Rock ‘n’ Roll High School 34: Boys and Their Rush

This month marks one year of my blog.  One of the best parts of doing the Rock ‘n’ Roll High School series has been discovering universal American teenage truths.   Here’s one: guys are torn when it comes to Rush.  They’re either unwilling to admit they liked them or they openly bemoan what their appreciation of Rush did to their social life (again, we come back to Rush as the so-called male chastity belt). They might say the band had a profound influence on them, but it always comes with a caveat, usually something about how girls and sex and Rush don’t mix. I have yet to hear from someone who says, “I loved Rush, they were my favorite band, everybody thought I was cool and my girlfriend and I made out while we listened to “Limelight” as much as I wanted.”  Nope.  Pretty sure that guy does not exist (although Lord knows if he does, I will hear from him).  Girls had it easy.  There were never any expectations of us liking Rush.  If one of us did, well, good for her.  Even today, when I can appreciate the reason Rush were/are so popular, I find myself rolling my eyes when my son wants to listen to “Tom Sawyer” in the car.  I’m thinking, “Boys and their Rush.”

Greg Di Gesu

De Paul High School, Wayne NJ, Class of ’83, Currently: Urban gardener, audio engineer, & performing songwriter, www.gregsounds.com & www.gregd.bandcamp.com

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: Billy Joel’s “Prelude/Angry Young Man”. At the pep rallies in our small high school gym (a Catholic school, take note), the cheerleaders used to do their routine to the long instrumental introduction. I always found it strange yet strangely appealing. That song brings me back to those moments. Go Spartans!

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: Oh man, absolutely hands down my Bad Company mirror that I won down the Jersey Shore at the Seaside Heights boardwalk, tossing rings around bottles or something like that. I was in good form that day. Must’ve been on a church trip, I’d say about 13 years old, totally horny, hell bent on music, and had to win that sweet mirror. And I did.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: Rush. I was into Yes and King Crimson for my progressive rock experience. A little more intellectual & less mainstream than Rush. I thought they played real good and all; dug a couple of their radio hits, and……ok, wait Greg, stop right there!! “Tell the truth”, says Greg’s Inner Voice. ‘Noooo, don’t talk back to me’, says Greg. “Greg, just tell Karen and the readers the truth”, whispers Greg’s Inner Voice. ‘Ok, Karen and the readers, please sit down’.

There was a talent show at my high school and during junior year my band Pressure won! (pre-Billy Joel song, mind you, obviously we were on the cutting edge in taking that name). We even had a couple of originals, namely “Luellen” & “Sunday Afternoon”. Pressure won the talent show with a trophy for each band member to prove it along with headnods in the hallways. We were on our way to another win a year later in the school’s Battle of the Bands, or so we thought, until a fellow classmate’s Rush cover-band stepped in as our main competition. We were a non-Rush cover-band and the kings of the Roller Rink over in Bloomingdale, NJ (We got paid a buck for every kid that showed up after the first 50..that’s more than I make playing music today!!). We played parties, battle of the bands, even a “special needs” home where one of the residents danced and screamed “Elvis! Elvis! at our bass player, while we tackled our repertoire from The Clash to Cream to Donnie Iris and The Cruisers. No Elvis covers. We were good kids and we happened to rock. This would be around 1982-1983, the absolute height of Pressure-mania that was sweeping across Passaic County and nearly spreading into Bergen County, but not quite. In the end our performance did not yield another victory. The Rush cover-band won. To this day I love Yes and King Crimson.

Best show or concert you saw in high school: I’m gonna have to go with a tie for first here and also thank the U.S. Army. My brother Gary was a cadet at West Point and at this time I was 14. He took me to see my 2 first shows ever. On separate occasions I saw Gorge Carlin & Harry Chapin! Got Harry’s autograph and still do. I learned Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”, along with the rest of the world. They were both great shows. My oldest brother Jon took me to my first big show at the Brendan Byrne Arena. The Police with Black Uhuru opening on the “Ghost in the Machine” tour in 1982, awesome!!

Optional bonus question: Best high school make-out song: Well, I was a pretty good kid in high school. I was an athlete and academically aligned. Until, however, John Lennon was killed. Then I was a high school junior teaching myself guitar a few months away from my first song. No sex, drugs, or rock ‘n’ roll just yet. I was responsible! I waited ’til college. My virginity wasn’t released until I was 19!! I say it loud and proud. Good Italian-Catholic upbringing with family military discipline underneath. I was a bit ‘moralized’ by the Catholic Church and anti-abortion in my stance back then, which cultivated an early abstinence in the disciplined athletico-militarily-Italianized-Pasta e fagioli boy that I was. It wasn’t until my progress as a human that led to my feminism (BIG gender-equal thank you to all the women who brought me to protest for reproductive rights in the 80’s on Capitol Hill!). And yes I’m an Ani DiFranco fan and yes I do cry to Joni Mitchell records.

But I digress . . . When I was “dating” my 1st reverend’s daughter, there were some great 80’s hits that served as the soundtrack to life. My then girlfriend, who was older by a couple of years and pursuing a nursing career, babysat for Merryl Streep, who happened to live behind her nursing school in Montclair, NJ. I would drive over to pick her up and also pick through the esteemed actress’ garbage; lots of pasta! For some reason, maybe due to the popularity of this song at that time, the Dexy’s Midnite Runners’ hit, “Come On Eileen” always reminded me of the times I would be with her, how we would make-out and I would only ever get to 2nd base. 3rd?! forget about it! I was no Ricky Henderson, just a homework-doing, Church-going, sports-playing, river-fishing, lawn-cutting, suburban kid. It wasn’t until “my 2nd reverend’s daughter” did I get to 3rd, as well as steal home & a heart, but that’s a different website altogether.

Greg will be performing in a “reunion” show with his band of many years ago, The Wooden Soldiers, who along with Spiral Jetty were part of a very fertile music scene in New Brunswick, NJ during the mid to late 1980’s. Otherwise, you can catch him solo or with his band, Sounds of Greg D www.gregsounds.com

Friday August 12th@Littlefield,622 Degraw St., Brooklyn, NY, Tickets at www.littlefieldnyc.com

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