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CJ Marsicano

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Resonant Blue
by CJ Marsicano   

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Books by CJ Marsicano
· Deliver Us From Evil (anthology)
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Publisher:  TGML Press ISBN-10:  1105725782 Type: 


Copyright:  May 4, 2012 ISBN-13:  9781105725784

“Kid, you’re too young, too punk, and too female to be in a real rock and roll band.”

When an audition for a guitarist’s position in an established group goes sour with one snide sentence, 16-year-old Reina Kawamura is determined to start her own punk rock band.

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Resonant Blue

 “Kid, you’re too young, too punk, and too female to be in a real rock and roll band.”

When an audition for a guitarist’s position in an established group goes sour with one snide sentence, 16-year-old Reina Kawamura is determined to start her own punk rock band.

With her older brother’s hand-me-down Strat in hand, her experiences witnessing the California punk scene a few years earlier, and her best friends at her side and on stage with her, the group starts off as a semi-serious lark. As time goes on, the experiences Reina goes through as a musician and a person in the ensuring months end up changing her life – on and off stage – for the better.

The debut novel from writer/blogger/musician CJ Marsicano, Resonant Blue is a must-read for anyone who’s ever been in a garage band or was close with someone who was – irregardless of genre, gender, or locale.


“You’re too young, too punk, and too female to be in a real rock and roll band.”

Gee, three slaps in the face all in a row, and after I played my ass off, too. In the back of my mind, I know that there will be other bands. Nevertheless, right now, I feel a little let down.

My name is Reina Kawamura. I just turned 16 this past June of 1983. My father is the vice-president of one of the biggest electronics firms in Japan. I have two older siblings, an older brother, Hideki, and a middle sister, Natsumi. I’m the youngest of the three.

The “too young, too punk, too female” statement hurled in my direction like a zoo monkey throwing his own feces at people came from an audition I went to for a band. Hideki had told me that this band was looking for a guitar player and thought I should try out. Then again, Hideki has always been very encouraging. He taught me how to play in the first place, and passed on one of his old guitars, a red Fender Stratocaster, to me a few years ago.

I went to the audition straight from class. I had on my school uniform, and for luck, I had put on the lapel of my seifuku an Iggy Pop button that I bought in a record store a few months ago. The button is a picture of Iggy from the Raw Power album cover. I love Iggy and the Stooges. I also like Neil Young and Robert Fripp.

When I arrived at the audition, I was ready to try out for them. We played a couple of songs – nothing I recognized. They were the band’s own compositions. They were pretty simple, I thought – sort of retreads of the same kind of territory that Kiss and T.Rex had mined in the past. Nothing against either band – Natsumi had taken me to see Kiss at the Budokan in 1977 (I was ten years old at the time), and I wore out two copies of T.Rex’s Electric Warrior album already in my lifetime – my mother’s old original copy (she loved Marc Bolan) and a cassette copy I had bought 18 months ago. I was a bit confused because I had been told that this band was playing covers and not originals, but I was prepared to try anything they wanted.

After I had played the songs with them, they asked me whom my influences were. I said Ron Asheton (Iggy Pop’s guitarist in The Stooges), James Williamson (The Stooges’s other guitarist on Raw Power), Neil Young, and Robert Fripp. The girl singer raised an eyebrow at me and started to smile. She looked at one of the other band members – the drummer, who nodded in agreement with her – then asked me, “So, what is it about those guitarists that inspires you the most?”

Before I could answer the question, their guitarist interrupted us. “Never mind that,” he said, “How could you listen to four different guitarists like that?”

The girl singer and the drummer tried to hush him. He cleared his throat and said, “OK, poor choice of words. What I meant to ask was: Why on earth would you listen to a guy who threw peanut butter at people?” This was a direct reference to Iggy Pop’s legendary incident where someone handed him a jar of peanut butter at a festival.

“Did you ever listen to Fun House or Raw Power?” I asked him.

“Never even heard of them,” he claimed.

Must be nice for him to be living in a vacuum, I thought to myself.

Then the girl singer asked me how old I was.

“Sixteen,” I said.

“That’s it?” she said. “Wow, you’re pretty good — ”

“Kid, you’re too young, too punk, and too female to be in a real rock and roll band.” Then he tried to offer to buy my guitar for fifty thousand yen (about $500). I said it wasn’t for sale, bowed, thanked them for their time, and left.

What I wanted to do was tell them to go fuck themselves.

* * *

Two days after that lame-ass audition, it was Friday night; I was hanging out with two of my best friends from school, Kaori and Asami. We were walking through downtown Tokyo, headed for the record store.

Earlier that day, Kaori had called me and asked me to bring a few cassettes with me.

“What kind and what for?” I asked.

“I got a new boom box for my birthday yesterday,” said Kaori. “And you’re the queen of picking out cool music, so I trust you with bringing a few goodies.”

“You realize that there’s going to be at least one Iggy Pop tape and one Neil Young tape with me, right?” I said.

“Girlfriend, how easily you forget that I’m the one who bought you your first Iggy Pop album two years ago.” (It was Lust for Life, bought as a birthday present.) “And as long as it’s some loud Neil Young like Rust Never Sleeps or just about anything with Crazy Horse, you can bring all the Neil Young your little heart desires.”

Right after I hung up, I pulled out two Iggy Pop tapes (one with Lust For Life and The Idiot on it, the other with the first two Stooges albums), one Neil Young tape (a mix tape I’d made of all loud rockers of his), and a store-bought King Crimson cassette of Discipline, their first album since they reformed in 1981. I threw them all in my purse.

Later that day, I met up with Kaori at the apartment where Asami and her parents lived. Kaori had her new boom box with her. Kaori was showing off the boom box to Asami’s father and was playing a tape of enka music (something her mother had given her to go with the boom box) to give him an idea of how it sounded.

His response? “Turn that crap off and put a Beatles tape on.”

“I don’t have any Beatles on cassette,” Kaori said, slightly bummed. She hadn’t had time to tape the stuff she wanted to tape since she’d only had the boom box for a day, which is why she asked me to bring a couple of tapes in the first place.

Asami’s father pulled a 5,000-yen note out of his wallet and said, “After you take this to the record store you will. Happy birthday.”

So there we were, walking through downtown Tokyo on our way to the record store. I had handed Kaori the Iggy tape to put in. I’d meant to start with Lust for Life but in a rush to meet with them, I had rewound the wrong side of the tape and we ended up hearing The Idiot instead. “Sister Midnight” was playing with very good fidelity through the boom box’s stereo speakers.

“So, Reina,” said Kaori. “I meant to ask you, how did that band audition go?”

“Lousy. They didn’t even take me seriously.”

“Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me. What did they say?”

“That I was too punk, too young and too female to be in a band.”

“Wait one fucking minute,” said Asami. “They said all that shit?”

“What kind of band was it, anyway?” asked Kaori. “What kind of music?”

“Absolute shit, probably, if they didn’t think Reina was good.”

“What are you getting at, Asami?” I asked.

“We should form our own band.”

“You say that at least once a month,” said Kaori.

“I know, so you have to reason that I’m dead serious,” said Asami.

“We’ve been through this before,” I said. “I’d be all for it if we could find a bass player and a drummer. Two guitar players and a keyboardist by themselves aren’t going to cut it.”

“I’m getting a bass next weekend,” said Asami.

I stopped in my tracks right there. “You’re what?”

“I said, ‘I’m getting a bass next weekend’. The bass player in Hideki’s band happens to be my cousin, remember? He’s already shown me a few things.”

“And your father is alright with this?” Kaori asked Asami.

“Kaori Saguro, you’re talking about the same man that gave you 5,000 yen without blinking an eye as a belated birthday gift to buy cassettes. He’s always loved music. Why do you think he had me playing piano? I told him my idea for getting a bass and he said ‘If you can play two instruments, you’re sure to get into any band and you’ll always have work’.”

“OK, supposing we do find a drummer? Where are we going to practice?” I said.

“Didn’t Hideki say we could use his own band’s practice pad anytime?”

“Yeah, but I don’t want to inconvenience him like that.”

“We can get one of the rooms at school after classes,” said Kaori. “It wouldn’t be the first time a band was rehearsing there, especially if we were going to be playing at the school festival this fall.”

“Whoa, slow down,” I said. “You’ve been thinking about this, too?”

“Remember that band that won the talent show at the festival last year?”

“Yeah, those guys from the graduating class that were emulating The Jam.”

“They had access to one of the rooms at school. We can get one of those rooms if need be, too.”

“And what are we going to do for a set list? And who’s going to sing?”

“Both of those are your responsibility,” said Asami.

“Why me?”

“Because you have one of the best voices in the school chorus, and if you’re going to be singing, you’ll have to pick out songs you’re comfortable with singing.”

I had to concede that Asami was right. I was more proud of my guitar playing than my vocals, and I’m sure I’m not the only person on the planet that doesn’t like the sound of their own voice. However, my music teacher at school said I had a pleasant singing voice, and one of my two best friends was affirming that.

We were approaching the record store that we all liked. I turned to Asami and Kaori and said, “Okay, I’ll tell you what. If you guys can find a drummer and a practice space, I’m in.” We went inside the record store and that was that for the conversation about forming a band. I had probably given Asami and Kaori similar conditions every time the subject of us forming a band turned up in conversation, and didn’t think much about it otherwise. We went in the record store and left after having spent a few thousand yen each on music. I bought an American import LP of Iggy Pop’s Zombie Birdhouse that I had stumbled over at the last minute; mostly, I had bought some more blank cassettes. I had a bunch of albums I’d wanted to tape for what seemed like ages.

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