Best Party: Hands down, the Slow Ride Party my junior year in high school at Dan Merrill’s house on the North Shore of Chicago. Dan’s parents were out of town and we threw the best party in the history of Illinois suburbia.
The Slow Ride Party. After rocking out in my band The Suicidal Kings in the local Jr. High cafeteria for all those little kids who were loving us like we were demigods, we went back to Dan Merrill’s house for the after party, which turned into The Slow Ride party because some joker, probably Tony DeLio, set the cd player to some repeat mode on the Foghat song Slow Ride. While annoying at first, it soon became a thing..we found ourselves singing along all night “SLOW RIDE! TAKE IT EASY!!” over and over again. Every time someone would fix the settings on the cd player, another joker, most likely Tony DeLio again, would set it back to repeat of “Slow Ride” and it was simply awesome. It was the perfect party. Dan’s parents were out of town. Cops never showed up. Neighbors didn’t complain. We had our friends, various weirdos, babes, cool kids, nerds, dweebs, all walks of life…Dimitri was there…and our instruments were there too to jam on. I kept my drums there in Dan’s basement permanently. We used to practice at my place, but one day I came home to find my drums strewn out all over the front lawn. I must have pissed off my father again for some reason or another. But Dan’s basement ended up being the appropriate place for my drums. His basement was epic. Day-glo posters everywhere. Black lights and Lava lamps. Strobe lights. Incense forever being burned. It was a stoner’s paradise.
We all got wasted at the Slow Ride Party. Ouzo, Metaxa, Beer, SoCo. There’s video footage of us sloppily singing Slow Ride somewhere. Also, I won’t ever hear the end of my friends telling me how I went on a diatribe about Coca-cola Classic that night. About how Classic Coke is, it’s the most classic of all cokes. More classic than Diet Coke. See? It says “classic” on the can. It’s classic Coca-cola. It even says how classic it is. All night, inbetween Slow Ride choruses, I apparently was talking about how classic Coca-cola is.
To understand The Slow Ride Party is to understand my high school crew that I was running with. By the way, this was all the precursor to my days of rocking out on the Sunset Strip in my Guns N’ Roses Tribute band. I was Duff McKagan for three years of my adult life. My rock school training was being the drummer in my high school rock band: The Suicidal Kings…like the playing card…Suicidal King. We played for YMCAs, junior high schools and random high school events and we rocked them all silly. Jr High kids would be crowd surfing and going bonkers during our songs. We had some originals like “E-minor to D” and “There is no Dog” (“Dog” is “God” spelled backwards..we were really clever) but we mostly covered songs from bands like Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, Soundgarden, CCR, Black Sabbath, & Aerosmith.
Dan Merrill was our visionary frontman in the Suicidal Kings and he was the single best rock singer/live performer I have ever worked with or seen. Dan had a decent enough voice, but his stage antics were legendary. He would bring a full rack of clothes to our gigs and change outfits before every song. He’d be in a blue leisure suit in one song, and then a spandex unitard in the next. Not only did he have an elaborate wardrobe, but he also had props he would sing with. We covered Black Sabbath’s “Hand of Doom” and Dan would bring out a life-size blow-up Gumby doll and sing the entire song to it. By the end of the song, Dan would be beating the crap out of that doll. It was a spectacle. Dan also had a velvet painting of Elvis and a giant yellow wooden smiley face (with a bullet hole in its forehead) that he would bring on stage with him. He utitlized the cordless mic as well running all over the place like Axl Rose in an arena.
Ward was our bassist. We called him “Flav” like Flava Flav from Public Enemy or that reality show Flavor of the Month. Ward/Flav had a cool laid back stage presence and he got the job done. He’s a lawyer in Colorado now. Flav’s a lawyer.
Jay was one of our two guitarists. Jay had long curly hair like Cliff Burton (Metallica’s first bassist) and he was a technical genius when it came to guitar. Dude could solo! He played shirtless showing off his washboard abs to all the ladies in the crowd.
Dean Thanos (very cool name..”Thanos” or “Thanatos” in Greek means “Death”) Dean was our other guitarist. I had a lot of Greek friends in high school. Dean Thanos, Peter Contos, Sofoklis Drosos, George Nickolopolous…
I had a beautiful Greek girlfriend too, Nicole. Her and I used to play hooky from school so we could make it in her mother’s Aerostar minivan and that was awesome. I learned how to speak a little Greek too. I’d say “Ti kanis, to prathe tha pow exo me ti Nicoletta,” which I think means “Hi, tonight I’m going out with my Nicole.” I’m Irish.
The Suicidal Kings, we always had plenty of prasino, which is Greek for green…prasino was our codeword for reefer. Stoners have codewords for reefer and I still to this day think ours was the best.
Our band had a lighting rig that was designed by our pal George Nickolopolous replete with lighting towers and giant boxes with clear plastic tops that our guitarists could stand on, have a spotlight shine up at them and a fan to dramatically blow their hair back during a solo.
Despite being the finest lighting technician among high schoolers, George Nickolopolous is best known and remembered for the shopping cart of booze that he purchased for us from a Chicago liquor store at the age of 15. George could grow a full beard at age 15 and he used it to buy booze for us. Seeing George Nickolopolous walking out of that liquor store with a shopping cart full of booze and a huge grin on his face was priceless. We drank that booze in Dan Merrill’s parents house all night!
Then there was Sofoklis Drosos, he was at the Slow Ride party, friend of the band. I used to carpool with Sof to early bird physics and we’d drink Metaxa and sit in the back of class with our sunglasses on. Metaxa is a delicious Greek booze.
But back to Dean. Dean was a great guitarist. He played those speedy solos like Steve Vai or Yngwie Malmsteen if you know who those guys are. Dean would sometimes give Dan a break and sing “Outshined” by Soundgarden and he sounded just like Chris Cornell. I remember loving the breakdown in that song, because it’s only the drums, a little bit of guitar and the singer jamming out. I would always drag it out about 10 measures too long and Dean would always look back at me as if to say “Dude, that part of the song is over already..” But I loved the breakdown in that song so much I didn’t want it to end. Outshined…that’s a great song.
Dean’s cousin Dimitri was in his mid-20’s and he used to hang out with us high school kids. It was kinda creepy, but kinda awesome. Dimitri was from Greece and it was always a treat to have Dimitri in the country. We’d all proclaim “DIMITRI!” I loved talking to Dimitri on the phone. Deano would say, “Hey Brian, Dimitri wants to talk to you.” And I’d be like, “yes!”Dimitri would say “Hello, this is Dimitri, I have an ounce of prasino.”
Us all being in our mid-30s now, we recently reunited the Suicidal Kings at Dan Merrill’s rehearsal dinner for his wedding. Sadly enough, we all air-played our instruments on stage to a karaoke version of Slow Ride. It was great to see the boys again, but it wasn’t the same. We’ve all gone our separate ways since high school. We’ll be friends forever, but the Suicidal Kings are a thing of the past only to be lived on as a memory.