Van Halen – How One of The World’s Biggest Rock Bands Ruined Junior High For Me


1984 by Van Halen was the first album (tape) I ever bought with my own money. I was 11 years old, and I don’t remember how I got the money (by honest means, I assure you), but I knew that was what I wanted.

I was raised on rock music. I remember as a kid listening to 94.7 KMET out of L.A. It wasn’t called classic rock yet, because the music wasn’t that old; the oldest stuff they played was from the late ’60’s. Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Stones, Jimi, all that stuff.

Then 1984 came out. It got heavy airplay, and I just loved it. Panama, Jump, and my favorite, Hot For Teacher. I bought that tape and damn near wore it out.

By 1986, two things happened: My family moved to a new town, where I realized that as the dorky new kid I was not instantly popular, and Van Halen made a video for Hot For Teacher.

If you haven’t seen it, I’m not going to go into much detail about most of it. Van Halen, girls, yadda yadda. What caused me so much grief was the little intro to the video.

The intro featured a young man, appropriately named “Waldo”, being groomed by his mother for his first day at a new school. He’s worried about being picked on by the other kids, but mother assures him everything will be fine.

The bus comes to pick him up, with kids on it being loud and throwing paper airplanes. The doors to the bus open, and David Lee Roth is the bus driver. Waldo is terrified to get on the bus, but steps on.

Bus Driver Roth looks the young nerd in the eye and calls,



The video continues, showing how mortified poor Waldo is at his wild, raucous new school.

Surely you can see where this is headed.

New kid, dorky, glasses…

Getting on the bus in the morning – “Sit down, Waldo!”

Getting off the bus in the afternoon – “Sit down, Waldo!”

For a while it expanded to the hallways and the classroom, but it died down soon enough.

I’d like to make it clear I’m not looking for any sympathy here. Bullying is a huge issue, and kids are (and were back then) bullied way worse than me. Fact is, a little name-calling aside, my life was pretty great. And by high school things went back to normal, and I wasn’t the new kid anymore.

I just couldn’t get over the irony that a band I absolutely loved was causing me so much grief.

Now that I think about it, the second album I ever bought with my own money was Licensed To Ill by the Beastie Boys. Their video for (You Gotta)Fight For Your Right (To Party) had nerds in it, too, but I never had any crazy guys showing up at my house to party with beer and hot chicks. What a gyp.


G is for a Gibson ES-125 – My Pride and Joy


This is my guitar. There are many like it, but this one is mine. OK, OK, enough with the Full Metal Jacket schtick.

I have heavy musical influences on both sides of my family. On my dad’s side, I got an intense love and appreciation for all kinds of music, namely the blues and rock n’ roll. From my mom’s side, I got the musicianship gene. My mom played the piano, my great aunt played the mandolin, and my grandma and both my great uncles played the guitar. The guitar in that picture was my grandma’s.

The story changes a little depending on who’s telling it, but the way I know it, she bought it in 1961. It was manufactured possibly as early as the late ’40’s, but it’s hard to pinpoint because theses particular guitars have no serial numbers. My grandma was an aspiring country and western singer, and this was her primary guitar.

She gave it to me in the mid-nineties. She said she wasn’t playing it anymore, and didn’t want to make me wait until she died for me to start enjoying it. It’s been in my possession ever since.

It’s worth a little bit, though not much by guitar collector standards. But to me it’s priceless. It’s sitting three feet from me as I type this, and just looking over at it makes me happy. And it feels even better to play it.

As I got to my teens and beyond, the music I liked tended to be loud, fast, and heavy (or some combination thereof), so it’s never been my primary guitar. It’s got a warm, sweet sound that lends itself more to jazz and blues than punk and metal. But now that I live in Tornado Alley, if there is ever a legitimate threat of a twister coming my way I have two priorities: Make sure my wife and dog are safe, and if at all possible, grab that guitar.