From Nice to Naughty

Ninth grade brought more of the same juvenile bullshit from most of my classmates. Tacks were still being placed on chairs. Taps were still being attached to heels only to have them removed by school officials. Caps were still popped in class under those tap heels. Smartasses made still made cracks when the teacher turned toward the blackboard. Bullies still pulled girls pigtails. Jocks still made fart noises with hands in armpits. Glaciers moved at a faster rate than most of the kids matured. Life in the teenage warehouse grew more absurd by the day.

However, a few of the more talented kids in the class separated themselves from the maddening crowd. These were the kids that I naturally gravitated toward. It came as some solace that I wasn’t the only person passing through a major transitional phase in 1967.

I practiced daily for several hours. I played through The Doors album at least once per day. Often I would play organ through once, and then switch to just singing along with Morrison.

September 17th, 1967 provided me with a jolt. After sitting through a plate spinning act and a ventriloquist whose own lips moved more than his dummy’s, the moment finally came that I’d been waiting for. The wax figure known as Ed Sullivan introduced the next act, “From Los Angeles, California, The Doors.”

Whap, the rim shot fired off the calliope organ introduction and then on into the verse of Light My Fire.  I sat transfixed watching Jim Morrison’s every movement and expression. I studied his antiestablishment attitude, admired his leather pants, envied his long flowing mane, and giggled when he emphasized the word “higher” as he leaned in close to the television camera lens. The performance beamed live from New York directly into my soul. He was so fucking cool. Forget Elvis, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Mickey Mantle, Bart Starr, and the remainder of the now irrelevant star world. Jim Morrison was my new idol.

I called Patty immediately after The Doors segment. She said her dad hated Morrison even though he was obviously Irish, called him a punk, he did. I wanted to emulate Morrison in every way that I could.

“I’ve got get a pair of leather pants,” I told Patty.

“I’m not sure they would look good on you,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “I’d finally look cool. Don’t you think so?”

“No. You’re more of a buckskin kind of guy. Besides, you already look cool. I’ve got a better idea. I’ll go shopping with you. We’ll go to Duluth and pick outfits more befitting a rock band guy.”

“Thanks, I would like to do that.”

I henceforth became Patty’s living Ken doll to dress. Most of the threads were cool, though I never quite felt comfortable in paisley. For the most part, she stuck with solid colours in the dark range. I did feel more confident and more like a real performer. I bought several bell-bottom slacks, which were all the rage, but no leather pants.

I expected that my favourite class that semester was going to be the new organ class that was being offered. It didn’t turn out to be nearly as cool as I anticipated. The teacher, Mrs. Nelson, reminded me of the Wicked Witch of West character from the Wizard of Oz. Her mission was to teach us to sight read music, which I never could get into, fully. Everything she demonstrated sounded so mechanical. I didn’t want to learn to play like that. She was trying to train us to be church organists. Sorry, but that wasn’t the direction I saw my life going.

One of the other students was a rather plain looking girl named Sandy Lindstrom. I knew her from other musical events sponsored by the school, performances before the merciless student body. She was the epitome of the goody-two-shoes girl always dressed in frilly pink down-below-the-knee dresses. I presumed that she was a preacher’s daughter or something like that. She did possess a beautifully pure singing voice. Her rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” was genuine and moving.

I remember learning Beautiful Dreamer and Silent Night in the class, songs that everyone had to learn and perform for the rest of the class. Sandy did the best job of all on both songs. I had no motivation to play these songs. I spent my practice time working on rock and blues numbers. At least, I got to play organ during school hours. It was an easy way to get out of study hall.

Patty and I attended the winter dance together. I don’t recall why Dynasty was booked that night, but it meant that I had to go to this lame dance at my school. Patty hadn’t been to any functions at my school and was looking forward to seeing how normal kids lived.

The Jerry Sheehan Express was playing. The band had a wonderfully trashy looking chick playing organ and singing. The band did a bunch of Jefferson Airplane songs. The girl sang her ass off, shook her ass quite nicely, and growled some killer blues. I was stunned. Where had this chick been all this time?

I asked Patty who she was, expecting that the chick had to be from Cathedral because we didn’t have anyone like that at our school.

We went over to her when the band took a break. I wanted to congratulate her on the killer set she had just played. She was grateful for my compliments and talked to me like she knew me. I got the shock of my young life when it finally dawned on me that I was talking to my classmate Sandy Lindstrom.

The transformation was astounding. She was dressed in a hippie sun dress with buckskin boots up to her knees. Her normally straight blond hair was frizzy and flying in all directions. The prissy, wouldn’t-say-shit-if-she-had-a-mouthful girl was swearing like a sailor. She was the first girl I ever heard say fuck, and she said it a lot.

“It’s just so fucking awesome to be up there on the stage playing music I fucking like instead of all that Broadway shit all of the time. You know what it’s like, Armond. This fucking school sucks rancid balls.”

Patty immediately grew jealous and suspicious, “Hello, I’m Patty. I’m Armond’s girlfriend,” overemphasizing the word girlfriend.

“Pleased to meet you, I’m Sandy. We’re in organ class together.” That did nothing to quell Patty’s jealousy. She tried to act cool about the whole thing, but her nails digging into my forearm told a different story. She had good reason to be jealous. This new Sandy was incredibly sexy. Parts of my body were visibly lusting for her.

“Hey, Armond, Jerry is talking about getting a tour together out to San Francisco next summer. Would Dynasty be interested in going with us?” Sandy asked.

“Hell yes,” I replied. “Tell him to talk to Ted.”

Patty’s fingers gripped deeper into my forearm, like she was searching for a vein to sever with her fingernail. Of course, my natural resistance to control kicked in and I wasn’t about to terminate the conversation.

“You guys toured New Orleans this summer didn’t you? How the fuck was that?” Sandy asked, completely ignoring Patty’s presence.

“It was great,” I replied. “Tiring, very tiring. People don’t sleep down there.”

“I’d love to play New Orleans,” she continued. “Well, I’ll have Jerry talk to Ted about adding you guys to the tour. I need to piss. We’ll talk more later. Nice to meet you, Pam.” And Sandy scooted away to the girl’s lavatory.

“What a bitch,” Patty spat.

“What? I thought she was nice. She never talks in class. I thought it was because she was stuck up, but she hates school as much as I do.”

“She called me Pam. We should go now. I’ve had enough of your fucking school.”

We walked directly to Tim O’Neil’s basement where we found couples making out in black light while listening to Sgt. Pepper. Patty pulled me back into the laundry area and once again reinforced why I didn’t need to look at any other chicks.

Patty pulled a whiskey bottle out of thin air, took several gulps and passed it to me. “Do you think that girl is pretty? What was her name? Sunny?”

Oh, oh. Here we go again. Should I answer truthfully or tell her what she wants to hear. “It’s Sandy. She’s alright. She looked a lot better tonight than she does in class. Not my type, though.”

“No, so what’s your type,” she asked.

“I’m into raven haired Irish gals that read.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” she sighed in relief. “Do you want to fuck?”

“I can’t believe you just said that, a nice Catholic girl like you.”

“That blond bitch isn’t the only one that knows the word, but it’s fucking meaningless when you fucking use it all the fucking time.  That’s a fucking fact.”

“I get your point,” I surrendered. “Now let’s get back to your original question.”

“I forgot what I asked,” she said glugging down more whiskey.

“I did too,” accepting the bottle from her.

Tim interrupted, “Armond-ski, did you hear that we’re playing the Armory tomorrow night?”

“Um, no, I didn’t,” I belched out my whiskey flavored answer. “Who are we playing with?”

“Question Mark and the Mysterians.”

“Cool, 96 Tears guy. I can dig that.” Then I asked Patty, “Are you up for a concert tomorrow night.”

“Fuck yes!”

Now, she was the perfect girlfriend for me.

~~~

Patty reveled in being backstage as the keyboard player’s girlfriend hanging out with other musician’s girlfriends. I loved having a chick to call my girlfriend. We were a great couple in so many ways.

It was always fairly dark backstage at the National Guard Armory, which made it weird to see this strangely dressed cat wearing sunglasses. Either he was blind or crazy and maybe a little of both. Nope, that was Question Mark’s signature. He never appeared in public without sunglasses. He was a funny, crazy Mexican kid by the name of Rudy Martinez. Man, what energy he had, jumping up and down, twisting side to side, like he was about to run the pole vault or some other track event.

All of the Mysterians were friendly guys. Question Mark was the lead singer in the band. His cousin, Frank Martinez was the organist. I complimented Frank on the distinctive organ part he had written for 96 Tears. He said it was just something he was dinking around with and the next thing he knew they had a hit record. He said that the band was from Michigan, near Detroit – Flint, I think – and that he too was fourteen years old. I offered to let him use my Hammond, but he declined saying that the Vox Continental was required for its sound on 96 Tears. Question Mark had made that clear with an exclamation point. (Sorry, but I’m a punny guy.)

I started talking to their bass player, a guy named Mel Shacher, who said he hadn’t been with the band long. He was hired for the tour. He was doing it for the money to fund equipment for his own band called Grand Funk Railroad that he was forming with his close friend Mark Farner. He was obviously way more into that project than Question Mark, which puzzled me. I mean, he was working in a band with a chart topping single and a hot album. Why not ride out the sure thing? (My answer came less than two years later when GFR rocketed to super-stardom and sold more than 10 million albums in two years.)

We did our usual 90-minute concert set sans “96 Tears”. It was a weird night. Several fights broke out in the crowd during our set. We were afraid that the pigs were going to shut down the show. Bouncers managed to cool the situation down and eject the troublemakers, some of whom I recognized as kids that had kicked my ass when I first reached town. What assholes those guys were.

Question Mark and the Mysterians put on a great show. ?, as his friends know him, had a great voice and was quite the showman. They rocked the house hard that night with other original tunes like “I Can’t Get Enough of You, Baby” and “I Need Somebody”, plus a funky rendition of “Midnight Hour”.

All in all, it was a great night.

I’m not sure when she had time, but somehow Patty had managed to get quite drunk by the end of the night. I had catching up to do. She had already warned me that the “red river was flowing” so there would be no mud for my duck that night, which was fine. I enjoyed cuddling with Patty, too, and I had already put in one exhausting performance that night.