Yah, but qu’est-ce que c’est que the raison d’etrishness of the whole fucking thing?

What does it mean? What does it matter?
– most of this world is just a lot of chatter.

Eternal recurrence – where nothing seems to matter – everything is subsumed and consumed as soon as it’s created – a generation, a nation of critics. Nothing of value is ever recognized, nothing is truly innovative unless it’s willfully obscure – with the proviso that you have the connections necessary to promote it.

So – just give up and give in – work your ass off at something that means absolutely nothing to you and you can make a living – but only if you give up your life.

But how is it different this time? – how are these times different?

– Is this world approaching some sort of critical mass? do you feel trapped? – penned in?

– like everything you could ever want has a price tag and barbed wire around it?

– trade in your life for some material comfort.

But now I listen to Mr. Coltrane blow –
So who the hell am I to ruminate on all this shit anyway?

Life is beautiful! – And it really is too.

David Foster Wallace says television

“can train viewers to laugh at characters’ unending put-downs of one another, to view ridicule as both the mode of social intercourse and the ultimate art-form…: the most frightening prospect, for the well-conditioned viewer, becomes leaving oneself open to others’ ridicule by betraying passe expressions of value, emotion, or vulnerability. Other people become the judges; the crime is naivete.”

Musical taste and the music industry have become a political tyranny handed down without regard for the actual music. As the nation becomes more and more obsessed with the pixellated visual image, how things appear has become more and more important and their essential nature becomes obscured behind a curtain of hype and promotion.

My own musical biases will become clear once they realize what it is – a hippie manque – classic rock freak before they started programming that shit onto four hour rotations and selling spaghetti sauce and sneakers and beer and cars and software and fast food and overnight mail and stock brokers and light bulbs and dishwashers to it.

In 1980-81, it was rare on the radio, still a mystery and a challenge to catch those great old songs. And now they can’t even do it justice. I only heard Hendrix right after they put him in the “Hall of Fame.” And the most sickening words ever, the most twisted form of shameless marketing taken to the extreme, has got to be – “It doesn’t have to be old to be a classic”

Well anyway, I’m a London Mod (’63 & ’77)/a Bunnymen New Waver (circa ’82) before New Wave got thrown in the machine and re-emerged as Kajagoogoo and Haircut 100 and Thomas Dolby and the Human League and Duran Duran and the Thompson Twins and Our Daughter’s Wedding and Flock of Seagulls and various other forms of “synthy-pop.”

And the Boston rock for a New York suburban boy – The Neighborhoods, La Peste, Human Sexual Response, The Nervous Eaters, The Lyres, who knows who else. But then, of course, the kings of it all – the Missions – Mission of Burma –

And so what the hell do I remember of the music in relation to that ever-present glow on the southern horizon known as The City? Weell, I remember the late ’70’s Who Are You? tour and not going to see them at the Garden although my brother Hamish did go and see Keith Moon before he died.

My first real concert being the Police and the Go-Go’s at Madison Square Garden in January ’82 (Me, Bobby Devlin, Jim Costa, and Hopper).  This was the Ghost in the Machine tour before they graduated to the outdoor spectacle of Shea Stadium and the Synchronicity tour which was ostentatious sycophanticy, though the Garden show with the Go-Go’s was typically new-wave right on the turning point where it went all sour and heavily serio-commercialized and then disappeared.

And it was freezing cold that night on the way home, as we convinced the Harlem Line Conrail conductor to take our Hudson Line round-trip stubs (come on, Hawthorne’s the same as Taconic Heights) being that we had no ride from the Taconic Heights station and figured someone we knew would be at the old Colonial, the bar that used to be right there next to the Hawthorne station.

Then the springtime end of May, and The Clash are supposed to come to our shores – Asbury Park to be specific, so me, Hamish and Hopper get the tickets and plan to drive on down…

but Joe Strummer – he’s disappeared! Where is he?!

Well, when he came back it turned out he had been in France. The Clash – I realize that it was late for them then, this being of course the Combat Rock tour, but anyway, Should I Stay or Should I Go? was reduced to dim simplicity live where Straight to Hell Boy was just eerily hypnotic. But then right at the end of that song someone threw an M-80 at Joe Strummer and hit his leg. He finished the song and limped off and that was it – one hour into the show. Ah, yes – New York.

And then for the Summertime ’82 – King Crimson of the early eighties starring Robert Fripp with Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford and Tony Levin. What a collection of musicians! This after Discipline and Beat had come out.

Here I was, sitting at the town pool doing nothing when Jeff Wilander (who I had gotten to know during our three week exchange program trip to Paris in Feb of ’82) comes by and suggests going down to the Pier to check them out. We ran into fellow suburbanites (Jim Maddox, Jimmy Meyer, and John Patten) down there at the show – the pier – being the scene of much later fright excesses.

Thela Hun Ghingit, Thela Hun Ghingit

Fraaaame by fraaaaame, death by drowning in your arms in your arms.

And, though they might have played it, I never would have known – The Waiting Man (hoooooome IIIIII am). I only heard it for the first time in Fall ’89 in Binghamton, NY during a truly frightening weekend venture. One of those weekends that makes you weary and heavily cognizant of your mortality and fateful dumb luck for driving around an unknown city after midnight and stoked to the gills with very strong mixed drinks balancing precariously on the dashboard and half-inch deep puddles of the very same spilled very strong mixed drinks seemingly everywhere else. A repeat of previous dumb luck surviving a similar weekend and driving experience in Nashville during Halloween weekend ’83. And I’m still here – its hardtabelieve (say A-men). Feeling like poor Dr. Backwards – laying on the sidewalk screaming “Pleh! Pleh!”

And then first semester senior year in high school, another new-waver, though by the time we caught him, he had moved on into something else, a New York composer phase of some sort. The Night and Day album for Mr. Joe Jackson.  This crew was all from the THS Class of ’83, me, Dan Molinaro, George Schaffer, Andy Mancini, and Jeff “Hank” Greenberg.

Although at that point (’81-’83) we, as juniors and seniors in high school, were still eating up his classic first efforts. Look Sharp/I’m the Man was one of the 90-min. tapes blasting in the locker room before the homecoming game earlier that Fall.

-So give me all your money cause I know you think I’m funny, Can’t you hear me laughin’ Can’t you see me smile

– and Don’t you know that it’s different for girls….. You’re all the same

Geraldine and John, see the happy couple, so inseparable, and the beat goes onon, and for better or for worse, they are married, but of course – not to each other.

But by the time he came to the Meadowlands he had dropped all guitars and was relying on the keyboards and percussion only, which worked o.k., but stuck out toe-like on the opening of “One More Time” which is ruination without electric guitar.

That December ’82, freezing cold again and Bud bottles all the way down into Jersey and ducking into the lower level seats at Brendan Bryne Arena – and got our coats thrown down from the original seats – upper deck – then high-tailed it into oblivion.

Brendan Byrne security has been sued periodically over the years for brutality – well, we escaped unscathed that time, though the true brutality of the culture that would express itself in the security force at that venue was still off in the future.

Then the show I didn’t think I would make – April-Eastertime 1983. So hungover from the night before, hurtin fer certain. Heavily beer drinking Friday night and then scammed 17 years old into Franzl’s bar out by the Kensico Dam in Valhalla to flirt over sloe gin and vk collins among that gang.

Then the next day packing boxes of aquarium supplies at work and struggling not to puke, hearing the repeated supplication of the WLIR dj over and over. “Mission of Burma and PiL at the Paramount Theater on Staten Island – the last Mission of Burma show ever – Roger Miller is losing his hearing – this is their LAST SHOW EVER!” Over and over all day long I heard it. Thinking, “It’d be nice to see them, but I’m sooo hung over and no one’s probably going anyway and so it looks like I won’t make it.”

But then home after work, the older generation (of my brother 1-3 yrs older and out of high school) has decided all to take mushrooms and head out to Staten Island. There were many folks who made that trip.  In our car, it was me, Hamish and Hopper, with Bobby Devlin and various other folks in other rides.  I also ran into Jeff Wilander down there as well.

Being still recovering from the night before, just regaining equilibrium, I am recruited to remain sober so as to drive and be the general butt of trippers’ jollies.

And so down into the bowels of Staten Island we head, maybe the first and last time I’ll ever be there. I drink one beer the whole night and am more or less confused by the whole thing. Everyone else is transfixed by the Missions – they having just come out with Vs.

Myself still digesting Signals, Calls, and Marches and the fact that they had alphabetized their lyric sheet. And I only recognized “Academy Fight Song” and “Revolver,” but had the 6’6” deadhead Hopper to keep me company in ignorance.

And then, and then (to borrow a phrase from the years later appreciated Horrible Truth About Burma) and then not two months later, it was back into the city to see the Return to Forever reunion at the Palladium when it was still just a theater, and not yet a spectacle.

One of the most beautiful spring nights of my teen-age years. Into the city to drop off the Hopper at C-P south for some mysterious rendezvous, maybe with his dad (who was supposed to have worked for Roy Radin, and then was suddenly out of a job). Then, as he directed us, me, Danny  Mol., and  Ethan Adelman over to Broadway and all the way down to 14th.

The concert was good but mostly it was that cruise down Broadway in a gentle Manhattan spring night with the beers to keep us goin’ and the concert at the end of the rainbow. This is what I remember about that night.

The end of my high school days was capped by the Forest Hills Talking Heads show, August ’83 – Speaking in Tongues tour. My knowledge of the Heads, again, limited, but my driving ability and willingness to stay sober carried through. Knew some ’77 and pieces of Speaking in Tongues – but a hell of a show – saw the first set stoned to the bejesus, out in nosebleedland with Hamish, Bobby D. and various other miscreants.

But then, at the break – proof of the strength in numbers maxim – we went to the floor and walked right past security. As they asked for my ticket, five other fellow crashers came walking in, the security then forced to ignore me so as to nail them.

And finding Hopper and Nik down in their floor seats, we boogie our asses off for that second set. The only concert dancing I remember being that much fun was the Echo & the Bunnymen February ’88 Radio City.

And saw Talking Heads again two months later, my first Fall down in old Va. But they didn’t play “Burning Down the House” twice like they had in NY. Also that fall, third day down there, caught King Sunny Ade and his Nigerian juju music and the talking drums thereof.

Then in December ’83 caught the Fleshtones with Amanda, my first love and original Dixieland Delight. The band played fast and rough and the guitarist kept making like he would whip that guitar off his shoulder and smash it down but he wouldn’t.

Then sweltering summer ’84, back in NY, the drive down into the city with Hamish, Bobby D., Jim Maddox, Eddie Alarcon, and John Patten and hang out drinkin in John Patten’s sisters’ studio on 110th st. on the West Side. First experience drinking on a fire-escape-not-your-own on a relentless summer night in the world of Manhattan.

The Fleshtones again, at the Peppermint Lounge. No driving for me that night so it was Becks and Becks and Becks. And Eddie ran away to buy porno magazines and disappear back to the apt. And Bobby dropped out of sight after the show only to awaken in the curbside dawn and forced to find his way home to the suburbs, while we, disoriented and chastened, awoke back on 110th st. to another ruthless Manhattan summer day.

(Oklahoma City, March 1992)

Also during the blur of the summer of 1987 was the punk matinee at the Pyramid Club to see some some local boys play, but even though it was a matinee, we treated it like it was another Friday night and drank until we couldn’t see, then came the drive home.

So we were way downtown at the Pyramid Club in Alphabetland and the show gets over at around 4 in the afternoon and we are WASTED!  So I’m driving, and we pack Bobby Devlin, Jim Maddox and Jimmy Meyer into the car and head on up the FDR drive.

Now, Meyer wasn’t going back to the suburbs with us, he was headed back to West 189th St. or somewhere up there in Inwood where was living at the time.  I told him that I would get him as close as I could to Inwood, but that we were going out the East side and I couldn’t promise him anything.

He was just as drunk as the rest of us and just said OK, OK.  So up the FDR we go without too much trouble and we’re getting further and further north and closer and closer to the Third Avenue Bridge which will carry us off of Manhattan island and into the Bronx and I’m giving Jimmy periodic warnings about our location and I don’t know if he is paying attention or not, but so anyway, finally we get across the bridge and officially off of Manhattan island and we’re approaching the Major Deegan Expressway which is pretty much the point of no return between suburbs and city and I tell Meyer, hey Jimmy we’re not in Manhattan anymore, are you coming out to Westchester with us or what.

He snaps back to reality and all of a sudden says No wait! Let me out.  Right in the middle of the street in the Bronx, Meyer gets out of the car and starts to walk back across the bridge on his way back to the far northwestern tip of Manhattan island.  Now, I should point out for those unfamiliar with Manhattan geography that for my friend Jimmy the white boy to walk from the Bronx back to his apartment he had to walk almost directly east to west crossing Harlem, Spanish Harlem and Washington Heights before reaching his own neighborhood.

Besides this somewhat perilous journey, Jimmy was shitfaced beyond belief, but it was still light out he managed to make it home without incident.

Meanwhile, Bob, Jim Maddox and I continue on out to Westchester.

We get out there around six and I drop the boys off on our friend Alvin’s front lawn.  They roll out of the car (literally) and I jump back on the highway to go visit Kathleen as this was the last summer we would be together, and I still drove up to Connecticut to visit her occasionally although we both knew that things would be ending soon.

So, she’s working at a restaurant somewhere along the Merritt Parkway, and it turns out that she’s going to be working a little later that she expected, so she stashes me in the bar and tells her bartender to take good care of me, and I sit at the bar drinking Bailey’s and Jameson’s in rocks glasses and watch Oliver Stone’s Salvador beginning to end for the first time on the bar TV.

Later that evening we went to see some Connecticut Dead band.  There were too, too many experiences like this that summer, driving all over the New York metro for parties, concerts and who knows what, just keeping in motion.

Included in this were the Echo shows, one at the pier and one over at Jones Beach.  Again, these were driving experiences.  For Jones Beach, I drove into Manhattan to pick up Bobby at Madison Square Garden (as he was coming off of the subway at Penn Station from downtown where he was working the bond interest desk at Coleman Bierkhouse) then across town to the Queens Midtown tunnel and out to the Jones Beach Theater.

Then for the show at the Pier, we drove all the way down the FDR to Peter Stuyvesant Village the rent-controlled haven on 14th St. where Nik (Jim’s sister’s boyfriend and my older brother’s age, Taconic High Class of ’81) was living at the time.  Then it was over to West Side for the show.

Driving around in Manhattan in the summertime with a car full of drunks can be somewhat nervewracking.

Regarding the actual music at these concerts, suffice it to say that Echo and the Bunnymen are not the kind of band that should be seen outdoors.

But then, in November, it’s the Replacements at the Beacon Theater and we’re right down front and the show rocks except when they stop towards the end of “I Can’t Hardly Wait,” which is a favorite of mine (ashtray floors, dirty clothes and filthy jokes), they never start again, and I have to wait 16 months before I hear the end of that song at which time my 20 months of celibacy begins.

But anyway, in December of that same year (1987), we go to see The Butthole Surfers at the old Ritz down on 11th Street.  Now THIS is a concert experience.  Me, Jim, Bobby, several friends of mine from UVa. all book downtown for the show and what a show it is.

Gibby is insane, running all over the place and stirring up a crazy sound with a bullhorn and what seems like three or four drummers while a naked skinhead girl dances up front and movies of car wrecks, human cannonballs and penis reconstruction surgery are flashed on the screen behind the band (here’s someone else’s description).

Jim worms his way up to the very front to get a better look at the naked skinhead girl and manages to pass out in front of a speaker.

After the show, we are all separated and file out.  I get the car and pull up front and everyone gradually finds each other except for Jim, who is the very last person to walk out of the Ritz looking somewhat dazed, as though he had been asleep for several hours (which he has) and holding one of his shoes in his hand.

He gets in the car and explains that he passed out in front of one the speakers on the stage and didn’t wake up until every one in the place had left and some bouncer shook him awake and said, “Here’s your shoe – go home.”

So Jim wanders out, not really sure what’s going on or where we are (it’s around 3am) and he comes down to the front of the empty club and there we are parked right in front smoking cigs and waiting patiently for him!  (This very similar to when Dudley had been arrested at that beach in Ct. on July 4th 1986.  As he was being released, the cops wished him luck getting back to New York as there was no way we would be waiting for him.  As it turned out, the other ten of us who had made that unfortunate trip to Ct. were sunbathing on the front stoop of the police station waiting patiently for the Dudley to be free!)

Later that winter, we all go see Echo at Radio City in February of ’88, and that is the place to see Echo, right before they broke up and were rockin the night away with a stage set straight off the cover of Crocodiles (which I had bought at the FNAC in Chatelet-Les Halles, Paris in February of ’82 and then listened to ad infinitum for that whole spring of ’82) dancing up a storm just like we did for the Iggy Pop show in September of ’88 in Port Chester when Jane’s Addiction warmed up for them (we didn’t catch that opening act as we were busy drinking beer in the lobby).

In March of ’89, we catch up with the Replacements at the Beacon theater again, but this time the liquor license of the Beacon has been suspended for some reason so they are not selling beer and there is no re-entry.  However, some enterprising young usher has set up his own concession and has picked us out of the crowd as obvious alcoholics.

Bobby D. cuts the deal for us – at three dollars a beer, we can afford 17 of them and sit happily in our seats drinking our beers while the folks around us look on enviously or quietly enjoy their own bootleg budweiser.(And finally I get to hear the coda of “Can’t Hardly Wait” 16 months later).

For some reason there seemed to be a great difficulty with liquor licenses that year, as when the Ritz moved to Studio 54, they also were without a liquor license so that when we walked past one night and saw on the marquee that Sonic Youth were playing in support of Daydream Nation, I could not for the life of me get anyone to come inside to see them.

I was with Bobby D. and Jim and a group of five or six others.  We did not have any plans, and in fact were at that very moment right in the middle of trying to decide what to do with the rest of that evening, as I pointed at the sign and said, “These guys are great! – lets go inside,” but nobody would go because they were not serving beer.

I could not, at that point, break away from the crowd to go off on my own for something I knew was important, though I would later learn that this is exactly what I needed to do.

(Down East, Me., 1998-99)

A Grooveshark playlist…

Mission of Burma, Gang of Four, The Specials, Elvis Costello, The Clash, Talking Heads, Blondie, Television, R.E.M., The Police, The Jam, Echo & the Bunnymen…