RNRHS 24 comes from Greg Humphreys, local NC musician extraordinaire and unfairly talented guy (I’m sure it seems fair to him, but to the rest of us…sheesh).  It’s only a matter of time before somebody names him the honorary Prince of Orange County.  Greg has brought us some cool memories, including one about the elusive old-school R.E.M. t-shirt.  Many people who have done this blog questionnaire have either mourned the loss of am R.E.M. shirt or bragged that they still have theirs. Greg made some ill-advised alterations to his, but I’ll have to let him tell you about that.  For as much as I loved R.E.M., I don’t think I ever had one of their shirts.  Instead, I took a beat-up jean jacket and drew the cover of Chronic Town on the back with a Sharpie.  I did a damn good job, if I do say so myself.  Peter Buck even signed it when they were in Minneapolis the first time I saw them.  My husband, Steve, just found an original copy of Chronic Town on vinyl and we were listening to it last night–if ever a collection of songs was meant to be enjoyed with the pops and scratches, it’s that one. Greg mentions here that going to see R.E.M. made him feel like he was in college.  I remember feeling the same way, their music made it seem like we were older and cooler, at a time when that was what we all desperately hoped to be.

Greg Humphreys

RJR High School, Winston-Salem, NC, Class of ’85, Currently: Musician / Singer-songwriter / Performer / Producer

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: I’ve got a few, so i’ll list them with an associated memory.

U2. Our high school band The Trash (Goode, Taylor, myself, Higginbotham) played almost the entirety of their “Under a Blood Red Sky” live EP. Not well, exactly, but often and with gusto.

Run-DMC. rockin’ ‘Hard Times’ loudly in Doernberg’s Volare, interior ceiling upholstery flapping in the breeze.

Boston. watching friends play air guitar to ‘Peace of Mind’… I’ll leave the rest of the story untold so as not to humiliate myself and others.

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: R.E.M. Reckoning tour T-shirt. Got it at the Duke Chapel concert I went to with Phil Morrison. Ended up cutting out the sleeves… shouldn’t have done that.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: Easy target, but I hated Information Society. Maybe the worst of ’80s pop in one band. Blech. I have to admit I never really liked Motley Crue or Hair Metal bands like Poison… just didn’t think the songs were that good.

Best show or concert you saw in high school:  Again, hard to pick one, so I’ll give a quick list. Forgive me if any details are wrong, my memory is bad.

Stray Cats at Wait Chapel. Hooper in a white Panama Jack suit with straw hat and floral shirt. The Busboys opened and killed it.

R.E.M. at Duke Chapel. Sitting with the college kids in the balcony, feeling all college-y. Did Stipe do an acapella version of ‘Moon River’ ? I can’t remember. Holsapple-led dBs opened.

Fresh Festival at Greensboro Coliseum. Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash, Fat Boys, Whoodini. The dancers from ‘Electric Boogaloo Breakin’ 2′ performed in a boxing ring in the middle of the floor between sets. Went with Phil and Jon Healey.

The Police at Greensboro Coliseum. Syncronicity tour. Rag outfits, Trampolines. Pure-T awesomeness.

Big Country at Wait Chapel. How I loved their huge Scottish rock anthems! Went with Trash drummer Greg Taylor. Later tried to replicate “In a Big Country” many times; failed. Wiretrain opened. RIP Stuart Adamson.

The Right Profile / The dBs / Let’s Active at Reynolds Auditorium. Phil put this concert together as a benefit for a Key Club food drive. We got to hang out with Holsapple, Dixon, Easter et al backstage and felt like the coolest kids ever.

Full disclosure: I love Jim Wilbur. Not many people can pull off the grumpy lovable guy thing. I can see him rolling his eyes at that statement–stuffing his hands in his pockets and walking away in a ratty old man cardigan. A million years ago (also known as the early ’90s), Jim and my friend, Liz, were boyfriend and girlfriend. Steve and I would hang out with them almost every weekend, playing a card game called Pooch and drinking beer.  After a few drinks, Jim would threaten to make us listen to Steely Dan or some Contemporary Classical composer (I can’t remember the name of the guy he liked the best…Walter somebody-or-other). Then he would usually go on some sort of rant or throw his cards on the table in disgust and we would all laugh our asses off. Those were great days–sitting in the kitchen in the house on Jo Mac Road. I miss them. Jim and I used to argue about Steely Dan and whether or not girls like them. He was (and probably still is) very pro girls and SD, which seemed a little too convenient since he likes both of them. I maintain that girls don’t like SD, or if they say they do, they’re just saying it to either get a guy or keep him.  And one last thing, while we’re on the subject of girls and guys and music…I can’t begin to express my awe at just how deep Jim had to dig for his best make-out song.

Jim Wilbur

Robert E. Fitch Senior High School, Groton, CT, Class of ’85, Currently: I work from the back of a used bookstore in Durham selling stuff on ebay – mostly vinyl and, until recently (sigh), it seemed like most of it was jazz LPs that ended up being shipped to dudes in Japan. When I’m not involved in the topsy turvy world of internet commerce, I fly around the actual world and play rock music with the Superchunk band. In many ways the day job is more exciting than the touring…. it’s definitely less stressful. Though, honestly, the band stuff isn’t too stressful anymore, either….

Band and/or song that reminds you most of high school: The indie/punk rock canon of the mid 1980’s was core to me. I’m talking about the Minutemen, Husker Du, The Replacements, Minor Threat, you know, those guys…. but I was also totally into Bruce Springsteen and Steely Dan. I didn’t see it as blasphemy to worship from different pews. Still don’t.

Favorite piece of music memorabilia from high school: One thing that kept me going through high school was reading Maximum Rock n Roll zine and just being nuts about hardcore in all stripes. I would buy every hardcore record that came into my local shop (Mystic Disc, in Mystic CT). If it was HC, then it was for me. I wish I hadn’t sold most of my collection over the years. Now that I sell on ebay, I’m aware of how well some of that stuff has aged. In a collectibilty-sense, that is. My favorite piece of memorabilia would have been a Minor Threat t-shirt that I got from a gift store. Looking back, I’m sure it was not made by or for the band. In other words, a sort of bootleg tee. I still remember wearing it once in the presence of DC HC royalty and being aware, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, that it was a faux pas.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: Twisted Sister. Now I’m not so sure about my feelings for Dee Snider and gang. Maybe they were onto something afterall.

Best show you saw in high school: Billy Bragg at the Living Room in Providence, RI.

Optional Bonus Question: Best high school make-out song: I guess it would have to be “I Can Dream About You (If I Can’t Hold You Tonight)” by Dan Hartman from the “Streets of Fire” soundtrack. That or something else equally pathetic. Was such a stupid romantic in high school.

With Kerry Cantwell’s RNRHS entry, we explore the high school girl tradition of wallpapering bedroom walls with posters. This is an art in which I was very talented. John Taylor and his delightfully messy sun-bleached hair was my muse, but that’s the beauty of this pursuit–any male object of desire will work. I’m not convinced from Kerry’s answer that she thought of Robert Smith “that way”, but she DID have his poster on her ceiling, which suggests a certain, shall I say, intimacy. I love the Cure, but Robert Smith never really floated my boat. Such is the fickle heart of an adolescent girl. The heart wants what the heart wants. It is very important when plastering your bedroom with posters that there be a minimum of white space. It will ruin the effect. You want to be enveloped by the presence of your dream guy, even if that means you’re doing your homework with fifty pairs of eyes on you. To a lot of guys (and Kerry’s mom), the whole concept is beyond creepy, but they don’t understand that the hobby serves two purposes very well. It creates a retreat from the reality of just how sucky it is to be a teenage girl AND it makes you feel like you are the center of attention, something every girl needs at a time when you can’t quite figure out why the world doesn’t revolve around you.

Kerry F. Cantwell

Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax, VA, Class of ’91, Currently: College Success Instructor (I teach college students how to be good college students and decide what they really want to do with themselves); drummer for Actual Persons Living or Dead, Scene of the Crime Rovers

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: High school, to be brief, sucked. I disliked the school, I disliked the students, I disliked my friends, I disliked everything. My only saving grace was my own self-imposed melancholia. I think the song (and album, frankly) that reminds me the most of high school is probably “Black Celebration” by Depeche Mode. It encapsulated the gloominess I believed I was experiencing. The worst part is that I was a good kid: didn’t drink or smoke or sleep with people. I just sat in my room with my candles and my white Christmas lights and wrote ridiculously tortured poems and listened to Depeche Mode all the time. Geez, even I think that’s so boring!

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: This would have to be any one of the 12 Cure posters that I had on my bedroom walls. The walls and ceiling of my room were plastered with so many posters that there was almost no white space left. One afternoon, my mom came into my room and lay down on my bed with me. She immediately started laughing and said that seeing Robert Smith’s creepy face looking down from the ceiling scared the hell out of her. She wasn’t sure how I didn’t have nightmares every night. For the record, many of those posters are still in a poster tube in my closet right now waiting for the right moment.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: It’s a three-way tie because, to me, these are all the same band: The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin. I don’t know what it is about the Catholic school boys, but they loved the classic rock and the hippy rock. All the jocks would sit out in their fancy cars in the parking lot after school and crank up their “Sugar Mag” or “Stairway to Heaven” and jock it up out there. UGH! I couldn’t get on board with any of it. I just rode home every day on the bus with my Walkman and my Smiths tapes to avoid it all. Those three bands still activate my gag reflex without exception.

Best show or concert you saw in high school: I’m afraid I have two here. After my sophomore year (July 15, 1989), my brother chaperoned two of my girlfriends and I to Merriwether Post Pavilion to see New Order, PiL and the Sugarcubes. I think I still have my New Order t-shirt from that show! It was amazing! The first rock show I ever saw NOT at an outdoor amphitheater was a free show that the Dead Milkmen played at George Mason University. The show was, essentially, in a gymnasium with TERRIBLE acoustics. It was essentially 40 college students and then me and my high school friends in a gigantic WELL-LIT room with eternal echo. The Dead Milkmen HATED the show because the sound was so bad and there was no one there, but we had an amazing time, and I learned that I needed to see as much live rock as I could.

Optional bonus question: Best high school make-out song: This is a tricky question. Is it the song that was playing during my best high school make-out session? That would likely have been The Cure’s “Pornography.” (I only had make-out sessions with one person in high school, and this is all we ever listened to, so it’s a good bet this was our soundtrack.)

RNRHS returns next week with dear friends Jim Wilbur and Kerry Cantwell. In the meantime, I have a short update on writing and the book.

I’m more than 30,000 words into book two while I continue the agent search–one full manuscript out now (although if you asked me at this time last week, if would have been two, which sounds much more impressive), waiting on a handful of queries and submissions to small presses, and still have more queries to send. Each and every day, I wonder, will this be the day when something sticks? When it all comes together? The hours spent writing, revising, researching, worrying, questioning–will it all be worth it today?

When Emily was a baby, I remember going to sleep (also known as passing out) every night (also known as 8:30 PM) wondering if she would finally sleep through the night. Please, please, pretty please let this be the night. I can’t take another night like the last one. As cute as she was, very little is cute at three in the morning. Getting up with Emily was not a quick process–she would get all social and play with her feet, much like she does now when I ask her to clean her room.

When she was about four months old, I decided that we had to move Emily out of our room. I spent an entire week psyching myself up, warning Steve that it was going to be “hell”, making sure we did it on a weekend so that I could have his help in the middle of the night if needed. What a dummy I was. She slept nine hours that night. I was so giddy with excitement, that I woke Steve at 4AM to tell him that I had just slept six hours IN A ROW, to which he asked, “Why in the hell are you waking me up to tell me this?”

Every time I get a rejection, I ask myself if there’s something I’m not seeing. Am I just being a big dummy? Do I need to write a 57th draft of my query (not kidding)?  Would I be better off scrapping all of this and going to the job fair at McDonald’s (not kidding)? Should I be making my manuscript sleep in its own room? This is the nature of writing–constantly second-guessing yourself. It’s not a great combo for me. I can be convinced of almost anything if you make the right argument or bribe me with beer. So, bring on the beer. Today, I continue to forge ahead.

Jill with the rock star she ditched her date for.

Today’s RNRHS comes from Jill Tomlinson (now Mango). Jill and I worked together at Mammoth Records back in “the day” and we were also tap dance buddies. Never before had the Chapel Hill Ballet School seen such tap dance superstars. Seriously. Jill and I took turns being teacher’s pet during class and then would practice our shuffle-ball-steps at the fax machine the next day. We had awesome hardwood floors at the Carr Mill Mammoth office and drove our co-workers ca-razy. If you have ever been a tap dancer, you understand that the desire to move your feet is a constant. I love everything Jill had to share about her high school music memories, especially the part about hating REO Speedwagon because that was my answer to the very same question. Not sure about that John Taylor story though. Are you sure you didn’t wake up right after that and realize it was time for school?

Jill (Tomlinson) Mango

North Smithfield Jr. Sr. High School, North Smithfield, RI, Class of ’88, Currently: Independent music publicist and mom of 3

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: Definitely Wang Chung’s “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” — not because I was a fan, but because they were the first rockstars (using the term loosely, here folks) I ever met. Wang Chung came to my Junior Prom in 1987. They played a show in Providence and were returning to the Biltmore Hotel, scene of my prom, when a friend of mine spotted them in the elevator and convinced them to come up to the ballroom. I recognized them instantly (the DJ was also playing every single Wang Chung record he had with him), ditched my date and ran up to have my photo taken with Wang or was it Chung?

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: I had this awesome Love and Rockets t-shirt from the Earth Sun Moon tour that, like the album cover, had a black and white photo of the band that looked like it was held up by masking tape. I mean, it REALLY looked like masking tape. I thought that was cool for some reason. I wore it well into college. I told my parents I was going out in Providence that night, but hopped a train to Boston to see them with the Mighty Lemon Drops instead.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: R.E.O. Speedwagon. I remember hearing a commercial on the radio for their show at the Providence Civic Center and feeling embarrassed for them because I thought there was no way that that many people could like such bad music. Of course, the concert sold out.

Best show or concert you saw in high school: I don’t know if it was the best, but the most memorable was Duran Duran on the Strange Behavior tour in June 1987. My best friend and I cut school and waited outside the Worcester Centrum to meet them. A roadie offered to take our photo with Simon LeBon and when we got the photo back we realized he had gotten both of us in full frame, but had cut Simon’s head off. I also had a moment (it was a moment in my mind, anyway) with John Taylor. He was signing my ticket envelope (didn’t plan ahead and bring anything cool for him to sign) and he dropped the pen. We both bent down to grab it and our eyes met and he smiled. Sigh…

Optional bonus question: Best high school make-out song: I don’t recall anyone being suave enough to set the mood with music back in high school. But I do remember going to see Squeeze at the Providence Performing Arts Center and making out with my senior year boyfriend for the entire show. Like, I don’t think I looked at the stage once.

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