Stakeout - New Recording of a Synth Instrumental I Wrote in the 80s

Here's a real throwback to the 80s - because that's when I wrote this! 

Before I played guitar, I played synthesizer. When I was 15 I composed this instrumental “Stakeout” inspired by the Beverly Hills Cop and Miami Vice soundtracks. This new recording and video are a tribute to those strong influences on my early music-making. I give you “Stakeout.” 

I performed this song in my high school's1986 talent show and won the instrumental music category. With the prize, a gift certificate to a local record store, I bought Van Halen's new album “5150” featuring newly added singer Sammy Hagar. I loved the synthesizer songs and wanted to go to their show when they came to town that summer. This would be my first rock concert. I left that show a fan of Eddie's guitar wizardry as well as his synth hooks. That was when I became determined to learn guitar. 

Talent Show Night '86

I had composed Stakeout to perform at my high school talent show. I had a Casio CZ-101 synth, plus my more basic Casio keyboard so I could combine the tones created by both. I had a Casio sequencer connected to the synth so I could compose a drum beat and bassline that would play through the synth while I played the melody. 

At the talent show rehearsal the MC asked me about the sequencer, a big square box. I said, “Oh, that? That's my beat box.” From that candid response I got my nickname, Jason “The Beat Box” Didner, which I think lasted the rest of sophomore year! 

My stagewear reflected that strong Miami Vice influence. I wore the white jacket and pants with Docksiders shoes and no socks - just like Don Johnson. The only thing missing was the 5:00 shadow! 

When the curtain opened for me to begin playing “Stakeout,” there was no sound! Curtain closed. Still no sound. Curtain opened again. Still no sound. Crowd is beginning to murmur. They had already made a classical guitarist walk off stage mid-piece by talking over his performance. Heart pounding! One more check of the keyboard. PHEW!! Finally a synth tone coming through the speakers. 

Curtain opened. I played a mysterious-sounding melodic intro. Crowd got really quiet. Then I pressed the beat box button. As the beat and bass kicked in, the crowd EXPLODED! They clapped along on the 2's and 4's. I had them with me through the performance. I was floating on air for days after that! 

After my performance I joined my parents and brother in the balcony. When it was time to announce category winners, Lance, the MC announced that the instrumental/miscellaneous category went to “The Beat Box.” My dad said, “Jason should have won!” My mom answered, “Jason IS The Beat Box!” 

Since the prize led me to buy a Van Halen album, you can say “The rest is history!”  

Your Turn

What are some of the early influences on your creativity? Have they remained constant influences? Have you returned to them from time to time? How did they point you to your next influences? Comment below, and let's have a conversation! 

Jason Didner recording Stakeout on synthesizer

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