How Many Roads?

From “World Without Love ~ A Collection of Short Stories that Together Tell a Story (page 71):


How Many Roads?

(May 1967)


Stinky Steven Setlist
(May 19, 1967)

I started it.

“I think we should take Blowin’ in the Wind off the setlist.” 

“But it’s Bob Dylan,” Ronny insisted.

“Dylan’s cool and all,” Roger agreed with me, “but it’s just not Rock’n’Roll.  It’s not hard enough.  Musically, it’s got no edge.”

“But we need every song we’ve got,” Ronny wasn’t ready to give in, “and we already know how to play it.”

“I like Dylan as much as anybody,” I was bolstered by Roger’s support, “and I agree that it’s a great song – it is – I get it – but the stupid folk-singing club is always singing Blowin’ in the Wind every time you turn around.  I mean, c’mon – they’re FOLK SINGERS!  They just suck all the cool right out of Dylan.”

“What do you want me to do?” Ronny tried to reason with us. “I have to get the set list approved before the show.  The deal was we have to have twenty-five songs.  And we’re gonna be short without it.  We gotta keep it.”   

“Look guys,” Roger figured it out, “leave it on the setlist for the Principal’s approval, so it looks like we have enough, but then we don’t have to actually do it at the show.  We can stretch out House of the Rising Sun and Louie Louie if we need to fill the time.”

“Okay, that makes sense.  Leave it on the list,” I compromised, “but we’re not going to actually play it.”

So Ronny wrote out the setlist and turned it in:


Milwaukie Jr. High Spring Dance – Friday, May 19, 1967

     Steppin’ Stone


     Paint It Black

     Get Off My Cloud

     Sunshine of Your Love

     Turn Turn Turn

     My Generation

     Drive My Car

     I Want To Hold Your Hand

     I Should Have Known Better

     No Reply

     Nowhere Man

     Please Please Me

     All My Loving

     She Loves You

     Twist and Shout


     She’s Not There

     Wild Thing

     House of the Rising Sun

     Last Kiss

     For Your Love

     Blowin’ in the Wind

     You Really Got Me

     Louie Louie

The Principal looked it over, scribbled on it, and handed it back to Ronny with Blowin’ in the Wind crossed off.

“What’s this bullshit?”  Roger exploded when he saw it.  “What the fuck is wrong with Blowin in the Wind?

“I don’t know?”  I confessed.  “But we weren’t going to play it anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”

“That’s not the fucking point.”  Roger was incensed.  “I’m going to talk to that old bastard, right now.  And you’re coming with me.”

“No Roger,” I warned, “that’s a mistake.  Don’t cause a stink.  Don’t make him mad.  He won’t let us play.  He’ll cancel the whole show.  Don’t say anything, please.  Just get along.  It’s not that big a’deal.”

“I just want to know why.”  Roger would not be deterred.

“It’s unpatriotic,” Principal Warrant asserted in response to Roger’s petition. 

“What?  How is it unpatriotic?”

“I assume you are familiar with the lyrics?”  He condescended.

I began politely reciting the lyrics to show him that we did in fact, know them:  “How many roads must a man walk down, before …”

“Not those lyrics,” he interrupted.

“Which lyrics?” Roger challenged.

“Banning cannonballs, among other things.”

“What’s wrong with banning cannonballs?”

“I told you.  It’s insufficiently patriotic.”  Principal Warrant was not to be swayed.  “I don’t know if you boys realize it, but there’s a war going on in Southeast Asia, and we’re going to support our servicemen – period.  I’m not having any of this peacenik propaganda worming its way into our school.  It’s simply subversive and we’re not going to allow it.”

“Subversive?  But ..”  Roger stopped and looked silently through the other songs on the setlist.

“Like I always say boys,” Principal Warrant summed up, “in life, you have to decide which road you’re going to take.  The high road?  Or the low road?  There’s no middle road.  Now, take it off your list or don’t play the dance.” 

“No, no, no,” I jumped in.  “No problem sir, we’ll take it off.”

“I expect you to do the right thing.”  He dismissed us.  “Have a good show, boys.”

“We’re playin’ it,” Roger determined as soon as we got out into the hallway.

“No, he’ll kill us.  We’ll never get to play again,” I was horrified.  “Besides, you don’t have to sing it – I do.  I’m the one who’ll get in trouble.”

“Oh nonsense,” Roger scoffed, “we’ll all get in trouble.  What’s he gonna do?  He can’t kill us.”

“He could expel us,” I calculated.  “One thing’s for sure: he’ll never let us play at school again.”

“Who the fuck cares?  It’s fucking-Milwaukie-fucking-JUNIOR-fucking-High-School.  We gotta get better gigs, anyway.”  Roger was on a roll.  “And you!  You pussy!  You’re going to have to get over your candy-ass fear of getting in trouble all the time.  You can’t live your whole life afraid of every fucking Principal Warrant that comes along.  Besides, when we play it – and we will – it’ll be his own fault, anyway.”

“How do you figure?”  I asked.

“He told us to take the high road.”

Roger was right.

We played it anyway.




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