Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Installment #4, Ant Music to Zen Arcade
In response to last week’s Wurster Brotherly Love edition, I couldn’t pass up the chance to have one of Lane and Jon Wurster’s best high school buddies, Matt Thorn, fill in a few of the gaps in the history of 80s music fandom at Souderton Area High School. Truly awesome. And speaking of awesome, our second contributor is Patrick Cudahy, Chapel Hill t-shirt purveyor, 80s music expert, and without question, the winner of any dance contest he enters. Seriously. Patrick also designed the fabulous Banks Forest logo. As always, let me know if you’d like to play with these questions yourself. I welcome anybody with a good story or two. Send me an email at karen [at] karenbalcom [dot] com. Post a comment below if you want to let me know what you think (rather than sending an email). Other people want to know your deepest thoughts, as well.
Souderton Area High School, Soudernton, PA, Class of ’83, Currently: I teach about, write about and translate manga. (Check out “A Drunken Dream and Other Stories” by Moto Hagio, translated and edited by me, from Fantagraphic Books!) I also make lightsabers.
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: I would like to say R.E.M.’s Chronic Town, because it sounds better, but a more honest answer would be Adam and the Ants’ “Ant Music.” It was in my first year of high school, sometime in 1981. I was on the track team, along with Lane Wurster, who was a year ahead of me (and was an amazing long-distance runner, by the way). During track practice, someone had a boombox playing whatever the least horrible Philly radio station that we could pick up in Souderton was at the time, when a classmate of Lane’s, Ed Rodrigo, started freaking out. “This is it! This is it! Listen! Turn it up!” It was “Ant Music.” Ed cranked it up and started dancing around. This was my baptism into New Wave. I remember being blown away seeing DEVO on SNL in 1978, and Bowie with Klaus Nomi on SNL in 1979, but I saw those performances alone, and had no one to share them with. This was the first time I had a group of friends who were getting into this stuff and eager to share it. Yeah, Adam and the Ants were completely vapid, but they spoke to my adolescent angst, and even after being exposed to much better stuff, I remained an adamant fan. (Get it? Oh, I kill myself sometimes.) Until the release of Strip, that is, which was a rude awakening that forced me to acknowledge that Mr. Ant had the I.Q. of a tennis ball.
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: That’s an easy one. My Hair Club For Men T-Shirt. Hair Club For Men was Jon Wurster’s first band. I can’t remember if Jon was still in junior high when they formed or was a sophomore in high school. Steve Grasse, now of artintheage.com fame, was the bassist, and designed the T-shirt. Turns out he had more of a knack for design than for playing the bass.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: That would be just about all of them. Too many to count. Foreigner leaps to mind as one of the most annoying and tacky.
Best show or concert you saw in high school: That’s a hard one. There were so many great shows. But I suppose I would have to go with the same Lane picked, which was the The Police, The Go-Go’s, The Specials, Oingo Boingo & The Coasters at Liberty Race Track in New Jersey, 1981. That was the first real concert I ever attended.
Best high school make-out song: I never even thought about it. The two most popular “slow dance” songs in Souderton back in the day were “Stairway to Heaven” and “Free Bird.” As a matter of principle, I could not acknowledge any merit those songs might have. Although I seem to remember more than once jokingly dancing with guy friends to those tunes, much to the horror of the jocks and heads in attendance. But make-out music? The only thing that pops into my head is “I Melt With You,” by Modern English (1982). That was “our song.” By which I mean, mine and Robin Kane’s. She was my first love, so naturally she turned out to be a lesbian. (But we’re still good friends.)
Gulf Breeze High School (really), Gulf Breeze, FL, Class of 1990, Currently: owns The Merch and plays in a band called ROBES.
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: Gotta be “The Lung” by Dinosaur Jr. This whole record blew me away when it came out, but this song in particular seemed to be the one that no matter what i was doing, skateboarding, driving around w/ friends looking for something to do on a Friday night or just smoking cigs in the parking lot before school , this song was always being cranked on the stereo. But when we did decide to listen to mix it up a bit, Sonic Youth’s “Teenage Riot” did the job too.
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: My giant Husker Du “Zen Arcade” poster, which i know didn’t come out while i was in high school, but i got it from a record store while i was in high school, so it counts.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: Pretty much all the hair metal bands (minus GnR)…and the Indigo Girls, which weren’t super popular, but 2 good friends of mine who had similar musical tastes as me got way into them at the end of our senior year, and they just always wanted to play it. It was brutal.
Best show or concert you saw in high school: Too many to name. I grew up in Winona, Minnesota where absolutely nothing happened, especially bands coming to play, but the summer before my sophomore year of high school, my parents moved us to Pensacola, FL, which should have sucked, but it was the total opposite. It had an amazing skateboard scene as well as a great indie music scene, and for whatever reason, tons of bands that i liked at the time, played P’cola…Bad Brains, SNFU, Fugazi, Das Damen, Screaming Trees, Dag Nasty, Flaming Lips…they all played, and all RULED!
Best high school make-out song: I remember having a pretty good makeout session w/ a girl named Mary in her car listening to New Order’s “Substance” cassette.