Wednesday April 17th, 2024 7:50AM

Rock and Roll Dreams

By Bill Maine Executive Vice President & General Manager

The plan? You mean the intended destination of my life’s path? Honestly, I wanted to be a rock star. Somehow, I wound up here instead. Go ahead and laugh. Don’t blame you. It makes me chuckle too. At least, now. But not then.

Granted, it wasn’t a unique plan. Every kid that ever heard Chuck Berry, The Beatles or just about any rock music at some point thought “that should be me.” Some of them actually made it. The rest of us got day jobs. Young folks are still dreaming about it today. Just look at the line of people who show up for all those television talent competitions. They’re all just like Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero” complete with “stars in their eyes.” The difference between them and me is they are working their plan. I never really had a plan, just a destination.

No surprise coming from a kid who listened to rock and Top 40 stations from a very early age. I had this little AM transiter radio. Some nights I’d hide it under my pillow and fall asleep listening to some real cool tunes. There was rock, Motown and a little Country. And I mean just a little. It was too twangy for me at the age of eight. For the record, I am old enough to remember when the AM dial was mostly music, not talk. Heck, I even jocked records on the AM.

Of course, it doesn’t matter what destination you choose, you’ll never get there without a map. But I was clueless and just figured if I wandered long enough, I’d get there eventually. Wrong. You see, along with a map, you need a vehicle to take you where you want to go. I had one, but it ran out of gas before I even got on the highway.

I played piano from fifth grade all the way through high school. I studied classical music but dreamed of rock and roll. I was mediocre and that’s being generous. By the time I got to college the destination had changed. I traded the dream of a recording studio for the reality of a radio studio. That’s not to say that I didn’t have an opportunity to take the concert stage.

One of my good friends from high school and I ended up as roommates in college. It was he who came up with the idea to form a band. Forget that he didn’t play an instrument and that I was more like “Billy Who” than Billy Joel. It didn’t matter. He had a brilliant concept that could have made us some bucks and gotten us an enthusiastic following albeit one that might want to do us harm.

The idea was less about music and more about marketing. That’s not a bad thing. Many have made a buck with far less talent than we had. I’m not going to mention any names because music is in the ear of the listener. Even so, I could rattle off a list of bands that are total trash that have made it big thanks to a few marketing gimmicks, but that’s a meandering for another time. As I mentioned, it would be totally subjective and I’m not in the mood to argue.

The brilliant part of this plan is that we wouldn’t have to play a single note to make some money. All we would need is a catchy name and a little hype to be able to sell tickets and t-shirts aplenty. At least once. But book a big enough hall and one time is all you need. Let me explain.

The idea was to call the band “Free Beer.” I know, I know, but remember this was college and beer was a hot currency. We would book a venue. Light up the marquee with “Rock and Roll with Free Beer Tonight Only. Tickets $5.” Then we would put out the t-shirt booths and print money. Just before show time, we’d take our cut from the gate, get in the bus, and roll out of town. This being the days before social media and the internet, we probably could have hit a few more towns before we would be forced to have a falling out, split the band and fade into rock history as one of the greatest bands that never was. We would be one-hit wonders without ever having a hit. Granted it wasn’t very honest, but it was very rock and roll.

Sadly, or very fortuitously, it never happened. I think we had homework, or some similar mundane activity that got in the way. Maybe even an attack of conscience.  

My friend and I have both grown up and done those adult things our parents always wanted us to do. We married and raised families. We landed good jobs that don’t require us to flee under cover of darkness, even though I think my wife sometimes wishes I would.

We don’t see each other very much anymore as the aforementioned “adulting” has pulled us in different directions. I think if we’d have given it a go, we might have ended up actually recording some tunes and going legit. I’d love to see that debut album “Free Beer: Rock and Roll on Tap” become a reality. With tunes like “Tapped Out”, “Brewing the Blues”, and that arena rock favorite “S.U.D.S.-Surviving Under Direct Stress” we could have been something more interesting than responsible citizens.  

Perhaps someday one of us will show up at the other’s door and utter those words we’ve secretly longed to hear for years: “Let’s get the band back together again for the first time.”

 

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