It was the height of ’87 when my Dad’s band Slavdik, self-proclaimed as “super premier party rock band,” traveled around in support of a few shows they audaciously called their Safe Sex Tour. The band wore white suits and sunglasses while playing in front of tinsel streamers under neon lights. They performed songs about Karl Marx, BBQ’s, and a woman named Betty, sweaty in her teddy, as they threw condoms at the audience. Perhaps, it was the nausea brought on by her second trimester, or it could’ve been the dense heat in the tiny club, when my mother realized she could never be a “Dikette,” much less a member of a party band’s entourage. Thus, the lead singer’s waning career as a mid-twenty-something rock star blossomed into definite Dad Rock decadence–a perilous journey of momentous misfortunes and wayward joy that we all, somehow, survived.
From the time I was a thought in the mind of my parents, I was involuntarily pledged into a club of musical offspring whose purpose is to conceal the embarrassment of growing up with a Dad in a band. Think, Jakob Dylan and Hank III. From childhood to pre-adulthood, Dad Rock wasn’t just a genre, but a way of life. A lifestyle less about glorifying The Stones, Dylan, or Springsteen, but about humming guitar solos in the bathtub, turning the car stereo up to eleven, and figuring out which James Brown song makes the cut on the family Christmas mix.
Growing up, the only venue Dad played in was our kitchen, accompanied by the howls of our family dog, Oliver. He always chose opportune moments to test out new material, most in the middle of homework or when “Full House” was on. His deafening serenades would echo throughout the house, growing louder with each verse. It was inaudible and shrill, gaining more gusto the deeper his emotions ran. I recall screeching along with melodies to throw him off, but the pitch of my pre-pubescent voice would harmonize with his deep man-bellow in a peculiar register, a sound only cicadas could appreciate. Regrettably, not even the late John Belushi a la “Animal House” could rip the guitar out of the man’s hands.
By the time he got the band back together, my dad had written and recorded a plethora of depressing, old-man songs that were worthy of attention. With a new EP and a finely-tuned lineup of part original members, part hired help, and my ex-boyfriend, booking shows became a top priority. The first show back as a group in nearly two decades was a harrowing experience, narrowly avoiding catastrophe. Not only were there curfews and drink minimums, but there were teenagers, Slavdik offspring, who could drive. And drive we did, two hours in the opposite direction of the venue, which we didn’t figure out until the wheel blew off the van onto the shoulder of the highway. After a valiant rescue from somebody’s cousin, we returned safely with the drummer and his drums to an overwhelmingly cliche round of slow-clap-turned-insatiable applause. In this moment, my life was realized and show business made sense.
That morning, at breakfast, the guy in the t-shirt, reading the paper was my Dad. That evening, he transformed into this music man, unscathed by the scars of the past thirty years. He was dynamic, weird and happy, morphing into his creative self in front of old friends and his children. It wasn’t until the lights faded and the white jackets came off, and we all piled into the van to head back home, that I realized growing up under the influence of Dad Rock wasn’t so bad, after all.
Liz Earle is a recent Nashville transplant, hailing from the great state of South Carolina. She received a BA from the College of Charleston, where she studied writing and practiced life without adult supervision. She has worked as Managing Editor and contributor for The Music Initiative, combining her love for writing and music. Liz can be found hanging ’round local music venues and Honky Tonks, at her various jobs, or on the porch with Miles, her best friend and cat.
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