I don’t know why this is coming back to me now...
I used to be an ALT in a small junior high school (around 300 students) out in the sticks. One of the highlights of the year for the students was the farewell bash put on for 3rd graders before they graduated. I can’t think of a succinct name for it in English but in the school corridors it was known as the 三年生を送る会 / san nensei wo okurukai, or something like that.
1st graders, 2nd graders, and teachers, are all roped into putting on a show in the frigid gym whilst graduating 3rd graders bask in the warm glow that emanated from the prospect of time off school for the first time since they started kindergarten over 10 years ago.
Needless to say, there is a lot of singing at these things (as there is in all school gatherings in Japan).
Prior to this particular occasion, my role in this show had been limited to 5 mins at the back of the stage, singing some insipid Japanese soft pop classic with the other teachers.
This time, about 6 months prior, I unwittingly began to plant the seeds of my own humiliation.
Loitering in the corridors as I did, a group of 2nd grade lads one day came up to me and asked me if I knew Jimi Hendrix …
Well, not personally, but, yea.
I then launched into my best rendition of All Along The Watchtower (Dylan, I know, but I was doing it as Hendrix). This being Japan, I was lauded with praise for my ability to sing.
These encounters continued a pace as the lads did their best to exploit my repertoire; Guns n Roses, Sabbath, Led Zeppelin … even hitting the harder stuff like Pantera and Slayer.
I was more than happy. I’d grown tired of having to pretend that I liked the all-singing, all-dancing nonsense churned out by Japan’s dirty old corporate tossers. On a quick aside, I remember the time some of the students asked me if I liked Sexy Zone. Now, as a full grown adult, being asked for the first time by a group of 13-year-old girls if I knew of Sexy Zone, brought me out in cold sweat. I almost crapped myself, and envisioned being on some sort of government database for the rest of my life. I was relieved to learn that they were talking about a boy band, but equally as annoyed at the short-sighted dunces who came up with the name.
One day, aforementioned lads told me that they’d formed a band. Great!!
They don’t have a singer. Less great!
They want to perform at the farewell show. I don’t like where this is going!
Would I sing with them at the show? Errm, I’m not so keen.
We want to perform Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns n Roses). Emphatically no!
They were persistent, I give them that. But I matched them all they way. So then they set their homeroom teacher on me. She cornered me in the staffroom kitchen. I knew what was coming. And it came; passive aggressive pleas decorated with annoying flourishes of laughter to disguise any tension. I cracked. Of course I did. What the hell else was I going to do? Get the dispatch company involved? That lot were about as much use as the Pope’s balls. I stewed over things for a few days, and sunk into that dark place as a teacher in Japan, where you get bogged down in thinking that all these people want is for you to be a performing seal.
Sweet Child O’ Mine was out of the question though (there’s no way my dulcet tones could handle Axl Rose). I told the lads to come back with something else. And they did. Any guesses?
Doctor Doctor by UFO?!!!! Link to live performance in the 1970’s here.
What followed in the next 2-3 weeks still causes me to wince; rehearsals in front of a select group of teachers, mates back home wetting themselves on Facebook, … sleepless nights, a dark spiral of hate.
On the day, I just had to think, Screw it! Give it some welly rather than reveal your embarrassment. So, dressed in a school tracksuit borrowed from the tallest kid in school (with his teacher’s permission, I hasten to add), that’s what I did. In the gym, a braying crowd of 400 plus … “Doctor, doctor pleeeease!!”
I try to tell myself that I’ve gone down in school legend. It doesn’t help to heal the scars though.
There’s a DVD of the atrocity somewhere. I’ll try my best not to find it!