Monday, August 30, 2010
There's Something Wrong Here, There Can Be No Denying (Songs 'n' The Hoods Part 6)
My memory has a tendency to bully me around. I have many good memories of places, people and things, it's just that the crappy ones come through in HD detail, often highlighting the one tense moment that made an otherwise pleasant experience, a bane of my existence or fodder for amateur analysts. I've shared those memories with the friends and family who had supporting roles, and most of the time they have no recollection whatsoever, like the time our band Black Dog was rehearsing in Mike's basement.
We had decided to cover Roxy Music's "Out Of The Blue" from their fourth album "Country Life." Both Mike and Al were trying to piece together the lyrics from memory, specifically the chorus where Bryan Ferry explains to the listener what comes out of where.
"Out Of The Blue, love came rushing in. Out of the..."
Mike asked, "Sky, is it? What came out of the sky?" Al replied, "Sun. Out of the sky came the sun. Out of left field came..." I replied, "A lucky day." They both replied, "SHUT UP!"
If they're reading, I'm sure they'll deny this. They already had once before when I told the story over pasta and wine the last time we got together about 10 years ago. Mike seemed embarrassed by the memory, but neither he nor Al owned up to it. That moment in Mike's basement, trifling as it seems, wasn't an isolated incident. They were, and still are 4 years older, and things like this happened often in the late seventies when we were teenagers. When your 15 years old and 19 years old, the 4 years in between might as well be 34.
I wasn't an angel. One of my best friends was a Denver Broncos fan and at the time, I was a Dallas Cowboys fan. The year they met in the Superbowl, a modest little candy store/stationery store on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village started carrying little tile plaques that stood like picture frames, each sporting a full color replica of a single football helmet of every N.F.L. team. The Monday morning after the Broncos lost to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XII, I stopped by the candy store, purchased the Denver plaque for $2.00, and the minute my friend showed up for school, I spiked it into the concrete of Leroy Street, right at his feet, shattering multi-colored shards all over his Buster Browns. Sammy was a big kid. His biceps were bigger than his thighs. He could have easily crushed me with one blow. (My biceps were a little bigger than my toothbrush.) But, he just shook his head. He wasn't even angry. We walked home from school that day, went back to his place and listened to some Elton John, guaranteed. I'd like to have that day back.
And then there was Leslie. She lived on East 19th Street in Sheepshead Bay, and as I boast about my memory for detail, I can't recall if she lived at the very last house on 19th, or the very first apartment building across the alley. This is significant because, though the distance between the last house before the alley and the first after the alley was no more than 25 feet, if you lived on the other side, you somehow didn't belong. Leslie was riding the cusp regardless, simply because she did things that most on 19th Street couldn't ever imagine, like...listen to The Clash and The Buzzcocks, hang out at the Mudd Club, or go into Manhattan alone to see a movie.
One afternoon, she stopped by Al's basement where we had been listening to "Cat Scratch Fever" and savoring a Schmidt's. She unveiled a new record she had just bought at Zig Zag on Avenue U and East 23rd Street, a record store that doubled as my third, fourth and last class of sophomore year. It was by a band called The Pretenders. That was the first time I had ever heard "Stop Your Sobbing" and "Kid." Such amazing music, and yet I'm sure our reaction was pointlessly offputting. That was our specialty.
The Brooklyn group was never blatantly mean to Leslie, but I don't think they ever said hello or goodbye to her, whether she was approaching or departing, without giggling or whispering among themselves. I noticed, so she must have. She was tall, and certainly the odd girl out on the block for the reasons I just pointed out. But she was just as smart and in some ways, friendlier.
(Leslie. Scan provided by Lisa Ann Volpe.)
I had already been listening to The Clash and The Buzzcocks, not to mention Elvis Costello and XTC, thanks to Michael and Manny and Joe, three of the best record store guys in the Village, so my interest in what Leslie was carrying in her brown album bags was not unfounded. These were bands that were a laugh riot to the diehard Sabbath & Rush fans of Brooklyn, so any attempt she and I had made at casual conversation would quickly morph into panic once the bomber jackets came into focus.
She'd show me her new punk singles and tell me about some band she was going to see at CBGBs, like a ticket scalper or drug dealer, trying to complete the transaction before the heat took notice. Then, as the front doors opened and the "real people" emerged onto the stoops of East 19th Street, Leslie and I would scatter with that phony non-chalance, pretending as if one had just asked the other for the time. "Ok then stranger. Have a good day now. That's right, it's 4:30."
Another afternoon, Leslie asked if I wanted to go into the city to see "The Kids Are Alright," The Who movie which had just opened at the long gone Plaza Theatre, near the Plaza Hotel. Boy, did I. I said yes, and she was thrilled. We put our tokens into the turnstiles at the Sheepshead Bay Road station, and headed into Manhattan. Leslie seemed unfazed by the activity, while I felt like Papillon, catching that perfect wave off of the rock. We had a blast in a half-empty theatre, and talked rock and roll for the entire D-train ride back to Sheepshead Bay. Once we hit the block and noticed the peering eyeballs from the various stoops and windows, she started walking a bit faster, I a bit slower, and that was that.
A few weeks later, Leslie invited me somewhere else. This time, it was to see a concert at the old Academy Of Music on East 14th Street, which by then had turned into the Palladium. It was a triple bill of XTC, The Buzzocks, & The Fall. (On certain days, I remember it being The Buzzcocks, X-Ray Spex & The Fall. Other days, it's The Buzzocks, Gang Of Four & The Fall.) I said yes immediately, but as the evening got closer, I started to panic.
It was a combination of fear---what would I be missing if I didn't hang on the block for one Friday night--- and fear---what are all my friends going to say if I cross the tracks and hang with Leslie...again? I didn't go, which could explain why I can't recall the exact lineup. Even worse, I broke the news to her as she walked up to my cousin's house to pick me up. No warning, no real excuse, and not a bit of sensitivity for this person's feelings. I just said, "I'm not going." I remember her looking at me, but not for very long. She just started walking away. I don't ever recall her talking to me again. (There's that damn memory again.) I'd like to have that night back.
That night, while The Buzzcocks surely kicked some ass at the Palladium, I sat on a stoop and most likely listened to "Cat Scratch Fever," while someone most likely teased me about something.
PEOPLE & THINGS THAT WENT BEFORE
THEY DROVE YOU,OR YOU DROVE THEM CRAZY
EAST 19TH STREET,BROOKLYN: "IT GOES INTO YOUR MIND"
I SAW LED ZEPPELIN TWICE. THEY SUCKED ONCE.
HEAR MY SONG. PEOPLE WON'T YOU LISTEN NOW...
Posted by Sal Nunziato at 4:43 AM