In the early ’90s, the Jesus Lizard—vocalist David Yow, guitarist Duane Denison, David Wm. Sims and drummer Mac McNeilly—was untouchable. Not literally, of course—if you were at one of its hundreds of shows in that era, you could very easily touch ’em. And given the amount of time Yow spent slithering on top of the audience, you probably didn’t have a choice in the matter. Denison and McNeilly will be guest editing. Read our new MAGNET Classics feature on the band’s Liar album, one of the most important LPs of the ’90s.
Denison: A few years ago I was asked to come down to my daughter’s school and do a little musical presentation for her kindergarten class. I readily agreed. I figured it would give me a good reason to polish up some fingerpickin’ pieces I’d been working on: Chet Atkins’ “Mr Sandman,” “Faded Love,” etc. Not easy stuff by any means, but the kids will love it, right? Plus the kids won’t be as critical as adults usually are, especially here in Music City USA. The day arrived. Armed with my trusty Martin, I strode into the classroom and introduced myself to the expectant faces. After tuning and chatting for a minute, I began playing “Mr Sandman.” About halfway through, I noticed some of the kids getting fidgety. Feet wiggling, eyes looking around, a whisper here and there. I finished my decent if unremarkable version, and promptly began another tune. Now they’re clearly losing interest: giggling, grabbing and tickling, obviously bored … I stop … What now? I’m losing them. My labored machinations are falling on deaf ears. Gotta do something. I pull out a pick and begin playing the only songs I can really play and sing at the same time. All the old tunes: “Jailhouse Rock,” “Johnny B. Good,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” etc. The kids light up and immediately begin to dance, cheer and clap. They form a conga line and begin spontaneously circling around me. The teacher tries to enforce order, but it doesn’t last long. How could it, when Elvis and Chuck are creating anarchy right there in the classroom? Oh reader, Blackboard Jungle, indeed! The lesson I got reminded of that day: Keep it simple. Keep it rhythmic. Make it fun for them, not just you. Keep your nerdfest music at home. Rock shall free the masses!