Friday, October 01, 2010

Sounds of My Life: Come Sail Away

For all of my high school years, my absolute favorite activity was marching band. I'm not ashamed to admit it, and over the years it's gotten me a tremendous amount of jeering from my peers; but I'd also like to delude myself that on some level, there's also some sense of admiration for my commitment to and passion for music.

And football. Let us not forget the football; it was in marching band that my love for the game began and flourished, and while the NFL is surely flawed beyond all comprehension at this point, I still enjoy it.

Football aside, there was just something about the sense of accomplishment for me; a born klutz, I quickly developed an enormous sense of pride in being proficient in not only playing my piccolo while marching at the same time, but that every bit of it was done from memory.

Think about it. We're talking a set of 4-5 songs, of which each had roughly 5-7 drills or "formations" a piece. It wasn't easy, and we weren't even very good, but it was the first place in high school where I made a lot of friends and felt like I belonged.

While we were all geeks, I have many fond memories of practicing and performing and cheering along at the Friday night football games for 4 whole years in those god-awful green-and-white polyester suits with the hideously plumed plastic hats.

That's the beauty of band. No one cares if you're a geek, because you're all geeks banded together. (That's not to say we didn't judge within our own walls ... I won't even mention what we used to say about the flag girls.)

"But Janelle," you ask. "What the hell does any of this have to do with Styx?!"

Shut up.

I'm getting there.

Mr. Sharkey was a student teacher in the district when I was in 8th grade; so I'd seen him around in class. All I knew at the time was that he was young, Canadian, and pretty shy. Totally the opposite of the current high school band director, whose name escapes me at this moment, but suffice it to say all I can remember is that the upperclassmen referred to him as "Applehead."

He was an arrogant jerk, and no one liked being directed by him.

So it was a pleasant surprise when it was announced before my freshman year that Applehead was moving onto another school and Mr. Sharkey was going to be the big cheese at my high school.

I realize now that Mr. Sharkey was in the unenviable position as a freshman himself -- a freshman who pronounced tomorrow "tomoorrow," no less -- fresh meat being thrown to the proverbial wolves.

He was nice. Too nice. Easy to bully, which is never a good thing, even if we're talking about a bunch of geeks here; as it stood, we had a bit too much of a Bad News Bears element in us as a group.

As I'd mentioned, Mr. Sharkey was a young guy; probably 24-25 or so by the time he got the job in 1994, and as such, he had affectations that such young men of the time had.

Early on, he made the mistake of making the "Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try," Star Wars reference as his motivational tool in practice, which quickly earned him the nickname Yoda. And being from Calgary, he was a die-hard Flames fan; at one point, a bet between the band and Mr. Sharkey ensued over our motivation and, long story short, resulted in him wearing a Blues jersey for an entire day.

Most relevantly, though; he loved classic rock. Jazz rock, acid rock, prog rock. A few of the songs in our routine in my freshman year were Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever," Santana's "Oye Como Va," and Mangione's "Land of Make Believe."

Everything else is fuzzy, but my sophomore year's routine featured Joel's "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," and, you guessed it, Styx's "Come Sail Away." You know the beginning synth flute part? I even had a little featured quartet with another flautist and 2 trumpeters for that part of the song.

So a few days ago, when Brian and I were watching the episode of Freaks and Geeks where Seth Rogen's character develops a crush on a sousaphone-lugging band nerd, and as the group looks on at the marching band practicing, Jason Segel's character makes a comment about how horribly the band is butchering a rock song, it took me back to Mr. Sharkey and the Panther Pride Marching Band and all of the shenanigans we pulled and fun we had.

Yesterday, as I'm driving to work and I see "Styx" on the artist list on the Sirius, I had to tune in; just to see. Since it was the Classic Vinyl station, chances of it being either "Come Sail Away" or "Mr. Roboto" were pretty high.

As luck would have it, it wasn't only "Come Sail Away," but the song had just started. So I rocked out and remembered and sang at the top of my lungs all the way into the office parking lot.

High school was brutal, but some times, I really miss those guys.

Artist: Styx


  1. How did I miss this post? Oh, I know. Because I'm a bad friend and a neglectful blogger.
    I wish I could think of anything to write about. I've devolved to nothing but photo posts or inane life updates. So not interesting, and probably the reason I don't write novels.

  2. Like I'm not neglectful. This was October, and I just posted again today. Heheh ... mostly I am just lazy.