Thursday, January 17, 2008

Marching Band Music Strikes Back

This morning on the way to work, for no particular reason at all, a one-syllable word popped into my head, and all the assumptions and assertions of the previous few weeks, vis a vis marching bands, was called into controversy, doubt, and confusion. That word was, "Tusk."

When this video first aired on "Solid Gold," I definitely thought the Trojan marching band was hella cool. Of course, I was a complete geekun dorkmus at the time, but I think I was in sixth or seventh grade. Give me a break. I got worse later.

Nice old footage of Dodger Stadium, by the way, with the original yellow seats, before they switched to blue seats ... and then back to yellow seats in the last couple of years. But I digress.

Oh yeah, and then a little farther up the Edens Expressway this morning, I remembered an even shorter word in favor of marching bands, in terms of personal code words -- "Bud." That one isn't as self-explanatory.

When I was a kid in my frickin' wholesome Illinois small town, parades were a big deal. There wasn't really a lot of spectacle going on most of the time, so the occasional long line of fire trucks, clowns, soldiers, baton twirlers, and candy-throwing politicians winding down the main street was pretty exciting. An added attraction was the fact that our street lay along the set-up zone -- or whatever the hell I should call it -- for all the parades, so the different units would be gathering and lining up all over the neighborhood early in the morning on parade days. I love to get the backstage, behind-the-scenes perspective whenever I can ... I guess that's where I developed that affinity.

Anyway, marching band music was, of course, a big part of the whole parade burgoo. My favorite part of the marching band segment of the parade was the drum cadence they'd march to when they weren't playing a song. I'd feel the rumble of the beat in my chest before I could really hear it, as they approached from the left (parades always went east to west in my home town, and I always stood on the north side of the main street ... I guess because that was the side we lived on).

I wasn't so in love with the music itself, which they'd fire up when they got to the reviewing stand by the park in what passed for "downtown." Except I did love -- and in fact considered it the highlight of the parade -- to listen to the junior high (Viking School, yes, home of the Viking Vikings, I shit you not) band during the three or so years in the mid-1970s when they were run by a particular band director with a pretty good sense of humor. Viking School's colors were (and still are) red and white -- which happen to be the colors featured in Anheuser-Busch's trade dress for its Budweiser® brand beer-like-beverage-product. So, this band director adopted, as a band theme song, Budweiser's theme song, "Here Comes the King," also popularly known as "When You Say Bud."

I vaguely recall that a few eyebrows were raised at the band director's putting up a bunch of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to playing a beer company's commercial jingle on their dewy, tender, practically virginal musical instruments, but if the owners of those eyebrows said anything, they were brushed off. I'm pretty sure the song remained the Viking School Marching Band theme song until that particular band diretor retired, which unfortunately happened a year or two before I got to junior high age, so that era was strickly an awe from below deal, a young punk admiring the older kids thing.

Just as well. I quit band after about four weeks of struggling with a french horn in 4th grade. I never have quite gotten over it. Goddamn french horn. Pretty sure it's still back at the old house -- it was my mom's horn from her school days in the 1950s. Next time I go home, I'm gonna find it, and kick it right in the back end of the case. That'll teach it to reveal my lack of musical aptitude!

POSTSCRIPT: Apparently it's a marching band tradition at Georgia Tech games to play the Budweiser song at some point in the Saturday stupidity. Marching bands might be OK in some contexts, but in college, they are evil. Eeeeville.

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