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  • Writer's pictureMichael Lenzi

(Re)Collection: Fool In The Rain

In high school, I blended in. Maybe that is a blessing. Or is it a curse in disguise? I don't think my teachers would remember me. I was agreeable but forgettable. "Blando blando" as Joe Strummer would say. Hide me please.

I used to feel ashamed that I was not more of a rebel in my youth. Now I just accept my nature. I am more curious than I am opinionated and more accepting than I am judgmental. I have never been one to like arguing and confrontation. I went through a lot of familial and emotional turmoil in my young life. I found a way to get along without letting it tear me down. I don't like drama.

I knew I was going to college just like most of my friends. It was expected. I applied to a handful of schools knowing next to nothing about them and got into one, Dickinson College. That is where I went. I was fortunate to have my dad's life insurance pay for most of my education. He died when I was 13, and my mom put the money into a trust until I was 18. That relatively small amount of money combined with what she saved up paid for my school. She was the one responsible person in my family. Without her, I probably wouldn't have gone to college. My sister dropped out of high school, so my mom put all her effort and hopes into me.

My mom often regaled me with stories about her college days. She was in a sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. She spoke glowingly about the fraternity/sorority life. I assumed it was something that all college kids did. When I went to college and found myself courted by a few fraternities, I went with it.

I know that people in the arts and music look down on fraternities and sororities as uncool. I get it. I didn't feel one way or the other about it. All my friends on my freshmen floor pledged a fraternity. 80% of the freshmen in my school joined a fraternity or sorority. It was the norm. And I wanted to be normal. Or at least try it out. I didn't find the hazing traumatic. I wouldn't call it terrible. I guess I am resilient and can take my share of abuse.

A lot of people I know say that they are not joiners or that they wouldn't belong to any club that would have them. I understand that, but I have always longed to be part of something larger than myself. I have played team sports. I was in a fraternity. I can do it. But just because I am able to do it does not mean that it is always right for me. I make that judgment for myself on a case by case basis.

In my sophomore year of college, I was good friends with a kid named Brian and his best friend Keith. People referred to Brian as Head because he had a large head. Keith they called Ken because he looked like a Ken doll. They hung out together all the time so people dubbed them the Twins. Clever, right?

Brian, Keith and I were all in the same fraternity. And a fraternity is much like a hockey team. They are basically interchangeable. Whatever people say fraternity guys or hockey players are like is probably true on some level. But I would add that most guys are guilty of many of the same flawed thoughts and actions. When you put them together under one roof, it becomes a fraternity. The social norms of the clique distort behavior. Musicians and artists aren't much different.

Brian and I were roommates. We went out with freshmen who were also roommates, Mary and Anna. If you are expecting sordid tales about this situation, I have none. We were all good friends. It was 1985 and Miami Vice was a popular show. It aired on Friday nights at 10 PM. Brain and I would go over to their dorm room and watch it. It usually turned into a party with other women from their floor joining us. Lots of drinks and laughter at the expense of the show's cheesy dialogue and aesthetics.

The Jan Hammer theme song and the terrible clothes are what sticks in my memory. It was a throwaway show to me. I didn't usually watch much TV. I was always on my bike. I lived on that thing. It was a purple Cannondale aluminum frame racing bike. I would hop on it after class and on the weekend and ride up through the farm country and into the Appalachian mountains. It was such gorgeous riding. The only hazard was locals in pick up trucks who would occasionally throw beer bottles at me or try to run me off the road with shouts of "faggot" and accompanying laughter. I was dressed in brightly colored lycra. I must have been a very unwelcome and offensive sight to them.

My girlfriend Mary was cool. She and her roommate just called my Mobile (pronounced mo-beel) because I was always on that bike. She and I liked the same music and exchanged mix tapes as was the custom in that era. Elvis Costello was a particular favorite of hers. What cemented the feeling that she was ok was her inclusion of both the Slickee Boys' When I Go To The Beach and Led Zeppelin's Fool in the Rain on the A side of the first tape she gave me (although if I remember correctly, she wrote their name as the Slickery People. Haha).

The Slickee Boys were a legendary psychedelic surf rock party band from the DC area. My best friend Ben and I saw them many times over the years. They were a great live band that ushered in the DC punk era without sounding anything like the hardcore and post-punk that followed and defined the DC sound.

Fool In The Rain was an oddity on that tape. It was firmly from another generation of music that I did not listen to much at that time. It was my sister's music and not mine. But I love the song. It might be the most joyous and lighthearted Led Zeppelin song. It bounces and bobs with a mixture of funk and latin rhythms. John Bonham's drumming is nimble, bombastic and buoyant.

Mary and I parted ways at the end of my Sophomore year on good terms. She knew I was going away for a year to Germany. My Junior year was a whirlwind and an eye opener. College life seemed so incredibly dull in comparison. When I returned, my relationship with the fraternity went down hill fast.

It was already strained before I finished my Sophomore year. I did still have some friends there, but the immaturity of some of the people in the house grated on me. I wanted to disassociate myself from it. I spent no time there, and my fraternity brothers started giving me a hard time. At a Sunday meeting in the Fall, a few guys wanted to vote me out. I ended up getting in a fist fight with a few of them. It was kind of awesome actually. What a way to go out!

A few years after college, I made the decision to commit myself to learning the drums. John Bonham's style and skill level was something to aspire to but not something I ever thought I could get close to replicating. After all these years of drumming, I can finally play the Fool In The Rain part pretty well. That is satisfying. Mostly because I never thought it was possible. Also, I rarely spend my time learning other drummers' parts. Perhaps with the exception of some of Clyde and Jabo's parts on James Brown recordings.

Bonham plays a variation of Bernard Purdie's Purdie Shuffle in the main part of the song. Check out this video for a few laughs and an explanation of what underpins that legendary beat. He is a character. Enjoy!

I am also including a video link to Toto's Rosanna. Jeff Porcaro's part is another variation on the Purdie Shuffle. It is a goofy tune, but it exemplifies what was actually on the radio in the 80s!

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