Bummertime Blues


Dude, you know what I heard? Before Stevie Nicks started paying people to blow cocaine up her ass, Fleetwood Mac was led by some staunch Clapton-like blues-purist named Peter Green,” Franklin said to Peterson, who was picking a zit on his chin in the bathroom mirror. “Blow coke up her ass?” Peterson asked incredulously.

“Well, she didn’t want to ruin her vocal cords. . . . Anyway, on that stoner-rock compilation, In the Groove, this band Altamont takes on the Mac’s Rattlesnake Shake.’ I don’t know about Altamont’s other stuff, but that song has a real crackly charm, like it was played and recorded 30 years ago. The percussion— handclaps and maracas— along with the serpentine thud of the bass, give it a gnarly backwoods groove. And it’s without guitar wank, which is totally refreshing,” Franklin said with a valley-girl drawl.

“Franklin? Kind of you to make it in time for lunch,” Coach Kellogg said, entering the bathroom with a dim smile before giving a stern, “Principal Holden wants to see you in his office promptly at quarter after three— provided your little lavatory meeting here with Peterson is over by then. Now if you’ll excuse me, you’re blocking my urinal.”

“Coach, can’t make gym today— someone put Nair in my jockstrap,” Franklin volunteered, hovering over the coach as he urinated. “I know, Franklin, I got the note your mother scribbled on the back of that In the Groove flyer,” he countered sarcastically. “My mother thought you’d dig the blue-veined hard-rock selections on that compilation, judging by your grooming practices— you know, the moustache-and-mullet thing you got going on there,” Franklin said, pointing to the coach’s head.

“No, Franklin, that kind of puerile petulance is more suited to a derelict like yourself. But that’s very kind of your mother to think of me,” the coach said, zipping up. “Okay, dude, I’m onto your trip,” Franklin said with both hands cutting the air karate-chop style. “Rather than being into the Sabbath-blues-gurgle of, say, Red Giant— you’re more refined. A Grey Poupon kinda dude. So you’d probably dig the dissonant jiggle of Dripping Goss’s ‘Before the Fall.’ Personally, the verses were a bit arty, but the chunky breakdowns and spacey outro jam were smokin’.”

“Smokin’? Hmmm . . . that’s an interesting adverb . . . I bet you didn’t learn . . . ” the coach said sarcastically before Franklin interrupted. “Dude, smokin’ is an adjective,” he said with a surfer chuckle. The coach then pushed Peterson out of the way, and dragged Franklin out by his ear. A big fart echoed from the bathroom behind as the two made their way to Franklin’s fourth-period class, Remedial English 2.

“Now class, today we’re going to learn the names of the primary colors. . . . Let’s start with B-L-U-E— azul for our Spanish speakers,” Mrs. Whaley shrilled enthusiastically. “Frankie . . . May I call you Frankie, Franklin? I just love your BLUE Cheer shirt,” she continued, leaning over Franklin, twirling her faux blue-gray hair into locks. “Mmmissssis Whaley . . . ” Franklin stuttered, eyeing the walker leaning against his chaise longue as Mrs. Whaley turned around and adjusted the thong portion of her bikini.

“Call me Paula,” she said in a subdued bedroom tone before hobbling to the pool and
belly flopping in. “Frankie,” she creaked after her head popped out of water, “remember when you had that Fudgesicle mishap and missed class because your lips were frozen shut? Well, I bought that compilation, In the Groove, that was advertised on the back of your doctor’s note. . . . You know, when I was girl, back in my forties, I was a huge Blue Cheer fan. I saw them when they had a hit with Summertime Blues,’ what a big fuck-you that was to the love children,” she giggled. “But I lost interest in the 70s, when the Cheer’s sludgy drones were either ironed out
into the staccato shards or heavy metal or speedily shoveled into punk rock’s mushy clumps of pubescent angst. And I just hated grunge, the metal-punk combination. But by filtering in their own songwriting instincts— combining notes into riffs, and elongating song structure for texture and coloring— and adding few musical toxins, like ‘ingenuity’ or chops, the stronger acts on In the Groove make a lateral move with the Cheer’s psychedelic slumber. The damn thing is like the soundtrack to a Saturday night toke-fest, especially the creeping thump of the Bakerton Group’s instrumental, ‘The Mack.’ Wheeeeewww, they sure took the central riff through lysergic interludes: jazzy rave-ups, oozing wah-wah cool-downs, and studio-effects-laden side-ventures— What a trip that was!”

BRrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnngggg! . . . “Golly, class, time flies! Remember tomorrow’s primary color quickie quiz,” Mrs. Whaley squeaked. As the class filed out, Franklin eyed the puddle of spittle on his desk before pulling himself up and slithering out the door, down the hallway to fifth-
period Intro to Introductory Psychology.

“Pupils, open your books to Chapter 15: The Mind and Mind-Altering Substances,” Mr. Stephens said in a fading English accent. Mind-Altering substances . . . blur . . . M-I-N-D A-L-T-E-R-I-N-G S-U-B-S-T-A-N-C-E-S . . . blur blur. . . .

Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry! “Welcome back to the show, I’m Jerry Springer, and our next guest, Jay Miller, wants to tell In the Groove‘s Roadsaw: ‘You tried to rip-off Blue Cheer, but ended up a third-rate Soundgarden.’ So Jay, what do you have to tell Roadsaw today?,” Jerry said soothingly as the camera shot to his first guest. “T-t-today I want to say R-R-R-Roadsaw is a third-rate S-S-S-Soundgarden. F-F-F-Fu Manchu should have been on the comp instead. S-s-s-so th-th-there,” Jay said, voice quivering. “Slow your roll Jay. . . . How about a toke from the Jerry Springer Commemorative Bong, or a scale Jerry Springer figurine from the Franklin Mint?” Jerry offered compassionately.

“I’ll take the figurine,” Jay said, pausing to swallow the lump in his throat and gather his thoughts. “Look, the whole Robert Plant wail over tight-but-gooey-riffs-which-sweeten-into-jangly-interludes is total post­Louder Than Love Soundgarden— that band owned that Zep-Beatles thing. And they had the BEEP-uckin’ songs, Jerry. The BEEP-uckin’ songs! And Fu Manchu, I don’t know why they’re not on the comp; they pioneered this BEEP-uckin’ wave of stoner-rock, Jerry. They BEEP-uckin’ pioneered it!” . . . Brnnnnnnngggggg gggg! . . . “Class, we’ll continue with the terminal effects of LSD tomorrow . . .