After the encouragement of my roommate, and after trying other ways of renewal that were less fulfilling, I found the group at our local church to be the major hub for activities and renewal. We would gather for meals occasionally during each week, and particularly on Sunday, with literally 12 guitar players, leading singing for maybe another 20-ish. Friday nights were often go-kart racing or other fun activities, including one Halloween party that we are all glad there were no cell phone cameras for – no real bad activities, but some that, seen 45 years later, might be judged differently…
… we found you could rent old movies in 16mm, and the church (being one of the richest in the world – literally) had a 16mm projector with sound. We decided on “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” – in 3 D 😉 Complete with the glasses. Held in the fellowship hall, we didn’t have – nor did we really need – anything stronger than sodas and pizza. It was an enjoyable evening of carrying on, dancing, and renewing having fun together. Many of us would graduate soon, but some remained, and that allowed the current group to seed the next with that same sense of purpose, belonging, and renewal that high-performing teams have.
We have reached the end of the week and still haven’t played J Geils “biggest” hits. The consummate party band, J Geils bridged the late 60’s into the ’80s with their combination of rock, funk, and classic Chicago blues. Having been cut from Atlantic in 1978 after mostly lackluster sales, they were now on EMI when in late August of 1981, music changed forever with the advent of MTV. Watching punk and synthesizer music take off with the accelerant of MTV, their management pushed them to move more in that direction for the album that came out late that same year.
It worked – Freeze Frame resulted in 3 huge hits, one that went all the way to #1 – Centerfold. And the album also went to #1, and you would think that would be a good thing for the group. Sadly, as most of the songs were written and produced by the keyboard player Seth – paralleling the rise of electronic music – the other artists faded a bit. Peter, being out front, didn’t like the idea of being a “pop” band and felt he would go it alone, leaving the band only a year after their biggest success. They would all go their separate ways by 1984.
We focus so much on being “successful” as we drive ahead that we may not spend time renewing exactly what “success” is. While similar words, they are very different in their feel. As the Will Smith movie reminded us, we are guaranteed the right to “…pursue happiness”, but it is up to us what that actually looks like. Those days at SMU we were all poised to take off on our very different paths forward, and I suspect like me, they had a vague idea of what the goal might look like, but the journies to get us there…
Pop and synthetic music took over during the ’80s, and in my opinion, really tested the bands that made it through… and many didn’t, like J Geils. It feels like we are in a period of rebuilding again – where many foundations have been tested, and some have been proven while others have been found to be synthetic. Not knowing where you are on that spectrum, it is worth thinking about renewing what success actually looks like – now.
This video of J Geils taken just a few months before his death at 71 shows him with his cars, and like the one we showed earlier of his guitars, you see just a wisp of what had been. He even talked earlier about the joy of playing rhythm guitar in a jazz band – in the back, just strumming away. Even with success, had it achieved what he was looking for? As we danced the night away on that Halloween we knew that our renewal was real… and that fun can still be great. As we play the band into this Sabbath day, what will make you remember each day can be Nothing but a House Party!!!