GETTING MORE TALE #877: Accept Your Fate
George, rest his soul, was a bit of a know-it-all. He was the oldest kid on the block. He was already living there when my parents moved in. He was burning the nipples out of Playboy magazines with a magnifying glass when the rest of us were playing dinky cars. Logically, he was into music before the rest of us as well. The only one in the neighbourhood that was into Kiss before George was Sean Meyer. George got into Kiss through Sean. But he had a bit of a superiority complex, because Sean didn’t hang out with us, which made George the de facto senior of the group.
I remember him strutting his superior robot knowledge when we were really young kids. It was him, myself, and Bob in the back yard with our Lego. (George stole a piece of my Lego by the way, and a piece Bob’s too. But we stole them back.) George had been into a show called Force Five and built a robot made of Lego based on what he’d seen. We admired it, and each of us came back with our own robots of Lego. We made some design improvements over George, but he was not impressed.
In a condescending voice, George explained, “Yours are good but they’re not what mine is. You built yours based on the concept of ‘robot’. I built mine based on ‘Force Five'”.
Just the way he was. As the youngest of three siblings, perhaps that contributed to his need to be better than us at childhood activities. Or maybe it was just that he was the senior of the group. But he did. He even ranked all the neighbourhood kids in our baseball abilities. We played “Pop 500” in the ball park. According to George:
“Bob’s the best,” which honestly was indisputable, but then he went on. “Then there’s me, and Rob Szabo, and John, and Todd Meyer, and Scott Peddle and Mike Ladano at the bottom.” Hey, dude spoke his mind. You can see why he made it difficult to like him sometimes.
We blamed George the time they were playing catch, and broke a window. They were playing catch in the school yard. Either Bob or John threw a solid one to George, who chickened out and ducked, thus breaking the window. He got the blame, anyway. When it came down to the actual hierarchy of the group, he was often Scapegoat.
Naturally George was into Kiss, and rock and roll, before Bob and I. He had a growing Kiss collection. We heard those albums first via George. But he was such a know-it-all. He bought a bass, and would play around in the back yard going, “Name this tune.”
One day, Bob came to me and said “I think I have a way to trick George on a music question.”
It was the very same Masters of Metal Vol. 2 cassette tape that started me on my own rock journey. There was a band on the tape that we were sure that George had never heard of: Accept. And to our young ears, Udo Dirkschneider sounded exactly like Brian Johnson from AC/DC — the shriek.
“I’m going to play him this song ‘Balls to the Wall’ and we’re going to ask him who the band is.”
I enthusiastically agreed to play along. Bob’s prediction was that he would think it was AC/DC. It was a gamble, given that George was more experienced. But he needed to be taken down a peg.
And so, in my back yard, gathered around a boom box, Bob challenged George to “name that band.” Masters of Metal Vol. 2 was cued up to track five on side one: “Balls to the Wall”.
George was quiet for the first minute of the track.
Then, “Watch the damned!” screamed Udo Dirkschneider from the speakers of that boom box.
Immediately George answered, “AC/DC”. And just as immediately, Bob and I stood up and laughed!
“No! It’s Accept!” exclaimed Bob in victory.
“Sign of victorrrrryyyy!” sang Udo behind us.
George was flabbergasted. He immediately struck out with explanations for his incorrect answer. The quality of my boom box may have been drawn into question. There were reasons that he answered AC/DC, but they weren’t his fault!
But Udo had spoken, “sign of victory,” and Bob and I declared ourselves the winners of this particular contest. It was a very memorable way to cement Accept into my grey matter. A momentous occasion in terms of neighbourhood history. We made sure we told the tale of how we bested George in rock knowledge one afternoon.
Listen to both Udo and Johnson at that point in the 80s. They both had such a deep, full bodied shriek. The fact that George thought it was Johnson isn’t really a patch on George. It was an honest mistake. Our pride in fooling him was simply because George acted like he knew absolutely everything about rock. And we had proven that he did not. That’s all we wanted. It was kind of like being the guy who took down James from his winning streak on Jeopardy.
As a coda to this story, it’s interesting to note that none of us knew what most of these bands looked like. There were no picture inside that little cassette cover. Then, one day I was in my basement watching one of the very first episodes of the Pepsi Power Hour. On came Accept with “Balls to the Wall”. I glued myself to the screen.
As the three guys with the axes in the front made cool knee-bending poses in sync with the music, I said that “Accept look pretty cool.” Wolf Hoffmann in the front with the white Flying V” had a blonde, wind-swept mane. I envied him. The video lingered on the three axe-wielders for some time, before the vocals finally begin.
And then, suddenly appeared this little, tiny guy in head-to-toe camouflage. He was slightly rotund, and he had… short hair? This man with the monstrous screaming voice was a tiny guy with short hair and camo pants? It was completely incongruent with the sound coming from his lungs. How could this be? It seemed, from the video, that the band were sort of highlighting or even mocking his short stature in their stage act. A close-up shot of Udo’s head within the gap of Wolf Holfmann’s Flying V was simultaneously hilarious and bizarre. In another shot, Wolf is covering Udo’s head and face with his hands as if he’s just a little GI Joe doll.
Obviously my first priority was telling Bob about this fresh discovery. In our next conversation, I told him of the Accept video and the startlingly short (and short-haired) lead singer. He was astonished to see it for himself. I think seeing what Udo looked like may have soured him on Accept. I don’t recall him being into them as much anymore, and I’m pretty sure he never owned any of their albums.
Fortunately Accept redeemed themselves in my eyes with a video from their next album Metal Heart. I taped this video off the Power Hour in early 1986. It didn’t feature Udo being used as a prop so much. Scott Peddle found the spinning effect to be dizzying, as did I, but a cool effect it was. (In hindsight it actually looks quite similar to the “bullet time” effect from the Matrix films.) “Midnight Mover” was the song that kept me interested in Accept. It proved you could have a little guy in camouflage (now with additional leather military utility belt) at the front and center, and still have it look cool enough for the kids.
Bob agreed that “Midnight Mover” was a cool video but was never really won over to Accept like I was. By 1989, any prejudice either of us had about Udo’s appearance were rendered irrelevant when Accept parted with him and brought in an American singer named David Reece. They came out with an intriguing new sound with “Generation Clash”, the first single/video. Reece was a normal looking blonde singer dude, totally ready for MTV play. He also had pipes to spare. He could nail the screams but he was more versatile, and able to do more commercial music. And it seemed like that was the direction that Wolf wanted to go in.
Ultimately the Reece lineup didn’t survive, but their story certainly didn’t end there. Where I was concerned, I liked “Generation Clash”. I still think the guitar solo alone is a tremendous and diverse piece of music. The Accept/Reece experiment didn’t really fail for me, and I think their Eat the Heat album is pretty heavy for the year 1989.
Still, when they make the movie of my life, it’s the Accept scene with George getting schooled that I hope makes the final cut.