Back to schooldays. Another song, another memory.
‘Master Blaster’ was a song by Stevie Wonder from the album ‘Hotter than July’. According to Wikipedia it was released in September 1980 and by my recall, it was a massive hit in S.A.
Wikipedia lists it in the reggae genre, but for me it was just a great pop record. The only ‘reggae’ thing about it is the album cover. In fact, one of the tracks on the record, ‘I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It’, can only be described as a country song (give it a listen if you don’t believe me).
Back then I had the album and although I loved ‘Master Blaster’ (the clever little drum intro puts the hook in your cheek and reels you in), the real masterpiece is ‘Lately’, and a close second is ’All I Do’. Both are exquisite.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t a very astute political analyst – a lyric from ‘Master Blaster’:
“Peace has come to Zimbabwe, Third World’s right on the one,
Now’s the time for celebration, ‘cause we’ve only just begun.”
A musical genius maybe, but you dropped a bollock there Stevie.
On to the memory attached –
This song was a huge hit and I’ve listened to the album across the years, so it actually evokes multiple memories. The one memory that makes me smile though, involves an old school friend of mine named Lajos (pronounced lie-yosh).
If ‘Hotter than July’ was released in late 1980, we were probably listening to it in 1981. That would put us in (the former) Standard 8, which would mean we were about 16 years old. Lajos was nuts about the song ‘Master Blaster’, and the album.
He was originally from Cape Town, his family was Hungarian. He was a tall, blond, good-looking surfer dude. For me, he was a great example of the idiom, ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’. Based on his appearance, I assumed we had little in common, but after a while we were firm friends. He had a cracking sense of humor and like me, he was a big Monty Python fan. We’d entertain each other by quoting Python sketches with the original accents and crazy voices, – “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”, and, “Is this a piece of your brain?”.
The important thing to take from the description above, is that he was good-looking. I mean really good-looking. Not quite Brad Pitt, but if you took Brad Pitt and dialled it down a scooch…you’d get Lajos. Similarly, if you took Sam Jones as Flash Gordon and dialled it up a scooch…you’d get Lajos.
Here’s how good looking he was; – the school term was already in progress when he first arrived. We were in class, halfway through a lesson when the classroom door swung open and Lajos walked in. Small, exotic birds fluttered and danced in the halo of light around his head. On this windless day, his blonde hair bounced and blew around his face. Seven years before its release, the faint strains of Enya’s ‘Orinoco flow‘ whispered through the class like a calming smoke, (…sail away, sail away, sail away…).
As he crossed the room to hand his paperwork to the teacher, there were audible gasps and whimpers from the young ladies (a.k.a. ‘slappers’) in the class. I’d never heard such barely restrained primal, urgent groans before that day and sadly, I haven’t heard any since. The only person more excited about his arrival than those hormonal teenage girls, was our history teacher, Mr. Dormehl. Our favourite teacher throughout high school, Mr. Dormehl was a slightly older version of Jack from Will and Grace – although not quite as macho.
As it turned out, it wasn’t only the teenage girls and Mr. Dormehl who started vibrating around Lajos. At that time there probably three or four youngish (probably around 25 or so) female teachers at the school.
One day, shortly after Lajos arrived, we were in one of their classrooms. The teacher in question was a husky, heavy-set lady. Not quite in Obeseville at that point, but she was on the outskirts of town, approaching at speed.
We were all seated in the class when she stomped in. She got halfway across the room when her female radar kicked in. She stopped suddenly and turned to scan the room, curious like a bear who’d just caught the scent of an injured squirrel.
When she noticed Lajos, the transformation was remarkable. Suddenly coquettish and cute, she went from Little Lotta to Jessica Rabbit in an instant.
“Hellooo, and what’s your name?” She sang as she sashayed toward Lajos.
“Lajos ma’am.” He replied respectfully.
“Ooh, that’s an interesting name. How exactly do you spell that?” She purred with a never-before-seen smile on her face.
“L…A…J…” Lajos started spelling out his name, but by this time she’d reached him, and flirting outrageously, had propped one of her considerable butt cheeks on to the edge of his desk.
As she attempted to sit, the eccentric load applied to the desk exceeded its design limits and it shot sideways and flew across the classroom like furniture in a bar brawl. Amidst the clatter of steel and wood, students ducked for cover. Fearing for his life, Lajos jumped up and retreated as gravity took over and the teacher dropped like the Hindenburg.
For me, the adrenaline had kicked in and I was seeing everything in slow motion. She went down like the South Tower on 911. The ground shook, windows rattled, it was carnage. Her face was a mask of shock and horror, like Hans Gruber plummeting backwards at the end of Die Hard.
Some of the more timid kids wept openly. I watched as a young girl in the corner drew her knees up, sucked her thumb and started to rock and hum on her chair.
Granted, down the years my memory of the incident may have become distorted, but you catch my drift…it was a bad scene.
At some point she got back to her feet and stomping again, returned to the front of the class.
I don’t recall the rest of the lesson, I doubt any of us do. We were too busy biting into our cheeks trying to suppress the laughter.
Like most of my school friends, I lost track of Lajos after school.
20 years later, I was in Cape Town for the Two Oceans marathon. On the way to my starting pen, in a group of about 20 000 people, he walked past me. I stopped him and we spoke briefly, but the race was about to start and there was no time.
Another friend of mine, Craig (who was actually closer to Lajos than I was) was riding along the route on his bicycle that year. Running down the hill on the other side of Ou Kaapse Weg, I saw Craig and I told him about Lajos. Craig found him on the road and they exchanged phone numbers.
I was with Craig for the couple of days that followed. When we tried to call him it just rang out and he never phoned Craig.
Fair enough…some people don’t like to look in the rear view mirror.