Tuesday, October 21, 2003


When I was in high school, I came to the brutal conclusion that Gary Cherone had even penetrated my mom.

Although he would deny it, the lead singer of Extreme was with my mom in our kitchen conjuring up his best falsetto, swooningly intertwining his angelic harmonies with the vocals of his guitarist, Nuno Bettencourt, as a guitar was plucked and slapped (just as their groupies inevitably were) in the background. It was unnerving. I was unnerved. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Gary! Nuno! You’re taking away my rebellion! You were a hard rock band that was supposed rock hard. Not rock hardly.
And what made matters worse, was that in recent days, I had found Extreme’s presence also in my dentist’s office, my dry cleaners and horribly enough, my local supermarket, Pathmark. I walked up and down the aisles listening to "More Than Words" on the speakers only to be interrupted on occasion for a price check on the honeydew ("….more than words is all you had to…attention, clean up on aisle 5"). I wanted to grab hold of the suburban moms in their Members Only windbreakers as they whistled along, even mouthing the words. I wanted to yell at them for not knowing about Pornograffitti’s other songs like "He Man Woman Hater" or "Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)." You wanted ballads? Go listen to the balding safeness that is Phil Collins. Grab your exhausted cassette of Chicago’s Greatest Hits and look away, baby, look away. But please, just leave my Extreme alone. Your favorite band should be named "Moderate."

And then a week later as I turned on the radio to hear Extreme’s newest single, suburban moms everywhere rejoiced. Another ballad was born and its name was "Hole Hearted."


While some insist that the most influential movies of their youth were E.T., Raider of the Lost Ark or Star Wars, mine was Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It is difinitevly Keunu Reeves best acting role (or was he actually acting? Discuss) and it introduced me to the glories of hair metal. Yes. The glories of hair metal. To this day no movie has been bold enough to send Socrates, Joan of Arc and Napoleon to the mall whilst flying arpeggios tangled furiously in the background. It was the Fruity Pebbles to my ears. It was like crack cocaine, if back then I had actually known what crack cocaine was. Later on, the closing credits informed me that the song in the mall scene, my newest raison d’etre, was Extreme’s "Play with Me." I bought their debut album the next day. Which coincidentally was the day I decided I needed to have long hair.

I stuck with Extreme throughout the years from the self-titled album until three albums later, Waiting For the Punchline (where I can boast to be one of the 17 proud owners of this fine final chapter (of course, outside of the Bettencourt family)). And despite the ambitious brilliance of their grandiose effort, III Sides to Every Story, my favorite remains Pornograffitti. Granted, I felt slighted when "More Than Words" became a surprise make-out hit (dude, we don’t make out in metal. We tongue) but as I grew older and debunked the myth of Cooties, I realized that we all get sensitive once a while. No, that’s not a tear. It’s just that something got in my eye…

Sporting a decent voice and having a best friend that could replicate the best licks around Elizabeth, N.J., Moshe and I learned how to play a dead ringer of "More Than Words." Doing something this feminine never felt so manly. And of course, when we were done learning, nothing was ever the same.
Night after nights, we would sit upstairs in Moshe’s attic for hours at a time strumming our hand-me-down acoustic guitars, which might as well had a Playskool label on them. I delivered the most passionate and heartfelt Cherone I could muster. I closed my eyes and imagined having long black curly locks and a thousand "chicks" screaming my name (the only problem was that I was sure they would mispronounce "Arye"). After we had felt confident enough with our rendition, we decided to record it. Like an old school indie rock band, we found a mini-cassette recorder, found a tape to record it on (I think, we taped over a copy of a Police album. Our way of sticking it to Sting) and went through four renditions until we got it just right. Moshe even did the tapping that Nuno does at the end of the song.

As all stories involving awkward teens and music goes, there eventually was a girl. Her name isn’t important (and besides the court order says I can’t mention it) but she became the target and association of every cheesy lyric I had heard. I finally understood when Cherone and co. sang that "there’s a hole in my heart that could only be filled by you," what that hole felt like and how it could be filled. I desperately wanted to impress her as the only thing I had working for me was a bitchin’ comic book collection. I decided to play her the cassette.

One night after my Algebra homework, I picked up the phone and nervously dialed every number as if I was asking someone to marry me. Each button pushed was another proposal. And the following digit was reliving the humiliation and despair of doing it again.
The phone rang.
She picked up.
I asked her if I could play something for her over the phone that Moshe and I had recorded.
She said, sure. Hesitatingly, I pressed the play button. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the confidence. It was that perhaps she couldn’t know how huge this moment was for me. This was massive. This was nothing normal or regular. This was Extreme.
The song ended and I put the phone back to my ear to listen to her gush.
And I’ll never forget the first thing she said to me for as long as I live.
"That was really great, Arye. My mom really loves that song."


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