JOE LYNN TURNER
HIGH SCHOOL DAZE
Home for the holidays!? To some it means having to deal with eccentric relatives that you only have to put up with once a year! To others it means returning to the place where they grew up... a place where innocence was lost and found at the same time!
In this edition of "High School Daze" we will visit with the Voices' own Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow/Deep Purple). Joe has always remained close (geographically) to his Hackensack, New Jersey roots (and the greater New York City area) throughout his career. He currently resides in the Montclair area of Northern New Jersey in close proximity to many of his family members and friends.
In this feature, Joe takes us back to the late 60s/early 70s when he was a young but reputable musician. Turner's high school daze started out at Bergen Catholic (Freshman, Sophomore), and finished at Hackensack High School where he was on "cruise control" for his Junior and Senior years. It was during these last two years that Joe really delved into the musical side of his personality.
Joe Lynn graciously takes time out from his solo projects, session work and engagements with the Voices of Classic Rock to talk about his "High School Daze."
Joe, were you well known as a musician in high school?
JLT: Yeah. I was in one of the better known bands. It's like this. When you are a Freshman and if you are in a band you are not as well known as the bands or guys in bands that were older, like Juniors or Seniors. Like I used to follow these bands such as the Iridescents and The Dimensions and they were always great so bands on their way up, like mine, would fashion ourselves after them. But the older (upperclassman) bands... they would always get the best Dances (laughs) because they were older and better. Basically I got more popular as a musician when I became a Senior (in High School).
Now I know you went to Bergen Catholic and then went to Hackensack High.
JLT: Yeah well when I was in Bergen Catholic I was not as well known as a musician but once I hit Hackensack I became more known for it, yeah. I did 9th and 10th at Bergen Catholic and just cruised through 11th and 12th at Hackensack so yeah that gave me a chance to focus on the music as an upper classman. The Catholic schools were so stringent about their curriculum so I had already learned the stuff they were teaching when I went to Hackensack.
So that sounds like it was a good thing for your music career.
JLT: Absolutely we were (Ezra) one of the top bands when I was in high school. I was actually part of a few projects, The Other Side, The Mad Hatters and others but then it became Ezra. Ezra was the Deep Purple cover band but with originals LIKE Deep Purple.
So did Ezra play high school dances and parties?
JLT: Yeah, we did that and the Moose Lodge. Of course we were big with the Knights of Columbus, we did those types of places because we were not old enough to play bars.
Now were you known back in high school as a popular guy or were you a recluse?
JLT: I was not a recluse but I was not the most popular guy and basically I got in a band to become popular (laughs). I was not at all the one the girls fawned over. My whole angle was to fit in, validate and find some worthiness and for many people being in a band affords you that opportunity.
So how were you classified? I mean there are jocks and preps and nerds...
JLT: I was definitely in the category of the smarter kids, with the geniuses (laughs in a very humble way). I mean, I am not saying I was a genius but I got good grades and that meant that I was always lumped in with the fringe... the misfit fringe... I was never the cheerleader's favorite guy.
What was your best sport in high school?
JLT: Probably track. I was really good in baseball and before high school did real well in the Babe Ruth League. I played Pitcher, Catcher, Third Base and I pitched in the All Star games and did all of that. I continued to play baseball in sponsored leagues in the Hackensack Athletic Commission. In fact my manager (Mark Wexler) and I go way back. We both used to play in competitive leagues (laughs).
I also heard you and Mark Wexler, your current manager, were in bands together.
JLT: Yeah, he was my first drummer but he sucked (laughs with affection). To this day he collects all kinds of percussion instruments from all over the world. He was not terrible but he was not getting any further.
Well it sounds like he was your buddy so you dealt with it at the time (laughs).
JLT: Yeah that and he had the basement that we practiced in. He also had the PA so he was in (laughs with sincere affection). Hey we all pulled together, we had to do what we had to do!
Ok so let's regroup... in high school you were known as a musician but not a jock....
JLT: I was sort of also known as a bit of a hippy but an intellectual one. I was into jeans and moccasins and fringe and peace beads and many of the kids in school were preppy... a bunch of dorks (laughs).
But you have to understand that they probably thought you were a dork back then!
JLT: Oh ABSOLUTELY! (laughs)
But I am sure you were laughing all the way to the bank before your 10 or 15 year reunion.
JLT: Yeah I think that was the first one I went back to, maybe the 15. I was through Rainbow and did the MTV thing and I was no longer a dork or geek. In fact I remember Laura Lee Cruthers who I had the biggest crush on in high school hitting on me at this reunion. And, I am married and she is recently divorced and I kept thinking "Man, you would not have given me a spin back then for anything!" Man, she was one of the most popular girls. I carried her books in school and she kind of knew she could play me. So when I saw her and she was like all over me, let's just say LIFE HAD CHANGED (laughs!).
What were some of the comments you got when you went back?
JLT: The feeling was everyone was falling all over me at that time which was really garbage and I saw all the misfit guys and we all got together and talked about how successful we had become. Many of them owned radio stations or had big money jobs.
So life had really turned around and I was on top of the world. But, more importantly... I will paraphrase my speech... I was asked to give one and I did say "It's really nice to see MOST of you again... (laughs). I've been around the world a half a dozen times but I have to say thanks for breaking my heart because that was what really GOT me on MTV. That fueled the fire to get me where I am at and get me here and I just want to thank all of you who snubbed me before."
You know out of the fire comes steel and that was what really got me there was the broken hearts and some rejection and when you get angry at people and you get hurt you have an incredible drive and when I got there I had to lose the anger so that was part of the process. It became fuel but you have to also learn to get rid of that anger after you use it as your fuel or it will consume you. And I think that as I became popular as a rock star that I had this desperate need to be considered attractive and wanted and all that and that need was generated way back in my high school days. This all made me realize that there is more in someone's attitude and their magnetism then their looks.
And you never had a shortage of women or groupies, Joe??
JLT: But I did not always go for the really hottest looking girls on the groupie line I always went to the ones that were kind of dumpy because those were the deeper (thinking) ones. They were the ones who understood my lyrics and who were really into the music. The real hot looking ones always were looking to get a notch on their belt.
Lisa Eicholzer-Walker, Voices Of Classic Rock, Rockforever 2002