Sunday, September 27, 2020

College, punk rock, and pretty girls. This story has them all.

 When I was in college I got into punk rock in a big way.  It was 1984 so I guess this was to be expected. T here may have been a girl but I think she came along later.  In fact, I am pretty sure she did.  I was speculating, as the memories swirled around, that I got into the Huskers because I wanted to sleep with her, but the more I think about it, I think our shared love of the music may have been what caught her eye and made me think I had a chance.

Spoiler alert: I didn't and I didn't.

It was an odd fit, though, me and punk rock.  I had listened to what we would now refer to as Classic Rock when I was younger.  I was a big Beatles fan (this is mid to late seventies now) and heavily on the side of Paul McCartney when discussion arose as to whose fault it was that they broke up (John Lennon, ably assisted by  Yoko Ono is the correct answer)).  I listened to Trooper, had (and have) all their albums, including a signed copy of Thick as Thieves (which I got signed by all except Ra McGuire when they came to my town about twenty years ago.  He isn't with them anymore and they made fun of his name while they signed my record cover.)  I didn't, however, much care for the Rolling Stones who were pretty popular around my high school. (A bunch of the boys in my class  skipped school in order to go to Seattle and see them play at the Kingdome.  IIRC someone got drunk and fell off the ramp, can't remember if they died.  Not someone from my school.)

Oddly however, about then I started listening to 50s and early 60s music.  Everly Brothers, old Beach Boys, etc.  Not sure why, maybe a reaction against the rock and roll that I didn't like.  Then I got to college and discovered this wild crazy music that even the other students I lived with hated.  The college had a radio station, KCMU, which played a lot of punk.  I don't know why, not sure who made the decisions, but I knew that I could turn on the radio on a regular basis and hear stuff that would make your ears bleed.

Right around this time I was turned on to Husker Du.  Ok, basic stupid rock trivia stuff. If you know this, skip ahead.  Husker Du means Do You Remember in Danish and it was the name of a memory game from 1970.  Fun for the whole family.  The band was from Minneapolis which might explain the Danish connection.  Or maybe not.  The game was sold by KTel and you can still watch the commercial.

Anyway, there I am at college, listening to punk rock music, annoying my roommates by setting the bathroom radio (came on when the light switch was turned on) to KCMU so that they stumbled bleary eyed from bed to the bathroom in order to be treated to the mellifluous sounds of the Seattle punk scene.  The big joke was that they knew I'd been the last one in the bathroom if a band called Stinking Fish was playing when they walked in.

Wait, wasn't there a girl in this story? Yes there was.  She also worked at the residence hall food service, as well as the occasional catering gig through the associated caterer.  I'm pretty sure we struck up an acquaintanceship in the catering gig, and in my memory she was beautiful and interesting.  Not to mention that we both liked Husker Du who, it turned out, were playing locally later that fall.  It was a date, we went, I scored a couple extra bottles of "leftover" wine from a catering gig, I was in like Flynn.  Turns out it doesn't really work that way.  It was a fun concert  though but looking back I think she was more interested in not going to the concert alone than in me specifically.  Oh well.  I honestly can't even remember her name, so apparently she didn't leave a gaping hole in my heart.

Tips for attending punk rock concerts if you are ever magically transported back to the late seventies or eighties.  The best seats at a concert are usually right up by the stage.  At a punk concert this is the area known as the mosh pit, however, and the goal was to beat the crap out of each other while "dancing" to the music.  More hardcore aficionados would put razor blades in their clothing.  That was the rumor but looking back it sounds pretty stupid, so maybe they didn't.  

The second best seats were right on the edge of the mosh pit, but the drawback may already be obvious to you.  There are a large number of punk rockers beating the crap out of each other right there in front of you and the action is liable to spill over to you.  If you are with a pretty girl and you want to keep her from being accidentally head butted, you go to option three.

Find a guy who is approximately six foot four, PLUS has a mohawk making him about six nine.  Stand right behind him, you looking over one shoulder, aforementioned pretty girl looking over the other.  Mohawk guy then helpfully shoves mosh pitters back into the mosh pit when it appears that they might interfere with his enjoyment of the concert.  Yes, that is the course of action we chose.  Front row seats, not including mosh pit and barricade guy.

Who was the band again?  Husker Du.  I still have New Day Rising and Candy Apple Grey in my record collection but unfortunately they are both a bit warped at one edge, victims of my stuff being stored in my sister's shed for a couple years with other stuff piled on top of record boxes.  Not sure what happened to Flip Your Wig.  It might have been chucked because it was so warped.  Or maybe it just got lost in the shuffle.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I started listening again the other day.  Land Speed Record is 17 songs played in 24 minutes.  The title says it all and the sound quality is horrific.  NDR has some excellent songs including the excellent I Apologize, the awesomely titled 59 Times the Pain, as well as the best business advice I've ever heard in a punk song (Feed the rats to the cats and the cats to the rats and get the cat skins for nothing).  Flip Your Wig contains Make No Sense at All and Hate Paper Doll along with the title song.  Candy Apple Grey:  Don't Wanna Know if you are Lonely and Dead Set on Destruction are the top two in my opinion.  I can't comment on Warehouse: Songs and Stories because something happened to my CD (yes it was CDs by then) and I haven't listened in years.  And for some reason Zen Arcade (before NDR) never really crossed my radar.  Of course now that I've started to listen again, I'll be picking up copies of both as well as vinyl replacement for the three that were in my collection.

To finish off, fun story.  The movie Love Actually introduced me to the (horrendous) 1967 Trogg's song Love is All Around.  Bill Nighy plays the singer who made his career on the song and is supposed to release it as a Christmas song to revive it. I had never heard it before, as far as I knew and if I did would certainly have ignored it as it's really that bad.  Only Husker Du played it in their encore at the show I attended way back in 1986.  I wish I could find a bootleg.  That might be truly incredible.

Here's Don't Wanna Know if you are Lonely in case you are looking for a taste.  Listen closely to the guitar.


John said...

Punk completely passed over where I was living, except for this one girl that liked safety pins. Metal was more en vogue.

heresolong said...

Funnily enough I never once dressed like the kind of music I listened to. I was a jeans and t-shirts guy 100% of the time no matter how my music tastes shifted.

John Wilder said...

Ditto. Ozzy shirts count as t-shirts, right?