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Living in a Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy—Day Two


Day Two: In Which a Giant Sucking Sound Is Heard Across Midtown Manhattan

The rock ’n’ roll starts right after breakfast. Our band, which we have dubbed Captain Kirke and the Final Frontier, is assigned to rehearse the Bad Company hit "Can’t Get Enough." We practice it to perfection, painfully aware that we will be backing the camp’s resident superstar, Paul Stanley, in a performance of the tune just 48 hours from now at "Campapalooza," as the staff now calls it. Apparently, political correctness found its way here, and it’s no longer a "battle of the bands."

The conversation then turns to the only assignment of the camp experience—writing and playing an original song. Band member Gordon suggests we listen to my own 2003 CD that I'd brought, so we sample a few tracks. (My secret ambition: that I will get to sing one at the big show.) To my relief, the first one does not get panned, but before I can play another, the camp director distracts us with an announcement that the guest-artist visit will be delayed. (Watch Billy confront his ego and keep on rockin' in the Day Two video.)

Any more talk about my own songs might appear pushy, I realize, so I reconcile myself to playing whatever the band wants. (That giant sucking sound was my ego going out the window.) Having witnessed the radical difference in quality of the camp bands that performed last night, I decide I’d rather play rhythm guitar in this first-rate band than try to re-position myself as a lead singer in any of the others.

Over the next few days I get to meet—and occasionally jam with—some living icons of the classic rock era: Leslie West of Mountain, still "The Great Fatsby," but newly curmudgeonly at 62; Scott Ian of Anthrax, shorter than when viewed from the mosh pits of years past; and Max Weinberg, the also-short, affable but time-constrained veteran of Springsteen’s E Street Band.

In the evening, I attend a master class led by Glenn Hughes, the charming former bassist for Deep Purple. For a skinny white guy from the midlands of England, he sure can sing like his hero, Stevie Wonder. Hughes provides tips on keeping your voice in shape (don’t smoke or get too close to fans during flu season); explains the downside of fame at a young age (substance abuse, money squandering); and trumpets the positive changes he has made in his life (clean living, devotion to teaching, and leaving a legacy).

  • Continue to Day 3: This One Goes to 11