Oh My Dear Lord, It’s a Video of My Band From High School

This just surfaced on Facebook. I had no idea this existed. I am not sure it should exist. Nevertheless, it does. And I am showing it to you. Spoiler: We’re not good. Prepare yourselves.

Context: The name of the band is Dead Rats Don’t Fly, and it was the brain child of my friend Tom Kim, who took on the role of the producer of the band. Scott Moore is there on vocals, my friend Kevin Stampfl is on bass, Chris Godfrey’s on keyboards, George Huang and John Herpel on guitar, and I’m on the drums (there was also a second vocalist, Steve Shenbaum).  The song being performed there at the beginning is called “It’s a New Reality,” and I will note I wrote the lyrics. In my head, it sounded like a Van Halen II-era rock and roll rave up. I want to emphasize: In my head.

So: Not good. But you know what? We had fun pretending to be rock stars. And our friends had fun watching us pretend to be rock stars (we opened for an air band contest, speaking of pretending to be rock stars). It was fun being young.

Also, I still have that drum set. It’s in my basement. I’m totally going to play it soon. Just for fun.

(Thanks — and curses! — to Eric Hutchinson, who uploaded this thing to YouTube)

(Also, for those of you wondering, yes, I have since done other music. Slightly more competently! You can find it here.)

40 thoughts on “Oh My Dear Lord, It’s a Video of My Band From High School

  1. Thanks goodness! If you had been any good as a musician, you might not have become a writer!

    Seriously, I liked the drumstick twirling and the mic hugging and the dancing while playing. You had all the moves. It was just that pesky music problem.

  2. There are times I’m thankful I’m partly deaf… Today might be one of those days. The video was fun to watch. One year after I graduated high school. Loved the screaming fans in the background! Yes those I could make out clearly.

  3. I listen to it without watching the video. It sounded OK for band starting out.

    To me being in a rock band or being a DJ (radio or club) is so cool. You maybe on Neil Gaiman level of cool. :)

  4. I actually like it, dude. It was great and for all the reasons you noted. John was a drummer. Wow, that explains a lot. Gonzo. I totally want to see you put your old set to work again. Go for it.

  5. Please tell me “Dead Rats Don’t Fly” is intended to be sung to the tune of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (by the Four Seasons, not by Fergie).

    De-ead rats
    They don’t fly-y-y (They don’t fly)
    De-ead rats
    Do-on’t fly-y (I wonder why)

  6. Your VHII sounds an awful lot like The Cure. However, I have paid to hear worse bands, so you know, it’s not that bad.

  7. Ah… lovely 80s styles… I was a Junior in high school at the time (1986, what a year…) It wasn’t bad, truly.

  8. I’m sure you’ll forgive me, but I could only watch half of it because then I noticed that Youtube was suggesting a Garfunkel and Oates song that I hadn’t heard before. So, thanks for that. :)

  9. Dude, based on what I hear on the radio nowadays, bad is the new good. Time to get the band back together…

  10. Makes me glad the dance band I would have been part of never got together. We probably would have been even worse than this. For one thing, we would have had an accordion.

  11. the music came out sounding way better than the vocals,

    Agreed. With a better stage monitor so the singer could hear himself, it might not be…well, any worse than most high school bands. Certainly better than mine.

  12. I love the fact that you are willing to out yourself this way. I am fortunate to be of an age where even home tape machines were low quality audio so that part of my life is gone.

    I do have a 331/3 album my High School concert band recorded as a fund raiser. We were so much worse than I remember!

  13. Tone done the keyboards and it sounds more like The Jam than VHII–think Down in the Tube Station at Midnight. I played drums in school too; our biggest gig was opening for Doug and the Slugs..

  14. Objectively, no, not good. But I can see how it might have been good. All the components are there. And one thing to remember—most bands can’t keep time to save their butts, but you laid down a solid beat and everyone kept up (more or less). So apparently you always had one major skill down—timing.

  15. If you were pretending to be rock stars and all your friends watching were pretending you were rock stars, then you were rock stars. It puzzles me that you would let some arbitrary standard of quality make you believe otherwise.

    All that matters is the collective reality.

  16. I remember the day that was filmed and I KNEW there was a copy of this video out there somewhere. LOL – thank you so much John for posting this on my BIRTHDAY (hint hint). It is a good gift!

  17. Time to turn in you Nerd card, and I call for an investigation of your claim to be Lord of the geeks. Anyone who

    1. has a band in high school
    2. has fans of said band
    3 has a tape of said band with fans in attendance

    Is one of the in crowd, and as such cannot be a geek, much less a Nerd.

  18. Your thanks and curses are probably intended for Eric Hutchison (the name that comes up in the video link), not Eric Hutchinson (the singer-songwriter formerly of Silver Spring, MD).

  19. I am increasingly grateful that widespread videotaping of stuff didn’t come out till I was in my 20’s. No high school or college shenanigans exist.

  20. I made it two minutes in, and then I started having high school flashbacks. Not because I was in a band, but because the fashion and the 80s-pop music had me looking over my shoulder for John Hughes.

  21. I, too, heard far more Brit Pop than VHII. However, some mad banging on those drums, dude. I am impressed with your ability to hit things with sticks! Probably why you’re so good with a mallet today.

  22. I’m a little late in watching this. I notice that in addition to the mad stick twirling skills, you are also good at adjusting your glasses without losing the beat.

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