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Lyric of the Week: BAD INFLUENCE


Gonna wear my t-shirts gonna wear my jeans

Gonna keep my image gonna make the scene

Don’t give a damn ‘bout what no rabbis say

Ain’t no way they’re gonna make me learn all day

And when the heat of the moment comes crashing down

I’m gonna keep myself high up keep on hangin’ around

We’re goin’ ridin’ through the desert through the heat and dust

My friends and me shoutin’ so loud in the back of the bus

We’re feelin’ so good just like a rolling stone

With our Yeshiva’s Not Kosher! and our B.T. Phone Home!

And when the heat of the moment comes crashing down

We’re gonna keep ourselves high up keep on hangin’ around

We’ll just smoke our cigarettes and drink our beer

Just two more months and we’ll be outta here

We’re all gonna make it just don’t ask me how

Gonna dance a little lower when it’s A Little Bit Softer Now

And when the heat of the moment comes crashing down

We’re gonna keep ourselves high up keep on hangin’ around

And when the heat of the moment comes crashing down

We’re gonna keep ourselves high up keep on hangin’ around

And when the heat of the moment comes crashing down

I’m gonna keep myself high up keep on hangin’ around

©2002 The Hesh Inc./Reality Shock Music

Yes, that's me, second from left. Friends' faces pixelated to protect the guilty.

In October 1981, not long after the start of my junior year, I transferred from Yeshivat Hadarom, the hellhole of a high school I had been consigned to in Rehovot, to Ohr Yerushalayim, the high school attached to Yeshivat Hamivtar, a/k/a Brovender's, in Jerusalem. It was, for me, like reaching the promised land: at Hadarom, I was a fish out of water, a square peg in a round hole, very much a soul in exile in a backwater town. At O.Y., though, I had found my niche—a school full of English-speaking rejects from Israeli schools. Add to this the fact that I was now living in Jerusalem, the big city, away from my parents, and I could finally let my freak flag fly—which I did, with a vengeance.

Unfortunately, the new school's principal, who I'll call "B.T.," was not too fond of such flying of the freak flag. He had a specific archetype in mind for the type of students he wanted in his holy "yeshivaaaaah," and I did NOT conform to it. And it incensed him to no end when those students who DID conform to his template wanted more to emulate ME, because of the confident way I carried myself.

Almost as soon as I began my time there and continuing over the next two years, I had a series of run-ins with him and other school authorities. Now, mind you, NOTHING I did was any more extreme than anything the other, more 'square' students were getting away with. In fact, the dorm counselors had much less problems with me than with the rabbi's golden boys, who got away with smoking pot in the dorm and sneaking girls into the dorm rooms. My big sins were that I grew my hair, dressed however the &%$# I wanted, and listened to rock'n'roll music instead of the usual yeshivish oy-oy-oy crap or holy hippie music that he preferred we listen to. But he kept looking for reasons to get rid of me, and he finally succeeded in February 1983, before I could finish my senior year. The reason for kicking me out, he said, was that I was a bad influence on the other students. However, most of my fellow students—indeed, most of those who fit the rabbi's template!—were upset enough at my being thrown out that they staged a sit-down strike in the school's dining room, telling the authorities that they would not budge until I was let back in. This went on from Sunday until Thursday. When the rabbi saw my friends were serious, he called my parents and told them I was being let back into school. The strike ended, we all went out to a local downtown club to blow off a lot of smoke and dance our @$$es off in celebration of my return. I kind of toned my act down after that, and I finished school honorably.

But I will say this: I never set out to be a bad influence; I was just being myself. But if by being myself, I'm setting an example for others to be themselves and not conform to all sorts of stereotypes, archetypes, or templates, then I wave my Bad Influence banner with pride. And B.T. can gayn kakn in yam.

As for the song itself ... I wrote the lyrics after the summer after finishing high school, when looking back with some retrospective clarity and asking myself, "what the hell was THAT?!" Musically, it is a 12-bar blues with a minor-key bridge added, akin to ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down." My musical partner Izzy Kieffer (also a veteran/survivor of the O.Y., witness to my expulsion and restoration, and participator in the strike!) and I had already begun jamming on an earlier version of the tune, before the lyrics were written, while we were still juniors. We 'married' the lyrics to the music shortly after I wrote the lyrics, and demoed an early version of it in December 1984; we recorded the definitive version for our REALITY SHOCK album that was released in 2002.

Listen to the song here:

And then buy the album:

#originallyrics #RealityShock #highschool

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