Saturday, January 13, 2018

Rock in the Laties

In high school Trev realised that his being able to play the guitar might compensate for his being neither bold nor good-looking, as in not very good-looking at all, as in being short and pudgy, with what his former Marine stepdad thought hilarious to refer to as moobs — man boobs. Beginning a few weeks after his 14th birthday, he began spending hours at a time alone in his bedroom listening to all the guitarists his idols had said they’d grown up listening to. 

If his mom had called through his bedroom door, “Trevor, you won't believe this, but Pamela Anderson, from that TV show you love, is here to see you,” he wouldn’t have come out of his room until he’d been able to play a lick he’d been trying to masterworking on 20 times in a row flawlessly. If he stumbled the 19th time, he would start all over again. He got really good, and worked up the nerve to ask Chris, a popular guy in the year above him who he knew played bass, and had a drummer cousin, if he wanted to jam sometime. It might have been the first time Chris had actually seen him. They’d probably passed each other in the Social Studies corridor a million times, but Chris was far more interested in the school’s female hotties, who enthusiastically reciprocated his interest, than in dweeby freshmen with moobs. “You play guitar?” Chris asked, with mock incredulity, and his friend snickered dutifully.

“Yeah,” Trevor said, “and pretty well too.” 

Chris and his buddy exchanged yeah-right looks. Chris said, “Yeah, I’ll bet Eddie Van Halen’s shitting himself in fear.” His pal guffawed. Trevor would have bet against himself being able to, but he held his ground and said, “Why don’t you come over and find out?” and Chris said, “Why not?” That night in Trevor’s bedroom, both plugged their instruments and headphones into a preamp, so as to be heard only by each other, and Chris found out that his dweeby new friend was the best musician he’d ever played with, around a thousand times better on guitar then was on bass. “Not bad,” he said at the end of the third song they played together, hoping desperately that Trevor wouldn’t say, “Not bad? Dude, you don’t deserve to be in the same county with me.” Indeed, Trevor asked if Chris and his cousin might like to put together a little band for the upcoming student talent show at school. 

The school’s coolest kids treated the biannual talent show as an excuse for a snarkfest. The lamer the act — for instance, the nerdy Chess Club kid who smelled bad, doing Chris Rock comedy routines — the more loudly they applauded. But there was no sarcasm evident in the standing ovation Trev’s band received after the second of their two songs, and then their classmates bellowed and hooted and whistled for an encore so implacably that the drama teacher who served as the show’s master of ceremonies had no choice but to let them play two more songs, resulting in the sophomore girl cellist for whom there now wasn’t time bursting into tears, and making an unsuccessful suicide attempt that evening. 

Trev’s little band soon gained a devoted local following. After every performance, Trevor would be surrounded by blues bores who tried to get him to admit he’d learned this or that lick from a player he’d never even heard of, while Chris and his cousin were surrounded by the sort of girl Trev had never had the courage to talk to. Word of how terrific Trevor was quickly made it down to The City, both of whose two daily newspapers ran rave reviews when it opened for a name UK band at Club Deluxo. The name UK band’s manager made some phone calls, and the next night saw more satin baseball jackets — encasing record company promotion men and talent scouts with coke spoons around their necks— than at any time since Van Halen’s first appearance in The City nine years before. 

One of the A&R guys came into the band’s dressing room after their second set — after which the audience, seemingly caring not a bit whether the UK band would come on or not— demanded they play encore after encore. He said he wanted, on the spot, to sign the band to Global Records, but then it emerged that he wanted only Chris and his cousin. As he explained when Trevor blurted, “Hey, WTF?”, and burst into tears, “Dude, hey, you just don’t have star quality.” 

Trevor’s suicide attempt proved very much more successful than the sophomore cellist’s.

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