Wednesday, July 08, 2009

the 80s: the in crowd

Junior high was the only time I was in the in crowd. My best friends were the stars of the basketball team. They were all good looking and able to get girlfriends. But I was funny, so I guess they liked having me around.

Most of us in this little clique tried hard to be musical snobs. For us it was new wave or nothing. Everything else, which back then was pretty much everything in northern Indiana, was for sissy conformists or rats. Rats was what we called the kids with the long hair and black concert T-shirts.

A couple of us got real into music, especially me and Todd Eads. He was something like six feet tall, handsome, top jock. He and I used to ride our bikes to this little record store near downtown Elkhart. It was the only place we knew of that carried radical stuff.

In fact, it's there that I got my first punk records.

I first heard of punk a few years earlier. In the mid-70s, I saw a photo spread in some magazine full of pictures of people with their hair sticking every which way and safety pins in their noses and cheeks. I think there was even a shot of Sid Vicious with blood smeared across his chest.

Those pictures scared the hell out of me.

But now stuff like this was starting to appeal to me. It was different, and by liking it, I was different, too. And for the first time in my life, that made me cool.

I bought the Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bullocks and Golden Shower of Hits by the Circle Jerks. I didn't even know what a circle jerk was.

And of course, the Clash. As I mentioned earlier, my uncle already tipped me off to them. I stocked up on all their records and played London Calling over and over again. The were the ultimate. Still are. More than punk, really. But still. This was Elkhart, Indiana, and I was barely 13.

It wasn't all fashion. I actually liked the music. It was raw and real, not overworked and phony like, say, Daryl Hall and John Oates.

It'd be a couple of years before I made the leap totally into punk. Or at least as much as my mom would let me.


Col. Hector Bravado - Denver Six Shooter said...

I had a parallel experience. I was in eighth grade in Springfield, Missouri, playing Combat Rock to death. Like you, I adopted the album's mood as a signature of my individuality. I didn't know what it all meant, but I knew that listening to it meant I wasn't one of Them. There was this chubby kid named Peter Baldi I was sort of friends with, and I mean sort of. In retrospect, it was sort of weird what he did one day: show up in my driveway on his bike and handed me a 45 of the Dead Kennedy's "Nazi Punks Fuck Off." I can't remember the conversation exactly, only that he never asked for it back.
That song ripped my world wide open. I didn't know music could even do that. I would play it 30 times in a row every time my parents left me alone in the house for any period of time.
Hardcore was to be the only thing I listened to for the next four years. When I moved to Colorado, the first show I saw was the Circle Jerks (with Chuck Linart) at the Rainbow Music Hall. I had Golden Shower on vinyl. I remember I lent it at one point to some big, meaty, burr-headed dude who was sort of on the cusp of the jock and metal crowds. I was amazed when he liked it. I was convinced that the music and my social identity were impermeable.
It still rocks.

joe said...

I was at that show too. I'm gonna write about it here in a couple of days.

Col. Hector Bravado - Denver Six Shooter said...

Damn. Did we go together? I only remember Chuckles at that show.
I also remember:
• Buying a yellow Circle Jerks headband/armband with their mosher dude mascot on it for $3, because I didn't have enough money for a T.
• Getting a big mouthful of ice spit all over me as I walked by a raised seating area, and looking over to see a huge punk just glaring at me with his fists on his knees, like, "What?"
• The crowd in the pit parting when the lead singer of Mau Mau 55 did a stage dive, letting him hit the floor. Then kicking his ass a little. He'd been taunting the crowd all night. The security guys went to pull him out.
• I believe Bum Kon and/or the Frantix were also opening. Which one did "My Dad's a Fucking Alchoholic"? It was them.

joe said...

No, that was before we became friends. I went with Dave Sherman. It was the Frantix. Peace Core also played that show.

S.T. Vockrodt said...


When you went to Smoky Hill, did you find that it was hard to discover new music there? I went there in the late 1990s, a while I guess after you went there, and was part of the guitar playing crowd. But nobody seemed to listen to anything except Nirvana, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. I posted on my blog a while back about how I first saw Sonic Youth playing 100% on a Letterman rerun and went to school to see if anyone knew anything about them, but was greeted with blank stares. Like most everything at that high school, the musical tastes seemed pretty homogenous.

joe said...

I had no trouble finding good music, but there weren't a lot of people who were into the same stuff -- just a handful of cool friends. Later, when I got into acid rock, there were a couple of cool teachers who pointed me toward good stuff.

We went looking for our music. We'd go to Wax Trax mostly.