In the Fall of ’91 I was freshly home from my mission and a transfer student at BYU. I had a couple of items high on my list of priorities: One was to find a smart, funny, gorgeous girlfriend and the other was to start a rock band. (The latter presumably would add to the success of the former.) I succeeded at both by my first month. You know the hottie girlfriend I found as Kristen J and the band I started was called Sam I Am.
While I was a freshman at San Diego State, a close friend from high school had met a couple of really cool guys at BYU who had started a two-man comic-rock band called The Gnats that toured the dorms in the ’88-89 school year. Upon my arriving at BYU I hooked up these two — bass player Kent and keyboard player Keith — who were also fresh off missions. We found a freshman drummer named Jared in one of our jazz combos and after a few tryouts found a guitar player named Tony. With me as lead singer/sax player we were ready to rock!
We first learned few covers. If I remember correctly they included Lenny Kravits’ “Mama Said” and other odd and obscure songs that Kent picked out. We also started writing songs. Our first gig was at the pizza joint called “The Pie” over by Helaman Halls. In that Fall semester we played a gig in the basement parking of some condo complex and had gigs in various other obscure places. By the beginning of the winter semester we were ready to compete in the BYU battle of the bands. After a daytime quad preliminary gig we were invited to the Friday night finals to compete against lots of other bands including fairly established Provo acts Ali, Ali Oxen Free and Stretch Armstrong. Well, the stars aligned for us that night and the crowd of several thousand students decided they loved us. Since the crowd screams determined the winner, we were victorious. For one night, Sam I Am (of Provo) had thousands of screaming and adoring fans. It was great.
We didn’t realize it then, but that was the apex of our career as a band. We played other gigs and threw a couple of shows of our own but never really regained the heights of that fateful night in the winter of ’92. Jared went on his mission that summer. Kent got recruited to be the bass player for local heavyweights Swim Herschel Swim and moved on. We tried to carry on with replacements but the chemistry never quite returned and by ’94 I graduated and moved back to San Diego for grad school. Sam I Am (of Provo) was dead along with all of its songs.
But wait! This sad tale has an epilogue. The first thing I did in San Diego was start a new band. Among the songs we adopted were several of the old Sam I Am tunes. The difference was that this time we recorded them! So now, in a way, Sam I Am of early ’90s Provo lives on. I’ve attached, for your listening pleasure, MP3 links here to all the Sam I Am songs we resurrected in between ’95 and ’00 with Noisepie.
This was a big hit for both bands. We wrote it after my shouting the name of former BYU running back Mark Atuaia in a fashion similar to the semi-psychotic “ayayay’s” I bust out in the song. Kent thought this shouting skill of mine was funny so he wrote a song for that noise alone. He came up with the chord progression then I wrote the sax riff and the lyrics and we had a ska-punk hit on our hands. Ironically, the RM-esque lyrics had my rebellious younger brother Wes as their inspiration and he ended up playing bass on this recording.
This was another Sam I Am favorite. Keith wrote this one (I co-wrote the lyrics, I think). We were sort of in to the old band Blood Sweat and Tears at the time and this is an homage to them I think.
This is another Keith Song from the late Sam I Am period. I changed the lyrics to make it about a total jerk I had for a boss in the late 90s. (This is my current favorite recording from Noisepie despite the too-long intro)
This was a late period Sam I Am song with the chorus written by Keith. Noisepie completed the song by adding verses and made it our own. This is a live recording at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach.
This was actually a Gnats song that Sam I Am borrowed and eventually Noisepie borrowed again. It is pure BYU slapstick with the accusation being that the carnal desire of the girl is to get some “lip” (aka smooching).
Anyway, Noisepie had lots of originals too, and I may post on them some time but you can check out all of the songs here.
I’m thrilled that I have decent recordings of several of these songs now. But I am disappointed we don’t have decent recordings of more Sam I Am songs. There were 8-10 other songs that are all but lost now.
The moral of the story? Publish or perish. If it gets recorded it can live on. If not, it fades into memory and then into oblivion. That is why I like to write thoughts and ideas down at a blog now. That is why journals are such a good thing. That is why we have scriptures.
Just yesterday my dad told me of an old quote: “The dullest pencil has a better memory than the sharpest mind.” I suppose that applies to recordings and blogs too…