There may have been more pathetic high school bands than the band that represented Lisbon Maine High School in 1988-1989. But I wasn’t in any of those other bands.
Picture red polyester jackets and black vinyl plume hats. Try to imagine a set list that included, in addition to the usual fight songs, gems like “Iron Man”, “Paranoid”, “Smoke On The Water” and “Frankenstein.” Listen in your head to a band that never practiced individually and had no sense of collective timing or tune, and a drummer whose snare-roll petered down to nothing well before the first half of the National Anthem was over. That was us. Check, please.
The Lisbon band was lead by Ed Judd. He was a great guy, and especially since I was something of a prodigy, a great nurturer. But he was a hapless leader of boys and girls. Judd was hefty, with greasy black curls and a thick, curly goatee. We called him “Bluto” because of the resemblance, and when he wasn’t around we called him “Hot Lips” for the obvious juvenile reasons. Judd was perpetually nervous, judging by the sweat-stains that would begin in the pits of his vintage ‘70s shirts in the morning and continue to grow throughout the day, and perpetually on the verge of a temper-tantrum due to the musical prowess of the band. The latter was entirely justified.
There were two practice rooms with upright pianos in the cafeteria. During band class in the caf, my bud, trombonist Mark “Cube” Koza and I could often be found chipping away at the insulation foam in the practice rooms in order to get that sulfur fart smell wafting through the caf. Or we could be found crawling up into the ceiling and over the math class next door a’la Bender in The Breakfast Club. This was when we weren’t found galloping like Monty Python heavy-metal steeds up and down the corridor with our guitar and bass.
Football games were even worse.
I had a guy carry my bass amp in a wheelbarrow with a generator. I would be perched next to the risers, amp/generator/wheelbarrow in tow, while the rest of the band ostensibly held up the risers. After crapping out the National Anthem, most of the rest of the band would scatter, off to the snack-bar, into the woods to smoke butts or cop a feel, or off to Mark’s to buy more butts. This was fine, until a sudden Lisbon interception turned into a sudden Lisbon touchdown, at which time Judd would call for the fight song and then a few measures of “Paranoid” or…whatever. Often these quirk plays would be received by a shell of a band, and that shell was still out of tune and often behind the beat. There really was no winning with the collection of derelicts.
Saturday afternoon catastrophes were always followed by Monday morning bitchslaps. Judd was once so pissed off that after delivering his hopeless ass-kicking and tuning the band, he literally lost a button on his shirt: I’ll never forget, in the silence after tuning, seeing the clear plastic button letting loose from his shirt, flying with great force across the cafeteria and hitting the far wall with an audible “PING”. But it never took. The 1988-1989 Lisbon High Band was headed for disaster, and I was along for the ride.
BUT, out of this band came Simon & Schuster author Stephanie Doyon. And as we’ve already established, a fella named Stephen King also went to Lisbon. These things happen in threes, right?!?