Day Three at Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Tue Nov 13 06:18:05 CST 2007

>From The Los Angeles Times: 

Day Three at Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp 
Is it mind-blowing to play "Pinball Wizard" with Roger Daltrey and "Sweet Child O' Mine" with Slash? Just a little bit. 
Times Staff Writer

At the end of Day Three, I was simply not in the right frame of mind to objectively contextualize the major events of the day. So I took a day to mull over the the astounding fact that my band had played "Pinball Wizard" with Roger Daltrey on lead vocals and "Sweet Child O' Mine" with Slash on lead guitar. 

I will attempt to speak truthfully about these experiences without communicating what might appear to be ludicrous hyperbole.

First, a little backstory: 

The morning of Day Two, I sat down to breakfast with camp counselor Mark Hudson (producer-songwriter for Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne and Ringo Starr) and David Fishof, founder and CEO of the Rock Camp organization. They were both going on effusively about the wondrous effects of the camp, telling me about campers who'd written them to say that Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp had transformed their lives, saved their marriages or otherwise wrought something wondrous. "That's the real payoff," Fishof concluded. 

"Yeah, that and the money," I said, thinking of the $9500 entry fee. 

Nonplussed by my comment, Fishof and Hudson stuck to their guns, stressing that Rock Camp was a labor of love with costs mostly funneled towards logistics (renting out a giant chunk of the MGM Grand, for one) and profits largely vested in smiles, hugs and Hallmark cards. 

Well, Day Three was the first day I began to truly believe them. Call it predictable, but performing with Roger Daltrey and Slash were moments I will likely recall in my final moments on planet earth. 

It was an excellent day from the get-go. Under the exacting but good-natured eye of Bruce Kulick (guitarist of Kiss during the makeup-free years of the '80s and '90s), who was pinch-hitting for Mark Slaughter (taking a leave of absence to attend a meeting on the East Coast), my band managed to inject some semblance of order into GN'R's "Sweet Child o' Mine" and put a nice sheen on our arrangement of The Who's "Pinball Wizard." 

We couldn't help but bond in the deep mystical ways known only to musicians, army buddies and other disaster survivors. And our non-mystical sweat really paid off. 

When Daltrey finally arrived, after a torturous 15-minute countdown, we were ready. As I kicked off "Pinball" with Pete Townshend's gorgeous intro of cascading minor and augmented chords, Daltrey looked over at me with something approaching shock. "Kid, you're nailing it," was the message behind his blue eyes. And when lead guitarist Sheldon hit the opening electric chord with a Townshend-trademarked "windmill" strum, followed by some very John Entwistle-esque bass work from our own Stephen, it was obvious that this volcano of a vocalist -- the man responsible for the greatest scream in rock 'n' roll history -- was feeling a little piece of the magic he and his own mates had conjured in stadiums around the world. 

With a friendly arm around our own lead singer, Amanda, Daltrey then gave us a fully committed vocal performance of "Pinball," the signature track from the Who's 1969 "Tommy" album, widely regarded as the world's first major rock opera. The energy was tremendous the whole way through: Our most worrisome moment, the dramatic "da-da-dum" ending went off just right with no static between dual drummers Chris and Yayo. 

"That was really good, guys!" the infamously perfectionist Daltrey told us as the last chord faded. "And that's not an easy song to play!" 

Now, no one fell to the floor, writhing in ecstasy. No one got hired to join the next Who tour or invited over to Rog's place for tea. But the camaraderie at the photo session afterward was real, as was Daltrey's sympathy for Chris' condition. "We're all in the same boat, mate," he replied, a little affected after getting the dreadful unexpurgated explanation of Chris' journey from diagnosis of liver cancer to hospice. "'There but for the grace of God go I.'" 

After performing and bonding with Roger Daltrey, I, for one, was actually a little blasé about meeting Slash. This was probably as much a coping mechanism as a case of acute anxiety wouldn't have helped me get through "Sweet Child o' Mine." But if I was fairly relaxed in the moments leading up to our little summit, I was even more so once he arrived. 

Slash, as it turns out, hadn't played the song since leaving Guns N' Roses and had to confer with our trio of guitarists, Yayo, Sheldon and Rich, to map out the exact constellation of arpeggiated notes that inaugurates the song. After an aborted first effort that left all of us--Slash included--in stitches, he got it together. 

There I was, a novice drummer watching Mr. Saul "Slash" Hudson begin to recreate a hefty patch of my junior high tapestry with one of the biggest power ballads ever recorded. 

And his solo was everything one could hope for. 

Was the experience perfect? Not even close. One of Rock Camp's video folks decided to park himself directly in front of my kit for a better view, and I had to expend a couple empty beats poking him in the kidneys with my drumstick so I could reestablish eye contact (or in this case, Aviator-sunglasses-contact) with Slash. This was no mere stargazing. He was no longer Slash the icon. He was the guitarist in my band. As one of the drummers, I needed to see him in order to pick up on the visual cues. For the guitarists in particular it was something like ecstasy. And apparently Slash enjoyed it as well because he stuck around for a little instrumental blues jam, which presented an amazing opportunity for Slash and our teenage Slash-in-training, Yayo, to trade solos. 

Posing for photographs afterwards, I have to admit there was precious little of the warm fuzziness I'd experienced with Daltrey. Clearly, Slash is a man of few words so I was content to let the music be our only point of real contact. Things changed subtly when one of the Rock Camp corporals yelled out, "He's a journalist, Slash! He writes for the LA Times!" 

"The enemy, Slash! He's the enemy!" another yelled. 

Deaf to the lampoons, Slash turned to me, a grin spreading across his face and said, "Really? You write for the L.A. Times? Which section?" 

"The Guide," I replied. 

That's cool, man," he said. "I get your paper every day." 

-Brian in Atlanta 
The Who This Month!

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