figure, and I don’t write fiction!

When I first proposed the idea, my student wasn’t a fan because she didn’t actually play music, so I came up with the way I would explain that in “her” paper as part of the creative process. I ended up creating the song and playing all the parts myself on “the ol’ 4-track,” but I described her role in the creative process as a collaboration with her “friend” Eric in that he would play all the background music and then teach her how to play the lead solo on the 1967 Farfisa organ. I described how I marked the right organ keys to hit to stay in the right key on the song and how I gave her a few lessons and a lot of trial, error, multiple takes and editing involved so that even a novice could play some kind of a”space jam.” It’s certainly not my best work because I’m a guitar and bass player who can fake an easy song or two on the keyboards, but I have no business playing drums as you will hear if you dare! 🙂

Spider Walk-Phase 2

Pain and Strife aka “Anal Strife”

Kevin had a college friend named Dale who was pretty much a solo singer/songwriter type guy and he was weird and funny as hell! I’ll let Kevin write a Dale story if he likes, but the gist of Dale was that he was a cacophony of contradictions in terms of his real personality and his music. He could write stuff that ran the gamut from beyond rude and crude to downright maudlin sometimes within the same song! Pain and Strife (Kevin always called it “Anal Strife” to annoy Dale–Hahahaha!) was perhaps one of Dale’s most maudlin efforts. “I Like My Women Buck Naked” on the other hand…

I was visiting Kevin in Dayton around 1982 or so and of course I brought the “Ol’ 4-track” in case some musical inspiration struck us while we were in an altered state or something… One night, Dale came over; we all started jamming, and I graciously volunteered to record Dale’s song for posterior–er, I mean posterity, on my 4-track. You can judge this maudlin love song for yourself–Hahahaha! (And if you ever read this Dale, you know I’m just messing with you–sort of… :-))

Anal Strife–er, I mean Pain and Strife 🙂

The Scumbo Variations

This tune was my personal version of Frank Zappa’s “The Gumbo Variations.” I was experimenting with my 4-track to see what I could accomplish all by myself in my home “studio.” You can decide for yourself how well I channeled the musical vibe of my idol FZ. Of course, he had an entire band of real musicians playing on his studio recordings! I did the best I could for a 20-something kid, but I would recommend a little bit of a trendy chemical amusement aid first…

The Scumbo Variations

Dust My Broom & Killing Floor

More early experimentation with the 4-track. I was lucky enough to get Tom Coulson to overdub drums for me after I recorded these sans drums. I actually recorded these in mine and Cindy’s first apartment, and Tom was a teacher at her school. (And I know–I’m sure as hell no singer!) At least my rhythm was solid enough that Tom could overdub drums on top of it.

Dust My Broom 1984
Killing Floor 1984

Living in Both the Low-Tech and High-Tech Eras was Amazing!

I actually started out writing about this topic before and got sidetracked into how we learned to drive back in 1975.  So the first couple of paragraphs will be similar, but I’m not going to talk about driving much at all.  The basic point about driving and technology was that in the low-tech “olden days” you had the freedom to go anywhere you wanted because nobody was tracking you with GPS devices, etc.  Hell, they didn’t even have cameras on the roads back in those days, and the best anyone could do was check your odometer (assuming it worked, and that was pretty easily remedied if you were inclined to!)  The downside was that there was no Uber or Lyft, and if you were out partying you damned well better have great DUI skills because that was the only way you were getting home. (I’m contemplating that essay right now, but my thoughts on that topic will piss a lot of people off in the high-tech era!)

That said, I’m actually quite grateful to have grown up in what were really two distinct technological eras.  The reason for that is that both eras have allowed me a great deal of freedom though in considerably different ways.  Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a freedom lover, and I’m going to do my best in any era to have as much freedom and fun as humanly possible!  I’m also kind of a Taoist at heart, and there is always going to be a balance between the positives and negatives of any given thing or situation, and technology is certainly no exception to that.

Of course human technology has always been advancing, and things were obviously different between birth and death for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, but the rate of technological acceleration seems to have gone off the charts in my lifetime.  I’m amazed at certain things, and I’ve probably said to at least 1,000 people that if you had told me when I was 25 that I would be able to hold a tool in my hand (as I wave my iPhone around) that can access almost all of the world’s knowledge and communicate with over a billion people via the spoken word, the written word, photography, video, music, and ALL PRETTY MUCH SIMULTANEOUSLY, I would have thought you were crazy.  And all of this for under $1,000 and about $50/month.  Wow…Talk about freedom!

The interesting thing about the technology of the 1960s-2000 and 2000-present is to me the way it has impacted the amount and types of freedom I’ve experienced in my life.  Back in the “old days” of the pre-PC era, there was a great deal more personal freedom in many ways because nobody could “track” you, and there was no digital history of what you were doing.  It’s been said that once something is online it lives forever, and I think that’s going to be pretty much true until the world as we know it ends or changes in some very drastic way.  On the other hand, the ability for immediate personal expression and connection to virtually half the people on the planet is a hugely liberating thing that gives even a lone individual degrees of freedom nobody could have imagined before the modern technological era. 

When I was growing up in the low-tech era, there was so much anonymity that I could easily afford to have a WTF attitude and take more risks in a variety of ways.  You could get drunk and say whatever the hell you wanted, and the only people who knew about it were your friends and other people who were actually physically present.  And if you were at a party or a bar where more off-the-cuff conversation and behavior were likely to happen, chances are that the others in the room were in a similar state and would either laugh at or join in any stupidity you might exhibit, or at least wouldn’t remember it very clearly the next day!  Hell—even if you offended 100 people (and most of them probably wouldn’t even know your name), in a week or two all would be forgotten and perhaps most importantly, THERE WERE NO CAMERAS IN EVERYBODY’S POCKETS AND HANDS to provide a permanent record of any stupidity you may have committed.  Not to mention, there was no internet to post it on so that your stupidity (or even just outside-the-box self-expression) could INSTANTLY BECOME VISIBLE TO MILLIONS OF PEOPLE FOREVER. 

The worst that could happen in the “olden days” was that a small circle of your friends would remember “the X story” and every once in a while you would have to hear something like: “remember when Eric said or did such-and-such to so-and-so, and the other person did this or that?”  And everyone in the room might re-live a laugh at your expense, but that would be the extent of it.  Hell—My attitude was and is so WTF I actually enjoy making other people laugh, even if it is at “my expense.”  I’ve told some of those stories here, and I want you to get a charge out of them and think, “that dude is kind of crazy—I would never say or do that!”  (But I’ll bet some of you wish you had—Hahahaha!)

Now think about the old days relative to the all-knowing modern era for a minute.  I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all heard stories of people who did one thing that wasn’t necessarily even “wrong” in everyone’s eyes had their entire lives negatively impacted by one foolish moment or even worse, a false accusation.  I have a friend whose son was falsely accused of something sexually inappropriate by a crazy young woman who has accused at least 4 others (that I know of!) because she likes the attention of being a public “victim.”  He was temporarily banished from his college campus and only his parents spending over $50K on a really good lawyer got him back in school.  And he went through a shit ton of emotional trauma that he didn’t deserve and could negatively impact his psyche for life. If something like that had happened to me at age 18, I sure as hell wouldn’t have had my WTF attitude and nearly as much fun in life!

Now I’m certainly not saying that all accusations are false (but I know this one was—I’ve seen the digital evidence!), and there has already been a ton of stuff written about this topic online, but think about how modern technology has negatively impacted one’s propensity to take a chance and have a WTF attitude if you don’t even have to actually do something for someone else to say you did in front of THE ENTIRE PLANET.  That’s a little scary to me.  If a future employer can “Google” your name and find out about something foolish, wild, or a little “outside the box” (or untrue!) decades later and not hire you, I would say that definitely inhibits one’s freedom to take some risks and enjoy life to the fullest.  Fortunately, a lot of people are actually human and regularly say WTF anyway.  Modern technology just makes the risk that much greater.

Another area that has been impacted by modern technology for both good and for ill is creative license.  The propensity for good in the high-tech era can be found in the freedom to create whatever the hell you want and make it available to the world on a moment’s notice.  Back in the old days, to make a video, record a song, or write a book and make it publicly available took a huge amount of time and money, which meant that corporate interests tended to exercise much more control over the creative process.  And you generally couldn’t get it done without a pile of money! Although this was the case, corporate interests like record companies, etc. really didn’t care about the content itself as long as it sold and made them money.  In a way, this gave the artists a lot of creative freedom to say WTF, because they knew their audiences and what they liked.  And the old cigar-chomper guys in the office didn’t really look too closely at the creative content while they counted their coin…

Of course there were certainly do-gooder censorship types who would raise a stink in the local media or in Congress once in a while (anyone remember Al’s wife Tipper Gore trying to rate/censor “obscene, violent, sexist, insert your evil adjective here rock music in the mid-1980s?).  My idol Frank Zappa actually went in front of Congress during the hearings for Tipper’s bill (and she wasn’t even a legislator, but her husband was a senator, so I guess that was close enough to censor rock ‘n’ roll!)  But the end result of this was kind of ho-hum, and a few heavy metal albums were rated as “nasty” in some form.  Sure, some parents probably became more aware of what their kids were listening to, but most parents in that era didn’t like rock music so they would pretty much ignore it.  Mine sure did even though I played it constantly.

Here are a couple of songs with lyrics by a couple of my favorite artists that were released in 1968 and 1978 respectively.  The first one is the Rolling Stones’ “Stray Cat Blues.”  The gist of it is that the protagonist Mick Jagger is trying to entice a 15-year-old girl and her friend to “come upstairs” to his room for some wild sex.  In the live version of the song, Mick changes the girl’s age from 15 to 13.  Somehow I can’t see this happening today without a huge amount of instant outrage on social media, etc… (On second thought, perhaps all those wealthy executives and powerful politicians who hung out with Jeffery Epstein on his “kiddie island” might not object to it. Or to Hitlery killing him either–But I digress…) 

stray cat blues – – Video Search Results

The second song is Frank Zappa’s “Bobby Brown,” and the gist of this song is that some arrogant jock dude (Bobby Brown) “fucks this dyke” who cuts of his balls and turns him into a “homo.”  FYI—I bought the Rolling Stones’ record when I was about 15 and the Zappa record when I was 17 or 18.  Ahhh…The creative freedom of the ancient age when nobody was the wiser… Have a listen if you dare. But be prepared to be “offended” even though the song is intended as a complete satire on arrogant Joe Jockstraps, who are certainly a safe target these days–Hahaha! Hell–I even played this song in front of audiences a few times in a band…

youtube bobby brown frank zappa – – Video Search Results

Now, I’m not of fan of most modern music (mostly because they play it with computers instead of real humans creating a real groove with real instruments, but hey—I’m an old guy who used to play actual instruments…), and I’m guessing that equally nasty lyrics abound and you can find songs like that on the internet.  But, much like the person who holds back from saying something “offensive” or having a WTF attitude, I think that the threat of instant backlash on the internet is going to create a lot of self-censorship even as the songs are being written, particularly if the goal is to sell as much music as possible in whatever format they sell music in these days (digital downloads?)  

I’m guessing this self-censorship is similar to the person at the party who doesn’t want to take a risk because everyone has a device connected to the internet, and one mistake could ruin a career or at least one’s social life.  I think this is especially true in the current PC era where every snowflake wants to have their 15 seconds of fame on the internet signaling their virtue and being “offended” by something racist, sexist, misogynist, ad infinitum, ad absurdum…  Feel free in the comments to point out that I’m completely wrong though.  I would love to hear some edgy new stuff very soon!

And finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for—Dating in the low-tech and high-tech eras!  The first (and rather obvious) thing I must point out is that the advent of modern technology did not eliminate the old school ways of dating and mating in any way, shape or form.  The great news is that even with Match, Tinder, Bumble, Fumble (yeah, I THINK I’m kidding on the last one—Hahaha!) and 100 other dating sites and apps, you can still meet new people the old-fashioned ways at work, at bars, on the dance floor (one of my faves!), in a store, anywhere else in person, or being “fixed up” by a mutual friend (how I met my last girlfriend Sherry if you read our stories in “Imagine”).  So technology hasn’t really detracted from the dating scene at all but only added to it.

I’ve done my fair share of dating over the recent years when I was single, and I’ve met fun, interesting, beautiful women in both low-tech and high-tech ways. They both seem to work pretty well.  Obviously, the advantage to low-tech is that you usually meet in person first, so you already know if there is a physical attraction at least.  Photos online aren’t always accurate (often by design, and I worked in advertising so I ought to know!), and people can spend a lot of time tweaking their profile so they sound more attractive than they really are. 

On the other hand, the high-tech method of meeting potential dates is that you  literally have the opportunity to meet 1,000 times more people than you would just going about your day, and you can pre-screen people based on 50 different characteristics.  I was always very open-minded in terms of age, race, occupation and stuff like that, but I did prefer women who were really into good music or had other common interests like hiking and the gym.  Even though you won’t hit it off with the majority of on-line dates, I liked the social WTF nature of meeting new (and potentially “strange”–Hahaha!) women for happy hour (always my first option!)  I can say that many people tend to overthink this aspect of things in terms of putting too much emphasis on what a person’s online profile says.  Live a little and just say WTF, for Chrissakes!  Life is short–What have you got to lose by taking a chance and meeting someone new? 

OK—You asked for it.  Below are a few G-rated photos of some of the interesting and beautiful women I was lucky enough to meet using both low-tech and high-tech realities in recent years.  But I’ve gotten plenty of X-rated ones over the years too which I never once asked for. (I certainly love a woman who shares my WTF attitude in the modern era! But I won’t post them–Scout’s honor…) So now you know why I’m damned grateful for living in both eras.  Talk about the best of both worlds!  And thank you very much ladies for saying WTF and wanting to meet me.  I really enjoyed your company on a date at the very least and sometimes we hit it off!  What more can a guy ask from life?

I met Marie the low-tech way while I was out walking the Scruffs in our ‘hood wearing nothing but tiny running shorts. She told me later she had seen me before and thought I was either European, gay, or some combination thereof–Hahahaha!!! Our dogs hit it off and then it was our turn!

And if you’ve made it to the end, I’ll point out that with only two exceptions all of these women are all in my age bracket (around 50). (And if you try to guess which ones, you’ll probably guess wrong!) I can honestly say that I felt so lucky to have experienced the “dating life” in the modern era with so many sweet, fun, beautiful women my age. And since I was no longer a boy or somewhat clueless young man, I had the time of my life and I think all of the girls enjoyed themselves hanging out with me. At least I hope so because the real beauty of the man/woman thing for me as a straight guy was the yin/yang vibe of hanging out with awesome girls and simply enjoying some time and life together. (Disclaimer: To each his or her own and no judgement express or implied regarding the sexual preferences of others–Hahaha!!)

“Onstage” with Paul McCartney 2005

Sir Paul’s stage in 2005

As you already know if you’ve read any of my “work” stories, film and photo production often beats a “real job.”  Occasionally we get to meet famous people, and this was one of those times.  I’ll say up front that my Paul McCartney experience was not nearly as personal as shooting the shit with Waylon Jennings for a couple of hours in my motorhome or as intense as singing with my idol Frank Zappa at a live show for an entire verse in front of 2,000 people!  That said, I did get to work as a video assistant at a Paul McCartney show on his 2005 US tour and it was pretty damned cool being part of a living legend’s show for a few hours!  I must admit I had to look on Wikipedia to figure out the year because he was with Heather Mills at the time (more on that to come), and it was the only US tour he did while they were together for about 4-5 years. 

My gig at the McCartney show began when I got a call around noon the day of the show from my good friend Denise, another local advertising producer.  She had gotten a call from a producer working directly with the McCartney tour video crew looking to pick up a local production assistant (a “PA” in our lingo) to help their two-man video crew shoot the show.  Apparently, Paul brought the video crew to shoot every show on the tour so they could edit the best stuff into a video version of the 2005 tour.  A “PA” gig is entry level grunt/”go-fer” job in our business, and I had long since graduated way beyond that level, so Denise was calling to see if I had a PA friend who might want to take the gig.  Of course, the show was that night, and they really wanted the PA there by about 4pm to meet the crew, get set up, etc.  It was a bit of an emergency scramble in the production department’s mind.

The first thought that went through my head was: “Wait a minute—You mean I could get into tonight’s Paul McCartney show not only for free (good seats were about $200 even in those days), but actually be PAID $200 to show up and work with the video crew, hangout backstage, and who knows what else?!!!  The only potential hang-up was that I was definitely NOT a technical guy, so the first question I asked Denise (with bated breath) was whether they really needed a CAMERA assistant with some technical know-how and not simply a production assistant who didn’t have to know jack shit other than how to carry this box here, and to stand over there, be a grunt who follows orders, etc.  If technical camera and lighting knowledge were required, I would have to decline the job in good conscience much to my potential dismay.  She assured me that absolutely no technical knowledge was required; the two camera dudes were running their own gear, and I immediately told her to call the McCartney tour producer back and tell her the gig was covered. 

Denise asked me how I knew I had a PA to do the gig so quickly, and I just said exactly what I was thinking (imagine that—Hahaha!): “Are you freaking kidding me?!!!  You call and offer to PAY ME $200 to go to a Paul McCartney show tonight and even wonder what I would say?!!!   She replied: “But you’re not a PA, and I didn’t even think you would be interested in working for a measly $200.”  I reminded her that I had played in bands long before I got involved in advertising (and for a lot less than $200/night!), and that Paul McCartney was one of the FREAKING BEATLES for Chrissakes!!!  I told that I was hanging up now and would be waiting very impatiently for her to call them back and confirm that the gig was definitely mine.  It was more than possible that the McCartney producer had put several PA feelers out there, particularly since it was on such short notice.  One of the first lessons you learn in self-employment is that the first person to answer the phone and say yes gets the job.  I paced around my house for about five minutes or so, the call came from them, and the gig was mine!!!  Some British chick told me when and where to show up, and I made sure I was early on that one!

I arrived around 4pm, and the show started at 7:30 or so.  I briefly met the two video guys I would be working with, and they explained that my job would be to help them “wrangle cable” as they walked around on stage shooting so they wouldn’t trip on it or disconnect it, and to mark the set list (as they handed me a copy) with which videotape numbers corresponded with which songs.  That took about 10 minutes; they gave me a brief tour of the backstage areas (including the dressing room where I first saw Paul and the band), and told me to meet them around 7 just before the show started.  They showed me the backstage area where the crew dinner was being served and told me to eat anytime between 5 and 6.  They went off and did their own thing leaving me free to do mine for the next couple of hours. 

I wandered around a bit and started getting hungry around 5:30 or so and hit the catering area for some food.  It wasn’t too crowded—There were a  few other crew members waiting in a short line, so I joined them.  A minute or two later, a  friendly, attractive woman with a British accent showed up in line behind me and started up a conversation about the caterer and the food.  She told me they traveled with their own caterer and that the food was five-star vegetarian.  I told her I wasn’t a vegetarian, but it all looked really good to me.  She assured me that it was because she picked the caterer and explained what everything was as we walked past the chafing dishes and were served.  I really do like any kind of food and took a helping of everything on the menu.

She then asked if she could join me for dinner, and who was Eric the lowly PA to turn down the company and conversation of an attractive English woman for dinner in VeegieVille backstage at the Paul McCartney show!  As we were walking to the table, I noticed that she walked with a limp (and she had already introduced herself as Heather), and then it suddenly hit me–My dinner companion was Paul McCartney’s wife Heather!  (Oh–THAT Heather–Hahaha!) I should also explain that a film crew dining room is typically banquet table seating of 8-10 people per table like a wedding.  We sat down at an empty table and I kept expecting others to join us (as would be typical), but nobody ever did.  My guess is that everyone else knew who Heather really was and didn’t want to intrude (though that clearly wouldn’t have been the case at all!)  We talked about everything from vegan food, the current tour to our past experiences on fashion photo shoots and a bunch of other stuff for about 30 minutes, and that was dinner.  I was already old and wise enough not to bring up her beyond famous husband in the conversation, although she dropped a few hints to let me know who she was at certain points during dinner.  I don’t mean that in a bad way—I think she knew that I really didn’t know who she was for quite a while and wanted to keep me from saying something stupid.  (Can you imagine if I had asked her who her favorite Beatle was—Hahahaha!!!  Or told her mine was John Lennon?)

After dinner I wandered around the hallways backstage at the arena for a while, and who should walk around the corner all alone but Paul McCartney himself!  I obviously knew after 15 years in the biz that I wasn’t supposed to acknowledge him, but I practically brushed shoulders with him as we approached each other, and I instinctively smiled and nodded my head “hello.”  Sir Paul politely nodded back, and that was the last I saw of him until the concert began. 

I met the video guys, and they gave me a few more details of what we were going to do.  Fortunately for me, we spent about 75% of the time on the stage itself wandering all around and getting Paul and the band from a variety of angles and views as they played.  The video guys were extremely bored with things since they had already been doing this the entire tour, but I was “wrangling that cable” and taking copious notes whenever they told me to! 

I do recall the show being a really good mixture of Beatles, Wings, and Paul’s solo stuff, and I’ve attached the set list below which indicates this was indeed the case.  In spite of the fact that the show was more that 3 hours with 2 encores, it went by really quickly for me.  My mind constantly switched back and forth between amazing enjoyment and awe at standing on stage listening to Paul McCartney from only a few feet away, to having to focus on my work enough to not fuck it up and make a major faux pas in front of Sir Paul and 20,000 other people!!!  Fortunately, it was really an easy PA job, and the video guys were pretty casual about everything.  Even if we (or the band!) didn’t get something exactly right, they had it from a previous show or could get it at the next based on the notes I was taking. 

It was a really great show in that Paul did some solo stuff on piano and guitar as well as the huge variety of music with the entire band as well.  Oddly enough, no one moment or song stands out for me, but it was just so cool moving around the stage for a few hours getting shots of Paul McCartney playing live.  We did spend about an hour in the house getting audience reaction footage, and I wasn’t very excited about that.  We did that during the encores and it was rather anti-climactic for me to say the least! But overall, I’d have to say that was the most fun I’ve ever had making $200. 

“And I get paid for doing this…”—Frank Zappa

Gigging with My Fellow Dogs in “St. Bernard”

Back in 1983 I had the pleasure of joining a band that had just released a mini-album of sorts with 5 decent songs on it. “St. Bernard” (you gotta love that name!) was a kind of punky pop band I played live with for about a year in Milwaukee just before I moved to Arizona. I did not play on the actual studio recordings, but I could play the very basic organ parts, and I actually owned a 1967 Farfisa organ exactly like the one they used in the studio. Playing guitar didn’t hurt either, and here are a few pics from a gig we did in a record store (remember those!) in the summer of 1983.

Eric, Paul & Andy aka “St. Bernard.” There was another guy in the band too, but I don’t have a pic with Rick the rhythm guitarist. I’m on my 1967 Farfisa on this song.
Some guitar on other songs. Like my faux leopard shirt? Bwahahaha! One of the things I loved most about playing in bands was the ridiculous amount of wardrobe freedom I had.
And I could even play the wooden “cowbell!”

Here are the five songs St. Bernard recorded in the studio. Fun punky pop songs written by Andy & Paul to the best of my recollection.

“My Baby Went to the Bahamas”
“I’m a Jap”
“Someone’s Dog’s in Trouble”
“Hey Miss Walker”
I loved the band’s meme and slogan! How could I not join St. Bernard!!!

The Cartridge Family

My business card from “The Cartridge Family” Needless to say, I didn’t advertise this in my career in advertising, although I did take a bunch of my formerly anti-gun clients shooting in the desert over the years. They had a “blast” and were taking photos of themselves with guns to show all their friends from NYC and London–Hahahaha!!!
Alan, Eric, Bob & Craig “Cartridge” 2005

One of the more interesting bands I played in was a political parody band called “The Cartridge Family.”  It came together around 1999 when a group of pro-gun types got together for the purpose of political activism during the 2000 election season.  It was a mixture of conservatives and libertarians (and to be perfectly clear–I’M ONE OF THE LIBERTARIANS, AND I’M NOT A RED TEAM REPUBLICAN!!! See the memes below…) who agreed that the right to self-defense and the personal ownership of firearms was a legitimate freedom, and we had several meetings to strategize various protests, articles, political action, etc. that might draw attention to the right to keep and bear arms (known to us as “RKBA!”).  There was no initial intention of forming a band, but there were some clever people in the group who oddly enough had some parody song ideas written down and even a verse and chorus or two. 

As you know, I had played in many bands before and found this idea very intriguing to say the least, and so did a few of the other political activist guys who played or sang.  Please don’t hold me to the actual details of how we ended up with the actual band, but after a few political meetings, Craig, Alan, Bob and I ended up forming an actual political protest band and began rehearsing.  To keep things simple (OK—We were old and lazy or at least Alan was—Hahahahaha!!) and in the musical vein of the protest bands of the 1960s (think Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, etc.), Alan and I were the acoustic guitar players, and all four of us sang.  Our plan was also to be mobile enough that we could show up at political rallies, street protests or almost anywhere else at a moment’s notice and perform with no need for power or piles of equipment.  

We took some of the original parody song ideas and fleshed those out and then added a bunch more of our own into the mix.  Our opening song (and probably our signature song as well) was a parody version of Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” with lyrics supporting the RKBA.  We wrote and recorded about 15 tunes, although we never really could sell the record because of complicated copyright issues and the legal quagmire surrounding song parodies in general (First Amendment?  HAH!).  (And we know because Alan got a law student to research this, and both written law and case law was all over the place!)  Some of our other song titles included “Secret Gun Ban Plan” (to the tune of “Secret Agent Man,” “ACLU” (to the tune of “YMCA”), and “The Little Armed Lady from Pasadena.”  I’ll attach a few so you can check them out.  We recorded them in a real studio and they actually sound pretty decent.

We played all kinds of gigs in a 15-year period including nearly every “Freedom Summit” and AZCDL convention, several NRA meetings, and more street protests and other impromptu things than I can count.  We campaigned against crappy politicians like John McPain and Dianne Swinestein.  We mocked local politicians every chance we got, and it was a hell of a lot of fun.  In case you’re wondering, I believe I thought up the name for the band (a parody on “The Partridge Family” for those of you old enough to remember that cheesy TV show from the ’70s!), but if the other guys remember it differently I’ll be glad to correct the mistakes my feeble old mind may make from time to time—Hahahaha!  We all naturally took parody nicknames as well—Craig “.300 Win Mag” Cartridge, Bob “.50 Caliber BMG” Cartridge, Eric “.44 Magnum” Cartridge, and Alan “.22 Caliber Short” Cartridge.  Alan had the biggest mouth in the band so we ironically named him after the quietest round of ammo! 

Musically, we did manage to achieve pretty decent three-part harmony on a bunch of the songs, and that was a first for me.  My other bands were typically groove oriented rock bands where jammin’ and dancing were the top priority, so this was a really good new thing for me.  And it was a hell of a lot of fun to hear people laugh at the punch lines in the lyrics.  I’ve been laughed at before, but typically not with full intention in most cases—Hahahaha!

Below are some photos of our gigs and mp3 files of some songs—We weren’t all that visually appealing, but we were pretty funny in the right crowd, and to be honest, I enjoyed the rare performance in front of a hostile audience when they would boo at the punch lines instead of laughing—It really was quite a bit of fun to piss off the anti-freedom crowd!

“That’ll Be the Day”–Our theme song.
An NRA convention, I believe
OK–We couldn’t resist. One of the benefits of playing in the band!
Me and one of my guitar idols Ted the Sledge. Ted spoke at the NRA convention and we played. Talk about irony!
“Glock 17” was one of my personal faves. I had sung the Beatles version in a previous band…
We called this “911” but it was a parody of the Vanilla Fudge version of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On.”
A protest gig during the Recall McPain rally season in 1999.
“The Liberal Aisle”–A mocking of John McPain. This one was all mine, and Craig wouldn’t sing it at first because it contained the lyrics “liberal dung pile.” Of course the audience laughed their asses off and then Craig was all in–Hahahaha!!!
One of my favorites that Alan wrote. “ACLU” had 6 verses of 8 lines each. Alan worked his ass off on that one!! And then we all had to remember it!

Eric Plays “with” The Effects

There isn’t a huge backstory to this other than to say that I am playing guitar on the attached recording with one of my favorite local bands from the 1980s, The Effects.  I am not playing the live show though—I was never anywhere near that good!  The Effects were a Phoenix-area band that played an infectious and very danceable (to me at least!) blend of reggae and ska with a definite rock edge.  I was a regular fan since I moved to Tempe in 1983, and I got to know the guys in the band after showing up at so many gigs.  They kind of disbanded in 1985 or so, but I had the pleasure to record a live show they did around 1986 or so for some private event. 

That turned out to be a great opportunity, ironically because of the lousy sound quality in the hotel ballroom they played.  I brought my old-school Teac Tascam 4-track cassette recorder and a couple of Shure 57s and tried to capture their live sound the best I could.  The only problem was that the guitar wasn’t miked properly (if at all) in the PA, and the room was very boomy with too much bass and reverb, so I really couldn’t hear Kirk Hawley’s guitar on my recording to any significant degree.

I’m a guitar player, so the fact that you couldn’t hear the guitar made the recording somewhat useless, and I let it sit on the shelf for a year or so without giving it much thought.  About a year later, I was recording some other stuff on my 4-track in my living room “studio” (hahahaha!) and the idea popped into my head that I should try learning one of my favorite songs off the old Effects tape and overdub a guitar part that you could hear.  I learned their encore song of the night, “Tears of a Clown” and it was off to the races.  I had two of the four tracks available, so I overdubbed my rhythm track on one and my lead on the other.  As I said, I’m nowhere near as good as Kirk (or Donnie Dean, the Effects’ other guitar player), but I gave it the old college try in terms of doing my best to capture the groove and spirit of their vibe.  As always, you be the judge…

“Tears of a Clown”