Today’s RNRHS is from Billy Maupin (another of my former fellow co-workers from Mammoth Records) and mentions two things I hadn’t thought about in a long time–Poindexter Records and cassingles. Ah, the cassingle, such a perfect nugget of musical enjoyment–like Jolly Ranchers for your ears. And Poindexter…well, one of the best record stores ever. It is missed by many, like countless others all over the country. Nothing beats a Saturday afternoon spent puttering about in a record store. Does that sound like something an old person says? Like, nothing beats a Saturday afternoon spent down at the malt shop after your shift pumping gas at the service station? Damn.
Northern High School, Durham, NC, Class of 1989, Currently: GM of the Yep Roc Music Group
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: U2 – Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum were the soundtrack to my high school years. My friend Matt and I became slightly obsessed with Rattle and Hum going as far as making tapes of the movie audio and declaring it (to anyone who would listen) to be “far superior to the cd “. This was pre internet so I am sure my fandom pissed a lot of people off. Also recall spending a lot of time trying to track down all the official cassingles so that I could have all the unreleased b-sides. I remember getting the last one right around graduation and how important it was to compile the b-sides onto one cassette for “Beach Week”.
Favorite piece of music memorabilia in high school: T-shirts were always a favorite. 1) REM Bicycle Little America Tour Shirt – I wore that shirt through high school, college and for years afterwards, and would probably still be wearing it today if it hadn’t literally fallen apart. 2) Poindexter Records T-shirt (The 1916 Perry Street location) – I spent untold hours (and dollars) there. The shirt had a really simple logo of a face but no matter where I wore it someone would come up and ask me what it meant. 3) Rush Hold Your Fire T-shirt – I bought this from a bootlegger leaving a Rush show at Reynolds Coliseum. He wanted $10, I offered $5 and he said no way. I made like I was going to leave and he relented and gave it to me for $5. The quality sucked but at $5 I couldn’t complain.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: There was a moment in 87 or 88 when it seemed like the only band anyone was talking about was DRI. Outside of the iconic logo I just didn’t get it. Crossover Thrash? Hello? Pick one or the other.
Best high school make-out song: Def Leppard “Rockett”
Best show or concert you saw in high school: REM at Cameron Indoor stadium. I remember racing from school to the Record Bar at Northgate Mall to get tickets after hearing that the show was almost sold out. The clerk pulled out a steel cash box from under the counter (this was pre ticketmaster) and I got the last two tickets. My tickets ended up being dead center in the last row but it was still an incredible show.
Hey y’all! Just had to say that since today’s installment of RNRHS (we’re calling it that now, btw) is from my amazing friend, Amy Barefoot, who can say things like y’all and make it sound perfectly natural. It sounds terrible when I say it (see sidebar). In fact, I apologized profusely the few times I tried to use it. Amy and I used to work at Mammoth Records together and although we were separated by two floors, that didn’t stop us from spending lots of time together. Now whether a whole lot of work was getting done during that time, well, our old boss reads this blog so yes, we were being very productive. We weren’t talking about rock boys or cats or drinking or our co-workers at all.
Rock on y’all.
Smithfield, NC, Smithfield Selma Senior High (also known simply as Triple S), Class of 1988, Currently: The boss of me at Barefoot Public, Inc.
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: First of all, I should probably explain that I grew up in Johnston County which means that what you are about to read is further evidence that I defied the odds as I should probably be living in a trailer in the field behind my parents house. Luckily, planets aligned, I crossed county lines and grew out the spiral perm.
The hair metal bands of the 80’s were really unavoidable for me. For some reason I morphed from worshiping the British pop darlings of Duran Duran to discovering the beauty of the Psychedelic Furs and Echo & The Bunnymen on the Pretty in Pink soundtrack to landing straight in the middle of a big heap of neon spandex, eyeliner and lots of hair.
I once made a banner for Bon Jovi from a queen-sized sheet that I then strategically placed up my acid washed jean miniskirt along with a roll of duct tape to enter Greensboro Coliseum. I had been told security would confiscate all banners and they would be checking purses. I’m pretty sure I looked like I was seven months pregnant but the crowd cheered as me and my friends unfurled our homemade love letter on a sheet. It was worth the trouble in the end because Jon Bon Jovi mentioned how much he liked it three times during the show. The crowd ripped it to shreds and I actually saw someone walking out with the part of the sheet that had my name on it.
At home, I couldn’t escape the metal bands either as some of my really good friends were in a band called SCAVENGER’s DAUGHTER. Whenever I say the name of this band, I always have to pronounce it like a monster truck race announcer. FYI, a scavenger’s daughter was a type of torture device not unlike an iron maiden, which they covered extensively along with Judas Priest. I would go to the local Battle of the Bands and then change into respectable clothes to go to my church’s youth group meeting (yeah, my dad was a preacher). Occasionally Scavenger’s Daughter would play the Brewery opening up for such gems as Confessor. I’m really glad my planets aligned and I crossed county lines.
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: I have two. There is the totally classy “Slippery When Wet” t-shirt from the aforementioned Bon Jovi tour. Occasionally I’ll tease my hair, break out the white leather fringed boots and wear it as a Halloween costume.
The other prized piece of memorabilia is a few plies of yellowing toilet paper that I’ve kept sealed in a small plastic box since 1985. I went to see Duran Duran and while John Taylor (this is for you Karen) (ed’s note: thank you, I happily accept all mentions of JT) was playing, some nut threw a roll of toilet paper at him. He saw it coming, caught it and wiped his beautiful, sweaty brow with it and tossed it into the crowd. I was fortunate enough to catch some of it, which I generously split with my friends. That was my first concert. I walked out of there like. . .”screw your little tour t-shirts. . . I’ve got sweaty John Taylor toilet paper.” That sounds kind of gross now but at the time, I was cooler than Anthony Michael Hall holding up Molly Ringwald’s underwear in the bathroom in Sixteen Candles.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: Effing Genesis. I was a member of a dance academy from the age of 6 to 18 and each year we had a big dance recital production thing.. One year, I was recruited/forced to do a ballet routine on roller skates. . .that’s right. . .roller skates to “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”. To this day, I can hear that song or any song from that album and simultaneously get ghost bruises. I sucked at skating. My costume should have been made out of bubble wrap I fell so much. I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was for me to do a skating arabesque across a bumpy stage but I’d like to think they still feel bad about picking me to do it.
Best high school make-out song: “Glory of Love” or some Peter Cetera bulljive from a Karate Kid movie. I think I made out with a guy to that. It’s funny, I don’t remember his name but I remember that his eyebrows were a lot darker than his hair because he frosted his tips but he was no John Taylor. He wasn’t even a Nick Rhodes. Oh, and he had a dog named “Sparkplug”. My friends met him at the state fair. . .I think that says it all right there.
Maybe something from Journey’s Raised on Radio.
Best show or concert you saw in high school: It’s a toss up between the Bon Jovi/Cinderella/Skid Row spectacle and The Bongos/Power Station line-up. I did go to a Bruce Springsteen show with my dad, who in addition to being a preacher was also a teacher at my high school. It was a fun yet awkward show. It was at the newly built Dean E. Smith Center at UNC. My dad went to the bathroom at one point. . . came running back to our seats, grabbed my arm and made me stand outside the men’s bathroom so he could introduce me to some UNC men’s basketball players as they left. I was mortified. It was a defining moment for both of us. For him, he was the coolest teacher at school because the next day he just talked about the show instead of teaching and for me, I’ve never been to see any live, musical performances with him since then.
Today’s RNRHS post is from my amazing writing critique partner, Karen Stivali. Karen and I met online on the Nathan Bransford forums. I posted a question about writing and sex and Karen not only answered it, I remember thinking that it was a damn good answer. Lo and behold, she sent me a board message the next day inquiring about whether I might want a critique partner.
We were really lucky to find each other. Freakishly lucky. We were both at the same place with our manuscripts at the time, both able to commit the same amount of hours to helping each other (a LOT), and both able to give and receive criticism graciously (for the most part, there are days). We have all kinds of strange things in common: both Karen, both have British male MCs with green eyes and sloppy brown hair, have a similar turning point in our books, and, wait for it–Karen’s pen name before she met me happens to be my maiden name. We also share a brain. Some days she gets to use it, other days I get to use it. There are times when we split it and times when Fed Ex has it and nobody remembers where the tracking number is.
As always, let me know if you would like to participate in one of these. Everybody’s doing it, you know. Just send me an email at karen [at] karenbalcom [dot] com.
Super Suburban NJ High School, Class of 1984, Currently: prolific writer/compulsive baker/ insomniac
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: The single song that reminds me the most of high school would have to be Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics. Can’t say I particularly liked the song, but I remember it playing every single time the radio was on for the entire summer of 1983. Other bands that make me think of high school are The Police (like), New Order and Joy Division (like, but complicated memories attached), REM (like), Prince (didn’t like), Twisted Sister (hated), Foreigner (boo), The Ramones (love), The Violent Femmes (really love), The Psychedelic Furs (also love), The Jam (totally love), Air Supply (make it stop).
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: My favorite music memorabilia from high school would be record album covers. Tons of them. I spent a lot of time trolling used record stores in NYC and I’d buy banged up copies of albums just so I could get the covers to hang on my walls. My favorites were probably the David Bowie’s Heroes cover and the Debbie Harry’s KooKoo cover, but there were tons more.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: So many to choose from—I was one of the very few punk/new wave fans at my rather preppy high school. First girl to wear a miniskirt to school (proud to say). I didn’t HATE many bands—I’ll listen to most anything—but I certainly wasn’t a fan or Genesis or REO Speedwagon and I remember those being hugely popular. Plus I never liked heavy metal.
Best show or concert you saw in high school: Without question the best show I saw in high school would be the REM concert I snuck into at Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT. We were all underage and REM wasn’t famous yet and it was just the coolest show. Second to that would probably be seeing the Butthole Surfers at CBGB’s in NYC—first CBGB’s show of many.
Optional bonus question: Best high school make-out song: I don’t know if it was the best make-out song, but I remember making out to the Violent Femmes at a party…why can’t I get just one… uh, nevermind. I’m sure there were others but the memories get a bit hazy for a variety of reasons.
Karen is the author of the erotic romance Always You. You can learn more about her by visiting her website at karenstivali.com.
I have amazing stuff this week from Stephen Akin and Chris Phillips. I’d planned to post their entries last week, but Stephen had some major excitement in his life with the arrival of a healthy baby boy, Charlie. Congrats to Stephen and his wife, Andrea. I thought it best to wait a week before making his life more complicated by posting his adolescent memories on the Internet. Stephen’s entry is fascinating to me–lots of Chapel Hill music folklore, some of it familiar because I’ve heard about it from my husband, Steve, and some of it new. Chris’s entry is fascinating in a completely different way–hillarious, illuminating, disturbing. I will never think of Little House on the Prairie in quite the same way. Please comment or send me an email at karen [at] karenbalcom [dot] com with questions or if you would like to participate in an upcoming installment of RNR High School. Rock on!
Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC, Class of 1983, Currently: the Box Office Manager at PlayMakers Repertory Company
Band and/or song that reminds me the most of high school: Man that is tough, it changed like every month. So much happened. My friends and I discovered so much in that 3 year period, it was really that some new album blew our mind every week or two. The main bands that remind me of high school from Sophomore year are the Clash, the Specials, U2, the Police, XTC, and Devo. Then Junior and start of senior year add to that Psychedelic Furs, REM, the Jam, and Elvis Costello, and then the Pressure Boys because that’s is when they first played at the Junior Follies my junior year I think. Senior year was all about the Pressure Boys playing at the Station and Rhythm Alley. And the U2 albums and their show at Kenan stadium. That was also the year that me and Marvin Levi and Rob Ladd discovered hardcore and went through a phase that we only skateboarded and only listened to hardcore. So suddenly it was all Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and Fear, etc.
Sorry I totally didn’t answer the question correctly. The thing is we loved all these different bands and we were seeing them live and listening to WXYC and learning about new bands all the time. Going to Schoolkids after school. I lived 2 blocks from Franlkin Street so I lived at Schoolkids’ basically, that’s why they finally gave me a job there. Actually it took longer than it should have because I was often working there for free until they finally started paying me. It was all so exciting to us. If I had to say just one band though it would be the Police because pretty much the whole school loved them, and almost the whole high school went to their show at Greensboro Coliseum with the GoGo’s on the Ghost in the Machine Tour 1982.
Favorite piece of music memorabilia: my Clash T-shirt from their show at William and Mary for the “North American Campaign 1982” that I ended up not even getting to go to the show because I couldn’t get off work, and all my friends went to the show and the Clash was my favorite band at the time so actually it’s kind of my all time least favorite piece of memorabilia because it reminds me of all that. I still have it, it’s too small for me now, but my wife wears it, so that’s kinda cool. So maybe instead I should say my huge Clash “Combat Rock” poster that I got from Schoolkids. That was pretty awesome and took up almost a whole wall in my room, and of course Paul Simonon is looking so cool in it.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: This is a good question. Actually sophomore year it’s easy, the Doors and Springsteen. Most of the juniors and seniors that year loved Springsteen and the Doors. We hated them and thought they were irrelevant to our generation. The River had come out recently and a bunch of them saw him at Greensboro coliseum and he “played for like 3 hours” or some shit. I would say “Fuck that I can’t stand him for 5 minutes, that sounds like torture” I didn’t want to hear about it. The book “No One Here Gets Out Alive” had just come out too and they were all reading it. Me and my closest friends thought it was total bullshit and wanted nothing to do with it. I actually like Springsteen now, but it took me a long time to get over my hatred of him based solely on the people who liked him in high school. I still haven’t gotten over that with the Grateful Dead but that happened in college anyway so it will have to go into “Rock and Roll College” when we do that one.
Best show or concert you saw in high school: Wow, again this is one that changed every couple months. I will again answer incorrectly with way more than one: U2 at Kenan Stadium, the aforementioned Police show, Elvis Costello and Squeeze at Carmichael, English Beat with REM at Page at Duke, Psychedelic Furs at Page at Duke, Circle Jerks with COC and No Labels at Fridays in Greensboro – senior year, that show changed my life.
Best High School makeout song: probably a tie between “Turning Japanese” by the Vapours, and “Dancing With Myself” by Generation X, since no girl would even touch me until the middle of my senior year.
Bishop McGuiness Catholic School, NC School Of The Arts, Mt. Tabor Public High School, Winston Salem NC, Class of 1986, Currently: self un-employed
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: I want to say “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers because of the heavy story and hard hitting music. But I bought that at the local gracery store in grade school. So let me fast forward. Hmmmm…just thought of Journey, but thats more like junior high school. Still fast forwarding…wait a minute…Ive got it!
Clarence Carter – “Strokin” !!!! I think we can all agree that this poet merchant of love really tapped into a universal feeling here. He exploded beyond the bounds of Top Ten radio with this one. And what teenage high school student wasn’t singin’ this one in the hallways? Didn’t matter if it was girls or boys, jocks or preps. We were all just finally united against the man and singin’ that song! It was a song of Freedom and revolution.
Or was that “Six Pack” by Black Flag that united us against the man?
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: I could never be unfaithful to George Clinton, who autographed my original copy of the very first Parliament record. I thought he was the absolute bomb. And he was. Plus he had that freaky wig. Although now that Im thinking about it, I was pretty into my Dr hook poster. But I think I thought he was a gay pirate or something and disavowed him.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: It’s a toss up between Foreigner or Aerosmith. Both totally useless streams of information. Volcanic fecal flow (thats gross I know). If I was a music critic and I had to review either one of their records my review would read as follows: Why?
Best show or concert you saw in high school: Heavens to Betsy thats a hard question. I can tell you my favorite food is pizzahamburgerhotdog, and my favorite color is brownyellowgreen. Favorite concert…..? I remember the Replacements being very transformational. Like when I left the movie theater after seeing “Rocky” and ran around swinging fists and running up and down stairs convinced I could be the champ. Like Jimmy Walker in Uptown Saturday Night. The Grateful Dead and Corrosion of Conformity were two other bands I saw often and probably influenced my general demeanor or lack there of. Black Flag was always good, but Roger Waters was even better. Molly Hatchet was good but not as cool as the Butthole Surfers. Where are all those concert ticket stubs I saved anyway?
Optional bonus question: Best high school make-out song: This one is hardly optional for me. I was the make out king. I would make out with anyone and anything. Dogs, kittens, hamburgers, sluts, prostitutes, fancy ladies, you name it – I did it. What was the secret weapon you ask? Ill tell you. Right now. It’s a little song called “Puttin’ On The Ritz” by Taco. Perhaps you have heard of it? I tell you no lie, Taco is a magic man.
As an addendum, I will also tell you another little known secret. The theme music from Little House on the Prairie was always good for making out and setting the mood. When you put that music on, you never knew what was gonna happen! Something freaky for sure though.
I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference last week in New York. It was a great trip—a chance for me to meet my writing critique partner, Karen Stivali, face-to-face (yay!), spend 48 anxiety-soaked hours with her, meet other writers, and learn about the state of publishing. I won’t give a full synopsis of my trip, because that would be dull (my flight was delayed, it was cold outside, I was a bit hung over on Sunday), but I did want to write about the dreaded Pitch Slam.
For those who don’t know, a Pitch Slam is literary speed-dating—600+ writers, 50ish agents, you stand in line waiting for your 90 seconds to pitch your book and the agent has 90 seconds for feedback and questions. Next!
In the weeks leading up to the Pitch Slam, I scoured the Internet for evidence of writers living through such an experience. I didn’t find much. I wanted to know what it would be like, what I should do, what I should wear. I found a blog post on All Things Literary that is nearly the written equivalent of Valium. Unfortunately, written Valium only lasts for a few hours.
So, here’s the deal.
Prepare. Practice, practice, practice and then well, you know. I pitched the cat, I pitched my twelve-year-old daughter, and I pitched the wall sconce in the hotel room (I was sure I would do great with any agent wearing a square lampshade). I wrote my pitch as I wanted to say it, and then I memorized it. Some people say this is a bad idea, but it was my safety net. I still improvised when I was delivering the pitches–that’s me, always revising.
Get a grip. Yes, these are agents. Yes, it feels like they hold your very future, the fate of the manuscript you’ve spent countless hours polishing, in their hands. But the truth is that they only hold that fate as it pertains to them. They’re lovely people, but there are other agents in the sea. If somebody doesn’t like your idea or your pitch, you should listen. Don’t argue. Just listen.
Keep it short. Don’t feel like you really have all of 90 seconds because you don’t. Maybe the guy ahead of you takes forever to get out of the chair or maybe the agent needs to jot down a note. I say budget for 60.
For fiction, they only care about your story. Some agents cared about things like my target audience, but they only asked questions about the story.
Show your enthusiasm. You love your book, you love your characters, you know everything about them and what makes them tick, so let the agent see how much you love your own book. Use your voice, use exciting (but simple) words, gesture. If you’re not excited, nobody’s going to be excited.
Adapt and survive. If an agent pokes a hole in your pitch (as happened to me), consider a tweak to close the hole. I made a change while waiting in line and had a request from the next agent I pitched.
Get out of your own head. This is counter-intuitive for most writers, but I found one of the best things for calming my nerves was chatting with writers more nervous than me. I was able to focus my energy on their worries and remind myself why it’s not worth the stress. I met some really awesome people this way.
Dress decently. Yes, you are already proving to them that you’re not a shut-in by showing up to do the pitch, but if you want people to take you seriously, you should dress like it. Wear what’s comfortable, but look the part of a capable, together person.
Have fun. Yeah, right. Nobody has fun doing this sort of thing, so that seems like terrible advice. I’m thinking a more appropriate ending to my list would be, “Head straight to the hotel bar” or, “Go outside and scream at the top of your lungs”, or as many people did, “Tweet your butt off about it”. The hotel bar is my favorite (see aforementioned hangover), but Sheraton, seriously? Sprite in a margarita? You’re killing me here.
Karen Stivali also has a fabulous post about WDC 11 and the Pitch Slam on her blog. Check it out at karenstivali.com.