This is the first in a series of posts about my past life as an amateur musician. Other posts include A brief history of an amateur musician, Part II: The Hardcore Years and Kulturkampf and A brief history of an amateur musician, Part III: Assorted Recordings and Dirt Man’s King..
Something not everyone knows about me is that, prior to being a computer professional (sometimes hard to identify based on recent blog posts!), I was a musician. This blog post (and others to come soon) is a brief history of that part of my career, for the hordes who could care less. (I know you’re out there!)
The Early Years
I started playing guitar at 15 years old, teaching myself songs by Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. When I started college, I studied (among other things) classical guitar , and under the tutelage of Ed Brown (a fantastic instructor and person), I honed a rather impressive repertoire of talent. After four years of studying (and about 2,000 hours of guitar playing), I was probably as good as some of the music majors (even though I wasn’t officially even a music minor).
During those four years, I didn’t just cut my teeth playing pieces by Heitor Villa-Lobos and Leo Brouwer; I continued to play popular music, wrote my own music, performed in bands, and recorded music.
The first official “band” I was in was a rag-tag assemblage of four people: myself, playing guitar; Vito, playing bass guitar, an instrument he never played before in his life; Scott, playing drums, an instrument he knew only for a few months; and John, a giant of a man, who never sang in front of a microphone before (at least, not that I know of).
Together, we recorded a handful of songs thrown together by Scott and others. The band’s name was Overnight Delivery (OD). All the songs were about the U.S. mail. Consider the lyrics of one song:
I like the stamp, I love the fucking taste.
I lick the envelope, get pleasure from the paste.
I write my name, don’t forget the ZIP.
To see that box is such a worthy trip.
Intriguing stuff to say the least. The music was hardcore punk, as seen from CBGB; think of bands like Sick of It All and Murphy’s Law. The best song of the bunch (all six of them) was Brown Shirts, a mosh-pit inciting anthem that takes on the great social conflict between the USPS and the UPS.
One fine day we’ll rise up and put the brown shirts in their place.
No man from the UPS will ever show his face.
One fine day the blue and grey will emerge a master race!
Obviously, this was all a fun joke. We recorded our six songs over two 2-hour jam sessions (things take time when most people have little to no musical talent, this writer excluded!) using a $19 cassette recorder. Ten of our “demo tapes” were sold at the local music store, Our Music Center.
In a stroke of irony, about three years after OD, we met a guy who moved to our neighborhood from out of town. He asked us what the music scene was like, and if we ever heard of a band called Overnight Delivery. Apparently, he was in town a few years back, bought one of our demo tapes, and liked it. Proof that there is someone with no ear for music born every minute. (Either that, or we grossly miscalculated the potential of OD.)
Unfortunately for you, dear reader, no known copies of these recordings exist, so I can’t share the songs with you. (Rumor has it that bassist Vito has a copy, though this has never been confirmed, and he may be saving it for a future Sotheby’s auction.) Oddly, a Google search turned up a potential source for official OD memorabilia: Smoke & Mirrors is apparently the work of Scott (“Scotty Stapes”), drummer of OD (and future bands to be discussed). I’ll leave it to you to hunt further.
Alas, OD would not disappear entirely. Three of its members – Vito, who eventually learned to play bass, Scott (who turned out to be a pretty good drummer), and myself went on to form another hardcore punk band, Kulturkampf. This one didn’t just sell demo tapes, they were on the radio. For that story, you’ll have to wait for next time.