Colonial echoes.

How much of America’s rock n’ roll history lies closed within the pages of old yearbooks?

You might remember how, a year or two ago, a Texas high school’s circa-1970 photo of a young “Zee Zee Top” made the online rounds.

Kinda makes you wonder how much similar goodness is sitting on the shelves of college and high school libraries, waiting to be discovered.

Concerts are a big part of the annual social calendar at many schools, and when something big happens, there’s usually a staff photographer on hand. So who knows how many glimpses of musicians — famous and forgotten — get captured that way?

I had that thought the other day when I stumbled on the College of William & Mary’s 1974 yearbook, the Colonial Echoes, on archive.org (which has a remarkable stack of high school and college annuals available for browsing).

The school must have had a big budget and a lot of students eager to rock, because it hosted a run of concerts that year that wouldn’t have embarrassed a mid-market city — Chicago, James Brown, the Grateful Dead, and Crosby and Nash, if memory serves.

Browsing 20 years of the Colonial Echoes, you could see the state of collegiate entertainment evolve from well-trimmed vocal groups to big-name, chart-topping rock stars. I doubt anyone got that perspective at the time — most people only stay for four years, after all — but it made for an interesting historical view.

Here, then, are pix from various editions of the Colonial Echoes that trace the evolution of on-campus concerts, while also offering some cool, probably rarely seen views of artists in their prime.

Two caveats:
– Material printed in the Colonial Echoes is, I assume, the property of the College of William & Mary. I’m presenting it here because it’s historically interesting, and because I think my small screenshots made on an ancient PC are too low in quality to be stolen, reused or abused. That said, if I get anything resembling a copyright claim, I’ll take the post down.
– The years given correspond to the year the yearbook was issued, not the year of the performance.

The Lettermen, 1967.
The Lettermen, 1967.
Here's a contrast. Top: Ian and Sylvia. Bottom: The Swingin' Medallions, of "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" fame. 1968.
Here’s a contrast. Top: Ian and Sylvia. Bottom: The Swingin’ Medallions, of “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)” fame. 1968.
Top: Rhinoceros, described as the first rock group to play W&M. Bottom: Martha and the Vandellas. 1970.
Top: Rhinoceros, described in the yearbook as the first rock group to play W&M. (Not sure what they thought the Swingin’ Medallions were.) Bottom: Martha and the Vandellas. 1970.
1972. The concert scene explodes at W&M: Just check out the caption. The musician is not identified, but he looks a whole lot like the late Chris Squire of Yes.
1972. The concert scene explodes at W&M: Just check out the caption. The musician is not identified, but he looks a whole lot like the late Chris Squire of Yes.
weir74
Bob Weir, 1974. The Dead enjoyed their September 1973 gig at W&M so much that they booked a second one on short notice and did it again the next night.
Grace Slick of Jefferson Starship, 1975.
Grace Slick of Jefferson Starship, 1975.
Grace Slick and Starship again, '76.
Grace Slick and Starship again, ’76.
The caption says "one of Zappa's Mothers;" I'm fairly sure it's Napolean Murphy Brock. 1976.
The caption says “one of Zappa’s Mothers;” I’m fairly sure it’s Napoleon Murphy Brock. 1976.
Springsteen, 1977, riding out his lawsuit period on the road.
Springsteen, 1977, riding out his lawsuit period on the road. The caption says “Quality Not Quantity” — referring to a lean year for concerts, not to Bruce’s performance.
Smoke from a distant fire, 1978. Mike Love of the Beach Boys, left; the Sanford-Townsend Band, right; and the Little River Band's singer's torso at top left.
Smoke from a distant fire, 1978. Mike Love of the Beach Boys, left; the Sanford-Townsend Band, right; and the Little River Band’s singer’s torso at top left.
Tom Scholz of Boston, 1979, ending the decade with the sound of corporate rock.
Tom Scholz of Boston, 1979, ending the decade with the sound of corporate rock.
Two whole pages devoted to "Rust Never Sleeps"-era Neil Young and Crazy Horse. 1979.
Two whole pages devoted to “Rust Never Sleeps”-era Neil Young and Crazy Horse. They were not wrong to do so. 1979.
Billy Joel, 1980. It is, quite clearly, still rock and roll to him.
Billy Joel, 1980. It is, quite clearly, still rock and roll to him.
Sting, 1986. Yeah, this seems like a good place to get off.
Sting, 1986. Yeah, this seems like a good place to get off.

Big man searching for a campus.

There was a time, believe it or not, when I was a bright young man with potential.

Like 20 years ago this month, when I graduated college.

Or (gack) 25 years ago around this time, when I was a high-achieving high school junior (good grades, high SAT scores, extracurriculars, clean rap sheet, you name it) trying to decide where to spend the next four years.

I don’t remember actively soliciting much college mail … but I remember getting lots of viewbooks and letters, which I stored in my room in a paper grocery bag. For a lad of generally modest demeanor, it was an ego stroke to look at the bag and feel sought-after.

Back to the present, anyway. Today was something called #CollegeSigningDay, presumably a day for high-schoolers across the nation to commit to colleges. (You might have seen our president and first lady sporting the gear of their alma maters.)

It brought me back a quarter-century to my own college search, which was rather haphazardly conducted given the magnitude of the decision.

Much of it centered around a big computer in the high-school guidance office that would, with a little coaxing, spit out a sheet of paper listing all the colleges on the East Coast with journalism programs.

From there … well, sometimes I look back, and I think I fell out of a tree and landed on my feet … and sometimes I think I just fell out of a tree.

Just to empty out the memory banks, here’s a list of the major players in my college search, and what happened to them:

Syracuse University – A well-regarded journalism school was maybe 90 minutes down the Thruway from my house. But I was dead set on getting not just out of Rochester, but completely out of New York state. So, I had no use for the ‘Cuse.

(Ironically, given my destination to ditch New York, I ended up at the destination college for hundreds of Long Islanders. But more about that later.)

Cornell University – I also could have attended an Ivy League school within two hours of home; I’m confident I had the grades to get in. I would have worked a lot harder than I did at my chosen school, and probably felt more accomplished. But, anything New York was out. Also, a bunch of kids from my high school class chose Cornell; and while I liked them all pretty well, I wanted to see different people.

University of Pittsburgh – Now, this was stupid. My dad took me to visit Pitt and I dug the look and feel of the place. (I still remember that we stopped for lunch in the student union and they were playing Funkadelic on the PA system. I was impressed.)

And then, on our way out of the student union, my dad and I ran into a kid who was two years ahead of me in high school … and that screwed the whole deal; the entire campus fell under a dark cloud of Hometown Stink.

If the kid in question had stayed two more minutes after class to talk to the teacher, I might be a Pitt alumnus today. As it was, I didn’t even apply.

Just about the only positive of this decision was that it kept me out of Pennsylvania for 20 more years. Three cheers for that much, anyway.

Duquesne University – We were in Pittsburgh; we decided to tour two campuses for the price of one. (Maybe the computer told me Duquesne had a J-school.)

Hit the campus; saw a big statue of Jesus; turned tail and headed home. It was damn near as quick as that.

Carnegie Mellon University – Engineering college with a journalism school on the side. I have no memory of visiting while in Pittsburgh, but made it one of my backup schools on a whim. They admitted me. I did not accept.

Lehigh University – Another engineering college with a small pocket of word-nerds. I made a campus visit here too. I was a Deadhead then — long hair and sandals — and every single young man I saw was dressed like a J. Crew catalog. “I’m not gonna fit in here,” I said, and crossed Lehigh off the list. Didn’t occur to me until later that I toured campus in the morning, when all my kindred spirits were probably sleeping off the previous night.

University of Alaska-Anchorage – Nestled in my college bag was a note from the University of Alaska-Anchorage, which tried to seduce students from the lower 48 by offering them in-state tuition rates if they held a B average.

I thought about the offer for about 30 seconds and rejected it. I’ve probably thought about it for 30 hours in the years since.

I wouldn’t have gotten a great education there, I’m pretty sure, and I don’t regret not going. But I think sometimes that maybe I should have chucked it all in, given in to the spirit of adventure (I was not much for adventure in those days, to my detriment) and bought myself a parka and an airline ticket. There would have been stories, anyway.

University of Connecticut – Skipped a chance to tour it on the way home from somewhere else. Knew nothing about it. Decided to make it my safety school anyway, based entirely on the fact that I had family ties to a different region of the state (you might have read about them.) They accepted me too but I didn’t go there either.

Boston University – My mom went there and suggested I check it out. It had (and has) a good J-school and it’s in the middle of a delightful city, plus she went there so I’d be a legacy, though I didn’t really need that to get in. And it wasn’t in New York, even if it occasionally seemed like an exclave of the Tri-State Region.

I fell in love with the city, and to enough extent, with the school as well. In September 1991, off I went; in May 1995, I took two diplomas off the table and checked out for the Big Room.

In between, I spent a semester in Australia, basically lived at the student paper for a while, did some professional journalism stringing, rode the T, got engaged, drank some beer, pissed in an alley, played some racquetball, and did a bunch of other stuff.

(A few of my HS classmates ended up there too; two of them went into student government, and I covered them for the student newspaper. Somehow this did not deeply offend my soul’s quest for interstate exile.)

In retrospect, it does not seem like I worked very hard. Both of my degrees had Latin on them, and I couldn’t have done everything I did outside the classroom and still succeeded inside if I’d been really taxed. Something must have given.

No matter. I did OK at the time, and it’s done now.

I hope the fresh-faced kids wearing their university gear for #CollegeSigningDay get whatever it is they’re after from college.

It’s an old romance, the goalie dance.

One of my favorite little moments in all of sports is the herky-jerky “dance” hockey goalies do at the start of each period to scrape up the ice in the crease.

(I *think* the intent is to make the freshly smoothed ice a little less slick and give themselves better traction. I’ve never put on the pads myself, though, so I could be wrong.)

I happened to be in the right place at the right time the other day to catch a goalie conducting his solitary ritual. So I taped it.

As an added bonus, the goalie in question — Matt Benincasa of Lafayette College — drops to his knees at the end and prostrates himself toward the memory of Georges Vezina.

Or something like that, anyway.

The moment isn’t special to anyone who watches hockey, since they’ve seen it a million times … and it probably won’t be all that charming to anyone who doesn’t watch hockey.

But I like it.

Do you believe in miracles?

This past weekend was better than it seemed at the time … and at least the second-best part of it was the college hockey game I went to this afternoon.

It was Lafayette College’s last hockey game of the year, and maybe the last real competitive game ever for the four or five seniors on the team.

Lafayette showed up with nine skaters and a single goalie, while their opponents, Penn, brought a full squad.

I figured Lafayette would put up a valiant fight, but would run out of gas in the middle of the second period and end up losing.

When Penn scored three times in quick succession in the second period, bringing a 5-3 lead into the break, it looked like my prophecy would come true.

As the Lafayette players trudged into the locker room, I heard the family members of one player call, “Go get ’em, Kev!” The kid looked up, smiled ruefully and said, “I’m gonna die.”

A couple minutes later, I saw one of the other Lafayette skaters buying a bottle of Powerade from the vending machine in the rink lobby. He looked spent.

And then, absolutely out of nowhere, Lafayette came trucking out for the final period and scored. Once, twice, three times.

They gave one back.

And then they scored again. Once, twice, three times.

100_3523
Start of the period: 5-3, Penn.
Barely two minutes into the period, it's 5-5.
Barely two minutes into the period, it’s 5-5.
90 seconds later, it's 6-5 Lafayette.
90 seconds later, it’s 6-5 Lafayette.
Fast-forward four minutes. The game ended 9-6.
Fast-forward 10 minutes.
Game over. I bet that drink of Gatorade tasted pretty good.
The final buzzer has just sounded. I bet that drink of Gatorade tasted pretty good.

After Lafayette pulled to within 5-4, I went from a dispassionate observer to a fan. I got sucked right in, like the Miracle on Ice, tapping my hands against the boards and rocking anxiously back and forth every time Lafayette beat back a rush.

After the game, the seniors lingered on the ice, posing for pictures.

It was easy to imagine them, 50 years old and graying, still telling each other, “Remember when we dropped six goals on Penn in the third period?”

It felt like a small pleasure of my own to be part of the memory.

We are the champions. Well, maybe not, but we went out winners.
Winners.

And then there was one kid — not a senior, I later found out, but a freshman — who didn’t seem to want to leave the ice.

Over and over he skated circles, up until the Zamboni started to pull onto the ice and he had to leave.

Maybe he found his freshman season too memorable to leave behind. Maybe he was thinking about February of 2016, when he would pull on the uniform for a final time himself.

Either way, after three hard periods of hockey, he wasn’t too tired to cling to his own private reverie.

Sorry, kid. Time to go home.
Sorry, kid. Time to go home.

I do declare, I can float in the air.

You’ve come a long way, WTBU.

Boston University’s student-run radio station recently won Station of the Year honors at the annual College Radio Awards, and was nominated for a couple of other awards.

I was amused to read that even though WTBU has nice new studio space, it’s still barely audible on either AM or FM outside the walls of the building from which it broadcasts.

That was also the case 20 years ago, when I spent the spring semester of 1993 (my sophomore year) simultaneously breaking into the campus radio station and the campus newspaper.

My eventual choice of the newspaper was not difficult. I had no pretensions of radio talent, nor did I perceive it as a career path. But it looked like fun and I felt like trying it for a while, so I did.

I was assigned to shadow an experienced DJ for the semester, and even got to handle the show by myself twice when my mentor had other things to do. (I have tapes of at least one of the shows somewhere, though I would be hard put to sit through it again.)

Nowadays, WTBU overcomes the limitations of its broadcast signal by streaming over the Internet. The station champions local, alternative and otherwise underplayed artists.

In 1993, there was no Internet, and there was no audience.

(Two years later, when I was second-in-command of the campus paper’s weekly arts section, I commissioned a cover story on “A Day In The Life of WTBU,” with reporters sitting in on shows from dawn ’til dusk. One of the common themes: No one called in. No one.)

And there was no organized campaign from the higher-ups, whoever they were, to play alternative artists. You could go down to the cramped little room in the basement of Myles Standish Hall and play whatever the heck you wanted.

(The station’s record collection was weird and scattershot. I remember WTBU had a copy of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Love Beach, which is hilarious, and helps explain why most DJs brought their own tunes with them.)

I remember celebrating the 53rd birthday of Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh by playing the three-song “Help On The Way/Slipknot!/Franklin’s Tower” medley from the Blues for Allah album, followed by a relatively concise live cut from the One From The Vault CD.

No one complained, or called in to request Soundgarden, or anything.

You got the feeling — and accurately so — that a big throbbing cosmopolitan city was circulating all around you, paying you no attention, and you might as well have been filing manila folders in an endless subterranean room full of file cabinets.

Anyway, in honor of WTBU, here’s a song I played on at least one and maybe both of the shows I hosted. I picked it up from my mentor, who played it a couple of times himself.

More people will probably hear this song as a result of my blogging it in 2013 than heard it as a result of my playing it on the radio in 1993. Life is weird like that.

I’m not a huge fan of the band, but this one particular song has the same sense of unhinged, inexplicable absurdity as “Surfin’ Bird.” And if you know me, you know that’s high praise, indeed.

“I am the one who controls the sun, and I know that things will pass as time elapses …”

On ice.

I went to see some college kids play hockey today.

This could easily be one of those blog posts that rants about how the NHL owners and players are all worthless greedheads, and how they are shooting themselves in the feet (if not the head), and how hockey played by unknowns for a crowd of 20 in a rink that smells like teenage socks is somehow purer and more righteous than that played in the NHL.

That would be bushwah, of course.

Grass-roots hockey is often sloppy and imprecise and frustrating to watch.

One of the players I saw today — I’ll spare him the embarrassment of identification — was so clearly deficient in passing, puck-handling and skating that I winced whenever the puck reached him.

The teams combined for 13 goals, one of them an own goal by a defenseman who chipped a bouncing puck the wrong way in front of his own net. That one made me wince too.

I’ve seen a couple club-level (sub-varsity) college hockey games, and there always seems to be one guy on each team who can outskate everyone else. That’s frustrating, too.

Seeing a big-league athlete take a game in the palm of his hand is magical. Seeing a bush-league athlete dominate just makes you think he should have gone to a school with a better hockey program.

All that being said, I enjoyed this afternoon’s outing. I expect I will go again, numerous times, between now and February or March when the local club squads pack it in for the year.

I would even go so far as to say that college hockey as played by the economics and engineering majors at Lehigh and Lafayette is one of the small undiscovered pleasures of the Lehigh Valley. It is low-key, spirited, and accessible. Free, too.

But, no lectures about how I don’t need the NHL when the humble local kids take the ice.

Amateur pluck has its place. So do the crisp laser-like passes and jaw-dropping finishing moves that only the very best can pull off.

One will hold me. But I still miss the other.