Lately I have been catching up on several old podcasts on my daily walk/jogs. Many of these are bands talking through “the glory days” of when they formed, how they got their start, what led to their big break (or not in some cases of underground bands). That reminds me so much of all the times I tried to start bands myself. It was kind of a thing for a lot of people back in the day… that is mostly not a thing these days (although some people still get into the whole band thing occasionally). The picture above from March 1989 is the only band I was ever in that got to play some live “concerts” (although I have played many times as part of the worship band at various churches through the years). I am on the red Peavy bass on the left
These “concerts” were actually high school choir recitals, where one of the choir members asked “hey, can I play some rock songs” and then grabbed me because I was the only bass player they knew. I wasn’t in choir – can’t hold a note to save my life. We had a very juvenile band name (Modnoc – condom spelled backwards) and just played some covers. This pic is from our hard rock cover of “Johnny B. Goode.” We came back later in the night to do an instrumental medley of the James Gun/Spyhunter theme, “Wipeout,” and a couple of other tunes. A year later we reunited to cover Guns ‘n’ Roses “Patience” for the 1990 choir recital.
Through the years I tried to form various heavy metal, punk, industrial, alternative rock, you name it bands. Sometimes I almost got a practice or two going. I wrote a ton of bad songs. Two or three that I would still like to record some day like “Burn the Clinic” and “The Rain Falls on Your Parade.” Nowadays people record entire albums by themselves with just a computer, so you never know. I helped start a Collective to promote some friends that were doing the home recording thing (and in hopes that I would pick up some tips from them). I even got to the point that several people were asking me to design cover art for them (I did it for free on the quick, so I was just all they could afford). I now have my own Discogs page even. You can probably find several articles and reviews I have written out there for various indie outlets about underground bands I tried to help promote. But I never formed a successful band. Rock ‘n’ roll dreams of yet another 80s kid crash and burn.
But I remember how huge the whole “dude, let’s form a band!” thing was back in the day. Everyone swore the guitarist in the pic above was “going somewhere” because he had skill. Life took him in other directions than rock ‘n’ roll stardom – I assume he is happy with that, but I don’t really know. So many news specials about up and coming bands back in the day asked the members what they would do if their band never makes it. They always said “there is no plan b” or something like that (almost none of those bands made it). Only a small percentage even got a record deal, and only a small percentage of record deals even produced a minor hit. But media pushed the narrative that if you just tried hard enough, you could make it. The few bands that made it didn’t really try harder than others, and some notable slacker bands also became famous. It was just a combination of luck and knowing the right people. But you see echoes of that attitude being sold today in narratives about grit and bootstraps. It’s probably rightly referred to as toxicity by some now. But for those of us that never sold it all and moved to L.A. or whatever, we can just look back at it with fond nostalgia and a side eye to that old stack of songs we wrote while wondering if we can afford to buy Pro Tools or not.