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Fantasy Band Auction Draft!

Saturday, 10 August 2013


Every Time I Think of You - The Babys (mp3)

Change - John Waite (mp3)

In Dreams - John Waite (mp3)

In just a couple of weeks, millions of mostly sane but inexcusably bored males (plus 19 females) all over the country will begin drafting their fantasy football teams. I’ve been participating in fantasy football in some shape or form since the summer of 1994, when I was a bartender in Chapel Hill, N.C.

A friend texted me a question about fantasy football while I was out at dinner over the weekend. The song “Change” by John Waite was playing over the restaurant speakers, likely from some XM radio 80s station. I’ve always kinda liked John Waite, so obviously, the next thought that came to me was:

“If there was such a thing as Fantasy Rock Band, I wonder how much John Waite would go for in the draft...”

This would have to be an auction draft, where each player auctioned off to the highest bidder, and for the sake of ease, let’s just say each team’s salary cap is $100, and you have to draft five players and and four backups.

There will be no White Stripes or Japandroids in Fantasy Rock Band, my friend. All bands will conform to the Def Leppard and early ‘80s Journey Rule of Five: lead singer, lead guitar, bass, drums, and a fifth optional player for keyboards or second guitar*. You should have enough players to have one 5-person band on tour and another 4-person band off the road “recording a new record” or snorting coke off hooker’s butts or something. (* -- I guess you could form a band with oddball instruments like The Hooters or the New Bohemians, but you're not gonna win the league...)

Your league will have 20 teams with owners ranging from 25-55 years of age, all of whom may have unique opinions about great rock, but all of whom know the fair market value range for an Avett Brother or a star saxophonist.

The scope of the teams will be throughout rock history, with each member’s value to a complicated mix of their entire career and their peak moments. Obviously, no one can afford the Beatles. The estimated cost for any single Beatle would crush the cap, since Lennon and McCartney would easily run you $40-50 each. Harrison could cost $30, maybe more if someone in your league believes he was the Essential Beatle. I won’t insult Ringo by estimating his worth, but it’s probably in the $90 range.

In Fantasy Rock Band, John Waite would make a great backup lead singer. I’d pay $4-5 for him, but I doubt anyone else would bid on him, because he’s kind of an overlooked sleeper. If someone made you close your eyes and told you to build an arena rock band from scratch, odds are pretty good that the lead singer’s voice would sound a lot like John Waite’s. Powerful with just a bit of scratch to it, and slightly higher than the average male vocal register, but none of that falsetto crap, and not a voice so high that he can’t wear leather pants and overdose on hairspray and hair gel and lose every last molecule of his heterosexuality.

The strangest thing about Waite’s career is that music writers seem to give him the most credit for the least successful part of his career, as lead vocalist for 70s vanilla rock band The Babys. The way some critics write about The Babys, you’d think they had a couple of platinum albums or had some massive cult following, neither of which is true. They had talent, for sure, including future Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain and other recording journeymen.

Through five albums of decent power pop, they never climbed higher than 22 on the charts and had only two singles crack the Top 20. This doesn’t make them bad if they’re Velvet Underground, but if your entire sound is geared for the charts, failing to do well in that venue ain’t so great.

Waite’s solo career is summed up by most people with two words: “Missing You.” And hell, that’s two pretty good words when it comes to hits from the ‘80s, but he flirted with the Top 20 charts several more times in his career. My personal favorites include the aforementioned “Change” and the unsung best wedding song never played at weddings because he says “kiss my ass”: “In Dreams.”

And then Bad English, the bastard lovechild of Journey and The Babys, roared like a Mini-Damn Yankees to a couple of power singles before fading quickly into irrelevance. But they went plantinum, fer chrissakes, and it's halfway decent vanilla power pop to boot.

Waite got through almost two decades, fronted two bands and owned a decent solo career to boot. I’d take him as my backup fantasy lead vocalist any day. If my starter Gordon Sumner (a bargain at $18) went down with tonsillitis, I could sub Waite in for a few weeks and rely on him to keep us in the game.

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