Musical influences can come from many places. Some say they are moved to play an instrument by anyone from Mozart to Eddie Van Halen. I, however, began my musical journey thanks to Loverboy.
Believe me, it wasn’t the leather or the choice of black and red for their colors. It wasn’t their obsession with sex, as I was only 12 and still a bit wet behind the ears. No, it was the musicianship. Seriously, as soon as I heard “Turn Me Loose” on the radio, I knew I wanted to rock – the intro was just too cool! To a 12-year-old, everything about them was cool – the red and black matching clothing thing was cool, the smoking skank on their self-titled album cover was cool, Mike Reno’s headband was even cool!
I still defend them, only because they are the ones that put me on every instrument I was blessed to have in my basement when I was a kid. I would start “Turn Me Loose” on the turntable and run to the drum set so I didn’t miss the first rat-a-tat-tat on the closed hi-hat. I could play along in my sleep, and often did. But I wanted more! I moved on to playing my brother’s bass guitar (when he wasn’t home) along with the tune. Sure it was simply octaves, but it sounded so cool! I found it difficult for me to slide quickly down the neck at first, but I practiced until I was perfect. Still not satisfied, I tried the guitar. They used power-chords, but I thought just the one string would work for now – I had no idea what a power-chord was. I could tell it wasn’t sounding right. The guitar was close, but not close enough or good enough. I could only do the bass and the drums perfectly. So that settled it, I needed guitar lessons.
Yes, Mr. McGraw, Loverboy is the reason I was in your guitar class in 7th grade – I had to learn. But you know what? It wasn’t enough. I had to move on to private lessons in 8th grade because I didn’t want the sheet music to the “Boogie Woogie” – I wanted to hear the big and powerful chords that Paul Dean was crunching and sliding down the neck of his guitar like a fat kid trying to run up a muddy hill. I was obsessed with getting the big sound.
I moved on to private lessons and learned power-chords and tablature – the keys to rock and roll for the crappy sight-reader. And I kept taking private lessons until my parents were paying $40/month for a guy to sit there and figure out how to play songs off the radio for me. It wasn’t long before I could do it on my own, and soon I was teaching myself how to play “Turn Me Loose” – the ultimate influential tune of my adolescence.
Next thing you know, I’m in a band in high school. We played the popular heavy stuff like Scorpions, Judas Priest, Van Halen, etc. As you can imagine, if I said, “Let’s play some Loverboy,” I’d get booted. So I stuck in there with my band, Annex Redd, and enjoyed our hot play-list. In fact, we were so hot that when we got cut-off early at Spring Fest in high school the crowd started chanting our name to get us to stick around and play more. This was my first live performance and I was blown away! Not only that, but while packing up our equipment back into the truck, I heard a kid talking about how some guy, “nailed ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ – the solo and everything!” I remember thinking, “Wow, somebody else must have played that song.” But then the kid saw me and exclaimed, “That’s him! Dude, you were sweet!” Thanks, Loverboy – the kid was hot that night.
College came and I did some personal recording on a 4-track. I was getting pretty good, but I was into the speed-metal genre with the likes of Metallica and Megadeth. Was I forgetting my roots? I mean, sure the guitar was more complex, but these guys weren’t influences, merely challenging.
Alas, I ended up working in a CD store. It expanded my mind and made me realize that there is more to music than machine-gun guitar riffs. I remembered my roots: the Residents, Devo, and, of course, Loverboy. Yeah, I had to purchase something by them – my life was incomplete. So I own and I listen to Big Ones (their greatest hits). It still grabs me, the way “Turn Me Loose” introduces you to the band one instrument at a time. You know it as soon as the hi-hat starts. The keyboard up-slide is as spectacular as ever. The first notes on the bass are as deep as ever. The crunching guitar is as gripping as ever. And I’ll never be embarrassed by it again. I still crank it with the windows down – damn the 20-year-old CSRs that make fun of me in the parking lot at work. This ain’t over-produced boy-band garbage; this is rock and roll, baby!