If you were an Oklahoman and a music fan in the early 90s, there really wasn’t a better time to be semi-alive: alternative fans had the Nixons and the Flaming Lips, country fans had Garth Brooks and Vince Gill and a million other performers, and, if you were a fan of pop music, there was Color Me Badd and PC Quest.
Hailing mostly from Shawnee—although, in Oklahoma City, we thought that the PC stood for “Putnam City” when in reality it meant “Pop Chart”—this quartet, for a short period of time in our even shorter lives, was the hottest thing since your friend’s expensive purple Girbauds exploded on the scene.
Made up of brothers Chad and Stephen Petree, Drew Nichols, and Kim Whipkey, if you were looking for squeaky teen vocals over pure synthesizer backbeats, you really had to travel no farther than the KJ103 Hot 8 at 8 or, if you got the bread, Musicland in the mall to pick up their fresh cassingle, “After the Summer’s Gone,” a maudlin doo-wopper about the heartbreak a teen feels when their PG-rated summer relationship is over and they have to go back to their crummy different schools. We’ve all been there…right?
Orchestrated and manipulated by George Tobin, the multi-media genius who put Tiffany in malls across the country, he positioned PC Quest to take the Teen Beat throne from the New Kids on the Block, then the hottest singing group since the Beatles, according to People Magazine. For a relatively small amount of time—about five or six months—it worked like gangbusters. PC Quest was a non-stop promotions machine, doing radio, television and concerts consistently and constantly.
When the band came to Oklahoma City to promote their record and thank their fans, it was usually a mob scene; whether it was jamming out at Frontier City or catching a break in the mall, these guys (and gal) were plastic gods and everyone seeming wanted a piece. A girl known for telling spectacular lies in my sixth grade class told us her dad got them to play a private concert for her, for her birthday. It wasn’t true, but maybe it could have been. But it probably wasn’t.
As summer ended and school started up, the shadow of grunge and Nirvana’s Nevermind was casting a looming presence over the pop-scene; there was a nervous angst in the air, just waiting for Kurt Cobain’s I-hate-myself-and-want-to-die rhetoric to ignite in a thousand teens cutting themselves for attention, myself included. We grew our hair out, scuffed our jeans and strapped on some flannels for the long, tortured haul.
As that light-hearted music disappeared from the airwaves gradually, we all remembered, quietly to ourselves, that for a few scant months we were allowed to be happy, we were allowed to dance, and we were allowed to enjoy ourselves.
PC Quest disbanded after their second album Directions bombed most heinously. RCA dropped them from their stable and everyone in the group went their separate ways. The most successful member probably being li’l Chad Petree, who eventually grew a couple of feet and became the singer and guitarist for Shiny Toy Guns, a band my ex-wife liked a lot.
As for me, however, I still have my copy of that first PC Quest album, the plastic case browning from corroded age. But the CD still plays just fine, and whether it’s “Can I Call You My Girl?” or “Ready, Aim, Dance!” or even “Just Forget About ’Em,” when it’s spinning, it’s always Friday night in the Rhythm Pit. Always.