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Entry date: 4-8-2024 – Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Auditorium – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Happy birthday to Brian. Yesterday was Ashton’s birthday and now it’s Brian’s birthday. Busy month for good people being born.

 

Friends like Brian don’t come around every day. I’ve learned so much from watching my elusive friend over the years. He’s not on social media and does his own thing in a state far away, but he’s always close to my heart. It’s so interesting to me how differently we approach life but are often searching for the same types of things.

 

We are all on this journey together. I grow more and more convinced of this all the time. We might not be on the exact same path all the time, but we’re a lot closer than we realize. It’s funny how, with Brian, I’ll be thinking about a particular thing, and he’ll bring it up out of the blue. I think it works the other way, too.

 

We share a tattoo that has a common brainwave. He and Michael and I have always had this connection. As teenagers, sometimes we didn’t even need to say anything and all of us would start laughing and we were laughing at the same thing. On a few occasions it also happened (and unfortunately for those that fucked with us), where we just knew to attack. I can think of one night in particular where someone got mad at one of us, went and got their older, bigger brother, and thought they were going to take us out. They ended up apologizing.

 

Violence is stupid, though, and we’re the only ones that get to fuck with each other. Outsiders need not apply.

 

Very thankful, though, for my brothers from other mothers.

 

*****

 

Still pondering what to do about the whole story thing. I don’t want to leave anyone hanging.

 

*****

 

Today’s record was chosen specifically for Brian’s birthday.

 

*****

 

One of the memories of my senior year in high school that still puts a smile on my face is a moment that lasted just a couple of seconds. I’ve talked about my brothers, Brian and Michael, a lot in my daily blog.  It just so happens to be Brian’s birthday today, and this moment directly involved him and Michael.

 

There was some sort of performance thing going on, maybe a talent show, something, at Camelback High School where we all met and went to school. The three of us talked about entering and doing some sort of thing. I had done a lot of lip sync contests at Tommy’s, which was a teen nightclub, and at Deer Valley High School where I had gone for 9th, 10th, and part of 11th grade, so I suggested doing one of those.

 

Milli Vanilli hadn’t happened yet, so lip-syncing was not yet taboo, and while I’m not proud of doing those, it was a way to get on stage because I had not joined a band yet. We talked about a song to do and eventually decided that “Dr. Cut Throat’s Revenge” by Junior Achievement would be the one. We must’ve been somewhat serious about it because we went to the meeting to throw our hats in the ring and took my cassette copy of the record that someone had duped for me.

 

I didn’t get a vinyl copy of Fade To Black, the 1984 record that “Dr. Cut Throat’s Revenge” was the first track on until much later in life. It wasn’t for lack of trying. They were just super hard to find.

 

Anyway, we are there at the meeting and I think all of us kind of realized that we really didn’t want to get up and do a lip sync of it, but we were there, and we had the tape. Two guys I knew and liked a lot, Joe Feldman and Mike Miller, were very curious about what we wanted to do. They were actual musicians and both talented in their own ways.

 

Sadly, Mike Miller died a few years later of cancer in 1992. His death hit me pretty hard and was one of the things that helped me realize that the path I was on at the time was not a good one. He was a good dude and thinking about him now makes me miss him a lot.

 

He noticed I had a tape and put it in a boombox that was there. “Dr. Cut Throat’s Revenge” came out of the speakers and he and Joe looked at us like they were seeing us for the first time again. One of them said, “This is you guys?”

 

The tone of his voice, I’m pretty sure it was Joe, was a mixture of awe, jealousy, and surprise.

 

We all stated laughing and were like, “No, we were thinking of doing a lip sync, but…” and we explained that we had decided against it. For a brief second, though, I got a taste of what it was like to have someone look at you like a rock star. I liked it.

 

I never got to see Junior Achievement. I remember hearing about them, but by the time I got to go to shows, they had morphed into The Harvest, which had Jon Yousko (vocals) and Steve Marinick (guitar), who had also been in J.A., along with Danny Bland (bass) and Mike Sversvold (drums). Todd Joseph (bass) and Scott Chazan (drums) left the band at some point after Fade To Black came out.

 

I feel fortunate to have gotten to know Todd over the years. I remember seeing him at shows when I was new to the scene and thinking, “Who is that guy?” He dressed better than everyone else and everyone seemed to look at him like he was the coolest guy ever so I figured he must be. After getting to know him, I can safely say that what I saw early on is true. Todd Joseph is fucking cool.

 

His bass lines on Fade To Black were cool as hell. The whole record is pretty darn cool, actually, and has aged really well. It’s still one of the best records to ever come from Phoenix of any genre because each of the guys, Joseph, Marinick, Yousko, and Chazan were all good at what they did and brought a lot to the table.

 

At the point where Brian, Michael, and I were talking about doing the lip sync of the record, I probably would have argued with you that Fade To Black was the most underrated punk rock album out there. It is hard to fathom that I’ve been a big fan of it for almost forty years.

 

All of us were so into it. I think we almost wore my tape out during those last few months of 1986. It was definitely a huge part of the soundtrack as our friendships were etched in stone.

 

If I had to choose a favorite song, it would be “Dr. Cut Throat’s Revenge.” It’s just a bad ass motherfucker. Chazan starts things off with a drum beat I will never forget for as long as I live, then Todd Joseph comes in on bass with one of the first bass lines I ever wanted to learn that wasn’t a JFA bassline. The song starts off so powerfully and Marinick, who sadly died a few years ago, seals the deal playing this great metal/punk riff before Yousko starts singing.

 

The lyrics of “Dr. Cut Throat’s Revenge” are also great. Hell, the lyrics on the album are great. At some point during the last five decades, all the songs have been my favorite at one point or another. “Night Dreams” is a another one that Marinick and Yousko just rule on with a great, galloping bridge. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought of “Night Dreams” after a rough night’s sleep.

 

“Rest In Peace” is bad ass…a great bass line on this one and Chazan, holy hell, the guy was all over it. As great as Bam Bam was in The Harvest, he never really filled Chazan’s shoes. I’m partial to “Acid Attack” since I lived it many times. “All strung out on the bathroom floor, your hands are shaking as you reach for the door.” Yep, been there thanks to those little tabs of paper.

 

“Fade To Black” is another one that just cranks. Eventually I did score a copy of Fade To Black on vinyl using DIscogs and then my friend, Karl Wentzel, who put out the record on his Xsonic label gave me an unopened copy after I wrote a piece about it for the New Times. It definitely bums me out that one day I’ll be dead and whichever kid is lucky enough to get to go through my records will find it and not know how fucking cool it is.

 

“My senses become frozen as my soul fades to black.”

 

Side Two is a scorcher, as well. Both “The End” and “Medusa” have been up there for me as best songs on the record. Same for “Black Widow” (with some sort of cheesy but still sofa king cool backing vox) which I wish I could have seen the original band play live.

 

“Snuffed” is another fave of mine. I think the bass intro gets me going, but it’s also the band just really coming together to finish the record strong, too. Fade To Black never lets up. When the first notes of “Future’s Past” hit speakers, you know that you’re in for another great ride. The galloping riff is really working for the band here, too. There certainly was power in that guitar.

 

Two of my friends were cool enough to re-release this a number of years ago on CD and added some live stuff. There is also some YouTube stuff available that is really cool, as well, including a pretty decent sounding live recording from 1984.

 

Great stuff, boys. Classic.

 

 

I’m very glad we decided to skip doing a lip sync.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



Yep




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Remind me next time you call to tell you the saga of Stephen & me trying to get The Harvest "Ritual Summer" released if you haven't already heard the story.

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