Real musicians know that only the biggest bands ride the fancy tour buses and stay in the swanky hotels. For the rest of us, it’s a little bit more like this. Got a story? We want to hear it. Write to

Somewhere in Germany: Shattered Image

I am a U.S. Army soldier stationed in Germany—actually West Germany—and I’ve had the distinct opportunity to play several USAREUR (United States Army Europe) talent shows with my heavy metal cover band, Shattered Image, and my 1984 Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty. All of the band members are active duty Army soldiers, and participation in such events isn’t the easiest thing to get approval for. You also have to get used to not getting much sleep, or not sleeping at all, because under Army regulations, we’re not allowed to miss scheduled military training of any kind—including kitchen detail—to take part in extracurricular activities.

As far as cover bands go, we’re actually not that bad. We entered the local USAREUR talent show and won the first round. Unfortunately, this required us to travel to participate in the regional USAREUR show, which also required a lot more preparation and shuffling of schedules, as well as approval from our commanding officer. Shuffling our schedules wasn’t a problem, but getting approval from our commanding officer was like pulling the nose hairs off an already agitated bull.

After much preparation, we reworked all the schedules, filled out all the necessary paperwork (which was another chore all by itself), and went to see our commanding officer to ask for approval. He didn’t even deliberate for five minutes, informing us that “if the Army wanted you to play guitar, they would have issued you one.” Dejected, we all reluctantly went back to our daily routines. Our aspirations to play and conquer the regional talent show had been unceremoniously shot down, and would soon become faded memories.

A few days later, however, and the day before the regional talent show, we received word that the regional commanding officer—a four-star general, nonetheless—was not at all happy with our commanding officer’s decision. Apparently, he didn’t like to hear that his soldiers were being deprived of participation in “morale support activities,” so he reversed the decision of our commanding officer and gave us all the green light to go.

Later that same day, all of us jumped into a military van packed with our equipment and drove on through the night to be at the show. We ended up making it to the auditorium on time, delivered a tight, blistering set of some serious rock and roll, and ended up with the second place trophy, including a critique that included the words, "a true heavy metal wall of sound.”

We were all very happy about our achievement, and celebrated all the way back to our home base. Unfortunately, our triumphant return would be short lived. We found out that our commanding officer wasn’t too happy about having his authority undermined by the four-star general. In apparent retaliation, he had all of us promptly assigned to kitchen detail and desk duty for the remainder of the month.

But it didn’t matter. We all agreed that given the same set of circumstances, we’d all be very happy to do it all over again in a second. Long live rock and roll!