When I was in grade twelve I answered an advertisement thumb-tacked to the school bulletin board and for a few months I was the drummer for Velvet Jones, a rock band named after a Saturday Night Live character and dedicated to exploring the musical middle ground between Tom Jones and The Velvet Underground.
The audition actually hadn’t gone very well, as my sense of rhythm has always been a bit suspect. But since I had access to a van, and the only other applicant was Nigel Nixon, whose sole experience with any sort of percussion was playing the triangle in Mrs. Meinhardt’s grade eight band class, I was in.
Determined to make the big time, we committed ourselves to almost weekly rehearsals at the house of the lead singer’s parents, who fortunately were both hospital physicians and therefore not home much. Years before Kid Rock, when Jack and Meg White were still attending regular sessions with their child psychologist, we had learned from the great rock stars of our day that, in the highly competitive world of rock music, attitude and image are far more important that intangibles such as talent and hard work. With this in mind, we hired one of the neighbourhood elementary school kids to fill glass bowls full of M & M’s and pick out all the blue ones, and we took turns hurling a 14″ Citizen television set through the (open) window. As our rehearsal space was in an above-ground basement suite, this maybe wasn’t as dramatic as it might have been, but the thought was there.
Musically, we were coming along. Our guitarist, Aziz, had a knack for writing simple, catchy melodies that made “My Sharona” seem like a Bach fugue, and that could somehow get stuck inside your head and stay there all day long until the effect became something like chewing stale gum for hours on end.
For my own part, thesaurus in hand, I took on the role of wordsmith, contributing insightful and provocative lyrics such as “Concupiscent underlings/ Lurk in the shadows of your mind/ Salaciously fingering vials/ Of Victorian datura”. Performing at various park bandstands, school gymnasiums and disused postal outlets, we soon began to develop a small but dedicated base of fans, and even enjoyed a brief vogue with the local French donut and nitrous oxide crowd.
It wasn’t long, of course, before our egos became too big for us, and we began to go through the bouts of emotional and creative turmoil that so many artistic alliances face. I remember one particularly stormy rehearsal session during which a heated discussion about whether purchasing a steel drum and adding a calypso element to our sound would provide us with some much needed musical development. It was an argument that was finally resolved by Aziz pulling the bass player’s sweater over his head and punching him out, hockey-style. Soon after graduation the band dissolved, as we all began to pursue more rewarding solo projects, such as washing dishes at Binos and stocking shelves at the pharmacy.