Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Out of a desire for consistency and a concern that this site could easily devolve into something "blog-like", I've kept every post the past 3+ years about music & nothing but. This one stretches the concept a bit, but stay with me, it's got a general music theme. Now, cathartically recounting one's ridiculous adolescence has certainly been a cottage industry for years, & my tales are likely not much different than anyone else's. Yet I still can't believe how metal-obsessed my junior high school (John Muir Junior High, San Jose, California) was circa 1979-82, and what ripe material I keep pulling from my memory banks even today. It was a time where the kids who smoked cigarettes on the fence outside the school were the "stoners", also known as "burnouts", and their musical direction set the tone for nearly everyone else's. Except mine, and that of a few girls and the odd 13-year-old John Muir attendee who wasn't totally obsessed about rock. A few anecdotes:
  • There was this dude right out of metal hesher central casting named Bobby Garcia, a total badass who started all sorts of fights & would give you a surprise grilling on your musical taste to see if it was up to snuff. He and his pals would go hang out & smoke Camels in an open field with a couple of dirt piles near the Almaden Plaza mall that everyone called "Stoner's Cove". I'm pretty sure very few of these supposed stoners had actually discovered pot yet. In a school with very few blacks, Bobby still made it a point to tell the handful that were around, that, in his words, "AC/DC, Rock and Roll, Disco Sucks and so does Soul". I always loved that, and repeat it whenever I get the chance. Note that AC/DC preceded even rock and roll itself in the couplet. AC/DC were huge at my school - they were the be-all & end-all for most kids, and if you didn't like 'em, you'd better damn well pretend that you did.

  • One time Garcia and this other prick whose name I forget chased this nerdy guy named Bob Zettlemoyer (I'm serious!) down after Zettlemoyer incorrectly claimed to be an AC/DC fan. With fists held above his face as he was pinned down -- I watched this myself -- they said, "Name two people in AC/DC! Name two, motherfucker!!". It was heartbreaking to watch as a trembling Bob answered "Bon Scott" (technically correct but everyone knew Scott drank himself to death a couple years earlier) and -- uh oh -- "Led Zeppelin". Ouch. They "whaled on his ass" right then & there.

  • The chief radio station of my peers - listen to it or you fucking suck -- was KOME. The station cranked a steady diet of Scorpions, AC/DC, Led Zep and The Who, and had the most inane radio personalities imaginable, totally perfect for the sexually pent-up 13-year-old male demographic. The station is deservedly famous for the tag line, "Don't touch that dial, it's got KOME on it", but I'll admit I never heard them say it. Late nights belonged to this clown named "Dennis Erectus", who would go off about his lust for Nancy Reagan in a stupid, unhinged voice that predated Bobcat Goldthwait, and then crank the beastly faux metal til everyone had gone to bed. Erectus' routines would then predictably be played out at recess by every would-be stoner looking to impress the chicks and the fellas.

  • Ms. Tossel, my 8th-grade English teacher, assigned everyone in class to conduct a poll of some kind - mine was "What's your favorite kind of music?". The choices I listed were "Hard Rock", "Easy Rock" (think Air Supply, Ambrosia and the Little River Band), "Soul", "Disco" and "New Wave". Of course the latter was a sop to myself, and no, I wasn't calling it punk yet (besides -- I really liked new wave). Final winner, out of roughly 40 kids polled? Hard Rock, of course, though I "interviewed" a disproportionate number of girls (I still love 'em to this day) and almost got "Easy Rock" to squeak over the top. New Wave came in dead last. I remember having to stand up in front of class to read off the results and discuss my methodology (full regression analysis, discrete variables, etc.), and afterward, this total Cheech Marin-voiced Latino tough guy named Enrique ("Kiki") Salcido asked me what style I had voted for. When I sheepishly intoned that I had in fact voted for "New Wave", he looked stunned and incredulous, and asked me (remember his Cheech Marin voice), "No way Hinman -- you're a ponker???!?".

Naturally I could go on with self-referential tales such as these, but we all have them in some form or another. I actually missed nearly a decade's worth of schooling in "classic rock" because of my visceral hatred of my schoolmates and my reactionary decision to not listen to anything they liked. Therefore I thought (at the time) the Stones sucked, AC/DC sucked, Sabbath sucked, Led Zep sucked etc. The Pretenders? Adam and the Ants? Well, Adam and the Ants kinda ruled in 7th grade, didn't they?