by Mike McHugh
I love the outlandish reasons that Yankees back home invent to justify their misery while living in the cold. “I like to see the change of seasons,” they’ll say. Right. The truth is, they’re all secretly California Dreamin’.
Here in Louisiana, there’s a visible sign of fall that’s more distinctive than any golden-leafed tree, and that’s the painted slogans that pop up on the windows of local businesses this time of year. Back in Yankee Land, it would be a sign that gang activity is heating up. But here in the South, it means that it’s time again for high school football.
“Go Broncs! Skin the Whomp-Us Cats!” it would say on the window of the local bank. It’s much more energizing than looking at some stupid tree.
My house sits less than a mile from the local high school. What this means is that, on any given morning during football season, I can relax on the rear patio with my cup of coffee and take in the marching band as it practices for the upcoming weekend.
I can hear them as if they’re next door. In Maryland, I lived the same distance from a gun club. The shooting brought back memories of college days living in West Philadelphia
Usually, the band is doing “Iron Man,” the old Black Sabbath number from back in the day before heavy metal had a name. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the band run through it in the ten years I’ve been in my house. It’s a song that seems to be in the repertoire of every high school marching band in the country. You’d think that a marching band tackling a heavy metal song would be as much of a mismatch as the London Philharmonic taking on “Y.M.C.A.” But surprisingly, it works.
You would think I’d get tired of it, but the fact is, I like “Iron Man.” It would be a different story if the band were doing a song that I did not particularly care for. For instance, “Knock Three Times” would be sheer torture. It isn’t just that I’m not a big fan of Tony Orlando, but I’m afraid of what the drum line would do with a song like that. “BAM! BAM! BAM!” they’d go in unison during the chorus. As close as my house is to the practice field, I’d be afraid of structural damage.
As much as I like “Iron Man,” I still think it would be nice if the band expanded its repertoire somewhat. I mean, why is it that I’ve never, ever heard a marching band do anything by the Rolling Stones? I can think of a number of Stones tunes that would lend themselves quite well to a marching band arrangement.
One that immediately comes to mind is “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” Inappropriate, you say? Nonsense. It’s not like they actually sing the words or anything.
The Black Sabbath link is ironic, in a way. Back when they were topping the charts, the older generation criticized the band for espousing Satanism. They claimed you could hear satanic messages if you played their records backwards.
Curious about this, I recorded the band from my patio one morning and replayed it in reverse.
I didn’t hear any satanic messages, although I might have picked up something that made vague reference to an upcoming booster club fundraiser.