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Celebration execution

by | Mar 6, 2021 | Celebrate, execute, J Geils Band

Politics, or trying to not write about it, had a hand in starting these columns years ago.  After being active in High School, begrudgingly, I tried to stay out of it in college, but to no avail.  I was spotted by a junior in my sophomore year, and he wanted to groom a successor.  There was a Student Senate, and the Engineering School needed someone to be on it, and he suggested I ran – which I did and served for 3 of my 4 years.  He also wanted me to take over the Student Engineers Joint Council (SEJC), the student leadership group for the School, which I also did.  This was one reason I was standing in the middle of the road on a Friday night, missing a shoe, waiting for my girlfriend to pick me up… and likely be executed… 

Let me back up to say that Engineers are not really known as party people.  Creative, musical, innovative – sure – but not really out there on the fun spectrum.  But we did have a bar we would all regularly support – just off campus with amazing Rye Bread Cheeseburgers, and the best nachos that I have replicated ever since.  A single chip, with just enough beans, a single Jalapeño slice, and cheddar cheese.  Very well designed and executed, I have seen recipes now that even call them Texas Nachos.  Yep – add Engineering.  

Study circles would regularly meet there, and if you wanted help with a class, it was likely someone there would either be able to help, or call someone on the payphone – remember no cells – to come over.  We always had a big party there just before Finals, and the SEJC would provide a couple of kegs.  This year sadly, the bar had gone out of business, and we were faced with canceling the finals party or executing it at another location.  No problem – a friend let us use the party room at his complex, we ordered the 2 kegs and now had…. 10 people for 2 kegs.  Did I mention engineers don’t do change well?  

Stephen Bladd is the only member of the band that was a native of Boston, born in the Dorchester area in 1942.  Playing with Peter Wolf in the Hallucinations, the band that broke up and merged with J Geils just as they needed a drummer.to turn from acoustic to electric blues. He immediately hit it off with Danny Klein on bass, even rooming with him on the road, so that tight rhythm section came from literally hours together.  This track starts with his counting off the time, and then the massive sound from his kit gets it started.

Listen for the “echo” present there – a technique he and Peter mastered when they made the infamous Bathroom Tapes … in the… wait for it… the Bathroom.  Drum sounds are extremely hard to execute well — either live or recorded — and there are many careers that were made by having the right sound guy in the right studio.  Many of this weeks’ songs were executed at the Hit Factory in New York by another name you will see on many important albums, even if you can’t spell it, Bill Szymczyk, who also gave you The Eagles, The Who, Joe Walsh… 

We called friends and some came but the mismatch of the numbers to the amount of beer (in engineering called “impedance mismatch”) was huge.  And of course as the leader, I had tried to do my part … and if you recall earlier I didn’t really drink much… so you can now figure out why I was… waiting for a ride.  The only good part about that story is that 1) there was a phone, 2) I realized I should probably not drive, and 3) she picked up and said “I will be right there”.  Which once I heard that, I probably had a couple more to help even more… 

… I can imagine that J Geils’ early shows around Boston had some amazing Celebrations executed.  And I can tell you that next morning, it felt like that in my head.  As I headed into my career, it started at IBM with a fairly strict protocol about alcohol and parties that seemed a bit prudish (it was…), but as I would move into other less stringent companies, I saw WHY that was a great policy for any business.  You do want to Celebrate success as a team, but you also don’t want that execution to cause issues for you or the team.  I still recall the question “… where is your other shoe?”.  Yea…why I adopted some of those prudish policies… to avoid the difficult drum beat you hear often… Just Give it to Me. 

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