Tuesday, August 22, 2006

At The Copa...

Come closer... closer... closer, I say... I will share a secret with you, but only you...

When I was very young, about 6 or 7 I decided I wanted to be a singer. Not just any old singer, but I wanted to sing the theme songs to my favorite shows. I would watch "The Brady Bunch", "Gilligan's Island" and "Scooby Doo" just knowing I could take those songs to previously unheard of heights. Even "I Dream of Jeannie" was on my list of must-do songs even though it was entirely instrumental... Nobody, and I mean nobody could "Do...do....do-do-do-do-do" better than I and there never was a greater "whoosh" for when Jeannie came out of her bottle house than the one I created. After I was sent to bed, which was usually just before "Charlie's Angels" came on, I would use my sheets and blankets with their airplanes and cowboy motifs all over them to make elaborate costumes that would have my imaginary audience ooohing and aaaahing all over the place while I dazzled them with my vocal brilliance, singing soundless words into a hairbrush so my mom wouldn't hear me and end my career before it even got started. I also had huge dreams of being on the Mike Douglas Show singing my theme songs as loud as my lungs would allow... And not only that, I was doing to sing them as duets. Yes, I was going to team up with none other than Olivia Newton-John herself. We were going to be sensational together. I would choreograph my entrance, and, of course, she would thank me for making her career such a success... We even had our very own "Solid Gold" dancers. This was before "Grease" was the word.

Occasionally I would let my sister Laura join in the festivities. We would play Donny and Marie and we would always get into a fight over who got to be Marie. Not that I wanted to BE Marie, but she had all the better songs... Ok, Donny did have the the occasional cool song "...and they call it puppy love...." but they just could not compare with "Paper roses, paper roses, oh how real those roses seem to be, but they're only imitation, like your imitation love for me". See? Can you blame me for fighting for that one? Of course, I had no idea what the song was about, but I thought it was real perdy.

Somewhere between being a little bit country and little bit rock-and-roll, I discovered another young talent on the musical horizon that I felt I could team up with and together, we would be unstopable. Yes, I also felt I had been alive forever and wrote the very first song and when I heard the story about Lola and a dress cut down to there - Ok, I had no idea where "there" was, but it had a catchy sound and I would re-enact scenes from the song during my night-time performances, always wondering who actually shot who. Yep, we were going to be huge. Me and Barry. Doesn't R&B stand for Robb & Barry? The term had not yet been invented, but I would be willing to go out on a limb here and claim myself as the very first "Fanilow".

As I got older my musical sophistication also increased and then one day in 1979, the album that was to put gasoline on my career as a performer was released. Xanadu. That wasn't just an album, that was the link to my career. within hours of buying the album, I knew every word and intonation. Olivia and I were back on track to being the dynamic duo of the recording studio and hotel lounges throughout the midwest. One day, while reading the credits, I came across the name of Jeff Lynn, a member of ELO, and decided it was time to stop dreaming and start performing. Fans were waiting. I sat down and wrote Mr. Lynn a letter something along the lines of:

    Dear Mr. Lynn,
    My name is Rob Selander and I am in the 8th grade. I think Xanadu is the best album in the whole world. I want to be a singer and would like any help or advice you can give me.
    Your's Truly,
    Rob Selander

Now, this may come as a surprise, but I never heard anything back from that letter although even now, recalling it from memory, I can see the simple brilliance that he obviously could not. Not being one for rejection, I switched gears and decided to launch my own career. I didn't need him and soon, very soon, he would be very, very sorry. I began holding private vocal performances for friends. Actually, I went back to my original formula... Me and Olivia. I had my own phone in my room which was quite rare in those days and I would put the Xanadu album on the song "Magic", hold the receiver close to one of my speakers that came complete with sound activated disco lights and would sing my little heart out. Holly and Heidi were twins that went to my school and they would phone me every night and I would serenade them until we all decided it was probably time for me to save my voice for yet another day.

Those performances continued until it was time for final exams. I decided that for my English exam I would not give a speech, but I would sing. I had recently graduated from Xanadu to the now greatest album ever made "Paradise Theater" from Styx. I obviously had too much time on my hands and decided that I would woo and wow my fellow 8th grade classmates with my rendition of "Snowblind". Not one to fool with successful formulas, I arranged a record player from the school library, brought in my album which I had to carry around the whole day as it would not fit into my locker, and just after lunch which I did not spend rehearsing as I obviously was talented enough not to be bothered with such a useless activity, I went into my English class. I was one of the last to be called, but that was fine. How would anyone be able to go after me? I was going to raise that bar higher than anyone imagined. I put the record on the player (that was before we called them turntables), carefully put the needle down and waited. I sang like Miss Shug in the Color Purple. When I finished, the whole room was speechless. Nobody said a word. They were so obvioulsy dazzled by my talent, but who wouldn't have been? My teacher told me that he did not in any way see how my performance fit into English class, but he gave me a decent grade for effort and sent me on my way.

The gossip machine, being what it is at that age was in full swing and within minutes the whole school was aware of what I had done. I was one of those nerdy kids in Junior High. Always taunted and teased by the bigger and cooler kids and would often find myself being deposited into one trash can or another and that is exactly where I found myself about 5 minutes later.

To be unappreciated in one's own time is the cross of every great artist. I wonder if Beyoncé has a similar story. In any event, there you have it, the complete history of my brief yet somewhat eventful vocal career.

Now, shhhhhhh... don't tell anyone!

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