Georgy Girl

We played a number of fun gigs, Sticks, Riff, Flapper, Pinkie and I, and the material continued to grow in complexity. What a relief from the previous ten years of three-chord drudgery!

As for schoolwork, by the summer of 1984, my research and writing were done
(the title was On the Solution of Linear Finite Difference Equations with Constant Coefficients), and next were the Oral Examinations. It was hotter than hell that day in the Trafton Science Center, but I would have been sweating it out anyway, not knowing what to expect. I knew the members of my graduate committee well enough (hell, had gotten drunk with all three at one time or another), nonetheless, I didn't want to screw up anything and embarrass the chair, who was an especially good friend and superior mathematician. More about him another time. By the way, my committee came to see us play at the Kasota Legion one night. I'm sure that's why they passed me, awarding a Master of Arts in Mathematics--for they had won the most prizes, including an enormous autographed brassiere! Payola in the rock biz again?

Degree in hand, I promptly applied for various positions and quite rapidly secured one as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Potato State. Taking on the new position would necessitate a huge amount of preparation.
I did mention that I had never enrolled in a computer science course before, didn't I? By the time I moved on to Gustavus Adolphus College seven years later, I had taught over fifteen different courses, all new to me, so you can see I would be pretty busy.

For that reason, I decided to bail out of the Pharaohs once again and concentrate on academic pursuits. Flapper also resolved to leave at that time.

But the band kept going. Over the next five years, the East Side Pharaohs would undergo an infinitude of changes, even Sticks and Pinkie departing along the way. (Rather remarkably, the group would eventually endure thirty years one way or another, Riff Andrews being the only constant.) The material also started shifting further and further away from the fifties roots. I was too busy with schoolwork to pay very much attention as an outsider. Well, there was that business of the carpet burns on the elbows garnered from a quick dalliance with one of their singers. What is it about brunettes?

But then in 1988 or so, something startling came to pass. Riff decided to reorganize the whole shebang. Remarkably, Pinkie returned as did Flapper. Just that alone meant that the songs would become more accessable to the older audiences the Pharaohs once courted. And the volume became civil again. The group also sported a new drummer, someone I hadn't met before: Spike, the Wonder Dog.

In 1989, their guitarist had to leave for a day job out of town, meaning there was an opening. College life was under control for me finally, and so I returned to the band I help start fifteen years earlier. The line-up was: Pinkie on vocals, Riff on bass, Flapper on keyboards, me on guitar and Spike on drums.

Let me tell you a little bit about Spike. First, he was academically trained in music and was adept on a number of instruments. In our group, he would sometimes pick up a trumpet (or was it a flugelhorn?)  and play a solo while simultaneously drumming with the feet and remaining free hand. Moreover, he was a great singer, excellent tone and accurate as the dickens. So we had four voices now for harmony, and even Flapper joined in from time to time. With all those voices, it was wonderful being able to tackle more intricate pieces now.

Which leads to an amusing story. I had proposed to the Pharaohs that we should learn
Georgie Girl. Everyone but Spike was agreeable, but a little pleading and horsetrading got us through that. Nonetheless, he was definitely foot-dragging on it, claiming, "No one will like it, no will dance to it."

I specifically requested the song because: (a) it was dorky, (b) no other performers in their right minds would ever consider doing it live, and (c) it was hard as hell.

We worked our tails off on this song, more than any other tune I can recall in my years of playing. We were actually able to extract all four of the vocal harmonies accurately from the record, just by repeated listenings, over and over and over. And then the rehearsals began. Because the song is fairly zippy, Riff and I had to really concentrate, not just to sing our parts correctly (which were both quite unusual collections of notes--sort of like the residua baritones get stuck with in barbershop quartets), but also to play moderately rapid and complex passages on our instruments simultaneously.

Believe me when I say, every night we performed
Georgy Girl, I had to stop drinking, take a deep breath before commencing, and concentrate like a son-of-a-bitch from top to bottom. It was damn hard work.

So anyway, we licked it, and were finally ready to wheel it out at the Kasota Legion, if I recall aright. Remember what Spike had said about the tune? We started it up, Flapper playing the highly recognizable flute part during the introduction. And then all pandemonium hit.

Within two measures, the dance floor completely filled!

I'm not kidding; the audience members were literally jockeying for space, just to gyrate to this goofy little song from the 1960s.

And at the risk of sounding highly immodest, our rendition was a good one. Pinkie really nailed the vocal style perfectly, and the harmonies were remarkable recreations. I used to get goosebumps performing it.

In short, of anything musical I've ever been associated with,
Georgy Girl has made me the proudest.

As far as I know, no recording of our version exists. And there aren't even any onstage photographs of this incarnation of the East Side Pharaohs. But, I do have a few taken at our frequent vocal rehearsals. Here is a slide show of Riff, Flapper, Spike, Pinkie and me. The audio is from a live humorous introductory bit at an Owatonna performance. Pinkie outdoes herself on the ad-libs!

Not long after, several months perhaps, Spike was ready to move on. I suspect he had grown weary of my puerile and bawdy humor on stage, especially when relatives and friends would come see us play. So he decided to leave. Yes, it was sad to lose such a talented musician.

But waiting just around the corner was the missing ingredient, the fifth person who finally locked everything in place: Hubert.

Next installment: The Culmination

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