This week’s installment is a day late, but for a good reason with the MLK holiday on Monday.  I hope everyone found a suitable way to observe the day.

This installment is a funny one–Sam Stephenson and Django Haskins, both incredibly smart and talented–scholarly Renaissance men, in my estimation.  I fully expected stories of musical memories so outlandish and worldly that it would make me feel like the girl wearing sparkly blue eyeshadow, smacking gum and working at the Dairy Queen, and yet we have talk of Prince stickers on three-ring-binders and Bryan Adams slow dances.  Turns out we all have some variation of the same experiences, which is a great comfort to me.  As always, if you or anyone you know would like to answer one of these for me, drop me a line at karen [at] karenbalcom [dot] com.  Enjoy!

Sam Stephenson

Washington, NC, Washington High School, Class of 1985, Currently: I am a writer who recently authored The Jazz Loft Project.

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: “Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley. I grew up in a town of nine thousand people in coastal N.C. (Washington) and we relied heavily on two local pop radio stations – WITN Rock 93 out of Washington, or Chocowinity to be exact, and WSFL 106.5 out of Bridgeton/New Bern. This song was in heavy rotation 1983-84 and I hated it. When I heard its first notes on one of the two stations I’d switch to the other one. Whenever I hear it today I’m taken back to the 1978 Pontiac Firebird that was passed down from my brother to me and suddenly I’m driving out to the mall on a cold, dark winter night, and I’m hitting the radio preset buttons as fast as I can to get to a different tune.

“Union of the Snake” by Duran Duran. During summers, holidays, and Saturdays I worked at Moss Planing Mill, which was a lumber and building supply company. A slightly older co-worker named Sammy Corey had a Buick Regal two-door sedan with a T-top and I remember jumping in his car one day to go to Hardee’s for lunch. He threw in a cassette with this tune cued up and he said, “This is some bad jam,” and we cranked it over to Hardee’s. That sticks with me bigtime.

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: A purple Prince “1999” sticker that I had on my 3-ring binder. We didn’t have access to much memorabilia in Washington but it was around this time I got huge into Springsteen bootlegs after stumbling into a bootleg store on my first family trip to New York.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love:  The Police. I can’t really explain this but I never could dig those guys. I learned to like them later, and Sting later. But in high school I hated “Every Breath You Take” and all those tunes. Eddie Murphy singing “Roxanne” in the movie 48 Hours was part of a turnaround for me.

Best show or concert you saw in high school: We didn’t have access to a lot of concerts. We had to go out of town to see shows. Billy Joel in Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh circa 1979. I was in 6th grade. This was back when he was still Long Island cool, the 52nd St. tour, before he started being ticked off that he wasn’t Springsteen. There was 38 Special and Joan Jett at Minges Coliseum in Greenville, then Joan Jett and Donny Iris and some other forgettable acts in Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. There was also the annual Beach Music Festival at Emerald Isle, NC, featuring The Embers, General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board, and a lot of drunks fighting. I can’t say I really enjoyed any of these shows, other than the spectacle value. A couple of other things come to mind. I grew up next door to an African-American beach called Griffin’s Beach on the Pamlico River outside Washington. Nobody had air conditioning back then so our windows were always open. I went to bed every Saturday night hearing the thump of Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, and Commodores cover bands playing next door. Also, my family visited New York a few times when I was a teenager and we went to Tavern on the Green once and a band of young black musicians was playing jazz. That left an impression on me. I can’t remember any specifics. Looking back, I’m sure they were playing mild ballads in that environment. But there was something hip about it to me.

Django Haskins

Eastside High, Gainesville, FL, Class of 1991, Currently: I mostly make animal noises and drink melted butter. (ed’s note: aka making music with The Old Ceremony and being a writer/man about town)

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: Fishbone, “Bonin in the Boneyard.” I grew up in the country outside of Gainesville, Florida with an older sister who listened to Rick Springfield and Wendy & Lisa pretty much exclusively. The U of F radio station was strictly commercial and kept its playlist trimmed to the essentials: “All Right Now” by Free and “Radar Love” by Golden Earring. I was pretty much on my own in terms of finding cool bands. I think I first heard of Fishbone in the movie “Say Anything.” Since I was one of two fans at my high school, I had to make my own Fishbone t-shirt with puffy paint.

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: Bo Diddley lived in Gainesville, and I once stalked him at his lawyer’s office with an old LP of his (my dad knew his lawyer and tipped me off). He signed it, wrote his telephone number on it, and told me to call him and “come jam sometime.” I’d just started playing guitar the previous year, so I waited a while before calling. When I finally did call, one of his many grandsons always answered and told me they’d leave him a message. I never did get through.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: Rush. Rush is Canada’s male chastity belt. It’s physically impossible to get laid while being a Rush fan. Not that I knew about either of those in high school.

Best show or concert you saw in high school:  I didn’t see that many big shows, though I did see the Stones’ “Steel Wheels” tour. From where I stood in the football stadium, they looked like little moving action figures. Still, it was pretty great. Living Colour opened and then promptly went scuba diving.

Best high school make-out song:  Don’t know about high school, but I distinctly remember slow dancing in middle school to Bryan Adams’ (pre-Whiskeytown) “Heaven” and thinking that, if I could get any of these girls to make out with me (I couldn’t), that’d be a good one to play.

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.

Matt Thorn

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 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.)

Patrick Cudahy

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.

This installment is pretty special to me.  Lane and Jon Wurster are two of the funniest, most amazing people on the planet, not that either would own up to it.  Lane was one of the very first people I met in Chapel Hill, before I moved here, and I remember thinking that if everyone in Chapel Hill was half as nice as Lane, I couldn’t go wrong.  For the record, I would pay some serious money for a photo of Lane in the war paint and puffy shirt.  I hope everyone can fully enjoy this chunk of Jon and Lane’s music memories as much as I do and as always, please let me know if you (yes, you) would like to participate in a future installment.  I take nearly anybody who can tell a cool story, so send me an email at karen [at] karenbalcom [dot] com.

Jon Wurster

Souderton Area High School, Souderton, PA, Class of 1984, Currently: I hit people in the ears with music and in the stomach with comedy.

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: Two songs that come to mind right away are “Urgent” by Foreigner and “Heat of the Moment” by Asia. I liked neither. Whenever the former comes on the radio I’m transported back to my older brother’s Honda Civic in the winter of ’82 on our way to school. I still think there is nothing crueler than making a teenager get up at six AM to brave freezing winter weather to go to school. I barely graduated and I turned out great. I mean, look how good I right.

When I hear the Asia song I’m back in my friend Matt Thorn’s powder blue Rabbit the following year. We’re bound for the mall to see what exciting new wave LPs have made their way into Music Scene since we visited last week. I play along with Carl Palmer as he does that Ronettes beat but I hit the dashboard too hard and knock out a portion of the Rabbit’s humble stereo system. Matt is rightfully upset with me.

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school:

1. A section of Adam Ant’s shirt that I caught at his show at the Tower Theater, winter of ’82.

2. A “Rio” t-shirt I got autographed by three members of Duran Duran at the Mann Music Center, summer of ’83.

3. A postcard from Michael Stipe.

I don’t think I have any of these anymore.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: With the exception of a few songs I never liked metal. Though I’m sure there’s good stuff I associate it with many of the super closed-minded creeps with whom I went to school. I know that is petty but I’m sticking to it.

Best high school make-out song: I don’t think I kissed a girl ’til way after high school.

Best show or concert you saw in high school:

1. U2 at the Tower Theater, May 13. 1983.

2. Ramones at Drexel University, Feb, 1983.

3. R.E.M (opening for the Police) at JFK Stadium, August, 1983.

4. Robert Hazard at Ursinus College, Nov, 1982.

Lane Wurster

Souderton Area High School, Souderton, PA Class of 1982, Currently: I do advertising and design for The Splinter Group

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: That would have to be Adam and the Ants. During my senior year, there was a Radio/TV Production class in which you could shoot your own music video in the A/V Room. I wasn’t enrolled in the class, but I somehow talked the teacher into letting me shoot one for Adam’s “Stand and Deliver”. My brother and our friend Matt Thorn were in it too — as back-up swashbucklers. Full make-up, lip-synching and bad dancing. The shoot ran a bit long and I remember catching a lot of crap for showing up to my Chemistry class in leather pants, a puffy shirt and war paint.

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: Probably the ticket stub from “seeing” Aerosmith at The Spectrum when I was 15. My neighbor was two years older than me and he was a big Aerosmith fan. He got tickets to the show (I think it was either the ‘Draw the Line’ or ‘Night in the Ruts’ tour) and we were going to drive to Philly for the show in his ’67 Camaro. But my parents were nervous about “all of the bad things that can happen at rock concerts” and didn’t want me to go. After a stand-off they proposed a family night in the city in which we’d all stay in a hotel right next to the arena. That way my buddy and I could see the show and then safely walk back to the hotel afterwards. So we drive to city with my folks and brother, check into the hotel and Dave and I walk over to the stadium. There’s a huge crowd out front and people begin trying to crash down the doors. I’m about 125 pounds at this point and I’m being moved throughout the crowd without using my feet. It’s just a huge panicked wave of stoned people. And mounted police. The police horses start bucking. Dave and I get separated. I am trying to be “cool” but I’m really scared. I’ve never really seen people on hard drugs before and it seems like a terrible dream. We finally get inside and I find Dave at our seats. Golden Earring was the opening band and they played their hit “Radar Love” twice, at the beginning and end of their set. After a fifteen minute intermission Aerosmith finally comes on stage. This is it. What we’ve all been waiting for. They rip through the first song and then someone in the crowd throws a bottle at Joe Perry’s head and the band stops playing. “Philadelphia, you’ve got a fucking problem!” says Steven Tyler. They walk off stage. The show is over. It’s 8:15. Don’t you hate when your parents are right?

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: I’m torn between AC/DC and Rush on this one. There were lots of parties my junior year at which AC/DC seemed to have been the constant soundtrack. The football players and wrestlers would all play air guitar and pump their fists to that “Dirty Knees and the Thunder Chief” song. I never really got it. The guy I rode to school with my sophomore year was pretty into Rush. No wait, that was the name of the inhalant he had in his glove compartment.

Best high school make-out song: Stevie Nicks’ “Leather and Lace”. Like most guys, I got into hard-core bondage during my junior year. What with all the Amish and Mennonite girls in our town, “Leather and Lace” really spoke to me.

Best show or concert you saw in high school: There was this amazing/bizarre show at a New Jersey horse race track (Liberty Race Track) in 1981. The Police, The Go-Go’s, The Specials (!!!), Oingo Boingo & The Coasters.Six of us packed into our tiny Honda Civic and drove a hours to see the show. The Specials were incredible. A friend of mine “fell asleep” during the show and we covered his face with cigarette butts and trash we found. That’s what friends are for, right?

In the spirit of welcoming a new year and saying goodbye to 2010, I want to thank everyone who has played a big part in my writing life over the last year.  I can now say that I have spent an entire year writing Bring Me Back, although to be more precise, it’s more like fourteen months.  I learned a lot about myself over the course of 2010—about what I’m capable of and how writing plays into that.

Warning:  this is going to sound like chicken soup, but I’m going to say it anyway.  When I write, I feel like myself.  It doesn’t always make me happy or feel like I’m perfectly fulfilled and it certainly doesn’t mean that my problems go away.  I’m just me, at least for a little while.  I suggest fostering this in yourself whenever possible.

Thanks to my husband, Steve, for unconditionally supporting me even when he has no idea what I’m doing or why I’m doing it.

Thanks to Sara, my cheerleader, for reading dozens and dozens of revisions and always “getting” what I’m going for.

Thanks to Karen, my writing critique partner, who isn’t afraid to tell me when something sucks and is happy to watch me tear it apart and put it back together.

Thanks to friends who pushed me to get better—Bill Williams, Sam Stephenson, Laurie Cochenour, Sarah Dessen, and Heather Ross.

Thanks to friends who went above and beyond to help and encourage—Jane Greathouse, Maura Partrick, Jennifer Resnick, Jared Resnick, John Strohm, and Jay Faires.

And thanks to all of my early readers—Karrie Adamany, Angie Mack, Lisa Kaylie, Evette Horton, Christie Oppliger, Mairead Maloney Eastin, Melissa Cain, Amy Barefoot, Smudge, Jill Mango, Sarah Austin, Ashley Mattison, Fran Wittman, Monica Shelton, Annette Alicea, Jane Sangster, and Diane Tameecha.  Love you guys!

My high school BFF Jane and me, in all our sparkly eye shadow glory

Installment #2: Monica Myers Shelton, Jordy Birch, Jane Greathouse

This time I have surveys from Monica Myers Shelton, Jordy Birch, and Jane Greathouse.  FYI, Jane was my BFF in high school and she and I recently re-connected via facebook.  People love to slag facebook, but it is good for some things and that is one of those things.
I’ve got more of these coming, but please let me know if you would like to participate and I will e-mail you the questions.  You can reach me at karen [at] karenbalcom [dot] com.  You can write as much or as little as you want.  Also, there have been some strong reaction to the question of best make-out song.  I had no idea it would ignite such a powderkeg of adolescent emotional scars, but it has for some people.  From now on, that is an optional question.  I don’t want anyone walking down memory lane if it isn’t fun.
Monica Myers Shelton
Etiwanda High, Charlotte, NC, Class of 1987, Currently: owner, Ablutions Spa

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: U2’s War album (yes album) takes me right back to high school- that’s the record that turned me onto U2, the song New Year’s Day in particular.  Yes, they suck these days but there was a moment in time that they were brilliant, sincere and relevant. Boy, October, War, The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree were amazing records. Then came the hate part of my love-hate relationship with them and it’s been downhill since.
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: My husband! He started playing drums around the time we started seeing each other the first time around and he’s the most kick ass metal drummer ever. I’m still in awe of his talent and power.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: Madonna and/or Bon Jovi. I felt like the only one that hadn’t been turned into a pod person when it came to these bands. How could otherwise sane, intelligent people think either one was anything other than total crap? I still don’t get it.
Best high school make-out song: You name it!  I remember everything from Joy Division, Bauhaus, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, U2 and more all setting the mood nicely.
Best show or concert you saw in high school: I saw so many great bands between living here and in Southern California during high school but the standouts are probably The Dickies, DRI and Bad Brains. I know I’m forgetting some awesome shows. (Say no to drugs kids, you might forget seeing your favorite bands.) I was so excited about seeing Black Flag until meeting Henry Rollins and seeing what an arrogant, rude, misogynistic prick he was- at least that day. That sort of killed the Black Flag thing for me.
Jordy Birch
Currently: taking over the world with new band Guilty About Girls
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school:
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school:
Kiss Alive1 poster and a Cheap Trick concert t shirt.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love:
I kind of liked everything, but Huey Lewis and The News seemed kind of like old people music to me.
Best high school make-out song:
I didn’t get into having a make out soundtrack until I was about 30, but I guess High Voltage.
Best show or concert you saw in high school:
David Bowie and The Thompson Twins
Jane Greathouse
Park High School, Cottage Grove, MN, Class of 1986

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school:
This guy we worked with at Target made Karen this awesome mixed tape that she copied for me.  Any time I hear those songs I think of high school.  What was on that tape?  The Jim Carroll Band, Johnny Cash, who else??? (editors note: Wall of Voodoo, Black Flag, Romeo Void, and some other stuff) I can’t remember the bands but when I hear the songs it takes me right back.
And for sure, Love is the Law!
Favorite piece of music memorabilia in high school:
I don’t have anything left.  Where in the hell are all my records?  My brother probably stole my t-shirts.  I know I had a lot of buttons.  Man, now I’m bugged.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love:
Creedence Clearwater Revival was awful, horrible, dreadful.  I didn’t get Bob Dylan AT ALL, although now I do.  I can do a great Bob Dylan version of Raspberry Beret.
Best high school make-out song:
This question really sucks.  Thanks for reminding me that I didn’t make out in high school.  (editor’s note:  uh, not true, you just don’t want to admit who it was with)
Best show or concert you saw in high school:
Do I have to pick just one?  When I was in 9th grade I saw Hall and Oates in Duluth, MN.  It was my first concert and it was awesome.  There were no chairs on the floor.  It was an open dance floor.  I totally loved them and I still do but don’t judge me please.  I remember getting a jersey shirt with the H2O graphic design.  It was the shit.  I wore it out!
In 10th grade I saw Duran Duran.  That was pretty awesome.  I think we were in the 17th row for that concert.  Did we wait out for tickets?  Karen, help me out?  (editor’s note:  it was the 18th row, Smudge and I waited out for the tickets, and we were on the opposite side of the stage from John Taylor, much to my chagrin)  I do remember the concert program.  Those guys were beautiful in their eye shadow and mascara.
There were a lot of great concerts…REM, U2, New Order, INXS, Billy Idol, The FIXX…but the BEST concerts of all were:
1) The Violent Femmes Hallowed Ground Tour at First Avenue.  Gordon Gano spit on me.
2) The Suburbs…I don’t remember where but it was the concert where we kept screaming, “Play Cig Machine!”  At one point, Beej stopped, looked at us, and said, “Oh yea, Cig Machine!” and they played it.  Friggin’ awesome.
3)  Any Urban Guerillas all ages show at First Avenue.  Remember when Larry Sahagian would tell us to lay down on the ground and he would walk around us singing.   Whatever happened to him?  (editor’s note:  no idea what happened to Larry but I do remember laying down on, ie. sticking to, the floor in the 7th Street Entry.  Good times.)

Get a FREE eBook sampler of Karen's bestselling books.