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On the pages of his dad’s book, ‘The Boy Who Wanted to Rock’ gets his wish

Arlen Weiser, the inspiration for his dad's book, "The Boy Who Wanted to Rock."
Arlen Weiser, the inspiration for his dad's book, "The Boy Who Wanted to Rock."David Weiser

There once was a boy who wanted to rock.

So his dad wrote him a book. Dad knew how to rock. He was a keyboard programmer who worked on Broadway shows.

Some of his dad’s famous buds sang companion songs and narrated the audiobook.

Meanwhile, mom was busy upstairs helping with the vaccine.

It’s been a busy year for the Weisers of Haverhill.

David Weiser, a keyboard programmer for Andrew Lloyd Webber shows and others — from Broadway, to London’s West End, to NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” starring John Legend — has written and self-published “The Boy Who Wanted to Rock,” for his own boy who wanted to rock: Arlen.

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“As soon as he was born, this guy was a little rocker,” Weiser says.

When Arlen was “in diapers, I’d have a playlist with Queen, David Bowie, Beatles, Stones. The odd AC/DC song would pop up, and Arlen would drop his toys, march over the speaker, stare at it, rapt. When the song ended he would sob.

“We were like, alright, there’s worse things he could be into than AC/DC,” says Weiser, who has also helped program keyboards on tours for Bowie, the Who, and Brian Wilson.

One day, sitting in a rehearsal in the Netherlands, Weiser took out his notebook and wrote what would become the first sentence of his book: “There once was a boy who wanted to rock.”

David Weiser, a keyboard programmer, recruited some Broadway talent to play on songs that accompany the book.
David Weiser, a keyboard programmer, recruited some Broadway talent to play on songs that accompany the book.David Weiser

The end result is a spirited tale, told in a punchy, rhyming cadence, of a boy who wants to rock — but first needs some lessons. A dog teaches him drumming basics. An octopus teaches him piano scales. Two cats teach him guitar and bass. Goblins and trolls teach him how to fist-pump and strut (their alumni include Angus Young, Prince, and Mick Jagger). Characters all but pop off the page with charming illustrations from New Bedford native Derek Lavoie.

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You can buy the book in a few places online. If you purchase through Bookbaby, $2 from every book goes to the Actors Fund, to help arts workers impacted by the industry-wide shutdowns.

There’s also a free “Reading Rainbow”-esque animated audiobook, brought to life by West End actress Ria Jones, on YouTube and the book’s website.

Jones is just one star involved in Weiser’s project. Friends and colleagues from NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” helped with accompanying songs: “He Wants to Rock,” and “The Practice Song.” The ensemble features Justin Matthew Sargent on lead vocals, Tim Quick on guitar and backing vocals, Roland Guerin on bass, Jamey Tate on drums, with Weiser on keyboards. (The original songs and audiobook are available on various streaming services and YouTube.)

Arlen, who deemed the book “pretty good,” says he wants to grow up to be “like Angus” Young.

What draws to him music? “I like rocking,” Arlen, 6, says matter-of-factly. “I have only two favorite bands. . . . AC/DC and Aerosmith.”

The cover of "The Boy Who Wanted to Rock"
The cover of "The Boy Who Wanted to Rock"Handout

Weiser came to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music in 1992. Around 2000, he started working for a Waltham-based synthesizer manufacturer, Kurzweil Music Systems.

“For some reason, I was really good at programming keyboard sounds, and replicating sounds on a new keyboard. Big rock acts would call me up and say, ‘Can you help us out with some presets?’ That’s what opened the first doors for me.”

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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s team was “a huge client of the company.” Eventually, he says, “It took me on this really unlikely path of going from zero theater to working on ‘Evita’ on Broadway.”

Meanwhile, Weiser’s wife, Sarah, a principal scientist for Pfizer, is focused on the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’m downstairs saying, ‘No, make the goblins bigger!’ And my wife is upstairs talking about roll-out for the vaccine. I’m doing the most frivolous thing you could possibly be doing, and she’s doing the least frivolous thing,” he says with a laugh. “She’s so much better than I deserve, it’s not even funny.”

His first book is “the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done,” Weiser says. “I’m still pinching myself.”

Now he’s busy working on a sequel: “The Girl Who Wanted to Groove.”

Learn more at www.theboywhowantedtorock.com.

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. She tweets @laurendaley1.