Screwy Louie was the coolest guy in band. First of all, he was our first chair drummer, so that automatically made him cool, but he also looked cool, with his waist-length dark hair. However, what really put Screwy Louie at the very pinnacle of the band social hierarchy was his Chevy van and what we did in it every morning before school in the high school parking lot. No, it wasn’t what you are thinking. And it wasn’t that other thing you’re thinking either.
While the other, non-band kids were parking in the main lot and listening to various popular music of the day, Screwy Louie was parking with the rest of the band back behind the Vo-Tech Building in the lot closest to the band hall, and hosting “The Full Zeppelin Experience” in his van every morning. The Full Zeppelin Experience, or FZE, shall we call it, was open to any of us band geeks that wanted to participate, but there were a few requirements.
First and foremost, you had to get there on time. If you arrived after the FZE had already started, you were out of luck. The doors to the van would not be opened again until the FZE was over. Secondly, there was a maximum FZE capacity of ten participants, minus one space for Screwy Louie. Naturally, this set up a competition amongst the rest of us to get there before Screwy Louie arrived so that we would be assured of a spot. When the van pulled up, there we would be; counting ourselves off, making sure our spot was not disputed.
There was no favoritism shown to other drummers or cute girls or anyone else; it was strictly first come, first serve. Once you had gained access to the van, and had situated yourself in whatever manner you could – on the floor, in a lap, whatever – the FZE would commence and no talking, flirting, studying, drumming, air-guitar playing, singing, or otherwise distracting behavior was allowed. With the exception of head banging. Head banging was allowed. Only we didn’t have that term in those days; we were just groovin’.
Screwy Louie would play one album per FZE on his eight track player. The tapes were chosen at random. The person lucky enough to be in the passenger seat would hold the box of tapes, and then Screwy Louie would close his eyes and grab one at random. One would hope for their favorite to be played, but it was all left to the fickle hand of rock fate.
I don’t know to this day what kind of car stereo system he had in that van, but I’ve never since been in a vehicle that had such loud, piercingly clear sound. We would sit silently in the middle of all that awesomeness, close our eyes, and just absorb it to the depths of our being. And that was the Full Zeppelin Experience. I’ve listened to Led Zeppelin so much over the course of my life that it’s almost comical, but I’ve never listened to it with quite the same level of exuberance and utter enthrallment that I did on those early mornings in that Chevy van before school.
The young man, Louis, known affectionately by all who knew him as “Screwy Louie” wasn’t so screwy after all. Louis made his way to New York and has had a long, successful career in the music industry. Not surprising, really. He didn’t just love music; he loved it in an organized, zealous, burning-fire kind of way – and he raised us much lesser lights to a higher level of appreciation of some of the greatest music of our time.
Here’s to all the Screwy Louies out there – keep the fire burning, my rock brethren. I’ll be having my own Full Zeppelin Experience this weekend; you’re welcome to join me in spirit if you like, but you’ve got to give it all you got – no distractions, just like Louie said. Anything less is unworthy of the mighty Zepp. And Screwy Louie.
It was hard to pick a song, because as you know, they are all masterpieces, and I didn’t want to include more than one because who wants to listen to Zeppelin on a crummy computer? Not me. I picked this stellar display of Bonham’s mammoth, leviathan-of-the-deep-sounding drums in honor of Louie – our first chair drummer, and The Full Zeppelin Experience. Plus it’s just awesome beyond words…
Thoughts? Zeppelin fanatic? Got a Screwy Louie story of your own? Please share!