Chapter Six

The next morning, I walked in to the kitchen and poured a bowl of cereal.

My Mom, as usual, was sitting at the table drinking coffee.

“I don’t think I wanna move back to Moncton.” I said.
“What do you mean, you don’t think you wanna move back to Moncton?”
“I think I wanna stay here. I feel like I’m starting to make friends here.”
“Well, you know, Mike, that really makes me happy to hear that.”

And that was that.

At the end of June, we traveled to New Brunswick for our summer holidays.
A month later, we all flew back to Alberta.
My Mom.
My Brother.
And me.

I spent the remainder of my Summer Holidays kicking around Bonnyville.

Cutting laps.
Waving at girls.

Lots of fun.

The first time I was ever legless drunk happened that summer.
I barely remember it.
But I’ll never forget it.

We at a friend’s birthday party, just south of town, out on Muriel Lake.

Anyway, Curtis, Ernie and I had decided to funnel some beer.
We polished off a twenty four pack of Labatt’s Blue in less than 15 minutes.

It was a good idea on paper.
But it stopped there.

I don’t remember much but I do, vividly, remember this.
Ernie karate chopped the birthday cake in half.
Destroyed it.
“Hiya Waki Saki!!!!”
Chop. Chop. Chop.
Smashed it to smithereens.
An absolute classic.

The next thing I remember is Keith throwing me over one shoulder and Ernie over the other as he took it upon himself to see that we got home safe and sound.

I passed out.

“Keith, pull over, man, I’m not feeling good.”
“We already are, buddy, Ernie’s throwing up in the ditch.”

I remember Ernie and I both standing on the side of the road puking like there was no tomorrow.
The next morning came my first experience with the “dry heaves”.

Good times.

Somewhere mixed in with all the craziness of summer, we started rehearsing again.
Keith was going away to college and therefore had no real choice but to be leave the band.

We auditioned one guy.
He was great player and a really nice guy too.
He could play the hell out of “Cat Scratch Fever”.

I remember his name was Flo DeBeau.

Jesus, what a handle!
With a name like that, he was bound for the big time.

But things didn’t work out.

Ernie’s dad didn’t like the cut of Flo’s jib.
And seeing that we rehearsed at Ernie’s place…
Flo ended up not getting a call back, if you know what I mean.

(Flo, if yer reading this, yeah, umm, ahh… we decided to go in a different direction musically speaking, that is…)

We decided not to replace Keith after all.
The guys convinced me to play guitar and sing.
I didn’t have Keith’s chops, but we made do with what I brought to the table.

One night, about a week before school started Ernie, Curt and I drove in to Edmonton to see AC/DC on the “Who Made Who” tour.
One word.

With my ears ringing and the windows down, we made our way back to Bonnyville.
There seemed to be no other cars on the road.
Just us and the sound of the road beneath our wheels.

Highway 28 towards Bonnyville.
Smokey Lake.
The Ashmont turn.
Not a cloud in the sky.
Almost didn’t need headlights.

Trying to stay awake.
The warm Alberta night blowing in through the windows.
It was the perfect summer night.
If you’ve ever spent a summer in Alberta, you know what those nights are like.
They are few and far between but certainly worth the wait.

As we rolled back into town around 4am and the sun was already on the rise.

The next thing I knew, school had started again.
It was the first time in 5 years that I wasn’t starting the school year in a new school.
I actually felt like Bonnyville was my home.

Football practice seemed to dominate the early part of my senior year.

One Friday night in mid September I came home around midnight.
As I was tiptoeing up the stairs, my brother came out of his room with a smile on his face and a cassette tape in his hand.
It was the new Bon Jovi album, “Slippery When Wet”.

I’d been waiting for this album since the minute I first heard “Runaway” at Keith’s house on New Years Eve.
I’d been reading about the recording of this album in Circus Magazine and Metal Edge for months already.
I couldn’t believe it was finally here.
I went to my room.
Popped the tape in my boom box.
Pressed play.
Laid down on my waterbed and immediately fell asleep.
I probably heard the first 30 seconds of the first song before I drifted off to sleep.

I woke up the next morning, and pressed play again.

As far as I was concerned, it was the greatest album ever recorded.

“Hey Mom, can I have the keys to the car?”
“Sure, where’re you going?”
“Chris and I are gonna go cut some laps…”

And man did we ever.
For about six hours.
Me and Chris.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
FasGas to the Red Rooster.
Red Rooster to the FasGas.
Over and over again.
Maybe stop for a Slurpee at the 7-11.
Cut laps for another hour or two.
Snag another Slurpee.
Brain freeze.

“Slippery When Wet” was on a constant loop for months.
Cinderella’s album “Night Songs” held the top spot for about week and then it was back to the Bon Jovi album.

One Saturday afternoon in late September, I was out at Curt’s place on Moose Lake.
We were just goofing off, hanging around and jumping on his trampoline.
We went in the house for a drink of water.
He sat at the piano and started playing something I’d never heard before.

“What’s that?”
“I don’t know, I just made it up…”
“Well, keep playing it, its cool!”

I started singing a melody.
Then, slowly, words started to come out of the fog of random syllables.
Before I knew it, we’d just written a song!
I couldn’t believe it!

It was called “Streets Of The Night”.

We wrote the first verse and chorus in about 15 minutes.
I wrote the second verse about a week later.

To me, this song was as good as “The Long And Winding Road”.

Maybe even better.

Also round that same time, my English teacher (Mrs. Perry) had given me a brochure about a music school in Boston called “Berkley College Of Music”.
For the first time in my life, I was excited about a school.

But there were a couple things that appeared to be road blocks on my path to Berkley.
One being that it would cost a fortune to go there.
“Well, maybe I can get a scholarship or something…” I thought to myself.
The other glitch was that I needed to have a firm grasp on music theory.
“How tough could it be? It’s just a bunch of black dots…”

So with a supreme amount of confidence, I decided to take some lessons in music theory at the only music store in Bonnyville.
Panich Music, owned and operated by local music hot shot, Lavern Panich.

My Mom paid for 5 lessons up front.

My first lesson was on a Saturday morning.

I walked in, sat down and realized instantly that I was in over my head.

The following Saturday, I walked in, sat down and pretending that I was reading the sheet music in front of me, played “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” by ear.

“Hey, yer really picking it up real quick, aren’t ya!”
“Yeah, thanks! I appreciate it.”
“Hey do you know how to play “Stairway”?”
“Sure do…”

So I taught my teacher how to play “Stairway To Heaven”.
As I was walking home I decided that there was no way I was ever gonna be able to learn how to read music.
So I quit.
My dream of going to Berkley was over before it began.

“What can a poor boy do, except to sing for a rock and roll band…?”


But I’d already paid for the first 5 lessons.
No refunds and I still had three more lessons to go.
So instead of letting that money go to waste, I convinced Lavern to let me swap lessons in music theory for studio time.
He agreed.
He said he’d engineer the recording.
That worked for me, because up until that moment, I thought engineer’s drove trains.

Anyway, so one cold Saturday afternoon in February of 1987, Curt, Al and I walked into the little studio at Panich Music and recorded “Streets Of The Night”.

I can still see us all gathered around one microphone singing the chorus.

“Streets of the night will catch your fall every time.
Streets of the night will see you walking down the line.
Streets of the night will always be your home…”

An hour later, Curt and I were cutting laps listening to a song that we’d just recorded.

I couldn’t believe it.
To my ears it sounded amazing!

“We need to get on the Letterman show, man…”

As we were driving by Notre Dame High School and I noticed my Mom was walking across the parking lot towards her car.

“Curt, pull over. I gotta play this for my Mom…”

We pulled up beside her as she walked across the parking lot.
I rolled down the window.

“Hey Mom, you gotta listen to this…!”

I looked straight ahead as the song played.
I couldn’t look at her.
I was too nervous.
When the song finished, I finally got the courage to look her way.
Tears were streaming down her cheeks.
It was the first time I’d seen her cry since John Lennon died.

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