Visionary Purple

In Alex’s most recent entry, she writes:

i’ m starting to get offers out of no where to join bands, even though i haven’ t sung anything, and i haven’ t told anyone that i can. maybe i should join a band and get it over with. i mean, everyone should be in a band at least once in their lives, and i’ m not doing anything else right now. besides school and work.

I was in a band once. For about two weeks. And the story of my brief stint as a rock star is too hilariously bad not to share.

I’m pretty sure it all started in Algebra 2/Trig class. Somehow my big gay sorta-friend Josh had this idea that we should start a band. So we did.

Josh’s pothead friend Allie (also my sorta-friend) had gotten stoned watching PBS one night and swore she saw an entire show dedicated to something in your eye called “visionary purple.” (It’s visual purple, but whatever. She was 16 and stoned.) So that’s how we got our name. Visionary Purple.

Visionary Purple was going to tear up the charts. We were surely destined for greatness, with our all-star lineup of young talent and our flair for songcraft.

All-Star Lineup of Young Talent

  1. Josh was the lead singer and guitar player, because the band was his idea and anyway he had a guitar and an amp. So he got to be the star.
  2. Allie was the other lead singer. Allie didn’t play any instruments, couldn’t sing, and had no rock-star charisma whatsoever, but these were just minor details in the grand scheme of our anticipated greatness.
  3. Matt (not my sorta-friend, but my actual best friend at the time) was the drummer. Because Matt played percussion in the school band. As it turns out, Matt happens to be talented enough to play percussion in whatever the hell he wants to (he majored in percussion performance at the University of North Texas, has a master’s degree from Northwestern, and wins awards and stuff all over the place these days – he’s like internationally famous), but at the time, he was a very not-rock-star kid with a drum set in his basement and awesome parents who didn’t mind if we practiced there.
  4. Marshal was the saxophone player. I don’t know of many grunge-rock outfits with a saxophonist, but Marshal was friends with me and Matt, and drew our logo, and that’s how he got in.
  5. I was the bass player. Nevermind the fact that I didn’t actually know how to play the bass guitar, and still don’t. I didn’t even know how to plug it into the amp. My dad had a bass guitar, so I got to be the bass player.

Flair for Songcraft
I think we may have planned to do a lot of Blind Melon covers. We had two original songs, both written by Josh. One was a love song about AIDS, and that may actually have been the title, and Josh and Allie were the only ones who worked on it so I can’t remember anything else about it. It was the acoustic piece.

The second song was the one that would surely skyrocket us directly to fame and fortune. It was called “Throw Away the Beef,” and as shitty as this song is, I still remember the tune (such as it was) and most of the lyrics almost ten years later. Every single instrumental part was the same – repeat one note eight times (in eighth notes, so for a single measure) and then go up a half-step and do the same thing. And then go back down to the first note. And so on. So I did this on the bass, Josh did this on the electric guitar, and Marshal did this on the sax. And then there were the lyrics.

I had a chicken parmesan today
Turkey dinner and salisbury steak
It said six minutes but I gave it eight

(some other verse I can’t remember now)
(I think this next part is the bridge, maybe, or the chorus? It involved a key change.)

Pigs could rule the world if they wanted to
Throw your helpless selves into their pens
Pigs will rule the world eventually
So give up your wives and THROW AWAY YOUR BEEF!

Sometimes we replaced “wives” with “knives” or “lives.” It all depended on our mood at the time.

We had exactly one band rehearsal, in which we spent a third of the time talking about our grand plans to play clubs downtown (and trying to decide whose parents had the biggest minivan to drive us there). Marshal and Matt and I spent a third of the time just kind of hanging out (and trying to figure out how to play notes on the bass) while Josh and Allie practiced the AIDS love song, and then we spent the final third practicing “Throw Away the Beef.”

And then our great idea just sort of fizzled out.

It’s worth mentioning, and may be a cause of our downfall, that this was the weirdest, most unlikely group of people ever assembled. Josh and Allie were freaky theater kids who I knew through classes, the forensics team (of which I was an occasional member) and through another friend of mine (who wasn’t a part of the legend that was Visionary Purple). We had almost nothing in common, and aside from that one band rehearsal, never hung out outside of school. Matt and Marshal were my friends from band, and knew Josh and Allie but didn’t even hang out with them in school that much, and definitely never hung out with them outside of school.

Soon after our rockstar stint, in fact, Marshal would quit the school band, join the wrestling and football teams, and basically turn into the kind of kid who ate kids like Josh and Allie for breakfast. Then he joined the Navy, got into smoking and drinking and women, only to find Jesus a few years later, give up his evil ways, get married to a nice girl, and get into those pyramid personal care products schemes like Amway or Melaleuca or whatever. He’s still in the Navy, and we chat every once in a while.

I don’t know what’s up with Josh and Allie these days.

But if they made a Behind the Music about Visionary Purple, it would look a little like this.

5 Replies to “Visionary Purple”

  1. My dad had a bass guitar, so I got to be the bass player.

    That's is so subtle and good, it's changed my whole mood.

  2. I had fun in many bands over many years. The early ones were mostly garage/party bands, but later on, the venues shifted to bars then clubs. I loved playing musicians music (very progressive, electic) but the best gigs were cover tunes for reasonably popular tunes. Lead guitar and harmony primarily, lead vocals on 1/2 dozen songs in a typical night.
    Lots of fun, when band members weren't arguing, and an endless supply of babes. Then college graduation came and I hung up my 'cleats'. Still like playing acoustic, but rarely get in a full jam session.

  3. 5th grade. No instruments and no knowledge of how to play a one, Raul Preciado and I sat on the steps in front of a rarely used bathroom and wrote songs that would change the world. We sounded out riffs and guitar solos and pounded out drums beats with our feet and hands on our laps. Songs like Open Eyes, The Journey, and… I don't remember were gonna rock the world.
    All that ended when, after we'd fought over who would be singer his Mom threw out all the songs thinking it was all paper-trash under the bed. A stint with a Pixies-influenced band in High School surrounded me with enough ego to wanna kill all rockers nationwide. Now? Those who can. rock. Those who can't, sing karaoke.

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