Too Cool for School

My life as a Donna

Let me break it down: when I was a teenager, I wanted to rock. Raised on Black Sabbath, I worshiped a velvet, black-light poster of Ozzy on my bedroom wall. My parents split on me, so I was brought up by my aunt, who had a boyfriend named Jack Daniels whose needs were always met before mine. All I wanted was to play guitar, but every time I saved up cash toward my axe, my aunt would steal it to buy booze, calling the dough her "rent money." Rent, my ass! So when she locked me in the garage once while her "honey" came over for a three-day binge, I came across a dusty mahogany box. Inside, I found pictures of my aunt. Turned out she was a stunning musician during the '40s who played the cowbell in a hillbilly trio. That moment changed my life 'cuz her old cowbell was in that box, too.

I spent endless nights practicing the cowbell, getting the tempo just right, learning all the intricacies of cowbelling. So many drummers think they can strap a cowbell onto their kit and play double time, but that's an absolute insult to cowbell players everywhere. I started playing for change on street corners, and one fateful day, I met a scraggly guy named Tommy Lee. He invited me to jam with his band, Mötley Crüe, at a backyard party in Covina (he was really just trying to get into my pants, which he did—no regrets). The Crüe had been working on this song called "Too Fast for Love," but they just couldn't quite get it right. Then I dropped in some 'bell—the crowd went nuts!

Tommy and I continued balling while I continued belling. The buzz around us grew so fast that we were playing parties every weekend, which eventually got us signed. The year I spent with the Crüe was the best year of my life. I was a total rock star. Problem was the audience wanted more of me and less of singer Vince Neil, and he knew it. Vince tried emulating my platinum-blond feathered hair, but there's a certain appeal to a hot chick's feathers that a guy just can't capture. Vince threw a hissy fit, and I was kicked out of the band.

The streets became my new stage. I was doping, smoking, turning tricks, anything to get by—anything to keep the music alive, man. The late '80s were not a good time—everyone but me was rocking, and Vince had done everything he could to make sure I never rang another heavy-metal cowbell again. But my legend lived on. I carved a unique place for women in metal that even Lita Ford couldn't match. I became a sort of cult figure among female musicians, unbeknownst to me—I was too busy smoking crack.

One afternoon, I woke up from an all-night bender in a Palo Alto doghouse, covered in blood. I passed out after carving the word SLAYER into my arm with a rusty razor. We don't want to get into all that, but the worst part was that the cowbell I had worn around the waist of my black leather pants during my rock & roll years was gone. I sobbed uncontrollably, which prompted the dog to start AHOOO-ing. When we both quieted down, I heard some crunchy guitars going off in a nearby garage.

I walked up and peeked in a side window and couldn't believe my eyes: four young chicks rocking the fuck out! Ace Frehley-worthy riffs screamed from the amps of guitarist Donna R. The singer, Donna A., spotted me, and all the Donnas came running. I lost my footing on the crate I was standing on and slipped, hitting my head on a rock. When I came to, I was on a couch with drummer Donna C.'s mother hovering over me.

She told me the story behind the girls: they started playing together as Ragady Anne at a school talent show when they were 14. Some dude named Darrin Raffaelli stumbled across their act a year later, after they had switched their name to the Electrocutes, and gave them some songs he had written with the idea of cultivating his very own girlie supergroup. He fancied himself a sort of Phil Spector and rechristened the girls the Donnas.

They recorded Darrin's "Everybody's Smoking Cheeba," and Darrin pressed the Donnas' 1995 debut on his indie label, Super*Teem. Not really happy with this arrangement, the band continued to play as the Electrocutes on the side and eventually kicked Darrin's ass to the curb so they could rock their own songs as the Donnas. While their peers were taking SAT tests, the Donnas were perusing record contracts.

The girls were raised listening to KISS, Ratt, W.A.S.P., the Muffs, L7 and—most flattering—Mötley Crüe. They knew all about me. Mom C. showed me into Donna C.'s bedroom, and I was blown away—there was a shrine of sorts to me and my fellow metalers. I'd been out selling my soul for a bottle of Night Train while these girls had been living my dreams! Then the Donnas walked in and immediately begged me to jam with them. They had been trying to perfect their cover of "Too Fast for Love," but Donna C. knew she wasn't doing justice on the cowbell. How could I refuse?

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