Saturday, June 30, 2012

No. 705 – Afterglow

Performer: Genesis
Songwriter: Tony Banks
Original Release: Wind and Wuthering
Year: 1976
Definitive Version: Three Sides Live, 1982

“I slept with your girlfriend last night.”

That’s what Scott told me over the phone one evening while I was at Northwestern in the Fall of 1986. Well, not only did I know about this; I even approved of the arrangement!

Now before you have a fit of apoplexy, allow me to explain.

When Genesis announced a tour in 1986, they said they were doing only a few dates in select (read: huge) cities. Chicago was one of them, but I assumed that the said ducats would be long gone by the time I got there.

But at about the time I left, Genesis announced additional dates in a second leg, one of which included Cleveland, or more properly the Richfield Mausoleum. The concert wasn’t until January 1987, and although I had no idea what my class schedule would be at that time—and I assumed I’d have classes—I wasn’t about to back out. This was freaking Genesis, after all. In 1986, they were my favorite active band. There wasn’t a chance I was going to miss out on it if I could help it.

The concert would be on a Sunday night, so I could come down that weekend and drive back after the concert or at least get as far as I could before stopping and then driving in first thing in the morning before classes. What the heck: I’m 22. I’ll figure something out.

Because I’d be at Northwestern when tickets went on sale, Scott was in charge of getting tickets. Back then, of course, there was really only one way to get tickets: You had to go to the local Ticketron or Ticketbastard outlet, which meant Buzzard’s Nest. And for the biggies—and Genesis was a biggie in 1986, at least to us—you had to camp out.

Scott was willing to thus commit, which is one of the reasons I love him. He was a Boy Scout, so what’s sleeping on a concrete sidewalk? And after all, this was FREAKING GENESIS. I would have been right beside him had I been in town, but I told him I’d be there in spirit.

I can’t remember whether it was concern for Scott’s welfare, since it wasn’t going to be in the best part of town (although not in a bad part, at least at that time), or just the general excitement of the whole event, but Beth decided to camp out, too. This was a surprising development, because Beth was never grungy EVER.

So, my girlfriend, who was almost never in public without makeup and being dressed to the nines, was going to camp out for concert tickets? Now I REALLY wanted to be there.

On the night of the campout, Beth called me from a nearby pay phone and said that she and Scott had set up on the sidewalk and were the only ones there. Sounds like a potential payoff to me.

And the next night, Scott called and delivered the words stated above with a poops-eating grin that was audible over the phone.

“I slept with your girlfriend last night.”

What a bastard. OK, what he said was literally true, and in all honesty, it was exactly what a 14-going-on-15-year-old younger brother should say. I mean I would have been disappointed if he HADN’T said that.

Cute, Scott. So, did you get the tickets?

Oh, they got the tickets all right … right in the upper deck behind the stage. I couldn’t have gotten much worse seats, and I couldn’t get seats where I was, so that made the travails all worth it, right?

Of course it was worth it, just so Scott could pound a little sand up big brother’s butt.

Friday, June 29, 2012

No. 706 – Walking in Your Footsteps

Performer: The Police
Songwriter: Sting
Original Release: Synchronicity
Year: 1983
Definitive Version: Live!, 1995

Shortly before I went to Northwestern, Scott made a bootleg tape of The Police concert shown on MTV from the Synchronicity tour in 1983. When I learned that The Police’s live album in 1995 was going have this show on one disc, I had to have it, because I had worn out the tape.

On the first drive to school at the end of September 1986, as soon as I got near enough to Chicago that I could pick up the radio stations, I turned off my tapes and went with the radio. I went straight to the Loop, which was the well-known rock station in town, like Q-FM in Columbus, and that brought me into town.

Right when the Lake Shore was ending before I turned onto Sheridan to complete the drive, the music stopped and the next DJs came on, and they were unlike anything I’d ever heard before. I couldn’t tell what they were doing—they weren’t playing any music—and I turned them off and went back to my music, but I remembered their names for later: Steve and Garry.

I got to Engelhart Hall, the grad-school residency dorm, just before the monitor left for the day, so I could get the keys to my room. This was going to be something of a new experience after the past few years at Wabash. Since my freshman year, I had lived in a house with two other guys, an apartment with two other guys and an apartment with one other guy.

Now I was going to be in a shared suite in a high-rise building that had 250 units. I had lived in the dorms at Wabash for a year, of course, but even Wolcott Hall had only about 40 individual units. Culture shock.

My room was on the second floor, and I saw right away that the window to my dorm room—and therefore bed—was going to be no more than 175 feet from the L. Having typically needed quiet while sleeping, this was going to be a problem, and the words of Jake and Elwood Blues flashed through my head: “How often does the train come by?” “So often you won’t even notice it.” I hoped that that would be true.

The dorm was a suite, as I’ve described, and the first order of business after I had moved everything up to my room and parked my car in the lot between the building and the L tracks, was to rearrange the room the way I liked it.

OK, the real first order of business was to get out the boombox that Jin let me take, plug it in and pop in a tape. The first tape I listened to at Northwestern was the Synchronicity concert bootleg.

The tape—and therefore the MTV concert that Scott bootlegged—differs slightly from the CD version. This is the third song on the CD but the second on the tape. I seem to recall that I popped in this tape as I unloaded my car, so that by the time this song came around, I was ready to get serious about moving furniture before I unpacked my boxes and suitcases.

The room was arranged so the bed was along the long part of the wall in a way that if you pushed your pillow hard at night, it could fall off the end. That would never do, so I put it in the corner, which also kept the bed out of direct sunlight. I had an East-facing, aka early-sunlight, window, so this was an added benefit. I moved the desk next to it where the bed had been, not unlike the arrangement I had had at the condo at home, and then put the dresser on the wall opposite the window and the tall bookshelf against the wall between the door and closet. It all fit perfectly.

That was some comfort when I finally bedded down only to be awakened moments later by the rumble of the L building speed as it departed the nearby Foster Avenue stop. It went by often, and I noticed every time. This was going to take some getting used to.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

No. 707 – I’ll Wait

Performer: Van Halen
Songwriters: Edward Van Halen, David Lee Roth
Original Release: 1984
Year: 1984
Definitive Version: None

I hated, h-a-t-e-d Van Halen for a long time. I wasn’t a fan of their music and I couldn’t stand their preening videos. Mostly I couldn’t stand David Lee Roth, which, back in the Eighties, made me pretty much like everyone else in the band as it would turn out.

This song, however, changed that. I don’t know if it was the synth or Roth’s straightforward reading or what, but I didn’t hate it. In fact, I kind of liked it when it was all over the radio in the spring and early summer of 1984. Of course, what really changed my opinion of Van Halen was when Diamond Dave split and they got with Sammy Hagar. After that—for awhile—it became all about the music and less about the look-at-me quality that the band formerly had. But I’m getting sidetracked again.

The summer of 1984 was a fun summer, aside from the obviousness of the Hawaii vacation, which I’ve started to recount. It was the first summer after Beth and I had become intimate, so that was great, of course. And it was the first time I’d been to Torch Lake for any length of time without parental supervision—details of which are to come.

As per usual, I worked at Food World that summer. I had a pretty good arrangement. Normally I’d just show up after I finished at Wabash and said I was available to work if they had any hours open. Within a week, I’d be on the schedule. After I had proven myself my senior year of high school, it was that easy to be rehired as a bagger/jack-of-all-trades.

But this time, unlike the previous summer, almost the entire staff had turned over with the notable exception of the head cashier, the produce clerk and the butcher. Todd, who had been a stocker my previous two tenures, was now assistant manager. The good news was that most of the staff were my peers in terms of age. Before, I’d always been one of the youngest ones by several years.

Two of the new cashiers were a pair of cute (read: attractive and petite) brunettes—Renee and Marci. Todd called them the Bobbsey Twins. The funny thing is I knew Renee from when we were little kids.

We had grown up two doors from each other on Norway Drive, and Renee and Jin used to play all the time with the girl who lived between us—Dominique. When we moved away in 1972, I never saw Renee again … until 12 years later when we found ourselves at the same store.

Renee was definitely all grown up, which was a bit disconcerting, but I was with Beth, so I wasn’t interested in pursuing anything beyond a work friendship. Beth knew both Renee and Marci from school—they all went to Watterson—and Beth’s family were in the same parish as Renee’s, so they saw each other at church all the time.

As a result, Beth learned previously classified information about some of my shenanigans when I was a little kid. Her favorite story was how I’d get up at the crack of dawn and go out into my backyard to swing on my swingset in my Dr. Dentons (complete with footies and buttflap) while singing some song they couldn’t quite make out (probably the Banana Splits Theme Song, if I didn’t know any better).

Renee’s parents didn’t know whether they should call my parents to warn them that I was out by myself. That they didn’t just call family services on them for leaving a young child unattended is a sign of the times, of course; I was fine being out there by myself. They never did call my parents, but it was nice to know years later that I had other people watching out for me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No. 708 – You’re Not the Only One I Know

Performer: The Sundays
Songwriters: David Gavurin, Harriet Wheeler
Original Release: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
Year: 1990
Definitive Version: None

Jin gets full credit for getting me into The Sundays, but I definitely associate this song and this album with Laurie.

When I moved to Chicago in September 2005, I took next to nothing with me—a few changes of clothes (emphasis on a few), a couple milk crates and beer crates of books and boxes of paper files, my computer and scanner, a few CDs (emphasis on a few) and a board to build shelves with the aforementioned milk crates, like I was back in college.

The reason was mostly practical—I didn’t have room for anything more than that in Laurie’s apartment. Laurie’s apartment in one of those good-old-Chicago multiunit complexes had four rooms—a living room, bedroom, dining room and kitchen—and all four were small. Only the dining room had anything like free space, and that’s where I more or less set up shop.

The dining table became my office—except for when I needed to be on the phone for my dial-up Internet—which would necessitate a move to the living room. I built my bookshelf along one wall. Laurie turned over a file cabinet that she was using more or less as a table, so I would have a place to store my files.

But elsewhere you’d have to look hard to notice my presence. Laurie had no room for any more furniture in her bedroom, so my clothes ended up in the coat closet by the front door in the hallway.

Laurie at least removed most of her coats from it after we went to the store to get a garment rack for the basement, where Laurie had a 3-foot-by-3-foot storage space. And my shirts and suit for interviews shared the coat rack with my one jacket and winter coat. The shelf above it was used for my pants and any foldable shirts. I was at least able to cram a plastic storage unit in the bedroom for my underwear.

This was supposed to be a temporary arrangement until I got a job. Then I would find my own place and move up the rest of my stuff. It was cramped, but by that time, I was pretty well used to living in somewhat austere conditions after my Cleveland experience. The point was not what I had with me, but that I was living in Chicago and all that that implied. I couldn’t have been happier.

Back then, the CD player on Laurie’s mini stereo system didn’t work, so we listened to tapes most of the time, as I’ve mentioned. This album was one of the regular plays while she was fixing brunch or doing chores around the apartment. Now that we have a mini stereo that plays MP3 files on a thumb drive, we never listen to this tape or any others any more. Time marches on, I suppose.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No. 709 – Landslide

Performer: Fleetwood Mac
Songwriter: Stevie Nicks
Original Release: Fleetwood Mac
Year: 1975
Definitive Version: Live, 1980

All the signs were visible when Mom and Dad finally broke up. Dad had already moved out for a while, and new names were popping up in casual conversation that obviously in retrospect indicated a life change coming.

But still any kid is bound to be shocked to a certain extent when they hear that their parents are getting a divorce. I was, I suppose, although I can’t say I was entirely unhappy about it. A divorce at least meant that the fights—particularly the ones in the middle of the night—thankfully were going to be a thing of the past.

We got the word at the end of summer in 1976. The whole family was at Torch Lake. It was a Sunday, which was usually the day we left to head back to Columbus anyway, so there was nothing strange when Dad said that we were leaving a bit earlier than planned.

I had just come up with Dad on Friday. We had picked up Mom in Marion at Grampy’s house, where she had been packing up things with Sally, (Jin and Scott were already at the lake.) I didn’t have much with me that I had to pack up, so I went down to the yacht club to watch the start of the E-boat race and get lunch before heading back to the ranch. I was somewhat surprised that Dad didn’t come with me.

When I got home, Dad had Pop’s motor home—The Bus, as we called it—packed up. When we left, Jin, Scott and I were in the front bench seats, and Mom was the in the back. We were thrilled at first: What kid doesn’t like sitting in front when he or she gets the chance? I know I did, because Mom and Dad ALWAYS sat in the front. I’d get to sit in front only if one of the parents wasn’t in the car.

But after awhile, it was strange that Mom continued to sit in back, saying nothing and just staring out the window. At one point maybe midway into the drive home, I went back at a stop to ask Mom if she wanted to sit up front. All she said was no. No one had said anything about anything.

I remember that day very well, but I don’t remember the next when I’m sure that Mom told us that the reason we came home ahead of time was that she and Dad were getting a divorce. I can’t remember whether she told us right away the reason they were getting a divorce, but I learned soon enough: Dad was seeing someone else.

Well, as you can imagine, when you’re a kid and you love both your parents and one apparently harms the other, you tend to immediately come to the defense of the injured parent. I was Team Mom all the way, and that definitely softened the blow of the actual news. It was like, well, OF COURSE, you’re getting a divorce. I was about to start seventh grade, and that was all the anxiety I could handle. Being able to compartmentalize the divorce was helpful to me.

It was only later with the benefit of hindsight and wisdom that I learned that nothing was as simple as my 12-year-old mind made it out to be at the time, and perhaps one day I’ll connect all the dots for you. The bottom line is it happened when it did only because it didn’t happen sooner, which it really should have—like at least 3 years sooner.

But it happened when it did, which was maybe less than a month after Grampy died and Mom became an orphan—at the age of 36. The timing couldn’t have been worse, and it was a 1-2 punch from which Mom never really recovered.

Monday, June 25, 2012

No. 710 – Free Will

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neal Peart
Original Release: Permanent Waves
Year: 1980
Definitive Version: None

Some songs bounce around for years before something sticks that becomes a definitive memory. This is one such song.

It seems like I’ve known it forever. Beth used to call it Free Willie for me, long before the movie of the same title came out. The first time I saw Rush in 1990, I prepared Jin by saying that they might not play a lot of old stuff, like Free Will, and, of course, Free Will was the third song out of the box.

But what I think about now was seeing Rush in 2007, which was Laurie’s first Rush show. Laurie was nervous ahead of time and not that she would be the only female in the crowd. No. Rush has that rep, but it’s nothing like when we saw Tool and Laurie was, in fact, the only female in the audience. OK, I’m exaggerating … but not by much. There were exactly two in our entire section, and Laurie was one of them.

Instead it was an issue where Laurie would have to drive to Tinley Park on her own. Back then, Laurie worked downtown, so she drove very little in the suburbs, and she was particularly nervous about finding her way to the Bank-Sponsored amphitheater. When we had seen CSNY there the year before, I drove, so it was no problem.

But this time, we had a problem. Laurie was going to do a staged reading for what could potentially lead to a nice lead role if the reading was turned into a full production, and the ONLY rehearsal day was to be the day of the Rush concert.

I offered to wait for her, so we could go together. I’d seen Rush nine times to that point; it wasn’t a big deal if we missed a few songs. Of course, I really didn’t want to miss anything, but it was worth it if it would give her peace of mind. Laurie didn’t know how long the rehearsal would go, and she didn’t want me to miss anything. You’re the Rush fan; I’m not, she said, and she insisted we go separately.

This decision made Laurie anxious. Not only would she have to find her way to the venue, but she’d also have to find me after she got there. We had assigned seats in the pavilion, so that wasn’t a real problem; the only real problem was the drive itself.

I gave her as good of directions as I could, but she even went so far as to warn that if she got too freaked out about the drive, she’d just head home. It was a bit over the top, but everyone has his or her neuroses. God knows I have more than my fair share.

So I took off and got there with plenty of time to spare to get settled in. We were in the amphitheater itself and had decent seats stage right, on Geddy’s side. The lights went down and no Laurie. I checked my cell. Nothing. The boys had a preshow video and then fired up Limelight.

Then they did back-to-back shockers—songs they hadn’t played in at least two decades. The first was Digital Man, which sounded fantastic, and then Entre Nous, which, of course, was a 27-year-old song they had never played live. How awesome is it when a band throws a bone to its longtime fans by playing something totally unexpected that only they probably would even know? Rush does this all the time, and I love it. Still, Laurie was nowhere to be seen.

I was starting to get the sense that she wasn’t coming at all, when the boys broke into the familiar opening peal of this song. And right at that moment, Laurie bounced down the aisle toward me holding two beers and wearing a big smile. “I just got here.” She was alight in the triumph of having made it all by her lonesome, and we celebrated to the music of Rush.

She’s been a fan ever since.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

No. 711 – Wicked Garden

Performer: Stone Temple Pilots
Songwriters: Robert DeLeo, Dean DeLeo, Scott Weiland
Original Release: Core
Year: 1992
Definitive Version: None

This blog is the not the first time I’ve done a list of something to commemorate a big birthday. When I was about to turn 30, I decided to mark it by doing a countdown, via postcard, of my top 30 albums of all time.

For several years, Jin would send me her top 10 movie lists and do it by sending a postcard that in some way corresponded with the title or theme of the movie. I thought it was cool, and when I’d get a new postcard every third day or so, I’d try and guess the movie from the postcard.

So I thought I’d turn the tables on her for my 30th, and for a long time after I got my list together, whenever I was anywhere that had postcards, I’d look to see if there was anything that seemed to fit the list. I started with two postcards—one of a Tyrannosaur from Jurassic Park roaring, which announced the list; and the other of an eye looking through a keyhole in a door for the top albums that just missed out being on the list.

Flint wasn’t the best place to find cool postcards, as you might imagine, so I decided to drive down to Ann Arbor and hit stores around the UM campus on the last Sunday in February of 1994.

I woke up fairly early that day, so I could make my trek down, which was easy to do because I hardly hadn’t drank anything that weekend. This was unusual in that I had worked a double weekend night shift, but I wasn’t feeling quite right—nothing major, just a general sense of feeling full. In fact, the night before I went to Ann Arbor, I’d had no beers or Jack—the first and only time I ever went to the White Horse and had neither—just a single drink of Bailey’s on the rocks. That’s all I wanted.

Anyway, I drove down on a sunny Sunday afternoon that was unseasonably warm. I doubt that I wasn’t wearing any coat, but that’s what my recollection was. It probably more likely was my long wool coat instead of a parka, which I needed in January when temperatures reached record lows.

I don’t remember how many places I stopped, but one I definitely remember was Wherehouse Records, which was apparently a legendary independent record store that since closed more than a decade ago. I found several good postcards there, including one of Jimi Hendrix that would be good for Are You Experienced?

The sun was starting to set as I headed home flush with success on my day trip,
And I was looking forward to having the night off so I could continue to make tapes of my latest Columbia House CD purchases, which included, among other things, Core. I had already put this song on another tape—and cranked up the volume on it in my car as I sped home north on U.S. 23—and I wanted to get more of the album on tape.

As I drove, that full sensation from the night before returned a bit even though I’d had only a burger that day. Probably just a stomach issue. I’ll just take a Digel when I get home …

Saturday, June 23, 2012

No. 712 – Lowdown

Performer: Boz Scaggs
Songwriters: Boz Scaggs, David Paich
Original Release: Silk Degrees
Year: 1976
Definitive Version: None

If Laurie were to do a list like this, this song probably would be in her top 100. Laurie used to play Boz Scaggs a lot, and she said that this was always the first song during a dance party in her dorm at KU. I have this image of her bare-footing it to this song, with a late-Seventies Farrah haircut, drinking 905 with her Guess jeans on, looking hot.

Laurie grew up in Kansas, and at the end of 2006, she took me to Kansas City to see the Christmas Lights on the Plaza and show me the old stamping grounds. We got a rental car and stayed with a friend.

The first day was to be the big touring day. We wound around the part of town where her dad had his last house before making our way south to see her mom, who is buried there. Laurie tried to find her mom’s gravesite by memory, and we ended up spending a fair amount of time walking around the cemetery before Laurie finally found it.

The next stop was the Kansas side of KC for lunch at Hayward’s. Hayward’s is to Kansas City barbecue what Gino’s East or Lou Malnati’s is to Chicago deep-dish pizza: It’s derivative of the original but exceeds it. Just as Ground Zero of Chicago pizza is Uno’s, from whence Lou Malnati and the chef who founded Gino’s got their start, Ground Zero of Kansas City barbecue is Bryant’s, where Hayward worked before going on his own.

Hayward’s is an odd location for something so seminal—essentially nestled in the middle of an antiseptic office complex. It looks not unlike a Pizza Hut both on the outside and inside, with a lot of brass railing, low-hanging lights and vinyl booths.

The pulled pork was phenomenal. However, I made a tactical mistake: It was about 2 by the time we got there, and I got the full-size sandwich, fries and cole slaw—with an appetizer of onion rings.

When I was done, I was REALLY done. I was so stuffed that after awhile, we had to stop at Loose Park, one of Laurie’s favorites, to hike around until I didn’t feel so much like Mr. Creasote just shy of a waffair-theen mint. The real problem of course was that we would be going to dinner with Laurie’s friends in just a few hours, and I had no interest in eating any more food.

So I didn’t. We went to Stroud’s on the far east reaches of the Kansas City metroplex. Stroud’s is in a gigantic old farmhouse-like building (not the original location), and it’s famous for its fried chicken and gravy. I just sat there drinking water and feeling like an idiot while everyone else loaded up. Just before we left, my stomach had shrunk enough so I was able to try an extra drum and cursed myself—again—for not leaving enough room to fully enjoy Stroud’s.

The next day was more of the same—food, visiting with old friends and touring KC—but the lesson learned, I had only enough to get me by each meal. We hit Winstead’s, which is like White Castle in terms of the size of the burgers; and did the Golden Ox, which is a prime-rib establishment in the Stockyards. Laurie said it was her dad’s favorite restaurant, and I cold see why. It’s an old-school beefeteria, and it was good, but it wasn’t as great as the Hayward’s/Stroud’s combo the day before.

We wound up the night at the Phoenix downtown watching Mama Ray, who is a Kansas City institution, sing the blues at the Phoenix while drinking dessert—chocolate martinis. Aside from the complete lack of pretense on the part of Mama Ray, I couldn’t get over the fact that—at least from where we sat—she was a dead ringer for Mom, who would never get in front of anyone to do anything.

Then we were on our way back to Chicago the next day. It was New Year’s Eve, and we wanted to be home for the holiday. With the exception of my dumbitude on the first day, it was a good trip, and Laurie was glad that if she wanted to go home again, she’d have an eager travel companion. Just so long as I don’t get the 10-inch pulled pork sandwich at Hayward’s, it’s all good.

Friday, June 22, 2012

No. 713 – One

Performer: Metallica
Songwriters: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich
Original Release: … And Justice for All
Year: 1988
Definitive Version: S&M, 1999

At the Daily Herald, none of the copy editors had individual desks, except maybe the news editor. I had a drawer where I kept my editor’s pens, pica pull and AP style manual. After having had my own office for nearly a year in Michigan City, this was something of a come-down, as you can imagine.

The copy desk was set up this way to maximize very limited floor space in a downtown Arlington Heights building that long since has been replaced by a gigantic office out by the Kennedy. Two shifts used the same desks.

During the day shift, which I worked a few times to cover for vacations, the Lifestyle and Neighbor sections had the workstations. Neighbor was the department that put out all the different local stories that were zoned for different regions that the Herald covered. At the time, the Daily Herald had 18 zones and stretched from as far north as Grayslake to as south as Carol Stream and west almost to Elgin. That was the land mass the copy desk dubbed Herald City.

When Metro was done for the day around 4, the news desk would assemble and move into the now-empty (or soon-to-be-empty if things were running a tad late) desks.

The desks were arranged to create a pod or central group of four desks where the news editor, assistant news editor, wire editor and assistant wire editor sat to divide up the news pages and assign the stories. Another pod was on the far side of where the news editor sat, and other desks formed the rim that ringed the whole area. That’s where the run-of-the-mill copy editors, like me, sat.

In the middle of the honcho pod sat a little color TV that we had on a lot, like during the whole Tiananmen Square protest and massacre, which, of course, took place on my 25th birthday. We also had it on in February 1989 when I was introduced to Metallica during the Grammys broadcast.

I knew about Metallica, but at that point, I wasn’t sure that I had ever heard a Metallica song. All I knew about them was that they were thrash metal—serious metal that made the hair crap that MTV peddled on a constant basis during that time sound like wuss rock—and extremely loud. When they were about to perform, I watched to see what the fuss was all about. (The copy queue was temporarily empty.)

They did this song, which was nominated, and other than the fact that it sounded pretty good and wasn’t nearly as thrashy as I had expected, nothing was overly shocking—or loud—about the performance.

The big shock, of course, came after they played when Jethro Tull won the first Grammy for hard rock/heavy metal. Jethro Tull? What, Seals and Crofts didn’t release an album? Having long been aware of the lameness of the Grammys, I figured that the 80-year-old voters picked Jethro Tull, because it was the only band any of them had ever heard of.

Well, I had heard of Metallica, and now that I’d seen them and didn’t hate what I heard, I was more open to checking them out, although it would be almost another decade before I actually would buy any of their stuff.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

No. 714 – The Tourist

Performer: Radiohead
Songwriters: Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Colin Greenwood, Phil Selway
Original Release: OK Computer
Year: 1997
Definitive Version: None

I saw Radiohead about two weeks ago, and for a long time, I said that as soon as I saw everyone I wanted to see, I was going to retire from big-venue concerts. Radiohead was the last group that I wanted to see. Too bad I have tickets already purchased for five more shows, beginning next month with Seal (and followed by My Morning Jacket, Rush, Peter Gabriel and Grizzly Bear).

OK, so I’m now formally retired from going to see anyone—ever—at an open-air venue. It doesn’t matter where. I’ve seen shows at outdoor amphitheaters in Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit and Indianapolis. They all suck.

I mean, the venues themselves are fine, but I no longer can take the traffic—the lack of exits, the complete lack of organization in the parking lots and the resulting 1 hour waste of my life spent in an idling car while five southern ends of north-bound horses all create their own lanes because they can’t be bothered with waiting in line. (OK, if Robbie Robertson EVER toured, which he never does, and the only place he was going to play in the Midwest was an outdoor venue, I’d go. That’s the ONLY exception.)

The Radiohead show itself was great, very much like a full-on rave minus the ecstacy, although I would have liked them to play a few more guitar songs like this one, which apparently they’ve played at several stops on the current tour but not ours. Oh well. I don’t feel gypped.

Anyway, at Tom’s Bachelor party in June 1998, when I was listening to OK Computer for the first time, I was nervous the morning of the actual whitewater trip. As mentioned, I had been down the New River twice before, and they were both pretty hairy rides. It’s like an amusement park in that it’s an adrenaline rush, but unlike an amusement park, you’re in nature and nature is random. You have to respect that something unexpected could kill you.

The good news was although Tom was looking to have a little bit of an adrenaline surge, it was more about the fun, so we were going to take only the one-day Upper New trip. In other words, we would get out of the river before the river got too hairy. It wasn’t entirely a drift-and-swim trip, but it mostly was.

My favorite part was a stopping point called Jump Rock, which was as advertised—a rock maybe 15, 20 feet above the water that you could climb up and jump off into the river. What we didn’t know until we arrived there was that our whitewater guide company was filming folks jumping to show back at the visitors center.

So that meant everybody in the bachelor party got their comedy gameface on. Steve turned to me and said we got to do something, what? The choice seemed obvious: We have to Butch Cassidy it. We did, to some mirth at the rock but more mirth when we got back to the ranch and saw ourselves properly setting it up and completing it with the s-word cutoff as we hit the water.

The rest of the day—and trip—was something of a blur. I had the worst run of poker luck I ever had after the rafting trip—all second-best hands. You know what happens when you have the second-best hand in poker a few times in a row, right? Yep, you get wiped out, so that meant I didn’t have anything to do after dinner, which would make for a long night of just drinking and watching porn—not my preferred activities.

A few guys were staying at a camping site, and they were having a cookout that night, so I stayed longer than I might have to hang out around the bonfire while everyone else who stayed at the cabin went back as soon as dinner was over to play cards.

It wasn't the best weekend I ever had, but it was all right, and after feeling left out for most of the previous decade due to being away from home most of the time, I was happy just to have been included.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No. 715 – Deuces Are Wild

Performer: Aerosmith
Songwriters: Steven Tyler, Jim Vallance
Original Release: The Beavis and Butthead Experience
Year: 1993
Definitive Version: None

This song doesn’t quite fit the timeline, but I don’t know of a better song for this story, so here it is.

You know what a failed practical joke is? It’s when the target of the said joke thinks it’s funnier than the joker.

Not long after Beavis and Butthead invaded the sports department at the Journal, Brendan thought it would be a keen idea to have a little fun at me and Dave’s expense—not that we weren’t ripe for the plucking, mind you.

But Dave and Brendan, who was a sportswriter at the Journal, had a particular love-hate relationship. Brendan loved to rankle Dave and Dave hated it. In retrospect, it’s clear that Brendan had a bit of the bully in him, and Dave made himself an easier target than he needed to be by constantly taking the bait.

Sometime around the end of summer 1993, we were running a column photo with Card Corner of me and Dave in baseball caps. I remember that we took the photo after an overnight sports shift and I was pretty haggard—that was my sleep time, you know. And the photo clearly looks it, like I’d been up all night, which of course, I had.

Anyway, Brendan got someone in photo to take our column photos, blow them up and crop them into a B&B still to look as though Dave was Butthead and I was Beavis (in full air-guitar pose). Then he made a huge printout of the picture and taped it to the wall over my desk before a Friday shift (for which I’d arrive about 4). The idea was when I’d arrive, hilarity to ensue when I presumably erupted in anger.

Of course, and unfortunately for the prankster, I was the one who had more or less brought Beavis and Butthead to the sports department. He might as well have cropped me into a photo of Pearl Jam. Now’s that going to tick me off?

I walked in and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it. Who did this? I asked. Bill was in the room and maybe a few others; I don’t fully recall. No answer. Who did this? There was some hemming and hawing but just when the joke was about to be paid off, I exclaimed: This is excellent! I love this!


Bill knew the joke had bombed miserably and admitted that it was Brendan. Bill said he thought I’d be ticked (and in typical Bill fashion, he did nothing to try and stop it—Bill was nothing if not an agent provocateur). I wasn’t. I was ready to pledge allegiance. I left it up and added the thought bubble over my Beavis head that said “Dah duh dunt. Dah duh dunt. Heheheheheh. That was cool.”

Dave was a bit annoyed when he found out about it. His problem was that he was Butthead, who had the bad name. I’m Butthead, Dave exclaimed. Yes, but Butthead is WAY smarter than Beavis, dude. It’s just a name.

The real punch line was that that failed attempt at getting my goat was something of an icebreaker between me and Brendan. Because we had to work together—and occasionally drank together—we had to get along to a certain extent over the years. But I think I had passed some test by laughing off the joke. I bought him a round at the White Horse that weekend, and we were always cool after that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

No. 716 – WoodBurning

Performer: Toad the Wet Sprocket
Songwriters: Todd Nichols, Glen Phillips
Original Release: Dulcinea
Year: 1994
Definitive Version: None

When I saw Toad with Debbie, Steve and Katie, I was excited to see them, because they were at about the peak of my love for them, same with Debbie. We’d never seen them before, but Steve had.

I mentioned Vets Memorial, where we saw Toad, and how for a long time it was the only venue in town. But that doesn’t mean it was a good venue to see a rock show.

Vets is pretty much like any 1950s-era concert hall, with a huge wide-open theater and a balcony that only seems like it’s a mile from the stage. The seats are hard wood with barely enough padding to make sitting in them for a long stretch uncomfortable. And the acoustics are meant for the playing of music that isn’t amplified, like classical.

So it’s a sedate setting, and it was particularly sedate the night we saw Toad. It became clear to me why I was able to get third-row seats on my own without any trickeration by Scott: Hardly no one went. I suppose because they had just played at the Newport, which is more like a bar with a standing-room-only open area down low, there wasn’t much of an audience for a quick repeat performance. Plenty of good seats were available when Toad hit the stage.

They gave it their best. They did this song early, and hearing it live was the thing that made me realize how much I liked it, and the rest of the setlist was solid. Glen Phillips was in good form, boogeying all over the place in his bare feet. It could have been a great show, but the atmosphere was, well, sedate.

Steve said later that the show at Newport had been excellent. A mosh pit was going, which is pretty hilarious when you think about it—moshing at Toad the Wet Sprocket? Really? Do I hear Fonzie speeding across the water? But more than anything, a mosh pit means the crowd is into the show, and even if the interest and energy had been there that nightit would be impossible to get anything like that going at Vets.

So it wasn’t the best of shows. (In fact, now that I think about it, I can’t say I’ve ever seen even a good concert—let alone great—at Vets.) But it was a good first double date between us, and there would be more to come. The good news was it would be easy for the next one to top the first.

Monday, June 18, 2012

No. 717 – Go Insane

Performer: Lindsey Buckingham
Songwriter: Lindsey Buckingham
Original Release: Go Insane
Year: 1984
Definitive Version: None

I always thought that Lindsey Buckingham wrote this song about Stevie Nicks, but it was actually his longtime post-Stevie girlfriend.

After I broke up with Melanie, I had this happen to me for a while. Everywhere I went, I saw Melanie. It wasn’t purely a trick of my imagination, but I just kept making sure to particularly notice brunettes of medium height and build who in a tortured mind bore a resemblance that was close enough for my imagination to fill in the gaps.

Actually, I did this even more with Jenna, but that was more because I wanted to try and show people who never met her an example of what she (kind of) looked like, honest!

The worst moment of the post-Melanie period was in the spring of 1989 after I started working at the Daily Herald. I’d been there a few months when a new reporter was hired who … didn’t look just like Melanie but certainly could have been a relative. In fact, she looked more like Melanie than any other woman I had encountered.

Soon after she started, I introduced myself to her—maybe even the first day—which wasn’t something I typically did with reporters. The pretense was that I had worked with her a couple of times on stories over the phone (true), and now that she was in the newsroom, I was able to put a face to the name. The real reason, of course, was that she looked like Melanie, and I wanted to see if there was anything there. There wasn’t. She had a boyfriend.

I remember feeling very embarrassed and self-conscious after this encounter even though it wasn’t necessarily the wrong thing to do—nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? But it was the rationale behind it that was the problem. I beat myself up good over that one and made it a point to avoid her for a while after that. It was an immature response to be sure, but first and foremost, I had to take care of my sanity.

I think it was at about this time that I saw the video for this song on MTV one night, and it totally hit home. I hear you, Lindsey. I know exactly what you mean.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

No. 718 – Magic Man

Performer: Heart
Songwriters: Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson
Original Release: Dreamboat Annie
Year: 1976
Definitive Version: None

At Hastings Junior High, the first class everyday, at least in seventh and maybe eighth grade, was home room. After that, we’d break up into our math, English, social studies and science classes—my first exposure to rotating classrooms. My home-room proctor was my English teacher, Mrs. Goldsmith, whom I’ve mentioned.

Home room was based on alphabetical order, so I was in with a bunch of kids whose last name started with a C or a D. It was with some bemusement that I noted that Marty, who should have been in my home room, wasn’t.

It seemed illogical that my parents still could arrange it so Marty and I weren’t in the same class, but I had no other explanation for it. You would think that they had more important things on their mind, what with the pending divorce and all.

In those days, Hastings made announcements over the p.a. while the home-room proctors took attendance. Before the announcements, they’d play music, and it seemed as though every day in the early fall of 1976, this song was the one that was on during home room.

When I hear this song, I can remember the feeling of creeping fall—changing leaves and cool temperatures—and how nervous I was to be going to a bigger school with bigger and tougher kids … and girls who had breasts. And I think of Rick Colletti.

Rick was the first new kid I met at Hastings. He had gone to a different elementary school—Windemere I think—and although we weren’t really friends, we were friendly all the way through high school.

Actually we had little interaction after seventh grade. He played lacrosse and guitar and hung out with a cooler group of kids than I did. And then he—like most junior-high- and high-school kids I knew—completely faded from my life.

So you can imagine my surprise when just before my final quarter at Medill in the fall of 1987 at a meet and greet for incoming students, I once again met Rick Colletti.

We laughed and couldn’t believe the coincidence that we would be in the same class—the magazine-publishing project. What are the odds of two kids from the same seventh-grade home room taking the same graduate-school class 300 miles away 11 years later?

We worked together on the market-research component of the magazine project and hung out quite a bit during that time. I liked that I met up with someone from my old school whom I could show that I had changed since then. For someone who was often belittled in junior high (although never by Rick), this was important to me.

Our reunion was short-lived, and when the magazine-publishing class ended, we once again went our separate ways—Rick to continue his studies at Northwestern and me getting my first job in Michigan City, Ind.

About a year or so later, maybe two, I got my Medill magazine for alums one day and read that Rick Colletti had been killed in a car crash not long after graduating. He wasn’t the first of my former friends or associates to have died suddenly, and he wasn’t even the closest, but I definitely felt a shadow cross my heart when I read about his untimely passing.

So now it’s impossible for me to hear Magic Man and not think of him.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

No. 719 – Shining in the Light

Performer: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
Songwriters: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Charlie Jones, Michael Lee
Original Release: Walking into Clarksdale
Year: 1998
Definitive Version: None

Shortly after this album came out, Debbie and I took a long weekend trip to Baltimore and Washington. The purpose of the trip was an art exhibit in Baltimore art museum that she wanted to see. Called Giverny, it was of Monet’s later works and mostly Water Lilies, which were Debbie’s favorite paintings.

And when I asked about making it a weekend when the Orioles were in town so we could go to a game at Camden Yards, Debbie, who was a legitimate baseball fan, quickly agreed. And if we’re that close to Washington, I’d like to go there, too, for a day. I hadn’t been in 23 years. So we changed the trip a bit. We’d fly into Baltimore, get a rental car to drive to Washington and fly home from there.

We got to Baltimore early in the morning to hit the art exhibit that first day. The next day we’d do the Harbor downtown and then the game in the evening. I remember the exhibit was cool, and Debbie loved it, but what I really liked was finding a painting that was featured in Twelve Monkeys, one of my favorite movies.

It’s called The Ideal City, and the thing that stands out about it is the very cold and antiseptic nature of it.  I had forgotten that a lot of the movie was filmed in Baltimore, and it was a bit creepy to encounter the painting that perfectly fit the bleak movie.

And speaking of bleak, Debbie got a hotel that was close to the Walters Art Museum, which means it was in a pretty scary-looking part of town. Debbie insisted that the description of the hotel in the travel guide sounded nice. When was that travel guide written, 1968?

It turns out the hotel was pretty nice, more like a bed-and-breakfast or inn instead of a proper hotel, and it was something of an oasis in its neighborhood. It had a backyard sitting area where we had a drink the first night, and I half-expected to hear gunshots ring out during the night, but we never heard anything.

The next day we went to the Harbor for a crab lunch—complete with mallets to whack open the shells—and a hike around at some of the shops. We didn’t have time to take the tour of Fort McHenry, but I took lots of pictures and noted with some surprise that it was as close to land as it was.

Before the game, we went back to our hotel and changed into baseball duds before hiking to the park, which was maybe a mile from where the hotel was. (Yes, we hiked through the rough part of town, but it was no big deal. I always figure in situations like that, if you act like you know what you’re doing, no one bothers you.)

The first order of business was to stop at the Babe Ruth Museum at the Bambino’s birthplace—a must for any baseball fan in Baltimore—particularly because it’s only two or three blocks from Camden Yards.

We hiked around the outside and entered the park on Eutaw Street, which is the pavilion between the diamond and the famous B&O Warehouse. Of course, it was great to see the park fully functional after touring it while it was under construction in 1991 (story to come), but what made it so great was that the game felt like a festival.

Outside the park were tons of street vendors who had tables set up selling general merchandise and some baseball-related stuff. Inside, all sorts of activity was going on. The Oakland A’s were taking b.p. as the music blared over the p.a., and the smell of grilled meat from Boog’s Barbecue billowed everywhere.

We took up a spot to eat our barbecue down the first-base side, and I noticed that whenever a player came to the stands to sign autographs, the ushers would make the fans line up the stairs instead of just massing at the fence. It was an orderly procession, and I quickly got Elrod Hendricks on my Orioles program.

I noticed that Rickey Henderson and Ben Grieve were hitting balls off a screen, and when they were done, Rickey went over to the stands and began to sign. This was shocking. Henderson was notorious in the card industry for not signing and generally being a pain in the rump. But here he was singing for a fan … and another … and another. Before long, there was a decent line. I figured that he’d leave at any second. But he didn’t.

Finally, I decided to give it a shot, figuring that as soon as I got over to where he was on the third-base side he’d split. No harm done in trying though, and the next thing I knew I was handing over my program. He signed and I told him I loved watching him play. He said, “thanks, man.” From then on, all I could say whenever anyone talked about Rickey being an ass was, well, all I know is he was cool to me at the moment of truth.

And to this day, Henderson—the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history—remains the best player whose autograph I got at a ballpark.

Friday, June 15, 2012

No. 720 – Wild Thing

Performer: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Songwriter: Chip Taylor
Original Release: Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: The Monterey International Pop Festival, June 16-17-18, 1967, 1992, or any other that includes the feedback intro.

There are probably not five more famous performances in rock history than The Jimi Hendrix Experience performing Wild Thing at Monterey: Elvis on Ed Sullivan; The Beatles on Ed Sullivan; Hendrix playing The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock; maybe Michael Jackson breaking out the moonwalk at the Motown anniversary gala—and that’s it.

The other week, Laurie and I watched the documentary that accompanies the Hendrix box set, West Coast Seattle Boy. It was interesting but all too predictable in that Hendrix’s daughter and the suits at Experience Hendrix are all about whitewashing Hendrix’s life.

There was no mention of the drugs that killed him, no mention that the reason he formed Band of Gypsys was that he had been under pressure from the Black Panthers to have an all-black band and certainly no mention that Hendrix himself worried that his work would be exploited in death as it had been in life.

And I was particularly aggrieved by the recounting of Hendrix’s performance at Monterey and that The Who were ticked that Hendrix “stole his act” by smashing his guitar at the end. Pete Townshend has offered a slightly different accounting. Maybe Townshend sugarcoated his reaction in interviews after the fact, but Townshend isn’t one to sugarcoat. He’ll tell you how he feels and doesn’t care what you think.

He said that when Hendrix wound up his epic set at Monterey, Mama Cass said to him while he watched from the side, “Hey, he’s stealing your act,” whereupon Townshend said “Yeah, but he’s so effing great, who cares?” and had Hendrix autograph a piece of his burned and smashed guitar for him. The truth was that although Hendrix and The Who had a rivalry, there was no animosity.

All of the above was included in the original Hendrix documentary that came out in 1973 and I saw as a midnight movie at Ohio State in 1980. And when Hendrix lit his guitar on fire at the end of this song at Monterey, it was all over for me. I pledged undying allegiance.

I had to have the soundtrack album, but I had trouble finding it for awhile, so I ended up going to the Lane Road Library to feed my savage Hendrix beast.

The Lane Road Library was the second library in the Upper Arlington library system. It was built not long before this time, and it was cool to have it close to home. But it was ridiculously small—not much larger than the library at Hastings Junior High—so I didn’t go there much.

By 1980, they started to lend records, and one of the records in the collection was The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two, which was a compilation that followed up Volume One. (No kidding, right?) But whereas Volume One was all studio stuff, Volume Two had a side of live stuff, including songs from the movie: Machine Gun from the Band of Gypsys; The Banner from Woodstock and, of course, Wild Thing from Monterey.

I must have played that side—side 2—a dozen times in a row. I even remember going back to the library the next day after returning the album and reborrowing it before I finally found the movie soundtrack, probably at Record and Tape Outlet, which was fast eclipsing Buzzard’s Nest as the indispensable record store in town.

Around this time, Scott and I went to many Columbus Clippers baseball games. Now that I could drive, the Clippers, who moved to Columbus in 1977, were an obvious and frequent choice of entertainment. They were close and cheap, and you could make a game-day decision on attending, whereas my beloved Reds were a commitment. And what the heck: Going to Clippers games got me and Scott out of the house. We went at least once a month and usually twice.

Columbus had planned a freeway that connected the west side of town with the airport—I-670—but the state ran out of money or priorities changed, I don’t know which, and the freeway literally came to an end at Grandview Avenue, which we usually would take to get to Franklin County Stadium (later renamed Cooper Stadium).

But one part that had been built was a long entrance ramp that connected Riverside Drive with I-670. Of course, it led to nowhere and was surrounded by nothing but wetlands and trees. Scott and I called it the Nothing Stretch, and we took it all the time—usually while trying to get either the Fart or Mom’s new Jetta up to 100 mph. (I don’t think I ever succeeded.)

About 20 years later, the highway project was revisited and finally completed, but the Nothing Stretch—now elevated to a fully functional highway entrance and exit ramp—always will be the Nothing Stretch as far as Scott and I are concerned. A few years ago, Scott told me he’ll always think of me playing Hendrix in the car while we drove it. Me, too, particularly this song.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

No. 721 – The Colony of Slippermen

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Original Release: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Year: 1974
Definitive Version: None

When I finally found The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, it marked the first time that I had heard this song all the way through. I had known it for years before then as part of a medley of old songs that Genesis played at the end of their shows, as featured on Three Sides Live. I also saw them do it in 1984.

An aside: I love how the first line, I wandered lonely as a cloud, was an homage to Wordsworth’s poem of the same name. I still can hear Dr. Herzog reciting that line in English 18 my freshman year at Wabash.

The beginning of 1987, when I was listening to this album a lot, was a dicey time. After surviving Northwestern’s Intro to Journalism, I was on shaky ground at Medill. The next quarter would make or break my future as a journalist.

The Saturday before I was to return to start winter quarter started with me and Beth getting into a fight over football. Beth loved the Cleveland Browns, while I had been a die-hard Chicago Bears fan all the way since the last year when they won the Super Bowl. No, I’m just kidding. I’d been a fan since Walter Payton started playing in the mid-Seventies. (He was and probably always will be my favorite football player of all time.)

Anyway, the Browns were going into overtime while the Bears game was getting started. I wanted to watch the Bears, so instead of just waiting till the Browns game was over, like a good boyfriend, I went into the kitchen at the condo to watch by myself. Actually, there was more to it than that, but I don’t recall what exactly my snit was over. But sure as I’m writing this, it was because of something stupid I said.

Regardless, the game was going well—I particularly remember when the Bears scored their first touchdown to tie the game and going nuts in the kitchen—and at halftime, Beth wanted to get dinner. She wanted White Castle, which I didn’t like, but OK.

In the grand tradition of my family not wanting to jinx anything sports-wise, I stayed in the kitchen to watch the Bears game. Can you believe that? I’m 22 with my 20-year-old girlfriend in another room. Geez, is it any wonder she broke up with me little more than two months later? I’m getting ahead of myself here.

The game started to turn in the second half, and the Redskins took the lead after an interception by Doug Flutie. This was particularly vexing, because I had been in the meager pro-Mike Tomczak anti-Flutie contingency for weeks. I won’t bore you with the details at this time, but I thought my man T-zak was getting a raw deal in the Chicago media.

By midway through the fourth quarter, I knew it was over and switched off the game. I wasn’t feeling well, and Beth thought it was time to set the second half of our last day before I headed back to Northwestern into motion. So we went to—I kid you not—the nearby Lion’s Den for some adult video entertainment. (Beth was into that; I was into encouraging the said behavior.)

While Mom slept upstairs, we snuck into the den, put a little visual stimulation on the TV before acting out what we were watching. When we finished, I felt better for a bit. But something wasn’t right. I had to go to the bathroom, repeatedly. We watched a little more of the movie and did some more acting out. Again, I felt better … briefly.

But I went downhill fast, and before long, we were up in my bedroom. I was under the covers shaking with chills while Beth read bedside, assuming my psychosomaticism was acting up. When the inevitable feeling crashed over me, I sprinted to the bathroom. I went to throw up, but nothing came up.

What happened, however, was an intense pain unlike anything I’d ever felt before. It was like my stomach had just been crushed. I screamed out in agony … and that brought everything up.

Well, that was enough for Beth and Mom, now awake. “We’re taking you to the hospital.” The next 24 hours was a blur. All I remember was that in the emergency room at Riverside, which was the nearest hospital, it was coming out of me at both ends; I was admitted; I watched a bit of the NFL playoffs on TV the next day; I slept most of the day; and Dad came to visit me at some point.

The thing I remember the most, however, was that when I woke up the first time after I was admitted, Beth was in the chair next to the hospital bed. I was glad she was there when I woke up, and thinking about it now, that I didn’t appreciate Beth more when we were together was nothing less than pathetic.

Anyway, I was in the hospital for another full day before being released on Tuesday. So what had happened? Well, I didn’t have White Castle’s for more than a decade after that, and I always said that the Bears’ game made me sick, but the truth was that I had an epic bought of gastroenteritis, or at least that’s what the doctors said.

The result was that after resting at home, I missed the entire first week of classes. I called friends at Northwestern, who were able to relay the message that I was in the hospital to my professors and collect syllabi and notes, but I was starting the most crucial educational quarter of my life a week in the hole. How’s that for an inauspicious beginning?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

No. 722 – Cut My Hair

Performer: The Who
Songwriter: Pete Townshend
Original Release: Quadrophenia
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: None

Through the power of Qube, I had discovered The Who in the fall of 1979 by its showing of The Kids Are Alright, which is a movie that if you’re not a Who fan after watching it, you never will be. But as anyone who’s seen the movie knows, there is a major omission in the movie and resulting soundtrack: Quadrophenia. It’s never mentioned, nor is any of the music or live performances of it included.

So I wasn’t even aware of the existence of what would become my favorite album until Qube began to show previews for the movie Quadrophenia the next year.

Maybe you’ve seen it, but it starts off with the unnamed protagonist riding his scooter along the cliffs of Dover to the angelic synth of Love Reign O’er Me. (Actually, it’s I’ve Had Enough, but it’s essentially the same tune.) I was hooked just from that.

The movie itself was interesting. Again, of course, it told the story of Mods and Rockers in England in 1964, but to this American teenager, it told the story of a teenager trying to find meaning and acceptance in his life. I could definitely relate to that, and so could Jin, as I’ve mentioned.

We went out and bought corresponding albums—Jin bought the movie soundtrack, I bought the original album—soon after we saw it the first half-dozen times. (Back then Qube would show a single movie on one of the channels all day. You paid once for 24-hour access.)

What I found odd about the difference between the two records is that this song, which is definitely featured in the movie, isn’t on the soundtrack album. Instead, the soundtrack album has a bunch of songs that were cut from the original album. I suppose there’s a reason to have both, although I never bought the movie soundtrack.

But the most interesting thing about the movie from an immediately visceral perspective were the scenes shot in and on the beach at Brighton, particularly one towards the end where Jimmy is contemplating his next move nearby a massive pier.

The pier has a bunch of huge circus-style tents and boardwalk-type buildings atop it. Inside those tents are games of chance not unlike what you might see at a Catholic church festival, where a stack of coins is perched perilously—and oh so enticingly—next to a large chute that delivers the spillover to you. They have a large swing or brush that push the coins to the very precipice. All you needed was just one … more … coin … to make the brush sweep a huge pile of coins over the edge into your hot little hands.

I know that because I was inside those tents and buildings on that pier less than a year before I first saw Quadrophenia. My uncle was a salesman for U.S. Steel and had moved with his family to London sometime towards the end of the Seventies. In August 1980, just before I was about to start my junior year in high school, Jin and I went to visit for a couple of weeks. (Scott, who was eight, was deemed to be too young to make the transatlantic trip.)

I didn’t know Quadrophenia when Jin and I went; otherwise it would have been a much more interesting trip—particularly when we went to Brighton on August Bank Holiday. But Quadrophenia became something of a soundtrack after the fact of what was my first trip to a different country (and only one until 1990) as well as the soundtrack of my isolated, angsty high-school days.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I’ll have a lot more to say about our trip to Merry Ol’ England down the road.