Light My Fire

The phonograph needle glided into the last track on side one.  Up until that point, I was more engrossed in writing an essay for American History class than listening to the music, as good as it was.  The sudden snap of a snare drum, like the sharp report of a starter pistol, and my head jerked up toward the record player.  A flurry of organ notes, the product of assuredly nimble fingers on the keyboard, tumbled over each other, filling every shadowy space in my softly lit bedroom.  A brief vamp, and a baritone voice crooned, “You know that it would be untrue; you know that I would be a liar…”   Fully distracted from any meaningful progress on homework, I hung on every lyric, trying to wrap my head around musical patterns and song structure until my entire psyche was ablaze.

“We’ve got to get an organist,” I solemnly spoke aloud to myself.  “No way Tony can do that on a guitar.”

The song trailed off as I walked down the hallway to my parents bedroom, where the only semi-private telephone in the house was located.  I stretched the wall cord out into the hall as far as it would go and sat down on the floor to dial up Tony.

“Whaddya think about getting an organ player for the band?” I proposed.

Tony chuckled in that familiar way that typically preceded a crude comeback.  But instead he replied, “Yeah.  That would definitely help us.  We could learn some different stuff.”

“There’s a guy I know whose kid brother is supposed to be pretty good,” I said.  “Never been in a band before.”

At our next rehearsal, Tony and I decided, with Mike and Bruce in full agreement, to find an organist.  The No Left Turns had recently won the Beloit Jaycees “Battle of the Bands” and would have no problem recruiting more talent.

Jim was only a high school freshman.  The rest of us were seasoned sophomores and juniors, so we weren’t quite sure how the age gap would work out.  Nonetheless, we invited him to audition with us on Saturday afternoon.  I had to drive over to his house, just outside of town, to pick him up along with his Farfisa organ.  Jim carried it out and put it in the back of my dad’s Studebaker.

“Do you have an amp?” I asked, trying to hide my initial disappointment as he climbed into the passenger seat.

“Well, not yet, but my dad said I could get one if I got into a band,” he explained. “Can I plug into one of yours today?”

I could hardly say no, considering he’d already shut the door behind him.  All the way to my house we listened to the radio, talking with excitement about songs we liked and knew how to play — or wished we could play.  When he said he’d figured out the organ part to Light My Fire, I nearly drove up over an embankment, responding “Really?”

Arriving at my house, we unloaded the Farfisa, set it up in the basement with the rest of our gear, made our introductions and jumped right into the audition.  True to his word, once Jim had set up his Farfisa and plugged into Mike’s amp, he warmed up by playing the opening riff to Light My Fire. Mouths agape, we positioned ourselves with our instruments and worked on learning the song as Jim broke it down for us.

The sudden snap of Bruce’s snare drum, like the sharp report of a starter pistol, and our heads turned to Jim who deftly  played a flurry of organ notes, fingers tumbling over each other, reverberating off the basement walls. A brief vamp, and I crooned into the microphone, “You know that it would be untrue; you know that I would be a liar…”

nlt2
No Left Turns: Bruce, Joe, Jim, Tony and Mike (Spring 1967)

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