Stage (f)Right Part 2
- Stage (f)Right Part 1
In the last chapter we see Ritchie Jean Baker driven by his addiction to rock-n-roll. Although left empty and aching, it would seem that things were about to change for Ritchie Jean.
Betsy Markle had a thing for Ritchie Jean. Constantly following him and trying to score points with him pushed him further from her. She wasn't especially attractive, not popular, and not Ritchie Jean's type. She was, however, persistent.
Ritchie Jean, on the other hand, had taken a liking to Andrea Petyak. She had the kind of personality that just drew people to her. Ritchie Jean was no exception. When he wasn't playing his guitar, his thoughts were always turned towards her. Along with a terrific personality, Andrea was also gorgeous, but acted like she didn't know it. That attracted Ritchie Jean all the more.
He had a rare Friday night off and there was another band playing at the dance after the football game against Philipsburg. He saw it as his chance to ask Andrea out. The only problem was that he wasn't even sure if Andrea knew who he was. Collecting all the nerve he could, he dialed her number.
"Andrea, this is Ritchie Jean Baker, you know the guy that sits four seats in front of you and two rows over in algebra."
He waited for a response, but there was a deadly silence. Finally. . .
"Oh, yeah. How are you?"
"Andrea, I was kinda thinking that if you didn't have any plans for the post-game dance on Friday that maybe you'd let me take you. Do you have any plans?"
"No, not exactly, but I don't think I would really want to go. It's nothing personal, I just don't think I'd feel comfortable. Hey, my youth group is having a progressive dinner on Saturday night. Would you like to go to that with me?"
Ritchie Jean had no idea what a progressive dinner was, but if it was anything like progressive music he could be counted in. If it had anything to do with food, he could be counted in. Sure, he'd go--anything to be with Andrea!
The week dragged on slowly with Betsy Markle at Ritchie Jean's heels. At the water fountain, at his locker, between classes in the hall, anywhere he went Betsy was sure to be there. She had his schedule down better than he did and he was slowly growing quite impatient with the whole thing. He wanted time to get a little better acquainted with Andrea, and Betsy definitely wasn't aiding the situation.
After a few unkind, if not crude remarks, Betsy got the idea. Again, her persistence took over. There had to be a different way for her to attract Ritchie Jean's attention. Only time would bring her full plan into action. In the mean time, Saturday night was getting closer and closer while Ritchie Jean's excitement was growing greater and greater.
It was 4:30 Saturday afternoon and Ritchie Jean's palms were sweating a nervous sweat. Soon he would be with Andrea, without Betsy. Making sure every last hair was in place, and yes, he had his deodorant on, he was off to Andrea's house.
She looked lovely, just like he knew she would, and his heart melted. Her down-to-earth, natural mannerisms soon put Ritchie Jean at ease as they talked about anything and everything on their way to 1st Baptist Church and food!
When Ritchie Jean saw a dozen or more of his classmates there, he was shocked. He had no idea what this was all about, but reaching out of his comfort zone, he was determined to find out--for Andrea's sake.
As they loaded into the vans to head for their first destination, Ritchie Jean looked behind him. Two seats back sat Betsy Markle. She also had managed to finagle an invitation from another student. She didn't fit in any more than Ritchie Jean felt he did. Betsy was tough. She smoked a lot and had quite a foul mouth. At least Ritchie Jean had the courtesy to keep his mouth under control on this very special night.
As they traveled from stop to stop, Ritchie Jean began to notice some things about the group he was with. For one thing they seemed to have a genuine sense of purpose and happiness in their lives, but Ritchie Jean just couldn't see how anyone could be truly happy. He concluded it was all a front, probably on his behalf.
A strange uneasiness settled over him. In one way, he liked what he saw, but in a stronger way he felt he could never be like them as badly as that's what he wanted. They seemingly had all the answers--all the answers that Ritchie Jean was looking for, but the light was too bright. Ritchie Jean couldn't look. He didn't want to look.
At the last stop, the youth leader gave a brief devotional. This pushed Ritchie Jean a little further. How could anyone expect anyone else to turn their life over to a supposed God that they can't even see? Who was this Jesus Christ who let men nail him to a cross? How could accepting his death, burial and resurrection for payment of his sin mean anything to him? For that matter, who was God anyway? The only god Ritchie Jean Baker needed to know was his music and it was time to get back to that and forget all this religion garbage. The only problem was, where would that put him with Andrea?
He truly had a good time with Andrea even if he did feel a little uncomfortable in the group. He thought Andrea had a good time, too, but he was afraid to ask her out again because of the "pressure" he thought he might feel.
What Ritchie Jean needed to understand was that that "pressure" was just God's way of trying to reach him, and his way of fighting it. He needed more information and maybe by going out with Andrea again, he could clear up some of his thinking. That was all the persuasion he needed to try for a second date.
Yes, it was true, Andrea did have a good time, but out of her commitment to Christ she had to refuse his offer. Realizing her feelings for Ritchie Jean and the fact that he wasn't saved, she couldn't see herself clear to see him again.
Ritchie Jean, on the other hand, couldn't figure out that kind of thinking. To his way of looking at it, it was a put off or maybe even a put down. He wasn't sure, but her decision remained the same. Ritchie Jean, the "rock", the "island", didn't need her or anyone else--or so he thought. The wound was there, though. He just didn't recognize it and inside he slowly bled.
Several months passed and the pain eased, but out of that pain grew a new and beautiful relationship--a relationship Ritchie Jean would not have expected. A mutual respect between Andrea and himself had developed and they looked at each other in a different way. They were fast becoming best friends. Though not in a romantic relationship, the bond that was being formed would seem inseparable. Andrea still kept her distance somewhat to protect her testimony and each knew the lines that couldn't be crossed. They meant much more to each other in this kind of situation.
Through the years they remained very close. That gave Andrea plenty of time to share Christ with Ritchie Jean and gave Ritchie Jean plenty of time to understand the message of the Gospel. It was clear to Ritchie Jean that his life was full of sin. Andrea didn't need to tell him that, but his life really wasn't any different than anybody else's because "all have sinned." He also realized that that sin had separated him from a holy God. He didn't know who God was or where He was, but reason told him that there must be a god somewhere. If that god had sinned, he wouldn't be God anymore, so he must be holy. To carry Ritchie Jean's logic one step further, if that God allowed Ritchie Jean's sin in His presence, He wouldn't be holy and would cease to be God.
Ritchie Jean didn't have any problem with that. It was the part that that holy God would take on the flesh of man and come to earth to pay the price for Ritchie Jean's sin that he couldn't accept. In his eyes, if no one on this earth cared for him, then certainly this holy God couldn't either. He understood that the shed blood of that God was enough to pay the price for his sin, but he just couldn't come to see that a holy God would love him that much to shed His blood for him.
Many, many hours were given to discussion of religious topics with Andrea and he found it interesting, but still he chose to live his own life disregarding all that Andrea had told him.
By now Andrea and Ritchie Jean were finishing up their senior year of high school and they remained best friends until Ritchie Jean got the news. Andrea's father had been transferred to the West Coast and she would be leaving. Los Angeles was in her future. It hit Ritchie Jean like a ton of bricks. He felt like he did when she refused to date him and all those feelings of rejection and loneliness came flooding over him, but yet he knew Andrea was still concerned about him. She was not rejecting him. It was just the circumstances and he knew that. He just had to accept that.
The time came for Andrea to leave. Ritchie Jean drove her to the airport behind her parent's car, and on the way, they had one last talk. Andrea wanted so much for Ritchie Jean to accept the Lord before she left, but it was just something he wasn't ready to do. Just before she headed for the boarding gate, she turned and looked back at Ritchie Jean and with tears in her eyes said, "Ritchie Jean, you need to be saved."
With that she disappeared on board a big, old jet airliner headed for the West Coast. Even though they vowed to keep in touch, Ritchie Jean knew those were the last words he would ever hear Andrea speak--and they haunted him.
Life continued to go on. It wasn't the end for Ritchie Jean, although he did miss Andrea. Once again, he was free to focus entirely on his music. He was fast becoming a very polished, professional musician and businessman. The goals were still before him and he was still ready to pay the price to reach those goals. In his heart, he knew it was only a matter of time until he'd be touring and recording. Keeping everything in perspective, he methodically pushed towards the end result--fame, fortune, power, control, and applause.
He joined a bar band in the State College area, home to the Penn State Nittany Lions. This enabled him to not only playon the weekends, but to play throughout the week. Anywhere there's a group of college kids, there's bound to be parties and bands. His new band allowed him to hone his talent musically as well as theatrically and the nice thing about it was that there was also more pay involved. Ritchie Jean figured he'd stay with that band until he was ready for the next step of his master plan to stardom.
This band offered Ritchie Jean the opportunity to learn more about the fine points of performing. He was able to learn about the electronics end of the business. His sound equipment was becoming more complex and diversified. He began to experiment with electronic instrumentation and pre-recorded sounds to add depth to his playing, but yet at the heart of his sound was raw rock-n-roll--nothing more.
The light show also became more sophisticated as overall musical timing was important to the effect of the lights. Various colors of light as well as strobes and lasers were used. Everything had to be so precise, so rehearsed, so together. A lot of what Ritchie Jean was learning now would not have mattered at a high school dance, but with a different and more critical audience, everything had to be in its place on time to the exact cue.
Positioning of the players was important to create the total effect of what the purpose of any given song was about. Ritchie Jean was now not only concerned with his end of the show but that of everyone else involved. Everything was timing--sound, movements, lights. Everything had to be exceptionally polished and professional--and it was. Ritchie Jean was learning just one more step in the ongoing education of a rock-n-roll musician.
After about three years of playing local gigs night after night, he finally felt he was ready for the next step of his plan. At the end of September he would quit the band and move to Philadelphia. He needed city exposure to come to the attention of an agent capable of taking him to the top. September came and he was on his way.
Taking what little money he had, he got himself a room over a corner bar. In return for rent, he played solo acoustic guitar in the bar until he was able to get himself better situated.
Every afternoon was spent combing the "help wanted" ads trying to find the right band for him. That became more of a chore than Ritchie Jean realized. It wasn't that he wasn't good enough, but finding the band with the right style and personalities was very difficult.
Finally--there it was. "VOCALIST LOOKING FOR VERSATILE LEAD
PLAYER TO START ROCK BAND. CALL 555-4620."
Ritchie Jean called and by that night was on his way to the audition. He hit it off immediately with singer-song writer Joey Santore. Ritchie Jean had quite a collection of his own original material, and betweenthe two of them began to put together some solid music and lyrics with a style that could only be identified as their own.
Joey knew of a drummer across town and after about three weeks of working out the kinks with Ritchie Jean, he called him to come in for an audition. Perhaps not as experienced as Ritchie Jean and Joey would have liked, there still was a solid rhythm that seemed to create the kind of foundation the two were looking for. Add Craig Martin Lisle and another three weeks of rehearsal and the band was ready for their first live performance.
Bristol Township was always looking for free entertainment for their free outdoor concerts at the township building. Joey set everything up and the boys were ready. Yes, it was free, but Ritchie Jean was used to that. It was all part of a rock-n-roller paying his dues.
A unique sound developed through those early rehearsals. Most bands insist on having a bass player in their line-up. Ritchie Jean and Joey chose otherwise--at least in the beginning. Joey's rhythm guitar added the normal bass lines and fills and Ritchie Jean's screaming lead work added the top. When mixed with Craig's solid foundation, things fell together in a very interesting way.
It wasn't that the boys didn't want a bass player. Several attempts before and after Ritchie Jean's coming were made to secure one. It just never worked out and rather than being stopped, they just did what they had to do. In the lives of each of the boys, sheer dedication, determination, and persistence had gotten them this far. There was no room for anything to stop them now. It hadn't and it wouldn't. They knew the music was good enough and now they were ready to test their skill at crowd control and crowd manipulation--a part of every rock-n-roll concert.
The night came. The crowd was ready. The boys were waiting. It was twenty minutes after the show was scheduled to begin that Ritchie Jean Baker, Joey Santore, and Craig Lisle finally took the stage. Their first test of crowd control and manipulation was to keep everyone else waiting, too. Let them become impatient. Let the tension grow. Let them complain. The boys knew that when they finally did take the stage all that impatience, anger and tension would erupt in approval. The wait was over. It was time for the boys to deliver.
They rocked through their first set with several high energy tunes to keep that initial tension building. The crowd definitely was relating to the band and the band had no trouble relating to the crowd. As they finished the first set and slipped behind the stage for their lemon juice and ice water a longhaired hippie type character approached them. The look was not impressive to Ritchie Jean who went for a more respectable look on stage, but nevertheless, they took the time to see what this guy had to say.
"Look, guys. My name's Robbie Matthewson. I have a bass out in the car and I'd just love to come up and jam with you guys. If you don't like what you hear--fine, I'll be on my way. What do you say?"
As Ritchie Jean, Joey and Craig huddled to discuss the possibility, the sense of impatience from the crowd was beginning to grow again. To be effective the impatience trick could only be used once during a show so the boys knew they had to get back to the job. It was no easy decision, but if Robbie could wait one more set, he could come up on stage and play. With that decision made, it was business as usual until the next set.
During the following break, the band engaged in setting up another amplifier and microphone while Robbie tuned his bass. The all too short break was over and the band took the stage again, this time as a four-piece band.
Although the band was quite energetic and that feeling of electricity Ritchie Jean remembered so well was present, the band really was nothing until the addition of Robbie and his bass. Even though Robbie and Craig had just met for the first time, it seemed that they had been playing together all their lives as they blended their individual instruments into one dynamic rhythm machine. This was the sound all four boys wanted and had waited for. More rehearsals and a few more live performances and the band was performing as one.
It was time to do a demo recording and get it to as many agents and managers as possible. They knew they were just a step away from realizing their dreams and like locomotives, nothing would stop them now.