In 1960s Pakistan, American teens bring the rock and roll
By John Kelly,
I think it’s safe to say that if a bunch of long-haired American teenagers was to walk down the streets of a Pakistani city today, clutching electric guitars and looking for a place to play their brand of rock-and-roll, things might end badly for them.
Oh, how things have changed since the 1960s.
That was when the Prints of Darkness planted the flag of rock in the hot soil of Pakistan. The bandmates — ages 14 to 17 — were students at the Lahore American School, children of diplomats, businessmen and aid workers. In a city that had electricity only a few days a week, they still managed to master songs by the likes of the Jefferson Airplane and write their own material.
They played high school dances and even went on a brief State Department-sponsored tour, playing to audiences that consisted of Pakistani men. (No women were allowed, even then.)
Steve Lorber may have been the band’s biggest fan. He attended the school from 1961 to 1969, when his hydrologist father was sent to Pakistan to build dams on the Indus River.
“They were like the first rock band I saw with any consistency,” said Steve, now 60 and living in Silver Spring.
The band broke up when its older members graduated. Steve often wondered what became of them — and what became of their music, crudely captured live at gigs on reel-to-reel tape recorders.
Steve went to Georgetown, was a DJ on the university’s radio station and threw himself into music, managing the Slickee Boys early in their career. He now runs Metro Music, a mail-order company that trades in collectible records.
He just added a new LP to his stock: He tracked down the members of Prints of Darkness, got his hands on their tapes and had them painstakingly rescued by local audio engineer Tony Eichler. Now he has produced a sumptuous nine-track LP on 180-gram vinyl, with a colorful, photo-filled booklet designed by local album artist Dick Bangham.
All for a band you’ve never heard of.
Even Steve admits it’s total overkill, but it’s a neat audio time capsule and a special monument to the Power of Rock. And, actually, the music isn’t bad, especially a psychedelic fuzz-and drum-filled workout called “Night Turns to Day.”
Several band members have ties to the Washington area. Singer Roberta “Bourbon” Kilgore — now Roberta McInerney — has exactly the sort of job you’d expect a former singer in a trippy rock band to have. She’s deputy general counsel at the FDIC. John Sligh, keyboards, is an architect for the government. Drummer Skip Boyce had a career in the State Department, including a stint as U.S. ambassador to Indonesia. Now he lives in Singapore and heads Boeing’s Asia operation. Travis Henderson lives in the area, and Steve Davy is a cameraman in San Francisco.
The band members say they’re tickled by Steve Lorber’s effort, if a little perplexed.
“I’m both thrilled and a bit embarrassed,” guitarist and vocalist Richard Woodbury e-mailed me from Chicago, where he’s a composer and sound designer and is on the faculty of Columbia College. “I mean, we really weren’t that good. We were very serious however and my time in Pakistan with the ‘Prints’ was one of the most formative experiences of my life.”
It obviously was for Steve, too. The LP — $25 and available on eBay — is called “Zindabad.” It’s an Urdu word meaning “live forever.”
When I called documentary filmmaker Jeff Krulik this week, he was on the way to the house of his editor in Alexandria. There, they would attempt to tame hours of material.
“When you’re editing, you’re just like a pig in a trough,” said Jeff, co-creator of cult classic “Heavy Metal Parking Lot.” “You’re covered in everything.”
Jeff is covered in “Led Zeppelin Played Here,” his new doc about the evening in 1969 — Jan. 20, the night of Richard Nixon’s inauguration, incidentally — when Led Zeppelin either did or did not play its first-ever Washington area gig, at the Wheaton Youth Center.
For every person who says he was at that show, man, there’s another who says it never took place, dude. There are no faded posters, no old ticket stubs, no grainy black-and-white photos.
“Now everyone has cellphones,” he said. “Everything’s documented to death. Everything’s paper-trailed to death.”
Not so in 1969.
You can see what Jeff has come up with — he’s calling the still-in-progress movie a “preview” as opposed to a “premiere” — 9 p.m. Sunday at AFI Silver (afi.com/silver; tickets $5).
“I’ve done a lot of research,” Jeff said. “Will it be definite? Who knows. Some people still don’t think the moon landing happened.”
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.