De Do Do Do, De Da Da Dwayne

November 17, 2010

I didn’t meet Dwayne until I entered high school. Though our hometown was a speck, we had attended different schools until our freshman year. I had been subjected to Catholic school and Dwayne had attended the public school.

And, even though our town was so small and I knew a lot of the kids at the public school, Dwayne lived a good twenty miles outside of town in a two-story farmhouse, nestled in a small, wooded valley with only a few other houses within easy walking distance.

But I knew his name by the time I was in junior high. He was some unstoppable, unbeatable wrestler.

Some of my football teammates also wrestled and all of them spoke with a reverential awe of Dwayne.

Several other friends wrestled once we reached high school and it was through them, as well as having classes together, that I met Dwayne.

We got on well.

(then again, everyone got on well with Dwayne)

He was short but formidable, slightly bowlegged with a mop of dirty blonde hair. His athletic ability was obvious the first time that I watched him do a handstand on his chair in the middle of class.

(usually to the great consternation of Herr Jack in German class)

After gym class, the towel he’d use in the locker room revealed his warped sense of humor. The white towel was inscribed with black letter that noted it to be “property of the Mississinewa State Hospital.”

We knew that to be a psyche hospital in the southern part of the State, though we were more colorful and less politically correct in our description.

“Yeah,” Dwayne replied, confirming the towel’s origin. “The old man swiped a bunch the last time he was in.”

I recall him groggily telling us as to why he was so tired one morning between classes.

“The old man went mental last night,” he yawned. “I decided to sleep in the woods.”

The explanation was presented as though such zaniness was reasonable to expect.

The classes that I had with Dwayne had potential to be entertaining and sometimes memorable. Today, I’m sure that he’d have been dosed with chemistry at the first handstand, but, for the most part, even our teachers were charmed by his antics as they were usually good-natured and resulted in no casualties.

The only thing that I recall him doing that might have been considered grounds for dismissal occurred during our junior year. Thanks to the inability of our school board to properly vet not one but two teachers, the English class that I had fall semester was on our third teacher before Thanksgiving.

This instability led to the inmates taking over the asylum. It wasn’t exactly the prison colony in Alien III, but the class was far more prone to stretches of chaos and disorder than our others.

I sat in the back row with my buddy Bosco and mostly stayed out of the fray. It was forty-five minutes during I mostly just stared into space, sleeping with my eyes open.

One afternoon, as Teacher #3 stood at the blackboard, conjugating something in chalk, Dwayne popped up out of his seat in the front row and there was a sudden explosion of yellow.

Bosco squinted at the board – his eyesight was questionable – and asked me what happened.

“I think Dwayne threw an orange at the board.”

(it was actually an egg)

A half dozen of us were ushered to the principal’s office for interrogation; Bosco and I both pleaded ignorance.

(convincingly, I’m sure)

As we left school that day, we asked how he had beaten the rap.

“I told him that I sit in the front row,” he replied. “I’d have to be crazy to pull a stunt like that.”

He climbed into his beat-up Camaro, and – with the stereo blaring – sped off.

If I had to guess, it was probably 96Rock – an album rock station from Hamilton, Ohio – which Dwayne had blasting that day. Here are four random songs I very much recall hearing on the station during the early ’80s…

Russ Ballard – Voices
from Russ Ballard

Englishman Russ Ballard had ties to The Zombies and Argent and success penning hits like Rainbow’s Since You Been Gone, Santana’s Winning, and America’s You Can Do Magic.

In our part of the world, Ballard got played on several stations with On The Rebound and The Fire Still Burns from his solo albums. And the moody Voices was mammoth, but it seemed to be one of those songs that everyone knew, but no one knew who the singer.

Lita Ford – Gotta Let Go
from Dancin’ On The Edge

In 1984, I certainly knew the music of Joan Jett and I imagine I had heard a song or two by The Runaways, but Gotta Let Go was the first time I’d heard a song by Joan’s former Runaway bandmate, Lita Ford.

I know that I’d seen Ford in Circus magazine and, as I had seen and read about her in Circus magazine, I undoubtedly assumed she was music for numbskulls. And though the oh-so ’80s metal of Gotta Let Go is hardly rocket surgery, it’s got an indeniable charm.

Kansas – Fight Fire With Fire
from Drastic Measures

This wasn’t Dust In The Wind.

When I hear Fight Fire With Fire, I think of seeing the clip for the song on Friday Night Videos in the autumn of ’83. I have always considered it to be the greatest video with swarms of giant mosquitos in it that I’ve ever seen.

Rewatching it, there are not swarms of giant mosquitos. There is one giant mosquito that looks – quite frankly – to be shoddily constructed.

(quite disappointing…)

Prism – Don’t Let Him Know
from Small Change

Prism never really broke through in the States, but I recall several songs by the Canadian band on the radio as a kid. None more so than their lone US Top Forty hit Don’t Let Him Know.

Written by Jim Vallance and a pre-fame Bryan Adams, the stomping rock song is an earworm. During the winter of 1982, Don’t Let Him Know was constantly blaring from the juke box at the bowling alley where my friends and I would hang out.

(it’s as Midwestern rock, circa ’82, as it gets)