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)

it’s a balancing act
and I can’t balance
and I can’t act too well
apparently, apparently.

should I act to the crowd
should I put aside feelings, for acquaintances
should I feel lucky to be part of the wheeling and dealing
no matter what is said
no matter.

shake hands and smile and
hope for the best
as they size you up
to see if you can pass their test
pass their test.

it’s a social science
it’s crowd control
to get real good at it
you have to learn to pretend again and again.

should I act to the crowd
should I put aside feelings, for acquaintances
should I feel lucky to be part of the wheeling and dealing
no matter what is said
no matter.

it matters, it matters, it matters to me,
it matters, it matters, it matters to me,
it matters, it matters, it matters to me.

Peter Prescott and Volcano Suns
“Balancing Act” from The Bright Orange Years – 1985

We should take a brief moment here to discuss some of the music that I took the trouble to drive in to see during the late eighties as the train is not an option for shows that end around 3 or 4 in the AM, long after the last train has left.

Also the train does not go from Westchester to Hoboken where Maxwell’s is located and before Hoboken was “discovered” and yuppified, Maxwell’s, along with the old Ritz on 11th St. and CBGB’s down in the Bowery were the prime places to find those bands that played what has been called various names over the years including punk, new wave, post-punk, underground, and alternative and no matter what it was called, until Nirvana came along, no band, with the notable exceptions of the Replacements and REM ever made any money at it.

And as the band Cake has asked the question, “How do you afford your rock and roll lifestyle?” I will answer straight up that during 1987 and 1988, I worked variously moving furniture, as a substitute teacher, and as a telephone representative for Bank of Manahttan’s mortgage telemarketing department.

Somewhere in the haze between the summer of ’87 and the winter of ’88 came several incredible shows involving those bands which had led the underground scene in Boston throughout the late ’70’s and early ’80’s and were now struggling mightily to rub two coins together.  At some point (I think this might have been during the summer of ’87), me and Jim Maddox convinced Dudley to go down to CBGBs to see the Volcano Suns which was the band put together by Peter Prescott, the former drummer of Mission of Burma, who had been forced to break up due to the the tinnitus of guitarist Roger Miller back in the spring of ’83.

I can’t remember the first time I ever went to CBGBs, but it requires driving as the shows tend to start around midnight and end around three or four in the AM.  So, me and Jim are very into Mission of Burma and Volcano Suns and all that.  Dudley is a little more mellow, but he enjoys the show just the same.  The major factor in this show is the volume.  At some point, the three of us all walked outside and realized that we could still hear the band just fine from the sidewalk, and I guess I understand why Roger Miller’s hearing was starting to go.

Roger Miller was still playing music but he just couldn’t take the extra amplified sound that Mission of Burma was known for, and he had put together a band called Birdsongs of the Mesozoic which Jim had been to see a few years before this with my brother and several other folks while I was down in Virginia.

Anyway, sometime in ’87-’88, Birdsongs came to play at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, one time with Volcano Suns and once with the Neighborhoods.  Bobby D., Jim Maddox and I had made it down there for both shows and the Class of ’84 crew of Ken Shaunessey, Mitch Caplan and “Jari” Nichols were there for the Birdsongs/Neighborhoods show.

Now the Neighborhoods had been to Port Chester (over on the Long Island Sound, but still in Westchester) during the summer of 1987 to play in a bar down there, and a group of about ten or fifteen of us including Jim Maddox and Bobby Devlin, Eddie Alarcon and Steve Collins all made the drive over to see them.

I went over with Kathleen Ryan and we had a good time, but at the end of the show it was pouring rain.  I’m talking one of those mid-summer thunderstorms where the skies just erupt in torrents of water.  So we give Eddie Alarcon a ride over to his car, and he stumbles out and runs over to his station wagon to drive home.  Kathleen tells me at the time, “Mitch, he’s wasted, he shouldn’t be driving.”  But the alcoholic’s maxim is that if someone says they can drive, they can.

So we drive away and end up skinny dipping at the swimming pool in the apartment complex where my friend George lived overlooking the Hudson River while thunder and lightning crash all around us.

But, back in Port Chester, Eddie is arrested for DWI and brought down to the jail.  Meanwhile, Steve Collins is trying to sleep in someone’s car while he waits for them to come back and drive home.

In the process, he accidentally knocks the car out of gear into neutral and the car rolls out into the street.  Steve gets into the driver’s seat to move the car back into the parking spot and as soon as he starts to back into the spot, he’s busted for DWI and is brought in to keep Eddie company.

But, the Birdsongs of the Mesozoic shows at Maxwell’s during ’87 and ’88 are astounding, they are playing keyboards and percussion along with a saxophone player and it all blends so beautifully.  I go running up to Roger Miller after the show all drunk and reverent telling him it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard, some wonderful combination between jazz and whatever, man.  He is very gracious and asks if he can use that expression himself sometime when he’s asked to describe his music.

I had an extremely unfortunate experience at the Dylan/Dead show at Giant’s Stadium in the summer of 1987.  Anyone who remembers that summer in the New York area must remember the weather of that summer, as it was ultimately the worst pollution weather I have ever seen.

I made it a point to stay as fucked up as I possibly could so that I would not have to face up to the fact of how tremendously depressing this weather was to deal with.  It was like Blade Runner, but without the rain.  95 degrees and 95% humidity the whole fucking time, and the sun very rarely shone other than some kind of Soylent Green glow behind the pollution haze.

I spent a lot of time that summer going around telling people that somebody had set off an atomic bomb, but forgot to tell us.

I had had an rather disquieting experience with mushrooms toward the end of April down in Virginia just prior to graduation, (which involved falling down in the mud repeatedly, being left by my friends and getting a ride home with the cops) and was in no physical condition for anything more grueling than beer and pot in a backyard lawn chair.

So, the drive to Giant’s Stadium takes like four hours because of the traffic and, as I mentioned, it is 95 degrees that day with 95% humidity and I drink about 10 beers before we even get to the show.  Mostly the concert is a blur, but I do remember being passed a pipe and smoking something that may or may not have been marijuana.

Whatever it was, the next thing I knew I was on the ground with several deadheads surrounding me asking “dude dude, are you OK?” Luckily someone had a bottle of water and I got a drink off of that, and Jim helped me over to the edge of the “scene” where I could sit and get some air and about 20 minutes later I got my color back and survived to drink another day.

(Down East, Me., 1998-99)