The high school I went to in Illinois (circa 1980-1983) had a jukebox in the cafeteria. I thought that was pretty unusual and cool and forward thinking for a high school. They also had their own radio station (more on that later).  I spent a lot of time in that cafeteria listening to some of the bands that became a part of me, both for breakfast, lunch and study hall. It was a huge cafeteria and the jukebox was on the wall opposite the actual lunch lines. It was nothing fancy, no bubbles or flashing lights. Vinyl 45’s in those days my friend.  The sound was an interesting montage of layers, depending on what time of day it was and what kind of crowd was in there diffusing it and trying to talk over it. It also mattered what they were playing. The bass was maxed out and in certain areas of the lunchroom and with certain songs it sounded more like 2 trucks colliding than music. Moving through the cafeteria was an aural safari. The only pure sound was directly in front of the jukebox. Naturally, the tables across from it were ALWAYS full. The concentration of students was directly proportionate to the distance from the speakers. In most circles, the closer to the jukebox, the higher your perceived love of music. There was a continual battle over the music played on it… soft rock versus hard rock. It was this Jukebox that help define my perception, wrong or right, of my relationship to many of the bands I still love today.

Most mornings I came to school on the bus, way before my first class. Grabbed a few chocolate milks and a doughnut and took a spot a few tables away from the jukebox. These were the days before CD’s and walkmans and when I left the house, my music was left behind. The jukebox was an oasis of rock. This was my first exposure to Rush.  It was the era of ”Spirit Of Radio” and the opening bars of “Limelight” are forever etched in my brain as defining that time period. I was crazy for Rush. They were straight rock, prog rock and brainy all at the same time. After being exposed to the Rush that was played on the jukebox and the “you HAVE to listen to THIS!” exposure to “2112” by a friend who made me listen to it straight through… I ended up buying “Archives”. This was the first 3 Rush albums in a 3 LP set. It was nothing like Spirit or 2112, yet I loved it too. The song “Fly By Night” became my alienation theme song for long high school days when I didn’t feel like I exactly fit in. The entire “Caress of Steel” album… simply put, blew my mind.

It was during this time as well that I began buying Guitar World and reading about Alex Lifeson and Angus Young and Hendrix and Clapton and the like. Trying to reproduce Purple Haze from tabs in the back pages of the magazine on my uncle’s borrowed acoustic guitar just didn’t work, but I loved trying. Reading that magazine attracted a few of the hard rock dudes to me and I gained a bit of credibility with them for just reading it. On occasion I managed a seat at one of the closer tables because of this. Good times.

During the morning the soft rock prevailed, like REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Billy Squire and a bit of Rush to push the envelope. Presumably this was because the hard rockers didn’t want to come into school or were hanging out outside until forced in. That meant the cafeteria was less populated and with better acoustics the songs could be heard better with less effort. I could study and eat and hang in peace at further away tables while listening to Pink Floyd and Grateful Dead.  This was also the time when the playing of Black Sabbath “Changes” happened. A guy in the school lost his girlfriend in a car accident and he played this song as a tribute almost every day. Black Sabbath yes, but slow Black Sabbath. To this day that song makes me sad.

I t was during this time, and this will probably separate a lot of you from me, that I learned to dislike “The Doors”.  Oh, over the years I have tried to give them another chance, but in the end I end up deleting whatever albums I have. You might hear me humming “LA Woman” or “Light My Fire”, but ultimately I just can’t make it through an album. I had “American Prayer” and even read a book on Jim Morrison. Once I even agreed to let the first album we bought (in our club that pooled money to buy LP’s so we could tape them) be The Doors first album. I listened to it several times… it just never grew on me. One song though… played almost daily in the cafeteria, morning and noon was “People Are Strange”. I grew to despise this song with a never before know sense of revulsion. Not for me thanks, particularly twice a day for 3 years.

At lunch, the hard rockers took over.  This included among others, Led Zeppelin, The Scorpions, AC/DC, Def Leppard and both Ozzy and Black Sabbath. When it was lunch and soft rock was played, I always suspected these were songs someone played in the morning that just were coming up, there was always boos from the center tables. Occasionally the jukebox was “bumped” by “accident” while a hard rocker was plugging more songs, which skipped the record and went to the next. That was the chance you took. They owned the lunchtime airwaves. There were 45’s in the jukebox that were damaged and yet ALWAYS got played anyway. “TNT” by AC/DC skipped a verse in the middle with 3 loud pops and “skritch” noises. The hard rockers loved it all the same. The noise level during lunch was high and sound was not as good but they still rocked out to songs like Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” and Led Zep’s “Rock and Roll”. This was my first exposure to The Scorpions, and interestingly, the Scorp’s slow songs, like “Holiday” and “Loving You Sunday Morning” were accepted by the hard rockers. Probably played for their girlfriends I suspected. Even the instrumental, the only one instrumental that EVER got played I think “Coast to Coast” got played a lot.

One time, and only one time I got brave enough during lunch to come early and plug a few songs. I played “Coast to Coast” and “Limelight” and in a clear error in judgment “I’m All Right” by Kenny Loggins from the Caddy Shack soundtrack. Luckily they played WAY later in the lunch period and they couldn’t remember who had been standing at the jukebox. Kenny Loggins didn’t make it and several hard rockers were scanning the crowd after bumping the song off for anyone looking up in disdain so they could catch the culprit. I kept my head down and never approached the jukebox again.

You could tell a lunchtime hard rocker at a glance by the denim coat he wore year round. Usually with the logo of his favorite band emblazoned onto the back. Usually with a black Bic pen over many hours of study hall and worn proudly daily. Def Leppard was very popular on the jukebox and on denim jackets.

Def Leppard was just hitting the airwaves at this time, and they were played HARD. One of the stoner guys in my Astronomy class (I know, I know) won tickets to see Def Leppard at a show at the Rosemont Horizon with backstage passes. He was stoked for weeks. However, his report after the show was that the guys in Def Leppard were complete a-holes and that the opening band “Blackfoot” had him into their dressing room and drinking whiskey after the show. He said Ricky Medlocke was awesome and Def Leppard sucked. This soured me on Def Leppard for many many years. I have recently given them another chance.

I am not without forgiveness.

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