People get weepy when stadiums close down (see: Yankee Stadium) and legendary music venues go out–or are forced out–of business (see: CBGB’s), so it should come as no surprise that one can get a little nostalgic when certain fast food restaurants are leveled to the ground (see: Shaler McDonald’s).
This week, one of our Indie Ear contributors (the one who’s nuts about Madonna) informed me that my former place of employment back in Pittsburgh, Shaler McDonald’s, was whacked with a wrecking ball and is no more.
I spent seven-and-a-half years of my life in that building. Most of those years were spent flipping hamburgers. The other years (if you want to keep count) were used to figure out how I was going to quit and find another job, flirt with a girl who I would later marry, sneak my friends extra cheeseburgers and apple pies when I worked the drive-thru window, and make countless memories along the way (many of those related to music):
1.) McDonald’s first all-female punk rock group: Psycho Bitch
2.) Jason Andracki, McDonald’s heavy metal connoisseur.
3.) Milkweed performing one of their first shows in pink McD’s shirts.
4.) D-Boiz borrowing some McDonald’s attire for a photo shoot.
5.) Another musical group formed at Shaler McDonald’s: Deck-of-Jack
6.) McDonald’s uniforms made for great soccer uniforms.
7.) World Cup Champions (1998)
8.) Deck-of-Jack’s McDonald’s-inspired concept album, Shock Box
When I started working at McDonald’s we had one muzak channel that consisted of nothing but contemporary instrumental music. Imagine the joy that filled the grill area when a new muzak system was installed giving us the option of three channels: 1.) Contemporary Instrumental 2.) Adult Contemporary w/ Lyrics and 3.) Pop/Rock. Guess which one we chose? Boyz II Men and Def Leppard ballads never sounded so good. Years and years of classic McDonald’s sing-a-longs ensued.
The grill area–my place of expertise–was also a great place to talk music. The Morrison brothers loved talking about country music, the Craft brothers–who always wore their uniform pants way under their butt cheeks–listened to nothing but hip-hop, Jason Andracki was a heavy metal encyclopedia, Bob Kurtz loved Tool and Pantera, Eric Lengyel adored Dream Theater, and Doug Behling, well, he would punch you as hard as he could (no lie) if you didn’t listen to anything but hard rock in the crew room. Though I hated getting punched, I have to give Doug credit, because he was the first person to introduce me to Black Sabbath and Nirvana (he was also the first person I ever saw with the Nevermind album).
In the early 90’s, McDonald’s also inspired me to start a rap group. For one reason or another it seemed like a good idea to have a rap crew called the Mickey D Boys–who dressed up in McDonald’s attire and rhymed only about the golden arches. Fortunately, the odd conception in my head never came to fruition, although I did eventually start a rap group called the D-Boiz, and years later–more of an ode to the Beastie Boys than McDonald’s–we began dressing in McD’s jumpsuits that we borrowed from our store’s maintenance man.
My crowing McDonald’s musical achievement though, came in the summer of 1997. My goal was to start an all-female punk group consisting solely of McDonald’s crewmembers. Taking the role of Malcom McLaren, I decided to christen the band with an over-the-top, Sex Pistols-inspired moniker: Psycho Bitch.
The girl I flirted with (aka, my future wife) was really good on guitar, so she was my first recruit. The lead singer was also an obvious choice, since she was as punk rock as they come. She didn’t dress like a punk rocker or even listen to punk rock music–but–one day when the nearby Burger King began a promotion promising any McDonald’s worker a free Big King sandwich if they came in wearing their uniform, not only did Natalie take them up on their offer, but she also took the free sandwich out of its wrapper, said a couple expletives, and spiked the Big King off the floor–special sauce and all. How punk rock is that? Burger King called the police and Natalie became an instant celebrity.
Once Natalie’s friend Emily caught wind that she was going to be in a punk band, she also wanted in on the action, so Emily became our bass player. Since drummers are hard to come by–let alone female drummers–I decided I would play drums (although I made sure to stay way in the back, so all the focus could be on the girls).
That summer we wrote six songs together, taught Emily how to play bass (it was quick learning, since she was only responsible for playing 3-4 notes a song), and Natalie took it upon herself to horde up on pig Beanie-Baby Happy Meal Toys.
At the end of the summer, during my annual Wiffle Ball Classic festival, where a bunch of local bands would play out of my garage, Psycho Bitch made their debut. A lot of McDonald’s workers came, expecting it to be a joke, but midway through the set, I looked out from behind the drum kit and saw pure surprise and joy on everyone’s face–Psycho Bitch was actually GOOD!
The set culminated with a song called “Little Piggie.” During the chorus, Natalie tossed hundreds of Beanie Babies out into the crowd (the same ones she was smuggling throughout the summer). Fittingly, my dream of starting a female punk group consisting of my fellow McD’s co-workers came to life on the same day I saw pigs fly.
Like Yankee Stadium (see: above) Shaler McDonald’s is being rebuilt. The new multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art store will be prettier on the eyes and more spacious than the previous McDonald’s, but I can tell you this, it’s gonna take a long, long time before it even comes close to matching the memories that took place in that old pile of rubble.