A kinda-sorta retelling from a different perspective of Part 258: Uncle Meat
GETTING MORE TALE #704: Battle of the Bands
Poor George. He really wanted to be in a band. Rob Szabo had a band. He was just starting out with one of the neighbour kids. He even had two original tunes (I remember one was called “The Stroll” and I can still hum it). George really wanted to be in Rob’s band. He hung out at their basement rehearsals and watched them play. Rob would teach him things. They needed a bass player.
George secretly saved his money, and eventually bought a bass. Rob was horrified. He didn’t want George in his band, he wanted a musician who already knew how to play music. He didn’t want to have to teach the bass player how to play bass. He also felt terribly guilty, because George bought the bass specifically because Rob needed a bass player!
I can remember George playing Rob’s tape to the girl he liked. “That’s us!” he said. “That’s my band.” He wasn’t on the recording at all.
Like a kid who didn’t know how to break up with his girlfriend, Rob took a while to tell George he was “out” of the band. When he did, George was not deterred. He just went it alone. He taught himself how to play by playing along to records. He studied Steve Harris and Gene Simmons who quickly became his favourite bassist. He practiced all the time. I know, because we could hear him from our house. We laughed about it, because George also attempted to sing.
He eventually got pretty good at bass; good enough anyway for the bar band scene. He would never be any good at singing, although that hardly stopped him, and you have to respect that.
In the summer time, George took his amp outside and played for anybody who happened to be around. He loved to play, “Guess this song from the bassline!” Not an easy game when I didn’t know many songs yet myself. I had a few albums, but I’d only been into rock and roll for a couple years. Every bassline sounded the same to me.
“Guess this one”! Durm durm durm durm. Durm durm durm durm.
“Uhh, I dunno, ‘Shout It Out Loud’?”
“No, it’s ‘Love Gun!'”
George finished highschool, but I was just beginning. It was there I saw my first Battle of the Bands. I sat with Bob Schipper, Rob Daniels and the gang at lunch watching the bands play. Rob Szabo had a band called Under 550 — the total body weight of the four members. Even in highschool, it was obvious Rob had real talent. There were all the other bands, and then there was Under 550. He was levels above the others. He could play “YYZ”. I’d never even heard of “YYZ” (though I’d seen those letters on my parents’ luggage tags). There was only one clear winner and that was Under 550. It was obvious to everyone. They would be going to the regionals at the Humanities Theatre.
Rob Szabo on the left
Bob and I got our tickets. We went with neighborhood friends Scott Peddle and Todd Meyer. The four of us sat together and waited giddily. Not only was Rob Szabo playing, but so was George. He joined a band called Zephyr (no relation to the other Zephyr), and they were on the bill. I planned my catcalls.
George always told me he wanted to play “I Love It Loud”, and introduce it by saying to the crowd: “How do you like your music? Well I love it loud!” I hoped and prayed he was going to do that.
Each band got two songs. We waited through noise bands like Stomach Acid and F.U.H.Q., who had the plug pulled early for swearing. We waited through boring acoustic and pop crapola. There was one group that rocked really fucking hard. I wasn’t into thrash, and these guys were heavy. A group of bangers came down to the front row and started banging their heads to the thrash! You could see the long hair flailing. I didn’t know the singer, but many years later I found out his name was Eric. But nobody calls him Eric. Today they just call him Uncle Meat. The Legendary Uncle Meat.
Truth is, his band was too scary for a 14 year old me!
On came Zephyr. “You suck George!” I yelled, with Scott joining me. He ignored us, or couldn’t hear us. It didn’t matter, Scott and I were laughing so hard!
Sadly, George did not play “I Love It Loud”. Zephyr disbanded a little after, with George again going solo.
Rob stacked the deck for the regionals. Under 550 added a lead singer, and became Over 550 for this one night. Though they didn’t win, they ranked high. Uncle Meat and George went home empty-handed, but with memories etched forever.
The winners of that event? The now-somewhat-but-not-really-legendary Gordie Gordo and the G Men, featuring Sausagefester Scottie G, on the not-very-well played guitar! $100 dollar first prize which went promptly towards a mic stand.
We laughed on the way home at our witty catcalls like “Don’t fall over George!”
And that, friends, is why my highschool years were better than yours.