I had to leave home because my father wanted me to become a legal secretary after I graduated high school. I had never met anyone with that ambition. My father was of the ‘Mad Men” generation where you had a bar in your office and women in tight sweaters, and tight skirts in heels, sitting at little tiny desks pressing intercom buttons, “There’s a call for you sir”. Occasionally they would sashay into the office with more coffee and phone messages.
Why would he want me to be that?? Why not be the freaking lawyer??? ( not that I’d want that job either.)
In high school I went to parties and drank beer and smoked pot and crushed on boys who didn’t know my name. I had no ambition. I didn’t care about marks or subjects. I only cared about music and movies. That’s all. I snuck out of bed at night in my parents home to watch old Elvis Presley movies. I was in love with him. I was also in love with Paul McCartney; neither of whom would ever cross my path.
My first big concert was The Faces with Rod Stewart. They were fantastically wild with great musicianship; probably drunk, and yes, I fell in love with Rod Stewart that night. He was gritty and glamorous at the same time. Long scarves caressing the tops of his jeans with a little bit of exposed belly as he threw his microphone stand high into the rafters and it twirled like a cheer leaders baton. That love lasted for as long as he was with The Faces. I stopped loving him when he decided to go solo in leopard tights and dyed blonde hair and bad makeup. “Do you think I’m Sexy?” No. I don’t. I never stopped loving Elvis or Paul McCartney though.
I sang in a really bad band called “Image” and we played cover tunes at high school dances. I got my hair permed and somehow it came out in the shape of a triangle; not unlike Rosanne Rosannnadanna. It was hideous and I wore a hat for months until it finally relaxed and grew out. I smoked cigarettes and drank rye and ginger. It was very popular. To this day I cannot tolerate the smell of rye because my throat automatically closes. I must have puked up enough rye to fill the Mississippi River.
I was not a child of the fifties but a product of the sixties and a teenager in the ’70’s. I couldn’t have been farther removed from my parents. They had no idea who I was.
In college I extended my cigarette smoking to the classroom. I had the coolest professor on campus who sported a blonde afro and taught his class in an orange shagged conversation pit. The school was built in the early 1960’s. He smoked endless cigarettes and sipped coffee and so did I. He talked about recorded audio and its techniques in a very conversational way that was not exactly understandable to me; partly because I was an undiagnosed dyslexic, but I understood and embraced his enthusiasm. I was studying film and television and all things related.
I was also going to bars as much as possible to hear live music blasting from huge speakers while sweaty singers twitched all over the stage… sometimes puking, in the case of Frankie Venom. I loved Teenage Head. They played my college and Frankie Venom climbed into the rafters of the cafeteria, hanging above the kids like a bat, while pasty, spotty nerds, in campus security uniforms, scrambled around below yelling into their walkie talkies all at once, “Alert! He’s in the raftors! Alert he’s in the rafters! Copy that!”
I loved The Ramones, The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls and went downtown to Larry’s Hideaway where the bar smelled like B.O. and puke and beer. The washroom smelled like rancid semen. It was a dump but it booked the best punk bands at the time. Locals and imports. The Viletones, The Diodes, The Cramps, The Cult, Circle Jerks…. They were all fantastic. It was such a scene back then. I did not pogo. I stood on the sidelines watching kids bounce up and down and off of each other while I smoked, trying not to burn someone’s hair or torch a ripped tee-shirt. I gingerly stubbed out my butts on the cement floor with the pointy red toe of my mother’s curling boots that screamed punk to me and pissed off my mother.
I lived in a townhouse with eight other kids. We had a dark room in our closet and beer in our fridge. We stayed up all night listening to music when we weren’t out watching bands. I had an intellectual boyfriend with a large collection of albums that were placed in a specific order. This order only made sense to him since it involved the year produced, by whom, band name, label… etc. He introduced me to Harry Nilson and Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Louden Wainwright 111 and Marshall Crenshaw who penned a song called “Cynical Girl”, which I swear was written about me at the time. I was fortunate enough to get a part time job at “Records On Wheels”, which lead me to labels like Stiff Records and Elvis Costello and The Attractions, Nick Lowe, The Damned. It opened up a whole new scene of music for me.
There were only two times in my life where I was really effected by the death of an artist. The first was Elvis. He died on my sister’s birthday, August 16th, 1977. I was obsessed with him at that age. I even had his name written on my jeans like all good compulsive and obsessive teenagers. All of my friends knew how much I loved him. I was teased constantly but I held strong to my daydreams of being reborn into another lifetime where I was Elvis’s girlfriend. I was devastated when he died. I took my little AM radio to bed and I cried all night long listening to stations playing him over and over again, “Do you miss me tonight, are you sorry we drifted apart?”
The other; was the night John Lennon was shot. I was in my apartment at college and we were supposed to go out. I was still in my pink fuzzy onesie when the news broke. My room mates and I all turned on the television and to our horror found out he was dead. It didn’t seem possible. It does now…. because it’s been so long ago, but then… it was incomprehensible. How could a Beatle be dead? How could John never ever record again? His album “Double Fantasy” was just coming out. Other students started assembling in our apartment and we just sat in silence and cried. We would smoke some pot and chat and then go silent again. I will always remember the shock and horror and feeling that nothing would ever be the same. Music had died somehow that night.
But I was wrong.
As the years have passed I think about all the things that shaped my life and music has always defined the times for me. I wonder if on March 26, 1857 young people were devastated to hear the news that Beethoven had died? Probably took a couple of years for the news to reach them.
I remember when I heard the news that Kurt Cobain died and I think that hit close to a latter day generations John Lennon.
Who will define this generation musically?
Who is their Elvis and John Lennon?