Would You Like Mustard With That Foot, Sir?
The loudest machine on Planet Earth is the Saturn 5 Rocket.
The loudest machine, pound for pound, on Planet Earth is the motorcycle.
The advertised loudest animal sound on Planet Earth is the call of the Blue Whale. (Some would dispute this and say that the loudest animal sound is the Tiger Pistol Shrimp, and gram for gram that might be true, however, if you go here, you will see that, in real terms, this is simply not true.)
The actual loudest animal sound on Planet Earth is the 2:00 AM “feed me” call of the one month old human infant.
And the loudest group of four or five human beings on Planet Earth is a rock band… It’s just the nature of the entity – it can’t be helped… Rock music, generally, employs things like electric guitars, amplifiers, drums, electronic keyboards, etc., and this was no different in the 60’s.
This is common knowledge among most Americans. But, as we were to learn on this one fateful night, not ALL Americans were aware of this fact… One example of this might be the Amish, who don’t use anything really modern to any great extent (cars, televisions, electricity).
But the Amish are farmers in remote parts of states like Pennsylvania and far removed from more modern society, so They would have no reason to know that rock music is really loud.
But you might be surprised to learn that, in 1968, there was a group of people in Los Angeles, CA who were somehow unaware of the decibel potential of a four man rock group…
We got a gig to supply the music for a dance. This was not unusual.
The dance was an “experimental” event sponsored by a church for their youth group. This was unusual (the ‘experiment’ part, not the church youth group part).
It was experimental because the organization had never had a dance, and the adults in the congregation were suspicious of ‘Rock Music’. I think they may have allowed themselves to be talked into it by the kids in the group.. (After we left, I doubt they ever had another one. And it was probably my fault… Sorry about that.)
The evening started out wonderfully. We were cheerfully greeted by the adult supervisors as we walked into the auditorium. They were very nice and thanked us profusely for agreeing to play for their teen-agers. Really wonderful people.
Then we set up our gear, and turned it on..
“Excuse me, I wonder if I could get you to turn it down a bit.”
“Oh. Sure, no problem.”
Further sound check…
“Excuse me, again.”
“Can we turn it down just a bit more, please?”
“Uh – sure, OK.”
At this point, we decided to forego any further sound checks and commenced to tuning out instruments, behind the curtains.
Finally, the kick off time arrived. And we started our first number, “I’m So Glad”. To the chagrin of the chaperones, “I’m So Glad” is not a quiet song. Especially the way we played it.
We were somewhat dismayed when our theme song did not receive the positive response that we were used to . It was sort of negative, actually..
“What do you think you are doing?”
“I had respectfully requested that the sound be turned down, and here you blasted us halfway home!”
“Oh.. I’m sorry. We didn’t realize it was so loud.”
“Well, please lower it more.”
Of course, it wasn’t loud to us – in fact, it seemed pretty tame. But in the interest of making the customer happy, we pulled back a few notches more..
We proceded with a couple of numbers that were a little less rambunctious, and things seemed to be moving along more smoothly, if not quite to our own liking.
I think, though I could be wrong, it was “Born To Be Wild” that brought out the noise pollution police again. This time, however, it wasn’t just the volume, but also the lyrics that caused another visit to the stage.
At this point, we got fed up and turned off the amplifiers and sang the rest of the dance (thankfully, it was only a one hour deal to begin with) at vocal levels just a tad above a whisper. It was a sort of “take that!” thing to do, but we did it. Really – we did.
And it gets worse…
(Keep in mind that we were all brought up to be respectful to our elders, and polite to everybody in general, so this was a major breakdown in our usual etiquette.)
Interestingly enough, the complaints stopped, and the chaperones actually started to look like they were enjoying themselves.
Eventually, the dance was over the curtains were closed and we were behind them taking down our gear. The normal vague ‘after show’ chatter was heard on the public side of the curtain, when suddenly there were a bunch of “shushes” and “hold it downs”.
This is where it gets worse…
I, in my youthful exuberance and desire to make a point, decided that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to let my true feelings be known to the world. So, in my very loudest and most sarcastic voice, I let out the phrase that still rings in my ears today –
“Don’t break his ear drums!”
Silence.. Muffled voices..
I then stuck my head through the curtains and heard the audience’s words:
“…Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven…”
This time I was the one who snuck out ahead of everybody else…
Next: Who knows?
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