By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
It's a breezy night at Club Rio in Tempe. The courtyard in the back is framed with lazy, swaying palms. A stage is set up at the east side of the patio. In front of the stage, there's a large, ornate fountain gurgling water on itself. Behind the stage are two Budweiser banners stretched across a pair of otherwise regal palms.
On the stage is a guy in a jumpsuit sporting frantic, bleached-blond hair. He takes a deep breath and belches into the microphone. It's his way of introducing his band's next song.
Glenn DeJongh, adolescent emeritus of the local scene, is ready to rock.
DeJongh and his latest punky-pop band, the Einsteins, spend the rest of the evening revisiting old New Wave covers ("Tainted Love," "Whip It," "I Wanna Be Sedated") and breaking out a slew of goofy but catchy originals. The songs are all played with considerable pep and DeJongh makes for a busy visual presence, his wiry body bouncing from one side of the stage to the other as he rattles off pithy guitar chords one minute and chirpy lead vocals the next. Between songs, DeJongh occasionally, inexplicably, lets loose with a stream of gibberish in a curious, cartoon/baby-talk mode (think Alvin the Chipmunk doing a Popeye laugh). Then DeJongh's off again, singing songs about barf bags, songs about "girls who've stalked me," and songs like the little ditty titled "Love Is the Word," which he dedicates to "all the guys who couldn't get the L word out of your mouths because you're a goddamned pussy!"
Most of the collegiate-looking "guys" at the midweek show are oblivious to DeJongh's antics. And they're too busy comparing physiques and golf scores to notice the other gaudy vagaries of the Einsteins' live act. Like when guitarist Mo Cox, bassist Gino Arce and drummer Dave Marshall don phony noses and glasses for an impromptu synchronized dance routine. Or when drummer Marshall later performs an erotically challenged act that makes it look like he's on the receiving end of a phantom fellatio session at the front of the stage.
But most of the evening's attention is focused on DeJongh. His decidedly sophomoric high jinks continue unabated until halfway through the show, when the various Einsteins suddenly stop playing, dead in their tracks, smack-dab in the middle of a song. DeJongh has apparently hit the song's second chorus a half-beat early, and everything skids to a stop. DeJongh turns self-conscious for the first--and only--time of the evening.
"We're the Einsteins," he announces sheepishly. "The only band in the city that can fuck up a three-chord song."
The next night, DeJongh sits at home and smiles a big, toothy grin. He proceeds to utter one of the more massive understatements in local rock history.
"I don't like being one of the crowd," he states. "I need to be a star."
With that, DeJongh leans back and prepares to recount his long, scattered quest for rock 'n' roll stardom, a quest he's chased with near-manic intensity for the better part of 15 years.
DeJongh is lounging on a sofa that dominates his small room in the Einsteins' Tempe band house; the tiny enclave is cluttered with stray clothes, albums and videotapes. There also seems to be an inordinate number of magazines lying around--magazines with titles like East Coast Swinger. DeJongh explains that most of the porno mags carry ads for the 1-900 sex-line service he invested in less than a year ago. He claims his share in the East Coast-based operation nets him enough to forgo a day job.
Indeed, DeJongh says his sex-line profits afford him the time and resources to fuel his relentless and long-standing pursuit of fame. That hunt began in the late Seventies/early Eighties, back when New Wave was new. DeJongh, a New Jersey native who moved to the Valley as a high schooler, started a power-pop trio called the Spiffs, a band that adopted the short, sharp style of the day and was rewarded with lines of fans around local clubs. But the Spiffs survived about as long as a three-chord pop song. By 1981, DeJongh had hooked up with another local trio and formed the Urge, an equally popular band that devoted half of its shows to covers of the Beat, Joe Jackson and other trendy, topical New Wave fare.
The Urge was a mainstay on the local scene for three years, playing a variety of clubs up to and including cowboy bars with mechanical bulls at the side of the stage. But DeJongh remembers the Urge falling out of favor once popular tastes in music "started going to that Duran Duran keyboard shit," as he puts it.
At the time, DeJongh, ever the opportunist, assessed the situation and decided to go with--what else?--a take on Duran Duran keyboard shit. He put together successive bands (Another Pretty Face and Wall Street) that celebrated synth-pop with calculated enthusiasm. And predictable results.
"We spent a full year writing songs," DeJongh says of Wall Street. "And let's face it, we were a flop."
DeJongh took a step back. He decided for once to ignore gambling on trends and play the kind of music he always wanted to play. The kind of music he says suited his style and personality.